"The Grain In-Between"
By: Imran Hafiz, Aaron Sieczkowski, James Harris and Matt Johnson
In the old times, just after the death of the Prophet, peace be upon him, there were the men, and the women. The women were kind and humble, but the men were as they always were, living with some semblance of society, but without the heart. Raiders and bandits swarmed the desert, and in the cities, powerful people perverted the teachings of the One God, and his prophets. To the North, the men with faces the color of the clouds came, imposing their rule on the rebellious and mysterious Arabia. The times were changing, and uncertainty was the virtue in all the eyes and faces. Beggars roamed the streets, once dignified men who denied the last generation of beggars. But there was one redeeming feature in this land of the unknown: the innocence of the young at heart spawned smiles and laughter. In the scorching heat of the auburn desert, the men and women waited for the children to grow up and take the world that was theirs; and change it for the better.
In the country we now call Saudi Arabia; there lived a man by the name of Abu-Hussam. Abu-Hussam was once a child, but this he could not remember. His parents, rich merchants, gave him everything he desired, so that eventually, Abu-Hussam became a rich merchant as well. Abu-Hussam was not a happy man, and the only thing that eased his melancholy attitude was money. As he grew older, he grew more and more addicted to these shiny, golden dinars that everyone wanted. He abandoned the commandments of his faith, and poured all his will into getting the most money he could, by any means. He metamorphosed from an unsure young man into a cold-hearted creditor. The old man "lent" money to people at such high rates; he knew that they could not pay him back. So they worked and worked, all the while becoming more entrapped in the old man's net of deceit and trickery. But in the bottom of his once large heart, the man held a spark of goodness. However, the old man did not know how to blow on the spark in order to make a fire of decency to melt the shell of ice encasing his heart.
Abu-Hussam had moved from the port town of Jeddah to the flourishing city of Riyadh, the Rose of the Desert. There he started his credit business. He soon grew to be one of the wealthiest men in the city. He was miserly, and never spent any of his black money. He bought a castle in the desert and hired countless servants to attend to his every need, but he was still unhappy.
On the thirteenth day of the month Dhul-Hijja, Muslims worldwide celebrate the holiday of Eid-ul-Adha. On this day, they commemorate the sacrifice of Abraham. According to the blessed and holy texts of the Injeel, what the Christians call the Bible, Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to test his faith. Abraham was later commanded by God to sacrifice a sheep instead of the boy. It is the practice in Muslim communities, that during the holiday of Eid, a small amount of money is given as a gift to each child of the community. This practice is akin to presents at Christmas-time.
Abu-Hussam was returning from a business deal, well-satisfied with himself. He had had a very good week, business wise. Everyone wanted to borrow money for Eid. He was almost to his palatial estate, before he was accosted by two small children. One young boy, and another young girl, obviously the boy's older sister. The children, who looked to be about 6 and 8, giggled as they approached the fat Abu-Hussam, clothed in the finest silk Thawb and dishdasha, with a Keffiyeh headdress on his head. His gold rings glittered in the sunlight as he stroked his long, black beard. The children, clad in rags and grime, exclaimed together, "Eid Mubarak!"
"Eid Mubarak." grumbled the old man after a time. The children looked at him plainly.
"May we please have some Eidi, kind sir? My brother and I want to bring home some dates for Eid." asked the girl carefully. The boy just looked at the man with wide eyes.
"Leave me alone; go back to your bitch of a mother! How dare you ask me for money, you gutter dogs! Do you know who I am! I am Abu-Hussam, king of Riyadh!" vociferated Abu-Hussam with fervor. The sweat beaded on his gritty, black hair fell to the floor with exaggerated torpor. His eyes burned with the fire of disgust and the stone of his heart beat faster. The eyes of the boy never stopped looking. Eventually, they filled with salt-water, the lifeblood of the desert. His wet eyes shined as his tears dropped to the sand silently, like pearls of the sun. The old man turned around, as the children disappeared. He bit his lip, and spun to face them, ready to scold them once more. But the children were nowhere to be found. He searched the sands with his eyes for them, but his glance landed on two black hawks, gliding on the winds in the direction of the holy city of Mecca.
Suddenly, the old man remembered another man. Mu y dudd. The father of children, he had fled Riyadh to escape the debt he had owed Abu-Hussam. The children reminded him of the man, who had fled to Mecca. He took the omen to heart, and hurried home, to pack for a journey to Mecca, to retrieve his money and to exact his revenge on the man that had escaped his grasp.
He went home as fast as his experienced legs could take him. He started to make preparations for his immaculate journey. "It is going to be such an empowering revenge; finally, this piece of garbage pays for what he did to me."
