Empires Of Faith

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Chapter 22: Crossroads

29 Ramadan, 1663

Muhammad, Imran, and Usama all stood around a small campfire outside their tents, gazing at the night sky. It had been a few hours since the sun had set and the night began. They were searching for the new moon to determine if their Ramadan fasting would be ended or if they would be fasting the next day. So far they had not seen any sight of the moon, and they were on the verge of giving up.

"Well, it looks like we will be fasting tomorrow too," Imran stated as he lowered his gaze from the black night sky. "Even without any clouds there seems to be no moon around.”

"Alhamdulillah," Usama agreed. "I had been hoping that we would see thirty days this year. The past few years have all been twenty-nine days only."

"Yeah," Muhammad said as he took a seat on the ground. "Plus, thirty days gives us enough time to reach the island before Eid."

"You're right," Imran said, also having a seat outside his own tent. "Tomorrow morning we'll enter the port city and set sail on one of their ships In Shaa Allah across the little sea to the first of the island nations. That should take a few hours, depending on the weather. We'll spend our Eid in the company of other Muslims though Alhamdulillah, instead of out here in this desolate desert."

"We should get some sleep then," Usama suggested. "If we're leaving in the morning, it'll do us good to get some rest now. We can set out for the town right after Fajr then."

"Sounds like a plan," Imran agreed and Muhammad nodded along. "Alright, In Shaa Allah, well, I'll see you guys in the morning for Fajr. As-Salaamu Alaikum." Imran and Usama dispersed into their respective tents, leaving Muhammad alone by the fire. His eyes watched as the flames danced their hypnotic dance. Feeling the fire's warmth, Muhammad felt almost at home, but as he looked around him he saw nothing but barren sands.

He sighed. Reaching back into his tent he pulled out his leaf-bound book and a small pen. His eyes glanced at the red of the flames and the black of the sky. His mind filled with sudden inspiration, he began jotting down poetry in his little book. Loving words encoded in artful messages he would dream about giving to Munirah every night. Just like old times, he thought to himself. Some things never change...


30 Ramadan, 1663

The day had dawned and the three travelers had reached the port city on the edge of the town. To their good fortune, the people of the town were a mostly neutral people, and thus had no issue with providing service to Muslims from another land. This, of course, came with a price and the three were charged a good amount for the travel fair. Imran agreed to cover the majority of the expenses because even though they had all brought along the same amount of money and belongings for the trip he had earned a significant amount of money doing business with the peoples of numerous towns and villages they stopped by.

With their expenses paid, the three boarded one of the larger vessels leaving the city. They loaded their supplies and, after some struggling, managed to get their animals aboard the ship as well. Then, along with several other passengers and the ship's crew, they set sail for the island nation of Daifa. Muhammad now sat on the ship’s deck with his two companions. They looked around to the people accompanying them. Many of them were women and children along with a few elderly men and sickly folks.

One common thing amongst the majority was that they, like many people throughout the world, were a people who struggled for survival. They were from the lowest of the peoples, most dressed in tattered old clothing that was wearing out. Some appeared as though they hadn't had a decent meal in weeks. Some of the passengers appeared to have been faring a little better. While their clothes were old and worn as well, they had full stomachs and had a cleaner appearance. Regardless of how things were back home though, they were leaving that life behind for whatever lie in wait at Daifa Island.

As he looked around, Muhammad noted that one of the other passengers was a Muslim. There was a short woman standing at the far end of the ship by herself, covered from head to toe with a black abaya, hijab, and her face was covered by a thin niqab. Only her eyes and the small area of brown skin surrounding them was visible. She stood alone, scribbling something on a little pad of paper.

Across the way, Muhammad spotted two other women along with a larger man from the town staring her down intently. There was a look of disgust and displeasure on their faces as they eyed her down, but she paid them no mind. She was stronger than that. Still, they persisted until the man stood from his place and began walking toward her direction. Seeing this, Muhammad stood as well and promptly walked to her side.

"As-Salaamu Alaikum," he greeted her, speaking loudly so that the approaching man would notice him coming closer. The woman muttered a reply back but kept her focus on her pad. Still, just as Muhammad had hoped, the man shifted his path and instead kept on walking, albeit not without passing a dirty look to Muhammad as well. Muhammad watched the man carefully until he made his way back around the ship and sat down with his group. Muhammad turned back to the woman and spoke once more. "Pardon me for asking, but are you travelling alone?"

"Indeed I am," she replied her voice barely audible.

"Why? Aren't you aware of how unsafe that is? Where is your mahram?"

"You sure have a lot questions don't you?" she replied, still not even looking up from her pad.

"I was just trying to look out for you, Sister." The woman gave no reply. A little frustrated and left with an awkward silence, Muhammad decided it was time he went back to his friends. "Just be more careful out here, Sister."

