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When things are not what they seem

Some things are out of our control, and some things are beyond our understanding. Some things are hidden in the secret counsel of the Almighty, and some things are never revealed. Nevertheless, all things accomplish His good purpose. All things are directed by His sovereign decree, and all things work together for the good of those who love Him. Nothing takes Allah by surprise, and nothing is outside of His control. Absolutely nothing can prevail against His will. Therefore, we can trust Him… even when we do not see what lies before us. We can have full confidence in His goodwill towards us because He has given us His most precious possession. We can hope in His deliverance because He has already bestowed His love upon us, since He chose to have mercy on those who believe in His Son. The objects of His mercy can rest in Him, knowing that they are destined to reflect His glory.

One foot in front of the other… that's all I knew. Déjà vu… What would I do after reaching the market? I did not know. But, I guess that it didn't matter. I just had to keep moving… one step after another. I tried to use that time to shake off some dust from my clothing; but, there was only so much that I could do. Maybe I could fool people into thinking that I had my act together. Would anyone suspect that a few minutes earlier, I was crawling on the ground and eating dirt? Would anyone notice that I was walking with a slight limp? They probably had greater matters to be concerned about. Besides, I was a nobody in their eyes… a man without a name. Sure, they might pay attention to me if they thought that I might purchase some of their products, but that would quickly go away. As long as I didn't come across someone who knew me, I would be safe.

However, I couldn't bear the thought of hiding from the light. How could I walk in darkness? How could I let this tension linger any longer? I had to find answers! I had to find someone who knew me. But, who? There's no way that I was going back to Pastor Tallat's home, especially after making a fool of myself in front of everyone. Besides, the "visitors" from the Islamic State may be looking for me. They may be friends of Abdul ibn Jabbar… I couldn't risk that. Also, I didn't want to hinder their discussion. Their conversation seemed so profitable! I could only be a hindrance to them. I thought that I should go back to Haroun's place, but he probably wouldn't come back for a while… I probably would have to spend some time roaming around the market.

Suddenly, it hit me: "the market!" I might be able to find Faruq at the market! Of course! He comes here regularly to sell the farm's produce: fruits and vegetables, fresh from the field. Perhaps I could find his stand. He might be able to answer some of my questions. After all, he knew me before I lost my memory, just like Nadim. He might be willing to talk about these things and tell me about my past. But, what if he's angry at me? Let's face it, I did leave without saying goodbye to him or paying my respects. Also, I don't know if the Islamic State caused him trouble because of me… Maybe they torched his cabin… Maybe they destroyed some of his crops. I just didn't know what kind of reception I would get from him. But, I had to try. I had to find the truth.

So, I decided to scope out the market. It wasn't hard to find; just follow the noise. When I reached it, I was struck by the multitude of people swarming the streets. It was busy, as it usually is on Saturdays. Caravans were bringing in all kinds of goods. Coins were being exchanged. Men were bartering and women were helping. Even children were participating in the action. People were selling furniture, food, and artwork. To my horror, I found that some people were even selling idols… statues of animals and mystical creatures. A sense of jealousy for the honor of Allah rose within me, but I thought that I should control my anger. Was that really going to help the situation? Was anger really the solution to idolatry? It's easy to judge others, but it's much more difficult to judge ourselves. We can always make ourselves look good by pointing out the sins of others… Besides, I needed to focus on the task: finding Faruq. He had to be here, somewhere. I kept looking for food stands. There were several of them, but no sign of Faruq.

After looking for some time, I started to become discouraged. Maybe I wouldn't find him. Maybe he wasn't here. It was pointless to ask others if they knew him; who would know a humble farmer who lived in the countryside? But, just when I was about to give up my search, I noticed a particularly large selection of olives. That could be it… So, I approached the stand… and I saw him! There was no doubt about it; this was Faruq. He always wore a hat on his head, slightly tilted to the back. His skin was darkened by the sun and wrinkled by the years. His nose was a bit larger than most people's, but his eyes expressed a kindness that was unsurpassed. He was sitting on a stool, accompanied by two of his workers. They were silent, waiting for customers to approach. There was no easy way to do this… I would have to walk up to him. I did so… slowly… sheepishly… prudently. As soon as he caught sight of me, Faruq smiled, stood up, and started walking in my direction, leaving his servants in charge of the business. As soon as he was within reach, he grabbed my shoulders with his massive hands.

