The Archangel’s Last Visit to Earth

A short story
the farm
‘The Farm’ by Ibrahim Al Zaikan

Abdulrahman was standing anxiously at his sister’s house door that led into the mosque. The palms of his hands sweat and his heart raced. He nervously brushed his teeth with a Miswaktwig as he waited for the permission to enter. It was so quiet that he could hear himself breathing heavily. So quiet, that he almost forgot the hundreds of men who were sitting in rows all around. There were so many of them on the mosque’s floor that he had to skip over their shoulders as he came through, yet they were as silent as statues of stone. No wonder Abdulrahman forgot about them; pigeons could have rested on their lifeless limbs and not a twitch was expected of them.

Yet, those men were not to be blamed for their numbing grief. The last few days were agonizing to the whole community, and above all, to his sister. He really hoped for the best as he waited at her door, but given that she has sent for him in that early hour of the day, no less than the worst was expected.

At last, and after a minute of waiting that lasted for hours, the door opened revealing a very dark room. “What happened?” Abdulrahman asked the helper who looked out the crack of the door. “He summoned his daughter,” she said softly, “and when she came to him, he whispered into her ears. I don’t know what he had told her, but Fatima went out crying after that.” She stopped for a moment and pondered at her feet. “Your sister has been splashing his face with water all night long to ease the heat of pain,” she looked up with soaked eyes and said, “Aisha knows it is very soon.”

Abdulrahman has always been expecting the worst, but he was in a state of denial like the rest of the men around him. Is it the end, he asked himself, just like that? Despite the stabbing ache in his heart, he had no reaction to offer. None, until he walked into the dark room.

The whole mud-built house was only twelve feet long and fifteen feet wide. He was standing at the room’s only door that opened to the prayer hall. There was a small window with a curtain that promised blinding bright light if only opened. The room was dark, but the tiny strings of sunshine that escaped the curtain were just enough for Abdulrahman to see. And, there was not much to see in that simple empty house save the silhouette of two humans on the floor. As he walked closer, his heart wrenched to the scene that he wished he would never witness.

Aisha, his sister, was sitting on the floor and leaning at the wall facing him. Her legs laid straight with her husband sitting in between, his back leaning at her chest and his head resting between her neck and shoulder. She had one arm around his shivering body and a hand palming his wet forehead. As much as she wanted to ease the agony of her beloved husband, she could not. Their shirts soaked with his sweat as if they just got out of the water. Seeing his sister and her beloved husband in that state was painful enough for Abdulrahman, but once her sad and tiresome eyes found his, he felt his heart shred into pieces. He knew that what all Muslims feared in the past few days was happening. The Last Prophet of God to humanity will die today, and there shall be no prophet to be sent to this Earth after him.

“Prophet of God,” Aisha spoke softly to her husband’s ear as she hugged his torso from behind, “do you want it?” she said and pointed at her brother’s Miswak. The prophet was eyeing it since Abdulrahman walked in. He nodded to her in agreement. Her brother came closer and handed the twig to her. She squeezed at it and found it too stiff for him. “May I soften it for you?” she asked. He nodded again. So, she bit a small piece and spat. Then, she chewed on the fresh new tip until it became soft and wet. The Prophet reached to the Miswak and passed it on his teeth. “There is no God worthy of worship except the one true God” he barely uttered, “Death is full of agonies.”

Suddenly, Abdulrahman saw his sister grind her teeth. It seemed as if the body of the Prophet has become too heavy on her. The Prophet dropped his head back at her and muttered. They heard him recite:

 … with those on whom You have bestowed your grace; the prophets, the truth-bearers, the martyrs and the good.

He labored a moan, and exhaled painfully: “O Allah, forgive me, have mercy upon my soul and join me to the most exalted companionship.”

Then, there was it; that sound of ringing bells with no source to be found. A sound that the Prophet’s companions used to hear when he was receiving revelations. Abdulrahman and Aisha knew that the Archangel was present in the room. The Prophet always trembled at Gabriel’s presence. After all, he was the first Angel. He was the only direct messenger between the Creator and his creation. He was there when Adam ate from the forbidden tree. He was with Noah when his Ark rode the mountainous waves, with Abraham when he sat unharmed amidst the blazing fire of the pagans who wished him harm, with Moses when the great sea split asunder and with Jesus when he rose to his Lord untouched. Surely, the presence of the Holy Spirit was always trembling, but this time was different. The Prophet raised his head as droplets of sweat shined like pearls at his forehead. There was silence for a moment except for the weeping of Aisha. Then, he raised his hand and pointed to the heavens. “Nay! The most exalted companionship,” he said. At last, as if the Archangel himself was giving him a choice between life and death, he repeated: “Nay! The most exalted companionship!”

