They could be saints

30 March 2010/15 Rabi’ Al-Thani 1431

Akbar Uncle from the mosque was a loud-mouthed Pakistani man–most likely Punjabi–who knew better than everyone else.

He was obnoxiously opinionated. A large man over 6’4. A man of MANY words.

He dominated conversations to which he was not invited.

With a few businesses to boast of, he stood head held high and walked like a king.

When he entered the mosque, his presence–and booming voice which carried over to the women’s section—was unmistakable.

And he had a lovely wife.

Auntie was calm. Soft-spoken. A woman of few words. Sometimes English, sometimes Urdu.

She walked gently with her cane. She would sit on a chair in order to pray. Her shalwar kamees was always pressed and spotless. Her dupatta draped her head and chest the same way every time. Her thick glasses, through which she looked to read her Qur’an and recognize the faces around her, were always shined.

She gave soft kisses and pats on the head.

And her husband towered over her. She barely reached his chest.

Yet before her, Uncle bowed.

After some years, Auntie and Uncle moved away to be with their grandchildren. One day, a few years later, Uncle returned to the mosque.

Only this time, he walked with a cane, back bent. This time, when the uncles argued over the price of gas and the economy, or another conspiracy theory, he did not intervene with his own argument.

His once rounded face had thinned leaving his cheek bones showing. His gaze wandered aimlessly as he stood alone.

Someone said, “Is that you, Akbar?”

Smiling back meekly, he seemed to be at a loss for words.

“You’re back! How is your health, Akbar? Where have you been?”

Uncle looked up, his face contorted by the same pain that must have broken him and bent his back.

“Akbar, come have some lunch. Here, here’s a drink. How is Bhabi?”

“My wife?” he asked, eyes wide open as if startled by a memory. “My wife…I think it’s been a month now?”

He placed both hands over the knob of his cane.

“She had a heart attack…God bless her soul…”

A month later, we gathered to recite Qur’an for his soul.


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