Part 2 – Understanding and Loving Our Muslim Friends
By Gary and Joy Lundberg

This final part of the article by Gary and Joy Lundberg helps us get to know the personalities and Islamic beliefs and customs of their two Muslim friends Saeed and Kouthar Cader, introduced in Part 1 .  Enjoy the Lundbergs’ short, delightful and enlightening trip with the Caders.

Bryce Canyon was breathtakingly beautiful.  We stopped at Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point.  Saeed and I walked the distance to see the full panorama at Bryce Point while Gary stayed with Kouthar (seven months pregnant), since neither of them wanted to make the trek.  It was well worth the short hike to see it, and since there were others on the trail it was appropriate for Saeed to go with me.  If others were not present it would have been against Islam, even though I’m old enough to be his mother.  At one point while at Bryce Canyon we saw some bikers parking their motorcycles.  Kouthar was enchanted, and wanted a picture of them.  One said, “Get on my bike and then take the picture.”  She did! And was tickled to the core over it.  The bikers were shouting “Quick, get a picture of the lady in a burka on the bike!”  Saeed stood back and just grinned.

We ate dinner outside the park at Bryce Canyon Pines restaurant.  They served fish, so it worked for Kouthar and Saeed.  They found a private spot in the corner of an empty dining room and knelt for their before-sunset prayers.  Then on we drove about an hour to Kanab, with beautiful scenery all the way.  We checked into the Shiloh Inn motel, which was nice, then went for ice cream at the Three Bears Creamery.  Oh, how they loved the ice cream, and so did we.

Sunday morning, after enjoying a complementary breakfast at the motel, Gary and I attended a 9:00 sacrament meeting.  We invited them to go with us but Kouthar wanted to rest before we headed out again.  They said, “Tell us all about the sermon while we’re driving,” which we did as we drove on toward the North Rim of Grand Canyon.  The “sermons” were mostly about living worthy of the blessings we seek, with an emphasis on living worthy to receive answers to our prayers for rain since we are in the fifth year of a drought.  Interestingly, it rained later that day on our way out of Grand Canyon.

What can we say about the Grand Canyon except that it is truly GRAND!  It was bigger than I thought.  This was our first time seeing it, too.  We walked the paved path to Bright Angel view point, and what a view it was!  It was quite a long trail with a few steep inclines.  We rested along the way by sitting on rocks or an occasional bench hewn from a log.  Kouthar was quite amazing as she persisted in making it to the end.  The resting spots made it possible for her.  It was worth the walk.  The panorama view was indeed awe inspiring.  Along the way we saw five beautiful Condors, an endangered species, flying above, their wing span being about nine feet, their black wing feathers decorated with colorful accents toward their ragged edges.  They were beautiful to see and swooped close enough to get a good look at them.

We ate a late lunch in the Lodge, which was right on the edge of the Canyon, Then off we went to Las Vegas, with a stop in St. George to give Gary’s brother Jay and his wife Elaine a chance to meet our new friends, and give them a place to have their before-sunset prayers, which they did in a bedroom downstairs.  Muslims say prayers five times a day, but when they are on a trip they can combine their morning and noon-time prayers and then their afternoon and sunset prayers.  Which means they must pray at least three times a day at minimum, preferably five. They kneel facing east.  They are very quiet and private about their prayers, which only take a few minutes. They also say prayers at mealtime, like we do, and, like we, when in public they say a silent blessing on the food.  Actually, they bless the food before they eat and then say a prayer of thanks after they eat it.  That’s not part of their five times-a-day prayers.

Their Lives at Home

While traveling (Gary and Saeed in the front and we ladies in the back, though sometimes I sat in the front with Gary) Sunday we listened to the sound track of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.  Then they showed us that chapter in their Quran and I read it aloud as Gary drove. It’s similar to the Bible account, but definitely a few differences.  Saeed, then told us he had memorized the entire Quran in Arabic.  We asked him to recite some of it to us, which he did.  It’s like a sing-song chant and quite enjoyable to listen to.  He only did a few pages.  We asked Kouthar if she had memorized it, too. She said, “Yes, but I don’t know it as well as Saeed.”

