in the shadow of the prophet…

it was barely half an hour before the afternoon prayers, asr, and the unforgiving arabian sun beat down on the sprawling complex of the masjid-un-nabi, the mosque of the prophet, in medina

the elderly couple seemed iranian, they were both easily over seventy years old — the man held his wife’s arm and guided her to the ladies’ entrance to the actual masjid itself

unbeknownst to him, he violated the sacrosanct border of properness and, sitting in the shadow of a little outpost (wherein was drinking water from the holy well of zamzam and seating for several — access limited the employees of the “custodian” of the two holy mosques), the arab guard barked out at him: “hajji! ya hajji!

in his aggressive arabic, he went on to explain at the old man that beyond this point no male may pass — there were still fifty or so metres to the actual entrance of the building, an oppressive fifty metres over which women dressed in their black, synthetic abayas had to tread under the glaring heat and beat of the sun

the man tried to argue back, in his broken arabic and farsi, that he simply wanted to guide his wife to the building and give her guidance on how to perform the ziarat, paying respects to the prophet mohammed

of course, he would not be able to pass despite all his feeble protests, and so he told his wife he would wait for her, outside

many laypersons were standing in the shade of the outpost, the real estate was choice, but there was none for the old man, and so he leaned against the outpost with the sun beating down on him

one young man, seeing this, discreetly stepped out of the shade and into the sun, and the weak old man took his place — the unspoken thanks met an unspoken welcoming

then a young policeman with a pious scrabble of a beard, having just taken a sip of the cool refreshing and spiritually rewarding zamzam, emerged from the outpost with a folding chair which he placed directly in front of the old man

forgive him for thinking it was meant for him — it wasn’t

the policeman forced the man out of the shade and took up his place, reclining on the plastic, green cushion of the chair, exchanging platitudes and anecdotes with the religious guard whose duty it was to condemn young and old alike to stay outside of the ladies’ section and to stand in the blistering heat without any respite from the oppression of the sun

the young man who had just, moments ago, given up his place in the shade to the old man looked on and shook his head

here, in the city of the prophet, madinat-un-nabi, madinat-ul-munawwarah, the enlightened city, a simple, elementary and well-known hadith of the prophet flashed in his mind:

you should not be sitting down while an elder is standing up

clearly, he thought to himself as the rage built up inside, inhabiting the enlightened city is not a guarantee of your own state of manners

as is most often the case, the would-be guardians of islamic behaviour are principally the ones who detract from it this!

12 Responses so far

  1. 1

    fahad said,

    May 17, 2004 @ 12:24 pm

    There’s nothing new about arab arrogance. Wait. Make that Saudi Arrogance

  2. 2

    phathima said,

    May 17, 2004 @ 5:48 pm

    there’s a lot that’s terribly wrong with the management of the two holy mosques.
    for instance, when the cleaners – most of whom are brown – aren’t sweeping or mopping or whatever, they can often be found begging for food or money. that says a lot about the way they’re treated. meanwhile, the saudi king bears the title “custodian of the two holy mosques.”
    and the way the muttawa, male and female, lack gentleness in their voice and manner.
    man, if the mosques were just four walls and a roof, they’d be loved no less. but they’d be loved more if the people who ran them followed their own religion a little bit more.
    hajj is all about the pointlessness of divisions of race, culture, status. but – people still die, because the ones higher up don’t really care. it’s a business now.
    and unless you’re arab, how do you change this?

  3. 3

    Abez said,

    May 18, 2004 @ 12:14 pm

    If you have a problem with the Saudi custodianship of the holy sites (like most of us do), then there are more constructive ways of saying so. If I had read this anywhere else I would have thought this to be anti-Muslim propaganda.

  4. 4

    Faiza said,

    May 18, 2004 @ 12:52 pm

    Hmmmmm. Saudi Arabia keeps getting more and more interesting…

  5. 5

    nomes said,

    May 18, 2004 @ 1:11 pm

    abez, i don’t see how you make it out to be anti-muslim propaganda

  6. 6

    Abez said,

    May 18, 2004 @ 2:41 pm

    If you rewrote this story to be in a public building, and the boundary was for whites only or something, and a white security guard had mistreated an old black man, would you not read it and go, “Damn Honkey Pig ressafrassa damn him and his people and his everything.”

    It’s one thing to talk about what’s wrong with our Islamic societies, and God knows a lot is wrong, but you left your complaint too general and based entirely on the negative emotion that your story stirs up. You haven’t said ‘This is what’s wrong, how can we fix it,’ you just basically said “Lookit this pig. He’s an Islamic pig.”

    I wish I had kept my old notes from Logic back in University, but there’s a name for the type of argument that your story presents about Muslims and Islam.

  7. 7

    bki./ said,

    May 19, 2004 @ 3:51 am

    Eh lurk stalk lurk. But. It is said around that the lands of all three sacred masajid of Islam are under occupation. Freedom for Palestine? Yes. But freedom for Arabia too! And, um, now that i think of it, freedom for Syria Iraq Jordan Pakistan and the whole Muslim world! And Amerikkka France Germany Britain and Canada! They’re Muslim too, just don’t realize it yet.

    i think we need to redefine “free radical”. O_o

  8. 8

    yaser said,

    May 20, 2004 @ 8:22 pm

    abez, i wouldn’t call it a ‘story’. an anecdote would be a better word.

    it’s what he saw and what he felt.

  9. 9

    Abez said,

    May 21, 2004 @ 4:57 pm

    Ah yes, but what does Nomes call it? And when he calls it, will it come? :p

  10. 10

    nomes said,

    May 22, 2004 @ 5:25 pm

    i call it a personal experience

  11. 11

    saira said,

    May 27, 2004 @ 10:12 pm


  12. 12

    Abez said,

    June 3, 2004 @ 6:40 pm

    So which one were you Nomes, the old lady or the security guard? :p

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