“The most exalted companionship!”

The hand of Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him, fell to his side as he gave his last breath. “We belong to Allah, and to him we return,” Aisha cried as she buried her face in her husband’s neck. She was indeed sad for the loss of her loving husband, true, but she was also mourning for all of humanity. The last Prophet died, and no prophet will come after him. The last link between the heavens and Earth was severed; never to be tied again.

She then turned to her brother. “Bring my father to me!” she said, “bring the Truth-bearer!”

(End of Part I)

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What to Write?

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One of my first letters to my parents written at the age of six. Sure I had the environment in my mind when I recycled an envelope, but in just a short sentence, I’ve managed to butcher the grammar of my mother language, misspelled my very own name and introduced the letter ‘arrow’ in vain hope that it would be adopted in the Arabic alphabets. Needless to say, it had not.

Before that, why write?

I believe that if life is a test, then love is the passing score. Now the fact that “life IS a test” is something to discuss later, but love is the passing score? Well, you know the famous saying, “live as if you were to die tomorrow?” Whoever said that doesn’t want you to literally have that terrifying feeling that some convicted murderer might have the eve of his or her scheduled execution. Whoever said that wanted you to think of what really, really, matters in life. You may calm down now.

As a Muslim, I believe that attaining God’s pleasure is what really, really matters. We don’t, however, get to know that God is really pleased with us until we pass. This is why he said: “… serve (worship) thy Lord till the Inevitable cometh unto thee.” (AlHijr, 99) Yet, the concept of worship is unique in Islam, and the pleasure of God manifests in numerous things. Another possible subject for later. And, he made signs of the attainment of his pleasure. One of which, is people’s love to you.

The Prophet was once standing in one of the streets of Medina when mourners carrying a coffin came across. As the funeral passed along, he heard bystanders speaking ill about the deceased. He whispered, “it shall be true.” Another funeral passed along the same street and the bystanders spoke well about it. He, again, whispered: “it shall be true.” When asked about it, the blessed said: “If a person who died had four to testify for him, shall enter paradise. Even three. Even two. You are God’s witnesses on Earth” (AlBukhari)

Therefore, it is safe to say that people are what really, really matter. How your mere existence affect their lives is something that you should take very seriously.

Thus I write, so you testify for me. Its that simple.

Now! What to Write?

“History is the lesson, life is the test and love is the passing score” is what I chose to be the title of my blog. This, in essence, is what I am going to write about.

History is the Lesson

If life’s a test, history is the test bank. Remember the night before that MATH 301 test? Wouldn’t it been stupid of you had you not dug into the test bank? That old box-file of a thousand tests passed along from generation to generation of test takers until it fell into your hands as you held them up in prayer. History is such; a collection of the lives of legions before you who passed through the same road, gone through the same choices and took the same test. Wouldn’t it be stupid of you not to care?

I love history, but don’t get me wrong. I am neither a historian nor I am planing to bore you with theses of historical blabber. I may, however, write about an unusual historical figure or two. Unusual to the West, at least. I may write about the culture and history of a country that is seldom thought of as having ancient and rich versions of them both.

Maybe one day, I will tell you about a strange event that happened 400 million years ago, yet its implications are controlling the world today. Or about the Mad Dog who once saved the Islamic dominion, and thus, Christendom itself. Or, maybe, I will tell you why my great grand father was sued by a Maharaja, or the reason why Charles Belgrave and his guards broke into the house of my other great grand father.

Life is the Test

As I said before, I’ve lived just above thirty summers. Those years, though young still, were full of interesting incidents, unexpected turns, learnt lessons and some books. Nice memories they are, yet my love of meditation and pondering, to me, gave the nice cake some icing and a cherry on top. To the sorrow of the younger generation, such blessings (i.e. meditation and pondering) are rare nowadays and, sometimes, dubbed weird.

I never kept a diary, and so I will start writing some of its pages here. The exciting ones, that is. For example, I may tell you about the day I was received as a hero in the desert of Al Aflaj, or the day I hung behind a truck looking in desperation for my wife.

