Almost every morning, for almost the past year of living here I experience an unsurpassable sunrise, complete with gorgeous pink skies, clear air and the promise of a wonderful day. My iPhone provides an air quality measure of 2. I am always awake at sunrise, Fajr prayer has me alert, grateful and thankful for a blessed day,
Yesterday morning was a rude awakening. Visibility was minimal, even missing, there was no sign at all of the sun. Everything is grey, smokey. My iPhone warns of a very high health risk, the index is 11.
You: Why? What happened to your ‘give thanks’ mornings?
Me: AB Today had the answer. It is not good. “The number of wildfires as of Thursday afternoon was 92, with 26 out of control and fire danger expected to be extreme in northern Alberta.”
Everything is on high alert, provincial parks have been closed for the long weekend, fires have been prohibited.
Blight seemed like a good word to describe the situation. One definition of blight is a thing that spoils or damages something. There are some scary synonyms: bane, curse, plague, menace, evil, misfortune, woe, calamity, trouble, ordeal, tribulation.contamination.
A message in my Inbox from Al Rashid Mosque announces that a drought prayer will be offered.
“In times of great challenge, our faith guides us to find support and strength through collective prayer and supplication. Salatul-Istisqaa, also known as the drought prayer, is a special prayer that holds immense significance in times of severe drought and calamity, as it embodies our unity, faith, and sincere appeal to the Almighty.Join us in gathering to collectively raise our hands in prayer and supplicate for rain to extinguish the fires that have ravaged our province.”
Needless to say, I shall not be attending the collective prayer being held at the mosque. The title of my unfinished book on the faith is No Mosques for Me. It probably gives the Inman and the Muslim men comfort to be getting together to offer prayers. I have no objection to their gathering but what alternatives are open to a practicing Muslim in such times of tribulation, trouble and such an ordeal?
This is how I reached peace of mind. I am reminded of the 99 Names of Allah. During Ramadan did not memorize them, nor (thankfully) sing them (as was my original intention). Instead studied them individually with the help of a pdf sent by one of my women Mecca guides. She assists in manners of the faith, I am truly blessed Many of the names, the attributes come to mind – All-Knowing, The Great Planner, The All Wise, The All Generous, The All Powerful, etc etc etc. These terrible conditions may be part of a grand plan, with consequences that we mere humans cannot see. The Islamic Faith is one of logic and intelligence, we are encouraged to use these gifts. My iPhone informs me that rain is expected on Monday and Tuesday. This leads me to believe that there may be a plan, that rain might be forthcoming, with or without the Drought Prayer at the mosque.
However I am not content with that alone and do further research into the drought prayer. The wisdoms concerning the Drought Prayer are found in Hadiths. Hadith is an Arabic word meaning statement, talk, story, conversation or communication. It also means new. “Hadith is a talk and which may be brief or elaborated.” Technically Hadith means the narration of the sayings, doings or approvals (Taqrir) of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Muslims maintain that Hadiths are a necessary requirement for the true and proper practice of Islam, as it gives Muslims the nuanced details of Islamic practice and belief where the Quran is silent. This is one Hadith brought to us by Aisha, who it eh author of many. She was sixteen or eighteen when the Prophet died – spent the rest of her life learning more of the faith. She was self taught. She was sought out by Muslims for her immense knowledge of the life of the Prophet.
“There is a `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) says: “The people complained to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) about lack of rain, so he gave orders for a pulpit, and when it was set up for him, he appointed a day for the people to gather. He came out on that day when the sun had just appeared and sat down on the pulpit. He extolled Allah’s greatness and praised Him. Then he said: ‘You have complained of drought in your areas and of delay in receiving rain at the beginning of its season, but you have been ordered by Allah to supplicate Him and He has promised that He would answer your prayers.’ Then he said: ‘All praise is for Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the King of the Day of Judgment. There is no God but Allah Who does what He wishes. O Allah, there is no God except You. You are the Self-sufficient and we are the poor. Send down rain upon us and make it a source of strength for us and satisfaction for us.’ He then raised his hands and kept raising them till the whiteness of his armpits could be seen.
After this, he turned his back to the people and inverted his cloak, keeping his hands raised. Finally, he faced the people, descended from the pulpit, and prayed two rak`ahs. At that time Allah produced a cloud, thunder, and lightning. And, by Allah’s permission, it rained and before he reached the mosque there was flooding. Then he saw how quickly the people were running for shelter, he laughed until his molar teeth could be seen. He said: ‘I bear witness that Allah has power over all things and I am Allah’s slave and Messenger.’” (Al-Hakim and Abu Dawud).”
There are other Hadiths, upon request the Prophet makes a supplication to Allah, it begins to rain. But it does not stop. They then run back to the Prophet as for his intersession because there is flooding.
