Inspired from an episode in the Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
They have been drinking all night. He has been watching them with his hooded eyes waiting for dawn. A lavish bounty has been set on the head of the fugitive, who they all know is on foot and can be apprehended easily, thus the celebration.
He is a Knight of the Quraish, and wants not only the honor of capturing the fugitive but also the money and fame that would follow. It would allow him to prop up his waning cofers and his declining popularity.
As soon as the last nobleman slides into the coma of inebriation he steals out into the night. Mounting his magnificent steed he unleashes the pent up energy within him with the enthusiasm of a hunter out for the kill. He speeds towards the shepherd he has bribed to follow them till nightfall.
Suraqa was not bad at heart. He was practical when it came to dealing with the noblemen of Quraish. He was going to get the fugitive, the money, the honor, and the badge of bravery all from this one act. The recognition of the loyalty to his clan will forever plant his flag in the upper echelons of Mecca.
He looks up, the stars twinkle but do not withhold the secrets of the night map of the desert. Suraqa’s skill in reading directions from the stars matches those of the desert Bedouins he grew up with.
In a short while he reaches the shepherd who is dozing. He wakes up alerted by the approaching sound of a single horse on the soft sand in the pre-dawn darkness. On recognizing Suraqa he gives him the information and the price of treachery passes to him in a handshake.
Earlier in the day the shepherd had met the duo. One older and the other………..he could not place a finger on the immense charm or was it aura exuding from the other. He hated to give them up, but at least he was giving them up to Suraqa who was an honorable Knight, rather than those bloodthirsty men of Quraish.
Suraqa his heart beating with the thrill of the chase and the thought of apprehending the much respected and also much wanted duo of Mecca. The flight to Medinah had cast dust in the eyes of the guards at the house of the fugitive, and left them chagrined and enraged.
Far away Suraqa sees the two figures and slows down the horse, the older one sometimes comes behind the fugitive and sometimes in front as if he cannot decide which side to defend.
Suraqa is emboldened by the actions of the older one, and sees the futility of the actions of the companion of the fugitive; there is no guard against the well armed, and well-honed Suraqa, a master in the skill of archery, sword and horsemanship.
Suraqa digs his heels in, head down, lying low over the horse’s neck he flies over the sand dunes and stones rapidly shortening the distance between him and the duo on foot.
Moving in for the kill, Suraqa reaches back and in one graceful movement removes an arrow, fits it into his bow, aiming for the companion and as his eye hand and target align, suddenly there is a lurch and he is almost thrown off his horse.
The horse has come to a sudden and complete standstill and seems to be sinking in sand and is almost up to its knees. In the ensuing struggle to free itself of the sand, the horse kicks up a storm of dust with his flailing legs. The distance between Suraqa and the duo again increases with this strange delay by a freak of nature.
Suraqa looks up dusting his clothes and squinting his eyes. They seem to have disappeared into the horizon of the desert leaving a shimmering image of two men like an uncoiling mirage in the hot morning sun.
Suraqa dismounts and tries to get the horse out, by the time he dislodges his horse the duo are a speck in his vision.
A small speck of uncertainty enters his heart, perhaps he will be unable to catch them and return them for the promised bounty, maybe he needs to forget all this and return to Mecca. Before the thought completely crystallizes his horse shakes his legs and steps out of the river of sand and looks at his master. Suraqa notices the horse is facing Mecca instead of the direction the duo has taken.
With the horse released from his sandy prison, Suraqa mounts him, turns him around and decides to go after the duo, he can still see them far away, but on horseback they could not be too far. The horse appears to fly but as he comes near enough to see them clearly the fugitive in the front and the companion circling him back and forth…………something happens.
He is thrown off the horse almost as if he had suddenly pulled the reins without notice and the horse’s front legs sink into the sand immobilizing him.
Shocked Suraqa gets up; they are so near that he can hear the murmurings of their words. Singsong recitations that he recognizes as the words that the fugitive has claimed are Divine.
In a commanding voice he tells them to stop. And they do, they turn around to face him and as he steps forward the wind laden with sand rises to veils his eyes, filling his face, eyes and hair with sand. He is stunned, he shakes it off and moves towards them blindly commanding them to stop, and once again they do and the wind churns sand into his eyes, blinding him.
He is now shaking with fear and confusion, he is imprisoned in sand by a force unknown……….in a flash of wisdom he realizes that, this fugitive is no ordinary man, this is not a coincidence, his horse is buried knee deep in sand, he is unable to move, because as soon as he tries dust is thrown into his face blinding him. The Force protecting the duo is far more encompassing and powerful than anything Suraqa has ever encountered on the battlefield.
This time his call out is different. “Please stop……….. Have Mercy! I seek your protection!”
They stop………. the air clears, his horse struggles out of the sand and and stands besides him waiting. Suraqa for the first time looks head on at the fugitive and his companion and is struck speechless. He is aware with every cell of his being that he is facing someone………whose power comes from the Divine.
He sinks to his knees and as a defeated knight he says…….” I seek Mercy and your protection”
Little does he know that he is seeking Mercy from one who God Himself ordained as bringing “Mercy to Mankind”.
END NOTE: For those readers who are not familiar with the Hijra of Prophet Muhammad pbuh and Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA), the story is taken from the Seerah but told from the view point of the pursuer.