The Exalted

On the hard cement he lies alone, reminiscing over everything he could remember about her. As he was combating the onslaught of the biting weather creeping under his skin and struggling to get some sleep, the most melodious music reaches his ears. The music that his heart has longed for is getting louder and louder- her voice, her laughter, her recitations.

As illogical as it could be, he can’t help but to open his eyes in hopes that his mind isn’t lying to him and that she truly is right there beside him. He woke up, but there is almost no difference between his current reality and the view beneath his closed eyelids.

Why must it end this way?

*************************************************************************************

The saffron yellow sun shone on his rooftop for the first time that Friday morning after an extensive winter. Its magnificent golden rays which descended all over Cairo was a perfect start for his holiday.

As he was contemplating the brilliant sky, thinking that it must be the most beautiful scene that he could ever see that day, she pulled his hands gently.

He turned and looked into those beautiful hazel eyes.

“Ya Abi, isn’t the Sun pretty?

He threw his gaze to the sky once again,

“Yes, it is my dear. As bright as your soul. Subhanallah. ”

Samaa’ giggled, her cheeks flushed.

“Abi, please listen to this, okay?” Samaa’ cleared her throat, closed her eyes and started reciting.

Wasy shamsi wa dhuha ha, wal qamari iza talaha…..”

The 4 year old girl continued delivering the verses from Surah Asy-Syams from her memory, until the end.

His body froze under the warmth of the Sun. His breath halted, giving way for his throat to swallow that mixed feelings inside his heart. His eyes pooled with tears but lips were smiling at the same time.

She immediately faced him. She stared at her father, confused. Standing on her toes, she stretched her arms attempting to reach for his cheeks.

He bowed down and let those little soft hands wipe his tears away.

“Why, Abi?”

He landed a tender kiss on her forehead.

“Ummi taught you this?”

She nodded enthusiastically, giving the most delightful smile.

That was when he knew how wrong he was. The Sun wasn’t the most beautiful scene that morning. She was.

*************************************************************************************

The sound of helicopter blades wakes him up from that sweet dream. It felt just like yesterday when she was still running around, sitting on his lap while reading the Big Book of Seerah Rasulullah. How time flies.

She grew up to be an intelligent, soft spoken young woman and ranked top of her class. The combination of beauty and a wondrous personality made her loved and respected by everybody, just like her name- The Exalted. Alhamdulillah, Ya Rabb.

“Ya akhi? We are all ready. Everyone is waiting for you to lead Subuh prayer.”

Mohammed’s voice cuts his thoughts.

It has been a week since the five of them hid from the outside world, having insufficient source of food and limited contact. Their names were declared to be on the WANTED list as they were a threat for being the supporters of the President. No, they’re not cowards for fleeing from the forces of the ruling military juntas who have vowed to arrest and imprison them. They simply needed time to strategize. For Egypt, for Islam.

After the prayers and Ma’thurat recitations, Sa’ad who sat next to him tapped his shoulder gently and uttered,

“We had a discussion last night”.

“As much as it is hard on us, it must be harder for you… Doctor, after what had happened, your wife must be in need of your support now. We know, you need hers too,” Hassan added.

Hassan looked at Moustafa, as if signaling that he should be the one to break the good news.

“Alhamdulillah, we managed to set a secure line for you to contact your family. It might be for a short while, may Allah make it enough for you,” Moustafa ended the conversation with a broad smile and handed him the phone.

He thanked them, thanked Allah.

Exuberantly, his quivering fingers started dialing…..

“Assalamualaik?”

His heart pounded vigorously. He is in a state of euphoria as finally he is able to hearken to the angelic voice of his loving wife. She is pregnant with their fourth child; God knows how much he misses her.

“Waalaiksalam warahmatullah, it’s me! It’s me, ya Asnaa. How are you? How’s the baby? How’s Anas, Malik, and Samaa’?” and he stopped right there. It’s not that he has forgotten the unfortunate event. Although he hoped it never happened, he wasn’t denying the truth. He wasn’t trying to disremember. He didn’t forget. It’s his lips. It have grew accustomed to calling those three names at once.

There and then again, the harrowing memory, the hideous reality, comes back flashing.

*************************************************************************************

Being the Secretary General of Ikhwanul Muslimin, he was one of the prominent speakers after the ousting of President Morsi. Their objective is simple, to call for a reversal of the military coup and repossess the top positions of his country for Muslim leaders to occupy.

“Say goodbye to your mother, father and wife, because you will sacrifice your soul to defend Mohamed Morsi’s legitimacy!”

His speech to the protestors in Raba’a Al-Adawiya sit-in in Cairo was followed by a chanting of Takbeer.

Everytime he walks out of his home, he would turn his head back and stare profoundly. It could be his last but he was ready. And he still is. He is ready for what is coming. He is ready for goodbyes. He is ready to embrace syaheed.

“Ya Abi, Assalamualaik. I’m on my way with Malik.” Samaa’ spoke gently through the phone.

“I just wanted to call you, because the Sun today reminds me of you. As bright as your soul. And your hair!” Samaa’ giggled.

Apart from good grades, her good sense of humor has made her popular in school.

“I’m just kidding, ya Abi. See you soon, InshaAllah. Assalamualaik!” Samaa’ put down the phone.

He smiled and looked up to the sky; the Sun is radiating warmth all over Raba’a. If today is his last day, this could be his final sight of the sky’s glowing medallion.

“Allahkuakbar! Allahuakbar!” The takbeer is followed by panic-stricken screams.

