1. The Beginning
On a summer night, the full moon was reflecting on Majid’s shaky hand that was busy lighting his Gold Leaf cigarette, the last one from this first packet. It hadn’t been long that he’d started this blissful yet regretful habit. He was finding it increasingly harder to find a secluded space in the house to smoke peacefully. He feared his sister would find out. She would be furious if she found out that Majid had indulged himself with this haram (religiously prohibited) act.
Taking puffs from the last bit of the rapidly diminishing cigarette, Majid looked at the moon and felt immense joy of this life. Nicotine, tar and all other chemicals started deceiving him into a pleasant experience and for a moment he forgot about the worry of being caught in the ‘smoking act’.
2. A Stormy Night
The summer moon passed and monsoon began in Majid’s village, bringing loud storms and furious winds. This was making it impossible for him to smoke outside the house. The weather forced him to relocate his smoking to a more convenient spot and one which came with an increased risk of being caught. Along with such a stormy nights and heavy rain spearing the soil, came the biggest trouble in Majid’s life.
The sister is a pious, hard working woman devoted to her husband, family and God. That night she came by the rear of the house to get some water from the grey water pot (kolosh) for her thirsty husband. While pouring water in the glass, her eyes caught the attention of some sparks of light, a tiny one, not that of thunder. She kept staring through the gap of the window opened by the mighty winds and zoomed into the scene, realising her brother Majid was cursing the matchbox dampened by the wet weather and trying hard to re-light a cigarette.
Out of shock and anger she released the water pot out of balance, breaking it into two pieces released all its water which quickly started being sucked into the soil floor.
She stormed out through the door before even Majid could realise what had happened. She snatched him and his heartbeat started skipping. He could not even meet his sister’s furious eyes. A mixture of shame and fear took over Majid’s conscience.
3. The Trial
Sitting on the palong (bed), frozen with the intensity of the event, Majid was hoping his brother in-law who was sitting in the chair opposite with a strange calmness and disinterest in the event, would ease the situation.
Triggered by this incident, Majid’s 0sister began exploring a whole list of complaints against him. Majid sat there praying that this hour would end quickly and he would be willing to pay any compensation for it as long as the punishment would not be to return to his Madrasah in a remote island within the Comilla district. He had escaped from the Madrasah after a year of study having successfully memorised a quarter of the Qur’an.
Before Majid’s brother in-law could intervene, his sister thought of the best solution to stop Majid from smoking again. She rushed to other room to bring the Qur’an she recites every dawn (Fajar) prayer and shouted at Majid, ‘go do ablution (wudu) and purify your dirty mouth and hands’.
Majid prayed Isha (last prayer of a day before midnight) and formed the opinion that if he smoked again he would just need to rinse his mouth again rather than repeating the whole ablution. Given the situation he would not dare voice anything like that of course. Taking some guilty steps forward, he went and performed ablution.
Upon returning Majid had to hold the holy Quran,his brother in-law as witness and took an oath, saying ‘I will never smoke again’. A promise before the God, touching the God’s book, Majid was trembling and started to realise how serious this promise was. For a moment he thought of his bloodstreams dependency on nicotine that he become established in last six months.
4. The Struggle
That unfortunate Monsoon passed and then came the summer. Majid remained intact in his promise and strove hard not to break it. He was even trying to utilise his reputation of having memorised Quran and as such being known as a ‘quarter Hafiz’, to help out the Imam of the local mosque. He helped to perform the Adhaan (call for prayer) and Aaqamah (repeat Adhaan just before congregational prayer) in absence of the Mutawalli. With these responsibilities came more social and religious reputation and smoking again seemed to be a distant dream.
Life was ok and normal to the extent that it started becoming routine and boring for Majid. He was not sure what sort of excitement he could bring into his life. Being a religious man he was a model for the youth of the village. Unfortunately, this meant being excluded from many options like watching Hindi films in small TVs in the bazaar or playing cards by the field which is regarded as gambling by the society. Even the elderly greeted him with ‘Salam’ imposing more pressure. He felt pious, honoured and burdened. However, he could still feel the temptation of a cigarette every now and then and he was constantly trying to resist it.
One depressing afternoon, Majid stole a cigarette from his brother in-law’s packet but just before lighting it, he remembered his promise. He could feel the weight of the promise he made in the name of God. He broke the cigarette into pieces and felt better after throwing it away. However, he was increasingly getting concerned about what would happen to him if in a spell of devil (shaitaan), he would break the promise. He didn’t want to increase the possibility of going to hell for breaking a promise as he’d already committed many sins.
He thought of consulting the Imam but decided against it thinking it would damage his reputation and help the Imam in building prejudice against him; after all hecalled people to prayer to pray behind this Imam. Thinking intently, he found a solution: to call one of his teachers, Maulana Abdul Karim Vobher Bazari from the Madrasah in Comilla. The title of the Maulanas includes the area they are from and Majid wondererd about that place Vobher bazar. For some reason that Vobher Bazari sahib left a good trusting impression on Majid.
5. The Price
The next morning Majid went to his local bazar and asked the phone shop owner for strict privacy for the call he was about to make. Having the curtain closed of the small phone booth, Majid dialled the number of the Maulana and heard the loud and deep voice of Vobher bazaari sahib, “Assala Mualikum wa Rahmatullah (Peace and blessing of God be upon you)’’.
Without replying ‘Waliakumus salam’, Majid replied with Salam again ‘Assalamualikum wa rahmatullah’. This being courteous to the elders (murubbis), where givingSalam to them first, before responding to theirs held someone in greater esteem.
Holding the phone in both hands out of respect Majid said ‘Hujur, this is Majid’, praying intently that Maulana forgots the fact that he is that Majid who escaped from the Madrasah a year ago. To his surprise the Maulana replied with a very normal and commanding tone without referring to any previous memory and went straight to the business, ‘”Yes Majid, what do you want?’’.
‘Hujur’, ‘I made a promise with my sister in the name of God’ that I would not do ‘something’. Majid could not dare mentioning what ‘something’ was about. Maulana quickly replied, ‘Have you broken it’?
‘No hujur, I just want to know, if I want to withdraw my promise what I should do’.
‘Hmm’,, Maulana’s pause was of concern to Majid and he took some seconds to think. ‘Majid?’, said Maulana Karim
‘‘Yes Hujur’’, Majid said, listening carefully, eager to find a solution.
‘‘You need to sacrifice two animals in the name of God, it has to be medium sized and something precious and expensive than a chicken or goat.’’
Immediately thinking of two chickens Majid realised it was a cow that the Maulana implied though he was not specific.
‘‘Hujur,chickens?’’ Majid said in a quieter voice, still hoping the Maulana would allow for the easiest and cost effective of options.
‘‘What did I say’’? responded Maulana. Now, his voice sound harsh and scary.
‘‘slamualikum’’, he said quickly, shorter out of anger. He hung up without clarifying anything further.
Paying the phone bill, Majid saw the shop owner smiling with a typical sales gesture, the eye contact was also of guilt, having eavesdropped on the conversation. Majid was not angry about this however, he was concerned about the cost of the promise. Two cows would cost him 30,000 taka at least. He had two options now, one was to find money to sacrifice two cows and withdraw his promise, or the other, to not smoke ever again in this life. He did not know if he was angry with his sister for giving him all this trouble or happy with her for saving him from a bad habit.