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MuslimKidsMatter | The Return of the Period

By Nura Fahzy

I’m not ashamed when I say this, because it’s real and both genders need to be aware of it.

Ready?

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Periods are a literal pain in the gut during Ramadan.

You wanna know why I say that?

Alright, picture this. You’re lounging on the sofa with your smartphone, constantly switching through apps and checking every few minutes to see if Maghrib has come in yet. “Just three minutes left,” you tell yourself. When there’s one minute left, you keep your eyes focused on the clock, waiting for it to switch from 8:25 to 8:26. Your eyes cross from staring at the number 5 for too long. And then, all in one glorious second, the five switches to six, and the adhaan blares off from your phone. You slam your phone down on the sofa and nearly trip over your feet as you stampede towards the table you have prepared with a bowl of dates and a glass of water. After reciting your du’aa, you pick up three giant dates at once and stuff them into your mouth, followed by a gulp of water. Your body feels rejuvenated as the cold, refreshing liquid soothes your aching belly. After you’ve eaten just enough, you head to the bathroom to make wudu for Maghrib. Suddenly, you feel a sharp pain in your belly. It’s definitely not a hunger pang, because you’ve already eaten. An expression of despair begins to overtake your expression as you slowly realize…

Your period has returned.

Immediately, your mind pounds with panicked thoughts.

I’m screwed, I’m screwed. It’s Ramadan, and my period is back. It’s probably been there for hours. My fast didn’t count.

I know. I’ve experienced it. You’ve experienced it. We all have.

Except for dudes, of course.

Okay! This is where I come in. Listen up, guys and girls. Just because a girl’s period prevents her from fasting in Ramadan, it does not mean she is stronger to perform several tasks for those who are fasting. Why? Because cramps exist, people! Cramps hurt even more than that empty belly of yours! A girl on her period is probably dealing with even more pain than those who are fasting! Girls, have you ever been told to clean the house, cook the food, and take care of the little ones just because you supposedly have more strength? Huh! Seems like it’s a universal thing.

Oh, wait. Stop right there! Yes, I’m defending girls on their periods, but that doesn’t mean they can lie on their beds eating huge bowls of chocolate ice cream while they whine about their cramps. (Lying down while eating is disliked, anyway.) You can still stay productive during Ramadan even with your cramps! Your period may prevent you from making salah, fasting, and touching the Qur’an, but you can defeat that little monster using the advice I shall provide for you.

  1. The Easiest Thing You Can Do Is Make Du’aa!!

Ah, yes. Du’aa. You know, the beautiful thing about du’aa is that you can make it anytime. You don’t need to be in a state of wudu, you don’t need to sit in a certain position, and, in some cases, you don’t even need to speak! No du’aa is ever wasted. And another great thing is, you can use du’aa to ease your period pains. Oh, but don’t just make du’aa for yourself! Make du’a for your family and friends, and even those you dislike! When you make du’aa for someone without them knowing, the angels will say, “Ameen, and for you as well.” What you give to others, you receive in return! Imagine how many great things can happen to you if you make du’aa for more than one person. Just imagine…

  1. Can’t Touch the Qur’aan? Put That Electronic Device to Work!

The one great thing I find about modern-day electronic devices which we all know as smartphones, tablets, and iPods, is that you can download a Qur’aan app and read the Qur’aan from there, even if you’re on your period! And if you don’t want to recite, you can just listen to your favorite surahs by your favorite qaris on shuffle. Don’t make up excuses now. If you have a smartphone, use it for Qur’aan. And anyway, if you’re at the point in your life where you already have your period, you’re too old to make excuses.

  1. Be A Maid

I know what I said before. Period pains can prevent you from doing any housework. But in those days when your period is almost over and the cramps don’t hurt as much, you can help out the fasting people in your house! You can clean the house, cook their iftaar and set the table, and entertain the little ones (if you have little ones). You can also play the Qur’aan for the others as they whine about their hunger (even though they’re supposed to be reading Qur’aan).

  1. Do Something For Yourself!

Trying to ignore that exercising routine you made in 2011? Aching to put a new painting on your walls? Itching to try out that new cake recipe? Avoiding that book you’re writing because you let writer’s block overtake you? Well, procrastinate no further! Use these 30 days of blessings to feed your hobbies! It takes about 21 days to develop a habit, so if you train yourself every day to do something you love, you’ll never have a minute to waste. I’ve included this in the list because since you’ll be on your period, you’ll be able to eat and have a lot more energy and strength to do what you love.

  1. Help Out the Community!

Do you live near a soup kitchen? Perhaps an animal shelter? Why not go and help out your community and earn more ajr by serving those in need? The Prophet (peace be upon him) told the sahabah that a person who feeds a fasting person gets the same reward as the fasting person. Imagine all the ajr you’ll get from feeding others while you yourself cannot fast! The more people you feed, the more reward you get. Think about that for a moment. And you can also offer to babysit kids while their mothers pray taraweeh. When kids are left roaming around in the musalla during taraweeh prayer, things can get pretty crazy. Why not earn yourself some ajr by entertaining the young ones and letting the mothers pray in peace?

Aside from the tips I have provided, there are a few more things I need to say. Mostly to YOU, dudes!

Guys, I know you have no idea what it’s like to have a period, but that doesn’t mean you can bash your female relatives for doing nothing during their shark weeks. Don’t tell her to do anything if her period has just started because that is where the pain is worst. Here’s a note to keep to yourselves: NEVER get a girl on her period angry! Give her a few days, and then see if she is comfortable completing tasks for you. Don’t think that just because she is able to eat, that she is stronger to do things that you can’t do. The body needs food during this time.

Oh, and girls, one more thing to note. Don’t treat your period as a hindrance during Ramadan. I know it’s annoying how you have to make up your fasts after Ramadan is over, but periods are natural and you should expect them to pop up during this month. Besides, if they never came throughout the whole month, I’d start worrying, wouldn’t you?

JazakumAllahu Khayran, dudes and dudettes, for taking the time to read this article! Girls, start working on your Ramadan productive schedule, alright? And dudes, please be respectful of girls on their shark weeks.

And that’s all I have to say! May we all have a productive Ramadan this year, ameen!


Nura F. is a young Muslimah with a strong passion for writing. She is currently working to join the writing industry for Islamic literature. When she is not writing, Nura spends her time drawing, baking, blogging, and reading. She really enjoys editing her friends’ pieces of writing as well. Nura currently resides in northern Texas.

