Masi Irma Comes Visiting
Masi Irma blows into Florida like an enraged ex, packing a hefty punch, huffing and puffing, spewing destruction and mayhem, upsetting routine and instilling fear. But like most exes with an ax to grind, the fury, devastation, and death she spits out are based on emotions churned by passion rather than logic. In this instance, the energy comes a spurring in Africa and roiled by the warm ocean waters of the Atlantic. We in Sanford are pelted by the howling winds, drenched by relentless rain, felled trees and snapped power lines, but alhamd’Allah, we survive. Not sure why the MC of HIC, under the wise wisdom of our young President do not open the doors of Masjid al Hayy as an obvious welcome shelter, like other Islamic places of worship have done.
Amazing how the media in the US cover this event. I’m not complaining, no. I’m glad of the minute detail tracking of Masi Irma’s ever-changing landfall sites and accompanying advice – where to get dwindling bottles of drinking water, depleting shelves of food, where to find shelter and much more, including dire warnings of death and destruction that this Masi is capable of venting. So much is hyped as well, however. Again, not complaining; we’d rather be extra cautious than sorry later. I can get my hands on drinking water, plenty of food and fruits almost to the last few hours before the supposed D-Day. I am tempted to evacuate to a fine refuge at Dauphin Island my good friend Faruk Khambaty from Greenville, NC offers, but Maaha Zainab is not too enthused to leave her other inflexible family behind.
Power snaps at magreeb, engulfing my house, the neighborhood and everything else in complete darkness, and cutting contact with the outside world since the communication towers are also hit; no phone or data access. As the winds howl and whip at my house, sitting in the darkness, I feel very small, helpless and claustrophobic. I must rely on Starbucks or Panera next few days to replenish juice to my MacBook Air and iPhone. My overwhelming reliance on the internet becomes a stark reality. The power remains out for agonizing days, spoiling all frozen meats, dairy, etc. Ouch, that hurts; nyaama is pricey here in Sanford. It takes 5 agonizing days without juice before Duke Energy restores power to my area; I’m willing and ready to commit certain murder by then. The constant stickiness from relentless sweating, uncertainty in the dark and reliance on torchlights to navigate rubs nerves raw, makes decent slumber impossible. I’ve been through much worse in my eventful life; daughter Maaha Zainab hasn’t and the strain shows on her face. I contemplate local hotels but they are either full or prices start gauging at $250 / night; I decide to sweat it out in a hurry.
The whole episode is quite unnerving really, the second time I’m going through preparing and braving a hurricane since moving here some seven-plus years ago. Not sure how many more of these life turbulences my fragile heart can take.
The Godmen Amongst Us
I’ve always wondered how and why seemingly intelligent people end up hero-worshipping Godmen like Ram-Rahim, the Indian criminal recently sentenced to twenty years in jail for raping his disciples; it's incomprehensible. His guilty sentence brought about the slaying of 38 people, imagine. Kheli ajeeb, no? He’s not the only one out there; there are several others, once commanding millions of frenzied followers, now rotting in jail. Hundreds more, equally popular and raking in tons of moola, roam free to spread their lunacy. Perhaps the following incident might give some pointers?
While I’m fretting about Masi Irma coming, a well-meaning sporadic donor to CAI, from somewhere along one of the scorching states of the Persian Gulf, calls and advises me that CAI should do more investing towards the orphans of Iraq. This guy is a momin and all but tends to impose his diehard opinions about religion and the rules of conduct in charity management and funds application. He informs me that there are thousands of orphans in deplorable conditions in Iraq that need our help right away. I readily agree with him, but politely point out that the orphan dilemma is not exclusive to Iraq; it ails Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, many countries in Africa... I also inform him that Iraq earns about 5 billion dollars in oil revenues every month, minimum, has tons of NGOs working for various humanitarian causes, our glorious and respected marajaas receive millions more in religious donations, so the need to help orphans outside Iraq, in countries where there are next to no natural resources, is more pressing. I also inform him that Iraq is one of the most corrupt nations on earth, that doing business there has ethical, accounting and compliance challenges and my past overall experience with charity work in that country has not been less than encouraging. This is where our conversation becomes far less amicable and eventually ends up in acrimony.
There is an immediate backlash at my assertions, even though I give him facts about my claims. The man, bless him, accuses me of disobeying the ulemas in Iraq, that they are the ones who decide who gets what. That they are the learned ones and I have no right to accuse the country of being corrupt. And even if it was, I am still to let the clergy decide where the aid should end up. I am advised that unlike him, who follow the ulema unquestioned, I would be wise securing my future by following his lead. Ahem.
I would have ended the argument then, since it is obviously illogical, and should have. But as I mature in overwhelmingly exceptional wisdom even more, I feel I cannot suffer fools so easily anymore. So, I tell him that our Glorified Allah has given me, and him, intellect, and made it mandatory that we use it. That we would be questioned for wasting it on Judgement Day. Ulemas, I tell him, are our respected guides, not infallible. When their ruling contradicts reality, reasoning, and verified balance, we are to refrain from following them. That brings about claims that not everything in Islam is overtly rational. Perhaps, I concede. But to me, with the knowledge and experience I have, I would not be a blind follower.
When we fail to agree to resolve our differing opinions, and cannot agree to disagree, I concur, rather cunningly and cruelly, to channel all his $50,000 plus in donations to the orphans in Iraq if he committed to it right then. He hangs up on me.
I know the guy is well-meaning and righteous. But sitting in an air-conditioned office, managing a cushy job is not equal to being on the ground, facing stark everyday realities. In my capacity as CEO of CAI, I must decide, in utmost anguish most times, where to channel scarce resources. It breaks my heart and gives me sleepless nights when I must allocate priority to one at the expense of another. All poor orphans are eligible a share of the available pie, and if I know that Iraq already gets more than its share, I’ll be aggressive in trying to equal the share elsewhere. Unrepentantly.
This episode gives me insight then, somewhat, how and why Godmen like Ram-Rahim exist and flourish. Perhaps?
My New Novel
Remember, my third novel is ready and a limited print version will be available immediately after Moharram / Saffer, 1439. All proceeds, 100%, will benefit 460 CAI worldwide orphans in their quest for excellent education. Please preorder a copy at US$100 each here. Delivered worldwide. Allah bless.