My wife and I took the kids out to Nando’s, the Portuguese chicken based family restaurant. We hadn’t been for a while. The last time we went as a family was several years ago, when we were attempting/experimenting with the idea that we could be Muslims.
It was a peculiar experience returning to Nando’s. It felt as though I’d entered into a sense-memory of that experience of Islam. Through the peri-peri sauce, I remembered the strictness with which I attempted to curtail my (indigenous) appetites for pork and wine, I could taste the 5 prayers that make up the personal miraj, the perfume shared between the brothers at jummah, the simplicity of being a Muslim (a submitter) through intention/prayer mat/God, the clean-out of a 90s raver who’d found the 21st century overcomplicated, I could taste certainty and iman (faith) in the holy revelation, of an ummah unified in imitation of the perfect example of the seal of prophets.
It wasn’t an unpleasant sense-memory. It was similar to a recent experience of sipping Hanging Rock shiraz, and recalling a childhood picnic near (not on) that uncanny landmark. Or of drinking Peppermint tea, memories of undergraduate days, writing philosophy essays and electronic music into the early hours.
I’m sure chicken restaurants don’t have the same resonance for other people, Muslim or otherwise. Obviously halal food, and halal sourcing within restaurant chains, are part of western Islam, so it’s not surprising my experience of the religion of Islam intersected with that of corporate/divine preparation of fowl.
But it struck me how much the territories of my tongue have shifted (or returned to their indigenous borders) since that attempt at self-inflicted Islamic colonisation.
And also that, despite the fact that I am not really into chicken, I still have a connection — a strong, physical (sensory) personal connection — to Nado’s. Though uncircumcised, though I eat freely of what I wish and what is natural to my upbringing – Islam has left a physical imprint upon me, a trace if not a shariah.