Monday, April 21, 2008

The Sun Rises in the East

“Have we reached India Maa?” asked Moyna, who looked really tired after walking for so long. They had not eaten anything today, as it was dangerous to prod out casually near the border, especially with soldiers of the Pakistan Army moving bout.
“Not yet chotomaa, not yet,” said Charu, as she looked at her tired eight year old daughter’s face, even as her six month old son slept on her shoulders. She herself felt exhausted, but the thought of all that had transpired in the last three weeks would re-energize her again. After all, it was what had happened three weeks, rather a month ago, that had led to her hiding in the tall grass bushes today.
The day, and all that had led up to it, was very well etched in Charu’s mind, with the hands of time having slowly etched it into her stone-like mind. There was a lot of panic amongst the Hindus in her village in Mymensingh, as notices had been put up at the behest of the local Maulvi, with the help of the local Muslim League goons, which decreed that the Hindus present should convert to Islam, or else “no one will be spared”. Her husband, or Masterda as he was popularly known in this village in lieu of being the local school’s headmaster, seemed unperturbed with all that was happening.
“But the posters said…” began Charu, really terrified with what was now a common sight in East Pakistan today. Minorities, the politically correct term for the Hindus in this country, were persecuted for being who they were. She often wondered what their fault was -whether they were Hindus, whether they had dared to remain back in Pakistan, or whether they had misunderstood the very people who had grown up with, and mistaking them for being their kin, their very flesh and blood. But that was all too big for the moment; there was a more pressing issue that made them burn midnight oil with worry.
“The posters mean nothing. Nothing will happen. This is 1948, not the twelfth century. You need not worry at all. After all, they do not call me Masterda out of hollow appreciation. I feel it in their tone-nothing can happen to us. After all, no religion teaches violence, and all teach the utmost respect towards teachers.”
But Charu could not find solace in her husband’s words. Just yesterday, she had heard Radhamoni didi, their neighbour, talk at the ghat about the massacre that had occurred in Dhaka just two years ago. She shuddered as didi spelt out the horrors of the Muslim League goons, as they went about looting and raping Hindu women, easily identifiable because of the Shankha in their hands. The police, consisting of the Pathan mullahs, instead of reining in the criminals, instead stood aloof, pretending that nothing was happening. Some even participated in pulling women out of the Ramakrishna Mission building, hacking the men who tried to resist them with swords, knives, machetes, and whatever that came into their hands. The Suhravardy government was absent that day from Dhaka, and all that could be seen that day was the worse than animal behaviour men can so easily exhibit, all in the name of religion. How can such barbarity ensure those animals the pleasures of heaven, thought Charu, as she had walked back, wondering what fate had in store for her and her family.
Charu’s house was located on the outskirts of the village, so news from the village always took time to reach them, like that fateful day last year, when she had heard of the partition for the first time. They had to turn of the radio to listen to the news of the partition, and how a country was split into two parts, and how they now lived in the eastern part of Pakistan, a country made for the Muslims. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, the two felt, even as a pregnant Charu looked at her seven and a half year old playing with her dolls, and got worried about all that could happen and all that happens to people like them, as she had heard at the ghat the other day. And all that it leads to usually are dreadful consequences, nothing less. God save us, prayed Charu, even as she saw a worried Masterda in a pensive mood, lost far, far away on the pretext of reading a book.
Anyways, it was in the midst of a hot afternoon that a servant came running in, announcing that a group of Muslim League men, led by the Maulvi of the local masjid, were roaming around in the village, marking homes of the Hindus with a black mark. Rumours were flying thick and fast about the Muslims planning to attack on the day of Poila Boisakh, the auspicious day that was barely a fortnight away. Slogans were being raised so as to terrorize the Hindus, who were either preparing to flee, or were accepting Islam, so as to escape the stalking that they would have to otherwise face from the death squads of the Muslim League.
