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A Few Long Moments in the Prophet’s Mosque

It was not yet dawn in Medina, the capital for the last ten years of land stretching from Tripoli in the west to Kirman in the east. While Muslims removed the sleep from their eyes with ablution, the muadhen was calling people to salvation with the morning adhan (call to prayer).

Peace reigned in the illuminated city. Since worldly prosperity that came with conquest was distributed with a sense of justice from the ant on the ground to the bird in the sky, people were competing in servanthood to Allah. Opening its doors as wide as possible to Muslims who had migrated from Mecca many years ago, Medina sheltered people from every race and tribe within its boundaries. As always, the congregation which headed towards the mosque with rapid steps resembled a human mosaic that day.

At the same time, in the masjid of the Prophet (pbuh) there was a hurried effort to pray just behind the imam who was the caliph of the Prophet. Arabs, Persians and Ethiopians each went inside with a desire to bow their foreheads on the prayer rug. However, one among the crowd, a Persian slave, pre-empted everyone else and took his place in the front row. He took a deep breath in the masjid after spending the interminable night in a room following his meeting with the caliph a day before. His eyes which had not seen a drop of sleep were focused on the time of prayer. He made a promise because he had said to the caliph in that meeting: "One day I am going to make you such a wind-powered mill that it will become a legend in the east and west!"

Finally when the time came he was one of the first to enter the mosque, and he grabbed a spot in the front row during the recitation of the call to prayer. The caliph took his place in front of the congregation. Turning his face towards them, he asked the believers to tighten up the rows. Meanwhile, the slave carefully examined the caliph's face. He appeared very dignified for a person who was over sixty. Even though there were numerous lines left on his face from the responsibility of serving for years as leader of the Muslim community, his eyes looked with the manner of a proud commander of armies that had terrified soldiers from Byzantium and Persia, the two super powers of that time. Before long the caliph had taken his place in front of the tight rows of worshippers and his look, which had been purified from worldly fears, suddenly softened.  First he scanned the congregation from one side to the other; then he turned his head towards the sky. Pious reverence covered the caliph and the congregation; all hearts turned together towards the qibla.

Not yet being favored by the sun's light, the masjid's sounds and figures were buried in the pitch dark, and only one silhouette remained. A distinguished figure wrapped in a cloak adorned with countless patches and a head stretched upward crowned with an old and faithful faded turban. In place of the ill-tempered man who had once sworn to kill the Prophet and who became furious when, on his way to keep his promise with his sharp sword, he learned that his own sister had become Muslim, now a lover of the Prophet was standing who was offering the believers lined up in rows behind him eternal peace. Causing people to escape behind their doors and forcing the most courageous young men to hide under the rug, this fiery man was now preparing to live the otherwise unattainable pleasure of entering the greatest Presence with his congregation.

Professionally experienced in carpentry, engraving and iron work - three fields requiring patience, the Persian slave began to sweat. It did not appear that his forehead, which he wiped with the back of his hand, would dry easily. He tried to get control of his increasingly rapid breathing.

The imam and the congregation became one body in the masjid of the Prophet. The imam - Umar ibn Hattab who had been responsible for diplomatic affairs of the Bani Adiyy - united with the congregation; all identities, all roles, all titles were erased one by one. At a time when everyone was afraid of Umar's anger, the Prophet gave him the title of Umar al-Faruq: one who can separate right from wrong. He had a strong sense of divine justice. When he entered Jerusalem, the sacred city of three religions, this great commander amazed the local people who were accustomed to the pomp and ceremony of rulers by his modest dress and the animal he rode. Without blinking an eye, this capable caliph did not hesitate to punish and immediately remove from office administrators and commanders he had appointed when he saw their mistakes. He was a compassionate chief who carried provisions to the poor on his back and who cured wounded camels with pieces of tarred cloth.

Called "Abu Lu'lu," this Persian slave felt squeezed between the tightly closed ranks of the congregation. He couldn't breathe, but this straight row that resembled the world's most orderly army did not budge.

Umar was the only candidate for the caliphate mentioned and made deputy over the believers out of fear that they would be without a head by the first caliph Abu Bakr as he lay in his death bed only two years after the death of the Prophet. Now Umar was serving as imam to them in the masjid of the Prophet where their allegiance was turned over to him.

Not only Abu Bakr, but almost all believers agreed that Umar ibn Hattab carried all the qualities of an Islamic state ruler. A few people had protested that the state could not be turned over to Umar because they were afraid of his anger. However, saying that Umar's anger derived from his softness, Abu Bakr, who left him as an inheritance both the caliphate and his gentleness, proved right. For Umar was now bestowing gentleness in the masjid of the Prophet.

During his ten-year caliphate the Arab society underwent rapid change, and the Bedouin Arabs were losing their way due to being spoiled by the wealth accompanying conquest. In the masjid of the Prophet, Umar was calling them to free themselves from this trend which was a candidate for becoming their greatest jihad. Some of the most striking examples of this were those who fed their dogs in gold cups and those who wiped their noses with silk they had never touched in their lives. In Islamic lands where they were showing the danger of melting away before the Persian and Byzantine cultures that possessed the civilization and cultural richness of that time, preparations were being made for prayer and for taking refuge in the Prophet's spirituality.

The Persian slave gathered himself together and looked a final time at this dignified, but modest human being who had changed the face of the earth.

Bodies and spirits were ready for miraj. Intention was made with pure hearts. Hands were raised and the affirmation that would begin the mandatory morning-prayer which the believers excitedly awaited was heard: "God is great!"

Several long moments passed. Subhanaka had not yet finished when the Persian slave jumped up from his place like the wind. From inside his clothing he pulled the dagger that had been piercing his leg for the last hour. And he leaped on top of the caliph who was about to proceed from the Fatiha to the basmallah in pious reverence. The arm of the slave that was holding the dagger turned like a windmill. He struck and struck and struck... While a body dedicated to its Lord was ascending, the first blood fell in the masjid of the Prophet.
 

 

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