Proud to Be
By Lubna Kapadia
It’s 8:20 am. I made good time but getting a seat on the subway is a long shot. Insha’Allah, you never know, it could be my lucky day. A warm yellow hue lights up the tunnel, the familiar screeching of the subway as it pulls into the station fills the quiet space. Ding. The doors slide open. I enter the subway and look around for a seat. Nothing. I settle into the corner of the door and turn on my music. Behind me, an elderly woman enters the subway. Hunched over, she turns back around to face the doors, holding tightly onto the yellow pole, I notice her wrinkled knuckles turning white from her grip. It’s a bumpy ride. I look around. A middle schooler with a backpack bigger than him, a woman in a power suit typing away furiously on her S10. A frazzled mother, resting her head against the window.
The subway begins again, taking its sweet time as it makes its way southbound. The train jerks and I almost lose my grip, alhamdulillah for the poles on these trains. I glance at the old woman; she’s having trouble maintaining her stance. Suddenly, I hear the familiar sound of the adhan, the Muslim call for prayer. I turn my head over, noticing a black figure that had been so still, beginning to move. Slowly, he opens his eyes and scratches his beard. He quickly fumbles with his phone and looks around apologetically. As he turns his head towards the doors, his eyes lock into mine, and I respond with a friendly smile. He moves his gaze to the fumbling woman parallel to me, his mouth opening so slightly, I can almost see a small gasp escape his lips. The man swiftly gets up and walks over to the woman, “Seat?” he asks, motioning to the empty seat. The woman looks over at the seat and nods as thanks. She plops herself down and gives the bearded man another friendly smile. Before she can say anything, the man steps off at Sherbourne. I smile to myself knowingly. The man’s gasp was a reflection of the Prophet Muhammad’s words; “Whoever is not kind to the younger ones or does not respect the elders is not from my nation.”
As class drags on, my mind begins to wander. What am I going to eat for lunch? Chipotle sounds really good right about now. My phone screen lights up. “Dhur at 12:32 pm,” reads the notification. I look at the time. Class ends at 12:30. Shoot.
I stuff my bag with my laptop, not bothering to zip it. “I have to go pray,” I whisper to my friend. I get up and push my chair in, walking out as quietly as I possibly can. At lunch time, I head to the restroom. I see a girl already making wudhu. I smile at her knowingly. As I make my way to the prayer room, I notice a bunch of girls with hijab saying “Salamualaykum” as they pass me on their way. I smile and respond. Walking into the packed room, I take off my shoes and realize finding a place to pray is next to impossible. As I walk over, a girl in the corner steps over and smiles at me to stand beside her. “Thank you” I whisper.
As I make my salam, I notice a girl scrambling to find her hijab. The struggle of not wearing a hijab and forgetting it is one I am quite familiar with. Just as I walk towards her with mine in hand, someone else approaches. “Need a scarf?” “Thank you!” she exclaims. She looks back and sees me reaching out my hand, laughing. “Oh my gosh you guys are so sweet!” she says. “Just helping a girl out!” I say.
After a long afternoon of classes, I was finally ready to head home. As I wait for my ride, I notice my Uber driver’s name is Syed. I get in and instantly hear the Quran recitation blasting out of the speakers. Syed quickly fumbles with the radio and changes it to a popular music station. “You can keep it” I say. He looks at me from the rearview mirror, raising his eyebrows. “Are you Muslim too?” he asks.
“Alhamdulillah, proud to be.” I respond.