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Hassan’s Tale, Part 12 – It’s Not What You Say

I was a wreck. I’d forget customers’ orders, drop things, and once I came to work barefoot. I was afraid to look in the faces of the customers.

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

“I went to the dojo and took out my frustration on the heavy bag, working it with punches and kicks, elbow and knee strikes, short stick and long staff, and even with wooden training knives, until I was dripping sweat and my muscles were sore. Then I washed up, put on a change of clothes that I kept in a locker, and went to Masjid Beyazit for Maghreb. Praying in the masjid always calms me and gives me the feeling that Allah is with me, keeping an eye out for me, and shepherding me where I need to go.

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I came home with an idea. I would start my own martial arts dojo. I’d been promoted to black belt in Jujitsu and I had years of prior martial arts training. I’d have to invest everything that Lena and I had, but I was confident that I could get students in the door quickly and start turning a profit, Insha’Allah. I just needed Lena to believe in me and trust me.

Buoyed by this new idea, I entered our little apartment with a bounce in my step. I opened the door and called out to Lena, but she did not respond. I figured she was still mad at me over the fight we had earlier, but I wasn’t going to let that get me down. I’d hug her and kiss her and pretty soon she’d forget all about our argument.

I shed my shoes, walked into our small living room and stopped in my tracks. Lena lay dead in a lake of blood. Her eyes were open and staring, and her face was set in a rictus of terror. Her  throat was cut from ear to ear. The blood had soaked into the square green rug, staining it almost black. It had gotten into the floorboard cracks and run along them, creating crimson lines up and down the floor.”

***

Jamilah studied Hassan’s face as he exhaled slowly, then sipped his glass of lemonade. She didn’t think she’d ever seen someone look as tired as Hassan did in that moment, and it wasn’t just lack of sleep. His mask of confidence had slipped, and what she saw was a man haunted by the past to the point of exhaustion. His next words confirmed her impression and almost broke her heart.

***

“I said to Jamilah recently,” Hassan continued, “that the challenges we face in life make us I stronger, and that our faith in Allah gives us the means to cope, because we trust that Allah ultimately wants good for us. I believe that. But my heart still hurts sometimes. I wish, I wish, I wish I’d been able to bring Lena to Islam.

Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning beneath the weight of my regrets. I dream that I’m sinking into the earth and I call for someone to save me. People are walking on the surface and I reach up. I continue to descend until finally only my hand is above the earth. I’m suffocating, but somehow I manage to call, ‘Save me, help me.’ But no one does.

Other times I dream that I’m in a prison cell, but the bars are deep and dark red, and they’re fluid, running and changing shape, and finally I realize with horror that they are not bars at all, but Lena’s blood, spreading out like it did along the cracks in the floorboards.

I’ve heard that the Bible says that the lifespan of a man is seventy years, or eighty if one is strong. It looks like scientists are set to prolong that, but I don’t think they should. I think that at some point death becomes a release from the accumulation of loss. If life continued indefinitely, the piled up sadness would become unbearable. I’ve seen old men become silent or bitter and I used to wonder why. I thought it was a reaction to the knowledge of impending death, or resentment against the deterioration of their faculties. But I’m beginning to think that it’s just the weight of the “might-have-beens” and “why-did-I’s” that becomes too great to carry.

I don’t have an answer. I think this is why I practice martial arts – because when I’m on the mat, and moving, I don’t think about anything else. All the demons and ghosts are banished from my mind.

People say that we should hand over our regrets to Allah. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that. The closest I come is when I’m reciting Quran, and when I’m in sujood. When I’m reciting Quran I feel comfortable and secure. But sujood is the ultimate. When I’m prostrating before Allah, everything disappears but me and Him. If I could take that moment of Allah-consciousness and expand it so that it filled my days and nights… I guess I’d be a saint. Or maybe I’d just be happy.

***

Layth cleared his throat. “I’m really sorry, akhi. You’ve been through some terrible things.” He put his hand on Hassan’s shoulder. “I don’t think any of us know what to say. We all feel for you.”

Hassan nodded his head and smiled, but the corners of his mouth never lifted. “I appreciate that. But it was a long time ago.”

“But you say you’re drowning in regret,” Layth said, “and that you’re glad life is short. I never knew you felt that way. You don’t go around smiling like daisies, but I thought you were okay with yourself, for the most part.”

“You know what. I am okay, most of the time,” Hassan said. “I know that Allah is Merciful. I know there is a wisdom in everything He does. Laa ilaha il-Allah is in me to the marrow. I apologize if I’m sounding like a heretic tonight. It’s because I’m exposing old wounds. It’s bringing up a lot of pain. And I’m tired.”

“It’s good that you’re getting it out,” Kadija said. “You’re among friends. You can share anything with us. And I’m sorry for your loss, Hassan.”

Hassan nodded his head. “I appreciate that.” He sat silently for a moment, then resumed. “I didn’t go to Lena. I didn’t hold her in my arms, or cry. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. A thought entered my mind: Mr. Black, with that very same cut across his throat. And Sarkis, with his cruel, contemptuous eyes. Hadn’t I seen them hiding around corners and slinking away down dark alleys? They had done this. They’d found us and killed my wife and unborn child. My child!

