Grandfather folklore

To The Indian reverted Muslimah, I’m sorry this post has been due for a long time but I hope you like it!

My grandfather and I are lying on his bed, the ceiling fan whirring as it moves around in quick circles. It is almost midnight, but my grandfather is in a storytelling mood.

“I have an interesting one for you today”, he says.

I turn to face his wrinkled face, anticipation rising. “Go ahead, Dadabu, I love your stories.”

“Okay. A really, really long time ago, there was a very pious man. A man from Hazrat Musa’s nation. He wanted to make sure that his son would be well provided for after he died and so he thought of plan. He decided to release one of his calves into the jungle, and praying to Allah to help him with the plan, he hoped that the boy would find the calf when he grew into a mature man, and that the cow would help him financially to cater to his and his mother’s needs. So on his deathbed he prayed, “Oh Lord, I entrust my wife, my son, my calf and my belongings to You.”

The boy grew up. The youth was as pious as his father. He earned his living by cutting wood. Whatever he earned he divided into three equal portions: one he gave to his mother, one he used for his needs, and the last he gave as charity. His nights, too, were divided into three parts: during the early part of the night he helped his mother, the middle part he devoted to the worship of Allah, and during the last part he rested

The man had told his wife of what he had done, so that the wife could tell their son of the cow roaming the wild. When told, the son immediately made for the jungle to look for the cow. He prostrated to Allah, and soon he had found the cow his father had left for him in the jungle. He led the cow by a rope, and the animal would not let anyone except the boy near it.

An interesting episode was happening right then. A rich person had died leaving all his money to his son, and the Israelites, being selfish and greedy, killed the son so they could have the money. The relatives of the boy went to Hazrat Musa (AS) and asked him to find the murderer. The prophet instructed them to slaughter a cow and place the tongue of the cow on the corpse. But the relatives thought he was joking. He said, “Allah forbid that I do so!”

So the relatives asked him what kind of cow, and he gave them a description.

“The cow is neither young nor old, but in between.”

They asked him, “What colour should it be?”

“Yellow in colour.”

They were still not satisfied, so they prodded him again. He replied, “It is an unyoked cow, it does not plow the soil nor water the tilth, and is entirely without marks.”

They went out in search of such a cow. The only one that fitted the description was the cow owned by the orphaned son. They offered a few gold coins at first, but the mother refused, saying the cow was worth more than that. They went on increasing their offer, but the mother did not accept. The people then urged the son to talk to his mother and make her reasonable. But the son was too obedient to do so, “I shall not sell it to you even if you fill it’s skin with gold without my mother’s consent.”

“Let that be the price”, the mother smiled, “It’s skin filled with gold.”

They had no other option than to pay the mentioned price, but the Israelites had brought the hardship upon themselves.”

I know most of us are familiar with the cow and the Israelites episode, but I didn’t know the background of the cow and thought it better to share!

Grandfather folklore!