Charu had delivered her son just a few weeks ago, but the news managed to dent the armour of happiness that she and Masterda had worn over themselves, so as to escape the harsh realities that had beset their lives ever since Pakistan was formed. Their Muslim servants, who till a few months ago would sit on the floor in obeisance, now even abused her and her husband on several occasions, even threatening them with dire consequences, as one had done a few days ago. Her children were in severe danger-she could feel it deep within her heart. And yet, she was surprised at her husband’s strange calmness, which reminded her of the silence she had once witnessed before a KaalBoisakh rain that had washed away her entire village, save her ancestral property, when she was just a child. Even then, she pondered, the signs were there, but everyone conveniently ignored them. Perhaps, she thought, it was because nobody had an option then, just as she and the other Hindus today had no option but to try and carry on their “usual” lives in their homeland, if they could dare to claim so.
“Suno, we should move to India. I think that is the best option, or else we will be chopped down like the ryot hacks the rice with the sickle,” said a concerned Charu, even as she was breastfeeding her hungry newborn. Moyna was sleeping in the other room, as she recalled the story their servant told of the Dasgupta vaid and his family being hacked off to death. The local Pathan havildar was also involved, it was rumoured, and yet the police pretended that they had no idea who did it. “These people will spare no one. Not even you and me, or even our kids. They’ll rape my daughter and your wife, and then make us their slaves, like they did in Jyotirmoyee’s village in Khulna.”
“Will you shut up for once?” screamed Masterda, even as his screaming made the newborn to cry. “Nothing will happen to us, you understand. And it’s not even Poila Bosakh yet,” he fumed, his anger tinged voice intermingling with the baby’s loud wails to create a strange kind of audio experience.
She remained unconvinced, and began to make arrangements to flee from the place, packing whatever would be needed for a long journey to India. They had no option, she feared, but to run like fugitives from the place, a place she had called home for the last twelve years, ever since she had come here as Masterda’s wife all the way from Murshidabad. Rice, a few rupees, a handful of jewellery, some cloths for them to wear-all of it was packed into bundles, concealed well from her husband’s sight.
Two nights before Boisakh, she had woken up in the middle of the night suddenly, feeling thirsty. She got out of the bed, and noticed that her husband was missing. Strangely bewildered about her husband’s whereabouts, she heard some whispers coming from outside, and decided to investigate what the matter was, as she tiptoed towards the window, hiding herself from view.
“Please make sure nothing happens to us, Maleehuddin. You know our deal,” she heard her husband’s voice say.
“Don’t worry Masterda, we will not force you to do anything. But you must remember your part of the deal as well. You will hand over your daughter to me as my bride,” responded an audibly amused voice, probably Maleehuddin.
Charu was shocked to hear this. She raised her head slightly to see outside, only to find her husband and the local leader of the League standing in the verandah outside. He was draped in a blanket, obviously to conceal his identity. But her husband was clearly visible to her. And his heads were swarming in her head. She tried to calm herself down, but panic had gripped her heart and soul like anything. Se pondered over her life, as it flashed before her eyes, as she wondered about what sins she committed that she would have to see her child, her flesh and blood, being torn apart from her in such a horrible manner, that she would be sold off in such a manner, just so that their family could buy some time for themselves. But what was the guarantee that her husband would not sell her and her son like this as well, just to save his skin? How can he do this to his own kids, thought Charu, as she hid herself back in the bed, pretending to be asleep, as her husband crept back into the bed, and soon dozed off.
Suddenly, an idea came into her head. No, she felt firmly within herself, I will not let this happen. My kids are not for sale, she said to herself in her mind, as she got off the bed, and picked up her son, who was asleep, from the cot. Slowly, she tiptoed to the treasury, where she had hid her ‘emergency supplies’, and picked up the necessary bundles with great difficulty. Soon, she moved towards her daughter’s room, and woke her up, as she motioned towards her daughter to remain silent.
“Where are we going Ma?” Moyna asked, oblivious of what was happening and why it was happening.
“We are going away to India, Chotomaa,” she whispered, as they slowly opened the backdoor, and walked out of the house.
