I will not cry.
I sit still, looking straight at the screen, hoping against hope that my twin brother Zayd will not notice that tears have welled up in my eyes.
It’s kind of hopeless though. Zayd has noticed, only he is pretending not to.
Zayd and I are watching this amazing documentary-like film made on events described in Surah Al-Feel. It was all going well. We saw how King Abraha got this massive place constructed so people would worship in it and stop going to the Kaaba. Then when he saw that everybody still kept visiting the Kaaba, he decided to demolish it (as if ANYBODY could do that).
The documentary then went on and showed us how an army of birds attacked his troops and turned every last bit of them to dust.
I think it was around that time that I started to feel a rush of emotions. As the elephants fell, one by one, I couldn’t help it. A few tears did trickle down my cheeks.
Now I am fervently wishing no one sees me and even if they do, they ignore it.
I can trust Zayd on this, but not…
“Musa!” an alarmed voice makes me jump. “Are you alright? What happened?”
Mommy! Mommy has the best radar in the whole world. Or maybe, you know, just a good sense of timing.
“Maybe he is just overwhelmed. I mean, it’s just amazing how Allah defended His House,” Zayd looks a bit bowled over himself.
“Oh yes,” Mommy nods. “Definitely, it’s a great miracle.”
“It’s not that,” I am now composed enough to respond. “It’s the elephant.”
“Elephant?” Zayd and Mommy look confused.
“That poor elephant hadn’t done anything. He was still killed by the stones,” I feel close to tears again.
Mommy and Zayd look absolutely speechless.
“Were you crying because of the elephant?” Zayd finally finds his voice.
“You do realize Musa that Abraha and his army was going to use the elephants to destroy the Kaaba? Even if Abraha and his troops were killed, the elephants would still have charged ahead in panic and who knows what damage they would have caused?” Mommy tries to explain the situation.
“Well, maybe Allah could have made Abraha a good person? Then he wouldn’t have such an evil thought and no elephants would be killed,” I blurt out a thought that has been occurring to me for a few minutes now.
Zayd and Mommy look so stunned that I wonder if I have gone a bit too far now.
“Musa,” Mommy says in a gentle yet firm tone. “I realize you are upset. But let’s be clear on two things. Firstly, Allah can do everything. Nothing is beyond His Power. Secondly, we do not question Allah’s Wisdom just because we don’t understand something.”
I nod. Something tells me this discussion is over.
“Better get back to your revision now,” Mommy reminds us. “You have an English exam on Monday.”
Oh boy, I HATE exams. It is one time of the year when Mommy, who is otherwise quite lenient with our studies, turns so hawkish that she actually scares both of us.
“I will take a quiz tomorrow morning,” Mommy goes on. “The whole syllabus. So revise everything now. If you do the quiz well, you can have the day off.”
Zayd and I spend the entire day trying to cram in as much as possible. We have English literature and language exam combined, so it takes a while before we complete the syllabus.
The next day, our three friends, Isa, Sufyan and Haadi, also come over to take Mommy’s quiz.
“I studied so hard, I stayed up the whole night,” Haadi looks totally zonked.
“I didn’t study anything,” Isa declares cheekily. “I figure if I get the language part correct, it will make up for the literature segment.”
We all seat ourselves on the dining table.
Mommy comes in with the papers.
“Ready everyone?” she smiles.
“Totally,” Haadi and Zayd answer in unison.
I glare at both of them.
“So here’s your question paper,” she hands out a typed sheet to each of us.
I try not to sigh loudly. It is quite long and will take ages to complete.
Still, I pick up my pen and start writing. Everyone else does the same.
Once the quiz is done, we hand over our papers to Mommy and then thankfully troop into the kitchen to fetch the snacks she has made for us.
By the time we finish eating, Mommy has already graded the quizzes.
“Zayd, Haadi… excellent work. Musa and Sufyan, you could have done better. Revise the literature part again. Isa, I’m sorry, you need to retake the quiz with your mother. I’ll let her know.”
Isa looks totally unbothered by all this.
After everyone has left, Mommy calls Zayd and me.
“Musa, I have a question for you.”
I look at her curiously.
“If I handed out the quiz paper and then gave you a typed sheet that has the answers, what would happen?”
I look totally gobsmacked.
“Why would you do that? We would all get everything correct,” I say indignantly. “And it wouldn’t be fair that Haadi and Zayd studied so hard and got the same marks as Isa.”
“Exactly,” Mommy smiles. “So if everyone would be a good person – and Allah has the power to do that, mind you – where is the test? The test in this world is how much you worship and obey Allah. Everyone being the best person in worshipping and obeying is defeating the purpose of this test. Allah’s Wisdom dictates that some people will be excellent and some will be evil. Guidance is there for everyone, just as you have your school syllabi.”
Now it’s my turn to be stunned. It actually makes sense.
“Now it should be clear why King Abraha and his army was destroyed. Abdul-Muttalib, our Prophet’s grandfather, had made it clear to him that Allah would defend His House. That should have been ample warning to him,” Mommy explains.
“Right,” I nod. “I get it now. By the way, can I also have the day off?”
“First revise the literature section and then you can have the day off,” Mommy reminds me. Obviously, Zayd has done better on the quiz so…
Oh boy, did I mention how much I HATE exams?