By Mumtaz Saley
Mohammed returned from school in deep thought and I assumed he was tired.
I’m super proud of him that although he knows that he doesn’t have to keep all his fasts he still insists that Allah only asks us to fast for one month of the year. SubhanAllah, such a little person with so much to teach me!
Just before Maghrib, I noticed that he was still looking drawn and sad. So I took him to task as he helped set the table.
“Ummi, there is a boy at school, he is a refugee from Sierra Leone. I found him searching for food in the dustbin today.” Mohammed’s eyes were brimming with tears as he recounted the event to me and he eventually broke down into sobs.
Ahmed walked in just then and was perturbed that Mohammed was upset and wanted to know what happened. With a tremor in his voice, he recounted the story to his father explaining that Fasel, was looking for food to take home for his evening meal.
Suddenly, he turns to me and asks “Ummi, can we help in any way, please? Fasel is new at our school and he comes from a country that is at war. His Dad has been trying to find work but he hasn’t been very successful.”
Just then, the Mu’adhin called the adhaan and we set about breaking our fast, albeit with heavy hearts. We prayed Maghrib and as I made dua, my thoughts strayed to the many people who flee the homes to find safety elsewhere. And as we donate millions of rands to organisations to assist them, we sometimes forget those who are our neighbours.
We may not be able to assist everyone but we can start small. I managed to find Fasel’s address from Mohammed’s teacher after much explanation. Quickly, I put together as many items of food I thought the family could use and some of the eats from our iftaar into a basket. I called for Ahmed to get the children into the car as we were driving to drop off a parcel. Confused and I suppose, hungry, he did as I had asked and only once we were in the car did he enquire about our destination.
Mohammed was ecstatic when he heard that we were driving to Fasel’s home and why. “Ummi, this is Allah answering mine and Fasel’s dua.” I was surprised to hear this and waited for him to elaborate. “See Ummi, Fasel must have asked Allah to help him find food and when I found out the reason he was looking in the bin, well, I made dua to find a way to help him.”
This little boy never ceased to amaze me with this insight and wisdom, MashAllah.
It turned out Fasel lived in the settlement not too far from our home and although we felt a little afraid to venture into the area, tonight I felt protected. We found the area but the homes weren’t marked with numbers as ours are in the suburbs! I knocked on the first door and a polite but inquisitive lady answered. When I enquired about Fasel, she pointed to a dwelling of corrugated iron and a half-completed roof just opposite from her place.
Mohammed and Amina quickly joined me as Ahmed was left to carry the food items himself. As we got closer to the dwelling, I realised the situation of this family and my heart sank. The iron sheets were held in place by a few nails and the roof was nothing more than a plastic sheeting held down by bricks and the windows too were covered with flimsy plastic sheets from which a faint glow emitted.
I knocked on the door which was opened by a skinny woman with flawless walnut coloured skin and a beautiful smile on her face. The melodious voice reciting Qur’an could be heard from within.
My greeting was returned by an accented response and immediately the door was opened wider to allow us to enter. There was nothing but a threadbare mat in the centre of the single room, a few crates used as chairs, sleeping mats rolled neatly on one side and two kerosene lamps spreading their glow over the meagreness of the room.
The sister who introduced herself as Hasina was surprised but welcoming. She pulled the crates for us to sit and apologised for the inconvenience.
As I sat down, I realised that a little figure was huddled in the corner and turning to Hassina, I asked why the child was afraid to come forward. Her explanation left me feeling sad.
Fasel didn’t like the dark as he had witnessed the killings of his grandparents and sister in the dark of the night. My heart ached at this scene unfolding in front of me. Mohammed went to him and slowly he began to talk but remained in the dark of the room. His mother explained that the counsellor at the school had referred them to a centre for refugee therapy and counselling and Fasel was, in fact, doing better but still had a long way to go in healing.
We talked for a while and soon Hasina wanted to know why we were visiting at that hour and I explained that Mohammed wanted to gift his friend with iftaar and we had come out to deliver them.
Her face lit up as she whispered, “Allahu Akbar.” Just then Ahmed walked in with the basket and other packed items. She accepted graciously and thanked us sincerely. With Esha salaah almost upon us, we took our leave and as we walked back to the car, Fasel came running out, pulled Mohammed into a bear-hug, then turned quietly and returned to his mother’s side. We left them standing in the silhouette of the lamplight.
That night, as Ahmed and I lay in bed, I told him the sad tale of Hasina and her family. They were a middle-class family who had to leave their home after civil war broke out in Sierra Leone. She and her husband had lost not just their daughter and her parents but several other family members to gruesome killings. They had managed to leave just before their home was raided and razed to the ground.
All of their money was used in their journey to South Africa and thankfully, they had been granted refugee status.
Unfortunately, her husband was unable to find work although he was a university educated professional. They were grateful that many of the locals and people from the school and refugee centre were assisting them as best they could to cover their rental, school fees and sometimes a little extra for food. Her husband found odd jobs around the community to sustain them.
Ahmed was deep in thought and after a while, he looked at and said, “Our job is not done. This is our test. How can we help this family?”
One’s life can change in the blink of an eye. What we take for granted today can be gone tomorrow. When we come upon those who have been dealt with a bad situation, let us try to be less judgemental and extend love and compassion to them.
Let us take a little time to find out their situation and do whatever we can to make things a little better. That beggar at your door may be your salvation, just remember the story of the woman who helped the dog get a drink of water from the well.
Your rizq lies with Allah, and when there comes a time for you to share from your bounties, do it with the knowledge that Allah will give you more than what you give as long as you do it to please Him and with sincerity.