“I am a Muslim. This is what Muslims do.”

Excerpt from Eboo Patel’s book: Acts of Faith

Eboo Patel Acts of Faith[My grandmother] would come to the States every few years and live with my family, occupying the living room from midmorning to early evening watching Hindi films. I avoided her as much as possible. “Are you saying your Du’a?” she would ask if she caught me before I managed to reach the back staircase. If she woke up earlier than usual and saw me at the breakfast table before I left for school, she would say, “Are you giving your dasond?” referring to the tithe that Ismailis give. She was disappointed that I had no close Ismaili friends when I was a teenager. “You will marry an Ismaili, right?” my grandmother would ask, catching my arm, as I was sneaking out. I am embarrassed to say it now, but I dreaded her visits and did my best to avoid her.

My view of her changed dramatically on this trip to India. She spent most of her days sitting on a simple sofa bed in the living room, clad in white, tasbih in hand, beads flowing through her fingers, whispering the name of God—“Allah, Allah, Allah”—over and over. She would cry during prayer, the name of the Prophet causing an overflow of love from deep in her heart. I told her all about the Dalai Lama, my voice filled with admiration. I am sure she wished that I spoke as excitedly about the Aga Khan, but she never said as much. Instead, she asked me to read stories about His Holiness to her and observed, “All great religious leaders are alike.”

Earlier in her life, it seemed as though my grandmother could speak to me about nothing but Islam, but now she rarely brought it up at all. Yet, through her interest in Buddhism, her constant Zikr (the Muslim term for remembrance of God through prayer), and her love for Kevin, I was getting a sense of what it meant to be a Muslim.

The most important lesson came in the most unexpected way. I woke up one morning to find a new woman in the apartment. She looked a little scared and disheveled, and she was wearing a torn white nightgown several sizes too big for her, probably one of my grandmother’s older outfits. She didn’t appear to be a new servant or a family friend.

“Who is she?” I asked my grandmother.

“I don’t know her real name. The leader of the prayer house brought her here. She is getting abused at home by her father and uncle. We will take care of her until we can find somewhere safe to send her. We will call her Anisa.”

I turned to look at Anisa, who was sitting on the floor with a plate of dal and rice in front of her. She returned my gaze, a little more confident than before. She looked as if she was easing into her new surroundings.

I turned back to my grandmother and said, “Mama, what if these crazy men, this father and uncle, come looking for her? Do you think it’s safe to keep this woman here? I mean, Kevin and I are here now, but when we’re gone, who will protect you and the servants if they come around?”

My grandmother looked at me a bit suspiciously, as if to say that she had little hope for protection from us. “We will check the door before we answer it. And God is with us,” she said.

I couldn’t restrain myself. “Mama, this is crazy. You can’t just take strange women into your home and keep them here for weeks or months. This isn’t the Underground Railroad, you know. You’re old now. This is dangerous.”

“Crazy, huh?” she responded. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-two.”

“I have been doing this for forty-five years.

Read more at the source: http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2015/12/a-lesson-in-the-compassion-of-islam.html

 

Previously on Ismailimail…

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, its achievements and humanitarian works.

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