It is a warm night, bordering on humid, but I accompany my grandfather on his routine walk after dinner. No tales at the dinner table this time, but I am adamant to listen to some anyway.
“Dadabu, you know so much about sufis and saints, tell me a story,” I say to him.
“Well, you know about Hazarat Dataa Ganj Baksh, right?” He begins after a while.
“Yes, I do,” I reply to him instantly.
“Well, he originally lived in Hajver in Afghanistan, but he moved to the banks of the river Ravi in Lahore. It is said that his spiritual mentor told him to move there. It so happened that he set his house right in the middle of the local Hindu community and the house of a certain person whom the Hindus revered.
Everyday, one Hindu or the other would walk past Dataa sahib’s house and go to the above mentioned person to speak to him about their problems. The major problem that he would solve was when their buffaloes did not give them milk. After the Hindus spoke to him, he would do something whereby the buffaloes started to give milk again.
Dataa sahib watched all of this with interest. But he knew this was wrong because that person used magic and witchcraft as the solution to people’s problems. The Hindus were surprised, how did Dataa sahib, an outsider, know he used magic? And did he use magic?
But the Hindus were in for an even greater surprise! For their folks started to die! One by one, in quick succession, they started to die. As the Hindu procession would take one dead to burn him as is their custom, Dataa sahib would say,
‘Another awaits you.’
And when they would go back to their community, indeed another Hindu had died! But as they would take him away to be burned, Dataa sahib would repeat what he said before, and every time the same thing would happen. The Hindus were astonished. They came to Dataa sahib and sat around him.
‘We accept your religion and your God, sahib, for you seem to be aware of things we are not. We accept Islam, as this seems to be higher path.’
And so thousands of Hindus embraced Islam at the hands of Dataa sahib.”
“Whoa”, I am amazed.
“I’ll tell you something interesting, though. You know how there are political governments here? With presidents and prime ministers and kings and dictators? Well, there is a spiritual government, too, and it works much in the same way, except that they handle things when we, normal people, cannot”, he says.
“Really? So there’s a spiritual president?” I ask him stupendously.
“Yes, the president is called the ‘wus-ul-azam’ and the below him we have the ‘wus’, the ‘qutab’ and then the ‘abdal’. Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani was always held to be the ‘wus-ul-azam’, or the leader of the spiritual government. Do you remember the Hakim sahib from Gujranwala?”
“The one who’s house we went to after he had died?”
“Martyred. Yes. You must have met him before but you don’t remember, I suppose.”
“No, I don’t remember”, I say. This certain Hakim sahib was on good terms with my entire family, and had been unjustly shot due to some strange materialistic matters.
“Anyway, he was a part of this government, too, you must have heard how spiritual he was. Even after he passed away his wife could still hear him reciting the Quran after Fajr as was his habit. And it wasn’t just her who heard him; even someone staying over would be surprised by his voice echoing in the house, doing zikr.
Anyway, I met him once during Benazir’s reign, when she was first made Prime Minister. He told me it had been decided in the higher government that her rule would come to end. I asked him why it was so, and his answer is a proof to the importance God gives to people who love Him truly. He said,
‘When Benazir went to Iraq, she visited Imam Hussein’s and Hazarat Ali’s graves and read Fatiha over them, but when she was coming back, she did not bother to go to Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani’s tomb, which was on her way, too. Being the ‘wus-ul-azam’, she should have respected him and paid his grave a visit. The government is not happy with how she behaved, and so it is time to end her rule.’
And three days later, she was indeed chucked out.”
“But Dadabu, maybe she didn’t know?” I asked.
“About him, everyone knows. Especially people who live here, we are all familiar with these great saints. And I’m quite sure if she was really that innocent in the matter, the spiritual government would not have had a problem. They don’t decide like we do with our narrow approach to everyday life, they think ahead. And that’s why, don’t ever underestimate the power the love of Allah gives you.”

Grandfather folklore!

                               One of those grandfather tales around the dinner table again, he randomly kicks it off by introducing the name of a familiar buzurg, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani. A name we’ve been taught about in our Urdu school books, he remains the mystic he was even after his eternal union with love.

                               “Once upon a time, Sheikh Jilani was extremely hungry and was looking for a place where he could get some decent food. He walked and walked, having nothing around his own humble person. He came upon a stream and saw an apple floating in the water, moving with the currents. He picked it up before it could get away, and devoured it with relish.

But once he had finished eating it, he realized that the apple must have belonged to an orchard. And since he had not asked the owner of the orchard before eating the apple, the apple was therefore not allowed for him to eat. Think of how careful the man was! So constantly worried about getting his halals and harams right.

                               Anyway, he walked along the stream in the direction of where the apple had come from; he walked days and days looking for the source of the fruit which caused him such agony. Finally, he stumbled upon the branches of a big apple tree, the branches of which were bowed down over the clear stream. Resolving that to be the beginning of the apple’s adventure downstream, he walked across it to find himself indeed in an apple orchard.
After he had hunted down the owner, he ashamedly set forth to do what he had come for.
‘I must ask for punishment from you. To account for a sin I have committed’, he said.

                             ‘Why?’ The owner was confused and surprised.

                             ‘I ate an apple from your orchard without asking you, and now I must be punished for this wretched act of mine bears heavily on my heart.’

                             The owner thought for a minute, then said:

                             ‘Okay, you must take care of my orchard for a year. That is the punishment due from you.’