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    #Culture

    Day of the Dogs, Part 4: You Are the Miracle

    Even with one eye I can see you lying here all tight and angry. Do you have any idea what you did? You saved my life. How many people could have done what you did?

    Goat standing on a cow's back

    See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories.

    This is chapter 4 in a multi-chapter novella.  Chapters:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4

    Krägä Bianga

    “Fear no one.” – Samia

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    Hospital IV bagLIGHTS IN HIS EYES AND PAIN EVERYWHERE… warmth pouring into his veins like liquid honey… his mother’s face close to his, saying his name… darkness…

    His mother and a doctor talking… everything blurry… his face hurt. He tried to touch his face, but his mother grabbed his hand and stopped him… sleep…

    Someone sobbing… why?… pain everywhere in his body. He moaned then fell into darkness…

    A nightmare, hands dragging him down into a well, and at the bottom of the well, sharp teeth and claws. He struggled, until a warm hand took his, and he settled into silence…

    An old woman in a red Ngäbe dress standing over him, singing. Her skin was walnut colored and deeply seamed. Her long ebony hair hung free, falling below her waist. She spooned something into his mouth and he swallowed. It was bitter, but as it slid into his stomach he felt it nourishing and strengthening him. The woman’s night-black eyes stared unblinking into his as she whispered a single word in a language he did not understand. His eyelids came down like shuttered doors, and once again he was asleep…

    The next morning he was somewhat aware. It was the third day after surgery. His mother and a doctor spoke at his bedside. He tried to eat something but could only manage a cup of pudding.

    “There was a woman,” he said, and his voice sounded like radio static. “Singing.”

    His mother touched his forehead. “A krägä bianga. A healer of my people.”

    “But we’re Muslims.”

    “Hush,” Mamá said. “She is a krägä bianga, not a curandera. Medicine, not magic.”

    That evening, Omar’s mind was completely clear for the first time. The doctor spoke to him personally about his surgery and recovery. He was able to eat some solid food. Samia came for a visit as well, and he learned about what had happened to her. At some point, as Samia was speaking, he fell asleep.

    The Old Nightmare

    The fourth day, the old nightmare returned. The spiders.

    Red boxing spiderTHE SPINIFLEX RUBIROSA LARVAE WERE IN HIS BODY, and they were hatching. They ate their way out, chewing through muscle and cartilage, fat and veins, destroying his body as thoroughly as if he’d stepped on a landmine. There was no point calling out for his mother. She was nowhere to be found.

    The spiders burst out through his skin, blood pouring from a thousand wounds, and through a crimson curtain of pain Omar saw that they had the bodies of spiders, but the heads of vicious dogs. Dewed with his blood, they growled, thousands of tiny dog voices joining into a single rumble.

    He rolled onto his back and saw that he lay on the muddy, putrid stretch of beach below the Panama City seawall. The ground was littered with rotting seaweed, plastic bags and used diapers. Above the seawall, the city was burning. Flames engulfed the tall towers, pouring from shattered windows. Smoke darkened the sky. Not a soul could be seen. The metropolis was dying.

    The Spinifex hatchlings advanced up his body toward his face, intending to eat his eyes. Their little dog eyes were solid ruby red, as if filled with blood. Omar thrashed, slapping his own face and crying out in terror.

    Where was Mamá, where was Papá, where were Samia, Halima, Hani, anybody? Anybody anybody the Ruby was killing him…

    Eighty Seven Bites

    “Hey. Wake up.” Someone touched his shoulder.

    Omar’s eyes flew open and he gasped as he shot up to a sitting position in the bed, looking around wildly. His racing heart began to slow as he realized that he was still in the hospital, of course.

    Samia sat in a chair beside his bed, wearing a fluffy gray robe and an orange hijab, and still reading Al-Ghazali’s thematic commentary of the Quran. One side of her face and head were completely bandaged, so he could only see her mouth, nose and one eye. Her skull had been fractured in two places from the attack. The doctors had shaved her hair, she had told him, but she wore her hijab on top of the head bandage, which made her head look about the same as usual.

    “You’re still here,” Omar breathed.

    “Where am I gonna go? Skydiving?”

    Omar’s mother slept next to Samia in a chair, her head tipped back against the wall, her mouth slack. She wore black pants and a dark blouse rather than her traditional dress, with a gray hijab. She looked exhausted, with purple circles beneath her eyes.

    He groaned and sank back. He hurt everywhere. It was not the pain of the Ruby hatchlings burrowing out of his body, but of the wounds from the eighty-seven bites he’d received in the dog attack. It must be almost time for his pain medication.

    He’d been here for five days. When he’d first arrived at the hospital, his organs had been on the verge of shutting down due to massive blood loss. He’d been in surgery that entire first day and halfway through the night, they told him.

    It hurt even to breathe, as he had a tube in his nose to prevent his nasal airway from collapsing, as Dr. Medrano had explained to Omar and his mother. A jaunty, heavyset man with thick black hair, Dr. Medrano had smiled and rocked back and forth on his heels as he detailed Omar’s injuries and the surgeries that had repaired him.

    A stent had been placed under Omar’s left eye. It drained out of his nose to keep his tear duct system from collapsing as well. He’d lost a piece of the upper half of his left ear. He had lines of stitches everywhere, like Frankenstein’s monster. Several parts of his body, including his face, had required primary reconstruction during surgery, to repair or replace flesh and skin that had been torn away. Much of his body was still purple and swollen with bruising. He was receiving aggressive antibiotic treatment to prevent infection from the many deep punctures. His left forearm might never recover to full strength.

    He would require multiple follow-up procedures, including secondary face, hand and calf reconstructions, as well as fat grafting to fill in depressed areas, cartilage grafting to reconstruct his nose, and ongoing scar treatments.

    Goat standing on a cow's back“Hey,” Samia said, interrupting Omar’s morose mental review of his Frankenstein-like reconstruction. Samia had been in his room daily, when she wasn’t in her own. “Remember we were talking about unlikely things? You know what else is unlikely? A goat standing on a cow’s back. But I saw that once.”

    Omar turned his head to look at her. The girl was certifiably crazy. He felt a laugh begin to form inside him, but it hurt to laugh, and it came out sounding like a cross between a chuckle and a moan.

    Bruises

    The sound awakened his mother. She stood with a soft exhalation of, “La ilaha il-Allah.” She came to his bedside and bent over him, gently stroking his cheek, taking care to avoid his injuries. “¿Cómo estás mi amor?”

    Omar began to reply, but then, seeing his mother’s face up close, noticed something. The discolorations beneath her eyes were not the result of exhaustion. They were bruises. Her cheek was bruised as well, and she’d made an effort to conceal it with makeup. She’d been beaten.

