Your Highness, Please Look Down to be Exalted
Dear Prime Minister,
It was Eid in Medina, where the first Eid-Al-Fitr was celebrated. The same blessed city which was selected for our Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and the same city in which you too were staying.
And I saw you and your – very dignified – entourage, albeit from the confines of a television screen that had been set up in the entrance area of a small Pakistani restaurant. Whilst I was waiting to collect my bread order from there, an old lady entered most discreetly. From behind her, on the screen, you were on your way to some formal reception at another – far grander- hotel in this city.
As you proceeded to your grand hotel, with grace and decorum, the old lady shuffled forward, past where I was waiting and up to the counter to be served, collecting my bread order. I saw you on TV screen surrounded by elegant protocol and moving towards your majestic hotel with the dignified gait; and I also saw an old lady, far from your magnificent place and watched as she walked up to the counter, where I was also waiting to be served.
She actually wasn’t all that small, but just appeared to be so, hunched over as she was. Still, she waited patiently to be served by the man, who looked down the end of his nose, with what could only be described as a sneer.
She pushed forward the money, with her skeletal, aged hands and stood there, with palm outstretched to receive the food from the cheap restaurant.
“Four please, putar” She said.
Cheap though the restaurant was, it was still beyond this lady’s means. Wearily and without edge, she waited for her request from the Pakistani salesman.
“Bibi, that will only buy you two”
He said to her, eventually, in a gruff voice.
I grimaced as I witnessed this discourtesy. He had asked her for twelve Ryals, for a small plate of Dal, plus two loaves. However, she did not collect the two loaves, waiting in hope of more.
They were not forthcoming.
“Bibi, we give two loaves of bread only!” He said, finally, in a cold tone.
Her response tugged at my heart as she quietly replied, “But I’m very hungry, I need four…”
Irritated, he pushed the coins, which she had saved for her food away. Rudely, he turned his shoulder towards her, then shouted callously.
“Take back your money and go”
Humiliated, she began shuffling out, towards the door, muttering to herself as she went.
Quickly, I collected my order from the rude assistant and followed out, after her.
“Excuse me”, I couldn’t help hearing that, “please take some of mine” I said, proffering the bread to her, in the entrance of the building, out on the hot street.
The shadows in the doorway offered some small shade in the heat of the morning sun. I could see the rays, completely blanche out her facial features, although when she turned, it was to see the lines and rivulets of age on her face.
She laughed, as if embarrassed.
“No dear, I’m not a beggar!”
“But I thought you wanted…”
“I only wanted my money’s worth; I was paying twelve Riyals for such cheap Dal, that’s only worth two.”
With that she began to depart, albeit in a stooping and rather slow fashion, over in the direction of the Holy Prophet’s tomb – although it could not be seen from that vantage point, hidden amidst the other tall buildings. Only the Movenpick was visible, which of course, belongs to you, dear Prime Minister.
Like I said, it was Eid, we were both in Medina – but separately, of course. You had spent the last ten days of Ramadan here, hoping to earn Jannah for yourself, but meanwhile forgetting the poor Pakistanis who are charged the earth by Al-Haj agents at homeland to be thrown into these distant, dirty hotels.
And dear Prime Minister, because your purpose is to serve others and the essence of Islam is to save humanity, then your time is not your own, but theirs.
I once came across someone who now reminds me very much of you, a young lady doctor who was very busy in her prayers at a crowded hospital, where she was at work. Would you please allow me to narrate this incident to you?
Two years ago, in the month of Ramadan, I was in my home town Bahawalpur. My mother had fallen very ill one night and was complaining of bad angina pains and I took her to the Bahawalpur Victoria hospital. But when we got there, the hospital was crowded and chaotic. There were very few nurses on duty and only one doctor – a beautiful young woman in a white headscarf.
When I eventually did manage to get my poor mother a bed, I attempted to gain her attention. However, as I went over to speak to her, I was sternly rebuffed by one of the nurses.
“Doctor is busy finishing the Holy Quran. You must not speak to her right now.”
“But she is meant to be treating patients!” I replied, fervent with indignation and amazement.
“She cannot speak with you just yet” Said the nurse, leaving me to my astonishment and to get back to my ailing mother who was, quite mercifully by then, asleep.
As she slept I observed the young doctor, her head buried in her reading the Holy Quran, as the nurses ran back and forth, struggling to cope as best they could, on their rounds.
Beside my mother, another patient howled, in perpetual pain. Even when she was not crying aloud, her face was contorted with the silent agonies of whatever torment she was going through.
Once again, I returned to the head-scarved doctor, but was, once more, told that I must not speak to her.
At this point, I could not take it anymore and had to leave the ward for some fresh air and a change of surrounding. Outside, on the street around the hospital, the dirt and dust of the city clung on to everything. A little night air cooled things down, slightly, just enough for me to notice two young boys, hugging each other and sobbing furiously. Their father had just died in the emergency ward, I learned, and I daresay that the doctor concerned in his care was also busy in prayers. To avoid that distressing scene, I returned once more to my mother in the ward. She was fortunately still asleep and not able to witness the mayhem going on around her.
Despite the moans of the patients, the ‘pious’ doctor was now speaking to someone on her mobile phone, proudly recounting how she had read 29 siparas and was nearly at the end of the 30th. It seemed she must have spent all of the holy month reading them – even during her hours of work.
I so then wished I could tell her of only two lines in the Holy Quran;
O people of Islam, “You are the best people ever raised for the good of mankind because you have been raised to serve others; you enjoin what is good and forbid evil and believe in Allah.” (3:111)
But I could not, so I eventually nodded off myself – quite some feat on that uncomfortable hospital waiting bench!
It must have been the early hours of the morning when I came to – shaken slightly to find that my surroundings were not where I expected them to be, as well as crestfallen to still be in the emergency room, for so long!
This time there was some muted excitement. The nurses were congratulating the young doctor for finishing the Quran. Her face was flushed with happiness at finally achieving her task. Then, she picked up her bag and started making for the exit – presumably her shift was up.
Immediately, I followed behind her, then stood in front of her, blocking her way.
“Doctor Sahiba, congratulations on finishing the reading of Holy Quran tonight,”
Thank you”, she replied in quite strange tone, but without meeting my gaze.
I fell in to step beside her.
“You finished the reading of Holy Quran, but alas you wasted the time.”
“What?” At last she looked at me, with hurt and angry eyes.
“What are you saying?”
“Yes, Doctor, Jannah was laying in front of you but you did not look at it…But anyways, congratulations.’
The doctor turned towards me, questions in her beautiful face, unsure of whom I was.
‘Are you a Muslim?”
She asked, but rushed out too quickly to hear any answer that I might make, wanting to celebrate, no doubt. I did not follow her any further, not wishing to draw any more attention my way.
I am not quite sure why I am even telling you about this, dear Prime Minister, but seeing you, buried so deep in your prayers, reminded me of that ‘pious’ doctor – and of the rude salesman today in the hotel.
And, I daresay, if you are reading this then you may be asking yourself the same question too:
“Is the writer of this article a Muslim?”