He made all of the preparations in one day, able to get a caravan, eight body guards, and forcing his servants to pack much of his glory being a merchant.
He departed the next day. The journey so far had been seemingly endless. He had been trapped in his caravan with nothing to do for days. He wasn't aware of what he was really doing.
It was noon; the old man had stretched out onto the silken pillows in his private caravan. He was thinking of the man that had betrayed him. Despite his grisly and deviant thoughts toward his debtor, he stuck his head out of his extravagant caravan and in a kind, yet stern matter, he asked his protectors: "Are we approaching Mecca?"
"I'm sorry master," the first guard replied, "We will not be there for quite a while."
"Ugh," the man mumbled in frustration. He realized this would be a trip longer than he had surmised. He wondered if it was going to be worth it. The answer, he soon came to discover, was yes. He began looking for things to occupy the large amount of free time he had. He decided what would greatly enthrall him: a trick on his ever so humble and loyal guards, even though they were his only form of protection. "Surely they won't get mad. I own them: they need me!" he convinced himself.
It was then that the man heard something that was so loud it knocked him out of his day-dreaming. His guards looked this way and that; there was nothing to be seen. All of a sudden the guards started shouting to one another: shouts of despair and help.
"What are we going to do?"
"What is that?"
"How are we going to get away?"
Finally, in what seemed like hours, they thought of Abu-Hussam. His most treasured and trusted guard violently thrust his head into the outstanding caravan.
"We need to leave now!"
"What is it?" Abu-Hussam questioned his protector. "What is happening?"
"No time!" the defender shouted back. "We have to leave now, no more questions."
"All right, let me get my things."
"Hurry, or protect yourself!"
"Protect myself?" the old man chuckled, yet some-what hurried to gather his precious belongings. He decided to think of what was most valuable to him: his rings, precious silks, jewels. "These all definitely matter!" Abu-Hussam convinced himself. He decided hastily and left the caravan; but nothing was in sight. "Where is everybody?" the man yelled so loud his frustration could be heard in Mecca.
He saw a long, narrow shape swinging in the sky. He wondered what that could be, and why was it so important; "An omen", he thought to himself. Whatever it was, it was getting closer. He started to pace in the opposite direction, but his precious belongings were weighing him down. He was torn. Leave his things, or become threatened by the ominous, black figure in the sky?
He decided to take his leave, sprinting as fast as a man his age could possibly run. The sun's rays were beating down upon; he had no water, he was helpless. Where did his guards go? The "thing" was catching up to him. "What am I going to do?" But the desert sands of Saudi Arabia seemed never to end. He became slower and slower, until he was forced to stop due to the intense feeling of needing water to quench his thirst. He collapsed. As he drifted off, he began to curse at himself. "Why did I have to go back for my stupid things? What good they are to me now?"
"How old do you think he is?" a boy of nearly twelve asked.
"I don't know, he looks old though."
Abu-Hussam opened his cold eyes. There were two kids looking straight down at him, questioning why he was laying in the middle of nowhere.
"W-w-ho are you?" Abu-Hussam asked, unable to articulate due to the desert: the one thing that was forcing him into another man. This demented man was not rich and did not possess the attitude of royalty, but instead was an animal, desperate and alone.
"We're two boys going to Mecca," the twelve year old replied, "What are you doing here?"
"Water..." the man only managed to get out.
"Water to help a man, or water to restore a soul." the second boy of about fourteen years said as he gave Abu-Hussam a flask of water. The boys helped him up and led him to their caravans, their only protection as they crossed the dangerous deserts to Mecca. "There must be about forty people here," the old man said, surprised.
"Yes sir, we all want the self-satisfaction of visiting the holy city," the fourteen-year-old stated; who's, Abu-Hussam soon found out, name was Aalim. It was going to be a long journey; that was the only thing that was silently agreed upon by everybody.
They all made their way with much laughter and discussion. The travelers spoke about every little different thing one can imagine. The man simply climbed into a caravan, expecting a ride. Aalim set himself next to the man, and told him that only women, children, and supplies were to stay in the caravans. "All right," the old man snarled and got down. Aalim sensed the old man's mind; it was cold, but he could tell, even this early on, it was filled with knowledge. Aalim would give up anything he had to get into the mind of such a wise man. Knowledge was the only thing he craved, food and water were only physical needs; but knowledge the boy learned had started to fill his educated soul.
Aalim had to talk to the man. After all, Aalim was the old man's only acquaintance, besides his friend the twelve year-old. "I must find a way to talk to him; to open another mind was what he wanted.
Aalim never really had much of an education. He was a country lad, living with just his parents and brother, who died of an unknown disease at an early age. Aalim had convinced himself, if he could learn all that he possibly could, everything and anything he could find would lead him closer to the avenge his brother from the dark, cruel satisfaction of nature.