                             So Sheikh Jilani looked after the orchard for a year, maintaining the gardens and trees, watering them, taking out weeds and wild flowers and making sure they remained in as perfect a condition as his capacity to do so.

                             After a year, he went to owner and told him his year of punishment was up. But the owner, although very happy with his work, had something else up his sleeve.

                            ‘You must marry my daughter as the last act for your forgiveness. She is deaf in the ears, blind from the eyes and handicapped legs.’

                              The Sheikh was surprised at this, but seeing this was his way for forgiveness, he consented to the proposal.

                              After the marriage, the Sheikh went to see the woman he had married. He expected a handicapped woman, but almost jumped when he saw a beautiful young woman, who had not a single problem the owner had mentioned. The Sheikh then went to his new father-in-law, and told him his situation with a worried face.

                              ‘Do not worry’, the owner said, ‘I shall tell you what I meant by what I said : she is deaf because she has heard no non-mahram’s voice, is blind because has seen no non-mahram’s face, and is handicapped from the legs as her legs have never walked towards a non-mahram. She is purely for you now, go for that woman is my daughter.’

                               The Sheikh’s journey took him from a state of heart where all he could feel was guilt, to a state of matrimony. And that too a pious one.”


Grandfather folklore


One of those family dinners it was, when there’s nice, fancy food and merry conversations with light laughter and jokes. My grandfather, as he swallowed the last spoonful of his Chinese rice, coughed animatedly to clear his throat, and then narrated a story, a folklore he had heard from someone else. He tells us many tales, of his own interesting, full led life and of the fiction world. That particular day, though, it was the latter.
“Once upon a time”, he began in a pleasant tone, “there lived a mighty king. This king, one night, had a strange dream. He decided to call upon the person who could interpret his dream, because kings’ dreams usually meant something. So the best man for the job was brought forward.
‘Can you interpret my dream for me?’ The king said, looking at his bowed head.
‘I can, sire. Please tell me what your dream was’, he humbly replied.
‘Well. I saw in my dream that all, all, of my teeth fell out one by one in quick succession. I woke up feeling that it meant something.’
‘It does, your Highness. Your teeth symbolize your relatives, and their falling like that means that all of them will die before you.’
The king, astonished but angered, called out to the guards and had him taken away.
‘Let his throat be cut off!’
The king was still confused. So he summoned the next best in his empire.
After he narrated his dream again, he was surprised at the answer he received.
‘Your teeth symbolize your relatives, and their falling like that means that all of them will die before you.’
He was disgusted by the interpretation, and sent him to be hanged.
The third person was then called into the king’s court. He cleverly answered the king’s question to the interpretation of his dream.
‘Sire, the teeth symbolize your relatives. Your dream means nothing more than the fact that you have been blessed with a very long life and that you shall outlive your family quite comfortably.’
The king, impressed by his response, let him go. He sat down with a heart set at ease.
So you see, the way with which a person speaks influences the content of his speech highly. The third person meant the same thing as the others, but he knew how to say it. And marvelously well he said it too.”

Happy Birthday, again

2014

Arsalan sat reading “The Source” when he heard his sister pushing the buttons on her mobile phone and then putting it to her ear.

“Yes, this is Mr. Ahmad’s place … Yes, um, I would like to have the bouncy castle … Exactly, that’s the one … Oh, um, we shall need it on the 21st of January … Thank you.”