    Tio. Omar’s face settled into a hard mask. He seethed, wishing he could leap out of this bed and go thrash the little rat, taking the man apart limb by limb. For a moment these thoughts surprised him, as he had never been inclined to fight back against Nemesio in the past. Something had changed inside him.

    Beating up Nemesio was not the solution, however. Omar had bested him that last time because Nemesio had been drunk. But the two of them fighting sober would turn into an all-out brawl. He needed another solution.

    Mistaking his expression, Mamá said, “Don’t worry, baby. You’ll be back on your feet in no time. You’ll be as strong as ever. And these scars will fade.”

    Omar nodded tightly, saying nothing.

    “I’m going to go to the cafeteria,” Mamá said. “Can I bring you some guava juice?”

    The doctor had prescribed a post-op dietary regimen for Omar, but it was so bland it was like eating paper. Normally Omar would have said yes to some tasty tropical juice, but he was too angry right now.

    “I don’t want anything.”

    Mamá hesitated, looking between him and Samia. “Okay,” she said finally. “I’ll be back soon.”

    When she was gone, Omar spoke to Samia without looking at her. “You should leave now.” His fists were curled into balls beneath the blanket. Seeing the bruise on his mother’s face had brought it all back, pushing his rage to penetrate his very bones. His nightmare of a life just went on and on. Oh, you need something to break up the routine? life said. How about a dog attack? Okay, now back to the daily mess.

    It wasn’t only his foul excuse for an uncle he was angry with, but everyone who was supposed to have been responsible for him, who was supposed to have cared. He resented his mother for not being strong enough to protect herself, or him. The principal and teachers at his school had surely seen the bullying directed at him year after year, and had done nothing. Even his father he blamed for dying and leaving him. Why had his father done that? Why had it been more important to stop the mugging of some stranger on a bus than to survive for his own family? And lastly, Omar blamed himself for being a victim. His father would have expected more from him.

    He had to do something. Life could not continue like this. He heard Sensei Alan saying, “The only failure is the failure to act.” But what could he do here, in this bed, with his body torn half to shreds?

    Fear No One

    “I’ve been reading Surat An-Najm,” Samia said, hefting her book. “You want to hear?”

    He had forgotten she was there. He wiped his tears with jerky motions. “No, I told you-”

    Samia recited:

    “Or has he not been informed of what was in the scriptures of Moses, and Abraham who fulfilled his mission; That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another; And that there is nothing for man but what he strives for; And that his effort will be seen, and then he will be rewarded for it generously?
    And that to your Lord is the final return; And that it is He who makes one laugh and weep; And that it is He who causes death and gives life…”

    A Thematic Commentary on the Quran by Al-Ghazali“Al-Ghazali says,” Samia went on, “that we must recognize Allah’s power over everything, and know that no man can control another’s fate. There is nothing for man but what he strives for. If you want something, make a plan and go after it. Fear no one.”

    “Do I even have to tell you this?” she continued. “Even with one eye I can see you lying here all tight and angry. Do you have any idea what you did? You saved my life. How many people could have done what you did? How many did? Nobody. Only you. You might be short, Omar, but you’re a giant.” A tear ran down one cheek and she wiped it away.

    She finished in Spanish, something she almost never did: “Tu, hermano. Eres el milagro.” You, brother. You are the miracle. Rolling her Spanish r’s hard, sounding almost like Halima, and almost bitter. How strange.

    “Say hasbun-Allahu-wa-n’em-Al-Wakeel.” Samia commanded.

    Omar did so, then Samia stood and shuffled away slowly, one chubby hand grasping her book.

    Omar felt like Samia had taken a hammer and smashed the diamond-hard shell of fury that had encased him, shattering it. She was somehow able to see through his emotional walls as if they did not exist. Was she like this with everyone? And had she really just happened to be reading that surah, or had she chosen it specifically for him?

    Alone in his room, Omar began to think. He was still angry but it was cold anger now, the kind that did not interfere with his ability to reason. Make a plan. The only failure is the failure to act.

    Friends

    When Mamá returned from the cafeteria with cups of mashed potatoes and mac n’ cheese for him – he could only eat soft foods for now – Omar said, “Tell Nemesio to come see me.”

    Mamá looked alarmed. “Why?”

    “Just tell him.”

    “He will not come, I think.”

    “Tell him I know a way to profit from this thing.” He waved a hand to indicate his ravaged body. “I want to consult with him.” That’ll get him here.

    She studied his face uncertainly. “Your friends are here again. The doctor says you are ready for visitors now, but only two at a time, and only ten minutes each.”

    He nodded his head, and his mother and Samia withdrew.

    First in were the three Muhammad sisters, all with large black eyes and rings in their left nostrils. Nadia and Naris were decked out in colorful shalwar khamees outfits,  looking like young mahogany trees hung with bright fabrics for a festival, while Nabila wore jeans, a band t-shirt and hi-top sneakers. One or all of them wore a musky, jasmine-scented perfume that filled the small hospital room.

    Many of the teachers and students at IIAP could not tell the sisters apart, but Omar always could. Nadia was quick to laugh, goofy and wide-eyed, as if constantly surprised. Naris was solemn, and asked hard questions, or gave uninvited criticism. Nabila – she of the band shirts and hi-tops – couldn’t stand still. She danced to her own music, ran when other people walked, and rarely spoke. Even now she was swaying her hips and rotating her hands Bollywood style. She had her own Youtube channel where she showed off dance moves. Omar had heard she was making money with it.

    “I thought it was only supposed to be two at a time.”

    Nadia grinned. “We dazzled them with our triplicate identicalness.”

    “They wanted to know,” Naris said seriously, “if we were Hindu princesses.”

    “Did you tell them you were Muslim princesses?” Omar asked. Nadia giggled, while Naris looked at him solemnly, as if he’d said something profound.

    “We’re sorry about what happened to you and Samia,” Nabila broke in, ceasing her dancing momentarily. “Our family’s been praying for you. Everyone has.”

    “Thanks,” Omar said, and he meant it. “So what’s new?”

    “Árabe Unido beat FCDeeeeee,” Nabila sang, and she did a little dance that ended in a victory pose, her fingers in Vs.

    “Halima and Hani are here to see you too,” Nadia said. “And the principal, and a couple of teachers, and the TV news people.”

    Just the thought of seeing all those people exhausted Omar.

    “And if you’re wondering if Tameem is out there,” Naris added, “he’s not. He wouldn’t dare show his face. He and his coward sidekick Basem.”