Muhammad walked back and sat down with Imran and Usama who immediately began overwhelming him with question after question. "Calm down you idiots," he said, his arms crossed and his eyes closed. "I have no clue who she is. I just saw a Muslim sister standing alone and that guy looked like he was going to go bother her, so I went over to scare him off. We didn't talk about anything, I just told her to be more careful."

"Okay," Usama accepted. "For a minute there I thought you missed Munirah too much and-"

"Shut it," Muhammad said, immediately clenching his fists.

"Calm down," Imran laughed. "He wasn't going to say anything haram."

"It doesn't matter," Muhammad said through his teeth.

"It does matter because it's perfectly hal-"

"You shut it too," Muhammad said, opening his eyes and giving an angry stare to both of his companions.

"Why? You're allowed more than o-"

"I only want one! Now shut it before I snap your bow over your head."

Imran and Usama just laughed at Muhammad's threat. "Wow," Usama said between laughter. "Someone needs to go home to his wife already hahaha. I guess four months is-"

"Ah shut up. I'm done with this." Muhammad stood up and walked to the back end of the ship where he sat and watched the shore fade into the distance. Imran and Usama remained seated in their spots, joking and laughing. It was their best way to entertain themselves and pass the time on such a boring journey across the sea. With so much noise and chatter going on from the other passengers, there was no hope for a peaceful reading of Quran or a relaxing nap.

The time went by and soon enough the ship had docked. The passengers stepped out onto ports of Daifa. Muhammad, Imran, and Usama all climbed down with their animals in tow. They stepped foot into the shore and were met with a blindingly colorful city. The town was decorated in blues and greens, reds and yellows, with numerous other colors all around. There were various ornaments hanging from the buildings and trees and there were signs placed all throughout the sign with the words "Eid Mubarak*" written on them in several languages. The roads were full of people dressed in all sorts of fancy clothing and celebrating with the highest delight. The aroma of a variety of pastries and baked goods wafted through the air. The sounds of music filled the air as men paraded the streets beating on drums and blowing flutes and women danced about, chanting various words of their own unique dialect.

"What is this?" Imran asked in disbelief.

"I have no clue," Muhammad said, equally confounded. "I do however wish that whoever is making those horrible noises would stop before I get a headache."

"Me too," Usama said, jamming his fingers in his ears. "This is not good. If these people are Muslim they should know better."

"What are they doing all this for anyways?" Imran asked.

"Well, my good man," a strange looking man from the ship said from behind the trio. "Today is their holiday, eet or something like that."

"Eid?" Imran corrected him.

"That's it."

"How is it Eid; there was no moon last night."

"What?" the puzzled man asked.

"Never mind; thanks for the information."

"No problem at all. I'll be off now." The man went along, dragging a bag along with him until he disappeared in the crowds of people.

"What have we come to?" Muhammad asked his companions.

"Madness," Usama replied with a look of pure exasperation on his face. "We have come to a town of madness."

"Look," Imran said, pointing to an old man across the way who was sitting down reading what appeared to be a Quran. The man was dressed in a dazzling white thobe and wearing a white kufi on his head. "Let's go speak with that man; he seems to have his head on straight." After tossing their supplies on the backs of their horses and camel, the group calmly walked over to the man. "As-Salaamu Alaikum," Imran spoke.

"Wa Alaikumus Salam," the man replied, his mouth void of any teeth.

"Ya akhi, would you happen to know just what all of this celebration is?"

"Why, it's Eid my boy."

"How can that be when there was no moon last night," Muhammad interjected.

"What?" the man queried.

"The moon," Imran continued, cutting Muhammad off from another hasty reply. "We were camping out a short distance from here and we saw no sign of the moon, even with a clear sky. How did you all manage to see the moon to determine today as Eid, even while we are fasting our thirtieth day of Ramadan?"

The old man looked up with a wide grin on his face, and he patted the ground beside himself for the three men to have a seat. They complied and all sat down around him. "Now, what's this about the moon you say?"

Muhammad sighed and shook his head. Imran kept a friendly smile on his face as he replied to the man. "The moon sighting for the end of the month. We searched all throughout the night and saw no sign of it. We were but a few miles from here to the south. How is it that you are celebrating Eid as if you had seen the moon when we shared the same sky as you and saw no sign of it anywhere?"

"Why, that's impossible."

"But we-" Muhammad began.

"We checked for ourselves numerous times throughout the night," Imran continued. "Even down to the last few minutes before Fajr."

"Well what'd you go and do that for?"

"So we could know if we should fast today or not."

"But we already had the answers, don't you know?"

"What?"

"Why, Baba Mustafeed told us weeks ago there would be no moon last night."

"Wait, so you agree there were no moon sightings last night?"

"Of course, just as Baba Mustafeed predicted."

"Well then why aren't you fasting? No moon means thirty days of Ramadan."

"We've already completed 30 days; do you want us to do more?"

"You what?"

