Chapter 13: Travels Through Tangier Town
14 Ramadan, 1663
A dry wind blew across the mustachioed face of Gabriel Guerrero. His ship docked on the beach of Tangier-Tetouan and he stepped off onto the soft sands. He breathed in the salty air of the Mediterranean Sea as the low tide washed beneath his boots. He looked ahead, gazing into the distance at the mountainous regions of Rif. Carved into the mountain, he could see the castle of the governor-king of Al-Maghreb, still standing. He sighed. It would be a long journey delivering the message from his Cross leader to the potential Muslim ally.
Gabriel dragged his boat ashore and gathered his belongings from it. Fastening his satchel to his side, he threw over himself a large hooded cloak to protect himself from the sun. Looking up ahead once more, Gabriel took the first of many steps toward the Maghreb kingdom. It was peculiar to him that a land could have a king, and yet still be subject to the rule of an Amir" in a distant land. But the strange politics of these people were not his concern; he had more important matters to worry about.
As he treaded out from the soft beach sands into the harsher, dried dirt of the Country's nearest province, Gabriel recalled the tales he'd heard of the land. In times forgotten the lands had been full of beauty; with grass and flower-filled trees decorating the vast valleys. The breathtaking imagery had been mostly erased, a victim to the Great Wars. The only remaining beauty of the land was protected deep within the fortified castle walls. Until his destination was reached, Gabriel would have to suffer through the eye-sore of dry desert land and ruins of old towns.
Reaching the gates of Tangier town, Gabriel came to notice the footsteps of others. He could hear the chitter-chatter of the people of the market; merchants advertising loudly and negotiating with costumers; the shouts of children running through the roads; the braying of donkeys and bleating of sheep being herded through town. Civilization at last, he thought to himself.
He entered into the town with haste, immediately heading into the markets. "I need water," he said, standing at a booth. The bearded man behind the counter stood looking at him quizzically. "Water, water," Gabriel said, doing his best to imitate someone drinking water. The man raised an eyebrow and Gabriel sighed. Just as he was about to give up, he recalled that several languages were spoken in the land, among them was his native Spanish. "¿Hablas Español?" he asked the man with a faint bit of hope.
The man gave no response other than to arc his eyebrow even higher. Gabriel gave up. He turned and started to walk away. Suddenly, from behind him he heard a high pitch voice calling out to him. He turned back around and saw standing at his waist level was a young boy looking up at him. With the big green eyes on his dust-colored face, the boy stared back at him. "I can help you," the boy said with a smile.
"Thank God Almighty," Gabriel sighed in relief.
"You need to find water?" the boy asked.
"Just outside this gate here, down the path you'll come into a huge pool of water!" the boy exclaimed, much to Gabriel's delight. "There's a whole beach surrounded by it." Gabriel's smile quickly vanished as disappointment settled in.
"Young lad," he said, trying to contain his frustration. "I cannot drink that water, it is too salty."
"Ooooh," the boy said as Gabriel nodded in disappointing affirmation.
"Silly man," the boy said, raising his cupped palm to his forehead. "It's Ramadan; no one is out selling food or drink at this time. We're all fasting." Gabriel stammered, lost for words. The realization had barely dawned on him. It was Ramadan, the Muslim Sacred Month of fasting. No one would be eating or drinking anything until the sun had set in a few hours. There was no way could he last that long.
"But I- I, wait, even you?"
"Are you fasting as well? Surely a child such as yourself cannot survive such a thing? Tell me, where is it that you get food and drink from during the day?"
"But I am, I am. I'm fasting too; it's my first year and my dad says when Ramadan is over he's going to buy me a special gift."
"That's very kind of him, but how is it possible for one such as you to even manage?"
"I've been practicing for a year. When I was six I would fast from breakfast time and now this year I get to fast from suhur just like everybody else." Gabriel paused. He always found it strange how the Muslims could go for an entire month abstaining from food and drink every single day from dawn until dusk. Not only that, but they looked forward to it, even the youth! What a strange people are they who look forward to starvation and thirst, Gabriel thought to himself. I have fasted a few days before in fulfillment of an oath to God, but these people dedicate an entire month to this sacrificing of desires for God. What devotion!
"So then it seems that I must wait until sunset to drink, even while I am not from your faith?" Gabriel questioned.
"You're not a Muslim?"
"I'm afraid not."
"But you look so much like a Muslim. And you're nice like one too. Are you sure you're not a Muslim? What's your name?"
"My name is Gabriel Guerrero and I am a Christian man from España."
"Oh. Well my name is Yusuf; I'm a Muslim and I'm from here."
