“Crack!” I heard the sound at a subconscious level and knew that my iPhone had hit the lava cobblestones of the narrow street.
Meanwhile I felt myself air bound, caused by my foot missing the small step in the alleyway and sending me flying. On my right shoulder with the strap across my chest was my SLR Fuji camera, and on the left shoulder with the strap across my chest was my pocketbook. In my left hand I held my IPhone, which had flown out of my hand and had hit the ground ahead of me.
In hindsight I can tell you that I must have shielded my SLR camera from being smashed into the unforgiving hard pebbles of the alley by changing my course midair like a cat. Though I landed on both knees, I know that my left took the entire impact of the fall, shielding my right side and my camera, which remains intact.
I was in a yoga position of being on all fours, both knees and hands but I could not move.
Faraway somewhere in my consciousness I saw a small Chinese child running to retrieve my phone, which had landed several hundred feet away from me. The alley had a downward incline with uneven steps taking you down. The child came running and handed it to a Chinese man who was walking back towards me.
“ You okay? You okay?” came a man’s voice thickly accented in Chinese English and someone handed me the phone.
Stupidly I shook my head to a “yes’ as I tried to right myself so I could sit on the ground and lean my back against the wall. Deep pain coursed through my leg bones, left greater than right as if a giant hand had taken them and was squeezing them to powder. Each speck emanated an equal level of pain hidden deep within the flesh of my legs.
I was sure I had shattered my femur and was not even going to try to get up. The horror of the thought slammed into me like a tsunami. There is only one rope to hold on to and only one way to heal came the thought following the realization of the injury.
Call for help from the same, who got you out of the well of grief.
In a flash I remembered the story of the scorpion, the sahaba and Surah Fateha as a healing(SEE HADITH BELOW ****)I could hear my salafi friends objecting, “All of the Quran is healing” they would say and on the wings of that objection came the certainty that He the Almighty is The Healer and gives healing to whom and when He wants.
I held both my knees with my hands, fingers outspread and slowly and deliberately recited surah fatiha and rubbed my legs top to bottom. There was no veil between Him and me in pain as I said “Allah you can do everything! If you want even a crushed femur can reconstitute”
I sat there Surah Fatiha flowing from my lips and entering my bones, when I heard the clatter of shoes on the lava cobbles of the street, I looked up and saw two beautiful girls running down the alley from where it connected to the main street in a T.
“ Are you okay?” said one in an Italian accented English, I was going to say, “yes” again. A reflexic but stupid response long ingrained in my cultural politeness where you admitted pain only to your family and your loved ones. You did not share the agonies and sadnesses of pain and tribulation with strangers.
“You don’t have any family here” came the inner pragmatic voice.
“ I am hurt,” I said, “I think my knees………….. I am going to just sit here for a bit,” my voice shook as I was trembling all over. Primarily my knees had taken the fall, but my arms had also participated and were trembling from the impact.
“Can I get you anything?” said the first Italian girl with the dark hair, fair skin and the pink cheeks.
My mind searched for what I could ask for that would be easy “perhaps water………” I spoke hesitantly feeling embarrassed at imposing on two total strangers. “Yes I think water would help”
The girl with the dark hair ran up the alley “Be careful” I said under my breath.
The other girl sat on the ledge opposite me, Her long golden brown legs casually crossed at the ankles. I sat on the cobbled street my back leaning against the low wall that separated it from the elegant Italian silk shop where I had been browsing. I was admiring the dresses that took me to another era of my life, the exotic world of the west where silk flowed and molded to the body naturally. Where you could wear simple and elegant dresses modestly and still feel dramatically attractive and beautiful. The feel of the silk caressing your skin complimenting your inner being and filling it with beauty, admired by all who set eyes on you.
I would have loved to have even one of these dresses when I was younger and beautiful and would have worn it to places exotic. Life gives and takes at its own timetable.
When I was younger I could not afford such a dress. Now I noted as I fingered the light Italian silk that though the desire remained to dress feminine, I felt spending 300 euros on myself was sacrilege when so many refugees, homeless and heartsick sat in camps across the Aegean Sea far from Santorini in the Greek island of Lesbos.
I had curtailed my increasing interest in the Italian silk dresses by stalling and saying to the young retail man with the asymmetric buzz cut, a partial Mohawk, tight skinny jeans and female walk; “ I will think about it and be back later”
I realized with a start that the girl sitting on the ledge opposite me was talking to me about mundane things. I later realized that was her gentle way of distracting me from my accident.
