Hassan’s Tale | Part 3 – Born in East Beirut

Part 1 | Part 2

See the Story Index for a chronological guide to all the stories.

Jamilah wanted to know what the heck was going on. She'd received a call from Layth, insisting that she meet him and Kadija at 640 Mission. She was baffled, but Layth said it was urgent, so she radioed Jen and told her she had a family emergency. She could hear the frustration in Jen's voice, but the dispatcher could not refuse.

Jamilah was annoyed as well. What was so important that it couldn't wait until the end of a hectic workday? Over the last few months she'd grow very fond of Hassan, but his cryptic nature still confounded her.

Then she'd met Layth and Kadija in the lobby of this glittering tower. At first glance it seemed to her that Kadija had gained a little weight, which seemed odd since she'd seen her only a few days ago, but that wasn't something you could say out loud to a person.

She'd hardly had a chance to look around the building's sumptuous lobby when along came Muhammad, striding through the sumptuous lobby and waving to the building staff like Donald Trump. He escorted them to one of the top floors of the building and into what must have been a multimillion-dollar apartment high above the City. To Jamilah's surprise, Muhammad's father was there, sitting in the walk-in closet of all things, talking to himself quietly and reading a martial arts magazine. The man did not look like the terrible abuser Muhammad had described. He looked unkempt and broken down.

Jamilah had a thought that maybe this was all the setting for some kind of elaborate marriage proposal by Hassan. Maybe he had borrowed this luxurious but strangely empty apartment from one of his students, and maybe he would appear in a dark suit, drop to one knee, offer a diamond ring, and ask for her hand in marriage. The thought was frightening and thrilling at the same time. How would she respond? Would she take a chance on this handsome, fascinating but mysterious man? Or would she insist that he answer all her questions about his past?

She had once asked her cousin Shamsi how she would know when she had met the right man, and Shamsi had said, “When I can picture myself waking up every morning for the rest of my life and seeing his face, then I'll know it's right.” When Jamilah thought of seeing Hassan's face every morning, it made her happy. But it could never happen unless he was willing to trust her. She would never marry a man who kept secrets. She loved Hassan, but on some level she did not fully trust him. That was a huge problem.

She loved Hassan, but on some level she did not fully trust him. That was a huge problem.

All Muhammad could tell them was that Hassan was out of town, but on his way.

“Hassan is in serious trouble of some kind,” Layth said. “He can be a difficult man to get close to. But all of us here owe him in one way or another. He's our brother. I think we should try to help him with whatever it is he's going through.”

So it wouldn't be a marriage proposal. Jamilah felt disappointed and relieved at the same time.

She and Kadija stepped onto the balcony. A cold, steady wind blew from the west, ruffling Jamilah's hijab. The view was stunning. Directly below, a few hardy souls picnicked in the wide green meadow of Yerba Buena Gardens. In the foreground were the Metreon Center, Moscone Convention Center, and the Museum of Modern Art. From there the view swept out to include everything from Twin Peaks in the west, to Bernal Heights in the south, to the San Francisco Bay in the east,where huge container ships glided across a blue expanse. She could even see across the bay to Alameda, Oakland and the East Bay hills, draped in fog on this winter day.

“Do you think we'll have another earthquake?” Kadija said.

Jamilah shrugged. “No way to tell.”

Kadija laughed and shook her head. “I don't know how y'a'll can be so nonchalant about it. In North Carolina we had hurricanes and tornadoes, but at least the ground stayed still. I went under the desk at work yesterday when the quake hit and I wouldn't come out for five minutes.”

A cloud passed overhead, casting a shadow on Yerba Buena Park below. Kadija gestured to the cloud, and recited: “Have they not seen that We drive the water in clouds to barren land and bring forth crops from which their livestock eat and they themselves? Then do they not see?”

“What is that?” said Jamilah.

“Qur'an,” Kadija replied. “Surat as-Sajdah. There's so much wealth out here in California. Y'all have farmland, forest, cattle, everything. But where does it come from? From Allah.” She waved her hand to indicate all that lay before them. “You'd think people would see that, and be grateful. But they don't.”

“They're not Muslims.”

“Does one have to be Muslim to be grateful?” Kadija asked. “To think? To look around and ask, 'Where did all this come from?'”


At 'asr time they all prayed together on the thick living room rug – all except Muhammad's father, who would not leave the safety of his roost in the closet.

After prayer they sat on the floor, each saying his own du'a' or dhikr. Muhammad sat with his legs crossed, eyes closed, and hands turned palms up on his knees.

Jamilah watched him for a moment, feeling slightly annoyed at his sangfroid.

“What are you doing?”