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As for the quiet moments every once in a while, especially in the privacy of my backyard tent and the company of my chai, will, there lie the epiphanies. Some are abstracts. Those can be as abstract as a manhole in the street (Not crazy, just deserving a little benefit of the doubt.)

It won’t be delusional all the time, I promise. I like reading too, so I might write about a book that I loved. I also know a thing or two in business and entrepreneurship.

And, finally, I may write about the faith that lives in a billion hearts, but seen through a handful of eyes. Neither will I engage in missionary work nor in preaching, yet I will share beautiful delicacies of my often misunderstood faith as I ponder upon them.

Disclaimer

I read occasionally, but kindly do not take me as a scholar of literature. I write, but I am not exactly Hemingway. I sometimes utter poems (not a poet). I am neither a historian nor a cleric. Please, please, do not be offended by my mistakes that are going to be as often as my posts (grammatical, orthographical or otherwise.) All this is, a collection of thoughts and opinions of a singular simple mind. It is meant to be conversational, flowing and raw. It will not go through any kind of editorial scrutiny. I know at least one person who would be biting his finger nails as he reads this. To him I say, I am very grateful for your offer to edit my posts before they go online. I promise you that I will be much more (I know!) careful when I’m writing an actual book. So, rain check? 🙂

I also tend to write in both the Mother Language (Arabic) and the Stepfather Language (English, that is. Since it was forced on us as we were kids, and now became a main requisite of our household’s sustenance, we cannot be anything less than respectful and grateful towards it. Just like a stepfather, I’d imagine.)

The fact that I am going to write in English and Arabic will, surely, make posts take longer to be published. I am telling you this to warn those who might perish in agonizing linger lest a post was late for their weekly read (Let me humor myself, I beg you.)

Intention is the soul of any effort. And, I intend to give you a simple blog that is enjoyable, beneficial and amiable. A chipper that you won’t be sad if you miss, but you’ll be happy to have.

 

 

 

 

 

My First

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In the Name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful

 

My name is Abdulrahman Muhammed Al Bassam. I’ve been on this earth for just about half of the average lifespan of a typical specimen of my race. In my thirty some years that I lived, I’ve always been myself, but myself changed a lot. This is because I was allowed to, and I was allowed to because I was born to Muhammad Abdulrahman Al Bassam and Deena Bassam Al Bassam; a six of a kind rare blessing indeed. God bless them, for to them, I owe it all.

‘Myself’ is a collection of many things as well. To borrow from HRH Khaled Al Faisal’s poetry, I am really “a collection of a man. Of every thing and its contra, you will find in me.”

I was born in Bahrain but I am a Saudi. I talk like a Manaman, but I live in Khobar all my life. I think English, but I am an Arab. My father is a KFUPMer (look it up,) three of my uncles are, my brother is, I studied myself in KFUPM schools until I graduated from high school and I’ve always thought I will be attending college in KFUPM. I didn’t. I’ve actually done my university in literally the farthest from KFUPM; thousands of miles away in the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

I studied Geophysics, but I work in investments. I founded an engineering firm, yet I am not an engineer. I’ve run a darn restaurant and I don’t even eat much. I have God to thank for my good health, yet I went through the scariest procedures you could ever think of. No, really.

I’ve been shy all my childhood, yet I love speaking to a crowd. I’ve been my teacher’s favorite pick for any morning announcement they wanted to make. This, or my father was literally calling my school and demanding to humiliate his first born. Painful, but I guess it worked. I gave Friday sermons to the U of C Muslim community for over a year, God forgive me! Thanks dad!

I am a very lucky husband who married a very unlucky wife. Its unlikely, but after almost 13 years of marriage, I really think that she might be sort of into me. And, we are business partners.

We have a son. His name is Muhammed. He’s a tiny bunch of months old, but a handful of a boy, God bless him.

I am a Muslim from Saudi Arabia, and after 15 years of trying to make us sorry for it, I’ve never been more proud. So much so, that I am halfway through writing a book that tells a story of my people and my country. A story that if you managed to see through the unfamiliar looks, wardrobe or language, you might just find it nostalgically familiar.

Its been a hefty thirty some years, and I’ve decided to share some of it with you. I hope you’d care, and I promise I’ll do my best to make it worth the time you will unselfishly be spending.

Yours Sincerely,
Abdulrahman M. AlBassam

Khobar, Asharqiya
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia