As the shadows lengthen, I hear the blackbird call……………..I am thousands of miles away from whence I heard her for the first time:
I am a pre- teen and I am visiting my grandmother in Lahore. The sun is bright and Shad the girl from the village, who lives with my grandmother, is spreading out the wheat, and shaking it on a tray to separate the wheat from the chaff. A sea of gold is spread in the Vairra (Punjabi for a private bricked in back yard). To my city girl eyes it is a gorgeous scene.
Suddenly as clear as a bell, the Koel calls from somewhere within the mango trees. Shad stops………… her hands dipped in the gold of the wheat, and listens attentively. She then addresses me in Punjabi “do you know what she is saying” , I lean forward all attention” no” I say “tell me” always eager to learn local folk lore.
“She is saying Yusuf Khooh” I know what the words mean in Punjabi, but I don’t know what she is referring to.
She looks at my confused expression and begins the story of Yusuf (AS) “His brothers got jealous of him and threw him in the well…………….and she goes on with the story in brevity.
“Yusuf Khooh” I repeat after her, which in English means “Yusuf (AS) is in the well” at that time I dismiss her story as a figment of imagination of the villagers.
Yusuf (AS) ……..I remember, whose beauty cannot be measured, that if all the beauty of the world was collected, it would only amount to half his beauty.
Somewhere what is currently Iraq, there was a little four year old boy (Yusuf AS). The intensity of sibling jealousy made him the target of their anger. One day they took him to play and lowered him into a well. As they were leaving him, he cried out and entreated to them not to leave him in the darkness………..but their hearts hardened and they left him in the well.
When the brothers went back to their father, and reported that Yusuf had been eaten by a wolf, he cried and kept crying till he became blind. He was a Nabi and knew that Yusuf his baby was alive, but where or in what condition he did not know……..and so he cried till blindness came upon him but the tears did not cease to flow.
The grief of losing one’s child is beyond the highest threshold of pain and the grief of losing one’s child and knowing he is alive somewhere…….. is a pain at a level higher than that.
I pause and try to think of the father’s plight………I cannot, it is too painful.
Yaqub (AS) was in a state where he could not even be angry with Yusuf (AS) brothers……..it was his own sons, Yusuf (AS) brothers who had left him in the well, to die or to be rescued but hoping never to be found.
Yusuf was his child, and every child has his or her own place in the heart of father or mother, a place that can never be replaced by another child no matter what……..and thus Yaqub (AS) cried his heart and his eyes out………..and so goes the narration in the Quran (Surah Yusuf)
Even though as a preteen I had chalked off the bird call and its Punjabi interpretation as a figment of the imagination of the villagers, today as I pause in my work and listen to the Koel calling “Yusuf Khooh” in the trees beyond my office, repeating, entreating, calling………..for help, I wonder……..
I know that nothing in this universe happens by chance. My imagination flies and I wonder if some ancestor of this bird saw Yusuf (AS) in the well and flew for help. Over centuries this little bird has passed on the message in every local language to the birds of the world………a reminder to those of us whose hearts may be hardening with what we see happening to the children of the world…….the shrugging of the shoulders with “what can I do I am so far away”
This little bird…………..with all its strength has changed her song to that of a call for help to inform everyone who can hear……………
It reminds me how “laissez faire” we may become by desensitization to inhumanity……………so many things can harden our hearts…….the acid of envy, the fire of rage, the frustration of unrequited love of a human being, not getting one’s way, of wanting to be number one in the eyes of ones father and not being one, of succumbing to the obedience of the schemes of Shaitaan, of turning a deaf ear to the wails of a four year old brother in the well, of being blinded by ghafala, and led by suggestions, whose source is evil (men led by shaitaan as the Quran states).
There are so many things that want to pour cement onto our hearts, but there is only one that can prevent it………the remembrance of accountability to Allah Subhanawataala, the finiteness of this world and the just due coming to us on the Day of Judgment.
I listen to the bird……..as Asar fades into Maghrib. Her calls of “Yusuf Khooh” become more frequent and more insistent as if she knows that with the waning daylight hours, the terror of the little boy in the well increases and the chances of being rescued, fade.
Presumably the little bird is doing her duty for centuries in perhaps reminding us of the plight of a little Muslim boy in the well ……..are we doing ours?
photo courtesy of :http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.nerdybirders.com/images/Birds/asian-koel.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.nerdybirders.com/html/birds/asian-koel.html&h=483&w=640&sz=84&tbnid=u6opLVfaWcCdnM::&tbnh=103&tbnw=137&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dpictures%2Bof%2Bkoel%2Bbird&hl=en&usg=__I70-C88enoTlX6XrAbzIZpW4DwM=&ei=miK7Se-5E8Oetwe8zIj3Cw&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=3&ct=image&cd=1