A true story
An old man crying 😥
He was the only old man in the whole masjid making i’tikaf with us. At the time, i’tikaf wasn’t so popular and everyone after the short taraweeh would go home leaving the masjid completely empty except from the few dozens of young people and this old man. I was one of these young people going through a huge spiritual experience of spending the last ten days of Ramadan with people of my age through this great tradition of the Prophet (pbuh). We were kind of all friends. We knew each others from before except this old man. We just knew him when we saw him for the first time in the masjid. He did not spend so much time with us except when we all stand before Allah praying at night; he probably used to sit with us having a light suhoor. We often saw him praying alone. One of our friends went and joined him in one of his prayers and he found him crying. He came back and told us how nice praying with this old man was and how spiritual he really was. Towards the end of the ten days we had established a small friendship with him and one of us asked him a very interesting and blunt question. The question was: “Why were you always crying during your prayer?” What was more interesting than this blunt question is his answer. His answer made us all cry. I cry every time I remember this answer.
3 Years back …
Before telling you the simple answer he gave us,
I want to take you 3 years back where I heard for the first time about a tradition of the Messenger (pbuh): “We are going to spend the last 10 nights of Ramadan in the masjid! We will take off from work! And those of us who have to go to work or school will go and come back to the masjid. No going home.” Said some of the friends who were more knowledgeable than most of us. “You mean we are going to sleep in the masjid?!” Said I and some of the others who did not know about this before. It was actually quite surprising to do something like this. It wasn’t known at all at the time–at least to me and people like me. When I shared that with some of my coworkers, they kind of wanted to laugh at me. We chose a masjid in the neighborhood whose administration understood what we wanted to do and allowed us to spend the last 10 days of Ramadan in the masjid. I remember the moments very well. I remember the engineering project that took place using some threads and sheets to convert the masjid–in a matter of minutes–into a nice sleeping area to give people privacy to sleep and have private time praying, and convert it back to a large prayer hall. I remember very well people’s faces when they are leaving after Taraweeh while this bunch of young people are not. I even remember the angry voices making complaints to the masjid administration about those “kids” who are ruining Islam and ruining the masjid. I remember the amount of argument people had when some of us who knew how to present a short presentation about and Islamic concepts stood up and gave the whole masjid audience a short yet powerful reminder: a job done usually by the trained and professional Imams of the masjids. But it was an excellent experience! It was one of the landmarks of my own life; and I am sure it was to many of us who were there. It was a nice experience that the relatively “older” masjid attendees went through. They ended up loving us and only hoping that their children become like us. We over heard one of them saying to another “Have you seen these kids speaking? They are not so knowledgeable but their energy just moves you!” We left the masjid crying that it is over and we are going to miss this spiritual experience. We were so lonely going back to our houses, jobs, and normal lives. 😥
2 years back …
The year after was much better. People of the neighborhood then knew about this tradition. They were planning to come and join. They actually lobbied their kids to come and join us so they can “be like us.” The masjid was full of people and I can tell that there was no room for an additional person. As usual, it was a huge spiritual experience for everyone
1 year …
We said to ourselves, “We have to spread this tradition! Let us find another masjid and repeat the experience” And we did! The experience was amazing. The masjid was full from the first year we tried and this tradition became a little normal, actually cool and popular. I remember that at one of the odd nights in this masjid, the crowd was close to the Friday prayer crowd. We said, now we know the pattern. Go to a masjid, establish the tradition, move on!
It wasn’t so easy
It wasn’t as easy as you guys might expect. We weren’t allowed in masjids run by the government for one reason or another. Our choices weren’t many. We could not find any masjid except a small masjid that is almost unknown. It was hidden under one of the apartment buildings, in an area full of stores and shops that makes it hard to find it. But it was our only choice. That one was the masjid in which we met our friend, the crying old man.
Why was he crying anyway? Tell us already!
Back to our story! You know why he was crying? He answered humbly and simply, “I used to make i’tikaf here a long time ago. Every year, I ask people to come and join me. No one does. They all finish taraweeh and leave while I spend the last 10 days alone! I have been doing this for many years until last year!” Those of us who were there got even more anxious to know. “What happened last year?” We asked excitedly. He said, “During one of the nights when I was praying, I asked Allah. I told Him, “O Allah, I ask you to fill this masjid with people making i’tikaf next year.” This year, and with no planning from me, with no idea where you guys came from, I see the masjid full of people who spent the night like me praying and making i’tikaf. Every night, I remember the duaa I made and I feel that you guys are the answer of Allah to my duaa. I then cry and feel the closeness of Allah to me and to my duaa!
An old man, standing before Allah in a moment of truth, making a request that appears a little impossible, just showed all of us how powerful our supplication can be if we mix it with sincerity. Find the moment, ask Allah, He will accept, for Allah is close, and He is All-Hearing and the Most Powerful.
May Allah have mercy on this man for the lesson he taught us and may Allah gather us with him in His Paradise as he gathered us with him in the masjid, Amin!