"Well, it's very nice to meet you," Gabriel chuckled as he bent down and reached out his hand. Yusuf shook his hand and flashed a smile. "Now Yusuf, is there any place where a non-fasting, Christian man could purchase some water? I am a traveler from out of town and am in desperate need of water."
"I can take you to my home where my dad and my brother are, In Shaa Allah they can help you."
"In Shaa Allah," Gabriel said as he stood up straight. Yusuf looked at him with an arched eyebrow, before dismissing the comment. He turned on his heels and began to lead Gabriel through the busy markets of Tangier. They passed by several carts and booths, some selling smooth silk and other fine imported cloths. Some were selling exotic seasonings brought in from recent trading voyages. Still yet, some were selling off items of wonder, narrating mystifying tales of the foreign lands they had been acquired in. From Chinese oil lamps, to crafted ivory sword sheaths from the south, and fashionable robes from the Northern Islands; all sorts of intriguing items were sold in the markets.
Things grew significantly quieter as Gabriel and Yusuf exited the market area and came up to a humble stone building just outside of it. Large and spacious though it was, the modest home was clearly that of a middle-class merchant. Out in the 2 acres of land behind it, Gabriel could see a young teenaged boy tending to a flock of fluffy, white sheep. Yusuf led Gabriel to the thick wooden door of his home and entered himself, before telling Gabriel to wait patiently.
"Baba," Yusuf called out to his father as he closed the door behind him. Gabriel leaned himself against the stony walls of the building, looking around him while he waited for Yusuf to return. He spotted in the sky above a lonesome cormorant soaring through the sky. This was a bird species unfamiliar to him. He watched intriguingly as the large black bird flapped its wings and headed towards the sea to fish.
It wasn't long before Gabriel could hear two voices from behind the door. "Yes, Baba," the young boy spoke to his father. He then opened up the door to the waiting Gabriel, and smiled. "Baba says you can come in."
"Thank you," Gabriel smiled at the young boy who then walked off into the back of the house. Gabriel entered the wooden door and walked up to the middle aged man. "Peace be with you," he said, shaking the man's hand.
"And with you," the man returned calmly.
"May God reward you and your son for your kindness."
"Ameen. Tell me stranger-"
"Gabriel, where are you coming from?"
"I am coming from España with a very important task." Yusuf returned with a large clay cup of water and handed it to Gabriel who proceeded to drink it down immediately.
"Ah, I see. Might I ask what this task is?"
"Well," Gabriel began, wiping his mouth. "I cannot reveal many details about it unfortunately. However, you will soon come to know of it once my mission is completed."
"I suppose so. In any case, thank you once more for your kindness, but I really must be going now."
"What? But you've only just arrived. Surely you must be tired."
"Indeed I am, but I will survive a few more hours of journeying. As I said, my mission is very important."
"Yes, I'm sure, and I pray Allah gives you success in whatever it is. However, I do wish you would stay; it has been quite a while since we have had any guests and during this Blessed month we could surely use the extra barakat* of hosting someone for a meal."
"I see. The thing then is, I could not fulfill my hunger in the home of fasting peoples whilst they remain hungry."
"Certainly it would be no trouble for us; our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has said 'While food is being eaten in front of a fasting person the Angels ask God to forgive that fasting person and they continue doing so until the people are finished eating.' So we would have no issue then if you were to-"
"Maybe so, but I could not bring myself to do it."
"Very well then, stay with us and we will all eat at iftar time."
"When the sun sets and we break our fast, we will have plenty of food and I ask you to join us for that."
"Should the sun set and I have not reached my goal, where shall I stay for the night?"
"I offer you a room within my humble abode."
"Thank you for your generous offer, but I couldn't burden you with-"
"Nonsense; it will be our pleasure."
"Are you certain?"
"Indeed. Now, will you stay?" The man smiled heartily at Gabriel and Yusuf clasped his hands together looking up at Gabriel with a big smile and wide eyes. Gabriel sighed before nodding his head in the affirmative. "Excellent," the man said before surprising Gabriel with a quick hug. "Yusuf, go tell your brother to slaughter one of the sheep for our honored guest. Quickly now, there is much to prepare."
The scent of roasted lamb wafted through the air. The room was lit with candles shining brightly against the darkness from outside. At the small wooden table in the center of the room were a circle of chairs. Gabriel, Yusuf, and his father all sat down, ready to devour the steaming plates of meat and vegetables before them. Yusuf waved in the steaming aroma to his face, breathing it in deeply. He turned to his father and smiled. "It smells delicious," he said with a wide grin. "Dihya really knows how to cook, doesn't he, Baba?"
