Muslim Matrimonials and More's Egyptian Tales: stories of life in Egypt

December 2004

In Search of More

by Shaden Mohamed

A page from an ancient Qur'anic manuscript
A page from an ancient Qur'anic manuscript

When I was a child, Islam to me was just a code of rules. But as I matured, Islam developed meaning for me. By the time I was a teenager, I came to understand Islam as being more than just what I could and could not do. The revelation that this was a way of life, was a very liberating feeling. The Qu'ran is such a complex miracle, that it takes a lifetime of study to unravel its depth and beauty.

Waking to Different Sounds

My trips to Egypt are usually in December (the time I have a holiday from work and university) and fortunately it usually coincides with Islamic events and celebrations. And so while in Egypt - when surrounded by people of my own culture and beliefs - I learn more about a religion which has a power so incredibly spiritual, that one needs only to hear the voice of the Sheikh at prayer time to become overwhelmed.

Here in Sydney I wake up to the sound of a garbage truck every other day. To be in Egypt and to wake up hearing the sound of the 'Adhaan' (the Sheikh calling Muslims at prayer time), gives me the feeling that I am alive. The feeling that I am on this earth for a higher purpose.

The Power of the Qur'an

While in Egypt I also learnt more about the Qu'ran's ability to heal and mend those of sickness in mind and body. I also heard of the terrible things that could be accomplished by those who exploited this power for the purpose of evil (may Allah have mercy on their souls).

There was one encounter with the amazing power of the Qu'ran that I will never forget. Whenever I visited my cousin's house, I would always have to knock and stand back because of the Siamese cat she owned. It wasn't a normal cat - 'Boosy,' as she so lovingly called him, acted as if he owned the apartment (clearly a result of my cousin's extravagant pampering and love).

To the rest of the family, however, he was known as 'Shahboor,' which apparently means 'tough guy' and sometimes used to describe someone who was 'all brawn and no brain' as the expression goes. If I even looked at him the wrong way, I would be scratched or attacked. I had seen this cat as a kitten, and he would be waiting for me every few years when I visited. He grew bigger and got meaner, to the point where I was scared to even visit my cousin unless he was locked in a room or put in the balcony before I came over.

Siamese cat

Shahboor - being a well-trained house pet - was only allowed outside the apartment for 5 minutes at a time, when he would run up and down the stairs of the building then come back inside for his treat.

On one particular day, Shahboor was let out while I was visiting, and my cousin and I fell into deep conversation, forgetting all about Shahboor's curfew. An hour or so later, my cousin jumped up from her seat - clearly her memory had struck like lightning.

"Boosy! Oh no we forgot him!" she cried anxiously, as she ran to the door (meanwhile I'm still assessing the word "we" - if something happened to him would I be implicated?!)

"Boosy! Boosy!" cried my cousin, the sound of desperation now evident in her quivering voice.

"It's ok, don’t worry, he's probably outside somewhere," I said calmly, trying to reassure my frantic cousin.

"But he's never been alone out there on his own!" she cried.

"For goodness sakes he's a cat!" I laughed, thinking the situation was slightly humorous.

After searching on foot for a few minutes, we decided to take the car and drive around in the hopes of spotting a cat who my cousin was convinced would be "eaten alive" by other cats or wild dogs. We drove for what seemed hours, but no sign of her beloved Shahboor.

Depressed and heartbroken, my cousin finally agreed to go home and wait until morning before she began the search again. Searching for Shahboor became my nightmare. Here I was searching for a cat - who I was convinced was from the planet Mars - instead of spending quality time at home with friends and family. Eventually I broke the news to my cousin: "Listen, its been 3 days now, he isn't coming back," I said firmly, trying to be as sympathetic as I could.

"No! He's just lost, we can still find him!" insisted my cousin, tears welling in her eyes.

"Insha'Allah he will be fine," I continued. "Cats are very smart, especially that Shahboor." My cousin took comfort in the compliment (despite me calling him Shahboor) and so we spent another few days reminiscing about "the good times with Boosy" and the "golden years with Boosy." My cousin was really and truly grieving for this cat, who she clearly thought of as a younger sibling! A week had gone by, but she could not let go.

One night I came over (expecting another session of Shahboor mourning no doubt) and I saw my cousin with the Qu'ran in her hands. She was very focussed, reading the same verse over and over again, not once looking up to greet me or even acknowledge my presence. My auntie explained that she was reading a specific prayer in order to ask Allah to return that which has been lost or stolen. She was praying to Allah to bring back her beloved cat.

I stayed all night and as hours passed, my cousin did not waver once, reading loudly and remaining determined and focussed at all times. I stayed up and listened in curiosity as my auntie told me stories of how Allah can answer our prayers if we remain close and faithful to Him.

When morning came, my cousin woke me up for breakfast. As we sat to eat, there came a familiar scratching sound at the door - Shahboor had returned! Looking as healthy as ever, Shahboor had returned home, and my cousin's enthusiasm was enough to wake the entire neighbourhood! She laughed in joy and thanked Allah for answering her prayers.

Having never seen such thing, I practically choked on my fool and taameeya (beans and felafel). Shahboor had returned AND he was tame! I hesitated at first, but I was so happy to see the little rascal that I reached out to pat him and he rubbed against my leg as if we had always been friends.

Of course, with time, Shahboor's natural instinct to bite and scratch returned, and I was back on enemy grounds. Perhaps all he needed was a bit of freedom to explore the world beyond the foyer stairs. Or perhaps that prayer to Allah did more than my cousin had expected.

Shaden Mohamed is in her 20's. Of Egyptian background, she was born and bred in Sydney where she attained a degree in Media & Communications. As an accomplished writer, Shaden has a passion for educating and informing others in her community on the beauty of her culture. "My dream is to inspire people with my writing because I believe that literature is the most beautiful form of expression."

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