Hassan dropped his head into his hand and rubbed his temples. He was calm, but his gaze was far away. No one spoke. Finally Hassan continued.

I know what happened next only because Mehmet told me. Apparently I went to the Western Door and sat in the ashes and rubble. Mehmet found me there, sitting and staring, He spoke to me and I did not respond, so he called an ambulance, thinking that I might be injured.

I was taken to Karanlik. It’s a huge psychiatric hospital in Istanbul, holding thousands of patients. I… I don’t like to think about what I saw and experienced there. I don’t want to talk about it.”

***

Hassan fell silent.

Layth put his hand on Hassan’s shoulder. “That’s alright, akhi. Ma’lish. You don’t have to talk about it.”

“Let me get you some water,” Muhammad said, rising. He returned with a glass of water with a lemon slice on the rim. Hassan drank deeply, his hands trembling.

Jamilah had never seen Hassan shaken up like this. There was a haunted look in his eyes that might even have been fear. Somehow she’d always thought of Hassan as being invulnerable, or at least beyond the terrors that other people felt.

***

Hassan set down his glass. “Jazak Allah khayr. I’ll just say that human rights violations at Karanlik are so bad that it was one of the reasons listed by the EU for denying Turkey admission. I’ve never been able to reconcile the generally warm nature of Turkish people with what goes on in Karanlik.

I was released six months later. I never saw a judge or had a hearing. My weight had dropped to one hundred and five pounds – by comparison I’m one hundred and eighty now – and it was years before I regained full function in my hands. I came out of Karanlik a broken young man.

I was too frightened to return to my old home – which had certainly been cleaned out and rented to someone else anyway. I was frightened even to return to my old workplace, but I had nowhere else to go. Mehmet was so apologetic, pleading with me to forgive him. He actually cried. He said he thought I would just get a medical check up. The cafe had been rebuilt and Mehmet gave me my old job back as well as let me sleep on a cot in the storeroom. He even sent me to a private clinic to have my injuries from Karanlik tended to. The biceps required surgery.

I was a wreck. I’d forget customers’ orders, drop things, and once I came to work barefoot. I was afraid to look in the faces of the customers. Afraid that I’d look up and see Mr. Black’s blank, reptilian eyes staring at me. After a while I couldn’t work at all. But Mehmet let me keep on sleeping in the back room.

This was a low point for my iman. I wasn’t doing my daily prayers, I wasn’t reading Quran, I gave up martial arts, obviously… I kept going to Jum’ah, but that was it.

I had fasted the previous Ramadan and it had been a good experience. I’d felt the weight of my past sins slipping away, as if being carried away by a river. And there was such a sense of camaraderie and excitement everywhere I went.

This time, however, Ramadan came and went and I did not fast. I tried the first two days but I became so weak that I got dizzy every time I stood up. I spent most of the month sleeping on my cot in the back room, feeling defeated.

I avoided all my old haunts – the dojo, Masjid Beyazit and the university. I thought about Lena constantly. I had no doubt that her death was my fault. Sarkis and Mr. Black had come looking for me, found her instead and murdered her. The thought seemed to pin me to the ground, preventing me from thinking or moving. I went to the department of records to find out where her body had been buried, but they had no record of her. I feared she had been dumped in a pauper’s grave, without even a death certificate.

I never contacted the police. There was nothing they could do against the likes of Sarkis and Mr. Black. I didn’t even know Black’s real name. Plus, I was terrified that if I spoke to a policeman for any reason, he would look up my record and send me back to Karanlik.

I went to Jihad, my old Kurdish friend who worked at a clinic. I thought maybe he could speak to one of the doctors and get me a prescription for my nerves.

Jihad said that my problem was not medical but existential. He said it would be best if I left Turkey, not only because of the people looking for me but that since I had been in Karanlik, if I had any future scrapes with the law they would return me there automatically, and could keep me there indefinitely without due process.

Where could I go? Bulgaria? Greece? Or east to Iraq or Iran? The idea of traveling to yet another new country where I didn’t know the language or customs and would be a complete stranger, was too much for me. In my condition, with my body wasted and my nerves jangling, I didn’t think I would survive. I needed someplace familiar. But Lebanon and Syria were out of the question.

I talked to Mehmet and he said, “Why don’t you go home? Your first home, where you grew up. Go back to the USA.”

For some reason I hadn’t considered that. But it made sense. I spoke the language, and I could surely find a job, even if I had to pick fruit or clean toilets. I’d be thousands of miles from Lebanon. I could change my name again and disappear.

You may be wondering why I wasn’t consumed with rage over Lena’s murder. The answer is that Karanlik burned all that out of me. The real Hassan had been destroyed, and I was his shadow. Or perhaps it was more accurate to say that the real Hassan had been forced deep down – buried beneath a mountain of pain and fear.

