Ray Petersen –
Long before embracing the Islamic faith here in Oman, during 2016, Dr Guillaume Thouroude, of the Arabic name ‘Ibrahim,’ had admired many of the basic tenets and practices of Islam.
Ramadhan is, he says, “A joyful spirit in the community, a little bit like Christmas’ in the West, but lasting for a month.” In his opinion, it gives us an opportunity to refocus, reboot, and realign ourselves with the things and people that are important to us, our priorities. “I’m looking forward to this ‘month of tranquillity,’ to understand the woes of the poor and disadvantaged in our communities, to seek to ensure that those who are alone, don’t stay alone, and not to get caught up in the minutiae of this time of joy, but to display an empathy that can assist in making their lives better. “I give daily zakat to the local disadvantaged community, and at the end of Ramadhan, instead of slaughtering a goat, I will send the equivalent money to Yemen, who suffer so much.”
The French born academic, an Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies & Research at the University of Nizwa, explained this to me, as we sat under a tree near the mosque on campus. “I have had a global thinking and philosophy most of my life, and whether in France, China or wherever, I had always been attracted to its particular elements of worship, now, knowing them more intimately, I am so glad that I have found the way.”
For a start,” he said, “there is something almost magical about the early mornings, and rising for the fajr, dawn prayer is not a hardship, but an opportunity for an earthly communion with the simple workers of the oasis where I live. Simply the act of taking my ablutions is not only cleansing of the body, but to me is symbolic of refreshment and revitalisation for the new day ahead. I actually appreciate the four positions of the prayers, understanding that each has a role, a purpose, within the process of worship.”
“I feel my spiritual needs are well met in the environment of the mosque, and I always feel enriched and empowered as a result. In the small mosques where I go more often, on campus, near my house, or when I travel, I often leave French and English translations of the Holy Quran on the bookshelves, so I can sit and read together with my Arab brothers, who have the chance to read the original text. It feels amazing!”
After the dawn prayer Thouroude likes to walk around the Birkat Al Mouz oasis, where he finds he can commune with another passion, nature, at the same time as he is contemplating his religious experience. “The Quran is incredibly rewarding as a life support, and I find myself sometimes reflecting so often, that the very things in my personal or professional life were the very things addressed in the mosque. I’m blessed to be able to cement my contemplative activities in this country. Oman is the best place to embrace Islam, and Ramadhan in Oman is a privilege for me. Thanks to the quiet and profound devotion of the village, resonant with the natural beauty of the oasis, the palms and wadis near our home.
Discussing his time in Oman, Thouroude commented that whether it was fate or timing, or simply the power of love, he would have crossed seas and climbed mountains, to marry and share his life with his beautiful wife, Tunisian born German Language lecturer Hajer Nahdi. “I was impressed by her faith and the way she practices Islam, and that played a crucial part in my desire to become a Muslim. Declaring abstinence for things such as alcohol and cigarettes has been easy because of her love, and I’m very happy in my current place.”
Ibrahim carries the assurance and confidence of a man who ‘knows his way around,’ and yet he owes this not to his global experiences in education, writing (he’s a published author), or travel. He insists, “The balance that I have in my life today is due to my faith and my wife, and there is no choice to be made either, as both are incredibly understanding of me, ‘warts and all,’ and I’m definitely looking forward to Ramadhan, its challenges and its sustenance.”