“Is it far away?” Moyna asked innocently, even as they were walking across the rice fields, which looked really strange in the light of the stars and the moon, and yet reminded her of the horror of what she had heard (why she never knew).
They stopped at one point, and Charu turned around to look back at her home. She stared at it for a while, before responding, “Yes Chotomaa, it is a bit far away, but we will cover the distance soon, don’t worry. I’ll buy you a toy when we reach there, okay?”
Moyna nodded in assent, as they walked out into the horizon, and into the darkness.
It was a long and arduous journey. They had to hide their identity from everyone. She had to use Muslim terminology like pani for jal for instance. She even had to stop wearing the Sankha and the sindur, for which she took not one moment of hesitation. With a husband like that, she thought, it would be better if I were a widow, she said to herself, as she wiped the sindur off her head. They had to travel like beggars, and hid around the water bodies to learn the latest news about what was happening. She even saw a massacre in front of her eyes, as she saw the river turning red with the blood flowing from the village, with slogans of “Allah-o-Akbar” echoing all around. Hindu women being raped, men being disfigured beyond recognition, bodies floating in the local ponds-you name it, she saw it.
Finally, the day today arrived, when they were waiting for night to fall. Rangers were roaming all around the place, who disappeared, as she had noticed, at the arrival of dusk for the carnage to continue. Their bodies were tired, but their minds were numb to the pain and terror that they had witnessed all along. Just a few hours more, she thought, as they waited. Soon, dusk arrived, and they got up, and after deciding the east, they walked opposite to it, towards the west. Soon, they would be free, she thought, of all that they could have been victims of. Moyna’s feet were swollen from all the strain they had suffered; she herself felt tired and broken down due to the baby’s weight. But a steely determination made Charu push herself and her daughter to walk forward.
Dawn had broken out from the border side, and a few Indian soldiers were walking along the border, finishing their last round of patrol duty for the night. They were turning back, when one man suddenly shouted, pointing towards something.
The officer in-charge quickly walked into the tent, to see an eight year old girl, a six month old boy, and a middle-aged woman lying on two cots. The girls looked really exhausted, as they had fast fallen asleep.
“Who are these people? And how did they get to the Indian side of the border?” asked the officer from a constable.
“Saab, the woman told her name as Charu Haldar, and her daughter’s name as Moyna. They came from Mymensingh district in East Pakistan. She said they came here to escape from her husband, who had sold off her daughter to save the family from the terror of the Muslim League goondas.”
The officer looked stunned, listening to the accounts that the woman had told of the massacre that was going on in East Pakistan. Even the intelligence reports did not mention all that was actually happening there, and has made a wrong assessment, he said within himself. He asked, “But how did they come here on foot?”
“Saab, she said that all she knew was that India lies towards the west. So she simply saw the sun rise in the east, and followed it when it set to walk the last few miles. After saying that, she had fainted.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Terrorist and the Sufi

Shoaib was all alone, but for the classes at the madrsa that he attended. Nobody was his friend-neither brothers, nor his parents, nor his grandparents. His only friends were his ‘teachers’ at the madras, who taught him the true meaning of the Holy Quran, and how not to let yourself be deluded by the evils that surround us all-the televisions, the radios, the movies, the music-and to defend yourself and other brothers of the faith from the torment and the Satan that tried hard to surround them all around.
“You must learn the true meaning of the Quran-e-Sharif, and save the world. You must try hard to make the entire world Dar-ul-Islam. Hell be to the infidels; the kafirs have to be removed from the face of the earth. That is the only true way to save the faith, which is under attack from the kafirs today everywhere. There is only one true faith, and that is the path that the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) has chosen, which only a select few like us are destined to use.”
This was what he believed in-this was his true calling in life. Waging jihad against the infidels in the world was his destiny, and he cried for the deaths of his brothers-in-arms who sacrificed their lives at the various warfronts for the sake of defending their holy faith. They will truly get the jannat that they deserved, and I pray to you Allah that they do, he would pray thus every year. His teachers were very impressed by his dedication to The Cause, and secretly admired his resilience at such a young age, and his passionate hatred of the un-Islamic practices that surrounded them, trying to corrupt the youth of this country.