The more I thought about America, the more I imagined that I could find peace there. I could leave behind all my memories of Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, and simply live. And maybe I could find what my father had hidden, if he indeed that was the meaning of his words. (Author’s Note: See Hassan’s Tale, Part 5). “Beneath the garage”, he had said. Had I even heard him right? Maybe he had said, “Your mom’s in the car,” or, “Keep a watch,” as in, keep a watch on Charlie.

I thought back to the day I had died in that field in Syria, when I’d seen my father in a garden. He had not actually repeated those words about the garage. I had. But he would have told me if I’d gotten it wrong, wouldn’t he?

I had no way to get to America, however. I couldn’t waltz into the American embassy and claim I was a citizen. Without documentation, they would toss me out like a rotten fruit. And I was unwilling to tell them my true name.

I went to Lena’s old Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I had always just waited outside, but a few times I’d seen her, after the meeting, talking to a man on the front steps. I remembered that he was a thin Turkish man in his thirties perhaps, with long hair and a long beard, and dark sunglasses that were always pushed up onto his head.

I waited outside the meeting until I saw that man exit, then I followed him. When we reached a dark section of Tailor’s Street – it was late, and the tailor shops were all closed – I closed the distance between us quietly, then seized him from behind and wrapped my arm around his neck. At the same time I drove one knee into the small of his back to unbalance him, so that he was practically hanging from my arm.

“Who is your heroin smuggling contact?” I demanded.

The man gasped, trying to speak, so I eased up on the choke.

“I don’t do that!” he shouted. He lashed out at me, trying to punch backward over his head.

I wasn’t nearly as strong as I used to be, but the position gave me leverage. It didn’t take a lot of strength to apply a rear choke. I held on tightly and ground the knuckle of my index finger into the depression beneath his earlobe – a technique that I knew would be extraordinarily painful but not damaging. The man screamed.

“You tried to set Lena up as a drug mule! Who is your smuggling contact?”

“Are you… are you Lena’s husband?” the man moaned. From his tone I gathered that he’d heard a few things about me.

I changed my tone, speaking in a soothing voice. “I’m not going to hurt you,” I said. “Just give me the contact’s name, then I’ll let you go.”

I felt the man’s shoulders sag in resignation.

“Anton,” he said. “The smuggler’s name is Anton. He’s a Greek – “

I released the choke and dropped the man, turning on my heel and walking away without another word.

If I’d been thinking right I never would have done what I did next. But I was confused and nearly hopeless, and I made yet another bad decision in a long line of poor choices.

Anton was not so easy to find this time. He’d moved up in his organization, apparently, and was a crew boss. I finally located him in a dingy pool hall on Tarlabaşı Bulvarı. He had an office in the backroom with a small black and white TV mounted in a corner of the room, playing a porno movie. Anton reclined in a leather office chair with peeling upholstery, his feet up on an old metal desk, drinking vodka from the bottle and watching the porn flick while a muscular thug with a Greek cross tattooed on his forearm counted and sorted stacks of rumpled currency.

He didn’t recognized me at first. When I told him what I wanted he waved his hand and said, “Beat it. We don’t work with junkies.” I told him firmly that I wasn’t a junkie and I guess there was something in my voice that alerted him. He looked up sharply and came limping around the desk. I saw a combination of hatred and fear in his eyes. He quickly reached into a bottom desk drawer and pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. I recognized it as old Huglu – a Turkish-made hunting gun that had to be reloaded after every shot. I’d seen a few newer model Huglus in Lebanon, but this one was ancient. The grip was cracked and the sight was broken off. At this range, however, the sight was superfluous. That thing would cut me in half.

Anton hands trembled as he pointed the Huglu at me. He was terrified. He might pull the trigger by accident and kill me where I stood.

“Easy,” I said. “I came here with a proposition.”

Anton stood and walked around the desk, then jabbed the shotgun at my face, striking me. I fell to the ground, blood streaming from a gash on my cheek.

I didn’t try to stop him. I’d been expecting a violent reaction of some kind, and I knew that if I were to achieve my goal I would have to take whatever punishment he meted out.

He and his money-counting friend kicked and stomped on me for a few minutes. Anton stomped on my right leg repeatedly. Luckily it was not the one I’d fractured in Karanlik. I curled up and tried to protect my head and face. Finally Anton pressed that same old switch blade against  my cheek – the one I’d used on him.

“I should kill you,” he said. “But I’d rather make some money off you first.”

I couldn’t stand. My face was swollen and my right leg felt wouldn’t hold my weight. Anton threw a canvas bag over my head and taped it around my neck. He and the money counter literally dragged me by the heels through a back door, then tossed me into the back seat of a car.

I recovered somewhat during the ride. I could move my leg, so it wasn’t broken, just badly bruised. I had to struggle to breathe through the bag. I was dragged into another building, where I smelled hospital smells. For a moment I thought I was back in Karanlik. I panicked and lashed out, striking someone who uttered a groan. I was struck in the face and I fell, then I was dragged back to my feet.