    Not surprising. Tameem would never bother visiting him. “Why do you call them cowards?”

    “He was the one who said to run, wasn’t he?”

    “Didn’t you all run too?” Omar was not accusing, just trying to understand.

    Nadia let out an explosive laugh. Naris shot her sister a chiding look, then said, “Yes, but we came back. Tameem and Hani kept going. I think they ran all the way to the main road. We haven’t seen them since the Day of the Dogs.”

    When Omar raised his eyebrows she added, “That’s what we’re calling it now. You know what, I heard they were laughing about it later. If I ever see them again I’ll stick kebab skewers in their eyes.”

    Omar sighed and adjusted his head on the pillow. His pain level was increasing, and he was tired.

    “Do you want us to leave you alone?”

    Omar thanked them for coming, and asked them to send in Halima and Hani. He was exhausted just from this short visit, but he needed to see those two. His memories of the attack were a mayhem of images and sensory impressions as overwhelming as a fireworks show. Teeth and claws, pain, slick blood on his skin, the hot metallic taste in his mouth, the smell of dog fur, the sound of Samia screaming, others shouting… a knife and a gun. People standing around as if they’d just witnessed a massacre. And Halima and Hani right there, above him. He needed to talk to someone who’d been there.

    Panama Rainforest

    Halima and Hani would not meet his eyes. Hani with his long face and nose that reminded Omar of a horse; shoulder-length greasy hair, and persistent acne. Halima, as lovely as a daydream, her eyes as green as the Panamanian rainforest.

    Omar remembered his fantasy of marrying Halima one day. If she’d been out of his league before, how about now? He was a mangled mess.

    He tried to put such useless thoughts out of his head. “What’s the matter with you two?”

    “We’re sorry about what happened,” Halima said. “I’m the one who pressured you to come. If I hadn’t done that, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”

    “If you hadn’t done that, Samia might be dead,” Omar countered, then immediately realized he’d said the wrong thing by reminding them that they had done nothing to save Samia.

    “It was all Tameem’s fault,” Hani said, glancing up to meet Omar’s eyes, then looking away again.

    Omar said nothing.

    “I know what you’re thinking,” Hani went on. “I’ve been following Tameem like a robot. You and I were friends, and I abandoned you. I’m sorry. I know he’s no good. I can’t explain, man. He’s rich, and everyone admires him, and when you’re around him you feel important. But I’m done with him now. My eyes are open.”

    “Hani,” Omar said kindly. “My memories are mixed up, but I remember you standing there at the end with a bloody knife in your hand. What happened?”

    “Hani killed the one dog,” Halima said fiercely. “And the cop shot the other.”

    “But I ran away first,” Hani said dejectedly.

    “You were there when it counted. Whatever happened in the past, a lo hecho, pecho. And you, Halima, are a good soul. I remember you standing beside me when everyone else ran away. The Day of the Dogs is done. Let’s look forward.”

    He began to realize that he had changed. In his mind he heard Samia saying, “You might be short, but you’re a giant.” He was not speaking as one in need, but as one who held power, and therefore possessed the ability to forgive. He felt a core of iron within himself, yet strangely enough, from that iron flowed benediction. Cowardly Tameem and Basem didn’t matter. Omar saw now how meaningless they were, how petty.

    He thought of the verses of Surat An-Najm: That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another... And that it is He who makes one laugh and weep…

    Let Tameem and Basem bear their own burdens, laugh their own laughter, cry their own tears. Omar would be his own man, in the universe of his own soul.

    A nurse came with Omar’s medication, and instructed his visitors to leave. On the way out, Halima turned back with a quizzical expression and said, “Day of the Dogs?”

    Omar shrugged. “That’s what we’re calling it now.”

    Get Out

    He was awakened by a rough thumping on his shoulder. Nemesio stood there with his short, barrel-body and gold teeth, dressed in an expensive but rumpled yellow suit, the broken veins in his nose betraying his alcoholism. His breath stank and his cheeks were shadowed with a week’s growth of beard. A fat canary on a bender.

    “What’s this nonsense ‘bout making money?” Nemesio demanded. “You thinking to sue? The dog owner is a policia nacional captain. Sue him, you bring a heap of trouble on your head. Stupid boy.”

    In spite of Nemesio’s words, the man must have thought the possibility of a lawsuit held some promise, or he wouldn’t have come. Omar was going to have to disappoint him.

    “You know,” Omar said casually. “The police captain came to see me. The one whose dogs attacked me.” This was not true, but Nemesio would not know that. “He was extremely apologetic. He said if I ever need anything, I should only ask.”

    “Ah, I see.” Nemesio nodded knowingly and stroked his chin. “You wanna ask for compensation for the attack.”

    “No. I want to ask him to investigate the fire that burned down your gas station.”

    “Whaaa?” Nemesio’s eyes bugged and his cheeks turned beet red. He seized Omar’s bandaged wrist. “Watchu talking, you little bastard?”

    Omar ignored the pain flaring in his wrist from the puncture wounds there. He kept his tone calm, and began a carefully rehearsed speech. “I seem to recall that gas prices were at rock bottom around the time your station burned. And you were always complaining about your employees stealing from you. You couldn’t have been making much of a profit. What did the fire inspectors say? An electrical problem? Did you bribe someone to say that?” This was pure speculation on his part, but he saw Nemesio’s eyes widen and knew he’d struck pay dirt. “Then you had a huge insurance payout, but you didn’t restore the station. You abandoned it. I think the police captain would find all this very interesting. And you don’t have anything left to bribe him with, do you? You’ll end up rotting in La Joya for fraud.”

    Still gripping Omar’s wrist, Nemesio raised a fist.

    “Go ahead,” Omar said. “The captain can add assault to your charges.”

    Nemesio released Omar’s wrist and stepped back, looking as if he’d just released a viper. His chin trembled and a speck of spittle dribbled from his bottom lip as he spoke. “Watchu want?”

    Man walking away, leaving Omar brought his voice to a low hiss, letting some of his rage show. “I know you’ve been beating my mother again, Nemesio.” Normally he would never dare to call the man by his given name as it would bring a terrible beating, but now he spat it like a curse. “I want you gone, today. Pack your things, leave and never come back. If I ever see you again I will beat you to a pulp myself. If you don’t think I can, wait and see. Then I’ll report you to the police.”

    “I-” Nemesio stuttered. “I don’t got nowhere to go.”

    “That’s your problem. Leave today, you understand? And don’t you dare touch my mother again. Now get out.”

