The Compassionate
the merciful 

by Nigel Gordon

 

 

 

My thanks to Freethinker for his support in reading this and commenting and to Bi Janus for providing the editing that was so essential.

 

The Imam looked at Ahmed with a face of compassion, a face that brought a small bit of peace to the troubled soul of the half naked youth who stood before him. He had been in a state of terror since the moment that his father and older brother had barged into Ty’s flat and, against the protests of Ty’s mother, forced their way into Ty’s bedroom there to find Ahmed and Ty, whilst not actually in flagrante delicto, certainly in a highly compromised state of undress. For a moment there had been a stillness of disbelief on both part, then Ahmed had been sized and still three quarters naked dragged down the street to the Mosque.

There had been shouting, loud voices and Ahmed had been hit a number of times, mostly by his two brothers who were insisting that he must be stoned. It was the Imam who had brought quite to the proceedings. First he had asked for those who had witnessed the act of sodomy to stand forth. None did. Then he had asked how they knew that there had been an act of sodomy.

Ahmed’s uncle, who was only a couple of years older than Ahmed, informed the Imam that he was going out with Ty’s sister, who was about to convert to the true faith so they could marry.  It was Ty’s sister who had told him that his fourteen-year-old nephew was having an unnatural relationship with her thirteen-year-old brother and that they were that afternoon having sex in her brother’s bedroom. Once he had learnt of it he had gone to his elder brother, Ahmed’s father and informed him and Ahmed’s elder brothers of the situation.  They had then gone to Ty’s flat, found the boys in a compromising situation, and dragged Ahmed to the Imam.

“Ah,” stated the Imam, “although the situation you found the two boys in would suggest there is truth in the accusation made against them, there are in fact no witnesses to any un-natural behaviour between the two boys.”

“Sharron, my fiancée, Ty’s sister, says she saw them together, having sex.” Ahmed’s uncle stated.

“That may be but that is the word of an unbeliever, albeit one who is coming to the true faith, and also the word of a woman against a believer and a man. As such it carries little weight in our consideration.

“It appears that the requirements for judgement under Shira have not been met but we have a situation that no doubt must be dealt with.  I suggest you leave Ahmed with me so I can investigate things without pressure.”  With that the Imam indicated that all the others should leave, which they did, Ahmed’s brothers spitting on him as they passed him on the way out and his father giving him a look of desperation. Once they had left, the Imam turned his attention back to Ahmed.

“That has solved the immediate problem; now we have to deal with you, Ahmed.”

“Yes, Imam.”

“The first thing I have to ask you, and I need you to answer honestly, is are you gay?”

“Yes, Imam, I am.”

“Good. At least you don’t lie or try to avoid the question.  It does though present us with a problem and one that is not going to be easy to deal with.  First, you realise that you cannot see Ty again? Ahmed looked down at the floor trying to hold back the tears that threatened to whelm up in his eyes. 

“It is for his own safety as well as your well-being.  You and that boy have brought dishonour to your family.  As it is I believe I can get them to live with the dishonour you have brought to them but if you see that boy again you will heap dishonour upon dishonour; your family will seek to affirm their honour.  You know what that would mean?”

Ahmed nodded. He knew full well what his family would do to affirm their honour. His aunt died because she would not accept the husband chosen for her but insisted on going with the boy she had met at University.  He knew that as things were his life was already forfeit in the eyes of his family despite mild reassurances from the Imam, but if he made it worse they would go after Ty as well, that he could not let happen.

“Good,” the Imam continued, “I see you understand. Now let’s sort out a solution to this problem.”

It took most of the rest of the evening and into the early hours of the morning to make the numerous phone calls that were needed, but eventually everything was put into place. The Imam explained to Ahmed that many boys drifted into unnatural relationships without realising the danger they were in and that such things were not part of Allah’s design for the world.  He also explained that in the immoral society of the West it was easy for a good Muslim boy to fall into error but that this could be corrected.  He told Ahmed that he needed to go to a community where there were strong Islamic values in place, where he could again find out what it meant to be a good Muslim.