"Indeed he does," the father replied, not giving his son a glance at all. "Where is that boy now though?"
"I don't know; he said he was going for a walk after he finished cooking."
The father sighed deeply. "Ya Allah help me; I don't know what to do with that boy." No sooner had the words escaped his mouth than did the father see the sulky teenager walk through the door. He walked right past the table and headed to the back. "Stop," the man commanded. A sigh could barely be heard coming from the teen as he stopped in his tracks, not even turning around. "You come in and give no salaams to our guest, you ignore your brother and I, and head straight to your room? Will you not even eat with us?"
"I'm not hungry," the teen mumbled.
"Not hungry? You fasted all day and had only a glass of water to break your fast. What do you mean you're not hungry? Go wash up and come back to sit and eat with us."
"What? But I'm not even hungry; I don't feel like eating."
"You fasted all day and now it's time to eat. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that your body has rights over you; you need to feed it."
"I'll have a glass of milk and some dates later on; may I please just go to my room now?"
"You may come and eat whatever you like, but you need to come and sit the family and our guest."
"I am through discussing this with you." The teen tensed up, the veins in his arms and neck becoming visible as he nearly balled his fists. He walked off into the back angrily as the father watched on with his own anger. Gabriel shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he could feel the tension in the air. Yusuf shot him a worrisome glance and he looked at the boy's father. "I'm sorry about that; Dihya is a bit difficult to deal with lately. He's going through that time in life and well, it's a hard time for all of us."
"I understand," Gabriel replied, trying to keep the mood light. "I've got a few kids myself and they have their attitudes as well sometimes. We all go through it growing up and then deal with it as adults raising them. It's tough, but at least deep inside we always love them no matter what, and they will love us just the same."
Dihya entered from the shadows and had a seat at the furthest end up of the table, scooting his chair away from everyone. He crossed his arms and shot a menacing stare at the plate before him. Yusuf looked at him briefly, but fearing receiving a strong glance himself, he turned away and began eating. Gabriel and his host continued on conversing, discussing many topics from raising children to their own childhoods and upbringings and current lifestyles. The time flew and the food disappeared, leaving empty plates and full stomachs.
Finally, the table was cleared and Yusuf had piled the dishes away; his father would wash them later. Dihya returned to his room and the others sat upon the sofa in the corner of the room, sipping tea and telling stories. "And that is how I met the woman I would end up marrying nearly two decades later," Yusuf's father laughed.
"Wow," Gabriel chuckled at the strange tale. "On top of all that, you had to wait two decades to marry her? You sure went through some bizarre obstacles to get married Hassan, but I'll bet it was worth it. Now you have an amazing wife from the sound of it, and two beloved children."
Hassan sipped his tea uncomfortably as he glanced at is son Yusuf. He sat his cup down and similarly lowered his gaze. "She was an amazing wife and a loving mother; but to Allah we belong and to Him we all return."
"I'm very sorry for your loss," Gabriel said in a low tone.
"There's no need to be saddened," Hassan replied, speaking as much to himself and Yusuf as he was to Gabriel. "Allah took her away when He decided it was best and we just have to accept that. Besides, through the loss came the gift of my beloved son, Yusuf. He is my heart, my world, and the final testament of the love between Zara and I." Hassan hugged his son and ruffled his curly brown hair. "Alhamdulillah, all praise is due to Allah, no matter what the circumstances. And speaking of praise, go and get ready for 'Isha, Yusuf." The boy hopped up from beside his father and skipped to the back.
"I'm glad you are able to cope so well with it," Gabriel continued. "And I'm sure Yusuf will grow up to be man she would be proud of; him and Dihya."
"Hm. I pray so. Dihya, he didn't take her death so well."
"Well he must've been very young when it happened; it certainly had to be very tough for him. But at least he still has his father and brother; a supportive family is definitely helpful in times of grieving."
Hassan sighed and looked away, almost as if he could pierce the wall with his vision and see into the room where Dihya lie on his bed. "Dihya is...well...I am not his father." Gabriel remained silent as he watched Hassan's worrisome eyes stare at the wall. "His mother and I married after his father had died in battle. He was already a young boy and was old enough to know that I wasn't his father. Our relationship was strained to say the least. Things only got worse after we found out that his mother was pregnant with Yusuf. When she died giving birth to Yusuf, Dihya lost it. His whole life was in pieces. I did my best to be there for him; Zara's parents offered to take him in but I wanted to keep him with me so that at least he could be raised up with his brother Yusuf. Sometimes though, it seems as if he hates me and Yusuf both. I-"
"He doesn't hate you," Gabriel cut in. "How could he? You raised him, you feed and clothe him, you give him shelter and protect him. And above all of that, you treat him like a loving father would; I'm certain he must at least realize and appreciate that."
