Where is that beggar I used to see,
this street is lonely without his upward hand,
his smile, his well wishes,
like a dervish in the sand.
My mock, my wit,
won’t avail, with time conspiring against me,
his prayer, his litany,
might be the only thing that avails me.
How oft we tread on hallow ground,
but aloof with our eyes towards the sky,
it’s not heaven were looking towards,
but the mountain of grandeur,
we’re so accustomed to tell ourselves lies.
Whilst there on the floor,
my beggar friend sits,
aware of all that is above him,
and I, in ignorance,
took him for a peasant,
without noticing he was a king.
Sufi literature is heavy with example,
with history of princes, kings and queens,
abandoning their position,
donning the garb of a beggar,
because they were afflicted with the unseen.
And here I am,
sound faculty of mind,
intellectualising all that I know,
when what I should have been doing,
is walking to divinity,
and like the dervish,
with wind and sand,
allow myself to be blown.
There is a beggar who usually frequents a mosque I pray at. I never see him inside, always outside, waiting to ask someone for a dollar or two.
It’s usually at noon prayer that I find myself in the midst of hustle and bustle,
fleeing from the noise to the sanctuary of silence hidden in crevices of the city, in this little mosque, unknown to most of the outside world.
Perhaps, by the sincerity of the peaceful folk that frequent there, God has veiled it from preying eyes, and left it for crying eyes, and praying hearts, perhaps God has shrouded the hearts of the non-followers with veils of peace, or indifference but this iron barred solace, remains unscathed, in a time and place where it doesn’t belong.
He waits, he knows, he remembers the ones that place money in his palm.
My teachers always taught me, never to refuse the palm of a beggar, to assume it is God himself asking, perhaps through a medium, perhaps to test me, to see if I am really devoted to Him, to see if I truly believe ‘to Him I belong and to Him I return’, everything is in His dominion, all of wealth and all of poverty. All of it, His, and perhaps this is my litmus, the trial of me, the Jihad, that I must undertake against my wretched soul.
My teachers were never ones for small talk, they made sure they drove home the message with utter clarity and that it laid in a bath of conviction in my heart.
With this in mind, I’d always give this man something. He was always grateful.
I don’t know what overcame me, perhaps annoyance, perhaps arrogance, perhaps the devil in me, I don’t know but the last time I saw him, I grew annoyed, I pestered him when he approached me. I asked why he was lying to me. He told me a very tall tale as to why he needed money.
I dislike lying and grow agitated and extremely angry when lied to, and perhaps I used this as an excuse to justify my pestering him. I was never not going to give him something, but I pestered him and asked him why he was lying to me and that I would give him what he wanted if he just didn’t lie, Muslims are not meant to lie, it is considered of the utmost of major sins.
He kept saying ‘ok, ok, I’ve got schizophrenia, I’m here to see the doctor’. (it was a public holiday). I still didn’t believe him, nevertheless I gave as I usually do and as usual he was thankful and left as I went inside to pray.
It’s been a couple of weeks and I haven’t seen him at all. Today, I grew sad walking towards the mosque, wondering what happened to him. I grew annoyed with myself and anxious, I wanted to punch myself and as I thought of being a failure, at letting my fat ego get in the way, my bloated mind, my obese yapping heart, I felt bruised all over.
That feeling I got when I lost a fight I could have easily won. Lips busted, shins busted, knuckles making holding a spoon near impossible and a jaw you can only drink fluids through, I felt battered.
I hoped nothing had happened to him, and I wanted nothing more than to see his hand outstretched, his teeth broken and rotting through and to hear his Afghani accent, soft and inviting, like he was the one calling me to a banquet, into his home, the gesture of asking, a metaphor of God inviting, and there I was analysing the invitation card, forgetting I have been summoned to a meal with my creator.
I have never felt such shame, ever, and after all this, I wondered still yet, if perhaps I am just so conscious now of what had transpired and only wanted the soft cushion for myself, out of again another hidden trap within my ego, to assure myself that I was generous, like as if I own anything, like as if it is mine to give in the first place. Perhaps I just wanted to avoid the punishment I was ready to fledge myself with. I don’t know.
I do know, I still wish his hand was there, so I could place something in it without him even asking.
4 thoughts on “skyward hand”
Wow…may Allah make us of the ones who never assume it beneath us to answer the call of the beggar and needy. It really is so easy to make excuses to satiate our ego…love this reminder.
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Ameen, thank you
Who are your teachers?
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Shaykh Nuh, Shaykha Hajar Abdullah, and more. Other than Shaykh Nuh, you wouldn’t know the others….