"Well, considering Ramadan started thirty days ago, today would be the thirty-first now wouldn't it?"

"No, Ramadan started twenty-nine days ago, which means that today is the thirtieth day since the beginning."

"Actually, it depends on where you are," Muhammad interrupted. "Perhaps they saw the moon while we observed another day of Sha'baan or they were going from a day earlier because of an occurrence months before. That would put them a day ahead of us."

"Hm, you're right," Imran agreed. "Even so, there was no moon sighted last night which means you should've been fasting today."

"But," the old man retorted, his patience wearing thin. "Baba Mustafeed foretold that there would be no moon that night or the previous. However, he predicted that today would be Eid for us months ago, and Baba Mustafeed is never wrong."

"Wait, what?" Usama asked. "You guys are following some nonsense predictions?"

"Baba Mustafeed's fortunes always come true. They are not nonsense, they are truth."

"They are deviance and haram," Muhammad replied.

"I'm sorry, Akhi, but he's right," Imran agreed. "These predictions are not acceptable. Who is the one telling you these things and making you accept this shirk*?"

"I've told you already," the old man said, clearly annoyed. "Baba Mustafeed is the wise man who has predicted these things for us."

"And just who is this Baba Mustafeed?" Muhammad asked. "Is that his actual name or just another falsehood he came up with so that he could hide his identity while he spreads lies to you people?"

"His name is Mustafeed Uokuk, and he is no liar. He is a wise man of our town, able to read the stars and give us guidance."

"Astaghfirallah! Only Allah gives Guidance!"

"Calm down, Muhammad," Imran spoke. "So this Baba Mustafeed of yours, he is a noble man of your city I assume."

"Indeed he is. He's the king's right hand man."

"Then we need to have a word with this king of yours; I'm sorry but we cannot let these deviant innovations go unprotested."

"Deviant? Hm, you sound like that self-righteous desert brat wandering around here. Why don't all you high and mighty desert dwellers go back to your homelands and let us enjoy our culture?"

"Because your culture is not in accordance with what Allah and His Messenger(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) set as guidelines for life. This isn't the Islam that was revealed all those centuries ago."

"And who said we wanted to follow the Islam of the past peoples in the desert? We are our own modern peoples, we will follow our own traditions and culture. Either you accept this or you leave; but you will not come to our home to preach to us about how to live our lives!" With that, the old man haughtily rose to his feet and stormed away, dragging his flowing white thobe behind him.

The three men sat in disappointment as they watched the man walk away. "Well," Muhammad said, breaking the silence. "Wasn't that pleasant?"

"It's sad," Imran replied. "These people seem to be really misguided. Forget the Kwaadi influence, these people are getting led astray by whoever this fortunetelling fool is."

"Imran's right," Usama spoke calmly. "It's not good. These people are blind following an ignorant man who's making up lies and their king lets him get away with it. It's sad man."

"It's ridiculous. And if all the people are full of it like that man, we'll have to go directly to the source. We need to find this Uokuk guy and find out why he's deceiving the people. For all we know, moon sightings is the least of his falsehoods; he could be spreading some real deviance and absolute shirk with his fortune telling."

"Well," Muhammad sighed as he got to his feet. "We can either go looking for the guy now, or we can talk to the people and see what exactly their beliefs are."

"Makes sense to me; let's see who we can have a chat with."

The group all stood and began looking around for anyone standing out from the crowds in the streets. All the festivities made it difficult to see anything past the parading crowds of drummers and singers along with the many spectators. The people had all gathered to sing along or watch the fantastic displays of the hired performers now strolling through. There were men performing stunts like juggling flaming torches, dancing with their swords, and some even performing acts of illusionary magic.

The trio sighed in disappointment as they looked upon the delighted faces of the townspeople. They split apart with each heading to a different group of people to speak with. Usama came upon an old man and greeted him with peace. "What was that?" the man asked him, not even glancing his way.

"I said As-Salaamu Alaikum," Usama shouted, straining to be heard over the noise of the festivities going on behind him.

"Oh, yeah, yeah, waykum salm, what do you want?"

"Ya akhi, I am a traveler from out of town and am unfamiliar with your customs here. I am hoping only to speak with someone in regards to this strange manner in which you are all celebrating."

"What about it?"

"Well, it seems that many of the performances everyone is enjoying are haram, and should not be encouraged. I am curious as to who authorized such things. Who, might I ask, are the learned men of this nation?"

"There are many; why, I don't mean to brag, but I myself am among one of the wisest."

"Really? That's good. So can you tell me what you think of your people and these practices of theirs?"

"What do you mean?"

"What is your opinion of these things they are doing? The women parading the streets singing and dancing? The men practicing magic and out in the streets to make a display of it."

"They are entertainers; what is the issue?"

"I don't mean to disrespect you, but it's not right."

"This is our holiday, shouldn't we celebrate it?"