Anya ended the call and threw her head back, “One done.”
“Why did you order that?” Arsalan inquired, his eyebrows raised.
“You know why. My son is turning five”, she snapped.
“God, why don’t you people ever think rationally?” he said exasperatedly, “Why do you celebrate the fact that you have one year less to live? And even bring presents for the happiness of it all! It’s all so very illogical. Think about it Anya.”
“It’s just an excuse for fun”, she rolled her eyes, “Be a good sport.”
“But have you ever questioned where this ‘fun’ came from? Have you never wondered at all?”
“You do it, you seem to be enough for the two of us”, Anya said, annoyed.
“Why did God ever give you a brain?” Arsalan shot back.
“Hey, we don’t have those kinds of intentions”, she replied.
“But on the day we’re raised, we’re going to be asked how we spent our time! How we spent our money! Will you tell God, ‘It was only harmless fun and getting together with family’?” Arsalan said.
“He’s forgiving”, Anya grew irritated, and rang the bells to summon the servant.
“Yes, He forgives when we actually listen to Him. We aren’t allowed to follow traditions of past people, especially pagans either”, Arsalan continued, “Why can’t we start bringing some sense, question what we follow and follow it not because of society, but because we believe it’s true?”
A servant entered and stood by Anya’s side.
“Yes, madam?” the servant deferentially asked.
“Next week is Shehryar’s birthday. Take out the chocolate fountain, and remember to pick up the Woody the Cowboy cake”, she ordered, “Don’t forget the clown and all the other arrangements I spoke to you about. Get Aliya to mow the gardens evenly and sweep the play area.”
“Yes, madam”, the servant bowed his head.
“For now, get me a glass of water”, with that she dismissed him, and took a breath.
“There’s no concept religiously”, he murmured, picking up his book.
“And since when did you become so religious? Besides, Arsalan, nobody cares about whatever concepts there are, and our social class requires we do this”, Anya carelessly flipped her hair, “What will people think?”
“You care about people? People make up all sorts of stories. If society jumps off a cliff, we don’t commit suicide.”
“This is hardly suicide”, Anya scoffed.
“Then what is it? Show-off? Pride at being rich?”
“No, it’s just fun”, Anya stubbornly resisted with stern eyes.
“If you know where this fun comes from, how are you still willing? There’s so many other ways of having fun”, Arsalan reasoned, “I mean, you’re planning this a week in advance, what’s the sense in that?”
Anya rolled her eyes and left the room.
  *      *        *        *        *
“Sir, could you please lend me five thousand rupees?” Maryam, the Christian cook, asked Arsalan as he watered his garden. He loved his plants, and preferred to take care of them himself instead of handing them over to the servants.
“Is everything okay? You got your pay cheque last week”, Arsalan was confused
“Well, you see, my son is also turning five, and he insists on a party. You must understand, sir, there is a lot of social pressure these days”, she answered looking at his shoes. Arsalan sighed.
“Why do you celebrate birthdays anyway?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Because, sir, a child enters a new year!” She spoke enthusiastically, “You people celebrate it too, and if Jesus’ birthday is celebrated, it must be a good thing!”
“Maryam, a year of a child’s life ends”, he explained earnestly, “And Jesus never celebrated his birthday. In fact, Christmas isn’t even his birthday. His disciples never did so either.”
“Honestly?” Maryam was genuinely surprised.
“Yes. You don’t have to succumb to social pressures; people do all sorts of strange things. You should do what you know to be right. Do you believe this to be right?” Arsalan spoke in a calm, amiable way.
“The way you put it, sir, things would be so easier of everyone understood this”, Maryam replied with a tone of interest.
“Do you understand?”
“Absolutely, sir”, Maryam humbly said.
“Even in my religion, there is no such concept. Birthdays were a pagan rite before Judaism, Christianity and Islam were revealed, and all three religions do not allow the practice of rites followed by the unguided before them”, Arsalan smiled at her, “But of course, your son is unable to understand. Here’s some money, but make sure you tell him one day.”
Maryam pocketed the money saying gratefully, “Sir, thank you, I shall return it as soon as possible.”
“Don’t return it, keep it. I wouldn’t like you to be in that difficulty.”
                                      *        *        *        *        *
Arsalan was visibly upset. He had never before realized the effect they, the wealthy, had on the poor. How the poor tried so hard to follow the footsteps of the upper class and make the same mistakes they did. When they could not do so, they watched with anger, envy and a sense of injustice as people spent thousands of thousands enjoying all sorts of fancy parties and posh dinners. It was cruel.
He hadn’t been able to find a religious point justifying these parties either. The only two things nearest to signifying birthdays were – at ten years, it was obligatory to perform prayers, and the Prophet Muhammad used to fast each Monday (the day he was born) as a thanks to God that he had been sent to guide humans. None of the Holy Books even mentioned the birthdays of the prophets.
Then why did the populace celebrate birthdays? Worst of all, why wouldn’t they accept the truth?
                                      *        *        *        *        *
Encyclopedia Judaica: “The celebration of birthdays is unknown in traditional Jewish ritual.” (vol. 4, pg. 1054)
Christianity: “Therefore ye shall keep mine ordinance, that ye not commit any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus, 18:29-30)
Islam: “You would follow the ways of those who came before you step by step to such an extent that if they were to enter a lizard’s hole, you would enter it too.”

