By Syed Neaz Ahmad
A friend and my senior colleague from Impact International, Syed Neaz Saheb, shared an interesting and an Iman inspiring post on his FB. This piece is being shared with Neaz Saheb’s permission for the interest of the readers — Ghazali
When you’re lockdown indoors and have run out of ideas to keep yourself busy physically then you think of some intellectual pursuits like taking a walk down memory lane.
A walk that takes you through barren deserts, rocky hills, lush green forests, riverine lands – rich in scenes and nostalgia.
In our lives in pursuit of our profession we travel to many lands. Over the years I have worked in the UK, the Middle East & on the Indian subcontinent.
I spent a couple of decades teaching & working for the media in Saudi Arabia. I taught at King Abdul Aziz & later at Umm al-Qura University, Makkah al- Mukarramah. I taught at the boys’ as well as the girls’ campuses through CCTV. An experience I will never forget — the girls could see me but I couldn’t!
I wrote weekly columns for Daily Arab News & Saudi Gazette for over 20 years. I worked as Religious Affairs Editor of Saudi Gazette for some five years and presented & produced informative programs during Hajj on Saudi Television.
This took me to places and people. I met scholars, doctors, engineers, businessmen, industrialists and media men & women. Yes, there were a number of young girls working at Arab News — though a form of ‘social distancing’ was practiced even then.
At a friends’ house — don’t remember the occasion — I happened to meet a religious scholar & gentleman par excellence, Sheikh Sharqi — an Indian scholar who had been living in Saudi Arabia for several decades. The pursuit of knowledge & love of the Holy lands had brought him to Saudi in the mid-1940s.
It was a memorable evening. He shared with us his experience – of life of a Saudi Arabia where ordinary convenience of life was a luxury.
One particular incident that he related still sticks in my mind. There were no bus services between Jeddah & Makkah then. The dusty road was considered good enough for camel caravans that transported pilgrims. Highwaymen often looted the caravans — killing & kidnapping of pilgrims was not very uncommon.
But there were silver linings beyond the dusty horizon. Every week a van used to carry official mail from Jeddah to offices in Makkah.
That van would often accept a passenger or two. With help from friends, Sheikh Sharqi found himself on the van to Makkah. It was quite a journey through the harsh desert.
Their first stop was Bahrah – a midway sleepy village then. They stopped for rest, water & other provisions. The only ‘food’ were a few watermelons being sold by a villager.
Sheikh Sharqi — hungry, thirsty & tired — got off the van and bought a couple of watermelons. The seller used a stone to ‘break’ it into pieces as he didn’t have a knife! They all shared the pieces among the small number of passengers & the driver of the van. Sheikh Sharqi invited the local boys – who were hanging around – to share the melons too.
Sheikh Sharqi narrated — with tears in his eyes — the children having enjoyed several pieces of watermelon appeared satisfied & happy. But that was not the end of the story. The boys shook hands and made a faith-inspiring statement that will shake you to the bones: ‘Alhamdolillah, Allah sent our Prophet (peace be upon him) as Rahmah to mankind. It is because of the blessings of his coming that we got the watermelon shared with us!’