Monday, January 31, 2005

Untitled Short Story

This short story was adapted from Islamic's Children's Page. The original version can be found here under the title "Charity Never Decreases a Person's Wealth."

Fareed stepped out of the mosque and recited the remembrance of departure: "O Lord, I ask You for Your favor, O Lord, guard me from Satan the Outcast," a century and a half-old tradition of the faithful.

As he put on his sandles, he saw a beggar by his car, badgering passers-by. The beggar was bald and sported a lengthy beard. He was clad in haggard and dirty attire, and Fareed wondered for a moment how he could wear such unseemly clothes. From his face, Fareed could tell the man was no more than 40, yet he was hunched over and quivering. "A professional," he thought to himself.

As he approached the car, the beggar intercepted him. "Please, my son. For the sake of God!" the beggar recited with a quivering voice. Fareed walked past without flinching, and the beggar matched him stride for stride despite his hunch and quiver.

Fareed unlocked the car and paused for a moment. As though restraining himself, with a stiff jaw he said the first thing that came into his mind: "God will provide."

On hearing this, the beggar stopped shaking. Fareed got into the car and pulled down the window for a breath of air.

The beggar frowned, his eyes downcast. He spoke softly, almost to himself: "I did not take you as my Provider. I have never denied God..." His voice trailed off.

Fareed looked at the beggar through the windshield as he backed off. The man's quivering had stopped, and from what Fareed could see, his eyes seemed dark, as deep pools of red. Fareed quickly changed gears and drove away.

The beggar stood there, motionless on the sidewalk. For many years he went about his business, but never once did he think of how his actions reflected on himself. He never questioned his faith for he never dug that deep, but upon having to assert his faith in defense, he felt a sickly sense of dishonesty in his soul, as a layer of oil on a clear pool of water. His words of defense came as mere prattling of his tongue; his heart did not resonate, and he felt an aching emptiness within. He realized then, that all his life he had taken as Lord those who were slaves. He could not honestly say that he hadn't denied God.

As the beggar stood there thinking, a little girl, minding her father's biscuit shop by the parking lot saw what happened. Digging into her pocket, she took out a dirham coin and handed it to the beggar as he passed by, walking stiffly. The beggar held the money and paused for a moment. Hints of a smile crossed his face as he put his hand on her head.

"You pay me, yet I did not ask," he said. The little girl smiled up at him. The beggar was too ashamed for prayer, but he cast concern for himself aside for once, and made a most private and hearty supplication for the girl as he turned the corner. It was his sincerest request in years.

As Fareed was about to turn into the main road, he was introspective. "I did not pay the man," he thought to himself, "because he was a professional beggar. He is young, yet he shivers with age. What hypocrisy!" He was trying to reconcile what he thought to be an awful thing to do, to refuse a beggar.

Fareed made it a point never to pay professional beggars, and he maintained this with great difficulty. He was a very sentimental and charitable young man, but he decided not to as a matter of principle, for to patronize their trade is to encourage it, and they are a hindrance and an unseemly sight, feeding on the pity of others.

Despite the cold, hard facts, he could not forget the man's eyes now, and he knew he would have trouble coming to terms with ignoring him like that. "Oh, just this once,"he thought to himself. He parked the car in front of a house by the road, and walked back to the parking lot a short distance away as he pulled out a ten-dirham note from his wallet.

When he got there, the lot was empty. The mosque too was abandoned, for prayer time was over. Soft melodies of recitations of the Qur'an emanated from within the mosque, but from without, it was desolate. His eyes came upon a little girl minding a small biscuit shop on the sidewalk.

Not willing to put the money back in his pocket once he had decided on giving it to charity, he gave the ten-dirham note to the little girl who had just paid the beggar one dirham, and quietly walked away.

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I write essays in my spare time on things that are important to me. The ones that I feel are any good, or make any sense, I put them up here. :)