When the bag was removed from my face I was in a small examination room with a dirty floor. A tall, angular nurse with close-cropped black hair and a long nose chastised Anton. “You idiot,” she said. “We can’t send him through like this. They will search him for sure. He will need a few weeks recovery time.”

Anton shrugged. “So keep him a while. Patch him up. Then get him on his way.”

I was kept in a small dormitory-style room with a single barred window. A half dozen cots occupied most of the floor space in the dimly lit room. A television mounted on the wall in one corner droned incessantly with Turkish soap operas and game shows. Twice a day the long-nosed nurse brought me a small meal and a fruit. She seemed kind enough and I wondered what she was doing working for a sleaze like Anton. Or maybe she and Anton both worked for someone else, someone higher up and more dangerous.

In the two weeks I stayed there, a handful of other men and women came and went. They never stayed more than a day, or in some cases only a few hours. Some lay silently on their cots. Some wept. One, a woman in her twenties, told me that her husband owed Anton 100,000 lira, and that the debt would be forgiven in exchange for her doing this.

“I’m not a criminal,” the woman kept saying to me. “I’m really not.”

I couldn’t muster the energy to care. I slept day and night. I prayed perhaps once a day. I barely had the strength to push myself up from sujood. Once, as I was praying, a middle-aged man in a suit laughed at me. “A religious drug mule,” he said. “Now I’ve seen it all.”

The nurse examined me one evening and said, “Your wounds have healed. We we can send you the day after tomorrow.” She tousled my hair. “You look so much better.”

The next day I was not fed. I received no breakfast, lunch or dinner. The morning after that, Anton showed up, limping on his bad leg, with two of his Greek thugs in tow. The thugs seized my arms and hustled me to the examination room where a steel tray was piled high with dozens of tapered pellets. They looked like large wax bullets with soft points on both ends. I knew what they were. Heroin balloons.

My stomach felt empty as a drum, but I still I found it impossible to believe that I could swallow all of those balloons. It was crazy. I said as much, and one of Anton’s big henchmen slapped me in the back of the head hard enough to give me an instant headache.

“There’s no need for that,” the nurse objected, reaching a hand toward the man as if to restrain him.

“Shut up, Stefania,” Anton growled. “You’re replaceable. Don’t forget that. And as for you, you dirty Arab” – this was addressed to me – “you’ll do what you’re told. This amount is nothing. We’ve sent experienced mules with three times this much.”

“It’s true,” Stefania said. “The gastrointestinal system is amazingly flexible. We sent one young man with 200 fingers. This is only fifty. It should be easy.”

I began the process of swallowing the pellets, one by one. It was painful and laborious. I had to fight my gag reflex and my desire to throw up.

“What happens if one of these balloons breaks?” I asked.

“They’re not balloons,” Stefania explained. “They are fingers from latex gloves. We pack them with compressed heroin, then knot them. After that they are wrapped in food plastic, then a second layer of latex, then wax. We developed this process by trial and error. Our success rate is quite high now.”

“But what if one did break?” I persisted. I was trying to stall, to give my system time to adjust.

“Then you would die happy, bonehead,” Anton said. “Now shut up and swallow.”

Anton gave me a Turkish passport in the name Berke Emir. An ordinary Turkish name. It looked real to my untrained eye, and I said so.

“It is real, idiot,” Anton said. “We have an ally in the passport office. You are Berke Emir now. When you arrive in Los Angeles my contact will be waiting. Don’t mess around and don’t make mistakes, or you will regret it, I promise you.”

As I waited to pass security and board the plane, I felt beads of sweat on my forehead. My stomach felt swollen and painful and I had trouble walking properly. I imagined that everyone could see exactly what I had done. But I passed through security and boarded the plane without difficulty.

I felt deeply confused and ashamed. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. Heroin had ruined Lena’s life. I knew that it destroyed millions of lives all over the world. And here I was, becoming part of the evil. I could not explain or justify my actions.

But what choice did I have? I had to get out of Turkey before Sarkis and Mr. Black found me. There was nothing for me there but terrible memories and ashes. Worst of all, Turkey was the home of Karanlik, the haunted house of my nightmares. The idea of ever ending up back in there was more terrifying than death itself. In fact death did not scare me – what would it matter, anyway? – but Karanlik made me tremble. I had to get away, and this was the only way I knew.

I had not failed to notice Anton’s words. “I should kill you, but I’d rather make some money off you first.” I knew what might happen on my arrival in Los Angeles. Anton’s compatriots would retrieve the heroin fingers, then kill me. Or perhaps they would simply send me back to Turkey to repeat the process under a different name.

It occurred to me that I didn’t need to meet up with Anton’s contact. I could take a laxative and pass the balloons in a restroom somewhere. Avoid Anton’s contact at the airport, and get away into the city. Then I could go on with my life. Find a job, try to find what my father had hidden, if it even existed.