"I don't know," Hassan said, shaking his head. "With that boy, I just don't know. But hey, I didn't mean to depress you with my life's sorrows; would you like another glass of tea?"
"Certainly," Gabriel said, reaching out his cup. Hassan refilled the cup to the top with the warm brew and set his kettle down. He got to his feet and looked out of the window. "It is getting late, isn't it?" Gabriel asked.
"Yes, we need to pray."
"Am I in your way sitting here?"
"No, no, it's fine, stay where you are. I will pray in the boys' room and we will prepare your bedding. You finish up here and I will call you when we are done."
"Okay," Gabriel replied, sipping at his hot tea. "And thank you again for your kindness Hassan; may God Bless you and your family with the best of this life and a good return in the Next Life."
"Ameen, and the same for you." Hassan left the room and Gabriel continued drinking his tea. His mind began to wonder about the strange events of the day. He'd gone from arriving in a foreign land, thirsty and practically begging for water, to being welcomed into the home of a stranger, fed and honored as a guest. His host had even gone so far as to slaughter a full sheep for a feast honoring him. All of this for a Christian man he'd never even met; a man who didn't even share the same faith or home as him. He was amazed by his host's extreme hospitality when their people in the further lands were bitter enemies.
Gabriel remembered how back home, Juan Gutierrez spat at the idea of an alliance with the "filthy, heathen Muslims." Gabriel could sense no hostility from the Muslim whose home he was currently a guest in, nor did he think peace to be impossible between their peoples. Now more than ever he believed in peace and hoped wholeheartedly that his mission would be a success. With the Kwaadi driven from the land, Gabriel was sure that the remaining Believers could live in peace. He sipped his tea and smiled, imagining a world of peace and happiness, Christians, Muslims, and all other religions living side by side and no evil Kwaadi rule.
Before long, Hassan and the boys had finished their prayer and Gabriel was called into the room. His bedding had been prepared on the floor a few feet from the bedding on which Dihya would lie. Yusuf would be sleeping in his father's room for the night so that there would be comfortable room for Gabriel and Dihya. Before the candles were blown out for everyone to go to sleep, Hassan sat with the two boys and rehearsed a couple of surahs from the Quran with them, checking their memorization.
Gabriel listened intently, watching in awe as the young Dihya recited a long chapter consisting of many beautiful verses. He was amazed to hear Yusuf similarly reciting the beautiful verses of God, though what he recited was much shorter than what Dihya had done. Hassan smiled warmly at both of his boys, hugging them both and kissing their foreheads. He then took Yusuf's hand and led him towards his own bedroom. The candle was blown out and Dihya lay down in his bed once more. Gabriel glanced over at him, spotting a curious sight. He saw that the boy was resting his head on the floor and holding in his arms a little green pillow with brown decorations and silver embroidery around it.
Gabriel lifted his head from the two pillows he had been given by Hassan and sat up. "If your pillow is too small, please take one of these," he offered. Dihya gave no reply. Gabriel further sat up and looked at him to check if he was awake. It was then that he noted the embroidery was actually Arabic calligraphy. His knowledge of Arabic wasn't too great, especially not in calligraphy, but he strained his eyes to make out the letters in the dark. Ya'qub, wa Zara, wa Dihya, he read in his mind. Translating it, he realized it must've been the names of Dihya's parents along with his own. Ya'qub and Zara and Dihya.
Gabriel looked on at the boy, his heart heavy with sympathy. The pillow was to Dihya what Yusuf was to Hassan. It was his only remaining connection to Zara; the final testament of her love for him. Considering the size of the pillow though, he assumed it to have been something she'd made for him when he was much smaller. Gabriel's heart nearly broke in two when he saw how tightly the boy was clutching to the pillow. He sympathized with Dihya; after all, he had also lost both of his parents at a young age. He remembered the cold nights he'd spent, crying himself to sleep and hugging onto himself, wishing that it were his parents.
Gabriel turned back and lay down in the bedding. He tried to clear his mind of the hurtful past and think instead of a more positive future. It all depended on his mission. This was God giving him a chance to protect the future generations from suffering a similar fate as him. If he could successfully strike an alliance with the Muslim king and they were able to jointly expel Kwaade from the land, there would be no more war, no more fighting, no more suffering. In Shaa Allah, Gabriel thought to himself. In Shaa Allah.