"Yes, celebrate. But after a month of sacrifice and striving to please Allah, it's not good to just go into sinning just for fun. We should keep up the goodness In Shaa Allah and stay away from the things Allah does not like."

"What are you talking about?" The old man was noticeably growing annoyed. Usama took note of this and tried to word his replies easier.

"The music and the magic are things that are forbidden in Islam and-"

"In YOUR Islam! I don't care about all that!"

"Akhi, please calm down. There is no 'my Islam' 'your Islam.'"

"Yes there is and I don't like the way you desert dwellers come up here telling us Islanders how to practice our culture."

"Islam isn't about culture; it's about obedience to our Creator and submitting ourselves to His Will."

"Maaah, get outta here; you're all the same. Go back to your dusty little desert and leave us to our traditions."

"I'm not even from the desert, I come from a land further east than that. I just know to practice the real Islam as it wa-"

"Well go back to your swamps and mountains. I don't care. Leave us be, you're worse than Kwaade."

"Ya akhi, I-"

"Curse you, go away! I am trying to enjoy my Eid." The old man spat and Usama backed away. Though angered, he didn't allow himself to respond ignorantly as the man had acted towards him. Instead, he grabbed the reigns of his horse and the rope of the camel and began walking away to search for a friendlier person to speak with.

Down the way, Muhammad had found just such. He was speaking with a young man and his pregnant wife about the personal beliefs they held and how they practiced. "Well," said the husband, holding the hand of his wife beside him. "Ever since Allah blessed us with this pregnancy we've been trying to get a little better before the baby arrives."

"Ma Shaa Allah," Muhammad replied, pleased with what he was hearing. "That's good to hear. May Allah Guide you and make you both upright and excellent examples for your child. And may the child grow up to be a righteous one, kind and obedient to his parents and a leader amongst the people."

"Oh he already will be," the woman replied eagerly.

"What?"

"Yeah, Baba Mustafeed told us. That's why we have to work on ourselves and get better so we don't dishonor our son."

"How do you even know it'll be a son?"

"Baba Mustafeed of course," the couple replied in unison.

"Of course," Muhammad replied with a slight hint of sarcasm. "Tell me, why is it that you people love this man so much and listen to everything he says?"

"Well he really is a blessing to our people," the husband explained. "We used to live blindly and ignorantly. But we were all saved when he came into town. He taught us our culture, reminded us of our traditions, and gave us faith again. He taught us our Islam."

"Mmhm," Muhammad nodded in false agreement. These people are still blind and ignorant, he thought to himself. I don't like this Uokuk guy, whoever he is. "So just what did he teach you about Islam?"

"Well, he taught us that you're free to practice how you like. If you want to pray five times, you can; and if you only want to pray two or three times that's okay too. For some people they don't need to pray at all. It only matters what you intend and believe, that’s what your connection with Allah is about."

"What? This is- what?"

"Your Islam is what you make of it. Believe as you wish and do as you wish."

"I'm sorry but that's total nonsense. There are rules and certain things you can't abandon, prayer being one of the most important. Don't you know it is our salat that makes us different from the nonbelievers?"

"I'm assuming you grew up in the desert," the woman chimed in, still smiling.

"Yes, but I don't see what that has to do with anything."

"Well, no offense," the husband began. "But it seems that you desert peoples seem to be more action oriented than belief. We islanders believe that what is in the heart matters most."

"Well yeah, faith within your heart is the first thing, but evens so-"

"It's the only thing," a man walking past interrupted. "If I believe I am a Muslim than I am, end of argument. I don't have to do all those rituals you guys believe in like bowing all day or starving for a month. That was for the people in the past, we are in a new time."

"Let me guess," Muhammad said with a sigh. "Baba Mustafeed taught you that?"

"Indeed he did. He taught us many things and we trust in him because he and the king have kept us safe from losing our culture. We have neither given into Kwaadi rule nor do we follow the traditions of the dusters."

"Dusters?"

"I'm sorry, you desert dwellers. In any case, we are fine as we are; so why don't you just take care of your business and be on your way."

"Pardon me sir, but I was having a nice conversation with-"

"My son and his wife. Now quit pestering them and move along. Go on. Leave."

Muhammad sighed. He didn't want to feel like he'd given up, but he also didn't want to stir up any trouble. The young couple held an apologetic stare in their eyes while the father gave a stern look of disapproval. Muhammad turned to his horse and grabbed the reigns to lead it away. "As-Salaamu Alaikum," he murmured as he walked away in disappointment.

Muhammad led his horse down the path to search for his companions. As he looked upon the city, the parade had faded into the distance, with the music now a faint beating of the drums. The crowds had moved on, following the performers. The bright colors and decorations that had adorned the city buildings now littered the streets. Muhammad walked through glumly, fighting the feeling of regret that was growing inside him.

