Sometimes we meet people in our lives that don't strike us as amazing or anything special. Perhaps we just run into them, have a conversation or two, and then we go about our lives. Sometimes its not until we look back at our experience with them that we realize they left an imprint on our souls.
Three years ago while I was in Egypt I traveled to a tourist city in Sinai along the Red Sea. Tourists from all over the world flock this city to bask in the sun, enjoy all sorts of water activities, explore mountainous regions, and most all party all night.
There was a restaurant that all of us went to as a chill place when you just want to watch the water while sipping on some amazing drink. There was a waiter at this place whose name was Mohamed. He was young, very fit, and pretty easy on the eyes; the young European and American girls thought he was adorable.
See, Mohamed was from a good and religious family from a relatively low class in Cairo. He moved to this city after high school to make good money to support his family. He used to love hearing the athan (call to prayer) five times a day out loud from the hundreds of mosques in the city and he would be so excited to go to his mosque everyday with his father in the evening.
When he moved to Sinai, he experienced a culture shock. His entire world changed. The city was filled with tourists and locals who didn't dress or behave as those did in his hometown. The Muslim men who worked in the city were infamous for partying at night with the American/European/Australian women at bars and clubs. They were even more infamous for having a new country represented in their beds every other night.
At first Mohamed was disgusted and promised himself that he wouldn't fall into this life of sin. But slowly, as he continue to work and stay there, this culture became quite normalized to him until he too was engaging in similar activities. There was one woman vacationing from Switzerland that fell madly in love with Mohamed. They enjoyed their time together so much so that quite randomly they got married in the city and the girl decided to stay with him there.
Several years later Mohamed finally saved enough to buy himself and his wife a one way ticket to Canada. He was so excited to start his new life with his wife in the Western world, a place he had come to know so well through his customers at the restaurant.
He found something so strange in Canada, very different than what he expected. He came to know of a mosque near his home and so he decided to visit; perhaps he would find people like himself. At the mosque he found Muslims from all over the world praying together and creating a beautiful community for their families. They didn't go out partying all night as many Western tourists would do so in the tourist city back in Sinai. They were simple people, contemplative on life and their purpose. They took out time to pray to their Lord five times a day, even though their work schedules were busy and rigorous from 9-5. They convened every month at their mosque to eat and catch up with one another. And most surprising, they actually read their Holy book the Quran.
Mohamed started attending at least 2-3 prayers out of the day at the mosque. He hadn't prayed consistently in many many years. His wife started seeing a side of him she had never come to know. She didn't know much about Islam, nor had she even been very interested in it before.
I messaged Mohamed about a week ago when I randomly found him on Facebook. I had barely spoken to him or gotten to know him at all when I was in Egypt. It was so beautiful hearing his story and seeing him grow so much. He now worries about what he'll do when they have children, how he wants them to be Muslims of unwavering faith and consistent good deeds.
Mohamed's story inspired me. Sometimes we get so lost in our environments. We make the wrong friends and make some bad decisions. And sometimes when we've strayed so far from our values and beliefs we begin to think we can never make it back by moving forward. So instead we get trapped in a delusion. Mohamed's life reminds me that God is there and when you're ready to turn to Him, He will be there with open arms ready to forgive you and help you change your ways, help you to find a better environment in which you can cultivate your faith and be rooted in true morals.
*FYI: Mohamed's name was changed for this post.