|Posing with Nymeth at the London Ismaili Center|
The calligraphy conveys the Quran's opening phrase in Arabic, "Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim" ("In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most compassionate"). Muslims recite it on beginning a task to receive the Creator’s strength and blessing, among other reasons. The phrase faces the entrance to this religious, social, and cultural meeting place for the Shia Ismaili Muslim community in the United Kingdom. Nymeth Ali guided me through the center, pointing out examples of the relationship between the architecture and design details and the traditions, symbols, history and values of her faith community. For example, the building exterior materials and colors are compatible with surrounding buildings while the interior features traditional Islamic colors — whites, light grays, and blues.
In our rapid-fire give-and-take Q&A, my new friend helped me understand more of Islam and its ethics, and of Muslim peoples and their values, among them humility, charity, and hospitality. And, I endeavored to answer her wide-ranging questions on aspects of Judaism and Jewish people. Together, we traveled the globe across centuries till and including our own lives, roots, passages, and journeys. Thank you, Ryan Makhani, for the introduction! You hinted, “I have a feeling you both will have some incredible conversations.” You did not exaggerate!