Will she mind if I tried to help?Â I lost sight of her as a large group of women in theirÂ chadorsÂ 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 anÂ Imamâ€™s shrine you can go to forÂ Duâ€™a KumaylÂ on Thursday nights, orÂ Duâ€™a TawassulÂ on Tuesdays. But the best of all of course, are Mashhad and Qom â€“ 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).Â It is the love for her that draws millions to Qom every year, in the scorching heat of Iranâ€™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 â€œYa Masoomaâ€, in an expression of love for her to seek proximity to Allah.
I always look forward to prayer time.Â Jamaâ€™atÂ atÂ Shabestan-e-Imam KhomeiniÂ at Lady Masoomaâ€™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 donâ€™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 Iâ€™ve zipped it up properly. To my dismay this woman came and sat right next to me in the prayer hall.
â€œGreat, Iâ€™m going to have to concentrate on my bag throughout this prayerâ€œ, I thought to myself.Â I wasnâ€™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 Iâ€™mÂ in SajdahÂ 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-rakâ€™at prayer. As I replied in my accented Persian, she forgot about the prayer and started talking to me â€“ 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 itâ€™s easy to lose faith in humanity with the way things are.
â€œLook,â€ she said, â€œit may seem hopeless but itâ€™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. Itâ€™s not enough. But itâ€™s usually at the lowest points in life that Iâ€™ve come to see the glimpse of what man can be. There is a bit of God in everyone.â€
I didnâ€™t know what to say.Â A bit of God in everyoneâ€¦ I never looked at it this way before.Â Sheâ€™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 â€œQad qaamatus salatâ€ echoed from the speakers. The Fajr prayers ended with a special duâ€™a for Pakistanâ€™s flood and drone victims. Everyone was asked to donate.
â€œA bit of God in everyoneâ€œ; it was still spinning in my head. I turned around to speak to the woman, but she wasnâ€™t there. My eyes searched through the sea of blackÂ chadorsÂ 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 theÂ chador, approached the tiny slit in the box. She hesitated, threw one look in the direction of theÂ ZarihÂ room, smiled and inserted two tomans.
Thinking sheâ€™s got only eight tomans left, I got up.Â Will she mind if I tried to help?Â I lost sight of her as a large group of women in theirÂ chadorsÂ 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 Masoomaâ€™s resting place, with my bag hanging loosely on my shoulder, half open.