The Imam told him that there were good people who realised the problems that boys like him had and that they would arrange things.  He phoned Ahmed’s father and told him that Ahmed was being sent away to a good Islamic community where he would be sorted out and then sent some papers around to Ahmed’s house for his parents to sign.  When they were returned, they came with Ahmed’s passport and suitcase of clothes.  It was then that Ahmed realised that he really would not be seeing home again; his family had rejected him—for them he was dead.

A car arrived to take him away in the early hours of the morning. By this time Ahmed was very tired but also very hungry as he had had nothing to eat since breakfast and it had been hours since he had drunk anything.  Two men in the car introduced themselves as Mamoud and Jaffri and told him that they were sorry it was so late but it had been a long drive. They also apologised for having to rush but said they could not stop and talk as they had to get back as soon as possible.  Ahmed followed them out to the car. 

Once in the back of the car he started off Jaffri informed him that that would not be stopping on the way to London but if he was hungry there were some sandwiches and a drink in coolbox in the back.  The information that they were going to London was new to Ahmed—he had had not idea of where he was being taken; the information that there was food and drink available was welcome. He quickly found the coolbox, ate a sandwich and drank a bottle of soda.  Then he got himself as comfortable as he could and drifted off to sleep in the back of the car.

When he woke Ahmed found himself lying on a single iron framed bed in a long, thin room.  Next to the bed was a small cabinet on top of which was laid a folded thawab and sirwal[i].  High above the bed was a small window through which light dimly filtered.  There was a door, slightly ajar, to one side of the room which Ahmed guessed led to a bathroom and another at the of the room which he thought was probably the main door into the room.  As if to confirm his thoughts it opened and Mamoud entered carrying a tray of food.

“Ah you are awake. Good, get off you bed and strip,” he instructed as he placed the tray down on the small table by the door. Ahmed looked at him questioningly.

“What does Islam mean Ahmed?”

“It means submission.”

“Yes, submission to the will of Allah but how are you going to learn submission to the will of Allah if you do not know how to submit yourself to those who are caring for you? Now strip.” Ahmed did, feeling very embarrassed and also feeling that something was wrong. Did not the faith say that haya (modesty) was virtue that every Muslim should acquire but here he was undressing before a man he did not know?  Once he was naked he stood with his head bowed in shame to be seen by a stranger.

“Good, you are learning.  I see that you have not plucked your pubic hair within the last forty days as our culture requires.  Go to the bathroom, there you will find a razor and shaving foam. Shave your pubic hair, the hair by your anus and under your arms.  I will take your clothes, and when you are done you may dress as becomes one of the faith. Then you may eat.” With that Mamoud turned and left the room, as he closed the door Ahmed heard a distinct click like the dropping of a lock. He guessed that he was locked in the room.

In the bathroom Ahmed shaved his body, and then dressed in the thawab and sirwal. Once dressed, he ate what was on the tray and then lay on his bed to think.  He had no idea where he was or what time it was—his watch was gone. In fact, everything he had brought with him was missing; it was as if everything that was part of Ahmed had been removed from him.

After what only seemed a few minutes Mamoud returned and informed him it was time for noon prayers, and then lunch; he indicated a prayer mat rolled in the corner at the foot of the map.  Ahmed took the mat and hesitantly looked round the room for some indication as to the direction of Mecca. Mamoud advised him at the wall with the window pointed toward Mecca.  So Ahmed made his noon prayers, somewhat surprised that Mamoud did not pray.

Once he had finished Mamoud left and returned shortly after with a tray of food.  He explained that at the moment Ahmed would be kept confined to his room for his own safety as there were others with the same problem in the house and they did not want to tempt any of them.  Mamoud also informed him that Jaffri would be coming to see him in a couple of hours. He then left leaving Ahmed to eat his meal.