Faruq – My son, where have you been?

Moe – Faruq, I shouldn't have left like that. I'm sorry. You deserve better.

Faruq – I'm just glad that you're safe, Mojza.

Moe – Things happened so quickly… it wasn't my intention to cause any trouble.

Faruq – I understand. Nadim told me what happened with Abdul.

Moe – Thanks. I can't stay for very long, but I have to ask you some questions. I'm so confused…

Faruq – What's happening?

Moe – I need to know about my past. I don't know who I am. You must help me to remember.

Faruq – Don't worry about the past. It doesn't matter where you come from; just focus on what you need to do at present.

Moe – Please, Faruq. I need to know. How long have you known me? What was my name before the accident in Kobani?

Faruq – Mojza, I can't…

Moe – Sure you can. Please…

Faruq – No. What I mean is that I can't tell you because I do not know.

Moe – What?

Faruq – The first time I met you… was after you lost your memory.

Moe – How is that possible? Nadim told me that we were your workers. He told me that we had been living in your cabin…

Faruq – Nadim was my worker. Nadim had been living in my cabin. But, not you. Not until the day that Nadim brought you back from Kobani.

Moe – So, Nadim lied to me… why would he do that?

Faruq – Mojza, Nadim only wanted to help…

Moe – But, why?

Faruq – When Nadim witnessed the attack in Kobani, he waited to see what would happen. Once the gun shots were over and the explosions had ceased, he decided to take a look, to see if he could help anyone. That's when he found you, laying in a pool of blood.

Moe – But, why did he bring me back here? Why didn't he just send me to a hospital?

Faruq – Kobani was occupied by the Lions of Rojava. He couldn't send you there… You were dressed in the traditional robe, in an area dominated by the rebels. You were sticking out like a sore thumb. Besides, Nadim found your bracelet…

Moe – What bracelet?

Faruq – From the orphanage…

Moe – What orphanage?

Faruq – Well, as you know, Nadim grew up in an orphanage in Qamishli. Since they needed to identify the orphans, they made bracelets for them, on which they stamped their crest. The orphans had to wear it on their right wrist at all times. Nadim still has his bracelet…

Moe – But, I've never seen it…

Faruq – He doesn't wear it, of course. But, he keeps it in his room. Once, when Nadim was sick, I walked into his bedroom to give him some tea, and I noticed that he had taken the bracelet out and placed it on his coffee table. I know that it means a lot to him.

Moe – So, he found a bracelet on me, in Kobani?

Faruq – Yes. You were wearing it on your right wrist. It had the same crest.

Moe – Why didn't he give it back to me? Why has he never told me this?

Faruq – I don't know. You'll have to ask him. All I know is that he took pity on you. He vowed to take care of you as though you were his brother. Maybe he didn't want you to remember some painful memories from the orphanage… Maybe he was trying to protect you.

Moe – And, why did you take care of me?

As soon as I asked him that last question, Faruq seemed to choke up. He bit his lips and looked down at the ground for some time, as though thoughts were flashing through his mind. He seemed to be overwhelmed with emotion, but he didn't seem angry… at least, not in a bad way. I decided not to put any more pressure on him. He was such a kind man. The last thing I wanted to do was to cause him pain. So, I just waited in silence, hoping that he would be able to continue the conversation. Then, I noticed that a single tear rolled down his right cheek… the only tear… one lonely tear. For some reason, he didn't wipe it from his face. Instead, he looked up to the sky, and picked up our discussion in a soft voice.

Faruq – I took pity on you. You and Nadim reminded me of my sons. I've never told you this… I once had a wife and two sons, when we lived in Iraq. My wife died from an illness about forty years ago, but my sons died in Saddam's Qadisiyyah.