As he walked on the stone road, a lonesome piece of paper brushed past his face and placed itself in the saddle of his horse. Muhammad stopped to remove the paper and took a quick glance at it. All he had noticed was a bold label saying 'WANTED' and a drawing of a shadowy figure with something about payment inscribed at the bottom. He tossed the paper and continued walking. Soon enough, he came upon a shady spot behind a tall building. Feeling the midday heat, he decided to have a rest so as not to over exert himself on his last day of fasting.

"These people," he said to himself, staring off into the distance. "They are so misguided. This isn't Kwaadi influence, this is straight from Shaytan. Whoever this Mustafeed Uokuk is, he is a dangerous man."

"He's a devil in disguise," Imran said as he calmly walked up. "He's got all of these stupid people practically worshipping him."

"Practically? I think it's a bit more than practically. He tells them they don't need to pray or fast or do anything but claim to be Muslim. He's taken out the old laws and made up his own, and they eat it up. They've taken him as a lord by allowing him to ordain what's halal and haram even after Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) have said otherwise. This kind of obedience is a type of worship by the Quran's standards."

"They don't care about the Quran," Usama angrily said as he joined the two beneath the shade. "I've spoken with several of these people and they're just so....I don't know what to say man. It's not good. One man spat at me, it wasn't nice."

"I dealt with some nice people," Muhammad said. "Ignorant, but nice. Well, until the man's dad came along and called me a duster. I don't even know what that means."

"Well I know one thing," Imran said. "This Mustafeed guy has got to go. He has the people so deluded."

"Yeah I know. Thanks for bringing me way out here to learn that."

"What?"

"Ugh, I should've stayed home. Nope, instead I decided to join you two clowns on some four month journey to the island of idiots to deal with stubborn fools, misguided by some fortunetelling bozo; which, by the way, is not what I had been told was the problem of these people before I set out, you liars!"

"Calm down man, even if it had been Kwaadi influence that was the problem, we still couldn't fix it in just one day of talking with a few people. You need to have a bit more patience, man."

"Patience? I've had nothing but patience this whole journey."

"Well good then, don't spoil the experience now. Aren't you glad to not be cooped up in your house all the time doing nothing? And you've spent more time with friends, even making some new friends along the way. Alhamdulillah, isn't that better than having stayed home for the rest of your life?"

"Oh yeah, I'd much rather be out here on this stupid island than in my comfortable home. I mean, why would I want to be there with my fresh food, comfortable bed, and warm, soft wife when I can spend months out in the desert eating stale bread and sleeping on the cold, harsh ground with a couple of rough and dusty men. And dealing with these stubborn people who love ignorance is so much better than maybe trying to learn more Deen for myself and benefitting my wife and I with that. I'm sure glad I left home for this, I-"

"Hey," Usama cut in. "You're not the only one who misses his home, alright? You left Munirah, and you miss her, fine. But man you're not the only one; I've been away from my home even longer than you have. I miss my Haqikah and our kids. It's been almost half a year since I saw them. The last time we spoke was when I wrote a letter to Haqikah telling her that I was coming here before I came back; and I have no idea how she took it. I didn't get to hug her and say Salaams before I left for months like you did. I didn't even get to hug all of my children before I left, man."

"Wait," Muhammad said, now calm and listening. "Did you say children? So you had another kid over the years?"

"One? Man I've had three more," Usama laughed. "After our daughter Halima we had two more; our twins, Hasna and Husna; and last year we had our first son, Usaim."

"What? Why didn't you tell me all this man? We were supposed to catch up when you guys first arrived at my house."

"It's okay man; we didn't have the time for it.”

“Back then, but we’ve been traveling together for months , man!”

“There were more important matters," Usama said with a shrug.

"He's right," Imran said, gripping his horse's reigns. "We have to find this Uokuk guy and stop this madness."

"Fine," Muhammad agreed. "But you're not off the hook Usama; you're still going to tell us about your family later on."

Usama laughed as he helped Muhammad to his feet. The three began walking down the road, recounting their encounters with the townspeople and discussing a course of action. They all agreed that Uokuk had to be stopped, but their suggested manners of doing so differed. Ideas of kidnapping and beyond were proposed as an immediate solution to ending his speaking, but such would still leave his current lies living among the people. They needed something that would not only stop him, but also stop his lies and bring the people back to truth. At last it was agreed that the first course of action would be to find his place of residence and warn him against the evils he was spreading. If they could get through to him and cause him to see the error of his ways, perhaps he and all the other misguided peoples would find their way back to the true path of Islam.


As the sun declined and night fell upon the town, the trio of travelers finally broke their fast on the last day of Ramadan. They sat outside the main town, resting beside a lonesome tree after having failed to locate a single Masjid in the entire town. According to one of the villagers, the last remaining Masjid had been converted into a miniature palace for Baba Mustafeed, and the three refused to go and pray there. So instead, they had set up camp on the outskirts of town, drinking water from an old well and eating the last of their stored dates. A certain silence came over them as they felt the departing of the Blessed month. From the very moment the month was over they all felt a strong yearning for its return. Alas, there would be another eleven months to wait for that.