To Ahmed a couple of hours seemed to be a very long time indeed—so long that he started to feel hungry and then famished. He was certain it must by now be early evening but the light through the small window gave no indication of diminishing. Then, Jaffri arrived.

“Are you ready to start to live according to the will of Allah?” he asked.

“I have always been ready.”

“But you have failed in doing so, Ahmed, and brought dishonour upon Islam and your family.” Ahmed nodded, casting down his eyes. “I see from your demeanour that you acknowledge the fault in yourself.” Again Ahmed nodded. “We must give you a new start, Ahmed is dishonoured and can be no more; you are from now on Abd Al Ala[ii]. From now on you will answer to that name and you will become that person, a true and good servant of Allah.”

So started Ahmed’s transition to Abd Al Ala, a transition that would take place over the next few weeks, weeks that were for Ahmed a time of confusion and exhaustion. Sometimes the days seemed to drag slowly into an eternity; at others they seemed foreshortened, passing in but a moment[iii]. In time Ahmed found himself thinking of himself as Abd Al Ala, though sometimes he slipped and thought of himself as Ahmed, and when he did he found himself thinking of Ty.

After the first couple of weeks Mamoud and Jaffri started to speak to him only in Arabic.  At first he found this hard because the only Arabic he had learnt was that he needed for his prayers.  He was though encouraged to study hard and learn the language by committing to memory a passage from the Quran each day. Jaffri spent many hours with Abd Al Ala explaining to him the wonder of the Quran and the teachings therein. He explained how as Ahmed he had come under the influence of Shaitan, the Whisperer, through the influences of the West and been tempted into error.  Only by rejection of everything that was Western could he truly return to the heart of Islam and to the way of Allah.

Ahmed ceased to be and Abd Al Ala was born.  As he submitted himself to the will of Allah as given to him by Mamoud and Jaffri he found that things no longer seemed so confused.  The days that were far too long no longer troubled him and the nights that were far too short for sleep were a thing of the past.  He was allowed out of his room and joined Mamoud, Jaffri, and others in the prayers and for meals. His life became orderly and structured, but deep within he held a secret, the secret of his love for Ty.  In the darkness of the night he would awake and think of the boy he loved, a love he understood he had to reject if he was to be at one with the Ummah[iv], the community of Islam.

Abd Al Ala guessed he had been at the house for about six or seven months when he was introduced to Khalam. The tall gaunt man joined them for Friday prayers and delivered a sermon to those present in the Musallah[v]. He spoke about the truth of Islam and how those who tried to follow it were being corrupted by ways of the West.  He said that to truly find the will of Allah you had to return to the desert, the wild places where Islam had its birth, that you needed to give yourself over to Islam and its service.

After the prayers Jaffri introduced Abd Al Ala to Khalam saying that he thought Khalam could help him.  Khalam looked at him for a while and then said, “So, you are one who has been corrupted by the ideas of the West.”

“Yes effendi.”

“It is not uncommon but one can release oneself from the grip if you immerse yourself in Islam.  I know; for once I was trapped by the illusions of the West, but know, though, I am free from them.  I have found peace for I have found my place within Islam.”

“How?”

“The path for each person is different.  Though this I can tell you—you cannot find it here.” Khalam swept his arm round indicating the whole of the building. “Even though you have cut yourself off from the world outside, it still influences and controls you.  The West is there ready to pounce and pull you back.  You are trapped here in this building and its grounds, for if you go beyond the surrounding wall you are in the West. If you truly wish to find peace and remove the dishonour on who you were before, you need to leave the West and come to the world of Islam.”

This was to be the first of a number of conversations that Abd Al Ala was to have with Khalam over the next few weeks.  He never knew when he agreed to go with Khalam to the Yemen, in fact he was not even sure he had agreed, but somehow by the end of the year it was taken for granted that he would travel with Khalam when he returned to what was now his home.