That is, till he met Anwar.
The day still is very well etched in the mind and heart of Shoaib. He was walking past the coffee-house, reciting the lesson of the Quran-e-Sharif that taught him the virtues of waging jihad against the infidels. And he was walking at a brisk pace, so that even the pitiful shadows of the evils do not manage to touch his clothes at all. It was hell he was walking through, he remembered, and the true test of God is that when you do not give in to the temptation, just like Ibrahim had done while sacrificing his son. The price of staying true to the faith is high, but it is nothing compared to what the promise of God to the true believers was for the Day of Judgment.
Suddenly, he heard the ney’s high pitched but soothing sounds, and the chant of Allah’s name began to stream into his ears, in tune to the ney, the tar and the davul. The music started to play about in a circular pattern. So much devotion, and yet so much love and passion for God was filled into the sounds, that one could feel it if one were deaf, could touch it if they were maimed, and could see it if they were blind. There was a subtlety in the entire surrounding. Shoaib had never felt like this before-was it love that he felt? No, it cannot be, thought Shoaib, cursing himself for falling prey to the temptation, as he stormed past the building, reciting his lesson for the day louder than ever, making even the passers-by stare at him, and mistake him for some sort of a fanatic lunatic. But he did not care-he was making sure that not only he, but the entire world knew the word of God, and all that it should imply for the non-believer traitors of Islam, the ones who committed haram in the eyes of Allah.
Back home, as he entered his room, he could not help but wonder what the entire scene in the afternoon was all about. How could they desecrate God’s name so openly, make it victim to the evil temptations like this? How could they commit such a deep sin so brazenly, without anyone to stop them? He must ask his teacher this, and ask for his advice now, he thought, as he laid down to rest before he went for his final prayers of the day. The way of Allah is not easy-it demands sacrifices out of the true believers, so that they can spread the Word of Allah and bring the non-believers into conformity and folds of the only True Faith that exists today. He has to stand by The Cause, and perform his part in this, and be ready to sacrifice himself when the need arises.
And yet, as he walked towards the wazu, he couldn’t help but remember the tune and the chant. There was a strange divinity about the music-it felt that the people who listened to the music were actually moving closer to God. It felt that the musicians and the singers involved could see God in front of their own eyes, and their music was actually an outlet, a vent to their joy, and an expression of the bliss one could feel on seeing God right up in front of them. What was he thinking-realized Shoaib, as he went into the sanctum to pray, and offered his prayers, and walked back slowly, puzzled by all that had happened to him that day.
The next day, Shoaib walked past the same route after his class, and coincidentally, heard the same kind of music played around him, this time to a different tune. Shoaib was highly intrigued and puzzled about all that was happening around him. He pretended anger and decided to step into the coffeehouse to stop the infidels from performing the haram again-he had to; it was his duty as a true Muslim to stop what is wrong, prohibited by the Book. And so, he walked in, unaware of what he would next see.
For, inside the coffeehouse, there were several men and women together, which was total sacrilege in itself. These people were dressed in flowing white robes, wearing tall red, tailed caps on their head. Some of them were singing, some of them played the ney, the davul and the tar, while the others were whirling like tops at their marked places, their eyes closed, their heads tilted on their raised shoulders, and their hands spouted in the manner of a teapot. They were reciting something he had never heard before, and performed salutations in the name of Allah for peace, for tranquillity, and for eternal bliss. They moved about in circles as they rotated, creating a mirage of sorts of white flowing about. If Shoaib could look from above, he could have seen how they all looked so much like beautiful white roses brought together into a bouquet that depicted nothing but absolute peace and serenity. Soon, some of the other, coloured roses joined this bouquet, giving it a multicoloured vibrancy that could not be even thought of, even as they all now started performing the zikr, remembering the various names and qualities of God that each human being should strive to achieve within himself or herself in their lifetime. Shoaib stood transfixed; having never seen anything like this before-he had not been conditioned to see such a sight ever. It was a highly entrancing sight, and he stood still there, near the entrance.