    Next: Day of the Dogs, Chapter 5:  Sorceress of the Forest

    * * *

    Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

    See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

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    Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

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    The Estranged Middle Way

    The following excerpt is part of the introduction of a longer article that I am writing. I felt it merited being a separate article as well in the hopes that it benefits readers in points of collective reflection and elevating our discourse in matters of disagreement. The mark of civilization is not that they reach uniformity but how people deal with disagreement.

    “Our entire system of life is truly as God Almighty defined, a middle among all people, never being confined to the different variations of thoughts of man, and encompassing and transcending all of them. God’s words cannot be limited by man.”

    Islām is rooted as being a faith that has a holistic way of life because it is an all-encompassing framework of guidance. Its framework divides into three integral, interlinked, and inseparable components: actions, beliefs and spirituality.

    Actions and practices encompass guidance of every facet of the private, public, and societal. Such a detailed framework in actions serves to ingrain the purpose and objectives of Islām through a practical faith that not only gives over-arching principles but carefully considers even the most minute of subtleties for individual context and scenario.

    Beliefs discuss essential faith and foundational theology. Belief, or īmān, are not to be confused with theology, or ‘āqīdah. Often times they may be used interchangeably while there are key elements of differentiating between what īmān is and what ‘is aqīdah. Belief or īmān is referred to primarily in two different contexts.

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    The first is the breakdown of what comprises faith.

    Belief (īmān) is comprised of actions (‘amal) and statements (qawl):
    1. Actions of the Heart, which are the root and catalyst of actions of the limbs: like reliance on God, sincerity, hope, fear, awe, seeking the pleasure of God, etc.
    2. Actions of the Limbs.
    3. Statements of the Heart: is theology, the study of the nature of God and all religious belief. It encompasses the tenets of faith a person believes in and has certainty.
    4. Statements of the Tongue.

    The second context of īmān or belief refers to the state of spirituality which increases with righteousness and decreases with sin.

    When we refer to beliefs, we are referring to  of these contexts, holistically. As you can see belief encompasses theology but does not solely define it. Among the functions of theology is building foundational understanding of the nature of God, the nature and function of man in light of the temporal world and the Hereafter, the reality of the Afterlife, the meaning of life, etc.

    Theology,  here, subsequently contemporizes and responds to any contentions from philosophies or ideologies opposing to the universal belief Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sent to humanity. Beliefs also elucidate what is considered acceptable differences within orthodoxy and what is considered heterodoxy. The study of valid  (saigh) and invalid (ghair saigh) interpretation in theology include tolerance of differences within orthodoxy (murā’at al khilāf), highlighting what types of theological deviance are forgivable and what kinds are grounds for falling outside of acceptable faith, and what are unequivocal (qat’i) and equivocal (dhannī) aspects of theological belief.

    The last component of spirituality (tazkiyah/tasawwuf), is the ultimate guide in balancing mechanics and belief. But it also contains within it pitfalls for those that focus on it in absence of and balanced with practice and beliefs. Spirituality is at the heart of faith. It is led by actions, guided by the sea of belief to wonder in reflection and amazement at the grandeur of the Almighty in the macro and micro.

    Many have been drowned in and lost the objectives (maqāsid) of the holistic framework of Islām with dogmatic overt-focus of one aspect over another. They neglect one of the other of these components, in spite of the inseparable connection of the three. We witness a faulty approach on the practice and mechanics without considering spirituality. We see in certain groups a lack of focus on ethics, character, and delivery being as vital, if not more so, as the emphasis on correct action.

    The example of faulty approach to theology is also visible. Neglecting spirituality is as much of a problem as the other extreme of esoteric philosophies and mysticism which delved into symbolism to such an extent that it contradicted foundational principles in how the faith is interpreted and understood according to the practice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and his teachings relayed to his companions as well as heterodoxical beliefs or innovative practices all in the name of “the spirit of Islam.” In some of these groups, the sum of proving theology was more important than the tone of delivery and capturing hearts. After all, even the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was disciplined by the Lord with nothing more in the Quran than how he delivered the message. An empirical tasawwuf as well is central to the faith of Islām. A spirituality which ingrained in prophetic teachings, the best of worshipers of course knows the best path to connect the Creator. Esoteric tasawwuf was sought after in neglect of such empirical spirituality.

    In other cases, the practice of Islām becomes not only secondary but deemed irrelevant while ‘the bigger and most important matter is the heart in faith.’ A slogan which is outwardly true but misguided in application. While seeking the spirit of Islām, the integral component of spirituality is rooted and inseparable with practice and beliefs. The protective cloak of Islam, the shariah, is stripped, its logical framework and shield, the beliefs, usurped.

    In summary, two extremes mutate and fight at odds with each other while both exemplify inconsistency and a false practice of Islam: the claim to see the spirit of Islām was lost without practice, and the dogmatic indignation to correct beliefs lost audience with abhorrent manners and vile speech, while the claim to follow correct practice is deluded with no objectives.

    Actions are studied in fiqh, beliefs, in specifically theology in the study of ‘aqīdah, but beliefs (īmān) are ingrained in the studies of all Islamic sciences such as hadith and knowing the meanings of the teachings of the Prophet, his life, manners, and etiquette in sīrah, the meanings of the words of Allah in tafsīr, in understanding the intricacies of the eloquence in the arabic language etc. as well as the direct discussion of spirituality in the study of tasawwuf or tazkīyah.

    Having a teacher is vital as well to model all of this. And we have dedicated and entire article to the importance of such guidance in teachers and avoiding religious complexes in Muslim discourse.

    It is vital to enumerate the aforementioned issues in this introduction because often times the holistic approach of understanding faith is neglected in discussions regarding the sub components of Islām . There is an absence of awareness of such framework. The more compartmentalized discussions of theology, fiqh, or spirituality become the more distant they are from the essential interconnected relationship that our Islāmic paradigm functions in, the constructs in which we see the world through, and the principles on which we derive all matters from.

    With this in mind, I also have a disclaimer that I will share in the form of a story. While shopping in a bookstore in Madinah, I ran into a good friend who works there and we caught up. We studied together very closely under a teacher; even though we have differences in the madhab we study, as well as the Sunnī theological school we ascribe to. But our hearts are one in faith, and love is uniform in its essence. We studied spirituality with a teacher who imparted this and it was visibly applied in everything that he taught. He had students not only from all four madhabs of fiqh but also theological sunnī schools (Ash’arī, Māturīdī, and Atharī), alongside the different nationalities that we all came from (in hindsight, this is what Madinah has always represented: known as Ma’riz Al Īmān — the refuge of faith, where all come together and unified in their bond of Islam).