*  *  *  *  *

The fierce reflected heat of the blazing sun struck back from the sandstone rocks at the prone body of Abd Al Ala, making a joke of the sanctuary promised by the shadow of the overhang.  In the two years that had elapsed since he first met Khalam, Abd had become used to hard conditions, first in the training camp in the Yemeni mountains and then in the desert of Mali and in Somalia.  Wherever there was Jihad, there was Khalam, and for the last two years Abd had been at his side, fighting for the cause of Allah.

On the road running across the plain at the end of the valley a distortion in the shimmering heat haze indicated the dust cloud of a motor vehicle. Abd raised an arm and signalled to the watcher on the other side of the valley.  The distortion took on form, not yet recognisable as vehicles, just blotches in the heat haze moving across his field of vision.  Abd shaded his eyes to see better, trying to count the vehicles.  It would be easier of course to use binoculars but there was always a risk, no matter how careful you were, that as you moved them the sun would catch the lens and the flash of reflected light would give your position away. Far safer to use ones eyes, and young eyes like Abd’s could see well at the distances required.  He counted five blotches moving, rechecked his count, then singled the result to the watcher across the valley.

The moving blotches slowed then turned towards the valley, and as they did their shape became distinct.  It was as Khalam had predicted, three troop carriers with an armoured car front and back.  Now Abd waited, waited for the [right?] moment—he had to allow time to signal and time for the watcher to respond.  He had to make his signal as the end troop carrier had just moved off the mine, so that in the second it would take for the detonation to take place the armoured car would have driven over it. 

As he watched, he felt the tightening in his stomach and the sickness that always came over him.  He should be happy that he would kill the enemies of Islam this day, but somehow it felt wrong.  Khalam praised him for working so well for the cause and for removing the dishonour he had brought to his family and to Islam, but he always felt empty after each such attack.  He knew he was doing the work of God but was not sure he liked the God he was doing the work for.

Surely all he had done in the last two years had removed the dishonour he had done to his family and to Islam. Was not Allah the compassionate, the merciful?

The convoy moved into the valley. Abd watched and counted the seconds as each vehicle moved passed his marker.  The front of the last troop carrier came level with his marker. One, two, three, he signalled. Four, five, six, the detonation lifted the rear armoured car from the ground.  Three shoulder mounted anti-tank launchers fired their missiles at the leading armoured cars. RPGs were launched at the troop carriers.

Instinctively Abd grabbed his PP19 submachine gun and dashed down the valley side towards the battle, though he was fully aware by time he got there it would all be over.  It was, and by time he got there silence was once more descending on the valley, his fellow fedayeen[vi]  were already stripping what was salvageable from the remains of the convoy.  A young black soldier, his body thrown clear by the force of the explosion, lay broken across a nearby boulder.  Abd looked at him and in that moment Ahmed remembered Ty.

They move quickly to salvage what could be of use to them and then dispersed in groups of three or four into the surrounding mountains, meeting up late that evening in isolated caves far from the site of the attack. Abd sat at the side of the flickering fire looking into the flames. He felt that something deep inside him had awakened, though he did not understand what. Khalam looked across at him and after a few minutes indicated to Abd that they should go outside the cave.  Abd stood up and followed him out.  As they exited the cave mouth Khalam drew a familiar box from his pocket, opened it and offered Abd one of the pastilles inside.  Abd took one anticipating the joy that they brought.

“Walk with me a bit for I feel that you are disturbed and I need to talk with you,” Khalam commanded.

“Yes, effendi. I find I am troubled.”

“And what is this trouble?”

“I don’t know, effendi, though at times I find myself doubting what must be done.” In the darkness Khalam nodded in understanding.  He knew where the youth was coming from. 

“Do you know the cause of these doubts?”

“No, effendi.”

“Then we must seek help and find the answer for you.” Khalam seated himself down on ledge overlooking the path they had followed.  He indicated to Abd that he should join him. “Sometimes, if things do not feel right, it is an indication that we are fighting the will of Allah, and the only solution is once again to find what it is that Allah wills for us.” Abd, feeling calm and restful indicated his agreement.  Then raised a question that had been in the back of his mind for ages.

