Ali put his hands in his pockets and pulled his jacket for warmth as the cool June wind whisked him by. It’s the time of the year again: the non-stop drizzle, and chilly breezy air threatening to knock the wind out of him.
He made a turn to the park when a piece of paper smacked him on the face. What the–?!
He grabbed it, crumpled it angrily and was about to toss it when he realised that there was no garbage bin nearby. Or in the next 100 metres ahead of him. He turned around and, nope, there’s none anywhere behind him either. A tinge of Muslim-duty-guilt pulled his heart.
Hey, he might not be that quite of a practicing Muslim (whatever that meant) –but it’s the least he could do anyway, in comparison to the thousand other things he had done wrong in most of his adult life. A little good wouldn’t be much of a harm.
Ali shrugged. Oh, well. I’ll throw it away when I see a trash can or something. And he shoved the balled, crumpled paper deep in his pocket.
“Yo, ‘ssup bro?” Ali high-fived his mates whom he practically spent most his time with – but, no doubt, they’d run off by any off-chance any one of them landed on the wrong side of the law, Ali thought. They murmured replies that could have possibly been hi’sor hellos, or an entirely different thing altogether – who could know for sure? Everyone seemed to be high on whatever they are stuffing themselves with. Sucking, and puffing away. It could have been cigarettes, but could have been something else too.
Who cares? Ali shrugged. All he’d ever wanted was to get himself high in whatever paradise that his mates were losing themselves into.
He grabbed a cigarette off his friend’s hand and took a puff. A mixture of angry groan and happy snickers broke loose. He laughed along.
That’s how they all were.
They hooted and hollered, and did whatever random, crazy stuff they could come up with that night. Heck, he couldn’t even remember half the things they were doing.YOLO, Ali thought to himself. You gotta make yours worth it. He aimed to make that night another winning streak to his combo of crazy-night-outs.
He got back home, and everything was already dark. Flicking his phone, the screen glowed out 12:01. His parents must’ve gone off to bed by now. He slowly, slowly, turned the handle of the kitchen’s door and made his way in. He stumbled upon the tables and chairs (but made absolutely sure leaving no traces of sounds emerging from the scene), as he made his way to his room through the darkness. He hated the dark, but he refrained himself from switching on the lights – cause Nana was such a light sleeper, a flip of the switch could practically sent her hovering to the kitchen. That’ll be the last thing he’d want: Nana making a ruckus and waking up his parents, and they’d launch on The Speech again – with how wasted he was as the main agenda of the discussion.
By the time he reached his room, he was breathing so hard, he felt almost like he had gone through a Mission Impossible movie.
He slumped down on his bed, the back of his left hand resting on his forehead. He closed his eyes momentarily.
This was his every night. And by God, how he was bored. But, he couldn’t think of anything else to do. What else could you possibly do? When you’re 18, young, with all those energy and had all the time in the world in your hand?
He was about to doze off, his eyes drooping heavier by the second, when he heard the crunch of a paper as he was turning to his sides.
Oh, Lord. The trash. He swore. Can I throw it tomorrow? He grunted.
What if there’s a lottery number in there? His eyes snapped open, suddenly became giddy with excitement.
Quickly switching on the bedside lamp, he squeezed his eyes trying to adjust to the change in the lightings. His eyes slowly scanning the page, tracing on each lines and letters
What on earth?
He tried to make sense. There were lines across the paper, forming a table with columns horizontally and rows vertically.
On top it was written: “Checklist”
In the columns were the months: January, February, March, etc.
And going down the row, which boggled him the most, were words with a tiny box next to it – few were already ticked.
Day 1: Juz 1
Day 2: Juz 2
Day 3: Juz 3 ⃞
Day 4: Juz 4 ⃞
His heart skipped a beat. It was so alien, and yet so familiar.
Somewhere at the back of his mind, something of a long-distant memory from childhood, started to seep in. He felt like he knew them.
His eyes reached to the bottom of the page, where a simple message greeted him:
“Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.”
His face paled, and that’s when it hit him. He knew these words like the back of his hands. Al-‘Alaq, verse 1-5.
His heart started hammering. Why? Why… of all things that he had done, why did he still remember those lines? A deafening silence sent his hand quivering, the paper shaking in his grasp. He connected the dots and everything finally made sense: somewhere, out there, someone was keeping a record of their Quranic recitation – on a daily basis.
Do people actually do this stuff? Keeping track of their daily reading?
He felt a heaviness starting to expand in his heart, growing and growing, drowning him slowly..
My Rabb, when was the last time I hold your Book?
It started slowly, but eventually, tears were streaming down his cheek.
She had been looking for that piece of paper everywhere. Drat! Where could it have been? She rummaged her bag for the umpteenth time. She had ransacked it so much that her backpack of 5 years and counting was already in a sorry state. She lay back on the bench, at the park, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She needed that paper. It was just a simple thing, anyone else would wonder why’d she even bother, but to her – it was her life. That piece of paper was where she would record every single progress she had had with her daily Quranic recitation – like a path, a tick was like a step; the more she ticked, the closer she felt of reaching her destination: home,Jannah… Allah.
She tried retracing back her memory.
She jumped on the bus, and sat in one of the front seats as there were not so many people left that late evening. She remembered distinctly not taking out her Qur’an – her everything – out of her bag; because the journey from college to home was only around 10 to 15 minutes minus traffic. And she wanted to use the time to recite somedzikr from the Wazifah Ma’thurat As-Sughra.
No, that could not possibly be where she had lost the paper. She opened her eyes and shook her head.
Biting her lip, she flipped open her Qur’an one more time, slowly flicking the pages, and sure enough, the paper was not there. She had definitely lost it.
What should she do? What else could she do?
So she did the only thing left that she can do: she prayed. She prayed. If she couldn’t find that piece of paper, at least – at the very least – she hoped that the paper would be of benefits, even the slightest, tiniest amount, to someone.
And she walked away.
(This story is inspired by the ODOJ “One Day One Juz” movement which originated from Indonesia. Visit http://onedayonejuz.org to find out more. Go ODOJ!)
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(Note: Story can also be found here under the pseudonym hazydreamer. Many jazakkumullahu khairan to abookunwritten for giving me the chance to post this story on their blog first and for allowing me repost much later onto my own)