Mama has been to the hospital quite a few times before, but she always comes back home eventually. So, when she went to the hospital this morning I thought this time won’t be different. Baba even insisted that I go to football practice today as well. I’ve been playing for the Shooting Club in El Dokki, Giza, for almost 6 years now, so when Mama went to the hospital, Baba called the coach, captain Abdallah, and told him that she was ill. Captain Abdallah apparently told my teammates because when I went to practice they all asked if Mama was okay, to which I responded,
“اه هترجع البيت قريبا. هي دخلت مستشفيات قبل كده ودايماً بتخرج بالسلامة
(Yeah, she will be home soon. She has been to the hospital before, but she always comes home.)”
My teammate, Omar, commented I should be worried about having ended that sentence without saying ‘Inshallah’ (God Willing). For a moment I thought maybe I should say it. But, I didn’t want to obey his advice. Instead, I just walked onto the field, said “السلام عليكم (Al Salam Aleikum/Peace to you)” to the coach and awaited his instructions. The others followed my lead and we all stood shoulder to shoulder.
“.وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته (W aleikum elsalam w rahmet allah w barakato/Peace be unto you and God’s mercy and blessings),” the coach replied. He then walked over to me and bowed down as he said,
“ألف سلامة والدتك. مدام شيماء إنسانة محترمة جداً وفي منتهى الرقة. هادعي لها
(I wish your mother safety a thousand times. Madame Shayma’a is a very respectable and extremely gentle person. I will pray for her.)”
“شكراً يا كابتن عبدالله. الله يسلمك
(Thank you, captain Abdallah. God bless you.),” I said.
It has been three days since my mother went to the hospital. When I arrived back home, Baba wasn’t there. I had to wait outside because I didn’t have a key. But, Ibrahim and Mahmoud from the garage across the street are nice people. They always have been. When they saw me sitting by the entrance of the building, they called me over. Baba says I shouldn’t approach strangers. But, he seems to like Ibrahim and I know his name and see him every day, so I figured he isn’t really a stranger. Ibrahim had a worried look in his eyes and a smile on his face. The expression confused me. Mahmoud looked calm. Both his eyelids were about a millimeter away from being shut and he was holding a very thick lit cigarette. It was shaped like a rocket and smelled funny. As per custom, I said
“السلام عليكم (Al salam aleikum).”
And they naturally responded with “وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته (W aleikum alsalam w rahmet allah w barakato).”
Ibrahim then asked me if I had prayed Al-Dhuhr in school. I told him we have a mosque on campus, but that I didn’t have much time to pray after school, otherwise I would have missed the bus.
“ما تقلقش (Don’t worry),” he said. “أنا كمان لسة ماصليتش الظهر. صلاة العصر لسة كمان 20 دقيقة. تعالى نصلي سوى (I also haven’t prayed Al-Dhuhr yet. Al-Asr prayer is still 20 minutes away. Let us pray together.)”
Mahmoud stayed outside leaning on the trunk of a red car and staring at the concrete as he continued smoking his rocket. He always seemed calm. It’s kind of odd that he’s so calm because I know he doesn’t pray. I have never seen him at the mosque on Fridays and he didn’t even join us for Al-Dhuhr prayer.
After we finished praying, Ibrahim held his palms open by his face. I imitated him and listened to him as he begged:
“يا رب يا ستار أتوسل لك تشفي والدة مصطفى و تسمح لها بالعودة إلى البيت بالصحة والقوة
(Oh Allah, he who shelters us, please cure Mostafa’s mother and allow her to return home with health and strength.)”
Mama had been to the hospital before, so I didn’t fully understand why Ibrahim was praying. Also, he doesn’t really know Mama. I mean, I have never seen them exchange more than a few words. So, I asked,
“اشمعنى بتدعي لماما يا إبراهيم؟ (Ibrahim, why did you pray for Mama?)”
“آمين (Amen),” he said to conclude his prayer.
“آمين (Amen),” I repeated.
“دعيت لها عشان هي أم ليك وزوجة لوالدك المحترم الأستاذ محمد
(I prayed for her because she is a mother to you and a wife to your respectable father, Mr. Mohamed.)”
“إنما أنت يدوبك تعرف ماما
(But, you don’t know Mama very well.)”
“.كلمة وتحفظها؛ الواحد ميحتجش غير التعاطف عشان يدعي لغيره. مش معرفة
(Listen, one needs only empathy to pray for another, not familiarity. Remember that.)”
I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I didn’t feel like asking any more questions.