After prayer, the three decided to go to the marketplace and purchase food for the night and perhaps something more. They tied their horses and camel and carried their supplies with themselves, lest they be robbed of anything. Digging through his belongings, Imran pulled out a small sack of coins and jingled it for weight estimation. "Hm," he thought aloud. "I think I will also buy some attar In Shaa Allah, what do you guys think?"

"Why?" Muhammad asked. "You have like seven bottles still. I think you have an unhealthy addiction."

"No," Imran laughed. "I just like to think of them as souvenirs in a way. Souvenirs that you can benefit from. It's really great because it's something different from each land we've been through and so I can always remember this trip, In Shaa Allah. You know, your sense of smell is actually a great factor in your memory."

"As you are now, you might just be remembering this trip in your grave someday," Usama joked. He and Muhammad laughed and Imran just went on talking about his oils.

"Plus, I mean, it's Sunnah to smell good right? And having a good scent is one of the things that makes a person attractive right? So who knows, you guys are laughing now but this attar might get me married."

"Yeah," Muhammad laughed. "A sister's just going to walk up to you, smell your attar and say 'please marry me brother.' Her dad's going to come with a contract already written up and her mahr will be another bottle of attar, right?"

"Haha very funny," Imran sneered. "After this journey, the next time you see me I'm going to have three wives with a whole town of women fighting to be the fourth, just watch."

"Yeah, sure. Maybe work on getting one wife first." Muhammad and Usama both kept laughing and Imran couldn't help but laugh a little too.

"I told you already though, I almost did get married back home."

"Yeah, almost, but did it happen?"

"No, because I had other more important things to worry about. I didn't want to get so attached and be up crying about my wife every night, 'I miss my soft, warm wife' hahaha." Now it was Imran and Usama's turn to laugh while Muhammad felt the embarrassment.

"'O my Beloved,'" Usama chimed in mockingly. He and Imran nearly fell over themselves in laughter. Muhammad just kept on walking, a slight smile on his face.

"'My wife, my wife,'" Imran continued as the three walked on through the lighted streets. The crowds of people had decreased, though the festivities had not yet ended. There were still performances of the night going on, with many including fire-play. The presence of drumming and flute playing had not died down yet either. Colorful lights flashed as flames danced through color tinted lanterns on posts in the streets. The cool of the night brought a peaceful air as the crowds on the street settled and the excitement was calmed.

The trio walked past a food vendor and decided to make a purchase there before moving on for anything else. They walked up to the stand with their eyes as big as their stomachs. They breathed in the aroma of freshly grilled meats, seasoned with a variety of spices, some homegrown and some foreign. A steaming tray of hot bread, fresh from the oven was sat on the counter. Also lined up were bowls and bowls of soups and rice dishes, along with a few vegetable plates. Their mouths watered at the thought of the many different combinations of the food they were so eager to buy.

"I'd like to buy a couple of plates of bread and meat for my friends and I," Imran said to the shop owner as he placed a handful of coins on the counter.

"What kind of meat would you like," the man asked with his back turned.

"Chicken," Imran spoke for himself.

"Beef, please," Muhammad said, his mouth watering just looking at the beef cuts grilled with onion and peppers.

"I'll have the beef too," Usama said, pulling out his own coins to pay.

"Usama, it's fine," Imran said, urging him to put away his money. "I will pay for it, Alhamdulillah."

"No man, it's alright; I got it. You already paid for our trip on the boat and everything."

"It's fine; I don't mind. I'm just trying to get as much barakah as I can."

"We need barakah too man; let us pay for you."

"It's fine, Alhamdulillah. I will pay for everyone; put your money away, Usama."

"Nah man, you put yours away; I got this."

"Usama, put your money away."

"Put yours away."

"Really man, put your money away. I got this, Alhamdulillah."

"Imran man, it's fine. Let me pay."

"Next time, In Shaa Allah."

"No man, put your money away and I will pay this time."

"I'm not putting my money away, man; I'm going to pay."

"Imran, you don't have to pay, man."

"I know that, but I want to; so just put your money away." Imran reached out to hold Usama's arm down from placing the coins on the counter. Usama in turn grabbed hold of the coins Imran had placed on the counter and took them down. The shop owner turned around, scratching his head at the perplexing sight. Muhammad sighed as he watched his two companions quarrel over who would pay the bill for the food.

Holding a little smile on his face, Muhammad snuck out a few coins from his own pockets and placed them on the counter. "I don't know why these guys have to make a big deal out of it," he said to the owner. "Whatever though, I will pay." The owner looked down at the coins and frowned. "Is something the matter?" Muhammad asked. "Is it going to cost more?"

"You should all put your money away," the man said with a somber voice. "Your money is no good here."