Smiling she told me she lived in Naples, bending forward from the ledge where she was partially perched, her deep honey colored hair swung forward elegantly, her soft amber eyes with a touch of velvet brown filled with compassion as she spoke. “ My friend and I just arrived” she said looking at me kindly.
From her eyes I can see what she saw. A foreign woman in western clothes, hijab and camera, sitting in an alley of Santorini, trembling in pain but still making conversation in good English. asking questions about Naples as if we had met over a casual cup of Greek coffee.
Naples, where the Muslims came when ousted from Spain by Isabella. Naples, where Muslims were received with open arms, they brought with them the cumulative knowledge and research of science art and medicine which opened the doors of ease and elegance to life and health in Naples.
Naples where dark eyes and hair were a heritage of love between the Spanish refugees and the local Italians.
In the final analysis they were “refugees” I thought with a start.
She continued to tell me about herself, making easy conversation preventing me from thinking about my pain. She told me that the girl who had gone to get the water was her friend and roommate in Naples, they both worked and went to university. They had a week of holiday and were here to see Santorini.
“Where are you staying?” I asked knowing full well that I knew nothing of the surrounding accommodations except where I was living; I was just making conversation convincing myself that I was ok. She waved her hand over the hundreds of cliff dwellings hanging over the rock of Santorini and said “over there………” and named a dwelling. “ I nodded, to keep the conversation going.
I told her about what happened and that I was deeply grateful of her and her friends help.
She waved my thanks aside with the classic Italian gesture and a smile. She sat relaxed as if she had all the time in the world to spend with me.
mSoon her friend rounded the bend, and came down the alley, sweat beading her brow. It was past Asr time and the temperature had shot up to the nineties (Fahrenheit), a haze of heat had settled on the Aegean turning its crystal clear water to a cloudy aquamarine. A mist of heat was rising from it.
On my walk back to my hotel, I saw how far she had to walk down and then back up from the mini mart that sold water. A prayer of thanks and blessing went up for her and her friend.
She had a large 2-liter bottle and a cup. She poured and I drank thankfully willing and praying that the water would dilute the pain and the fear of broken bones.
I recited the Fatiha into the water and drank a second cup. Alter a while they asked me if I needed help to get up. “ Yes ” I said.
The girl with the soft brown eyes offered me her hand and pulled me to a standing position. The dark haired one put the water bottle and cup in a plastic bag, and gave it to me. I offered her some random euros she laughed and refused it. Sweet compassion filling her eyes for the old woman who was pathetically offering her money for her run for water.
She assisted me to the top of the street, and asked “are you going to be okay? “ genuine concern filling her eyes.
My practiced habit of glossing over personal difficulty kicked in “Oh yes” I said, “thank you so much!” I smiled; they smiled, waved and turned around to go the other way.
Then began my trek of what felt like a thousand miles but actually was only a mile and a half.
My left knee refusing to bear my weight, the path riddled with more steps down, some steps up and irregular cobblestones in multicolor shades waiting to trip me again……………..
**** THE STORY OF THE SCORPION BITE AND HEALING WITH SURAH FATIHA:
Abu Said al-Khidri said: A group of companions of God’s Messenger went on a journey. On their way, they came by a camp of Bodouins and solicited their hospitality. The Arab Bedouins refused to welcome them, so the companions stayed nearby and took a rest. Meanwhile, the chief of the Beduins became ill of a scorpion bite. His immediate circle tried everything they knew but no avail. Finally, they went and asked the companions if they had anything to cure their chief. One of the companions replied: “Indeed, Glory be to Allah (s.w.t), I know what effective prayers to recite as cure for poisonous bite. However, we asked you to lodge us and you refused to confer such hospitality, and I will not perform such prayers unless you make us an offer.” The Arab Bedouin then cheered them and promised to reward them with a group of sheep if they succeed in curing their chief. Immediately, the companion went to the chief’s tent and sprinkled him with his spittle while reciting the Opening Chapter (surah al-fatihah). When the companions left him, the chief had regained all his strength. After the Arab Bedouins fulfilled their promise, the companions said: “Let’s divide the reward.” The one who performed the ruqya prayers replied: “Do nothing until we get back to God’s Messenger and relate our story.” Later on, when they came before him and told him what happened, the Prophet (s.a.w) commented: How did you know that al-fatihah is a ruqya? Indeed, you were right. Now, divide what you have among you and allow a share in it for men too. [i]
[i] Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Tibb, Bab Ruqyah al-Nabiyy (s.a.w).