Ten years ago, I drove along a lengthy country path; on each side of me quaint squat homes surrounded by what looked to my American eyes like enlarged gardens, but were actually farm plots. Morning after morning I drove along that road, sometimes stopping to take a picture of sheep as they moseyed along, sometimes stopping to leap out of the car and take a picture of a rainbow, sometimes just drinking in the green grass with my eyes. Women worked in those fields. There were days I resented their men-folk for their absence from those fields, and days I looked upon those women bent over green leafy plants as heroes of womanhood. Day after day.
Of course there were days I didn’t see beauty. Those were the days I noticed the mud, the pot-holed streets, and the poverty.
One day, driving along this curved country road, I spotted a young boy about five years old standing at the side of the road. He looked unsure of himself and I watched him as I continued to drive. As I neared he decided it was time to run across the road. I slammed on my brakes but it wasn’t enough. I pushed him into the ditch. Every cell of my body shook as I remembered my fervent dua – do not let me be the hand by which anyone’s qada befalls them – and I grabbed him and put him in the car. His brother joined us and we went off to the hospital. He was fine. I hadn’t hit him hard, just pushed him. He was a little scared, but according to his mother this was one of his many exploits. From that day forward I made dua for that family every day I passed by the house.
Day after day and month after month, this road became a part of me. At the end of the road was the last farm-house. That house was my favorite. It was an active farm, with chickens and roosters wandering daily onto the road. Every two or three months the crop would change, and I would guess and wonder what they were growing now. Two buildings, one for the animals, and one for the people stood as sentinels between the long country road, and the tall buildings that had recently been built. And yesterday – in a grand and threatening gesture of cruelty – the doors were shut on the animals, gasoline was spilled, and a fire was lit. Men were taken away. Women wrung their hands. Children cried.
Today when I drove down this road, past blackened stains of burned tires, and sad houses drooping under the weight of grief, I wept.
Our histories – they are tied into people and places in uncanny ways. None of the people on this road know how much we have interacted with each other in the past ten years. None of them know the du`a I’ve made for them, the happiness their sheep have brought me, the sadness their poverty has filled me with. Yet this road has wound itself around my heart.
Our roads all have moments of great beauty, and moments of great tragedy. They are filled with rainbows of hope, and fires of despair. It is in the movement along the road and the continuity therein that we find success. It is getting up again every day to travel the path again. Along the way we may stumble and hold our hearts while we wait for the repercussions – praying that our own shortcomings never stand in the way of another’s happiness or spiritual growth. Day after day we must step out in faith, try a little harder, look for the bits of beauty, pray for those we meet along the way. Month after month we must keep our mind focused, our deeds righteous, and our hearts content. Our road, no matter how many times we travel it, tests us as it takes us to our destination. It asks us to interact, to be alive, to be aware. Our Prophet – Allahumma salli `alaih – paved our road with his love, and lit it with his intercession. It is up to us to cleave to it, to diligently move forward upon it, and to appreciate it; no matter what the road brings forth today.