Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Idea for mosque near stream slowly realized|
|11/26/01 at 01:54:59|
Michael A. Lev, the Tribune's Beijing bureau chief, [url=http://chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0111250377nov25.story?coll=chi%2Dnewsnationworld%2Dhed]is on assignment in Afghanistan[/url]
November 25, 2001
WALAYATI, Afghanistan -- Once upon a time there was a spot by the side of the road where villagers stopped to pray. It was a good spot because a little stream passed by on its way under the road, and the villagers could bend down and wash their hands before praying.
For how many years or generations the locals did this, who can say, but the idea eventually came about that the people of the village should build a mosque at the site.
"We need it because sometimes it rains, and we need it because we are Muslims," said Abdul Zaed, one of the villagers.
It is a beautiful spot beneath two sturdy trees beside a broad, fertile field where villagers grow wheat and hay. The name of the stream is Ikhlas Abad, or Built by Truth. It was constructed as a canal, though it now runs free. It is not known when the canal was built.
There is another mosque in the village, close enough that when the faithful are called to prayer over a loudspeaker, it can be heard clearly at the spot by the stream, but the locals were insistent.
The problem was that the land, though worked by local farmers, is owned by a wealthy and important family that moved away to Pakistan.
The villagers broached the subject of the mosque with the farmers, who didn't like the idea because they needed all the land to grow wheat and because the land was not theirs to give away. The two sides talked and talked. They talked during the days before the Taliban government and they talked during the time of the Taliban.
The family in Pakistan was not part of the conversation, said Zaed, because they couldn't be contacted.
"Nobody had their telephone number," Zaed said.
At this point in the story, it should be mentioned that life in Afghanistan moves according to its own pace, based on local and Muslim traditions and rhythms long forgotten in many other places.
There is always time to offer guests tea here. And because it is polite to invite guests for dinner, Afghans will do so no matter what time it is. If, like now, it is Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast during the day, and guests are taking tea at 10 a.m., they will be invited, politely and insistently, to stay for the next meal, which will be in eight hours.
It is not a culture that lives by the clock, except for prayer time, which is set precisely. A doctor making an emergency call will stop to pray. Appointments rarely start on time, and people do not regularly apologize for being late. When the education minister for the city of Jalalabad unexpectedly received foreign visitors at the start of an important meeting being attended by 20 local officials, he canceled the meeting to tend to his guests.
"What we could accomplish today we can accomplish tomorrow," the minister said.
Often when a question about timing arises that is very important, or sensitive, the best answer to give is that God will decide. This is what ethnic Afghan prisoners of war--Pashtun men from Pakistan who fought with the Taliban--said when they were asked when they hoped they might be allowed to go home.
"Inshallah," they said. "It is for God to decide."
Otherwise, things get done as they get done.
The people in the village were not impatient about the building of the mosque. Then several days ago, the villagers told the farmers that if they were allowed to build the mosque, they would accept full responsibility for the consequences if the owners in Pakistan objected.
"We're sure they won't object," Zaed said. "They're Muslims."
The farmers agreed. It was not because the Taliban had departed. Nobody could explain why the controversy was settled when it was. Perhaps it was because the timing was right.
Last week the villagers hired a stonemason named Shinjar to begin construction. He is an expert. The number of mosques he has built, he said, is "not countable."
There isn't enough money to build a fancy brick mosque so it will be a simple mud-walled mosque with a foundation of stone from the mountains. The village has contributed funds, but there still isn't enough money to finish the job. So a few locals and some children stand by the side of the road each day shouting out for passing cars to stop and contribute.
The children frolic and call out to cars. The mason works with his assistants. Everyone stops when it is time for prayer.
They could finish in a week if they had enough money, but by midafternoon of the second day they had collected only 20 cents from passersby.
When the villagers will raise the money to finish the mosque, who can say.
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