Bismillahir Rahamanir Raheem
I watched Mahmoud walk away from Molvi Umar and my heart lurched. Both were my heroes. One who confided in me about his beloved wife who made the greater sacrifice in letting him come here. I clicked with Molvi Umar as I had taken to calling him, because we both came from backgrounds that were relatively comfortable and environments that were trying hard to thrive in Deen despite the western ideologies of our societies.
And Mahmoud…Mahmoud was my link to my father… After the Boston bombing I had been implicated due to association and a charge of imprisonment. Some mad part of me actually wished to be imprisoned in Gitmo if just to meet my father…crazy right? Maybe not so much. Not with the past I had. Like the wave that is trying to meet the shore repeatedly ,only to be pulled back again and again…
I tried to get Mahmoud to talk but his memory had been damaged by the torment he underwent in Guantanamo and he was wary of who he didn’t know well. Sometimes he would remember you and sometimes he’d blank out. Maybe it was his coping mechanism till it actually happened One night,Molvi Umar, Mahmoud and I sat in the glow of the small fire after successfully fending off a skirmish.
“What are you doing here American?” Mahmoud growled at me.
“I came to fight.” I replied, stunned. I didn’t want to reveal all my reasons at once.
“Yes but Why?” He answered evenly. His eyes hard. Even Molvi Umair looked taken aback and stretched a placating hand on Mahmoud’s shoulder.
“He’s not a spy Mahmoud, Sulaiman is one of us,he was even with you in Guantanamo.” Molvi said looking at my stricken face. Trying to comfort me.
“How do you know that Umar? How?There were so many there…so many…eventually it became one big scream of pain.. There are spies Everywhere! Plus he is American and spoilt! My own neighbour who I played with from childhood, he was the one who was responsible for getting me into …into that Hell pit!My own friend! Ya Rabbi!” Mahmoud tiredly wiped his eyes and I saw his hands tremble.
“Look here! Mister Mahmoud the Mujaahid ,I Am not a damn spy! I want to fight and free this land too! I cant help where I lived right? But the main thing is I’m here not like many cowards I know of.” I said in a stream of anger.
“Sorry.” He said and walked away.
“Don’t mind him Sulaiman. And he is your senior ,so no matter what,just keep respecting him.” Molvi Umar said
He is not from amongst us,he who does not respect his elders.-Hadith.
“ And true Jihaad begins not with weapons or muscles or your training in warfare but holding your tongue when you’re angry, being the better more humble person and overlooking peoples faults. Mahmoud was a very,very different person once, the torture he went through made him like this. Guantanamo was no walk in the park Sulaiman,you know that bro.” Molvi Umar told me with the kindest eyes.I felt like a fraud and in that instant my true training began. I resolved to be better and better with each day because once Akhlaaq was there…the rest was easy.Because being nice when you don’t want to, being good when you could be bad,is the Real Jihad.
I watched and learned what’s the true spirit of Jihad ,when my eyes fluttered open at 2am and I saw Mahmoud in Sajdah sobbing silently,calling unto Allah our Rabb,Our True Beloved,in the heart of the night,or Molvi Umar cleaning the musjid, the house of Allah,cleaning it’s toilet like a menial worker. Or Imaan,another mujaahid, keeping silent when someone offended him.
The true spirit of Jihad.
A few weeks later…now warm in the true friendship that sprung up between Molvi Umar and I, I placed an old journal in his hands. On it’s old black leather cover was embossed the words “In the Realm of Heroes. By Victor Smith”
“I Want you to read this,this is my legacy,my calling…my story…my goal..but don’t read the end till you get home… and find it in your heart to forgive me” I said choking up,thinking of all that little journal contained.
He nodded and looked at me quizzically but didn’t question me further. That’s one of the traits I liked in Molvi Umar. Belief that everyone had goodness in them even if their motives were skewered.
He was due to leave soon and I would miss him terribly. It was a different kind of bond,one that was formed in the path of Allah, it is deep and true and even if you don’t see each other ,you’re forever in each other’s concern.
The next week as the sun beat down on my back as I did my push ups, counting the 33rd SubhanAllah,trying to complete my Tasbih Fatimi when all of a sudden a hand snaked around my unsuspecting neck. I whipped around but that served to further choke me. Suddenly I was released and saw Mahmoud giving me a rare smile. What the tomatoes?!