“Effendi, why is it that you always give me one of your pastilles before we have such talks? What are they?”

“Ah, they are an old concoction, Dumas writes that The Count of Monte Cristo[vii] used them to ease the stress of travel. I find that when a person is stressed they help him relax and to understand what is being said to them.

“Anyway, my friend, you have troubles to which we must find an answer.  I think we might best go and visit Sheik Namir; he will be able to guide you.”

Over the next three weeks Abd travelled with Khalam across Asia, following the secret routes that had been used for centuries by those who wished to avoid the attention of the authorities.  Eventually they came to a small village in the foothills of Afghanistan, it was here that Abd was introduced to the Sheik Namir.

The Sheik was known to all within the Jihad movement as a leader and respected teacher.  Few, though, ever met him for those who opposed the true teaching of Allah sought his death, and as a result his whereabouts were a closely guarded secret as he moved frequently through the lands where his followers had support.  It was in late evening that Abd was brought into the presence of the great man.

“Ah my child, my servant Khalam says that you are troubled. Is this so?” Abd nodded to the Sheik. “It would be good then for us to talk and for me to give you guidance in these matters, but first though let us have refreshments and you must relax.” The Sheik nodded to Khalam who withdrew the box from his pocket and offered Abd one of the pastilles.

Coffee and sweet pastries followed after which the Sheik and Abd talked for many hours.  Abd found himself relaxed and at ease in the presence of the great man and found himself telling him things that he had hardly admitted to himself in the deepest parts of his thoughts.  He told the Sheik that at times he still found himself thinking of himself as Ahmed and at those times he would think about Ty, that he still wanted to be with men and with Ty, and how the guilt of these thoughts was eating up the inside of him.

The old Sheik listened to the words of the youth and pondered upon them.  Then he asked whether these thoughts had made Abd feel alone and useless, with no purpose.

“Hakkim[viii], there are times when I feel that I have no purpose, that there is no reason for me to be here.”

“But are you not a fighter in Jihad and a loyal servant to Khalam.”

“Yes, Hakkim, but is the Jihad right? Are we not killing those who we should be protecting? At times I feel that everything I do is evil—my thoughts of Ty and my desires for men are evil, my fighting in Jihad is evil as I seem to be harming those I should protect.”

“Yes, many feel that way from time to time, but you must remember the meaning of Islam is submission, submission not only to the will of Allah but to those who understand the will of Allah.  It is not for you to try to understand the purpose or objectives of Jihad and the actions taken in its name; you only have to give yourself totally to Jihad.

“Those who have studied the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Prophet, may peace be upon him, will guide you as to what is right and what is wrong within Jihad.” Abd nodded, indicating his acceptance of the teaching.  “We do though come to a matter which is of more concern. Have you ever thought of killing yourself?”

“I …” Abd paused, then relaxed. “Yes, Hakkim, there have been times when I have considered that.  There seems to be no purpose for me and no future for me.”

The old Sheik nodded and smiled in understanding, then indicated to Khalam to give Abd another pastille. “That is a concern, for your life is not yours and to take it to escape from the pain of your anguish is harram[ix].  To do so would put you outside of the compassion of Allah, for is it not written ‘He gave you life. Then He will give you death, then again will bring you to life (on the Day of Resurrection) and then unto Him you will return[x]' Only as Allah wills it can your life and your suffering be ended.

“It may be though that Allah wishes you to be released from your suffering, for is he not the compassionate and the merciful? He would not wish any to suffer in the anguish of self-doubt that consumes you. To take your life without cause would be harram but to give it to the cause of Allah that would be halal[xi].

“You have shown weakness, despite all that has been done to give you an Islamic and honourable life you still desire that which is harram. You have shown that there is a weakness in you that will draw you back to those desires that are forbidden.  That weakness will cause you to bring dishonour once more on your family and upon Islam.  Your life will then be filled with the suffering of those who are condemned and the agony of knowing that you have dishonoured those you hold dear.