The sun rose slowly over the lively town of Tangier. Gabriel had risen early, packed his belongings, and was ready to leave the door. Hassan had packed up a large bowl of leftovers for him and gave him two canteens full of water. Gabriel stood at the door, saying his goodbyes. Hassan told him to come back and visit before he returned to Spain and gave him another surprise hug. Yusuf also ran up to give Gabriel a hug and he smiled up at him. Gabriel ruffled his messy, brown hair and out the corner of his eye he spotted Dihya. "Salaam Dihya," Gabriel spoke.
Dihya mumbled a reply and kept on walking. Hassan shook his head in disappointment and Gabriel just smiled as Yusuf offered up one hundred excuses for his big brother's attitude. Hassan shook hands with Gabriel one last time before Gabriel turned out of the door and faced the mountain area where he knew the king's castle was. It wasn't too far away; still, if he didn't get a move on it would be midday by the time he arrived. He turned around one last time to wave to Yusuf and his father Hassan before he kept on walking.
Hours later, Gabriel was ascending the mountain path which led to the castle. To his surprise, there were no guardsmen stationed along the mountain. He thought for sure that a man as important as the king would have numerous guards protecting his entire land in case of an enemy attack. Then again, the arduous climb up the mountain was enough of a deterrent he assumed. Sweat was pouring down his brow as he climbed up the mountain, motivated by the thought of peace and happiness and earning God's Pleasure. He had always liked the Muslim concept of reward according to struggle. Whatever suffering he endured for God's sake, he certainly believed he would be rewarded for it and greatly so.
Eventually, Gabriel reached the side of the mountain where he made the final climb to the flat side where the castle had been carved. He marveled at the architecture, astonished by both the ingenious design and the actual work put in to carve a castle into the side of a mountain. He looked on, seeing the tall walls of the castle, with intricate designs on every corner. Down the way he spotted a large wooden door with one man standing guard. It was a dark-skinned man of middle age. He wore a long flowing green thobe and had a sword slung over his shoulder. In his hands was an old book, with Arabic writing. He was stuttering as he struggled to read the words which Gabriel came to recognize as verses from the Quran.
"Salaam," Gabriel said as we walked up with a smile.
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam," the man replied in a loud voice. "State your name and the matter of your business please."
"I am Gabriel Guerrero and I am a messenger from the Cross," Gabriel said, holding out the scroll he'd gotten from General White. "I need to speak with your king."
"As you wish. Come with me." The man turned and opened the castle door, leading Gabriel into the king's abode. Gabriel followed with haste, holding tightly to the scroll. His gaze zipped all around the giant halls of the castle, looking at the beautiful imported carpets, green in color, and the fascinating calligraphic pictures resting on the walls. He took in the sweet aroma of burning incenses hanging in the walls. He heard quite a few voices coming from different rooms, but he could see no one else but the guard leading him to the king's chambers.
Arriving at the door, the guard knocked on it thrice before entering upon his king. Gabriel waited outside patiently until he was given permission to enter. Slowly, he stepped into the king's room, where he looked upon a plain square room with a simple mat in the middle and two pillows on it. Beside that there was only a prayer rug and a book stand holding a Quran. Gabriel's eyes met with a modestly dressed man of a similar age to himself whom he assumed to be the king, even though he could hardly believe it. Gabriel looked in awe at the simplicity of the king's room and dress even as the castle itself outwardly looked luxurious. The man looked at him, just as puzzled for a moment. "Forgive me for not bowing," Gabriel began. "But it is not in my religion to bow before any man; rather I bow only to God."
"And we believe the same," the king spoke in a husky voice. "Had you bowed to me I would never have accepted it or your company."
"Very well then," Gabriel dismissed the matter.
"Now, on to this important message of yours. Hand it to me please." Gabriel obliged and the king took the scroll. He read over it carefully, eying Gabriel as he read through the lines. Gabriel had closed his eyes and secluded himself from the world. In his mind, it was only him and God. He was praying with a sincere heart that the king would not reject the Cross's offer of an alliance. He begged and pleaded with God to let the plan work. His mind returned to the peaceful images of a pleasant future with no Kwaadi evils in the land.
He was drawn from his thoughts by the sound of the king clearing his throat. "Ahem."
"Oh, sorry," Gabriel apologized.
"It's okay. Now tell me, why does this General John White think that now of all times we Muslims and you Christians should unite to fight Kwaade? We have been at war with one another for decades and now suddenly he proposes this when nothing has changed to make it seem that that would work."
"Well sir, with all due respect, you are wrong. Things have changed."
"Oh, have they now?"