Suddenly a hand pulled him into the whole scene. Shoaib turned his head around to see a man dressed in those white robes taking him to join the semaa, as he quietly motioned him to recite the names of God, as many as he knew, along with them. Shoaib understood the sign language, but that did not clear the clouds of confusion that had occupied his mind. However, he did as was told of him-that was all he had done his entire life so far, and started the recitation. And, to his own surprise, he found a strange sense pervade his entire body. It was the feeling he had felt long ago, when, as a little kid, his mother had held his hand and led him to the weekend bazaar for the first time, and he was excited and elated at the same time. It was even better than that, he felt, as tears began to roll out of his eyes as he remembered his mother, who had soon after that excursion joined Allah, having been shot dead for not following her duties as a Muslim wife, which he had never ever witnessed, thanks to his father. And he felt his heart beat loudly for everyone to hear, as his pulse ran faster than the horses of the chariot of the Angel Gabriel, he felt, as he recalled the name La Ilaha Ill Allah non-stop. Soon, the duval’s beat picked him again, and they all started to whirl and move about in a circular movement. For once, Shoaib knew what to do, as he joined them similarly. He was not getting dizzy; a part of him observed neutrally, as he whirled about, and nausea did not grab his throat, as he felt deeply enchanted by all that was happening-for once, he felt that he was beginning to understand God, as every Surah that he had ever memorized flashed past his closed eyes, revealing its true nature to him. Even in his black coloured robes he did not feel out of sorts and out of place, as he felt a sharp surge of white light pervade his senses, blinding his already closed eyes. He felt like the entire universe had shrunk down into him, as if Allah had actually resided into his heart and soul, and was smiling generously at him.
Soon the music ended, and Shoaib was again standing all alone, till the man who had pulled him in came forward, smiling at him. He was carrying a tray on which sufi cha kehwa cups were placed, as he asked, “Have some, its good.”
“No thanks,” said Shoaib, really intrigued at all that had happened around him, and he looked around him to see people happy and joyous. They were all strangers, yet they all seemed familiar to him, as if he had met them before. “So, what’s your name?”
“Anwar. And yours?”“Shoaib. ”
“So Shoaib, is this your first Sufi semaa assembly?”
Shoaib did not answer. Instead, he walked away, feeling awkward about all that had just happened, and his own experience.
On reaching home, he walked over to his mother’s room, and for the first time in his life, he opened her almirah, which was forbidden in this strictly orthodox house-she had flouted the rules of Islam, and anything to do with her were hidden from the eyes of the world. He took out the album she used to maintain, and opened it after a long time, and saw his mother’s face. It was a photograph of him and his mother. They had gotten it done secretly, so that father does not find out and get all angry. He was wearing a western suit, looking very cute, as he remembered his mother’s words, and she was dressed as the typical Muslim housewife, minus the hijab, but the headscarf was there perfectly in place. Shoaib could not look further-there were tears in his eyes at the mere thought of a mother he had lost long ago, but who was still somewhere deeply etched in his mind. He went back to his room and for hours together, for the first time in his life, he cried like a child, but there was no one to console him. Not his father, not his brothers-no one was there to console him and comfort him. He was expected to carry their hopes of being a martyr to the cause, and crying was considered girlish and stupid. Crying out the long stored grief out of himself, he finally fell fast asleep.
The next day, Shoaib went back to the madrsa, where his teacher took him to another room, alone. It was occupied by several older men, complete strangers to Shoaib. As he walked in, another one of his teachers walked up to him, gleaming with pride.
“Shoaib, my child, thank Allah today from the bottom of your heart. Only a select few get the chance to participate in the holy jihad that we are waging against the non-believers and the infidels.”
Shoaib looked up, puzzled. He could see several people, some of them eve armed with Kalashnikovs. He could not understand what was happening around us, but he was getting a bad feeling about all that was happening around him right now. Even then, another teacher spoke up to him.
