Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Cure

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Signs on the Horizons by Shaykh Michael Sugich.

“I had only recently settled in Egypt and was having enormous trouble adjusting.  I had been accustomed to the rarefied company of Sufis and the relatively pristine romantic ambiance of Moroccan Sufi Islam.  Suddenly I was thrown into the rough chaos of Cairo, with its crowds, cacophony, craziness and reeking streets.  I attended night classes at Madinat al-Buhuts al-Islami, in which the exhausted teacher, on his third job for the day, would put up an exercise on the chalkboard and then fall fast asleep at his desk.

During the days, I taught English literature at what was then Egypt’s premiere private school.  To get there I would have to take the horrifically crowded Bab al-Luk train from Sakinat station near my flat to Bab al-Luk Station in the center of town and then take a bus from Tahrir Square to the school in Zamalek.  Young men would not wait for the train to stop on the platform but would leap through open windows to get a seat.  Surrealistic fist fights broke out in the over-packed train on a daily basis.  In the mornings and evenings, people would hang off the sides of the train and clamber up on top for a treacherous free ride.  I witnessed many accidents and several fatalities during this time.  On one occasion a young man was hit head-on by the train and his body flew past my window.  The man sitting beside the window next to me saw the mutilated flying corpse and blanched in horror.  Then he turned to me with a resigned shrug.  ‘Ma’alesh,’ he said.  ‘Oh well.’

I finally snapped one day when a sweating middle-aged fat man elbowed past a young woman who was ascending the steps to the bus in front of me, crushing her against the door and nearly pushing her off into the street, just to get a seat.  Outraged, I approached him and told him his behaviour was the same as an animal’s.  I did not think he understood English.  He grabbed my arm.  ‘I weell keell you!’ he hissed, squeezing the button off my shirt cuff.  The other passengers separated us – they had seen what he had done to the young woman.  The bus driver apologised profusely and refused to take a fare from me.  The passengers were very kind, but I had reached the end of my tether.  The city was grinding me down.

The daily struggle of surviving the public transport system, the begging, the stench of uncollected garbage and deteriorated infrastructure finally got to me.  As a spoiled American, I was simply not ready for all the anarchy and pandemonium of Cairo.  I went into deep culture shock.  I started to hate Egypt and Egyptians.

Finally, I became violently ill.  I was convinced that my bad thoughts had poisoned me and made me sick.  I suffered for three days with a high fever and agonising pains throughout my body.  I confessed to my wife that I was certain this was from the really venomous thoughts that had overcome me.

On the third day, we received a knock on the door.  It was Shaykh at-Tijani’s (q.s.) son, Ahmad.  He was about 30 years old.  He had come all the way out to Sakinat from Cairo by train.  In those days, the journey would have taken at least one hour each way, if not longer.  He asked for me.  I appeared at the door.  He said, ‘My father has sent me to you.  He said, ‘Harun is sick.  You must go to him and give him this.’’  Despite our fleeting group encounter a week earlier, we had never had any other exchange.  I had no idea the blind shaykh was even aware of my existence. I do not know how he knew that I was ill.  His son handed me an envelope and immediately excused himself to make the long journey back to Cairo.  When I opened the envelope I found it contained enough money to live on for a month.  This sudden and unexpected act of generosity had a sublimely therapeutic affect on me.  I had let bad thoughts overwhelm me and had conceived of a loathing for Egyptians.  Yet, here was an Egyptian that had suddenly, without warning, reached out to someone he did not know with a simple, transcendent gift.

When I awoke the next morning, my illness disappeared, my health was restored and, most importantly, my heart was cured.”

Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad (q.s.) said, “They are the skilful physicians whom God has assisted with a spirit from Him, so that they treated the diseases of hearts with wisdom, and poured guidance into pleasant and permissible moulds in order to take the ordinary people along the road of their desires to the desired truth…”

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