Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Mohammed 'The Policeman'

After we had been living in Algeria for a couple of years, I had to renew my Residency and so my husband gathered all the necessary papers together and handed them in to the appropriate police station.  He was abroad when my card was due to be picked up so I had to go to the police station myself along with my eldest daughter, Sarah and my youngest son who was only about 5 at the time.  My husband had made friends with the policeman who was responsible for the foreigner’s Residency applications, Mohammed, so although I felt a bit nervous having to get it myself, I knew he would know that I didn’t speak the language. 

He was so nice and so kind, and chatted away with my son who asked him if he had a gun, and could he see it.  So, Mohammed went to his locker, took out his service gun and, without leaving go of it, let my son touch it.  All my son’s Eids came together at this moment – for hours afterwards he was so amazed that he had touched a real gun and kept playing the moment over and over again.

As we left the police station with my Residency Card in my grubby fist, I said to my daughter ‘that’s something else I can do on my own…..if anything happened to your father, and I had to live here on my own without him’.  To which she replied ‘you do know you sound like you’re planning to kill him….if anyone overheard you, and he keeled over dead tomorrow, you’d be the only suspect in his death!’  But Mohammed 'The Policeman', whom we had to deal with several times afterwards until he was moved from this position, was always calm and helpful and without fail, cheerful.  He became a good family friend, and to me he, unwittingly, gave me a sense of security as a foreigner and a stranger without any family of my own, in this country I had adopted as my home.

So it came as a huge shock when my husband received a call last Tuesday morning to say that he had died suddenly the night before.  He was only in his 30s and he had gone to his bedroom after Isha prayer having eaten dinner with his mother, and fallen flat on his face on the floor.  When they turned him over he was saying his shahadah with his forefinger up, and complained of pains in his left arm and chest.  He died in the hospital soon after.  He left behind a young wife, 2 sons, 5 and 8 years old, and he also supported his mother, 2 sisters and his brother.  Incidentally he had lost his own father when he was 5 years old.  My husband said it was a moving sight to see so many policemen crying at his funeral.

There are some people in this world who touch your life in a meaningful way and who leave an indelible mark on your heart, and Mohammed was such a man.  May Allah forgive him all his sins, make his grave wide and spacious and grant him Firdous, and may his two sons grow up on the Straight Path always and be the righteous sons of whom he would be proud. 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Earthquake in Algiers, 1st August 2014

I was sitting on the sofa at 5.10am yesterday morning (01 August), minding my own business, reading Surah Khaf, when suddenly the ground beneath my feet and the walls around me started shaking gently but then very violently and a huge roar filled my ears.  Did I say my shahada and rush to the nearest door lentil, or even outside?  No….that would be the most sensible thing to do.  No, I just sat transfixed, rooted to the spot, saying ‘SubhanAllah’ over and over again, because I was so overcome by the might of Allah, and absolutely scared witless, wondering was it ever going to end.  I heard somewhere it lasted around 17 seconds and I just cannot understand how come those 17 seconds could go on and on and on, and any other time 17 seconds is no time at all.

As soon as it stopped I rushed up the stairs (the weakest part of any house, but all the family were upstairs), to see if everyone was ok.  Our youngest had been woken up by it but I think he would have gone back to sleep if everyone else wasn’t up.  My eldest son was fast asleep in bed and none too happy to be woken up after the event – not even an earthquake was a good enough reason to rouse him from his sleep. 

The last big earthquake here in Algeria was in May 2003 which killed many and injured more and was absolutely devastating. We arrived in the country in October of that year and experienced many aftershocks and tremors for several months afterwards.  But these were over before you realised it and often were nothing more than a gentle swaying back and forth, so didn’t really scare me in the least.  But the one yesterday was 5.6 and quite close and I found myself shaking.  My eldest daughter gave me a hug and I told her that either there was another tremor or she was shaking too!    There were several after tremors which were very frightening simply because you didn’t know if they were going to continue to increase to a much stronger force or if they were simply after-tremors.

We could hear all the neighbours outside, but there wasn’t any screaming or any other hysteria which I heard occurred in other neighbourhoods. Both of my husband’s sisters rang to know if we were ok and when I went on Facebook I realised everyone else around the Algiers region had felt it too.  Some people had things flung out of cupboards and off shelves, but Alhamdulilah the death toll was small with reports of 6 people killed, some of whom died after jumping from apartments and others from heart attacks and 420 people injured. 

It really is an amazing and frightening thing to have the ground under your feet move and in such a violent way, and yes, while I know all about how earthquakes come about with earth plates moving against each other etc. etc. it still takes an Almighty Power to create it all in sync so that it all comes together, at that minute, and in that place to scare the living daylights of us and wake us up out of our complacency to question our lives and our priorities and see all the trivia in our lives for what it is – a mere distraction from our purpose in life, to worship this Almighty Power, Allah, and to grow in our knowledge of our deen (religion) and to move purposefully through our lives towards Him.

Within minutes yesterday after the earthquake I also thought of those people around the world who live in this kind of fear 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for months and years, and, of course, especially at the moment those people in Gaza who are being totally annihilated.  We had several small aftershocks in the hours after the earthquake yesterday and since then,  every time I hear a lorry rumbling down a road outside or a neighbour bangs a door very violently I stop and look at the light fixtures to check if they are moving.  I had just 17 seconds of terror which has made me jittery…..what must it be like for them?  I just cannot imagine it!  And I feel so awful and so guilty that they are going through something so horrendous and I’m not doing anything about it all just living in my own safe life getting upset and worried over absolutely nothing.  Dua (supplication) is the weapon of the believer, so…..may Allah watch over all my brothers and sisters living under oppression and fear throughout the world, bless them with victory over their oppressors, strengthen their iman, bless them with patience and strength to cope with their huge test, and give them freedom from fear and hunger and shower them with all the blessings He has bestowed on me and mine.  Ameen.

Amazing what can come from just  17 seconds  isn’t it?????