"Indeed. For one, we are a generation much more concerned with our religion and doing whatever we need to do to please God. I think in more recent times, the people of both our lands are coming to realize that faith is all we have in this world and if we allow Kwaade to continue gaining power and influence, there will be no choice for that left. Neither the Christians nor the Muslims will be able to stop him if his power continues to grow. He knows that so long as he has us divided and fighting amongst ourselves, we are weak and conquerable. Isn't that how he nearly wiped out your people in the first place all those years ago?"
"Indeed, the Muslims were weak and divided then but Allah gave us strength through unity."
"Yes, and I believe the same could happen now. If our peoples unite to fight this common enemy, we can expel him from the land as the Muslims have done in the east. You know, our people are not so different that we should always remain bitter enemies. For what reason? I have come to know some Muslims in recent times and through my journeys I have found that what we believe and what you believe are like to rivers flowing side by side, separated only by a line of rocks in the water. We believe in the God of Abraham, you believe in the God of Abraham; we believe in Heaven and Hell, you believe in Heaven and Hell; we believe in the Resurrection, you believe in the Resurrection. We are all taught good morals and raised up to be God-fearing. However we are both mocked and looked down on by the godless Kwaadi people who live like savages, obeying only their lusts and desires. Kwaade imposes his will upon them and wishes to oppress us with the same, regardless of whether we had been Christian or Muslim. If that devil bears no discrimination between our peoples, why then should we? I believe it is time we unite to take down the true threat to the believers of God. Who knows, perhaps an alliance here could strike up something more and in the future we could have peace around the globe."
"You are a very hopeful person," the king spoke. "I like that. However, I do not see our aid being of much benefit to you if we are coming from down here and Kwaade is attacking from above and from the east."
"True, but we have also sent messengers to the Muslims of the Island nations in the north east."
"Interesting. And do you know what the reply was?"
"No, I'm afraid not."
"Hm. How long will it be until you will know?"
"Only once I return to my land will I be informed."
"Would you like to know right now?"
"Yes, indeed I would but how coul-"
"The answer is 'no.' I am almost certain of it."
"But why would th-"
"Because unfortunately my friend, this generation is not as you believe. Yes, there are many men and women who have held to their faith and are deeply indulged in seeking God's Pleasure. However, there are also some on the verge of losing it all. Surely you as a Christian must know what I mean."
"I'm afraid I do not."
"Well, look back to history. Your people owned so much of the world, even after the Great Wars. However, you lost much of it not just to the wars with Kwaade, but to greed and lust. Kwaade was able to buy so many Christians over with wealth and fortunes. Even some of your highest respected men fell to their knees, bowing to their own desires and Kwaade conquered their hearts one by one. And these here are similar to those people. They are given to lust and desires. Little remains of their religious devotion. Had they truly been devoted to Islam, they would already have attempted to unite and expel Kwaade, with or without your Christian help. However, they wait instead; hoping either that you will do it or that he will get rid of you or that they will at least be left alone. I tell you this, they are almost as lawless as the Kwaadi people. Their Islam is like the shirt a man wears; on some days he wears it and others he removes it and tosses it aside, going after something else. I honestly do not believe you will be able to convince them or their lazy rulers to go into action. As for me, you have my support. I will send with you an army of 2,000 men as a show of my agreement. Thereafter, I too will join you with another army when it is time to fight the Kwaadi scum."
Gabriel sighed in relief at the King's agreement. He was troubled on the inside, worried about the fate of Ishaq's mission. Still, at least he himself came about successfully. For now, this was enough. "Excelente," he cried with joy. "This is wonderful news that I must hasten back to deliver. I will-"
"Calm down my friend, you will return soon enough. However as I said, I want to send a small army with you as a show of my support. Allow me time to prepare them. I would be honored if you would stay here for the night and leave after I have prepared an army to join you."
Gabriel ran his fingers through his beard while he pondered over the idea. Never before had he been invited to stay in the castle of a king. And he knew that his children would much enjoy the tales he would relay to them about his stay as an honored guest of the king. Still, Hassan had also asked him to return for a visit before he left for home. He found a peculiar attachment to the family he'd only known for one day. He felt himself drawn back to Hassan's hospitality, Yusuf's youthful innocence, and oddly enough, he even wished to see Dihya again. "I thank you for the offer," he began. "But I have been asked to stay elsewhere by one of your subjects and I would hate to deprive them of the blessings from God."
"Very well then; this is understandable. I will send for you in the morning. Before you leave my castle though, I wish to give you a gift. Will you accept?"
"Why yes, of course. What is it?"
"Well," the king began before rising to his feet. He pulled a silver ring from his right hand and handed it over to Gabriel. "Take this and wear it wherever you go in my land. The seal in the center is the seal of the kings. Whatever market you go to or home you enter, you will be my honored guest and will be treated as so. Anything you need will be paid for by me."
