I was her really, the way it happens in dreams sometimes; you jump from body to body. Before I was her I was me and I was trying to get into school, at my age, and my son was there thinking he might get back into education too. If dad can do it so can I, but this was a strange land! They spoke to me in English during the interview, but the signs were in Hindi, or was it Bengali? I wanted to understand what those squiggles meant, and I looked and stared as if looking and staring might make them magically form into something that made sense, like English, but they didn't. I will understand, I thought to myself. And what were those men saying? They were running and talking and I looked and stared. Maybe the rhythm of their run and body language would translate it all for me, but it didn't. It was the beginning of the feeling of loss and confusion. How easy life is when you can understand, how hard when you are in a place where you have to live, by choice or not, where everything is different. How kind a host that provides you with the information you need when you arrive, in a language you can understand.
It was some time after then that I became my daughter. My hair is all a-tatters, my face dirty and my dress torn. My mother had gone to her apartment in town. I was missing her and wanted, needed, to see her., and so I decided I would find her. How simple the minds of little children, how naive, how dangerous for them. So I set off down the street. Not a normal street mind you, although it was once, and not a normal place, although it was once. This was a street of devastation, full of rubble from destroyed and collapsed buildings and wreaked cars. I stopped under a large piece of rubble at a cross roads. It was dark. Dark meant curfew. Curfew meant danger. I knew it. Death came with curfew. I looked back, and the refuge from where I had come was just over the roundabout down the street, but down the street had taken me time of climbing and scrambling and I realised also that I had no idea where my mum's apartment was. I had a bright blue plastic "magic wand" in my hand and looked at the round foam ball at the top and if it might signal me how to get there, but it just looked wet and ripped. I didn't even bring the mobile phone. Then I was scared and worried. I sat on the rubble and looked ahead, and there was a boy with a gun. He must have been twelve or thirteen, twice my age. I froze. Maybe if I didn't move at all he might not notice me, but he was staring right at me. I could see him squint, he was only yards away, maybe it was going to work. Then he pointed his gun right at me and moved towards me. His arm shot forward and stiffened as if he was about to shoot, but then a sort of look of relief came across his face, like "it's only a little girl" and he put down the gun. I mean actually put it down on the rubble next to me. I looked at the gun and he picked it up again, but his arm was hanging down by his side.
"Will you take me home?" I asked
And as he took my hand he was as if he was my brother, and he told me about his father, who had left for Jordon. He left in tears. He could not stay here in Iraq, there was no peace, not even to say his prayers. He could not bear to be away from his prayers, and he needed to be in place where he could go to the mosque and pray. Here you could not even do that. He would be back for them. And as we talked like magic we were soon back at the round about, and I began to feel safe. We stepped out onto the road, and then there was a man beside me in a tattered and dirty white jelabiyya.
It was then they came, a whole convey of them, in a whole collection of cars. Some green jeeps and black and white saloons. It was the police, the government, with the occupiers. We ran the three of us. The man held my hand.
I could see the eyes of police and soldiers. Eyes of evil intent. It was curfew, anyone found out after curfew were like rats, or worse. Death was their fate, or worse. We ran and cars accelerated towards us, tipping as they carved round the roundabout. Men with guns, jumping out of cars before they had even stopped.
Now I became the man in the jelabiyya. I was too slow, too tiered. I was pulling the little girl along. We ran between the cars as men jumped out. I wanted to run faster. We were past them, but only just, and then the firing began. I couldn't hear anything, there was just the fear, the desperation to get away. Then I had the girl in my arms, I had picked her up but she became limp and heavy. Before I had not even felt her weight, but now I knew she was dead. Dead in my arms. My daughter, dead in my arms. I loved her although I never knew her before this instant, but we were family still. Our mother was daily fear and our father nightly curfew. I wanted to put her down and check, see how, where she had been shot, to make sure she was dead, but I knew. It was no use. She was too heavy. I dropped her and was running faster. The soldiers were kneeling down, taking aim. I dived to the ground taking the boy with me. I was in the dirt and dust and we'd be safe here for a moment more.
Now there were others firing at the soldiers, police and Americans. They had forgotten about us now. Their attention was on the attackers. We crawled on our belies towards the shelter of the ruins and rubble. I could see a sniper from the resistance. Normally I would hate them. Not today. His face fixed to the scope. He was aiming for the Americans, for their necks. I knew he would hit his target, and I was glad, glad that the bringers of death and misery to my life would die, yes I was glad.
The phone rang and I wake up to "Sue from the surgery."
I tumble out of bed, reeling from sleep and my mind numb from the dream. I sit on the stairs, my head in my hands. I am still the man in the dusty, dirty torn jelabiya, and as I walk down the stairs, tears begin to well up in my eyes.
Right now my daughter is dead, my daughter is dying, my daughter is about to die.
As I sit taking in the banality of my life compared to suffering of the world, my head reels with self reproach as I think about my dream. I reflect on myself conceit and lack of compassion and empathy as I recall the trauma of not understanding. How easy to say about those who have come here to England for whatever reason, "You must learn English!" I've been a Muslim for twenty years and I still don't understand Arabic properly!
