I love reading open letters, which are usually addressed to some distant intangible public figure. But this open letter is addressed to Muslims all over the world, the Muslims in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, America, Belgium, Uganda, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, China, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Chapel Hill…But especially to the Muslims that happened to be on the train I took from Meknes to Rabat last week…
I understand that train was flirting with inferno like temperatures, and the rustling from our fasting stomachs was causing much discomfort. I know the feeling, I was there, dozing in and out of sleep praying the time would move quicker. If I could I would have grabbed time by the bootstraps, as they say in the South, and forced it to get a move on. I know times are hard and that 40 dirham ticket may have been a stretch. But that cannot excuse what transpired next on our 50 person tram.
I am sound asleep, with my head bobbling to the trek of the train. I am not the most comfortable of positions but I am making the best of my window seat and small cushion-lined armrest. But my nap is violently interrupted by male voices, piercing voices, voices I do not ever want to hear again because their pitch and anger levels were none like I have ever heard….I turn around and orient myself to what was transpiring before my groggy eyes. I see the ticket master craning over a passenger, I could easily discern the topic which caused so much fuss. The passenger does not have a ticket on him…whether he intentionally did not pay and boarded the train or if the ticket stub fell from his pocket is a question for the One who knows the unknown.
The ticket master continues to yell at the passenger, and as his tone becomes more terse so does the reaction from the ticketless passenger. The ticket master goes toward the end of the train’s carriage still visibly upset. He continues to grumble under his breath. He begins to talk about the ticketless passenger to another journeyman, in an unfavorable way to say the least…This prompts the ticketless passenger to rise from his seat and quell the talk which is occurring in an audible distance from him and everyone on the train. When he reaches the ticket master, the yelling not only once again ensues, but it is even more aggressive, insulting, and piercing. Being humans, curiosity is our middle name. So needless to say the crowd at the back of the train was now exceeding 4 or 5 men some observing but most standing and shouting.
The next thing I know, the ticket master has a pen in his hand and the metal tip is now facing the ticketless passenger. The fist which surrounds the metal-tipped pen vigorously jabs at the passenger, stab after stab after stab. This inspires a round of punches thrown by none other than Ticketless. At this moment the number of men encircling the fight multiplies. Now all of a sudden there are ten men in the cramped little caboose of this train. Some were trying to help by pulling the men away from one another, while the others only caused more violence because they insisted on taking sides. I think I am going to witness a murder this late afternoon day. A grizzly realistic image floods my imagination: one of the men being thrown off the 80 mph train. I freeze praying that a janaza (funeral prayer) will not have to be done the following day.
After they would pull the men off one another they would soon go at it again seconds later, just like the outrageous personalities do on raunchy talk shows like Jerry Springer. One would not even guess that I was bearing witness to a scene in a Muslim country in the last ten days of Ramadan. This continued for a grueling thirty minutes if not more. Officers would come on every time of the train would make a short stop, but they would also get embroiled in the fight and add to the growing tension. The situation would simply not defuse!
After about a good forty-five minutes, I turned my head once again to see if any progress was being made. But I turned to find another man, not even in the original argument, screaming into another man’s face. His expression was of unadulterated rage. His eyes were almost perfect circles because they were bulging so far out of his sockets. Thats when it hit me. The tears. How can this happen in Ramadan يا اخواني؟. How could this happen in the last ten days, the most holiest days one could dream of? How could this happen to people who are fasting?
To the men on that fateful train: WHY – let a little issue of a 2” X3” piece of paper cause so much discord amongst us? DO- you not feel shame that you acted this way in front of women and small children, but most importantly – your Lord? WHAT- do you think the Prophet would say if he bore witness to this subhuman behavior? Do you have any idea of the level of disappointment and sorrow he would suffer? WHERE- will the next fight be? It seems like that is the ultimate question. The inevitability of these types of events shocks me. The ummah is in such a pitiful state. It is at its nadir. It is situations like these which makes me and many others loose hope in the potency of humanity and peace that I dream of in the near future. Mabrook, are you happy now?