“It was not long before the people came complaining about the profusion of rain, and damage to their dwellings. The Messenger of Allah raised his hands and said: ‘O Allah, around us and not upon us.’ The clouds began dispersing left and right.” (Ahmad and Ibn Majah)”
There is another Hadith to reflect upon.
“The man faced the Prophet and said: ‘Our livestock is dead and the paths are unpassable. Ask Allah to make it stop.’ The Prophet raised his hands and said: ‘O Allah, around us and not upon us. O Allah, make it upon the hills, small mountains, bottom of the valleys, and plantations.’ The rain stopped and we walked out in the sunshine.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).”
All of this seemed rather contradictory, but this is the peace I was able to achieve. The people pleading for rain are asking the Prophet (PBUH) to pray to Allah (SWT). There is a long history showing that Allah (SWT) hears and answers the prayers of the Prophet (PBUH). Individual Inmans have no such proven history. I am not discrediting their attempts, nor the motivation of the attendees – but there is a vast difference between the two circumstances. Moreover, it seems as if Allah (SWT) is saying: “Fine, if you want me to make it rain, I will.” Then someone says: “Oops, sorry. Please make it stop.”
All of this research and thinking took most of the day. It was rather exhausting but I had made tentative plans to walk the six blocks to Audrey’s Bookshop to pick up a book that I had ordered earlier in the week. I had gotten a voice mail message that it was there. On the way, on the walk I talked with three people – most revealing, enlightening conversations. You shall hear about that soon – we are fast forwarding to the bookstore – why I ordered this particular book, the conversations in the book store. This is the story of the blessed place. “Audreys Books Ltd., incorporated in 1975, actually traces its roots directly back to the bookstores founded by Mel Hurtig in the mid-fifties. It has continued to flourish by being a touchstone for the writing community in Edmonton, a place for local and visiting writers to meet readers and book lovers. Our bookstore comprises two retail levels, with modular fixtures on our lower level to permit reconfiguration of the floor to accommodate 65-75 seats. This provides an excellent presentation space for readings.”
Back to my story. Was sorting through my emails – dumping the addresses of the unresponsive hordes. I came across Lyn’s email address. She I (and about four others) were taking a very esoteric 2016 certificate course in biography. All of us were stellar (the total opposite of the London City University classes). We listened to one another’s embryonic biographies with rapt attention.
Acting upon a whim I sent her an email – she cleverly forwarded an email she sent to another classmate.
She: Hi Ann, Just got— out of the blue— this email from Alex and thought you might like to see it. How much to believe I don’t know. If she really has become a practising Muslim that may be a good thing.
Lyn and I exchanged a number of emails, here are a few of them.
Me: I absolutely LOVED getting your email. What a clever way to send it all. It is a good thing, this Muslim stuff. I shall send a confirming email of me looking most Muslim taken when I was in Saudi Arabia. I do not dress that way here (needless to say). But when in Rome etc etc etc.
She: Brilliant! And the glasses complete the picture perfectly.If I were not an atheist verging on agnostic I might have converted to Islam. I am steadily reading through the Q’ran and think it contains much to admire.Will forward to Ann who remembers you with affection, and like me admired your writing. How do we tune into your blog?My biography of my Great Grandparents and Grandparents has been published by Westbourne Press__ titled ‘The Last Prince of Bengal’ and available in paperback— maybe even in Canada.How are the Dryburghs?
Me: . I am SO proud of you and your publication. I shall rush out after obligatory prayers to my incredible independent book store Audrey’s and see if they will order it for me. It is only six blocks away (or so).
She: London will not be the same without you! Almost London will not be the sane—but alas, it will, all too much so. It needs more wackiness, defiance of loo queues, anti-eviction orders, resistance, FUN! But Canada is good. I have a plan for the Trump visit in June. Boycott it! Total absence, complete silence. NO ONE to See or hear him. And the next week invite Justin Trudeau and the President of Mexico, bring out the crowds, masses, to cheer. Tweet lots of photos to Trump. What do you think? And of course he needs to be told that Alexis McBride will not be here in June! Take care, keep writing, keep blogging and blogging and blogging.
True to my word, did go to Audrey’s Book’s – ordered the book just in time. It was just in the nick of time because the vendor had only one copy. It was to be reprinted. So Lyn’s book is a hit. Not begun to read it yet, but definitely will. When at Audrey’s discovered a new book by Margaret Atwood, my very favorite author in the whole world. Actually modeled my post lawyer writing after her. They are having a book launch next Sunday, for the author of Coq. (I do LOVE the title).
Photos of Lyn’s book and Margaret’s book. Mine not written yet. Hahaha