And I think about the suffering, my dead daughter. She is my daughter. We are connected, the people of iman, connected in a way that is beyond even the ties of blood. They claim this is a fantasy, some sort of fake kinship. Say what you like. Prattle away in your ignorance! Those who live it and taste it know the truth of it, and your words make no difference.
Then I remember Allah. He, the Mighty, Forgiving and Wise. I ask Him to help the helpless, to relieve the suffering of the sufferers, and tears flow for my daughter again. "Could you not stop all of this Allah? Is it not easy for you?" But I know that He has a noble purpose, a plan, that the life is a test, and test means nothing without all this, and that "all this" is our doing, our choice, the cruelty of humans upon humans, who have left the perfect guidance of our Creator to follow our whims and fancies.
I think about my daughter, lost in my dream, a dream, but still so real. I remember her innocence, her sweetness, and I can understand! Allah wants her back. Of course He does, why should He not! She is hers, we all belong to Him. And I smile, a smile that spreads through my body.
I look up and see a book on the table. The gold letters twinkling in the morning sunlight, as if they are smiling at me, inviting me: "Come, take my hand!" So I walk over and pick up the Quran. I look at the pages and see in the mass of them a small oval opening, like some eye to a greater truth, so carefully I put the edge of my finger to that eye, and I open.
"Allah has purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs is the garden of paradise. They fight in His cause and slay and are slain: A promise binding on Him in truth, through the Tawrah and the Gospel and the Quran, and who is more faithful to his promise than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have made. That is the supreme achievement.
Those that turn in repentance, that worship Him and praise Him and travel in His path, that bow down and prostrate themselves in prayer; that enjoin good and forbid evil; and observe the limits set by Allah. So proclaim the glad tidings to the believers."
At Tawbah 111-112
How can one who sees and feels this suffering be quiet and still? Yet where is the avenue for action? If we have abandoned jihad, if the kings and presidents and armies and nations who are equipped with the material means to fight a legitimate war do not do so, some of those who feel and care and are tormented by this suffering, who live the reality of my dream every day, will use any means, even the illegitimate ones. This is because the nature of the human being cannot tolerate injustice and oppression for long. Often the response to injustice is itself unjust.
The Prophet and his companions suffered oppression, injustice, torture and deprivation in Mecca, and Allah ordered them with patience. They were prohibited from a violent response. Perhaps part of the reason for that is the response in these circumstances cannot by its nature be a measured one. They could have conceivably taken swords, arrows or daggers and randomly started attacking people in the markets or setting themselves alight and running into people's houses, but this never was the way of Islam. Suicide bombing is just that, suicide, and when it is combined with the murder of civilians it is just that, murder. There is simply no precedent and justification for it, but that does not mean that we can or should ever close our eyes to the why. There are reasons why people do such things, and unless we remove the causes we will never cure the disease. One of the differences between the Muslims in Mecca and our situation today is that in Mecca there was no means for a measured, legitimate response. Today there is. The Muslim nations have armies, weapons, and material recourses. We have the means to respond to those occupying Muslim lands, but then they are not really Muslim lands anymore, they are "sovereign nation states". Thus we are divided, and ruled.
The call for the Muslims to be united under one Caliph, and to be governed by the Shariah is not the invention of Islamists. It is and always has been the position of orthodoxy. It is also common sense, and God's guidance is always the sensible way, even if we don't always seem to see it. When we abandon jihad, we are open to destruction, and legitimate, effective jihad, depends on some degree of unity and cohesion in the Muslim nation. Most of us want to live in peace and get on with lives and let others do the same, but the fact is that there are always those who's hatred, greed or perceived need drives them to deprive others of what they have. Every nation has armies, not necessarily out of desire for war, although for some that might well be the case, but rather because the consistent lessons of human history have taught us that even if we do not desire war there are others who do. If you are militarily too weak, you are always open to the potential of attack from those who are stronger. Jihad is thus the strength of the Muslim ummah, when it is abandoned the ummah is open and exposed.
This is exactly what the Prophet stated when he prophesied that: "Soon the nations will gather together to take from you in the same way you invite others to share in a feast."
"Is this because we are few in numbers?"
"No, you will many like the foam on the sea, but you will be like the rubbish that is carried by the flood. And Allah will take the fear of you from the hearts of your enemies and into your hearts he cast wahn."
"What is wahan oh Messenger of Allah?"
"Love of life and fear of death."
The noble religion of Islam has prevented the killing of women, children, the old, and from desecrating the churches and synagogues. In Islam you fight the fighters, soldier against soldier, armies against armies. But what happens when the soldiers do not fight? When they stand by and watch tyranny, or even worse they are themselves the vehicle of it? Then who will fight jihad? If those who can fight legitimately refuse, those who can only fight illegitimately will rise.
Jihad is not terrorism, but terrorism is a result of abandoning jihad.