"I'm sorry, what is your name?" Aalim asked the man.
"Go away," he grumbled.
"I would but there's something about you; I feel you have something to tell me."
Well, after all, the old man loved to talk about his life as a merchant; he loved to talk about anything he knew about. They talked for hours. Eventually, they started to discuss philosophy, history, and business: all strong parts of Abu-Hussam's education or in a school and in life. They didn't necessarily like each other, more or less tolerated each other, because the conversation was so incredibly fascinating.
They talked about the way the mind works and history: the Pyramids of Giza, the Persians and war, the Greeks and Romans, eventually to Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. However, it was about time to reach the next city; both of them were disappointed. Neither wanted to stop discussing everything either of them knew about, but there were rumors. Rumors that spawned nervousness and the group found out the deadly rumors were true. There were bandits raiding the city, lighting everything on fire, and some were heading straight toward the group! The group began to panic as they saw these men race to them on steeds as fast as lightning. Everyone scattered: running as long, powerful, and far as they possibly could. Aalim and Abu-Hussam ran together into the mystical desert, not allowed to look back by the threat that could cost them their lives.
Eventually they stopped running and came to their senses. They were all alone.
"What are we going to do?" Aalim asked, looking into the man's eyes as to find some sign of comfort. There was none.
"Umm OK. Tell me, uh, tell me more about the ancient Hebrews was it?" They talked about the Hebrews. Aalim wanted to know everything as fast as he could. He was to knowledge as Abu-Hussam was to riches. Aalim had a way about him; he could touch and inspire anyone he met, but Abu-Hussam was carrying a shield and was too old to become inspired again.
It bright sun was starting to take an effect on the two travelers. The desert sands were all they could see; the constant picture became old; they seemed to be stuck in an Art Museum, forced to stare at the same picture for all eternity. They both needed water; for both of them originally only had two pouches of this precious liquid, and it dwindled down to a third of one.
"Let me give you my water," Abu-Hussam started, "I am too week, I won't make it. Leave, leave now a mile that way, there is a watering hole, let me die in peace."
"No, no, no I won't leave you."
"I am too old, there is no chance for me, I won't take no for an answer," Abu-Hussam reinstated.
"Let me at least give you my water, it's the least I can do for all of your gracefulness."
"Fine, but that is all I will allow," Abu-Hussam spoke softly to the boy.
"But-" Aalim started.
"Go now, I will not take no for an answer."
Hussam received the water pouch, and in turn motioned toward the direction he wanted Aalim to travel. Aalim started off in that direction, looking ever-so long at Hussam, wondering how he could meet such a kind man, and how the world would be losing an amazing soul. It wouldn't be the first or the last time something of that order was muttered in the desert.
He journeyed onward at the call of Hussam; yet as he continued to walk across the sands, time seemed to shorten more and more. Minutes turned into hours, hours turned into days, days turned into weeks; until all that was left was an everlasting epitome of hell. The sands engulfed him and his soul, and he was never heard from again. There was no watering hole, and there would never be one.
He wished he didn't have to think about it. At times like these he would not normally ever care; after all, he was only after the man who had stolen from him and anything he has to do to reclaim that is necessary. Yet despite this he still had this wrenching pain in his belly that would not go away with happy thoughts. Abu-Hussam was not yet dead, but he was starving, and fast. He was only about a day away from Mecca, and he knew his hatred would carry him through the journey.
He knew he had to make one final stop before he could go to Mecca in good conscience, and that was to catch the boy before his horrible dream could come true. He walked on for what seemed like days, which he knew to also be the direction to Mecca. There were times when he thought of giving up looking for the poor boy, but then he would dream again, and his mind would force him to continue the search.
One day as he was practically crawling along the sands, he spotted a speck ahead of him. It was no ordinary grain of sand, it was a strange dark color not seen in the desert. He ran towards it, and as he got closer he started to realize his own horrible nightmare. It was the body of Aalim; frail, dehydrated and completely lifeless. He looked upon his eyes and saw nothing but empty glass; and in that very second he knew no other hatred but for himself; and himself only.
There comes a time in every man's life where the urge to just give up starts to overwhelm the urge to carry on; and for Abu-Hussam this time had come. He sat down and looked at the boy; and thought to himself for hours. He though about his life, everything he had done, and whether if it was all worth it in the end. For the first time in his life he saw what he really was: a heartless man. Despite realizing this he was no where close to deciding what to do and with his food and water completely out, he really had no options.