Saeed’s main employment is teaching in the Muslim community schools.  The pay is low and they struggle to get by.  Kouthar works also, teaching Muslim women, also low pay.  Saeed also works as an imam (e-mom), which is like a minister, but because the Muslims there at the mosque are quite poor he receives no salary.  However, sometimes his fellow Muslims bring him some groceries in exchange for his religious services.  Sounds a little like being a bishop, minus the groceries.

They built a modest two bedroom home, with a kitchen, eating area, small living room, and bathroom, similar to how our homes are built.  They own a ’73 Mercedes car, which was given to them by a woman Kouthar worked for when their car was stolen during the night while they were sleeping, two years ago.  It was parked in front of their house at the time.  The unemployment rate is very high in South Africa and many of the poor steal to live, and the police do very little to recover stolen property.  Saeed said the crime rate is terribly high, with many robberies ending in murder of the victims.  They had to build a security fence around their house so no one will steal their Mercedes or kill them-an expense they didn’t need., but they can’t afford not to.

Both Saeed and Kouthar speak English, Afrikaans, and Arabic languages well.  English is the language they use in their home because they want their children to have the advantage of speaking English without an Africkaans accent.  In the community they speak Africkaans, and when with Muslims they often speak Arabic.  Centuries ago Muslims from Holland immigrated to South Africa and Africkaans is a derivative of Dutch.  When we were on the trail at Grand Canyon we met some people from Holland.  When I asked where they were from Saeed immediate began speaking to them in Africkaans and they answered in Dutch and they understood each other.

Kouthar is determined, even though she works, to fix her husband’s meals every day, have his tea time ready so he can relax, and gives him back rubs to complete the job. She also keeps his clothes laundered and ready to wear.  Then she added, “Saeed does not make me do this.  I want to do this.  I want to make him very happy when he is at home.  I try to meet all his needs.” I said to Saeed, “And do you meet her needs, Saeed?”  Before he could answer, she said, “Oh, yes, he does.”  He said, “I want her to be happy, too.  It is an important part of Islam for me to make sure my wife is well cared for and happy.”  They have an orphan girl living with them to help.  They pay her some also and do what they can to help her since giving to the poor is an important part of Islam.

Beloved

While we were with them she always called Saeed “Habeebi,” (ha-bee’bee) which means beloved.  That’s her choice, not required.  He calls her Kouthar and sometimes “babes.”  Very American nick name, which struck us as amusing.  Kouthar wears the traditional burka all the time-colorful scarf hiding all of her hair, draped down over her shoulders and secured with a decorative pin under her chin, with a long sleeve loose fitting floor length gown/dress.  In public she often, but not always, covers her face with a color-coordinated veil, always when we took her picture she brought the veil down so only her eyes showed.

Saeed said it is her choice to wear the veil whenever she pleases, or not at all.  She was not wearing the veil at all when he first met her.  He was introduced to her by a friend, decided he wanted to get to know her and perhaps marry her.  Muslims don’t date, however they can visit with each other at their family homes with their parents present, to alleviate temptations.  He visited several times then asked her to marry him, and she accepted.  She said, “We were definitely attracted to each other.”  He said she could have refused his proposal if she wanted to.  “In Islam no one is forced into a marriage they don’t want,” he assured us.  She chose to start wearing the veil about eleven years ago when she became somewhat of a celebrity from her work as a speaker and radio guest.  She didn’t want to be noticed in public and felt safer wearing the veil.  She never let us take a picture of her face.  She said, “No need.  You know what I look like.”

It was so hot in Vegas (got up to 115!) that sweat was pouring off me and my hair looked like I’d been in a steam bath.   When I saw how I looked in the mirror I thought, Hmmmm a veil and burka could be an advantage right about now.  Kouthar said it actually keeps her cooler. Maybe, but it seemed a little difficult to believe at that moment.

They told us they are very sad about the terrorists who are killing in the name of Islam.  Saeed said, “This is not true Islam.  They are extremists who actually believe they will go to heaven for killing in the name of Allah.  We are ashamed of their actions and do not believe their way.”  He said they have taken Jihad (holy war to defend Islam) too far.  He said, “True Islam teaches peace, and to defend if attacked, but not to initiate war.”