That is why I donot celebrate birthdays.

Happy Birthday – continued

It was the day dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of the moon. Aleta and Chrystal led the way to pay homage to her, Bartlett behind them carrying a round cake decorated with lighted candles. They walked up the rocky mountain to the cave which had been carved into a temple for their goddess, Aleta and Chrystal hopping from one rock to the other, dodging a slippery pebble here or a spiked bush there. Bartlett followed carefully; his movements were measured and calculated, while the rest of the group hovered around him, forming a sort of close protection around the sacred cake. The cake was a tribute to Artemis, the roundness of the cake symbolized he roundness of the moon, and the lighted candles signified the glow of the moon. So, the cake carrier treaded with caution, lest anything should happen to the cake and he be eternally cursed. The orange, yellow flames danced on top of the waxed columns.
The temple was finally reached, and the cake was offered to the one it had been painstakingly and meticulously made for. The worshippers proceeded to kneel to the ground and prostrate obediently to the grand statue that stood watching over them in the temple. A strange hum resounded from the little group of people as their foreheads touched the ground. A sort of praise intermingled with a plea to solve all their troubles. It echoed in the stone temple and finally resided. Then, one by one, with their eyes lowered – not daring to lift their heads in front of the stone picturization of the goddess – they slipped out of the temple, their backs bowed till they exited.
Aleta and Chrystal rubbed together a few sticks and started an immense fire outside the main door of the temple, while Bartlett arranged the group around the fire in a circle, himself included. He spoke in hushed tones,
“We now pray. Let no one pray with their tongues, and only use your hearts, for Artemis hears everything. We have done our duty; now let us hope the smoke of these flames is not wasteful, and that it carries our wishes, desires to the goddess above.”
The company closed their eyes and directed their heads to the starry sky, visualizing the moon and their revered goddess seated on a great throne, and prayed with intense devotion and belief that she, Artemis, would certainly be looking out for them from the vastness of the night sky.
                                      *        *        *        *        *
Roman was troubled with the most helpless situations. He had lost his job as the Emperor’s cook and with the loss of his job; his home too had been confiscated. It was a cruel time indeed, his friends and relatives had all left him because he had no resources and so associating with him would only be a wound to their status, and of course no one wanted that to happen. Roman was left with no choice but to pray, and so that was what he did.
He sold the one ring he always wore, it had been a gift from his friend the day he had been appointed Royal Cook, but that seemed ages ago. He had no use for it now; it would only bring back unpleasant memories, something Roman sought to avoid. So he sold them, and got himself a couple of candles – those sacred, magical things. He obsequiously placed them in the corner of a gymnasium, surely nobody would mind him there, especially when he was there for only a short time and when no one else was using the place, and lit them one by one, being careful not to let any of them blow out. Then he sat on his knees facing them, a sort of semicircle he had made, and started to sway side to side, as if he was possessed. He breathed in deeply, closed his eyes, and started to pray, having faith in the powers of the miraculous candles and believing that they would make sure his prayer was fulfilled.
                                      *        *        *        *        *
It was little Fritz’s birthday. It was one of the first to be celebrated of a child, anywhere in the world. Germany led the way to “Kindlefeste”, a little party for the kid whose birthday it was.
Fritz was in the highest of spirits. His friends and relatives would be coming over, with lots of nice flowers and presents for him. Presents were the most important part of the whole event – if not for presents, the atmosphere would not have been so very cheerful. Birthdays were not supposed to be bad days; no, everybody ensured that the birthday kid stayed happy and in good spirits.
It didn’t take them long to arrive. In burst everybody, singing birthday songs and laughing at the jokes Uncle Ludwig was always coming up with. Fritz was glad, and after a while he was even gladder – for now mother brought the round little iced cake with the candles on top too! Chocolate with vanilla ice cream – Fritz’s favourite. He eagerly bounced towards it, his family surrounding him. Fritz’s father handed him the knife, and while he cut the cake, beaming with delight, everybody around him sang,
“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to Fritz dear!”
“Go on, honey, blow out the candles and make a wish. Remember not to say it out loud!”
Fritz shut his eyes tight and took in a deep breath, and then he puffed all the candles out.
“I hope you have a lovely year ahead!” Aunt Mirjam cried out, ruffling his hair lovingly, while the smoke from the candlewicks journeyed to the skies.
                                      *        *        *        *        *

Happy Birthday

These stories are fictional, but based on factual events. The historical significance of birthdays as mentioned has been researched and is true. This is actually why birthdays began.

