I am exiting the little mosque after Friday prayers. It is called the cocuk mosque and is on the Anatolian side of Istanbul.
I hear the plaintive sounds of a woman and sometimes that of children,”Aabey …………” and it is followed by begging for sadaqa followed by a dua for blessings uncountable for the hereafter and in this dunya
I am finishing the recitation of Surah Kahf in the women’s musallah where I am the only woman today.
I recognize the symphony of begging set to the music of poverty, and loss of dignity due to the intense need which impels women to shelve their self respect just to stay alive for the sake of their children.
I walk out and she is sitting on the stone floor of the exit of the mosque, her abaya spread in front of her, her hair covered with a black hijab loosely tied around her head. Her young but lined with the worries collected by being on the road, her face pale from lack of real food that puts the pink in the cheeks of a fair complexion, her eyes are dark with need such that I do not note their color, guarded in expression, but obviously in need, not desperate, just tired, just mechanical in the asking……..” Abla (sister) …..she starts the litany of asking, and dua. I have already pulled out the money to give them, three fives, I give her two, she looks at the third in my hand and asks for it pointing to her children. I hand it to her. It disappears in the folds of her abaya. Her eyes assess me with the scrutiny of the experienced business person and then she lets me go. 15 turkish lira = a little less than 3.00$, I calculate as I descend the cobbled street. What is that going to buy her?
Suddenly a young boy comes running towards me and stops me, his golden brown eyes with flecks of green are cynical and yet not without hope. Teyze (Auntie)…….he says and goes on to ask in Turkish, no dua at the end of this asking. He I presume was born and grew up in the numerous refugee camps enroute to Turkey. “Is that your mother ?” I ask in stilted Turkish, pointing to the young woman sitting at the exit of the mosque. He shakes his head vehemently. No! Yok! He emphasizes.
He has the chubbiness of preadolescence, his light hair is shot with gold in the afternoon sun and it is wavy naturally with a clear hairline above broad forehead. His eyes say he has seen and lived with disappointment, and has shrugged them off. His red Turkish soccer shirt says someone has given that to him or he has found it besides the trash can where many affluent Turkish people put their giveaway clothes and place them on the pavement near the trashcan for people to take them if they want.
Somewhere is his mother…………. Somewhere between his original home and the streets of Istanbul. At age eight he has learned to roam the streets of Istanbul alone mosque to mosque finding a safe place for begging for a living.
I wonder at the people whose countries make bombs and drop them on the homes of these children and have made this child homeless, motherless and fatherless. Is it a crime to be a child in Syria, Yemen or Afghanistan? Poverty resulting from those bombs is a terror, which strikes the hearts of everyone, the poor as well as the affluent.
Do people fear these unattached children because they are so needy that you feel overwhelmed by their plight and either want to give them everything or run away and forget them in a freshly brewed cup of tea by the Bosphorus? Some givers have become cynical and say “don’t encourage the beggars”.
The Sheikh in teaching us about Sadaqa. He said do not leave an outstretched hand empty.
The Bosphorus welcomes me and understands my weakness and my terror of poverty and being on the street like these kids, even though I know that the Divine is Razzak.
The Bosphorus floats the boats on its surface and the waters absorb the memory of every event, every mistake, every goodness and every dhulm occurring by its shores. It keep on flowing, keeps on absorbing what is happening, keeps the boats afloat serenely and will one day stand witness to each act that took place here and where ever the waters flowed.
I thank Allah that he has not tested me or my family with this tribulation and for a fleeting moment I am reminded when my parents and grandparents were forced to become refugees fleeing from India to Pakistan only because they said la illaha illal lah, They left all they owned in India and stood at the border of Pakistan with nothing except their hopes and dreams for a Muslim Pakistan.
The Sheikh said in class that it is when you are a muflis ie you have voluntarily removed your attachment for your worldly possessions that you are truly free.
Here the key word is voluntarily.
Fifty four million men, women and children are on the trek to somewhere because they of no fault or act of their own have been rendered muflis, by those nations and their people for whom greed and power is a bottomless pit.
I return home to revise Surah Doha which I am memorizing for my Quran class and suddenly some of the ayahs (9,10) hit home and go right through the heart……
May Allah forgive me for not having the courage to do more and may he give me more courage……..
The Bosphorus brings peace and tranquility and I thank Allah from the heart…..