“Shoaib my boy, you have been selected to start the jihad in this city. You have been offered the opportunity to undertake a fidayeen attack on the church in the city on Sunday, the day those kafirs will assemble to celebrate the resurrection of Issa. Let the world know that you are the true follower of Allah, that you will wage jihad to inspire your brothers here to continue the good work, and that you are among the few who truly deserve jannat. Prove us your mettle my child by accepting this mission.”
Shoaib nodded his head in approval, though his mind had not approved of anything, even as Kalashnikovs began to fire all around, as if people had won the jihad even before starting it. At this point, everyone congratulated Shoaib for his noble deed, and his teachers blessed him at which he managed a smile on his face, and said, “Yes, I will fulfil my destiny.”
And yet, Shoaib was not happy from within.
As he walked past the coffeehouse again, Shoaib could see that people were assembling there for the semaa. They were a little late today, for the entire city was witnessing traffic jams, and yet they had all made it. Just then Anwar walked over. “Salaam Aleikum friend,” smiled Anwar, as he saluted Shoaib.
Shoaib saluted back in return, but remained quiet. Instead, on Anwar’s insistence, he walked in into the coffeehouse, as Anwar called in other people, and instructed them, much to Shoaib’s opposition, to change his clothes into robes similar to them. Soon, he was in robes like them, and they all assembled, as Anwar today picked up the ney, while he made Shoaib sit there, and join them amongst the musicians.
“Do you know any songs in the praise of the Lord Shoaib?’asked Anwar, “or should we give you something?”
“But why?” asked Shoaib, baffled by the unusual question posed at him by Anwar. What washe doing here anyway, he thought simultaneously, which also came out on his face as an expression.
“You will sing today,” said Anwar, as he oversaw everyone adjust their instruments, even as he inspected the ney. “Please.”
Politeness can never be ignored, Shoaib had read once, as he remembered a song he had learnt from his mother, and replied, “Okay, I’ll sing. I know one song, and I will sing only one song, if you do not object.”
Anwar nodded his head in approval, as he began to play the ney and ws playing a haunting tune, even as everyone began reciting the selaam, and the duval and the tar joined in.
Soon, Shoaib began a song he had been taught by his mother, who was a Sufi herself, because of which she had been killed. He sang a song that asked for Ilahi to help them in times of need and pull them out of the various storms that come across everyone’s lives. The song also expressed the love of the adherent similar to that of Mejnun, even as he pleaded for the divine guidance. His eyes were closed, but he felt he could see his mother there, twirling in her sky blue robes. He tried to reach her, but she kept moving farther from him, and soon she disappeared, leaving him all alone in the room, with nobody around.
The song ended, and he opened his eyes, to see that the Sufis were whirling away, as somebody else took over the singing. He realized that the song spelt out his heart’s dilemmas, and the confusion clouded his mind so much that he felt like running away from everything. And yet, he was sitting there, watching the entire proceedings take place. Shoaib got up and walked away after giving a salute to a surprised Anwar, and headed back to his home, where he was greeted by an ecstatic group comprising his father and brothers. His father walked up to him, and kissed his forehead, having held it in his hands that were holding a rosary, while he kept softly whispering Allah’s name. “My son, you have made all of us proud today. May you go to jannat without any delay, and may your hands kill countless number of those bloody kafirs. This is my prayer for you.”
His brothers took turns to congratulate him, even as he stood there, feeling lost and all alone. Is this what he had wanted all along, wondered shoaib, even as he headed towards the mosque to offer his namaaz, and as he finished it, he felt more confused than ever about all that was happening around him. What is you will, Allah, he thought, with tears welling up in his eyes at the mere thought of what he was supposed to do. How can I kill so many people, when the Holy Quran advocates peace as the ultimate goal of jihad? How can we achieve peace? Is this what Dar-ul-Aman is supposed to mean? Is not jihad to be waged against your own shortcomings, as opposed to those of the others? When the Quran does not question anybody’s beliefs, why should I?
