Islamabad winters chill you to the bone. And it is not exactly comforting when you are on a farm in the middle of nowhere listening to hyenas cackle. With a beaming moon sailing above our heads, Omar felt naughty: “Who is in for adventure stories?”
Hassan rolled out of his blanket: “I am! But it has to be totally spooky and gory.”
I gulped hard but did not want to look like a scared cat in front of the guys. So I just managed a faint murmur: “Yeah, why not?”
Omar was an ardent reader of history and always dug out the strangest facts and happenings.
“Well, you all know Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (rtam), right? He was one of the first ten people converting to Islam.”
“Yup, the tall, slender companion with a sparse beard – he was granted the title of ‘the trustworthy of the Ummah’ by the Prophet (sa),” replied Hassan.
Omar continued: “Muhammad (sa) appointed Abu Ubaidah (rtam) as the chief of an army to intercept a caravan of the Quraish. He was given a mere bag of dates to live on during this travel. Every day, Abu Ubaidah (rtam) would give one date to each soldier to eat, chew or suck on. And they survived on it.”
“Incredible! Now that’s called survival skills!” I was struck with amazement.
“And that’s not all! One of the soldiers Abu Zubair (rtam) mentioned that they sucked the single date like babies and drank water over it. It kept them satisfied for the day.”
“What about dinner time?” Hassan asked.
“At night, they would beat off leaves with the help of their staffs, drench them with water, and eat them for dinner,” explained Omar.
What a tough life, I thought, and yet they all obediently marched forward for their mission without complaining.
“Next, they went to the sea and there arouse before them something like a big mound. When they approached it, they realized it was an enormous beast called Al-Anbar.”
“Didn’t it attack them?” Hassan’s eyes were about to pop out.
Omar replied coolly: “It was dead. Abu Ubaidah (rtam) encouraged his soldiers to eat from it, as they were on an expedition sent by the Prophet (sa) and for Allah’s (swt) sake. Due to scarcity of food, they were allowed to do so.”
“I wonder what it tasted like?” Hassan’s stomach began to growl.
“Well, they were three hundred men who stayed there for one month, until they became bulky. They extracted pitcher after pitcher of fat from the cavity of its eye and sliced from it compact pieces of meat.”
I pulled a face, not sure how I would have been able to eat a sea beast.
“What happened next?” Hassan wanted to hear more.
Omar continued: “Abu Ubaidah (rtam) called fourteen of his men and made them sit inside the cavity of the beast’s eye. He took hold of one of its ribs from its chest and made it stand. He then saddled the biggest of the camels with the soldiers and passed it under the arched rib. So they were able to get loads of meat (which they boiled to preserve) for their journey back, too.”
“Wow! Can you imagine that?” Hassan nearly fainted in surprise.
“When Abu Ubaidah (rtam) returned and mentioned the incident to the Prophet (sa), he said: ‘That was a provision (food) Allah (swt) had brought forth for you. Is there any piece of meat (left) with you that you might be able to share with us?’They offered some of the meat to the Prophet (sa), and he ate it.”
Just then a hyena started to cackle, and I quickly slid under cover.
Hassan and Omar were very amused at my courage.
“They were such brave men! And look at the hardships they bore for Allah (swt)!” Hassan observed.
I felt a bit uneasy being scared of a hyena miles away somewhere in the forest. I bravely tossed the blanket away and walked over to the window to gaze out. There, at a distance, I could feel the pack of hyenas watching me. I recited Ayat-ul-Kursi and climbed into bed. Surely, if Allah (swt) took care of Abu Ubaidah (rtam) and his three hundred men, He would also protect me.
Omar and Hassan shared some more tales of adventure. I slowly dozed off into a dream, where the waves were wildly lapping around and the gust of wind was in my face. I was at sea riding speedily an enormous beast…