"What?" the three men all said in shock, Imran and Usama freezing in place while holding onto each other's money.

"We don't deal in these types of coins here. We use shells and pearls from the sea for trade."

"What?" Imran asked as he slowly let down his arm. "How are we supposed to acquire shells and pearls? The local seas are all filthy and unsafe. The waters are poisoned with pollution from the Great Wars; you can't possibly expect anyone to actually go swimming in there looking for shells and pearls."

"Exactly why they're such a rarity and so highly valued around here," the man said with a smile. "If it was something everyone got so easily, then what's the worth?"

"We don't have any shells, man," Usama said, his hunger coming through as a bit of anger.

"That's too bad; I can't sell you any food without shells or pearls."

"Can we make a trade?" Imran offered. "I'll give you an exotic bottle of attar for one plate of food."

"No deal. I spend all day dealing with cooking oil and food, I don't care to go home and put oils on so I can smell like some weird mixture of bizarre smells."

"What about a-"

"Look, I'm not going to trade you anything for my food. You either buy it with shells and pearls or you don't have any at all. I'm trying to run a business, not your mother's trading group."

"Mrmm," Muhammad growled as he took his coins away and placed them back in their sack. His stomach growled even louder as he and his friends turned away, hungry and unhappy. After all their hype over what food they would eat and who would pay for it, all they had managed to do was tease themselves. That, and discover that on these islands they were poor and literally without any wealth at all.

"Now what?" Usama asked as the three walked on down the road. "We have no food, no money, and we can't even do any trading here. What are we supposed to do? We can't stay here for a few days, let alone weeks, without being able to buy food and supplies. And going into those seas is like begging to be killed or to get sick with numerous diseases and cancers."

"You're right," Imran said, stopping to think.

"Maybe we could sell a few things," Muhammad suggested.

"We don't have anything to sell," Usama replied. "Aside from Imran's attars, everything we have is pretty much our basic necessities. Our last little bit of drinkable water, our weapons, and a few clothes that I'm sure no one will want to buy."

"Hm, well maybe we could find some sort of work for while we're here."

"Like what?" Imran asked.

"I don't know. I used to clean shops back in my town, remember? Maybe we could do that. Or maybe help someone out on their farm or something. I don't know. We have to find something." No sooner had he said that than did Muhammad recall his earlier run-in with an advertisement paper. "Wait a second; I think I got it."

"Well?"

"Earlier when I was walking through town I saw this paper saying something about a payment for the capture of some criminal or something."

"Oh yeah, I saw one of those too," Imran replied with excitement. "It's a bounty for the capture of some desert criminal I think. I don't know what the payment was but anything is good enough right now."

"Yeah. We should do it then. Whoever this guy is, let's track him down and find him."

"And how are we even going to track him down?" Usama asked. "We barely know anything about him."

"And that's why we'll ask the locals," Muhammad said, walking off towards a man standing at a shop. Imran and Usama followed as Muhammad approached the man. "As-Salaamu Alaikum," Muhammad spoke, reaching a hand out to the man.

"Do I know you?" the man rudely replied, not even lifting his hand to shake back.

"No but the Sunnah is to greet those whom you know and whom you don't know."

"Hmph," the man gruffly replied, still refusing to shake hands.

Ignoring the poor manners of the man, Muhammad continued on the conversation. "I don't mean to be a bother, but is there anything you can tell us about the bounty signs around town?"

"They're nothing but a lowly ploy to get the desperate, low class citizens to do the guards' work for them."

"Oooookay, but what are they about? My friends and I are interested in perhaps retrieving the reward and-'

"Mmhm," the man chuckled. "That doesn't surprise me in the least. But I have no concern for your money schemes, or the bounties, or anything else in this low class city of peasants. I am only here waiting for the arrival of Baba Mustafeed. I hear that he's going to deliver a special sermon this night, though I do not know why he would choose this town of all places. Anyhow, you've wasted enough of my time; run along now, you and your little desert friends. Go, go on now."

Muhammad, Imran, and Usama all turned around and went about their way, looking for someone else to speak to. "The people of this town are really ill-mannered," Imran said, looking back at the man they'd just spoken to.

"Yes," Usama agreed. "But what do you expect? They hardly have iman, how then could they be expected to still have good character?"

"Well once we get them going on learning the Deen, I'm starting up a mandatory manners class for everyone on this island," Muhammad said, crossing his arms. "This is ridiculous; they don't even know how to give Salaams."

"We'll worry about that later," Imran said, changing his direction. "Right now, we need to find someone to tell us about this bounty so we can make some money and buy some food."

"I can help you with that," an old woman spoke as she emerged from the shadows. "I apologize for interrupting your conversation, but I couldn't help overhearing a few details and I understand you are looking to catch the desert fox wandering around here."

"The who what now?" Muhammad asked.