They are critical of the way some Islamic countries treat their women, saying it is not true Islam.  They insist that women should have the right to full education, to vote, drive and make their own choices without being controlled by their husbands. When asked about polygamy Saeed said, “Islam says a man can have up to four wives, but discourages it because it’s a big enough responsibility  to provide for and take care of one woman.  If they have more it is feared the women will be neglected.  Most men have only one wife, unless they have a lot of money, and even then most have just one.”

Islam belief requires that after about age thirteen men may only touch men and women only women-no handshaking between men and women, but it’s customary for men to shake men’s hands and women to shake women’s hands.  It took a concerted effort for me to not touch Saeed in a warm friendly gesture, as was it hard for Gary with Kouthar.  Being together all day and evening we became good friends, making it more automatic to give a friendly touch, but we didn’t.

Their ten-year-old son’s name is Badee (Bah-dee), though it’s only the first part o f his name.  Likewise, Saeed is only the first part of Saeed’s name.  He said their names are too long to use in every day conversation.

Las Vegas

When we arrived at Las Vegas we went directly to the MGM Grand where our son John’s friend, who works there, got us beautiful rooms for half price. We needed to be downtown so Kouthar could come back and rest when needed and  have a place to say their required prayers.  Saeed and Kouthar were amazed at Las Vegas.  As we walked through a casino the first day Saeed said, “We have seen this on TV, but seeing it in real life is different.  It’s so big and so bright and so much going on.”  He said he was glad he could see it in “real life” to know what it’s really like. As we walked through the casino, which we had to get outside or to the restaurant, he mostly looked straight ahead, saying “I’m not looking at this sin.” But, of course, one could not help but see the pathetic sight of zombies sitting at slot machines.  At the incredible breakfast buffet they made their choices, then when the waitress came to our table to take beverage orders Kouthar turned to me and said, “Would it offend you if I order tea?” I said, “No.  Will it offend you if I eat this bacon?”  She laughed and said, “No.”

It’s against Islam to gamble, even a penny, Kouthar explained.  Also, they don’t drink any alcoholic beverages. Some Muslims smoke but they don’t and are vocal about how much they dislike the smell of cigarette smoke.  She said they have a No Smoking sign in their home. They live their religion strictly, including never eating anything that isn’t halal.  From time to time when we would offer them unfamiliar food they would ask us if it was halal. We had read up on it and also asked them what it meant to them.  Therefore, when they asked, we pretty much knew.

John joined us when we checked into the hotel and the next day spent a few hours with us after work.  We searched until we found a halal restaurant-Byblos is the name.  Saeed and Kouther were a little suspicious, saying that some restaurants claim to be halal but are not.  They spoke with the proprietor, then saw something that let them know it was halal.  She said, “I’m certain this is halal because they don’t serve any alcohol.  If a restaurant claims to be halal but serves alcohol, we doubt its validity.”  We ordered dinner and enjoyed it for the most part, especially the desserts.  John and Saeed hit it off especially well.  They are the same age and both love a good joke.  After John left, Saeed said, “I really like your son.  He’s funny and not afraid to ask questions.”  They really did have a good time visiting.  Kouthar said, “John and Saeed look like brothers.”  And they kind of did, and . . . well, they kind of are.  They were sad they didn’t get to meet John’s wife and children, who were in Missouri visiting her family.

We showed them many of the sights in Las Vegas, ending with the beautiful fountain show at the Belagio.  They didn’t want to see any of the shows, which worked for us since they were so costly and most are morally risky.  They were fascinated with what they saw.  Then we took them to see the Las Vegas Temple and they were very impressed with its beauty.  Such a contrast to the Strip.  We spoke of the difference.  They are impressed with the members of the Church they have met in the US and those they know in Cape Town.

Parting Time

From Las Vegas they went to Los Angeles, another place they always wanted to see.  Our friends Bill and Carol Wynder in Cypress graciously hosted them there, showing them wonderful sites, including more temples and mosques.  We met the Wynders about six years ago when Bill invited us to speak in their stake.  They’re great people.  We knew Saeed and Kouthar would be in good hands and have yet another LDS experience they would cherish.

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