I sat there on the plane feeling like I’d swallowed a komodo dragon that would attack me from the inside at any moment. The nurse – Stefania – had said that the balloons, or fingers, or whatever they were called, rarely burst. But my body felt heavy and tense. If anything should happen – if one of the time bombs in my belly should go off – I wanted at least to pray first. I made wudu’ in the restroom then did my salat unobtrusively, rocking my body forward slightly for ruku’ and sujood. Even that slight rocking motion was painful.

The prayer helped to relax me a little. I realized that I was exhausted. I put my head back on the seat, closed my eyes, and slept.

I dreamed that I was on a battlefield beside a river. On the other side of the river the land rose gently to a butte, while on my side it was mostly desert. A wrecked ship lay in the sand behind me, its sails long gone and its wooden hull bleached by the sun. On both side of the river, men fought furiously with swords, spears and bows.

Out of breath and needing a quick break from the battle, I retreated to the wrecked ship, where I squatted with my back against its ancient hull. Another man squatted there, sipping water from a metal cup. He had intense eyes, a black beard and wore a green turban. I realized it was the Prophet Muhammad, sal-Allahu-alayhi-wa-sallam.

(* Author’s note:  I would not feel comfortable inventing a dream about the Prophet. This dream is one that I myself had several years ago).

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) offered me the cup and I drank. The water was cool and refreshing. Then he looked at me and said, “It’s not what you say that matters, but what you do.”

I awoke with the realization that I could not do this thing. If called myself Muslim then the shahadah had rights, as my father had said to me on the day I died. I couldn’t continue like this. What did it mean to say laa ilaha il-Allah and then to wallow in despair? What did it mean to call myself a Muslim but to commit terrible deeds?

The words of the Prophet – ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam – in my dream had been critical, but just the fact that he had appeared to me – had spoken to me! – meant that I was not beyond hope. I must not give up my faith. I must not give up who I was as a man. I had to wake up from this living nightmare. And the only way I could do it was by making hard choices, and trusting Allah.

When the flight attendant passed by, I motioned to her.

“I have something to tell you,” I whispered. “I’m a drug mule. I have heroin balloons in my stomach. But I don’t want to deliver them.”

The flight attendant’s eyes widened. “Oh my goodness! I must inform the captain. Stay in your seat, please.”

Back in those days they didn’t have flight marshals. The flight crew simply let me remain where I was, unrestrained. They instructed me not to eat or drink, and not to use the restroom.

I relaxed into the seat, my body so limp it felt boneless. All the tension of recent weeks was gone. Finally I’d made a decision that I could live with. I remembered reading a hadith that if someone intends to commit evil but does not follow through, the sin is not counted against him. I asked Allah to forgive me, and to help me survive whatever would come next.

It would be okay now, Insha’Allah.

My intestinal system had other ideas, however. Somewhere deep inside, I felt something change. Something was not right. A second later, it hit me.

Next:  Hassan’s Tale, Part 13 – Zero One One

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Wael Abdelgawad's novels can be purchased at his author page at Amazon.com: Wael is an Egyptian-American living in California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including, Zawaj.com, IslamicAnswers.com and IslamicSunrays.com. He teaches martial arts, and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and ice cream. Learn more about him at WaelAbdelgawad.com. For a guide to all of Wael's online stories in chronological order, check out this handy Story Index.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. iffat

    August 13, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    Salam walaikum !!
    Wow!!! This tale gets better and better ….I am still intrigued about the mental hospital hasan has been to !! A lil explanation would be good …. And Lena marrying hasan , well isn’t forbidden for a non Muslim to marry a Muslim??

  2. Amatullah

    August 13, 2014 at 1:35 AM

    The ups and downs of Hassan’s Iman were explained amazingly. However, this has been a very heartaching writeup. I don’t know if its my problem that I cannot let go of stuff easily or its the writeup which is too disturbing for my mind. I’d read it halfway through before feeling an headache.I felt too disturbed to continue and gave up.An hour later, I resumed and finished it now finally. Why does Hassan’s past have to be so disturbing? Or is it just me who cannot put up with such disturbing things? This episode gave me a nausea. I am sorry, its not the story I am blaming. It might be my feeble resistance for trauma.How I wish Islamic stories din’t have disturbing stuff mixed in.

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      August 13, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      Amatullah, Hassan is indeed going through a very difficult period. He’s been through difficult situations before, but the difference this time is that he is demoralized and in despair.

      You are obviously a very empathetic person, ma-sha-Allah.

  3. Amatullah

    August 13, 2014 at 1:38 AM

    Iffath,
    Its allowed for a muslim “man” to marry a woman from Ahlul Kitaab. That’s the People of the Book, meaning christians and Jews. Whereas, its haraam for a muslim woman to marry men of Ahlul Kitaab.

  4. Waleed Safi

    August 13, 2014 at 4:41 AM

    Man, seeing Rasulullah in your dreams… what an honor, what an honor indeed! As for Hassan, He has most definitely seen a lot. and this story is getting to suspenseful.

  5. abdalla

    August 13, 2014 at 6:22 AM

    Is tha story only a page or am i missing something… this part seems to be shotter

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      August 13, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      abdalla, it’s a bit shorter, yes. Maybe 30% shorter than usual. I barely got it done in time for the deadline :-)

      Insha’Allah the next part will be up to the usual length.

