Gunshot

My eyes are filled with the vastness of the pale sky.  It’s cloudy but the clouds are high up so all I see is this bleached out white/blue color of the sky staring back at me.  My lungs are on fire.  Liquid fills my throat and as I gag I try not to panic wondering where my next breath is going to come from.  The echo of the explosion from the gunshot is still fading from my hearing, but dimly somewhere I think I heard sirens, or maybe those were screams.  I’m not sure.  Are those flashes of red and white lights from an emergency vehicle or is this what I’m seeing as my brain starves for oxygen?

Someone is standing over me, speaking calmly.  I see the blue star of life, the serpent twisting about the staff…he must be a paramedic.  I might live through this.  My lungs are on fire.  Random thoughts cross my mind, the word “intubate” occurs…yes, he is going to clear my lungs, I might get through this.

The paramedic – that is what he must be – he pulls out a book from inside his jacket.  I see the title on the cover, it’s in German – “Emergency Medicine Manuelle”.  He opens the book up and starts reading from it, out loud.  As I try to gurgle a protest, I realize his German is awful – I don’t think he has any idea what he’s reading, but he keeps on reading, and starts rocking back and forth as he does so.

On occasion I like to sort of pinch myself – stop to contemplate what it is I am doing in my life, and why.

A “Quran khani”  is something I remember going to with my parents to various people’s houses, or even our own house, from time to time as a kid.  I never really understood what it was all about, just whenever somebody moved into a new home, or somebody passed away, people would gather at their house, eat food and pull out these thin books called “separa” – a copy of the Quran split up into parts, and then everyone- even little kids like me who could barely read Quran in Arabic, much less have any clue regarding the meaning of what we were reading – were give one and we were suppose to read it to complete the recitation of the Quran as a group in that gathering.

To this day I’m perhaps only more confused about this tradition than I was as a child.

Nothing we learned in Sunday school ever explained or even alluded to the tradition (I’m not even sure if it’s just an IndoPak only thing or if other cultures have anything similar , but then again I don’t think I ever gained much from Sunday school beyond hanging out with my Muslim friends who I didn’t get to see during the week, and some feel good stories about this prophet or that one.

From Sunday school I never really ever gained a true love for the Messenger of Allah (SAW), or any understanding of this message he brought.  Heck I’m not even sure we learned how to make wudu (ablution) properly – a prerequisite to salah (prayer).

Only later in life, when I started reading the Seerah, the study of the life of the Messenger of Allah, who he was as a man and the evolution of his mission, and how he interacted with people, did I start to realize who he really was and start to gain a love for this man and the gift that he brought us.

I don’t recall the companions of the Messenger of Allah, who lived with him, who fought along his side, who knew him, and loved him at a level I doubt we can ever parallel – these people, who when the Messenger of Allah passed away, some could not even believe it to the point that Omar (RA) threatened anyone who claimed as such, until Abu Bakr came and knocked sense back into them – I don’t recall any account of these great men and women sitting around in the house of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) or in the Prophet’s Mosque and speed-reading Quran to somehow mark his passing or benefit him somehow.

Rather, the Messenger of Allah brought us the Quran as a guidance…a guidance for all humanity – but more personally – a guidance to me, and each and every one of us.

Now, I’m not a doctor, nor do I have any sort of medical training – I never got past premed – but I imagine that if I worked in an ER, and someone came in with a gunshot wound, pulling out a copy of Gray’s Anatomy and starting to read from it as the treatment would get me fired, and sued, pretty quickly.  Furthermore, if my copy of Gray’s Anatomy was in a language neither I nor anyone around me could even understand, I would probably get a psychiatric evaluation on top of that.

Yet, by the same token – while on one hand we claim to be “muslim” – those who have submitted to the will of God – and we claim to follow the message brought by Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him), the Messenger of Allah – a messenger that some of the top Jewish and Christian scholars alike were camped out in the Arabian peninsula, literally waiting for him to be born based on the traditions in their scriptures – we claim to follow this Message, yet our actions sometimes indicate something strangely contrary.  When we buy a house, or someone passes away, we sit around in a group and read the arabic text really fast.  The idea being, I think, that by finishing the text we accomplished something.  But what?

Yet, at the same time, we completely ignore the actual content of the text.  For example, Allah (SWT) very clearly, and in plain language, actually declares war on those who deal in interest – yet we don’t find any irony in the fact that we’re holding a Quran Khani in our new house bought on a mortgage?  We don’t find any disrespect to the deceased speed-reading (and likely mispronouncing) the word of God “for their sake” when the Messenger of Allah clearly told us what few things can benefit the deceased after he has past – such as deeds he did that continue past his lifetime, e.g. establishing a school, a masjid, etc.

OK, so, yeah, maybe you don’t give much cred to the Qurani Khani thing.  Your mom or aunt or somebody is insisting you do it, it’s a tradition thing, or whatever the reason.  But isn’t that one of the arguments the Quraysh used when the Messenger of Allah (SAW) presented them with the message? Hm…

When it is said to them: “Follow what God hath revealed:” They say: “Nay! we shall follow the ways of our fathers.” What! even though their fathers Were void of wisdom and guidance?

-Quran 2:170