"Walk to Mecca, your feet will carry you".... "Lay here and sleep; sleep for all eternity".... "You have no one, there is not a soul in the world that calls you their own".... "Aalim was the only hope you ever had of a friend, and now you've killed him, you are a monster".... "Monsters belong in cages, and you're in your own personal cage. You've never been let out to see what you really are"... The voices were too loud and intruding for him to take, but he knew there was one that still left him hope for not only his physical body, but his soul.
It was open then it was closed in an instant, hope is a fickle thing when one is near death. The obsession one can achieve over something as ordinary as water is incredible. It shows the power our mortal life has over our eternal souls. But as death is knocking at our doors, there is this urge, this animal instinct that kicks in. Some people would say this is the single most beautiful thing seen in the world, the look on one's face as they are fighting for their lives. This is the position Abu-Hussam was in, and little by little, inch by inch; he was coming for Mecca.
For years and years this experience would haunt him, shape him, and mold him into a better person; with every step he took he was writing his own final destiny, he was accomplishing what few in our lifetime ever will: He was beginning to realize his reason for living, the reason God put him on this earth. Simply put at the hour of his most desperate need, he did not thirst; he did not hunger; for his god was with him, and carried him to Mecca.
As Hussam approached the city of the undying faith his soul was lifted, for he was now almost in paradise, one step away from one of the most holy grounds known to man. Despite not having a huge grip on his religion as a child or as the evil man he once was, there was always this deep faith lurking inside him waiting to be unleashed, and waiting to be freed from its shackles. As he approached Mecca the shackles were broken, and he was set free upon the world.
Mecca was a busy city, nothing ever rested. An innkeeper who had been working all day stepped away from his position and escaped outside to a place of solitude where he could be alone and think. The innkeeper lit a pipe and puffed it, making rings of smoke and smiling to himself. The man stared at the sand beneath his feet watching a scarab beetle crawled by. The man scanned the horizon of the desert and watched the sun set slowly but a small black dot conflicted with his view. Must be an animal thought the man.
The man turned his attention to children playing nearby and envied them and their freedom. How they had such a lack of responsibilities. The man watched the children for what seemed like ages. The sun was now very low in the sky and began to glare off the desert. The children were called in by their mother for dinner. The man looked across the desert again the dot was now very close, but it was no longer a dot, it was a man. The innkeeper craned to look at this strange man from the desert as he stumbled towards him. He was a heavy man with a beard and was dressed in fine silks. As the innkeeper watch him further he began to step off of his porch and walk slowly toward the man out of curiosity. Then, abruptly, the man from the desert collapsed into the sand. The innkeeper jumped and then raced toward the man.
Hussam awoke with a start. He was breathing heavily and had a cold sweat. He looked around his surroundings and realized that he was in a dark room, in a bed. There were bowls of water and fruit on a nearby table that he attacked anxiously. Within twenty minutes the food and water was gone. Hussam sat down on the bed and began to think. Where am I? How did I get here? What day is it? And as almost an answer to his questions, a man opened the door to his room. The man jumped at the sight of him being awake. "Oh! You're awake, good! Are you feeling ok?"
A hoarse rasp came from Abu- Hussam's throat, "Yes, fine." Hussam cleared his throat. "Um, where am I?"
"Ah! You're in Mecca my friend! The holy city!" The man replied. "I found you collapsed in the desert, not far from this inn. You are quite lucky that I found you, my friend. You must have gained favor with Allah."
"How long ago was that?"
"Almost three suns my friend. You have been asleep for quite some time. Your clothing is nothing more than shreds, but I have hung it up in the closet for you. Now, if you don't mind me asking, what was a rich noble man such as yourself doing in the middle of the desert? But where are my manors? Might I introduce my self as Mu y dudd?"
Hussam thought for a moment and then chuckled. "Mu y dudd?" He chuckled some more, "You are the reason that I have come from Riyadh to Mecca across the desert. For I am Abu-Hussam and you owe me a great deal of money."
Hussam explained to the man the entire story of how he came to be at Mecca: about the boy, about the raiders, about the desert, everything; until the sun became high in the sky.
Mu y dudd was silent until he asked in a small voice, "So what are you going to do now my friend?"
Hussam thought for a moment and then said, "Well, the way I see it, I have two options. Either to have you arrested and be forced to pay me the money you owe me," he said harshly. Mu y dudd began tearing, "or," he said much louder. His voice lowered into a quite serenity, "I could forgive you debts and ask you for your forgiveness of me." Hussam felt complete for the first time since his childhood.
Hussam traveled the city for a few months, living in the house of Mu y dudd as a guest. During that time Hussam was re-introduced to his religion of old. The one he had almost completely forgotten about. His religion was restored by Mu y dudd. Within the next two months Hussam completed the Hodge, the most holy of all Islamic exercises of faith. From then on out, Hussam lived a generous and plentiful life in Mecca, until his dying day.