Hakim Archuletta tells me it’s time to break our fast and I pull my smartphone out of my pocket to ascertain if it’s time to do so. He grins and puts his hand on my shoulder and asks me to look at the colossal mountain landscape just a few miles from the house we’re standing outside of.
“You won’t need that phone,” he says to me. “See that mountain? When the sun is setting and it’s no longer visible above the mountain, that’s when it’s time to break our fast.”
As someone who is constantly on the go and shackled to technology, me coming to New Mexico today was the perfect place for a spiritual detox. We pulled into the TaHa Mosque in Santa Fe, a pueblo looking building that a group of about a dozen people use for regular prayers.
Prior to buying this property three years ago, the Muslim community here for around 20 years worshipped at locations all over the city. Oftentimes they’d celebrate the holiday Eid with prayers inside of a carpet store one of the Muslims in the area owned.
I arrived at the mosque completely burned out from the six hour drive and lack of sleep I got the night before. I go inside the prayer room to do my afternoon asr prayer. I’m immediately taken back by the breathtaking view of the shrubs and mountains from a window facing me while praying. I can’t even imagine what it would be like praying here every night. Without even needing a nap, my fatigue slowly starts to fade as I continue to soak in the soothing atmosphere inside the mosque.
Later, Massoud, an active member at the mosque, arrives and tells me a little bit more about the community here. He’s an Iranian man with a salt and pepper beard who speaks in a bouncing cadence everytime he gets excited about something. I ask him what the ethnic makeup of the mosque congregants are and he says he doesn’t know, because the people here don’t even bother to ask.
“No group or person is in charge of this mosque,” he said. “The only person who owns this place is Allah.”
The front door of the mosque is open and we slouch back on couch chairs facing the entrance. As we’re talking, we cut our conversation short to watch a hummingbird whiz by the entrance.
To break our fast, Bassam and I drive about 20 minutes north to eat with Hakim Archuletta and his son Yaseen’s family. Yaseen walks out of his intriguingly funky looking home to greet us with his child.
Hakims are traditional Islamic doctors. Hakim Archuletta is one of the world’s most respected lecturers on Islamic medicine. He embraced Islam in the 1960s and has studied all over the world under some of the most revered scholars in places such as Pakistan, England and North Africa. His practice focuses on spiritual healing and homeopathic medicine.
He’s a relaxed man who flashes his upper teeth every time he smiles. His rests his legs by folding them on his chair as he speaks in depth about his practice. He’s incredibly well read and refreshing to talk to because he doesn’t rub his wisdom in your face.
Yaseen grew up in New Mexico and married his wife Sobia, a Pakistani architect who is a whiz at cooking. For dinner we eat a soup Hakim Archuletta made from Mexican squash and beans, and Sobia made lamb curry, rice and kheema (seasoned ground beef) that was stewed with a variety of peppers.
I’m a huge foodie and I’m caught off guard by how succulent the meats are that Sobia cooked. She and Yaseen tell me they keep sheep and chickens in their backyard that they raise organically and slaughter Islamically on their own. Plus, just about all the vegetables we ate tonight were grown in their backyard. It’s so cool to meet Muslims that practice their religion by harmonizing their lifestyle with the earth.
My phone begins to ring in my pocket but I completely ignore it because all I can do is focus on how good this food is. It was more than just being hungry from fasting. I felt energized after my taste buds began to realize how intrinsically beautiful the food was.
I live my life as both a reporter and a standup comic, so my day relies heavily on my smartphone and laptop catching up with emails, scheduling appointments and spending hours in front of a word processor screen writing stories or jokes. Spending time in New Mexico today made me realize how much I center my stressful life around man-made creations. It’s amazing how much more fulfilled I feel today marveling at God’s creations instead.