“I'm trying Hassan's meditation trick,” Muhammad said. “Right now I'm at the Presidio bluffs, sitting beneath a grove of pines, looking over the Pacific. The waves are crashing on the beach below. I can see the Golden Gate Bridge, and a sailboat heading toward the sunset. The wind is so crisp you could drink it.”

“I've never been out there,” Jamilah said. “It sounds like heaven.”

“No,” Muhammad said. “Just San Francisco.”

The tranquility in the apartment was broken by the click of the front door locks turning.

Layth moved quickly. He drew a large, evil-looking handgun from his waistband – where it had been hidden beneath his shirt – and strode to the door, pointing the gun directly at it.

Jamilah was stunned. Had Layth lost his mind?

Kadija cried out, “Honey, what are you doing?”

The door opened and there stood Hassan, carrying his messenger bag and a battered black briefcase, and looking as haggard as Jamilah had ever seen him. He had dark circles beneath his eyes and a two-day growth of beard surrounding his normal goatee. His long hair was bedraggled. Worst of all his face was badly swollen on one side. It looked much worse than it had last night. Jamilah also noticed the way he carried his arm close to his side with his elbow bent, as if hanging from an invisible sling.

When he saw the gun, however, his weariness seemed to vanish. He reacted instantly, shifting his body to the side and swinging the black briefcase into Layth's arm. The gun went skittering across the hardwood floor. Hassan advanced on Layth and looked as if he were about to strike him.

Jamilah screamed, and Kadija shrieked, “Hassan!”

Hassan stopped, freezing in place like a statue of a warrior in battle.

Layth backed up. “Easy akhi, it's me!” he blurted.

Hassan relaxed, and the fatigue seemed to rush back into him like an avalanche. He put his back to the wall and slid to the floor, his hands buried in his hair. Muhammad walked to the entryway and stepped over Hassan to shut the door and punch in the alarm code. Jamilah wished she could comfort Hassan in some way, but more than that she wanted answers. Had everyone gone mad?

Layth kneeled beside Hassan. “It's alright, akhi,” he said reassuringly. “Everything's good here.”

Hassan looked up. “I'm sorry,” he said. “It's been a long couple of days. Why are you all here? I asked you to leave town, not gather here.”

Jamilah was suddenly furious. “Who do you think you are to tell me to leave work and do this or that? You're not my father or my husband. I'm here because Layth said it was important, and it had better be, or I'll shoot you myself.”

“Get in line,” Hassan said wearily.

“What do you mean?” Jamilah demanded.

“I've already been shot twice this week, and now one of the most vicious assassins in the world is after me. So if you want to shoot me, get in line.”

Jamilah was speechless. This felt like a dream. Any minute she would wake up and tread wearily into her own kitchen, where Shamsiyyah would be brewing her morning coffee. “Shamsi,” she'd say, “you'll never believe the dream I just had…”

“Are you serious, akhi?” Layth said. “Muhammad, let's get him up.” They each took one of Hassan's arms to lift him from the floor but Hassan winced in pain and pulled away.

“Not the left,” he said.

Curling an arm around Hassan's right side only, Layth helped him to the sofa.

Kadija stood with arms akimbo, glaring at her husband. “Louis Carl Hedstrom!” she declared. “I can't believe you're carrying a gun. You know how I feel about that.”

Layth made an apologetic face. “Sorry guys,” he said sheepishly. “Hassan told me we were all in danger.” He turned to Hassan. “That's why I gathered everyone here, akhi. 'Innam al-mu'minoona ikhwa,' right? Surely the believers are brothers'. You taught me that. If one feels pain, all feel pain. Now tell us what's going on. Have you truly been shot?”

“Yes.” Hassan indicated his swollen face and arm. “Here and here.”

“Who shot you?”

“It's a long story. Let me rest for a minute and catch my breath.”

“Is this real?” Muhammad asked. He'd retrieved the gun and now held it curiously, turning it this way and that, then staring down into the barrel. He'd obviously never held a gun before. Neither had Jamilah, but she had no desire to do so.

“Don't do that!” Layth snapped, taking the weapon from him.

Continued on Next Page…

25 Responses

  1. saman

    Amazing talent u’ve got brother….we wait for a whole week and on wednesdays i am constantly checking when u’ll post…was so worried it might be the Partridge at the other side of the gun… and now my heart bleeds for Jamilah n Hassan
    Its better than any thriller i’ve read…please do publish it…

    • Safa

      I second that. Publishing would be a great idea.