    After exchanging pleasantries, catching up as we were happy to see one another, my friend and I discussed a problem. We were both seeing those who ascribe themselves as scholars and students of Islam in their dogmatic discussions across theology, fiqh, and spirituality lack not only basic ethics, manners, genuineness, and sincerity but also lack a sense of just and amicable difference (insāf). He said something profound in our discussion:

    “You know, those in the middle will always be attacked the most. Look at what’s happening now, an Ash’arī attacks an Atharī, an Atharī attacks an Ash’arī … and the people in the middle are attacked by both! The people in the middle work twice as hard!”

    I chuckled in agreement and said,

    “Yes twice as hard to relay to both sides how much they agree on and regarding the minority of views they contend, how to disagree amicably with love and care for what bonds them while maintaining balance in approach!”

    He throws his arms in the air and says,

    “This is why it would be great if people stuck to ‘aqīdat al ‘ajaiz!”

    This phrase, “the belief of old women,” is a term used to refer to the essential and foundational faith of very devout, loving, and practicing older women who engaged in the dhikr (remembrance) of Allah, recitation of the Quran, du’ā (prayer) for all Muslims, and had no rancor or hatred in their heart for anyone because they were more engrossed in the love of God and His Prophet in yearning to be in companionship in the Everlasting Garden from engaging in highly-charged polemical theology. They were content with imān (faith) that’s the ultra-unifying variable for any dissent in Islām, and not in divisive kalām (theological discourse) which often times proved so theoretical that it lost tenability. Old ladies are blissfully ignorant of kind of theology.

    The disclaimer is: the middle group will always be attacked more. I recognize that.

    I ask the reader not to employ their rational abilities to find holes to criticize but to reflect on the message in light of this holistic aspect. If you have valid criticism and disagreement weigh it in light of the following: is your view valid? Is my view valid (saigh)? Are you criticizing my views in regard to invalidity or are you criticizing it based on what’s ideal? If you view what I’m saying as invalid provide evidence. If you feel what I’m saying isn’t ideal then don’t lose sight of the bond of fellowship our faith teaches us in kindness and disagreeing amicably. Reflect over the unifying unequivocal principles of our faith (muḥkamāt). You may disagree with an aspect, but do you disagree with the objective? If you disagree with the objective and approach, why? What are some critical reasons for why you differ? Do you perceive some harm, is it truly harmful, and to what level is this harm? Do you feel an aspect that you agree with generally but disagree on its application? State it. Do you believe it needs more specific elucidation? Can you clearly and succinctly state what you agree with prior to your disagreement by highlighting points of agreement before departures? Does this disagreement occur in something that is unequivocal (qat’ī) or equivocal (dhannī) and open to interpretation?

    If we only exercised noble disagreement in points of contention, we would realize what kind of disagreements are fundamental and which ones superficial and unnecessary.

    As a beloved teacher once said, when we look at who implements what we’ve mentioned above one will notice that everyone will claim that they follow the middle path. Everyone will agree with all that’s been mentioned in regard to temperament, amicable disagreement, and moderation, yet when it comes to the application, we all falter.

    How do we recognize this middle and moderate way?

    Shaykh Hatim Al-‘Awni says, “the middle and moderate path is the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم that Allah described as a marker of this faith,

    Image for post

    “And so We have made you ˹believers˺ a wasat )middle, upright, just) community so that you may be witnesses over humanity and that the Messenger may be a witness over you…” Quran 2:143.”

    Wasat — middle is the marker of this nation. It’s a mark of its divinity. A revealed divine system of life from the Almighty can never be encompassed by human mechanism, understanding, thought, or ideology. Our beliefs in morality are neither completely moral universalism nor relativism. Our economics is neither capitalism nor socialism. Our politics isn’t based on absolute majority-rule neither is it autocracy with repression of voices, rights, and stifling opinion, criticism, and freedoms. Our entire system of life is truly as God Almighty defined, a middle among all people, never being confined to the different variations of thoughts of man, and encompassing and transcending all of them. God’s words cannot be limited by man.

    A Muslim should always seek such middle path of understanding in the exemplar of it and whose life is the application of it, the Beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). His life is the rubric of what is middle and what is right and wrong. Following that exemplar in the principles he set out is our objective while aiming to never estrange the middle path.

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    Day of the Dogs, Part 3 – The Attack

    The dog spun and attacked Omar. The beast was lightning quick, and before he could get his arms up he felt the doberman’s teeth sink into his face…

    Doberman pinscher

    See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories.

    This is chapter 3 in a multi-chapter novella.  Chapters:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4

    Stop Pitying Yourself

    “I believe in six unlikely things every day before breakfast.” – Samia

    Playa Santa Clara, Panama
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    Playa Santa Clara, Panama

    OMAR DID NOT FIND A SEASHELL. At one point he heard the sound of muffled sobbing, and followed it to where Samia sat in her cabana. She had her face tucked into her knees, her forehead pressing against the book she’d been reading. When Omar said, “What’s the matter?” she looked up with a startled, tear-streaked face.

    “Nothing.” She wiped her face with her scarf.

    Omar shifted his weight and looked at the ground, unwilling to either press her or leave her alone.

    “My parents are getting divorced,” she said finally.

    “Oh. Sorry to hear that. I thought you guys were a perfect little Islamic family.”

    “Yes, well. Things are not always what they seem.”

    That sure was the truth. “Will you go back to Malaysia?”

    “No. My dad’s going back. I’ll stay with my mom.”

    That struck Omar as odd. Wasn’t it usually it was the man who traveled to work and the woman who accompanied him?

    Seeming to read his mind, Samia explained: “She’s an executive for Petronas. She interfaces with oil company executives from all over Latin America. My dad owned an electronics shop back home, which is fine, you know, it’s a good, halal business. I just think…” Her mouth twisted to one side as she tried to hide her distress. “I think he was happier back home.”

    Omar pointed with his lips to her book. “What are you reading?”

    “That’s so Panamanian. Pointing with your mouth.”

    “I am Panamanian.”

    A Thematic Commentary on the Quran by Al-Ghazali“Oh yeah. It’s Al-Ghazali’s thematic commentary of the Quran. Hey, can I give you a little advice?”

    Uh-oh. Omar’s shields went up. Samia always thought she knew best. Before he could say anything, she went on: “You should stop pitying yourself.”

    He glared. “Excuse me?”

    “How long have I known you? You think I don’t see you’re miserable? I know there’s something wrong.”

    “That’s not your business.”

