I still remember the night my wife gave birth to my first son. I was not yet thirty years of age and had stayed out with my friends in a restaurant all night. It was an evening full of vain talk, not to mention backbiting and vulgar comments. I was often the one who instigated the comments and backbiting that made them laugh.
I remember that I made them laugh a lot that night. I had the unique talent of mimicking others to an uncanny degree. I could change the tone of my voice so that it became exactly like the person I was mocking. Yes, it was my habit to mock all people, even my friends. Some people avoided me in order to be safe from my tongue.
I remember that night I mocked a blind person I saw begging in the market. What is even worse is that I put my foot in his way and he tripped and fell to the ground. He kept on turning his head this way and that, not knowing what to say. I laughed in a loud voice and my laugh echoed throughout the market. I went back home late as usual and found my wife waiting for me. She was in a pathetic condition.
With a quavering voice, she said, “Raashid… where were you?”
I said sarcastically, “On Mars! I was with my friends of course.”
She appeared very tired and fatigued. She was overcome with tears and said, “Raashid... I am exhausted…it seems like I am about to give birth.” Then a silent tear fell on her cheek.
I felt that I had neglected my wife. I was supposed to take care of her and stop my evenings out, particularly as she was in her ninth month.
I quickly accompanied her to the hospital.
She entered the delivery room and was in labor pains for several hours, while I waited impatiently for the birth. She suffered from a difficult delivery. I waited for a long time until I got tired, then I went home and left my phone number in order for them to call me and give me the good news.
An hour later, they called me in order to give me the good news of the birth of Saalim. I immediately went to the hospital. When they saw me asking about my wife’s room, they asked me to meet the doctor first. I shouted, “What doctor? I want to see my son, Saalim.” They said, “You have to meet the doctor first.”
I entered upon the doctor and she started talking to me about afflictions and being satisfied with fate. Then she said, “Your child suffers from a serious deformity in his eyes and it appears that he is blind!”
I lowered my head, trying to conceal my tears. I remembered the blind beggar I had tripped up in the market and made people laugh at.
Glory be to Allah! What goes around comes around! I kept silent for a while and did not know what to say. Then I remembered my wife and son. I thanked the doctor for her kindness and then went to see my wife.
My wife was not sad because she believed in and was satisfied with the divine decree of Allah The Almighty. She had often advised me to stop mocking people. She had often repeated: do not backbite people.
We came out of the hospital with my son Saalim. The fact was that I did not care much about him much and ignored his presence at home. When he cried, I would flee to the living room to sleep. My wife, however, showered him with love and care. As for me, I did not hate him, but I could not love him either!
Saalim started growing and he started to crawl like all babies, but in a strange abnormal way. When he was almost one year old, he tried to walk but we discovered that he was disabled. This affected me a great deal.
Later, my wife gave birth to my other sons, Khaalid and ‘Umar.
Years passed and Saalim and his brothers grew up. I did not like to stay at home and spent most of my time with my friends; I was like a toy in their hands and completely under their influence. My wife, however, did not despair of reforming me; she was always supplicating Allah The Almighty to guide me. She never got angry at my irrational actions, but she was greatly grieved when she saw me ignoring Saalim and taking care of his brothers.
Saalim grew up and my pain grew as well. I did not object when my wife asked to enroll him in a school for the disabled. I did not feel the passing of years. The routine in which I spent my days was: work, sleep, eating and enjoyment in the evenings.
One Friday, I woke up at eleven o'clock in the morning. It was too early by my usual standards. I has been invited to a wedding banquet, so I put on my clothes, applied perfume and went out.
I passed by the living room – but I stopped when I saw that Saalim was weeping bitterly!
It was the first time I had paid attention to Saalim’s weeping since he was a child. Ten years had passed and I had never given him any attention. I tried to ignore him but I could not. I heard his voice calling his mother while I was in the room.
I turned and then approached him. I said, “Saalim, Why are you crying?”
When he heard my voice, he stopped crying. When he felt me approaching him, he started trying to feel around him with his small hands. Why was he doing that? I saw that he was trying to move away from me! It is as if he was saying, “Now you deign to take notice of my presence! Where were you ten years ago?”
I followed him and he entered his room. In the beginning, he refused to tell my why he was weeping. It was only when I spoke gently to him that he ventured to mention the reason behind his weeping. As I listened to him, I began trembling. Do you know why?
His brother ‘Umar, who used to accompany him to the mosque (Masjid) was late and because it was Friday, he was afraid of not finding a place in the first row. Saalim called ‘Umar and his mother but neither of them answered. Thus, he began weeping. I looked at the tears falling from his blind eyes and could not bear the sight, and so, I put my hand on his mouth and said, “Are you weeping for this reason, O Saalim!” He replied, “Yes…”
I forgot my friends. I forgot the banquet. I said, “Saalim, don’t be sad. Do you know who will accompany you to the mosque today?” He said, “‘Umar, of course. But he is always late.” I said, “No. I will accompany you.” Saalim was surprised and could not believe his ears. He thought that I was mocking him, and continued to weep.