One of the most fascinating places that I visited on my trip to Morocco last summer was a small town called Moulay Idriss. It is a northern city known as a spiritual retreat for Muslims seeking enlightenment and direction. The city is small, built on a hill with lots of close quarters and streets that wound around each other. Moulay Idriss has a very rustic and mystical feel to it.
Many Moroccan Muslims come here if they can’t afford to go to Mecca on pilgrimage. The city is named after its founder who is considered to be a pioneer of Islam in the country as well as a distant relative of Muhammad.
Moulay Idriss is buried in the city. Many people come there to pray, burn candles and celebrate some of the more mystical side of Islam. Just like in Christianity, there are a wide variety of divisions and differences between various branches of Islam. It just to happens that in Morocco, the religion has been somewhat combined with modern customs and ancient, mystical traditions.
My friends and I were there as Westerners and Christians. We enjoyed talking with the people in the town and even found a local teenage boy to help show us around. The entire time I felt a darkness to the town. I didn’t see any other foreigners in the town except us. Everyone knew that we didn’t belong. This feeling got worse as we approached the mosque in the center of the town next to the tomb of Moulay Idriss.
As non-Muslims, we did not enter the holy site out of respect for the religion. At the entrance was a bar that stood about waist high. The bar was a line of demarcation. By bending down to enter, you are in essence saying that you submit to Allah as god and are a good Muslim. Of course, we were not prepared to do that. Looking at that bar as if it would cut me in half if I entered, I began to understood the chasm between me and the Muslims in Morocco.
My heart went out to them as I watched person after person bend under the bar to enter. They went somewhere that I couldn’t go. And I wished they would realize it was a dead end. I silently prayed for everyone that passed me that day.
My experience at the bar is something that I will never forget because it reminds me why Christians should support missions, pray for the lost and be witnesses of Christ’s love wherever we go.