Mama died today. It was the second time I saw Baba cry. The first was when Teta Soraya, Baba’s Mama, died. He really loved Teta Soraya and always insisted we gather at her place every Friday after prayers. She made the best food and always had the praying mat laid out in her room for us to pray Al-Asr on. Sometimes Al-Maghreb, too, depending on how late we stayed over. He really loved Teta Soraya. And he really loved Mama. He has been in his room praying and reading the Quran since we got back from the hospital. When he’s not doing either, he is on the phone arranging everything for the funeral or telling me to pray for Mama. I don’t really understand why Mama is dead. She always came back home from the hospital. Praying feels weird now.
Baba made me go to football practice today even though I didn’t feel like it. He said, I have to be a man and carry on with life. When I arrived at practice, captain Abdallah walked towards me and said,
“البقاء لله. إن شاء الله ربنا يعفو عنها ويغفرلها
(Only God lives on. I pray He forgives all sins she may have committed.)”
My teammates all said, “Only God lives on,” as well. But, after practice, my teammates approached me in the locker room. Omar was standing in the center of everyone.
“يا مصطفى أنت أمك تعيش أنت لأنك جلبت لها النحس
(Mostafa, your mother died because you jinxed her.),” he said.
I stood there silently.
“أنت فضلت تقول انها ياما دخلت وخرجت من مستشفيات و جات سليمة. إنما أنت المرة ديه ماقلتش إن شاء الله فربنا .أخدها. الله يرحمها
(You kept saying that she always came home from the hospital and she would be alright. That’s why she died. You should have said ‘inshallah.’ You didn’t say it, so God took her. May God show mercy on her.)”
Omar and the team walked away afterwards. What Omar said made me feel confused, so I sat down on the wooden bench in the locker room and stared at the floor for a while. There were a few cockroaches crawling around beneath the sinks and I noticed there were many cracks in the tiles. I counted 99. That’s the same number as Allah’s names. Maybe Omar was right.
I’ve been thinking about what Omar said a lot. I have been trying to make sure I say ‘inshallah’ at the end of each sentence. I also have been making sure to say ‘بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم (Bismillah alrahman alrahim - In the name of Allah the merciful)’ before eating and ‘الحمد لله (alhamdulillah - Thanks to Allah)’ after eating. I am trying to only eat with my right hand like Ibrahim said the prophet Muhammed did. Also, I have been putting my right shoe on first and will be sure to always step into the mosque with my right foot first inshallah. I will never miss a prayer inshallah. I will fast every Monday and Thursday like the prophet Muhammed did inshallah. That way God won’t be mad at me inshallah. That way God won’t be mad at Mama inshallah. That way God won’t hurt Baba inshallah.
I missed Friday prayers today. Last night, I experienced difficulties falling asleep and only managed to shut my eyes around 5 am. I prayed Al-Fajr then climbed back into bed. By the time I woke up, it was past Friday prayers. Baba usually makes sure we attend the prayer together. But, when I went to his room he was lying in bed, wearing a suit and staring at the ceiling. He only noticed I was standing there when I called him.
“نعم يا ابني؟
“يا بابا صلاة الجمعة فاتتني. ما صحتنيش ليه؟
(Baba, I missed Friday prayers. Why didn’t you wake me?)”
“.الصلاة فاتتني أنا كمان
(I missed it as well).” When he said this, I was terrified and suddenly started crying.
“بس يا بابا كده ربنا يغضب
(But, Baba, God will be angry),” I said. “كده ربنا يغضب وياخذك زي ما أخذ ماما
(He will be angry and then He will take you like He took Mama!)”
He glanced over at me, then reverted his gaze back to the ceiling.
ربنا غفور. هنتوب وربنا يغفر لنا إن شاء الله”
(God is forgiving, son. We will apologize and He will hear us inshallah. Now, go get ready. Your mother is waiting.)”
We buried Mama today. It was scary seeing her corpse. When I began to cry, Baba said I had to pull myself together. But, then he cried. We prayed for her and read the Quran. The sheikh did as well. Everyone did. Teta Sonia, Mama’s Mama, was sobbing the whole time and ended up collapsing. We had to help her up and Baba sent me to the kiosk with 5 L.E. to grab her a bottle of water. I kept the change. After calming her down, she kept staring at the sky. I’m not sure how well she could see the clouds with that gooey black stuff women wear smudged all over her eyelids.
We prayed for Mama, but I missed the Friday prayer. I tried to make up for it and even prayed the bonus Shafa and Witr right after Al Eisha prayer. I apologized and repented during every prayer. I hope Baba is right. I hope God forgives me inshallah.