Journal Day 1. Today I looked in the Yellow Pages for mosques with the intention of calling up one or two and explaining that I wanted to attend a Friday night service. Very quickly it became clear that there seemed to be some resistance to the idea of a Christian attending such a service. It is possible that there is widespread suspicion of Christian strangers in mosques just now, owing to the terrible image problem that the United States has in the Muslim world for reasons of public policy.
Journal Day 2. After calling several more mosques without success, I did some library research. There are three main sects of Islam. Shi'ite, or Shi'a, Islam is linked to intensely devout, militant, or "anarchic" Islam; Sunni, the orthodox/conservative mode of worship, has the greatest number of members throughout the world; Sufi is a mystical branch of the faith (Campbell, 1978, p. 440).
Journal Day 4. A mutual acquaintance introduced me to a student from Egypt majoring in biology. She said two things that seemed mutually exclusive: "Everyone is welcome to attend a mosque," she said. However, she added, "You might not realize the significance of our practice." In retrospect, I believe this was her way of protecting me from potential hostility from other Muslims if I were to show up at the mosque. I seemed to be running out of time.
Journal Day 5. I received a call from the Egyptian woman, who suggested we meet for coffee the following morning. "I believe I have an idea about your assignment," she said.
Journal Day 6. Coffee at Starbucks. She said that she had discussed my dilemma with her cousin, who has been working as a doctor in the United States for several years. The family was in the process of planning a celebration to which extended family, as well as non-Muslim friends, and professional colleagues were already being invited. The reason for celebration was the birth of the first boy in the family in eleven years; male childre...