When I was four years old, a five-year-old boy chased me around the masjid because I refused to take off my shoes.
For those of you who don’t know, everyone is expected to remove their shoes prior to entering the prayer area. I did not remove my shoes because I was waiting for my mother on the other side of the tape, among the shoes. As I was always an eager child, I came as close to tape as respectfully possible without stepping beyond it and attempted to peer through the walking legs for my mother.
“HEY!” someone shouted. A boy objectively just an inch taller than me raced to where I stood. “You have to take off your shoes.”
I stared at him, highly offended that he had broken the productive silence in which I was thinking about crunchy autumn leaves and the swings. Also, he was clearly an idiot.
“I only have to take off my shoes if I’m going into the prayer area!” I walked down the taped line away from him. “Go away and mind your own business.”
“You have to take off your shoes,” he protested, following me.
That was a mistake. He was a little boy, but he seemed rather big to me, and he was advancing quickly. I did not like that he followed me as though I had anything to do with him.
“No!” I screamed. “NO NO NO I will NOT take off my shoes!”
I took off running. He ran after me. For all the talk of boys being faster, I out-ran him quite easily. Finally, I ran to my mother and squeezed between her legs.
She turned and leaned down as the boy approached. “She has to take off her shoes!” he informed my mother.
“Oh, she knows,” my mother replied. “You really don’t need to tell her. Or chase her.”
“Tell him to GO AWAY!” I said bossily. I moved back in front of my mother to face him. “Don’t ever tell me what to do! Don’t ever!”
“Where’s your mom?” asked my mother, because people were leaving. “Isn’t she looking for you?”
“She’s waiting for me.” The boy took off.
“Nahida,” my mother frowned, “you ran across the prayer area with your shoes on.”
“I wouldn’t have! I didn’t have time to take them off because he was CHASING me!”
I wondered if other parents would have praised the boy any demonstration of Islamic knowledge, the way they always do. I, for one, was lucky my mother knew how distressing it was to be chased without even playing tag.