All these questions continued to torment Shoaib, even as he was learning the use of the explosive he was supposed to bear on his body when he had to perform the ‘Sacred Act’. Those men with the Kalashnikovs were rough, and did not respect anything or anyone that ‘dared’ to perform any ‘un-Islamic acts. They were blind, realised Shoaib, ever observant that he was, blind to peace, to harmony, to the path of moderation. To them, their will was paramount, their word the law. And yet, as he was being explained the layout of the Church, they were doing it all in the name of Allah and his Prophet (PBUH). He faintly heard the plan, though mentally he was lost somewhere, of how he was to enter the Church on Sunday, dressed as one of the kafirs, with the bomb strapped onto his waist and how he was to rip apart everything when the Mass ends, including himself. Looking back, Shoaib thanked God that he had met Anwar, because of whom he realized his true calling, and because of whom he shunned the dangerous path that he was treading on.
It was Saturday, a day before the momentous day, and to Shoaib, the day held in its garb great agony and anguish for him. His mind was driving him to the point of insanity, as he struggled to even move forward. And again, he found himself, after such a long time, in front of the same coffeehouse that had started it all. The faithful were gathering there, and he decided to move in, so that he could give his mind some peace for the last time in his life. He moved forward, walking into the coffeehouse, and sat there in a corner, even as the dervishes danced and recited poetry in the praise of the creations of Allah, citing their beauty and thanking Him for all that he has bestowed on him. It seemed that they were all filled with divine light, and with their spouted hands, they were trying to give it all out to the others so that they too fell blessed. Shoaib however noticed that Anwar was missing from today’s semaa. His eyes searched for him, but he was nowhere to be seen-not amongst the whirling dervishes, not amongst the musicians and the singers. Puzzled, Shoai waited for the semaa to end, and then moved forward to the person serving cha, asking him about Anwar.
The man looked up at him, and after a few moments of awkward silence, motioned Shoaib to follow him. Having come to the ground floor, he told him with a serious face, “Anwar is dead.”
Shoaib was traumatized to hear the news. “How did it happen?” he asked, fighting hard to hold back his tears.
The man then told him about how some guys from the madrsa down the road had warned him a few days ago to stop these activities of haram if they loved their lives. But Anwar never paid any heed to their warnings, and continued to hold the meets in his coffeehouse here. He was shot dead last week only, as he was coming out of the coffeehouse after the semaa by some unidentified people.
“His last words really showed how highly thoughtful he had become. He had actually come really close to Allah, much closer than any one of us could even imagine. He asked for forgiveness for the assassins, and said to us that the choice was ours; either we become like them, or we show the world what Islam was truly all about.”
Tears were flowing down his eyes, as Shoaib could not believe what he had just heard. Anwar’s last word…the choice is yours; he had finally come to a conclusion in life. He now knew what his life was to be all about, and what his choice would be now. He had decided to choose life over death, peace over war, love over hatred and Allah over the true Satan. He slowly walked away, as the darkness engulfed him so as to fade even his bare outlines.
Newspapers of the city next day carried the news of how the city had been saved from a dangerous terrorist strike, and how it took the courage of one man named Shoaib to rise up and choose the peaceful path by telling the police all about the terrorist, who had all been shot dead in an encounter that had lasted for four hours deep into the night. Shoaib was never seen nor heard of after that-not at his house, nor in the madrsa, not even in the coffeehouse. But he left behind a legacy-a legacy of understanding what Islam truly means.
Shoaib, in the meanwhile, had left the city, and had decided to head towards the city of Konya, where the tomb of Rumi lay His mother’s last wish, he had found out, was that her belongings be buried near the garden in which her spiritual master Rumi lay, and he had to fulfil it.

The Economic Slowdown Needs Immediate Address

The Buck Stops With the Duo (Courtesy: Bloombergquint) The fracas in Maharashtra notwithstanding, things are at a critical juncture ...