By Anwar Iqbal
April 24, 2012
This is a story that we often tell each other at the Alif Laila Tavern in Virginia because it concerns all of us. It is about a great loss that few understand and fewer mourn.
Terrorism has hurt Muslims more than it has hurt any other community. It has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Muslims across the word. But what’s worse is that it hijacked our faith and changed it into something even we cannot recognise now. It also took our God away from us.
We were in our backyard — God and me — when they came. They took him away and changed him. He was a friendly God before. We roamed around together, holding hands. We collected colored feathers, glorious flowers and chased delicate butterflies.
And we could talk, spend hours in friendly chats. When they came we were having an important friend-talk. He was explaining why butterflies stain our hands and fireflies do not burn.
They were all big men. Some bearded, some not. Some had guns, some did not. Some carried swords and spears. Others hefted heavy sticks.
They came and shouted: “We cannot let God waste his time. We are here to save him from children and butterflies. He is too important for childish thoughts. He has more important things to do. Give him to us.”
They lifted God on their shoulders and marched from my garden, chanting slogans.
And they took him away. From me and my house. From my village and my city. From that day on, nobody has seen my God. Nobody knows where he is, where they took him.
He does not talk to children anymore. He does not talk to us at all. They bring all his orders to us and say: This is what God says. Do it. Those who do not are kicked, beaten, flogged and killed. All in the name of my God!
He has changed so much since they took him that I do not recognise him anymore. He is not the God I loved. He is their God. He no longer speaks the language of butterflies and fireflies. His orders are not that of a loving friend. He talks like earthbound rulers.
I still miss Him a lot. I want the God of butterflies and flowers.
I want to say to him, “O God how much I want you to come down from your heavenly abode and play with me. I want to be a little child again. I want to hold your hand and run with you. Deep into the jungle. And when the jungle scares me, I want to hide in your arms. I want you to stay there, wait for me. Don’t abandon me like others. You are more kind than a mother. And more caring than a father.
I want you to leave all your work aside for one day, just one day. Yes, I know it is important. I know it is you who brings clouds from the sea and makes them rain on the thirsty earth. So that we could smell the mist and the raindrops stir in the dry soil.
It is you who brings the monsoon, holding the reins of the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets in your hands. And change the seasons for your children.
It is you who prevents people from killing each other. You yearn for us to live under the loving care of our friends. It is you who feeds insects hiding under the stone. And give warmth to the poor sitting around the fire.
You also fetch a glass of water for the beggar woman. You fill our dreams with color and light and bring sleep to our burning eyes. You protect the travelers. And save us from our own madness.
Yes you have so many important things to do. But you have always done this and more. Only you know how old this universe is. And how unending your daily chores.
But you also know that my stay here is short. My age is not numbered in solar years. I want to hold your hand and walk in the cruel crowd, holding my head high. So that everybody could see you have dodged your bearded guards. And returned to children and butterflies.
I want to watch them and smile at them. And you, my provider, I don’t want much from you. Just buy me a plate of chickpeas, some oranges and some mangoes (they do not grow in the same season but you get them both for me!).
I also want you to fetch a glass of cold sherbet with crushed ice.
And let me put my head on your shoulders (don’t be upset with me, this is how your children behave). And sleep, a long, long sleep.
And when I do, you quietly close my eyes and take me to the journey that awaits us all. If you are with me, why should I be afraid of any journey?”
The author is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.
Source: Dawn, Karachi