  6. Iman

    August 13, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Bushra lakum, to have seen such a dream!

  7. Sarah Javed Abdullah

    August 13, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    You’re one of the best writes ever. <3

  8. Talibeilm

    August 13, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    Wow…. nail biting

  9. um abdelrahman

    August 13, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    Great writing, and very interesting reading his struggle.
    I think this part is a typo: “What did mean to say laa ilaha il-Allah and then to wallow in despair? What did it mean to call myself a Muslim but to commit terrible deeds?” Is this line missing the word “it”, as in “what did it mean to say laa ilaha il-Allah…”?

  10. Helpless Slave

    August 14, 2014 at 12:19 AM

    Assalamualikum Warhamtullahi Wabrakaatuhu Brother Wael,

    May Allah bless you with good health and the best of both worlds. Looking forward to more Islamic Creative-Writing from you and Subhana Allah the attention you pay to detail is well … Subhana Allah.

    I am not comfortable when Hassan despairs about Allah even in the present when he talks about Lena’s death.

    “… because we trust that Allah ultimately wants good for us. But… sometimes it’s very difficult to understand. Why did Lena have to die? You could say it was a test for me, but what was it for her? Not a test, because her life was over….”

    It is as if though he is saying I understand that Allah tests us, but isn’t it unfair that he had to test me using her death, and I was surprised you did not bring out any of the other characters who would come to iron out the misnomer Hassan is making(which every Muslims makes, “Why it had to this and that”).

    Subhan Allah when you left it at that,for a lack of a better phrase, just creates hopelessness in Allah, then everyone who reads your stories would ask the same question as to why this happened, Why Allah had to test us ?
    I think it would plant the seed of doubt in the Qadr of Allah and May Allah protect us from that.

    If Hassan were my friend I would stop him at that moment and say

    “The same way Abu Talib was a test for the Prophet of Allah(SAW), may we be sacrificed for him, the same way Khadeeja, the most beloved person to our person,died due to the boycott, the same way the son of Nuh was to him and how Allah reprimanded him when he asked Allah to save his son. Allah is Al-Adl(THE JUST) and when you say that you should understand that our sense of justice and righteousness compared to him is like comparing us with him, which in other words, there is no comparison. Allah was not only testing Lena with you, He was also testing Lena with you as Allah says in his truthful words that even out spouses, children, wealth can become a test for us. Allah gave her a window to Islam through you, and she saw a miracle in you, a man so broken and scarred you would have to wonder how you are able retain your sanity, but in Allah do hearts find rest, and you found it. If you ask why she had to die, then I will ask you what would you say to a mother who lost all her 7 children, in Palestine by the terrorists of Israel, “that Allah is being unfair with you”, Subhan Allah Akhi, remember this no matter what ever that happens that Allah only wishes the best for us, I would end with this beautiful hadith that sums up the life of this world
    Anas b. Malik reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said that one amongst the denizens of Hell who had led a life of ease and plenty amongst the people of the world would be made to dip in Fire only once on the Day of Resurrection and then it would be said to him: O, son of Adam, did you find any comfort, did you happen to get any material blessing? He would say: By Allah, no, my Lord. And then that person from amongst the persons of the world be brought who had led the most miserable life (in the world) from amongst the inmates of Paradise. and he would be made to dip once in Paradise and it would be said to him. 0, son of Adam, did you face, any hardship? Or had any distress fallen to your lot? And he would say: By Allah, no,0 my Lord, never did I face any hardship or experience any distress. It is narrated by Muslim. ”

    O Allah, make us of Your ‘few’ servants! whom Allah says about:

    “And few of My servants are grateful.” (34:13)

    “But none had believed with him, except a few.” (11:40)

    “In the Gardens of Pleasure, A [large] company of the former peoples, And a few of the later peoples.” (56:12-14)

    Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) said, “Go on the path of truth and do not feel lonely because there are few who take that path, and beware of the path of falsehood and do not be deceived by the greatness of the perishers.”

    Guide me if my understanding is flawed.

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      August 14, 2014 at 12:26 AM

      Those are beautiful thoughts and powerful reminders. Do you mind if I use your comments in the story?

      • Helpless Slave

        August 14, 2014 at 5:11 AM

        Subhana Allah brother Wael.

        I think you can put it more beautifully and eloquently in the story than what I have come up with, but by all means please do. If you find good in what I have written then it is from Allah Azzawajal, if you find shortcomings it is from me.

        May Allah enrich our souls with the beauty of Emaan and put consistency into it.

      • umabdelrahman

        August 15, 2014 at 7:44 AM

        I agree that maybe the issue can be cleared up; I also feel that he was expressing very human emotions that come to the minds of many people experiencing tragedy, even as the know and struggle not to think anything negative of Allah subhanahu was taal a. Reminders that Allah gave similar tests to people we know he loved so much is comforting.