"I-I, I couldn't."
"But I insist. If you will not allow me to host you here in my castle, then allow me to host you in my kingdom." Gabriel sighed, nodding in agreement. He then slid the ring onto his pinky finger, the only finer it would fit on. "Excellent. Keep the ring as a token of my dedication to your cause. I only ask that it be returned after we have driven all of the Kwaadi people from the land."
"Now, Kaleem, please escort our guest out of the castle; I have much work to do."
"Of course sir," the man in the corner replied. He lead Gabriel out of the door and back down the halls. As they reached the outside, getting back into the beaming sun light, their eyes squinted and they slowed their pace.
"What an amazing view," Gabriel spoke. "Back home in España, there is no such view. The sun is dull very often and the sky is dark."
"Well," Kaleem spoke up. "Perhaps God will make the sun shine over Spain once more after Kwaadi power is removed from the region."
"You know, I really admire your spirit and hopefulness. I also like that you are a man of strong faith. I've actually heard a lot about you."
"Yes. In fact, I would say I am where I am today partially because of you."
"Well, I mean everything is from the Will of God, but what I meant by that statement is that I was influenced by you. I used to be a Christian man myself."
"Really? What happened?"
"Well, I'm not from this land if you haven't noticed. My ancestry goes way back to a nation that once existed above the Southern Continent; but those lands were destroyed in the Great Wars. I was, of course, raised far away in the Northern Continent because of that. In my mid-twenties I heard the news of your exploits in Spain, and I felt that you were a man of God and someone I should aspire to be like. The trouble was, the village I grew up in was already Christian and we had no trouble with any neighbors at the time.”
"That's a problem for you?"
"Well, you know, I meant for someone who wanted to change things it was. How can you fix what's not broken?"
"Yes. So instead I set out for the nearest non-Christian lands to fight those people. I quickly realized that that was foolish and un-Christian like; it didn't make much sense logically either. So I decided instead to convert all of the people there to Christianity. It was the toughest trial of my life. While I'm out there trying to preach Christianity to these people, I was expecting them to either convert or fight against me and I would die a martyr and perhaps that would inspire some more Christians to continue my work and I would succeed through them. But the Muslims in that town just ignored me and went about their business. For years I would be going around standing in public or talking in private, trying to convert people. Eventually I decided for them to convert they had to know their religion was wrong. So I spent nearly two decades trying to disprove Islam. Boy was I a fool. I mean, no one even cared what I was saying; they wouldn't argue with me like I wanted, they wouldn't fight me, they didn't even give me so much as an ugly stare. In fact, some of them were nice to me. That made me more determined to convert them; now I didn't want to disprove them just to be right, I wanted to save them and guide them to God's good Grace. I had my family's support in the fullest, so you can imagine their surprise when I returned home as a Muslim one day."
"But how? Why?"
"Well, as I said, I needed to disprove Islam to get my point across. So in those two decades I was trying to learn as much about Islam as I could. I tried attacking it from all points. I looked up their beliefs about God; their belief on Creation; their belief on sin and forgiveness; their belief in Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him); their belief in Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him); their belief in-"
"Wait. Muslims believe in Jesus?"
"Yes indeed we do. In fact, it might intrigue you to know that we Muslims believe that Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was a Muslim just like Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)."
"But how? Jesus lived many centuries before Mohammed."
"True. However, a Muslim is simply one who submits his or herself to the Will of God; obeying His commands and staying away from what He forbids. In that way, we can say that every Prophet, from our father Adam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), to Noah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Moses (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and lastly Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) were all Muslims. They all believed firmly that there is no god or deity worthy of worship except the One True God, whom we know by many names. All of these Prophets and every other Prophet of God all shared this same Message. Their times, nations, and languages may have differed but their source and Message was all the same nonetheless. Wouldn't you agree that Moses (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) preached the same Message?"
"Yes of course."
"And Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and Noah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)?"
"Job (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Lot (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Jonah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Jacob (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Isaac (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Joseph (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Aaron (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and all the other Prophets? Their Message was one and the same. 'Believe in God, worship Him alone; follow me as your Prophet/Messenger.' They didn't ask for anything in return, no payment of any sort, nor did they seek glory for themselves. They did only what God commanded them. Similarly, God later sent Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) with the same Message and the same mission, except this time He made Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) the last of the Prophets and Messengers. So the final Message is the same as the first, the only difference is the Laws God imposed on us. But you will find those differences amongst all of the other Prophets too. Look at Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and Noah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). God gave Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) certain laws to follow that Noah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) didn't have. Noah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his followers didn't have to circumcise themselves for instance. And in Moses's (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) time, the Sabbath was ordained and his followers had to honor it. But did Adam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) do that? So laws change a little here and there, nothing too major; however the core Message has always remained the same. That is actually one of the things that drew me towards Islam. I had been trying to argue that there was no way it could be the true religion considering how new it was, but when a man explained that point to me I was dumbfounded."