Ptolemy V sat on his majestic stone throne, bedazzled with precious gems embedded in magnificent swirling designs which filled the viewer with awe and a certain inferiority in front of the Egyptian king. The king, though not unaware of the fact, did not then care of exhibiting his power and grandness – indeed his face displayed something quite contrary to the two qualities mentioned above. Expectant, yet wary, his fearful eyes rested on the bent, bald head of a shriveled old man, who was at that moment juggling some very curious objects in his hands, the largest of which resembled a sort of dial. A sizeable telescope was standing in the corner of the glass dome-like roof, which had been specially constructed for the incredible purpose it had been assigned.
“Aapep, do ask the man to reveal to me his work. I have been waiting the whole day”, the young king impatiently said to his bodyguard. The man at once bowed dutifully, and walked rapidly to obey his orders. His steps approached Panhsj, who had his scales and papers spread in an awkward fashion on the expensive mosaic floor, and the old astrologer’s head immediately snapped up. Not oblivious to the bodyguard’s task, he took hold of a small table placed by his side, and helped himself to his withered feet.
“King of kings! Today is your birth-date, and I am honoured that you have bestowed upon me the kindness of telling you your future. I do not wish to make you wait, you who have suffered through so much! Do forgive me.
“I see a change, I see the winds of disturbance move in the opposite direction – these destructive forces now benefit you! They give you something extremely valuable, and that valuable thing benefits you even more. Oh king, you shall see contentment”, the old man then looked over his shoulders to the latticed doors behind him, from whence entered a confident, muscular man in the style of a distinguished and wealthy class. His gait was strong and his big footsteps quickly reached Panhsj, where he bowed gracefully to the king.
“You have arrived Bestet”, the king joyously exclaimed, “I have had a good birth-date this year, come let me tell you all about it.”
The advisor reverently sauntered over to King Ptolemy V Epiphanies, and wished him a happy birth-date indeed.
*        *        *        *        *        *                                       
“Alexandro! I hope there has been no trouble this day?” Aesop asked his brother as they both wandered in the spacious open courtyard in the middle of their home.
“Not yet, Aesop, but I am mighty thankful to the gods that I have friends and relatives. Those spirits could not possibly harm me now”, he sighed.
“And that is why you have no reason to worry at all!” Aesop brightly said, and clasped Alexandro’s hand tightly.
Birthdays were no small matter in Ancient Greece. It was the birthday of a person when he would be remembered by all sorts of spirits and demons, it was the birthday when they decided to visit him, to either bring him happiness or curse him to a fatal destiny. So, Alexandro had every reason to be worried – it was his birthday, and the demons might be on their way to cause every kind of unwanted trouble for the boy. He might not even survive the day – the mere thought sent shivers down his backbone. His face turned white with fear.
“One of my friends fell from the top of the roof of his house on his birthday because he had nobody with him, he swears now that he saw the demons – they were laughing at him as he almost smashed his head”, Alexandro hysterically announced.
Before his sympathizing brother had a chance to soothe his fears, the doors behind them opened to reveal the brothers’ aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours and friends. Each of them briskly walked to the unlucky one, and gave him a bear-sized hug, singing poems of happiness to chase away the demons and invite the spirits of goodness to bless the boy under attention. The girls covered the entire house with flowers and talked enthusiastically, hoping to introduce a cheerful atmosphere. Laughter richoted off the walls as everyone sat around Alexandro and wished he had a very happy birthday, each of them in their frightened hearts praying desperately for the salvation of the boy.
                                      *        *        *        *        *
These stories have been divided into a series. This was part 1.