      Jazakumuallahu khayran. Finally received some answers , at the cost of more hurt and heartache. Poor Hassan, what a difficult life he lived and what awaits him. Hoping his friends come through to inadvertently save him. A paradox yes, but rather that than them being sidelined or a burden (if held hostage as a bargaining chip) to him.

      Please ask MM if they are willing to publish the pieces twice weekly. Is there anything we can do to push for that? exercising patience is a bit hard on the readers

      • Wael Abdelgawad

        Safa, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but twice a week is not possible. I’m still writing the story and I need the weekly publishing schedule to stay ahead of you readers. :-)

  2. Wazeed Safi

    You done it again. leaving us on a cliff hanger again……… Great read, can’t wait till the next when In’ Sha Allah

  3. BintB

    MashaAllah, finally: SOME ANSWERS ON HASSAN’S IDENTITY… Alhamdulillah, but I am fearing the worst for Hassan and his friends… JazakAllahu khayr Akhy!

  4. Asiya

    Is it me or are the chapters getting shorter every week?
    Can’t wait till next Wednesday inshaAllah :)

  5. Omer

    Mashallah, I mirror all the comments when I say that the story is remarkable and you truly possess a great story telling talent. I made it my Wednesday morning routine to read up on the latest instalment. I have a random question though. Is there any particular reason why the story is set in 2010? You said Hassan was 34 while being born in 1976.

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      Good question, Omer. It’s set in 2010 because that’s when I first conceived of the story and began formulating it in my mind. Also, it works for the characters’ timelines, such as Layth fighting in Iraq, and Hassan’s past as well.

  6. Sir

    Seriously you gotta post twice a week if the stories are already or close to being written out. Everytime I get to page 4 of any installment I get depressed, a week is too long! Hasan’s life is in danger for Gods sake!

    (Joking aside I’m serious about the twice a week thing though)

  7. Hadija

    I must say that this week’s release has failed to impress (atleast me).
    I hoped to see more of hassan’s past or support from friends or some action . But most of the part was the jamilah’s fanatism..i was so eager to listen to his story that whenever she interrupted like an impatient kid,was so annoying. And wen she hit him in his wound…YA Alllah..wished somebody would slap her back. Really bro,she spoiled it for me today.she stopped the story to be progressed in the way i expectd.

    • Hadija

      But shes your character..not my own..so i guess i have no say it.but i wished she had calmed down quickly

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      Hadija, there will be fewer interruptions in the next part, I promise. About Jamilah, I was wondering what readers would think of her behavior in this installment. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Jamilah. I used to think that the great challenge for Jamilah was learning and practicing Islam. But I’ve come to see that her true life challenge is dealing with her temper, and learning to forgive. Can she do it? Time will tell.

  8. Umm Yasa'ah

    Jamilah isn’t so jameel anymore. She’s gotta take a chill pill.

  9. iffat sharif

    I have a lil confusion?? Hasan’s dad is a Haddad ri8? So why will he be killed along wid his family?? And how did basim managed to backstab hasan’s dad ?? you say Haddad and basin were awesm frnds…even wide the religious and political differences?? How?? And hassan grandpa is THE Haddad!! Will he kill his own son and grandson???

  10. Aseey_NIgeria

    Mashallah. Hassan is a hero with a strong will.I realy love reading all of hassan’s friends meeting together. Keep it up brother.I believe this story is going to redefine lsslamic fiction.
    I wish you all the best.

  11. Bint A

    Excellent instalment… haven’t had much to say previously but story is really picking up now…. I love the twists and turns of the plot and that you are steering away from our conjectures regarding what will typically occur…

    also marvelling at the realism you are able to maintain throughout the story despite its fantastical elements

    now im starting to prefer the weekly set up…. cuz lets face it, do we really want the story to end so soon?

  12. Aseey_Nigeria

    Now you wanna make me cry! I am totally addicted to reading this story. Never the less, i look forward for the future publications.

  13. Grey Crayon

    …those 4 pages went quick! Roll on next Wednesdays instalment In Shaa Allah.
    And was that a glimmer of Mr Green ‘reasoning’?… I live in hope ;)
    Jazak Allahu Khair for another thrilling instalment Bro Wael…

  14. J K

    Jazak Allau Khairan! Someone I knew made a “deal” with Allah saying that they will give in charity if Allah does something for them. I used your words of wisdom that Khadija gave to Jamilah to help them understand that we don’t make deals with Allah. Thank you again for the great stories, and if possible, please publish more frequently!! :)

  15. Sarah B.

    Oh my! The story just keeps building. I found it interesting that Jamilah thought Hassan might propose. She is definitely head-over-heels for him. I think she will be able to forgive him for not being honest at first, insha’Allah with a bit of time she will move past it.


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