Salt, bread, milk, chickpeas… There were two checkmarks by that last item as she checked her shopping list again. A few more items and she could finally make her way out of the grocery store. She tried to avoid shopping as much as possible during Ramadan, but there were certain things that simply couldn’t wait. Shula focused on the paper in her hand, attempting to ignore the insistent growling of her stomach.
Inshallah, I can finish quickly and get home. The reminder of her children waiting with her sister was enough to prod her back into motion.
Just lettuce and dates remained. Shula edged around several people, reaching up to adjust her hijab as their cold stares settled on her. It wasn’t that she was ashamed of her faith, but the scathing looks in the supermarket were much more virulent in September, and she did not want trouble.
The lettuce selection seemed decidedly poor today. She pushed several heads aside, searching for one more green than brown. As she grasped the most likely candidate, a jolt from behind nearly catapulted her into the produce shelf. Shula grasped the flimsy plastic shelf and righted herself, accompanied by an avalanche of words.
“Oh, I beg your pardon! I didn’t mean to! Did you hit your head?”
The frenetic apologies were coming from a blonde woman who appeared to be about her age. Shula's heart wrenched a little as she took in the sight. The woman wore tight-fitting jeans that showed off hips altered by childbirth and a button-up emerald-colored shirt that strained ever so slightly at the bust and was unbuttoned enough to see a goodly amount of chest. Did she not realize that she was merely opening herself up to the leering of men? Shula straightened her own loose-fitting tunic and smiled at the little boy in the grocery cart.
“It is nothing,” she said, straining to downplay her accent as much as possible. The Arabic speech patterns tended to make people nervous. She held up the lettuce. “Apparently this is not the head I am meant to purchase.”
The woman laughed a little, though her eyes stayed slightly narrowed. Shula moved her cart to the side to allow plenty of room to pass and resumed her search for greener lettuce. Her son was trying the half-day fast this year, and she needed to have something for him to eat soon. She smiled, thinking about Faruq. Only 9 years old, and already committed to true observance. He deserved the freshest food she could find.
It was the woman again. Shula straightened again, a patient smile on her face.
“Do you realize how lost you are?”
Shula recoiled slightly, her fist clenching the clear plastic on her latest choice. “I beg your pardon?”
The woman gestured vaguely at her outfit. “Don’t you feel the oppression this religion has placed upon you? You are in bondage to these beliefs. God created you to be beautiful and loved by Him.”
Shula nodded, confused. “I know that I am loved. Inshallah I will never forget how much Allah cares about me. It is for my protection and obedience to Allah that I wear these clothes, not because of oppression.”
“There is freedom for you! Jesus Christ can set you free from this tyranny.” The woman insisted, stepping closer and extending her arms.
Shula smiled gently. “Jesus’ teachings are very important to me. He was a great prophet, much like Mohammed, peace be upon him.”
The woman’s face reddened as if Shula had just slapped her. She turned and began rummaging through her purse frantically. Shula replaced the lettuce, casually searching through the others as she waited, one eye expectantly on her companion. The green of the woman’s shirt reminded her of the flag of her homeland, India. There, green was a sign of the faith, a color that distinguished them from the non-believers. Seeing it on this woman was making her homesick.
Shula’s stomach growled just as the woman produced a wrinkled paper with cartoonish drawings on it.
“Here, take this and read it. I’ve put my number on the back. If you want to talk about it, please give me a call. I’ll be praying for you.”
With that, she wheeled her cart around and walked away. Shula looked down at the cartoon devil leering at her from the pamphlet and sighed, looking back up at the hastily retreating non-believer who hadn’t bothered to introduce herself.
“I’ll be praying for you, also.”
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