        For me I felt like the fact that he came back to Islam stronger after going through his depressed phase indicates he has understood these facts and has come to a better understanding of qadar. But you can tell he still agonizes over the way Lena died. It is a very hard and uncertain emotion: when you feel like although the person who died was a good person, they were not Muslim.

        I feel we can take comfort in the fact that only Allah knows the hearts of His servants and we never really know what will become of our loved ones (or ourselves for that matter) but we trust in Allah’s complete wisdom and we know He will never wrong anyone in the slightest. And going through these difficult emotions is part of the test! As for the other (deceased) person’s test, that is between them and Allah and He is the final Most Merciful, Just and Wise judge there is.

        So….maybe it is good to add some comments regarding these issues, and Allah knows best.

    • mf

      August 14, 2014 at 5:48 AM

      Subhanallah
      Beautifull thought!!!

    • Safa

      August 14, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      I agree with Helpless Slave. Beautifully said, Jazakumuallahu khayran.

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      August 24, 2014 at 2:31 AM

      If you read that section over again, you’ll notice that I’ve toned down Hassan’s comments a bit. Also, some of the points you’ve made here will be made in an upcoming installment, Insha’Allah. Thank you for your input.

  11. Iman

    August 14, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    I agree with the thoughts expressed by Helpless slave but i think that the main issue is how Lena died – she was murdered in a horrific manner, that meant in her last moment, she was afraid. This is the hard part. and I don’t think that as a writer, Mr. Abdelgawad, should skirt around it. Maybe some people distance it from themselves becuase they want to paint Lena as being amongst the misguided. but what would you have said if she had been Muslim. think about that. ie. is it not hard for a normal human to digest the idea of a good person, a loved one, dying in such an ugly way…I have heard from a Scholar that a person who is killed in cold blood, murdered, whether Muslim or not, dies a shaheed because their opportunity to live the life Allah gave them, which includes turning to Him and submitting to Him (becoming Muslim) was cut short by another human being, which is unacceptable coming from the human being (to kill one person is to kill all of humanity, and it is the most hated sin in Allah’s Sight. Thus, as a recompense to that person so wronged by the other human,Allah grants them Jannah.

    • asrauf

      August 19, 2014 at 8:45 PM

      Thanks, Sr. Iman for sharing your thoughts, but may I please ask for the scholar’s proof for the statement that anyone who is murdered automatically enters Jannah (whether Muslim or not)? As you are well aware, our religion is based upon solid foundations from the Quran and authentic Sunnah and not upon what we feel or what he-said/she-said.

      Hope you can engage the scholar and provide the proof.

  12. meena

    August 14, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Salaams brother .. Your story,though heart breaking, is a beautiful story and u are an amazing writer.. The best part is the way u portray muslims and islam for what it truly is.. I love ur story and anticipate the next part..

  13. jinkaiy

    August 15, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Amatullah – I believe I’m one of the most sensitive and compassionate person you will ever meet. As I read this story from the beginning to the current part, I did find the graphic details to be at least a little disturbing. There was at least one moment when I wanted to skip those scenes (e.g. Scenes featuring Mr. Green). I, however, decided I need to just toughen up (partially for personal reasons as well). Because I was able to read every detail despite it creating a gruesome image in my head, I think most people can do the same. I personally didn’t find the scenes in this part to be too disturbing because some scenes in the previous parts were far worse (Have you read the story from the beginning?). I also feel that I’m becoming a bit desensitized to them, although my reaction to them in real life would be very different. Overall, I strongly feel that such imagery is essential to the story because of the plot and Hassan’s life events. I enjoy the story and have been learning quite a lot from it, alhamdulillah. I especially love the inclusion of aayaat and ahadith which make the story Iman-boosting.

    JazaakAllah khair ya Akhi Wael. I can’t wait for the next part.

    • um abdelrahman

      August 15, 2014 at 2:06 PM

      I also love the parts including ayat or ahadith. One of my favorite sections is Kill the Courier, Part 5: Is it other than Allah that you fear? I also love the descriptions of how salah is very calming to Hassan.

    • Amatullah

      August 28, 2014 at 1:08 AM

      (Have you read the story from the beginning?)
      jinkaiy – Yes I have, for the most part though. I did skip reading few scenes..like the one featuring Mr.Green, and the description of poverty when Mo’s father was arriving, the scenes of war when Hassan was saved by the man in the masjid.. I did skip all those scenes. I couldn’t take them. Infact, Whenever I read any article/story or even a newspaper.. I browse the next para for anything that would disturb me. If i found any, like killings/death..I skip them. I don’t know if reading them over and over desensitizes you, to me it doesn’t. The story does have Islamic content (and that’s the only reason I follow it) but the disturbing scenes are the ones I skip.

  14. Wael Abdelgawad

    August 19, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    As-salamu Alaykum dear readers,

    Unfortunately, I will need one more week for the next installment of Hassan’s Tale. I apologize. I took a trip, caught a cold, have been trying to keep my daughter entertained during summer vacation… you know how life can be.

