Written by: Original Orange
"Would you fetch me a copy of the Quran please?"
That was what the elderly woman asked me in sign language, as she caught me by my arm as I was returning from the Quran rack.
'Sure,' I nodded. I was a stranger to Arabic while she was to Urdu or English.
"Kabeer!" she added a pressing note.
"Green. Green," said I, and nodded again.
'Definitely, she wants the one with a green binding,' I thought to myself as I approached the Quran rack.
Now there were manuscripts differing in size and colour. Some with a green binding, others with a blue one. This difference was an indication of the presence or absence of ayraab and the variation of the rasm ul khat.
I picked up a copy. Opened it, put it back. Picked up another one.
'Guess this is the right one,' I said to myself and turned to go back, delighted to have helped someone in the Masjid-e-Nabawi (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم).
'Only by His taufeeq...' I reminded myself.
I made my way back, gingerly avoiding the women sitting on the carpet reciting, to where that lady was seated on a chair.
I handed her the copy.
"KABEER! KABEER!" She moved her head in negative. I was confused.
She took the copy from my hands, gestured me to stay and see what she wanted as she went to the stand. Some of the women had started staring at the two of us.
"Kabeer!" She took out a big-size copy and held it in the air, looking at me.
'Alright!' I thought. 'So, she was saying ‘kabeer’ which appears to mean ‘big’ in Arabic and not ‘green’.
Now, so many years later, I'm smiling and enjoying the whole scene that took place so long ago. At that time I’d felt so very ashamed of myself. I’d felt that all the women reciting, talking or just sitting idle there had stopped their chores and begun laughing at my foolishness. And then I recall reprimanding myself, 'All the time there's English stuck in your stupid head. This is KSA not USA.'
Another time, a woman asked me something and I shrugged smiling and shaking my head in the negative, "Sorry. Don't know Arabic." She got me, patted my shoulder and left smiling in an understanding way.
Then again, I scolded myself, 'Why, Oh why can't you speak in Urdu? Why do you think people here would understand English? They don't. Most understand Arabic which you don't know the ABC of. You are a complete idiot. That's what you are.'
Now those embarrassing moments (and there were quite a few) and those self reprimands seem so charming. Memories which have become misty with time yet their fragrance freshens my mind still… and my soul.
May Allah call me to His house and to the raudah of His beloved صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم again and again, Aameen.