by: Shawqui Baghdadi
Adapted from Ahmad, September 1993
My grandfather on my mother's side used to serve the "Ghazi Mosque" in Tripoli. He also acted as the mosque's Imam and Muezzin.
He was trusted with the mosque's keys and he used to open its doors at dawn and close them late at night; he was the first to come in and the last to leave. He was so punctual and so persistent in his work that I used to hear words of praise everywhere I went. People grew to love his voice, even the Christians living nearby used to get up early at dawn to listen to him.
I remember that I asked him when I was ten years old to take me with him to the Mosque, where I could listen to him.
I still recall everything I saw that day as if it happened yesterday.
How could I ever forget climbing the minaret's spiral stairs with my grandpa behind me to make sure that I wouldn't fall down. Reaching the top, I stood on what looked like a round balcony, with a view that showed the whole beautiful city.
But happy as I was, once my grandpa started his call for prayers, I forgot everything and sat to watch his face: How his throat used to tighten, and how he opened and closed his mouth. His voice used to charm me and carry me to magical worlds, which I still picture in my mind whenever I remember his great voice.
I asked my grandfather once: "Is it true what they say that in the thirty years you called for prayers, you have never, not even once, missed any call?"
"Yes, it is true, I have never failed to perform my duty in all that time".
"But how? Weren't you ever sick? Didn't you ever leave the city?"
"No, thank Allah, I was never sick and never traveled anywhere".
But he was to fall sick on a very cold winter day. And once again I happened to be visiting him at that time.
"Tell me, grandpa, who will call for the Morning Prayer if you do not get well by tomorrow?"
Grandpa looked at me with a smile on his face:
"Do not worry. Allah willing, I will not be sick tomorrow. When we love our work and believe in it, we can overcome our illness quickly". Even though I had a feeling that he wasn't that serious, I asked him to wake me up in the morning and take me with him to the Mosque.
To my surprise, early in the morning the following day, I woke up on my grandpa's voice telling me to get ready. I opened my eyes, and there he was with his heavy winter coat, and his woolen scarf.
"Salamun Alaikum grandpa. How do you feel today. I hope that you are better".
"Not quite, but I am well enough to go to work".
Out on the street, I held my grandpa's arm. It was so hot that it almost burnt my hand. But we went on to the top of the Minaret. I noticed that he was breathing heavily, and that his voice wasn't as strong as it used to be.
Later, many people came to grandpa and said. "We knew that you were sick and we were worried".
"Let's perform our dawn prayers together and ask Allah to heal all those who are sick", he answered them smiling.
By the end of the day, my grandfather was much better. A lot of people came up and sat behind him as if they were trying to protect him from a danger that would deny them the chance to listen to his moving voice, which they so loved.
Grandpa lived for more than eighty years, and in all those years, not even once, did he miss the call for prayers.
May Allah bless you, and bestow His mercy on you, my grandfather, for you have taught me a valuable and unforgettable lesson..