    Samia sighed. “Would you listen? I’m trying to say that you’re so strong and smart. Almost as smart as me.” She grinned. “Whatever’s going on, you’ll get through it if you stop pitying yourself and just keep on working. You’ll come out on top. You’ll see.”

    “Unlikely.” She sounded like Sensei Alan, but he’d never give her the satisfaction of telling her so.

    “Is it? I believe in six unlikely things every day before breakfast.” Seeing his quizzical look, she added, “Halima told me you were reading Alice in Wonderland.”

    He wasn’t reading it. And if he recalled correctly, the White Queen believed in six impossible things before breakfast. But whatever. “That’s fine for you and Alice. You don’t have my life.”

    “Oh really?” Her voice was sharp. “Where’s your imaan, akhi? Allah always makes a way, don’t you know? You want to know something else unlikely? I’m unlikely!”

    “What do you mean?” he muttered, chastised.

    “One: My family comes from Kedah province, on the coast of Malaysia. On December 29, 2004, my father, who was not my father yet, was invited by my grandfather to go sailing on a boat he had bought. They were boarding the boat when my father received a mobile call from the wife of his best school friend. The man had been in a motorcycle accident and was in the hospital at Jitra, an inland city. My father said goodbye to my grandfather and went to see his friend. One hour later, you know what happened?”

    Omar shook his head.

    Indian Ocean tsunami

    Indian Ocean tsunami

    “The Indian Ocean tsunami. One hour later! You may have heard of it? It killed a quarter of a million people, including my grandfather, who was never found.”

    Omar made a sympathetic face, not knowing what to say. “I’m sorry,” he managed.

    “Two.” Counting on her fingers. “My father’s taxi was buried in mud, and he should have died, but the mud left his face exposed. He was able to breathe, and to lick rainwater that ran down the inside of the crushed car.

    “Three: He was rescued by a volunteer relief worker. She was my mother. Soon they married.

    “Four: My mother’s pregnancy was difficult. The doctors said she might lose the baby. I was born premature. In fact I was not breathing, but the doctors revived me.

    “Five: I have type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

    “Six: When I was five I had bacterial meningitis. My body didn’t respond to treatment and at one point the doctors told my parents I would die by morning. I remember hallucinating that the doctor was a wolf with a muzzle and huge black eyes. I tried to scream but didn’t have the breath. It was terrifying. My mother told me later that she spent that entire night making dua by my bedside. In the morning my fever broke and by noon I was walking. No one could explain it.”

    Seven.” She paused, touching index finger to index finger, then shrugged. “I don’t have a seven. But my point is, you say it’s unlikely that your life might improve? My entire existence is unlikely. But Allah does what He wills.”

    Omar hadn’t known any of that, and didn’t know what Samia was trying to tell him.

    Samia snapped her fingers. “I’m saying, the unlikely happens every day. And you know what else? Ramadan is coming. Ramadan is about not only the unlikely, but the impossible. Miracles. Angels pouring out of Jannah by the millions. The battle of Badr. Think about that, akhi. Say hasbun-Allahu-wa-n’em-Al-Wakeel.”

    Omar said it.

    “Go back to your wanderings.”

    The Gate Opens

    It was funny how people kept telling him to go away. What was he, a bad smell?

    At noon, when it was too hot to be out in the sun, the kids ate at a beach restaurant that served only fish and chips. Omar didn’t have enough money for that, but that was okay. He sat in a cabana eating the peanut butter sandwich from home. It was smashed into a trapezoid and the bread was soggy, but it tasted fine.

    They prayed Dhuhr in congregation, with Tameem leading. Omar didn’t mind. It was not about who stood in front, but about his personal connection with Allah. Though sometimes he wondered about that connection. Not about Allah, but about his own heart. The Creator felt distant sometimes, and Omar knew that was his own fault. But he didn’t know how to fix it.

    The group headed back up the road at two o’clock, wanting to make it to the highway before the afternoon rains came. As they passed the house with the vicious dog, the creature was nowhere in sight. Tameem kicked the gate and shouted, “Oye perro estupido!” and the dog came running, barking like firecrackers going off.

    Doberman pinscher

    Doberman pinscher

    This time a second dog, a tall doberman pinscher with alert ears and a black muzzle, rounded the house as well and sped toward them on the other’s heels. Drool flew from its mouth as it growled and bared its terrifying teeth. Again the kids screamed and ran, except for Omar, who only shook his head and trotted away quickly, and Samia, who was not a fan of running.

    A few houses further up the street they stopped and watched a massive silver-colored 4×4 truck cruising down the road. It might have been three meters tall, jacked up on oversized tires, with chrome running boards, and a top-mounted light bar that could probably turn night into day. On the front were bull bars that could be used to ram another vehicle.

    As it passed they saw it bore the logo of the National Police, and had a rifle mounted in the cab, though the driver was not wearing a police uniform. He was a youngish man, in his late twenties maybe, sporting shades and a cowboy hat. Spanish gangster rap battered its way out of the truck’s speakers. Heading right for the awestruck kids, the truck blasted its horn. The kids jumped out of the way, a few of them cursing the driver.

    The truck stopped in front of the house with the dogs, and the driver must have hit a remote control, because the gate began to roll quietly open.

    The two dogs came flying out, snarling, and charged straight at the kids. The German shepherd was in the lead, its large fangs flashing white in the sun, but the doberman was gaining ground. Both dogs were enraged, in full attack mode. The driver yelled at the dogs to stop, but they were so inflamed by Tameem’s provocations that they ignored him.

    The hair raised up on Omar’s arms and neck. He stood rooted, unsure what to do. Watching the dogs come was like watching a pair of nuclear torpedoes shooting at him. Living torpedoes of bone and claw, muscle and sinew, burning brain and vengeful heart. Their feet flew across the dirt, and their eyes were filled with rage.

    The Attack

    SAMIA HAD STOPPED TO CATCH HER BREATH after her brief trot and was now at the tail end of the group, closest to the dogs, with Omar just ahead of her, and Halima beyond him. All the kids froze utterly for one second, as if they were playing a game of red light green light where the losers would be shot dead. In that numb, dumb moment, the dogs covered half the distance from the gate to their motionless victims. Then Basem made a wordless whimpering sound, and Hani whispered, “Oh my God.” One of the girls screamed.

    Halima started to say, “Nobody run,” but was cut off as Tameem bellowed, “RUN!”

