Wednesday, 31 October 2007

First Day Of Forever

27 Ramadhan, 611 C.E

It is a typical day in all respects. The inhabitants of Makkah wake up to the fierce rays of the Arabian sun. In the Batha quarter of the city, the chiefs of the Quraysh slowly begin to recover from the hang overs which last night bought. The recovery rate from repeated nights of drinking, and vibrating music is nearly static.

A group of men leave the rich segment of the city and make their way towards the depression in the central part of Makkah. Here lies the Ka'aba and the house of Hubal. The men enter the circled arena, bow down with respect and one by one kiss the unclothed red-agate statue. Hubal remains unmoved. The group begins to stroll up and down the Ka'aaba, bowing to statues of various shapes and sizes; the rising sun throws immense shadows of the men over the 365 stone gods.

Right adjacent to the Ka'aba a household is in mourning. The rising sun bought an addition to the family; a daughter. Two men leave the house, with the baby wrapped in muslin. With their faces down they walk with the crying child towards the cemetry. In the centre of the city a caravan arrives; camel after camel loaded with spices and silk, wines and perfumes, followed by, in a slow single line, a multitude of slaves. Some local men dance and sing as the slaves march towards the market. The Makkan market is a place for the deaf and the blind; a continuous irritation to the ears, a constant offence to the eyes, a pleasure (if somewhat crude) to the nose, the pungent odour of aromatic liquids, distilled elsewhere, diffused through an ob scene, spectacle of gamblers, habitual drinkers, and barterers of slaves. Commodities as well as wealth and property change hands. A young man, after losing his wealth, gambles his freedom away.

Free from the attachment to self, to social games, to Makkan indulgence, to worldly awareness and even to this moment, a middle-aged man leaves a modest dwelling of the city. Avoiding the centre of the city, he sets out on a long, narrow road which slopes gently uphill. That half hour, between his house and the end of the city, was one of the most irritating moments of his day; and for hours afterwards he would brood over its pestiferous existence and pray for the end of this godlessness in Makkah.

The man- of middle height, slim but with broad shoulders and wide chest- walked with steps quick and elastic, yet firm, towards the henna-coloured mountain. His dark, slightly curled hair flowed in a dense mass down almost to his shoulders. His long arched eyebrows d ominated his bearded face. He walked quite undisturbed by camel dwellers gathering their flocks. The dust raised by the herds caught the last rays of the setting sun, turned into gold, and scattered in the night air.

From the peak, the man looked down on Makkah. A city at the bottom of an abyss. The moonlight could hardly do anything for a people so deep in darkness. He turned his face, thereby turning his whole body away from the city, looked towards the desert, and gazed at mountains lined up one behind the other. The man remained at the summit for several hours, then he moved down to a cave, a place of retreat, some fifty yards from the peak. There he laid himself down to rest.

He was in a state of meditation and prayer when a vivid light shone into his eyes. He opened his eyes in fright, and heard a commanding voice: 'Muhammad!'

Sweat broke out all over his body.Trembling, he answered;
'Who is it?'
' Read!' said the voice.
' I am not of those who read.'
The angel Gabriel took hold of Muhammad, hugged him vehemently and then released him.
' Read!'
' I am not of those who read.'
Once again Muhammad was hugged till he was exhausted.
' I am not of those who read.'
He was hugged for the third time.
' Read!'
' What shall i read?'
' Read in the name of your Lord who creates, created man from a clot of b lood.
Read, for your Lord is most generous, ( it is he) who teaches by means of the pen, teaches man what he does not know.'

Muhammad recited.
The rays of the emerging sun embraced his trembling voice.