A Kabul School Bombing, Deja-vu
I’m seated at my dining table/desk, writing away and listening to a beautiful rendition of dua – e – ifteteh by Abather Al Halawaji when Dr. Assef, the CAI Afghanistan Medical Director now living in Islamabad for his and his family’s safety, texts a message stating a school in Dashte Barchi, Kabul has been bombed and scores are dead and or injured. My heart instantly constricts, and I feel heavily nauseous, even though my tummy is roza empty. In my terror-driven haste, I am blind to the location, Dashte Barchi; the CAI school is a few good miles away. It is when I re-read the text that I realize it is not CPES, the CAI donor-sponsored school and my heart stabilizes, and I breathe a bit easier. Still, it is a school CAI has supplied desks and donated computers to in the past. The initial reports say 25 children have perished (although mainstream media later cites 6 dead and scores injured). Deja-vu.
Having constructed 22 schools ground up and the 23rd under construction in the country, I dread these attacks. It churns my tummy and ruins my day. I cannot for a second feel the intense agony the loved ones of the dead must be experiencing. I’m not sure what I’ll do if this catastrophe happens to any of our kids, God forbid. These animals know exactly how to torment me, for I have no clue what school or who the next victim will be. I, we, can only resort to prayer, ensuring we have adequate security arrangements in place. Education is the only viable option for our kids.
Is Allah Cruel?
Running, I think, is a very good defense for weight control and warding off the blahs. But I can run no more; I’ve torn up my knees ligaments from running all these years and medical experts warn me I will regret not stopping right away. It’s something I’ve done for the last 30 odd years and developed it into a habit I love, but I must also be sensible and heed medical advice. So, I do the next best thing. I go up and down between the 10th and 12th floors of the building I live in. I average 100 floors, 25 of these totting 2 50-pound dumbbells. It’s an intense workout and gives me almost the same high as running – close but no cigar. For Ramadhan, I cut the workout to about 70 floors else I’ll simply dehydrate to sickness.
So, I’m on the stairs later in the afternoon, closer to iftaar time so I can rush and gulp madaaf (coconut) water as soon as the adhaan begins when Taufeeq (what a wonderful name, no? Full of positive possibilities) joins me. Taufeeq is a ten-year-old kid, a foodie with a sweet tooth to boot, a rather alarming cocktail for impending health issues. This love of food and sweets is evident in the size of his body, especially his gut. He has a pudgy face that lights up when he smiles or laughs, making his eyes disappear in the folds of his cheeks. A dimpled chin makes it hard not to instantly like him. I’ve tried to encourage him to workout with me, so he joins me sometimes when he is at home, living in the same building, after his tuition and homework. He’s amazed and convinced I’m nuts coming up the stairs straining with the dumbbells. I try to inspire him to change his eating habits, exercise, and lose weight, so I tolerate him calling me uncle and giving me company in a workout routine that I otherwise prefer doing in solitary.
Taufeeq has other issues on his mind today, however. His parents are rather conservative Khojas, as ritualists as they come. They insist their son attend madrasa and lectures at the mosque, even though he says he is confused by the conflicting messages that come from the pulpit and pundit. The boy is surprisingly perceptive for his age. I’ve tried to advise him to listen to his parents, as they have his best interests in their hearts, and to read the Quran in English as well. The combination of regular prayers, on time, and the guidance from the Quran, I’m sure, will resolve any confusion in his mind.
Is Allah cruel, Uncle? He asks suddenly. I nearly miss a step at the abrupt and startling question. Good thing the dumbbells are not in my hands this round else it would have been a disaster. I stop and gawk at his pudgy face. He is already soaked in sweat and panting.
What kind of a question is that? I ask, irritably.
Well, Uncle, the madrasa maalim spoke about the first night in the grave after death. He says that Allah will make the grave squeeze us all on the first night until all bones break, and the milk of our mothers runs from our noses. That’s scary, no?
Eh! I wipe the sweat away from my brows impatiently.
So, Uncle, how can Allah, for whom I recite is the Most Compassionate and Most Merciful so many times a day be so cruel as to torture me thus? Why break my bones and bring back my mother’s milk from my nose? That’s kind of absurd, no? I mean what pleasure would He get from this collective cruelty? Allah is the Most Just, this is our creed, no?
I intensely dislike pausing mid-exercise, it slows my tempo. But Taufeeq’s question needs careful attention, so I take a break. This is a rare instance where I am at a loss for words. For a person who is rather opinionated about everything under the sky, I’m lost for words. The maulana’s hadeeth is obviously ludicrous, and I want to say so, but the lad is impressionable, and I do not want to give him ideas, so I promise to research the subject and get back to him later. But I bristle at the aalim and the people who allow these kinds of bozos to lecture our kids.
We resume our workout. Since it is the 23rd eve of Ramadhan today and there is amaal to be performed later; Taufeeq asks me if I’ll complete them. Yes, I reply. Then he asks another question that stumps me.
This maulana says we must perform 100 rakaats of salaat and recite sura ikhlaas 10 times in each. That’s 1,000 times! Is that necessary, Uncle? That’s an awful long namaaz and I have school tomorrow. I get bored and tired of doing the same thing standing. Even Dad grumbles he must go to his duka shop the next day. The maulana will do the amaals and go to sleep, no school or work or shop for him. Is this fair, you think?
This kid’s questions are becoming uncomfortable, so I play it safe. I tell him Allah is more interested in quality over quantity so although he must do all waajib requirements, he can do as many others as possible that are recommended but not push himself. That makes him happy for he smiles widely, making his eyes disappear.
One last question, Uncle? If you don’t mind?
Oh, dear, what now. I warily nod.
Do you really think I’ll be able to handle all the wives in heaven that Allah promises? The boy has turned scarlet and looks everywhere except at me. Dad and Mummy have arguments every day, sometimes angry, frightening ones and Dad almost eventually must give in. I’m not so sure I’ll be able or want to handle so many women. The maulana says we’ll get a lot of pretty wives if we are good on earth. What do you think?
What do I think? I think I want to wring the scruffy neck of the maulana and send him back to elementary school. But I sit the boy down, to hell with my workout today. I talk to him about enjoying being a ten-year-old. Fretting over multiple wives can wait.
I wish y’all a joyous, peaceful Eid Fitr insha’Allah. Requesting special prayers for the safety of all worldwide CAI projects.