    Omar shot a glance in the direction of the group and saw they were all fleeing in a panic, led by Tameem and Basem. Only Halima was hesitating. He turned back toward the dogs and saw instantly that Samia wasn’t going to make it. She was jogging toward him but her run was little more than a fast waddle. The dogs were almost on her as they blazed forward with ears tucked and teeth bared. They would kill her.

    He could not let that happen. It was not even a decision – there was no decision to make. The believers are a single body. The only failure is the failure to act. He ran toward Samia and the charging dogs.

    Seeing him running toward them, the dogs hesitated, slowing just enough to buy Omar the time he needed. Samia’s eyes were wide with terror, and she looked like she might have a heart attack.

    Just as Omar reached Samia, the German shepherd leaped at her from behind. Omar tackled Samia, taking her to the ground. The dog sailed over them where they lay in the dirt. He shrugged off his backpack and thrust it at Samia, shouting, “Shield your face!” Then he turned toward the other charging dog and started to rise, bringing his arms up defensively, with a crazy idea that he could use his copper bracelet to block the dog’s teeth – then the animal was on him, crashing into him with the force of a sledgehammer, knocking him back to the ground.

    German shepherd

    German shepherd

    Pain exploded in his forearm as the dog’s fangs stabbed deeply into his flesh. He grunted in shock, but remained clear-headed. Falling back to his years of karate training, he used his free arm to deliver powerful elbow strikes to the dog’s nose and eyes. Not releasing its bite, it snarled and shook its head as if trying to rip the meat loose from Omar’s arm. He screamed as he felt the muscles in his forearm begin to tear.

    The doberman, meanwhile, had overshot. It turned and charged back. Samia lay on the ground just behind him and to the side, calling out loudly for help. Goaded by her cries, the doberman aimed not for Omar but for Samia.

    As the doberman raced past him, Omar shot out his good arm and made a desperate grab for the dog’s spiked collar. He caught it! But the dog’s momentum stretched his arm out until he felt something pop in his elbow. Between that and the spikes digging into his hand, he could not hold on. The doberman pulled free, and an instant later Samia cried out again. This time it was not a cry of fear, but a chilling wail of pain, shock and horror. Omar turned his head to look. Oh God. Samia must have begun to roll away before the dog reached her, because the beast straddled her side, and was biting the top of her head as she clutched the backpack tightly to her face.

    Desperately, with every shred of strength he possessed, Omar struck the German shepherd repeatedly in the face with his wrist, using his copper bracelet as a weapon. Dazed, the dog released its bite and stood over him, swaying. Anguished over Samia and given fortitude by this outrage, Omar pushed, flinging the monster off him. He turned and scrabbled toward Samia. The doberman straddled her, not biting once and clamping down like the shepherd had done to him, but biting repeatedly about her head and shoulders, and sometimes biting the backpack as well.

    The neighborhood Omar lived in was poor, and there were plenty of stray dogs, many of them hungry, rabid or vicious. He’d seen dog attacks, and knew what to do. He seized the doberman’s sleek black tail, and pulled it backward and up as hard as he could. The big black dog gave a yelp of surprise as it was dragged away from Samia’s weeping form. Then it spun and attacked Omar. The beast was lightning quick, and before he could get his arms up he felt the doberman’s teeth sink into his face, penetrating his forehead and cheek. At the same moment the German shepherd, recovered now, bit his calf, its teeth sinking into the muscle like the jaws of a bear trap. The pain was so shocking that he could not even draw a breath to scream.

    They were both on him. He rolled and fought as best he could, punching, kicking, clawing at the dogs’ faces, even biting the shepherd in the neck at one point. And the whole time the dogs were biting him. He felt wet all over, and knew it was his own blood.

    The blood in his eyes blinded him, so that he saw the world faintly, through a sheet of stinging red. He tasted it in his mouth, coppery and hot, along with the rank dog fur he’d bitten off. Pain burst and roiled everywhere in his body. He’d been in pain before, he’d been beaten and bruised and had even fractured bones. But nothing like this. He was baking like a piece of beef in an oven, transforming into something unrecognizable. They were killing him.

    Some of the kids must have come back to help, because he heard voices shouting and crying, men and women, but above them all he heard Halima very near, screaming, “What do I do, Omar? What do I do?”

    “Knife,” he managed to croak. “Hani’s knife.” Then louder, mustering his panic and fright, “Get me Hani’s knife!”

    The dogs continued to bite and tear at his flesh, and he fought, but his strength was giving out. His arms wouldn’t work properly. Then the doberman yelped in pain and was gone, pulled off him. The shepherd was still on top of him, its teeth deep in his upper arm. Omar put a thumb in its eye and it yelped and released his arm, then went for his throat. He turned, and felt its teeth sink deeply into his shoulder. His body went slack. He couldn’t fight anymore. Cold seeped into his body and mind. Even the pain was beginning to recede.

    Drifting Out to Sea

    A tremendous blast rang through the air. The shepherd wailed in agony and released his shoulder. Another blast, and the dog was gone. Not on him anymore. He heard terrible, anguished weeping, and realized after a moment that it was him. Tears flooded his eyes, clearing the blood, and he saw people standing over him, their faces registering horror and disbelief. Halima and Hani were closest. Hani’s knife was in his hand, and the blade was bloody to the hilt. His eyes were wide with shock.

    A man in a cowboy hat also stood over him, and Omar saw that the man was carrying a pistol, and that smoke wisped from the barrel. The man’s face was drained of blood, white as a bone. Who was he? Omar couldn’t think. He wasn’t even sure where he was anymore, or why he was lying here on the ground, burning with agony and covered in something wet.

    “Samia,” he managed to say, and wasn’t sure why he said that. Then his body began to shake. His teeth chattered and his limbs convulsed, and he couldn’t stop. He was cold, and didn’t understand why. Panama was not supposed to be cold. His heart raced and he could hear it thrumming in his ears, pulsing and crashing like ocean waves.

    He was half-conscious through all that followed. Hands doing something to him. Sirens. Someone wrapping him in something and lifting him up. Moaning rhythmically, asking for his father. A ride in the back of a vehicle, rocking. The pain going away, ebbing like the tide, to be replaced with a feeling of warmth and comfort, and a deep drowsiness. Something over his face, forcing air into his lungs.

    Then he was gone, lying on the deck of a sailboat in the Indian Ocean, drifting out to sea, borne on the back of a giant, warm wave. He would live on this sailboat, and Allah would provide for him as He had provided for Maryam, and he would be content. He would sail the world with Alice and Halima and Niko and the white rabbit, and…

    Next: Day of the Dogs, Chapter 4:  You Are the Miracle

    * * *

    Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

    See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

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    Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

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