“Bad move Sulaiman,you first get the hands off your neck and then turn.” He said
“Yes sir.” I replied meekly rubbing my sore neck.
“Your book…Umar is translating it for me…I am sorry to think you were a spy…but there Are spies..we just don’t know who…We get off soon…come tell me more about your father…and I see if I can remember anything.” He said over his shoulder. My heart felt as if the sunrays came through dark clouds.
Hope. At last. I smiled like a maniac for the rest of the day. I would try to call Victor as soon as I could.
Back to the present.
“Sulaiman,Whats up bro?” Umar asked me smiling.
“When you get back home,could you post this for me,from your hometown? I have better hope of it reaching…her..I mean them ,than here.” I asked sheepishly
“Whose HER?” Molvi Umar asked me with a raised brow,playfully getting me into a headlock.
“Sulaiman… you know there’s ever only one regret I’ve ever had when it came to Jihad…”
“What is it?” I asked,alert.
“The first time I came,I used to write to my wife…only she wasn’t my wife at that time… she was a ghair mahram…it was haraam for me to correspond with her,even though she never got it…I wish I never mixed halaal and haraam. We both deeply regret the attachment we had to each other before nikah and we made taubah…because the heart is only ever meant to contain what pleases Allah…and as long as someone is not in our nikah,we can’t harbour feelings for them…it makes it difficult to feel the connection to Allah Ta’ala.”
“Wow,you mean,even if you don’t Do anything but just silently harbour it silently..it’s a sin?”
“yes”Umar replied “Even though some scholars today make it okay and even say talking with others present makes it legit,it’s not.It’s for our hifazat,protection.”
“InshaAllah,I will save this heart from all the females trying their best to snare it in their nefarious nets and throw out the ones currently residing, aaah I’m joking! !” I declared dramatically as he tried to sideswipe me.
We both laughed and suddenly Mahmoud materialised before us. We straightened up.
“You!” He said.
“Yes?me?” I replied
“You’re Umair’s son!’’ His face looked thunderstruck. A part of his memories which got obliterated at Gauntanamo,had filtered though.
‘You laugh just like your father.” He said with something like a thousand memories chasing each other in his dark coffee eyes.
My heart nearly stop. At last ,he was going to tell me something about my father… I needed this more than a thirsty man in a desert. My father who I hadn’t seen in two decades…this was a step closer to him…Alhamdulilah
Molvi Umar’s face also beamed with joy as he slung an arm around me…”Tell us more Mahmoud.” He said as we walked in the puny shade of the acacia tree near the Musjid’s alleyway and into the open. He understood how big this was for me. We both had reasons to be overjoyed, he was going home to his eager ,welcoming wife and family and I was about to find out a piece of the puzzle that would reunite me with my father.
We were all smiles…glittering like a thousand stars in a dark sky.
And then…they emerged from nowhere. Spilling from the mountains,the alleyways…hundreds of them,covered head to toe in their evil SWAT uniforms. Pushing us to the ground. Their awful,clipped American military tones piercing our ears. Kicking us. I heard a voice say Baghram and Guantanamo and another say traitor and one more say Victor and then the pain wiped me out…
I awoke in a pitch black cell,my back on rough cement.
“Molvi Umar? Mahmoud?” I croaked through a mouth that felt like lead had been placed in it. I touched my lips. Blood.
“They here too you scum, son of a scum.” An evil voice said. “Only not so lucky as you . You’ve done good work for us…like a lamb to the slaughter you lead them to us… even better that you lied to them… We shall make sure your father hears of this…or feels it”
No! No! No! Not when there was some hope! Not the lies they would tell him! And I knew with sudden certainty that they would paint a monstrous picture of me to my father …and that would break him worse than any torture they put him under.
And then a heavy boot came out of nowhere and kicked my sore head and just before the darkness closed over me, a vision of smiling eyes with her blue burqa against the cerulean blue sky, turning to me, her hands raised to me in a farewell and a salute…flashed in my memory. My lips involuntary smiled and I slipped into the place where I couldn’t feel the pain anymore. This wasn’t the end. No way. I wouldn’t fail the girl in the bright, bright blue burqa…
InshaAllah I would, also aspire to be in the realm of heroes.
Chronicling the lives of true life heroes in a fictional format.