Moe – The Iran-Iraq war…

Faruq – Yes. They were so young… they were only teenagers. But, they were courageous, and they wanted to help. So, they joined the Kurdish militia under the leadership of Jalal Talabani. We knew him as "uncle Jalal". They fought valiantly, until the day… the city was attacked… with that dirty Mustard Gas…

Moe – […]

Faruq – They didn't die immediately, you know. They came back with these terrible blisters… It's like their skin had been burned by an invisible flame. They were in so much pain. So, I brought them to the hospital, but the doctors couldn't do anything. The damage had already been done. The smell of pus was horrendous… I nearly threw up at times. I tried to put some bandages on their wounds, but it was useless! They only got worse… until they just stopped breathing… I had no one… I had nothing left…

Moe – I'm sorry…

I decided to hold Faruq's hands, trying to comfort him. He looked at me and tried to smile, but his emotions were too strong… He had to work hard to keep himself from breaking down in front of the crowd. He took a few deep breaths, and then gently tapped my hands… squeezing them in the process. Even in the midst of so much pain, he remained kind and sensible. He picked up the conversation in an even softer voice.

Faruq – I decided to move to Syria and live in the countryside, as a farmer. My farm became my sanctuary. Then, some day, I met Nadim. He was about the age of my sons. He was an orphan, looking for a family… yearning for a place to belong. So, I adopted him. Then, years later, he brought you back from Kobani and told me that you were also an orphan. How could I not take care of you? Allah had given me back my sons… You became my son. And, since you didn't remember anything about your past, I decided not to bring it up. You were starting a new life, so to speak.

Moe – And Nadim gave me a new name…

Faruq – It was a good idea. It was a good name. You really were a miracle, you know… in more than one way.

Moe – Thank you for your kindness. I'll never forget that.

Faruq – It was my pleasure. What are you planning to do, now?

Moe – I need to find more answers. There's more to my story than what you've just told me. There's someone who may be able to answer my questions.

Faruq – I understand.

Moe – I don't know where it's going to lead me. I don't know if I'll ever see you again.

Faruq – Do what you have to do. If you want to come back, the door is open. If you don't, I won't hold it against you.

Moe – Thanks. I really appreciate that.

Faruq – My pleasure. Allah ysalmak.

Moe – Wa ysalmak.

So, I gave Faruq a big hug, wondering whether this was the last time that I would ever see him. He then fixed his hat, straightened up his shoulders, and walked back towards his stand. He had plenty of work to do, seeing the people lining up to buy some of his produce. I saw that the crowd was getting even larger as the day progressed. Finally, I turned around and walked back the way I had come. I was in a daze, as though I was walking on clouds. In a matter of a day, the world around me had shifted twice. Things were not as they appeared… far from it. Somehow, my identity had changed in Kobani. The person that I knew as Mojza was an impostor, an invention of the mind… the mind of a lonely orphan. I guess that both Nadim and Faruq had good intentions. They both wanted to take care of me. And they both were trying to fill a void in their hearts. However, they were misguided. A lie could never fill that void. They could not invent their own solution to find a sense of fulfillment.

But, what was Allah's solution? What had He provided to fill that void? Did He provide a way to replace loved ones, to fulfill our need for love and relationships? I had a feeling that the answer was anchored in Allah's own character… in the essence of His Being. Surely, He would have to fulfill our deepest desires. Nevertheless, there was a thorny dilemma: either Allah depended on His creation to express and receive love, or He didn't. And, I could not bear the thought of Allah being dependent on His creatures in any way, especially as it relates to a fundamental attribute such as love. He had to be complete in and of Himself. The only way that Allah could be the immutable source of love was if He had the ability to express and receive love from before the creation of the world… that is, if He did not depend on the world for such things. But, with whom could He have an eternal relationship? It was impossible… unless, in the complexity of His Being, between the persons of the Trinity, there was an everlasting manifestation of divine love… a love so profound and immutable that it could never be exhausted.

These thoughts were comforting to me. They made me rise above the storm of life, to a place that cannot be shaken by any trouble. It was as though I could hide under the cover of Allah's embrace, in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Nevertheless, I could not stay in the clouds for too long; I had to come back to the earth. My quest was far from over. I still had to find answers… and face my fears. As much as I didn't like the idea of going back to Pastor Tallat's home since I had made such a fool of myself, I would have to humble myself. I had to find that slender European man. He knew something about me… about my past.

Unfortunately, I didn't remember how to get back to Pastor Tallat's house. I didn't pay much attention to the directions when I was running away. But, I knew how to get to Haroun's place. Maybe I could just wait for him to come back… Maybe he could bring me back to the shelter… It was probably better to do it that way, anyways. Haroun could speak on my behalf, since I had no right to step into that home. I would come in his name, rather than mine.

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