Will she mind if I tried to help? I lost sight of her as a large group of women in their chadors swept by between us, and the next thing I knew, she was gone. Giving away two tomans to flood victims in Pakistan and with eight tomans in her pocket, she was gone.
Living in Iran, the greatest perk is that you can get your fresh dose of spirituality whenever you want it. There is always an Imam’s shrine you can go to for Du’a Kumayl on Thursday nights, or Du’a Tawassul on Tuesdays. But the best of all of course, are Mashhad and Qom – two pieces of heaven on Earth.
I went to Qom for a couple of days recently. I miss the simplicity of daily life there, I miss its streets and its people, and most of all, I miss Lady Fatima Masooma (peace be upon her). It is the love for her that draws millions to Qom every year, in the scorching heat of Iran’s summer and in the wet, cold winters. But I guess at the same time and at a whole other level, it is her love for us that makes us want to come. It draws us to her over and over again.
As every visit, this one was just as spiritually rejuvenating. I always marvel at the sheer number of people that throng the shrine. People from all different walks of life, different corners of the world, all there clinging and chanting “Ya Masooma”, in an expression of love for her to seek proximity to Allah.
I always look forward to prayer time. Jama’at at Shabestan-e-Imam Khomeini at Lady Masooma’s shrine is always uplifting; it is my conversation with Allah. I made my way towards the prayer area along with everyone else as volunteers at the shrine pointed us in the right direction, using those colorful dusting sticks. (In all these years in Iran, I still don’t know why they carry those around!) I noticed an old worn out woman walking a bit too closely to me and I instinctively held my purse closer to myself, checking if I’ve zipped it up properly. To my dismay this woman came and sat right next to me in the prayer hall.
“Great, I’m going to have to concentrate on my bag throughout this prayer“, I thought to myself. I wasn’t overjoyed to say the least. I placed my bag away from her, but close enough to me so that in case she tries to pull something out while I’m in Sajdah I might be able to feel the bag move and take action.
She asked me if there is time for her to offer a two-rak’at prayer. As I replied in my accented Persian, she forgot about the prayer and started talking to me – a foreigner in Iran who speaks the language. In the midst of the seven-minute conversation we had while waiting for the prayers to start (with me still keeping an eye on my bag), the conversation landed on what a dangerous place the world has become and how it’s easy to lose faith in humanity with the way things are.
“Look,” she said, “it may seem hopeless but it’s when you come here or go to Imam Ridha (peace be upon him) that you realize all you can do is rely on Allah. In the end, He created us all in His image, and you will see there is a bit of God in everyone. I came to Lady Masooma with only 10 tomans in my pocket. It’s not enough. But it’s usually at the lowest points in life that I’ve come to see the glimpse of what man can be. There is a bit of God in everyone.”
I didn’t know what to say. A bit of God in everyone… I never looked at it this way before. She’s got just 10 tomans (around 10 dollars), is she asking me for money indirectly..? The next thing I knew, everyone was getting up for the prayer as “Qad qaamatus salat” echoed from the speakers. The Fajr prayers ended with a special du’a for Pakistan’s flood and drone victims. Everyone was asked to donate.
“A bit of God in everyone“; it was still spinning in my head. I turned around to speak to the woman, but she wasn’t there. My eyes searched through the sea of black chadors as women got up to leave. I found her standing in front of one of the several donation boxes set up almost everywhere. I could tell she had money in her hand. Her hand, draped in the chador, approached the tiny slit in the box. She hesitated, threw one look in the direction of the Zarih room, smiled and inserted two tomans.
Thinking she’s got only eight tomans left, I got up. Will she mind if I tried to help? I lost sight of her as a large group of women in their chadors swept by between us, and the next thing I knew, she was gone. Giving away two tomans to flood victims in Pakistan and with eight tomans in her pocket, she was gone.
I smiled. A bit of God in everyone.
I bought warm bread for breakfast and walked away reflecting upon the new lesson I had learnt at Lady Fatima Masooma’s resting place, with my bag hanging loosely on my shoulder, half open.