    Look for the concluding chapter of Hassan’s Tale on Wednesday the 27th, I promise it will be a long and good one, Insha’Allah.

    Wael Abdelgawad, Author

  15. asrauf

    August 19, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    Wa-alekum assalam wa rehmatullah wa barakatuhu!

    No problem Br. Wael, we fully understand – take your time insha’Allah.

    Here I’d like to bring up another issue I encountered in this episode about seeing the Prophet (sallallahu alehi wassallam). Jabir b. ‘Abdullah reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:
    He who saw me in a dream in fact saw me, for the satan cannot assume my form.
    وَحَدَّثَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ حَاتِمٍ، حَدَّثَنَا رَوْحٌ، حَدَّثَنَا زَكَرِيَّاءُ بْنُ إِسْحَاقَ، حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو الزُّبَيْرِ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ جَابِرَ بْنَ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، يَقُولُ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ مَنْ رَآنِي فِي النَّوْمِ فَقَدْ رَآنِي فَإِنَّهُ لاَ يَنْبَغِي لِلشَّيْطَانِ أَنْ يَتَشَبَّهَ بِي ‏”‏ ‏.‏
    Reference : Sahih Muslim 2268 b
    In-book reference : Book 42, Hadith 28
    USC-MSA web (English) reference : Book 29, Hadith 5639

    Even though, it is possible (and an honor) to see the Prophet in one’s dream, there is no guarantee that Satan will not appear in any (other) form than the Prophet’s real form and claim he is the Prophet. For this reason, the scholars were very careful in scrutinizing such reports. For example:

    Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar said:
    We have narrated it with a complete isnaad from Ismaa’eel ibn Ishaaq al-Qaadi from Sulaymaan ibn Harb – who was one of the shaykhs of al-Bukhaari – from Hammaad ibn Zayd from Ayyoob who said: If a man told Muhammad (meaning Ibn Sireen) that he had seen the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) [in a dream], he would say, “Describe to me the one whom you saw.” If he gave a description that he did not recognize, he would say, “You did not see him.” Its isnaad is saheeh, and I have found another report which corroborates it. Al-Haakim narrated via ‘Aasim ibn Kulayb (who said), my father told me: I said to Ibn ‘Abbaas, “I saw the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in a dream.” He said, “Describe him to me.” He said, “I mentioned al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali and said that he looked like him.” He said, “You did indeed see him.” Its isnaad is jayyid.
    Fath al-Baari, 12/383, 384 [ quoted from http://www.islamqa.com]

    The other issue is whatever the person in the dream says cannot be against the Shariah. Here, you mention the statement:
    The Prophet offered me the cup and I drank. The water was cool and refreshing. Then he looked at me and said, “It’s not what you say that matters, but what you do.”

    Even though in the given context it does match the Quranic ayat: “O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do?” [61:2]

    However in the hadeeth below, the importance of what we say is also highlighted:

    On the authority of Muadh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
    … So he took hold of his tongue and said, “Restrain this.” I said, “O Prophet of Allah, will we be taken to account for what we say with it?” He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “May your mother be bereaved of you, O Muadh! Is there anything that throws people into the Hellfire upon their faces — or: on their noses — except the harvests of their tongues?” It was related by at-Tirmidhi, who said it was a good and sound hadeeth.
    Reference : 40 Hadith Nawawi 29
    English translation : Hadith 29

    So, it seems that what we do is equally important as what we say.

    I’d suggest to please run all this by some religious scholar to clarify whatever I’ve said and also clarify the assumed meaning of the dream.

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      August 19, 2014 at 7:25 PM

      Good points, Asrauf. At the time I had the dream (in 2004 or so) I mentioned it to the Imam at my masjid. He asked me about the figure in my dream: what did he look like, what was he wearing? After I described him, he said, “That was the Prophet (sws).”

      I understood the Prophet’s statement to me in the sense of the ayah you quoted. He was not speaking of ill speech, but of good speech. Preaching and writing about Islam, giving others advice, etc. One who does that must be careful that his own actions match his words. It’s easy to say, “I believe in Allah and I love the Prophet.” It’s harder to live up to that statement. It’s not the words that matter, but the deeds that prove their truth.

      • asrauf

        August 19, 2014 at 8:40 PM

        Alhamdulillah!

        Jazak’Allah khair for sharing.

  16. Razia

    August 20, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Br Wael!Assalamoualaikum!I was so excited to read the next part and I saw your update now!We are all impatient but we understand that you have other things also to take care of!This is free and superb reading material that you are graciously providing us with and even though we are hooked to the story,we have no right to demand more!Keep writing!You are truly talented Mashallah!May Allah bless you with more and grant you the ability to spend time with your daughter as well!Little girls need their Daddies and we need your writing!I am reading your stories from the other side of the world!

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      August 20, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      Thank you Razia for your kind comment. I just prepared breakfast for my daughter and now I’m going to do a little writing on the next installment, Insha’Allah :-)

  17. P Shaikh

    August 26, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    Waiting! Waiting!! *-*

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