Security forces stormed the Raba’a Al-Adawiya protest camp. Tear gas diffused throughout the air; people ran in all directions, petrified. From afar he could see dense-black smoke tainting the already grey sky.

“The tents are on fire!” A lady shouted.

He ran towards the blazing crimson-red fire to aid the evacuation. As he was making his way through the crowd, his hearing senses was triggered by shrieks from the opposite direction.

An old man was fighting for his life on the ground as he tried to extinguish the monstrous flame raging on him, burning his skin. He could see two younger men nearby, carrying the half-filled water tank heading to the old man’s direction.

He grabbed a blanket and dashed as fast as he could to join them for a rescue.

Their efforts prevailed against the fire. He carried the old man wrapped in the blanket.

Apprehensively, his eyes scanned the surroundings and to his horror, he saw more and more soldiers approaching.

“Sons, go and help the others!”

The sound of guns had been swallowed by all the wailing and shouting. The bullets were incapable of mercy; penetrating any resistance they encountered!

As he made his way to the field hospital with the old man on his back, salty drops fell from his eyes. Like water bursting from a collapsed dam, tears spilled his cheeks, dripping down to his white shirt that had now turned black, brown and anything but white. Seeing those motionless bodies lying, soaking wet in blood on the muddy ground made the muscles of his body tremble, like a puppy hearing thunder for the first time.

The hospital is full of severely wounded people. He couldn’t find a place for the old man. Doctors are resuscitating patients on the floor!

“Help..Help..” a teenager, chest covered with blood, lying on the nearest bed waved weakly towards him.

“Doctor, this is my name…This..this is my mother’s phone number.”

On his right arm is written the word ‘Hazeem’. MasyaAllah, this young boy is prepared for this.

“Doctor…”, he continued, straining in pain trying to speak.

“Please tell my mother, I thank her, I thank her for everything. Tell her, I’m sorry that I’m not able to repay her. And please,” Hazeem inhaled and coughed out blood.

“Please… Tell her not to cry. I’ll be by her side. I’ll wait….” he gasps for air as deep as he could.

“Asyhadu alla ilaha illAllah, wa asyhadu anna MuhammadarRasulullah” Hazeem uttered his last sentence in a single breath.

Innalillah wa inna ilaihi rojiun.

He placed the old man on the bed, called up the nurse to attend to him, and carried Hazeem’s lifeless body to the other side of the room where the deceased are placed. He strengthened his will to call up Hazeem’s mother to fulfill her son’s last wish. Ya Allah, please ease this for her.

He sat down by Hazeem’s body, thinking how grateful his parents must be to have a martyr as their son, a martyr who shall be waiting for them in heaven.

“And do not think of those killed in Allah’s path as dead: indeed they are alive and receive their sustenance from their Lord. They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah,” verse 169-170 from surah Al Imran played in his mind.

The thundering noise of guns that has prolonged for what it seemed to be forever, had ceased.

He stood up, ready to aid those in need of his help.

He turned around and sees his colleague, Dr. Nour who is also Asnaa’s best friend. Due to his tight schedule after his involvement in politics, it has been years since they visited each other’s houses.

“Ah-med.” in breathlessness, she called his name.

“Yes. Yes, Nour. Please tell me how can I help your team?” Ahmed immediately offered his help.

She gave him a look. She must be exhausted.

“She was an angel. She is like my own daughter. Please be patient, Ahmed,” she is panting and speaking at the same time. “Follow me.”

His feet are catching up with her accelerating pace, but his mind is still processing her words. They hasten to the other side of the room. There are too many people that it is difficult to recognize anyone that he might know. Dr. Nour stopped in front of a youngster sitting at one corner with his two hands on his face. His body is splattered with blood and on his lap is a body of a girl, face covered.

“I’m sorry,” Dr. Nour glanced at him and move away from the man.

His legs weaken. As if his muscles had degenerated, his body became an unbearable burden for his legs. He fell down to his knees. The youngster was his son! He knew what this meant.

Sitting in the makeshift field hospital, his protest camp of Raba’a Al-Adawiya burning around him, he stared down, frozen, his eyes brimming with tears, at the lifeless body of his daughter, Samaa’.

He knew that he was wrong once more. It wasn’t him who sees the Sun for the last time that day. It was her.

Her lips are not reciting anymore; her little hands are not moving to wipe his tears.

*************************************************************************************

“Malik, Anas the baby and I are alright, Alhamdulillah.… And Samaa’..” Asnaa answers through the phone, voice breaking up, holding back her tears.

“I’m sorry for not able to be there for you during her funeral,” Ahmed interrupts.

“And Samaa’.. She has never been better,” Asnaa continued. “Her name is on the lips of the people across the world. She is the icon of Raba’a. She lives, in all of us.”

Ahmed breaks down ironically while his spirits fortifies.

Their conversation continues to strengthen each other’s will. They both know that anything could happen in the distance that separates them. But they also know that the Almighty is always looking after them.

“My heart has been and always will be waiting for you.” Asna gives her last words.

He hangs up the phone not after a ‘goodbye’, but after a ‘see you soon’ and a salaam.

Deep in his heart, he realizes – this isn’t the end. The death of Sanaa’, Hazeem and all the other 523 martyrs creates new lives in the dead souls. Agony might have been sewed to the fabric of the universe, but so is hope. Just like the Sun , the vibrant rays of Raba’a Al-Adawiya shall be casted in every corners of the world!

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