The Imam

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Sohail was sitting in his chair, waiting for the people to arrive so he could start the evening prayer. The call for prayer or the Azaan had been given. There were still five minutes left for the prayer to begin. The congregation for the evening prayers was usually small due to the fact that this particular mosque was located in a posh area. Evening time meant either family time for the older men and for the youngsters “koi scene banana” meaning a program to hang out and do nothing but chat about stupid random stuff while blowing away their parent’s money on Sheesha, cigarettes and fast food.

Sohail had led the prayers in this mosque for 20 years, his father had worked on this mosque as a mason and had managed to persuade the mosque committee’s members to let Sohail lead the prayers for a period of 3 months while the existing Imam of the mosque took a vacation to his village. Sohail had made such a good impression on the committee members that they managed persuade the existing Imam, who was getting on in years to retire. At that time the area was not that well off, so the mosque was almost always packed at all five prayer times. When Sohail took charge, he managed to scrounge up enough donations to start a Madrassa- a centre for religious studies.

Gradually as the lives of the residents of the area improved, the donations to the mosque increased and Sohail was also earning a decent amount from both the mosque and as principal of the Madrassa, however the number of people coming to pray decreased.

Sohail glanced at the clock again, it was time to start. He surveyed the room, around 20 people, best count of the week. He was about to start when someone tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a piece of paper. The brother of the mosque committee head had passed away; he was one of the few regulars who came five times a day without fail. Then again he was also unemployed and slightly mental. He had a very promising career as a lawyer, a brilliant lawyer, but a girl broke his heart and he just lost his mind. His older brother took care of him but just barely, that was because the younger son was the favourite and he had a lot of property named after him and the older brother inherited just the mosque and a house which he had to share with his brother. It was just a wrong decision because the older brother despite being the mosque committee head just came for the Friday prayers and even when he did he often smelled of booze, there was also a rumour that this man was also having an affair. Sohail had long since decided maybe that was the reason he was so irregular here, his habits did not let him stay in a state in which he could enter a mosque, sober and clean.

Sohail started the prayer, but he was just going through the motions, he was leading a congregation, but that didn’t matter as he was very thrown off by the news. Every time he prostrated, Sohail prayed with all his heart that the bastard got what he deserved. As he finished the evening prayer, after reciting the last dua, he requested the members of the congregation to stay back for the funeral prayers. He quoted the Hadis of the Prophet relevant to funeral prayers. Of the mere 20 people, a few left, Sohail heard the hall door close and he addressed the people sitting on the rituals of the funeral prayer, when the door opened again and a strong smell of alcohol filled the room. It was extra strong tonight, he looked as if he was celebrating. Sohail got up from his chair and greeted the mosque committee head. “So sorry for your loss Sir.” He consoled his employer

“Thank you” His employer smiled, there was no sorrow on his face, and he could hardly hide his glee.

Sohail returned to lead the funeral prayers, after completion, he helped out the body in the Edhi van for taking for burial. As he placed the body in the vehicle with the help of the ambulance driver, he overheard loud whispering

“You should go with us, you’re his brother for crying out loud, if you’re not going to take your car let’s take mine.”

“No, you go, I’ve been taking are of the fucker for the past 5 years. You’re his best friend, you go, and I’m not spending one more second attending to this bastard’s needs”

“Is there a problem sir?” Sohail interjected, knowing fully well what was going on.

“No, not at all Sohail, ummm I was just explaining to Waleed here, how I have to go to this…. Thing, it’s really important.”

“More important than your brother? Please Sir, I do request you, whatever it is, your brother is more important. You are his only family.”

“OK, ummmm Sohail, just give me a couple of minutes, I’ll just tell my wife.”

“We will be waiting Sir,” Sohail smiled amd climbed into the back of the van with Waleed.

After twenty minutes, he staggered into the front of the van.

The smell of alcohol was stronger than ever.

 

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