"That truly is an amazing point."
"Yes. I learned that early on, but like a fool I kept arguing for years and years. I thank Allah every day that He didn't snatch my life away while I was in disbelief. I mean, twenty years arguing against God's religion like a fool, and He still showed Mercy on me by feeding me and allowing me to live and grow long enough to be Guided until finally four years back I accepted Islam."
"Wait, you've been a Muslim for four years?"
"But then how do you know so much Ka- uh, what was your name again?"
"Kaleem. Or you can call me Kenneth. That was my original name, but I changed it upon converting."
"Ok, well, Kenneth, how is it that you know so much about the religion already?"
"I do not. I honestly do not. I have much learning to do, and you know we're all students in life, so we can all take some time to learn. Islam is as much about knowledge as it is action. I mean, how can you please God if you don't know how? So Islam actually puts an obligation on every follower of the religion, male or female, to learn. We all have to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. And that's another thing that drew me to Islam. Other religions don't really put an emphasis on education, and in some it's almost discouraged. When I was a Christian, if I had a question about something I didn't understand in the Bible and it wasn't logical, my priest would never answer it you know. They would tell me it's not a matter that I should be concerned about or accept it as it is and sometimes even discourage me from reading the Bible by telling me it wasn't for the common people to read and understand but rather to have it explained to them by their priests. In Islam I always found answers after I did some digging and no one ever prevented me from doing so."
"So are you saying Christians are unhelpful or uneducated?"
"No, not at all. I'm sorry if it sounded that way; I didn't mean to offend you. I only meant that for me it wasn't completely logical and as I dug into Islam I found that it made a lot of sense to me; I believed a lot of the same concepts and well, the glove fit. You said it yourself, Islam and Christianity are like two rivers flowing side by side, separated only by a thin wall of rocks. I simply made the climb over the wall and into the next river because I wasn't sure where the other one was taking me."
"Fair enough. You have chosen what you felt right for yourself and I pray God gives you happiness with that. As for me, I am content with what I believe and will not question your beliefs."
"But you should."
"What?" Gabriel asked, taken aback a little.
"Why not question? Everything should be questioned. How else do we learn? We have to question why, how, and things like that. Question yourself, your purpose, your beliefs, other's beliefs. You feel certain where you are right now, so what harm can it do? When you answer all of the questions there are only two outcomes, either you are strengthened in your belief, or you find something more to believe in. There is no loss for those strong of mind. Look, I won't force anything upon you, and I am in no way trying to convert you just because I converted, I just like for everyone to think for themselves and question things. You know, Kwaade isn't just opposed to religion, he also hates free thought. So shouldn't we take advantage of our God-given right to free thought?"
"I suppose you are right; I will take your words into consideration."
"Hey, that's all I ask. You have a safe trip now, my friend. Actually, I didn't quite catch your name."
"Mi nombre es Gabriel, Gabriel Guerrero."
"Well it was a pleasure meeting you Gabriel," Kaleem said, reaching out his right hand.
"Likewise," Gabriel replied, giving him a firm hand shake. "Perhaps we will meet again when our nations unite?"
"Most definitely; I'll be out on the front lines."
"Excelente, you will find me there as well. I look forward to doing battle with you."
"As do I."
"Peace be with you Kenneth my friend," Gabriel waved as he began his descent down the mountain.
"And with you," Kaleem replied, smiling a bright white smile. Gabriel continued climbing down the mountain and he could see Kaleem standing in his place, watching over him. He waved once more before finally turning his back. He sneezed as he turned around and just afterwards he could faintly hear Kaleem shout some words to him. "Yahdeekum Allah wa yuslih baalakum*."
Gabriel scratched his head, wondering what the words could mean. The only part he recognized was "yahdee," which he knew was some form of the Arabic word for guidance. Assuming Kaleem was praying he is guided back to town easily, Gabriel turned back and smiled. "In Shaa Allah," he shouted back. "In Shaa Allah," he said to himself as he turned the corner, looking down on the winding path back to town. Guidance would certainly be needed, and certainly be found on his travels through Tangier Town...
Yahdeekum Allah wa yuslihu baalakum: May God Guide you and rectify your condition.