“Allah, though, is the compassionate, the merciful and he wishes none to suffer in this life; therefore, a path is open to you which will give you direct access to Paradise. There you will find no pain and no suffering, there you will find peace, joy and the fulfilment of your desires, even those desires you cannot enjoy in this life.  For in Paradise we get that which we desire, even you would be welcome in Paradise if you go there in the service of Allah and his jihad.”  Abd looked at the Sheik, understanding what he was saying but not understanding it.  Was the Sheik saying what he thought he was saying?  He tried to concentrate, to think but everything seemed to be floating in a haze. He was confused not certain what was what.

Abd Al Ala,” the Sheik asked, “Do you truly serve Islam?”

“Yes,” replied Abd.

“Do you give your life to Islam?”

“Yes.”

“Consent has been given, prepare him.” Khalam and one of the Sheiks attendants came forward and raised Abd from where he was seated before the Sheik. Abd felt confused and uncertain. To what had he consented, for what was he being prepared?

*  *  *  *  *

Abd walked forward, a foggy veil of haze filling his mind.  He knew he had to do something but was not certain what it was.  He had to go to the soldiers at the checkpoint, but then what.  He shook his head trying to clear his mind. Oh yes, he had to pull the cord and go to Paradise where he could be with Ty, but surely that could not be right. Ty was an unbeliever. Could such be in Paradise?  The Sheik had explained it to him—by giving his life for Islam he would go straight to Paradise where his desires would be met, for Allah was the compassionate, the merciful. 

That though was surely wrong, for if Allah was the compassionate, the merciful, how could he condemn Abd for his love of Ty.  Surely love was a gift of Allah for was it not written that ‘Among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility with them and He put love and mercy between your hearts’[xii]? Abd shook his head feeling that something was wrong,  it was not how should be.  He wanted to be with Ty; he was going to go to Paradise to be with Ty, but Ty could not be there.

He looked up at the checkpoint a few paces ahead, one of the soldiers turned towards him, a black man like Ty. Images of Ty floated up in his mind, and he remembered touching that body, kissing those lips. He remembered the love that he had for Ty and that Ty had for him. Ahmed remembered, Ahmed knew—knew he loved Ty and wanted to be with Ty, but not this way.  He must not pull the cord. He must lay down and let the soldiers help him.

High on the hill overlooking the road the Sheik nodded to Khalam. Upon getting the signal Khalam dialled a number on his mobile phone.  The blast at the checkpoint killed five locals and injured the soldier who had looked at Ahmed.  The look of terror in the boy's eyes had been enough for him to dive for cover, otherwise he would have been dead. 

“Do you ever wonder what they think when they realise the cord is a dud, it is not the detonator?” Khalam asked.

“No, one does not consider the thoughts of tools,” the Sheik replied.


 


[1] The traditional dress of many Muslims.

[1] Literally Slave of the High

[1] Time appreciation distortion is a technique used in a number of ‘brain washing’ methods, especially by some of the religious cults. Part of its aim is to make sure that the subject is at a low physical and mental ebb at the points when critical presentations are being made to them.

[1] Technically Ummah is short for ummat al-Islamiyah which means the Nation of Islam, it is a term used to describe the general community of Islam throughout the World.

[1] A place used for worship that is not a Mosque, this may be anything from a building such as a community centre to a simple prayer room.

[1] Redeemers or Those who Sacrifice.

[1] In the Count of Monte Cristo the Count states that the pastilles are made of Opium and Hashish.

[1] Hakkim, hākim is a term used for a Sheik who is acknowledge as being a scholar or wise.

[1] Harram, that which is unlawful or forbidden as opposed to Halal, which is lawful or approved.

[1] Surah Al-Baqarah Verse 28

[1] Halal, lawful or permitted.

[1] Surah Ar-Rum 20-31