The Runaway- Episode 19
by Luula Jama
Mumina lost track of time in the jail cell at Gabode prison. It wasn’t until she heard the makhriib call to prayer that she knew it was dark outside and she had passed more than twenty-four hours in this stinking place. There was a broken ceiling fan that wobbled as it turned and didn’t spin fast enough to make a breeze. The women were hot beyond the point of sweat. Most of them were dehydrated, though the few who had water bottles shared what they could so no one fainted, and everyone was hungry.
Mumina hadn’t eaten anything. She felt weak, dizzy from the heat, stench of unwashed bodies, hunger and worry. If no one knew she was here, what would her chances be of getting out? She didn’t even know what the official charges against her were, though she assumed they were about her illegal status.
Everything in the cell was gray – cement floor, metal bars, stained mattresses. Even the women’s clothing, bright reds, oranges and purples, seemed faded to gray in the weak, flickering shine of two lightbulbs dangling from chains on either side of the ceiling fan.
“Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” the muezzin’s voice rang clear and echoed, bouncing off the walls. Mumina sat on the floor and tilted her head back against the wall. The call seemed to bounce off her insides too. Mumina closed her eyes and let herself feel the words she had tried to avoid for so many months.
“God is great. God is great.”
“I want to pray, Allah,” she whispered. “But I’m afraid. What if you don’t accept it? What if I’ve done too many things wrong? I disobeyed my parents. I killed those children. I have all that money and a gun. I let Rashid touch me. I hurt Jama.” She buried her face in her hands. “And now I think I lost him, when I could have had him all the time, without causing any of these problems.” She felt something break inside her and started to cry. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I haven’t prayed for so long. And now I can’t, I don’t know which way to face.”
Suddenly she felt words, memorized from Quranic school when she was a child, rise up as clearly as if her teacher were beside her.
“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward East or West: but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Messengers…” Surah 2:177.
“I believe in Allah,” Mumina said. She didn’t mind that some of the women were starting to stare at her, speaking out loud to herself. “I believe in the Last Day, Angels, the Book and the Messengers.” She stopped. “Maybe, just maybe, Allah will understand that I don’t know which way to face, that I don’t have a prayer rug or water.”
A cool, blue breeze seemed to wash over her, like fresh water, cleansing her body and refreshing her soul. She didn’t have water to waste on ablutions but felt a deep, certain conviction that Allah had just washed her himself.
The call to prayer was still ringing when Mumina cast herself on her knees for the first time since leaving Hargeisa. With tears streaming down her cheeks and gratitude bursting from her heart, she began to pray the salat. She chose to believe, she would have faith in Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. She didn’t have food or water, friends or relatives, but she wasn’t going to be alone any longer.
© Poet Nation 2012