This is a story from modern Seville, with roots in the past related by our tour leader Tariq in the Islamic tour of Andalucía, Spain.
They had been waiting for him for a while………………….
They had heard of the man and had been stealthily following his steps. He had gone to Arabia for what seemed like a long while. The gypsies looked at each other everyday and waited for the messenger from the city to let them know his whereabouts on return from the holy land. Only then they could be sure that he was a Muslim and knew what they needed to know.
Two years of waiting bore fruit. The young one was sent to bring him, because he was agile and could climb with speed and return with him if the man cooperated. The back up was the rough one who could tie him up and bring him if needed.
The man before going to Mecca had accessed his past on line. When he read about the Moors he realized that he was one, the names had changed from mujeros to moriscoes to Catholics but they were essentially Muslims, had always been were born into the faith.
It was others who had changed them into other faiths but they remained of the pure fitra. He had read that verse in the Quran many times to reassure himself that in reneging the faith or lack of it of his family and friends and accepting Islam he was not breaking the rules of humanity and that selfishness and eccentricity had nothing to do with the love he had developed for the Prophet of Islam (pbuh).
The more he read the Seerah the more he followed his (pbuh) life. He felt his (pbuh) pain as he walked \behind him in Taif (figuratively) as children jeered him and yet he did not choose to destroy them though the offer came from the angels of the mountains. Muhammad (pbuh) was his hero and inspiration.
as a laborer in the day and a clerk at night he collected every penny to make his way to the home of the Beloved. One day he had enough that he crossed the straits of Gibraltar and headed toward Arabia.
Two years in Medina with a Hajj and an Ummrah were not enough but he had learned what he needed and had to go back to his family to share the gift of Islam and perhaps face the music in his land as he revived Islam in the west.
On the fast ferry to Gibraltar he looked at the coast with passion. He was going back to Andalucía, his beloved home, and the wind in his hair his white jjellabeya flowing behind him in the sea breeze. His face turned towards the Iberian Peninsula he was going home! Home to Islam, home to his ancestors who lived and died as Muslims……..
A sense of rightness and peace entered each cell of his body as the fast ferry sped to the coast where Tariq bin Ziyad had entered Spain for the first time, bringing Islam with all its humane qualities to the people of Spain who were laboring under the oppression of the Visigoths.
After his return from Mecca and Medina had settled into a routine coordinating his work in between salahs. Life had become easy and the Muslim routines natural, with the early morning Salah, the siesta or Qalqala after Dhuhr and then slowly getting back into the evening work after Asr. Numerous halal opportunities had presented to him and he marveled at Allah’s generosity with each door that opened and made the practice of his faith easier.
Just when he felt he was settling into a comfortable routine when one night shortly after his return his peace was shattered.
He had just fallen asleep when something woke him up He heard the click and the night air rushed into the room, and before he could become fully conscious a firm callused hand covered his mouth and shushed him reassuringly.
In a strange accent of Spanish which is only spoken by the gypsies in the mountains the man asked “ Did you just return from Arabia?” he became alerted, and wondered if these were people from the authorities, silently reciting the Ayet al Kursi he nodded the best he can while in the tight grip of the man.
“Are you a Muslim,” they asked. The question today was almost as electrifying as it had been in the days of the inquisition as if the fear had been factored into the blood stream of the Moors. Drawing upon the supplication he had memorized from the morning duas of the Prophet pbuh he firmly believed that “no one could harm him in the earth and the universe without the permission of Allah” He knew from the Quran that the one that Allah protects no one can harm.
“Yes, Alhamdollillah” he replied and the hand moved away……….. Say it again said the voice. “Yes Alhamdulillah” he said loud and clear now that the hand was no longer muffling his responses.
“We have to take you to our chief” said the rough looking gypsy. Looking at him he knew that whether he acquiesced or not there was no choice, however the next words out of his mouth were more disconcerting than he had thought. “ We have to blindfold you” and seeing his expression of alarm the gypsy added “no harm will come to you if you cooperate”
It was a strange and unusual trip into the night, his eyes unable to see, his mouth unable to speak, he was being carried in a chair, at times he could feel he was being hoisted up and at times he seemed to be on an elevator that was being run on well oiled and almost soundless pulleys.
His companions were totally silent and by the tension in the air and their proximity alert and vigilant.
He had arrived as his makeshift chair was sat down this time on hard ground. And slowly the bandana blindfolding him was unwound, leaving him spell bound.
He was in a large cave. The blonde clay of the walls was arrayed with designs. One he recognized was a rough calligraphy of the word “Allah”
An elderly man entered the room and immediately a respectful silence fell. He waved to one young man and a table appeared. Next a man came and put an old antique wooden trunk on it, the outside was leather and brass and it was locked. The elderly chief came forward and from his keychain hanging from his waist produced a key as old and antiquated as the trunk.
The chief reverently lifted a package from inside the trunk, and laid it on a special board brought in to lift it to eye level. Gently he start to unwrap the package layer by layer until inside it shone the weathered leather cover of a book which in Arabic said “Al Quran”.
He was spellbound, this whole scene felt like he was watching an adventure movie. He looked at the Quran, at the gypsies and the cave and just like in a huge jigsaw puzzle the pieces started to fall into a pattern.
He remembered from his grandfather how the gypsies had been driven into the mountains and they had hidden in a manner that the Christians who considered them heathens who needed to be brought to the Lord or burned at the stake could not find them, how they survived no one knew. Some of their children had been forcibly taken from them before they were driven out of the cities. However an important and pivotal fact had been omitted in the story told to him as a youngster and that was the fact that these people were Muslims.
Finally the elder spoke: ‘We have brought you here to read this holy book to us, which our family has protected for hundreds of years. We also pray but want you to show the Salah as it is done in Mecca and Medina.”
He was touched this was the 21st century, these were Muslims part of the vast Ummah he had witnessed in Hajj and Ummrah in Mecca and they were in hiding the mountains for God knows how long, guarding the Quran praying as they were taught centuries ago with dilutions over the years, and yet they had held on to the rope of Allah through strife and tribulation. They were not gypsies by tribe, but normal city Muslims who had been forced to become gypsies to protect their faith not just on their lips but in their hearts and in their way of life.
Down the mountain in Seville, their Muslim brothers and sisters had suffered forced conversions, death and extradition to foreign lands. They had withstood the torches of time, cruelty and oppression, guarding THE BOOK not only with their hands but clinging to the Islam of their forbearers, refusing to give in to any or all the forces of oppression, even if it meant living in a cave and eating what you could grow, selling what you could make………..and wait out the spate of the Inquisition, for the tide to change and for Allah to pull them up with the same rope that they and their forbearers had clung to tenaciously.
He sat down traced the words of “Al Quran” with his finger raised his hands for supplication for these people who were the true mominoon of the cave mentioned in Surah Kahf, and after many years of withholding emotion, tears rolled down his eyes as he prayed for them:”Allahhumma……………’