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The Bitter Harvest

Muhammad Alshareef

category: Family Life


reads: 7482

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I was a teacher in the Qur’anic study circle at our neighborhood masjid at the time. I would see this young boy after Maghrib prayer who was about fifteen years old. He held a pocket Qur’an and sat alone reading from it. He wasn’t actually reading from it, he was just trying to make it seem as if he was. Now and again, he would shyly steal a few glances at us, curious to know what we were doing. Once in awhile, you would see him straining to make out what we were talking about. Every time I caught his eye, he would avert his head and continue with his recitation, as if he had not intended to look this way.

Day after day, he sat in the same reserved manner, revealing the same timid glance. Finally after Isha Salah one day, I resolved to confront him.

"As salamu alaykum. My name is Salman. I teach the Qur’anic study circle in this masjid."

"And my name is Khalid."

It was strange that he replied so fast, as if he had been waiting to share this piece of information for a long time and expected to be asked.

"Where do you study Khalid?"

"In the eighth grade…and I…I love the Qur’an a lot."

Why did he add that last sentence?

Confidently, I asked him, "Listen Khalid, have you got any free time after Maghrib? We would be honored to have you join us in the class."

"What? The Qur’an? The halaqah? Yes…why, yes of course (happiness overcame him). I’ll be there, in sha Allah."

That night, I couldn’t think of anything other than this young boy and the haze that surrounded his behavior. Sleep would just not come. I attempted to interpret an answer for what I saw and heard, but there was none. A verse of poetry came to mind:

The coming days shall unravel the mystery And the news may appear from where you could never see.

I turned on my right side and slipped my right hand under my cheek:

O Allah, I have surrendered myself to You and to You I turn over my affairs.


Subhan Allah, the months were passing quickly. Khalid was now a regular in our Qur’an circle, energetic and successful in memorization. He was friends with everyone and everyone was friends with him. You could never catch him without a Qur’an in his hand, or find him in any other line in Salah other than the first.

There was nothing wrong with him except for his occasional long lapses of attention. There were times when his stoned eyes would reflect the fathomless thought going on in his mind. Sometimes we knew his body was with us, but his soul was somewhere else, suffocating in another world. Occasionally, I would startle him with a question. All he had was a mumble to reply with, and he would have been the first to admit its fabrication.

One night, I walked with him after class to the beach shore. Maybe his big secret might meet something equally large, relax somewhat, and release its distress and pain.

We arrived at the beach and traced the waves. The full moon was out. It was a strange sight. The darkness of the night found the darkness of the sea, with a lit moon in-between them.

I sat somewhat embarrassed at its intrusion, similar to my shyness towards Khalid right then. The rays of the silent moon rested on the silent waves of the sea. I stood behind the silent boy. The scene was silence.

It all shattered and crushed to the ground as the young boy fell to the bottom, bleeding his heart out with tears. I chose not to interrupt Khalid’s emotional release, perhaps the saltiness of his tears might help him relax and cleanse his distress.

After a few moments he said from behind his tears, "I love you all…I love the Qur’an…and those who love it. I love pious brothers, moral, pure brothers. But…my father…it’s my father."

"Your father? What is wrong with your father Khalid?"

"My father always warned me not to hang around with you people. He’s afraid. He hates you all. And he always tries to convince me that I should hate you too. At any chance he gets, he tries to prove his point with stories and tales."

"But…when I saw you people in the halaqah reciting Qur’an, I saw something entirely different. I saw the light in your faces, the light in your clothes, the light in your words, even when you were silent I could see the light even then."

"I doubted my father’s tales and that’s why I would sit after Maghrib, watching you, pretending that I was part of the circle, trying to share in the light."

"I…I remember Ustadh Salman…I remember the time you approached me after ‘Isha prayer. I’d been waiting for that moment for such a long time. When I began the classes, my soul locked itself into a world of purity with your souls. I began the circle and was persistent. I wouldn’t sleep; my days and nights became Qur’an. My father noticed the change in my routine. He found out, one way or another, that I had joined the circle and that I was now hanging out with ‘terrorists’."

"Then, on a dark night…we were waiting for father to come home from the coffee shop, his daily ritual, so that we could all have dinner together. He entered the house with his hardened face and slaps of anger. We all sat together at the dinner mat. Silence settled on the gathering. As usual, all of us were afraid to speak in his presence."

"He knifed the silence with his roaring and immediate voice."

"‘I heard you’re hanging out with the fundamentalists.’"

"I was caught. My tongue looped and failed. All the words in my mouth attempted to come out at the same time. But, he didn’t wait for the answer. He snatched the teakettle and threw it maliciously at my face. The room spun and the colors united before my eyes. I could no longer tell the ceiling from the walls from the floor, and fell."

"My mother held me. A damp cloth on my forehead reminded me of where I was. The vicious voice turned on my mother, ‘Leave him alone, or you’ll be in the same lot.’"

"I crawled out of my mother’s lap and whimpered away to my room. He followed me down the corridor with the cruelest curses."

"There was not a day that he didn’t beat me in some way – curses, kicks, throwing whatever was nearest to his hand. My body had finally become a shiver of fear, grotesque colors formed all over. I hated him."

"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 Qur’an 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.

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