"One day while we were sitting at the dinner mat, he said, ‘Get up! Don’t eat with us!’”
"Before I could get up though, he pounced immediately and kicked me in the back, making me slam into the pots. At that moment, lying there on the ground, I pretended to stand taller than him and shout back in his face. ‘One day, I’ll pay you back. I’ll beat you just like you beat me, and curse you just like you cursed me. I’ll grow up and become strong and you’ll get old and become feeble. Then I’ll treat you just like you treated me; I’ll pay you back.’”
"After that, I left home and ran away. I just ran, anywhere, it didn’t matter anymore.” I found my way to this beach. It helped me wash away some of the sadness. I held my pocket Quraan and began reciting until I could continue no longer because of my excessive crying.”
And here, a few of those innocent tears descended again, tears that sparkled under the moon like pearls under a lamp. I couldn’t say anything. The surprise had arrested my tongue.
Should I be aghast at this beast of a father, whose heart knew nothing about mercy? Or, should I be amazed at this patient young lad, whom Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) had wished guidance for and inspired with faith. Or, should I be shocked at them both, at the father-son bond that had broken, causing their relationship to transform into that of a lion and a tiger, or a wolf and a fox.
I held his warm hand and wiped away a tear from his cheek. I reassured him, prayed for him, and advised him to remain obedient to his father. I told him to remain patient and that he was not alone. I promised that I would meet his father, speak to him, and try to evoke his mercy.
That incident slipped further away with each passing day. I tried thinking of ways to bring up Khalid’s case with his father. How should I speak to him? How was I going to be convincing? How was I even going to knock on his door?
Finally, I collected my courage, rehearsed my plan, and resolved that the confrontation, or meeting, would be that day at five o’clock.
When the time arrived, I left for Khalid’s house with all my ideas and questions for his father dangling from my pockets. I rang the doorbell. My fingers trembled and my knees were melting. The door opened. There he was, standing in the shadow with his frowned lips and veins beating with anger.
I tried beginning with a candid smile hoping it might smooth out some of the wrinkles before we even started. He snatched my collar and jerked me towards him. "You’re that fundamentalist that teaches Khalid at the Masjid, aren’t you?”
"God help me, if I ever see you walking with him again, I’ll break your legs. Khalid won’t be coming to your class anymore.”
And then, he mustered all the saliva in his mouth and spit on my face. The door slammed shut.
Slowly, I unfolded a tissue that was in my pocket, wiped what he had honored me with, and retreated down the stairs consoling myself. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe Wasallam) suffered more than this. They called him a liar, cursed him, stoned him with rocks and caused his feet to bleed. They broke his teeth and placed dung on his back and expelled him from his house.
Day after day, month after month, there was no sign of Khalid. His father forbade him from leaving the house, even for the Fardh (Obligatory) Salaah in Masjid with Jamaa’ah (Congregation). He even forbade us from seeing or meeting him. We prayed for Khalid…until we forgot about him. Years passed away.
One night, after the ‘Eshaa Salaah, a shadow walked behind me in the Masjid and rested a familiar harsh hand on my shoulder. It was the same hand that held me years ago. The same face, the same wrinkles and the same mouth that honored me with what I was not deserving of. But something had changed. The savage face had shattered. The angry veins had subsided, belittled and still. The body looked tired of all the pain and conflict, weakened by sadness and grief.
"How are you?” I kissed his forehead and welcomed him. We took a corner of the Masjid. He collapsed on my lap sobbing.
I never thought that that lion would one day become a kitten.
“Speak up. What’s wrong? How is Khalid?”
"Khalid!” The name was like a dagger piercing his heart, twisting inside, and breaking off. His head slumped.
"Khalid is no longer the same boy that you used to know. Khalid is no longer the generous, calm and humble young lad. After he left your circle he befriended a pack of evil boys; ever since he was little he loved to socialize. They caught him at that time of life when a youth wants to leave the house.
"He began with cigarettes. I cursed him, beat him, but there was no use; his body had grown accustomed to the beatings, his ears were used to the curses. He grew quickly. He started staying up with them all night, not coming home until dawn. His school expelled him. Some nights he would come home to us speaking abnormally, his face loose, his tongue confused, his hands shivering.
"That body, which used to be strong, full, and tender, passed away. What remained was a feeble worn frame. That pure frosty face of his transformed; it became dark and filthy. The scum of misguidance and sin clung to it. Those shy and simple eyes of his changed. They shot red like fire as if everything he drank or took showed immediately in his eyes like some sort of punishment, in this life before the next. Hostility and disrespect replaced that shyness and cowardice he once knew. Gone was that soft, respectful young heart. In its place grew a hardened center, like a rock, if not harder.”
"Seldom would a day pass without incident. He would curse, kick, or hit me. Imagine it, my own son. I’m his father, yet he still hits me.”
After releasing all that, his eyes returned wet and bitter. But he added quickly, "I beg you Salman, visit Khalid. Take him with you. You have my blessing, the door is open. Pass by him sometime. He loves you. Register him in the Quraan study circle. He could go with you on field trips. I have no objection. In fact, I am even willing to allow him to live in your homes and sleep over. The important thing, Salman…the important thing is that Khalid returns to the way he was. I beg you lad. I’ll kiss your hands, warm your feet, I beg you and beg you…”
He collapsed, crying and wheezing, into the memories of the grief and pain. I allowed him to complete everything he had to say. Then I addressed him:
"Despite what has passed, let me try. Brother, you planted this seed. And this is your harvest.” (Translation.)