The entitlement of a cat

22-23 Ramadan 1440

I went searching for an email today and found this photo from March 13, 2008.


The photo was attached to a letter I emailed my family.

I explained I was at the Azhar mosque — a place where I loved to visit and read and study and listen and sing. I was there that particular day to recite Qur’an in front of Marwa, an advanced student of my teacher, a hafiza, and an incredible artist.

During those days, I was working toward an ijaza in the recitation of Hafs. The only reason that happened was because my teacher Zaynab asked her teacher, the late scholar Emad Effat, if he would grant me that permission. When I went to meet him, Zaynab was being orally examined in the 7 or 10 qira’at. I recognized the shaykh as the thin, bearded, gentle man who waited after Friday prayers in the Sultan Hasan Mosque to meet with students — many of whom were Malaysian women — in order to listen to their recitation. (It’s the first image that came to my mind when I read he was shot and killed in 2011.) He noticed my nervousness. I think he might have asked his student – my teacher – why I was nervous. He also must have noticed my inability to keep a poker face was well-paired with my ability to laugh at myself. The shaykh smiled when he gave my teacher permission to give me an ijaza.

Even so, I’m most likely their worst student.

But back to the photo —

I was reciting Quran for Marwa, an advanced student of Zaynab, when this cat just came up to me with all the entitlement of a cat who does not ask for permission for anything and sat in my lap. She sat very comfortably right under the mushaf I held in my hands as if she had done such a thing a thousand times before. Because she asked no questions, I asked no questions.

Marwa thought it was funny because I continued to recite not acknowledging the event so she stopped me and said, May I take a picture?

And she did.

(Day 21 & 22, the best part of me, lost ones)

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