Unbranded and home on the range.

Of poor men and shooting stars

A millennia and a half ago, there was this poor man.

I don’t know what his name was.

But I do know that he generally got the short end of things in life. Scruffy-looking in appearance, he tried his best to wear half-decent clothes. He was not of great means, nor was he of tall muscular stature, nor was he of noble lineage.

He joined a band of misfits that were often ridiculed by the society around them, and by the ruling class in particular, simply for the unpopular beliefs they held and their way of life.

The inevitable day came upon him even though he and his fellows weren’t looking for it – they found themselves in the middle of an empty field, hunted by an army three times their size, an army that now faced them with darkened and angry faces across the small expanse.

I can only imagine what went through his head as he stood there silently waiting for the unstoppable charge. Maybe he was thinking about his wife and kids, how they had no food and no money. Maybe he was thinking of fleeing; seeing as how brutally outclassed he and his band were. Very little or no armor, a handful of mounts, rusty and outdated street weapons, all of which were no match for the opposing pikemen and mounted cavalry, swathed in fine silks and metal armor plates, gleaming broadswords and thick helmets. Maybe he was calculating his odds. Maybe he was arranging a few knots of cloth to support his aching knees. Maybe he was wondering if could use anything to shade himself from the heat of the sun. Maybe he was wondering if this is how his pitiful life was to end – out in the middle of the desert with nothing to take cover behind. Nothing to leave behind for his family. Nothing to leave behind that would carry his name.

I don’t know.

But I do know this; I know he had a heart that was a mountain of gold. I know that he had complete confidence in the leader of his ragtag band of riff-raff, an orphan and a one-time shepherd. I know that when all around him was a torrential downpour of deadly shafts, and when all around him there was the heavy beat of hooves that could split his chest in two, and when razor sharp blades were dancing but a few inches above his scalp, I know that he stood his ground, he did not turn his back, his grip never loosened, and that his resolve never collapsed. I know he barely felt the hot edge of steel as it took his life, and that when he fell, he fell with a smile on his face and contentment in his heart.

Unknown and unsung was he among the countless men that have lived and died on this planet.

But in the annals of the history of all Creation, he was a bright shooting star streaking across the night sky, burning intensely and lighting the way for billions to follow after him.

Tonight after Isha, the imam was asking people to generously donate for the construction of the masjid. He appealed to some to donate on behalf of their children, or their departed parents or loved ones. Several people raised their hands and asked for the pledge forms. One man behind me raised his arm and said he would donate on behalf of these poor men who had fallen in battle so many centuries and hundreds of generations ago, so many thousands of miles away. I wanted to turn and look to see who it was but I could not because I knew what was coming – an unstoppable wave of jealousy and envy that consumed me as I looked down to the floor and closed my suddenly hot eyes.

Envy at the rank of such men that even the Prophets were desirous of. Envy that a poor man, over 1400 years ago, had made such a high-stakes investment with the only valuable asset he had, and to this day the compounded dividends were still accruing to his account. To this day, he and his band of brothers were so loved and remembered, that people continued to give their wealth in the name of these men.  In places that those poor souls had never heard of or dreamed of. Chicago? Toronto? Rio de Janeiro? Reykjavik? Tokyo? None of these cities existed back then, not even as villages or trading outposts.

Never have I felt such envy and jealousy for the Shuhadaa of Badr as I did this night.


Filed under: In Memoriam, Leadership

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