"The desert fox. Come, follow me and I will tell you all about him." Muhammad turned to his companions questioningly and they both shrugged. He shrugged back and nodded his head and so they all followed after the old woman. She led them into the darkness where only the light’s reflection off of her jewelry was visible. Following the sound of her footsteps, they walked on through until they emerged on the front side of an old brick wall where there was a shimmer of light. She pulled down a hanging poster and showed them a drawing of the wanted man.

The woman held the paper before the three who struggled to make out the image in the dim lighting. It was more of a silhouette than an actual depiction, and all that was visible was the shape of a man of medium height and thin build. His head seemed to be wrapped in something, possibly a turban as there were two long tails drawn coming from behind his head, with a third coming from around his waist. "This is the desert fox," the woman spoke. "He's called by many different names really, we've only recently began calling him that as a combination of our own name for him and another he is known by. Regardless of that, he is a troublesome fellow."

"Really?" Imran asked, clearly intrigued. "What's he done?"

"He is a traveler, a foreigner from another land. He arrived here a few weeks ago and has been stirring up trouble ever since. At first he sought an audience with the king but when Baba Mustafeed advised against it, his request was denied. Thereafter, he began causing trouble throughout the towns. Attacking our citizens and breaking up the shops, destroying peoples' merchandise and ruining their livelihoods. He's a pesky little self-righteous vigilante of a sort. After an outcry from the townspeople, the king ordered that he be brought to face justice for his crimes, but the guardsmen are as of yet unable to capture him. And so a bounty was placed on his head; whoever brings him in dead or alive will receive a payment of fifty shells."

"Fifty shells," Usama pondered. "Is that enough to buy a plate of food?"

"Why, with that much money you could buy thirty plates of food and a bag of feed for your animals."

"That's perfect," Imran said with a smile. "Could you tell us how to find this desert fox? In what areas has he been spotted most? At what times? How often?"

"He's only been spotted once during the day; all other occurrences took place at night. He is mostly in the upper parts of town where the nobles are; he seems to have a vendetta against them. However, I do believe you will find him in the town from which you came this night. Baba Mustafeed is rumored to be giving a special sermon there and all of the noblest of peoples will be attending. Yes, I'm certain of it. Return to where you came from and stay alert; they say he moves like a flash of lightning. In one second you see him and in the next he is gone."

"Interesting ," Muhammad said, scratching his chin. "Is that why the guards haven't been able to catch him yet?"

"That, and to be honest the guards are rather oafish if you ask me. But be wary, he is a skilled fighter nonetheless, and I am certain he will not go down without a fight."

"We'll be careful alright. Thank you for the information uh-"

"Aidah."

"Ok. Jazakallahu Khairun, Sister Aidah. As-Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah." Muhammad and his companions took off back to the town. They were eager to spot and capture this desert fox and earn their reward. In order to make their burden easier should they get into a fight with him, they decided to leave their belongings behind in the dark alley where no one would find them. Tying everything together with one of Muhammad's spare turbans, the trio hid their items under one of the walls in the dark and left out from the shadows with only their weapons on their backs.

The trio walked the streets mostly unnoticed. The people were all still distracted by the ongoing performances and even more so by talk of Baba Mustafeed's alleged sermon. Crowds began to grow once more, and some of the shops in the marketplace were closing down early. Everyone was waiting eagerly for the arrival of their beloved Baba Mustafeed.

As the old woman had assumed, the nobles from the upper towns arrived in droves. The lower class folk fumbled over themselves to make way for the nobles. On the backs of fine white horses came many men and women of presumed nobility. Dressed in fanciful garments of whites and greens and reds, the nobles were paraded through the streets as the crowds of commoners came to a hush. Muhammad and the others watched as the nobles marched through the roads until they arrived at the town center. Thereafter, the regular townspeople gathered around, keeping a good distance between themselves and the nobles.

"I suppose this is where that Uokuk clown is going to come deliver his sermon," Muhammad said, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Looks like it," Imran said, his hand around his beard. "I suppose we should try to get closer so we can see what this guy looks like. Tomorrow we'll pay him a visit and try to talk with him about whatever deviant nonsense that he’s going to tell the people tonight."

"Do you really think he'll even allow us in," Muhammad queried. "I mean, you heard what happened to that fox guy. He was trying to visit the king of all people and Uokuk didn't give him permission and that was enough to stop him. Imagine us trying to visit Uokuk himself. He'll probably turn us away before we even get to say what we're there for. Why would we be any different from this fox guy? We're coming out from the desert just the same."

"Speaking of the fox," Usama said, motioning behind himself with his eyes. "I think he's here, guys."

"Did you see him somewhere or are you just assuming like the lady said?"

"I think I saw something. I'm not sure, but there was a shadow and then it disappeared. Remember, she said he moves like a flash of lightning."

"Yeah well, let's keep an eye out for him," Imran spoke calmly. "Honestly I don't think he would make a move tonight, considering there are so many people. If he makes his moves at night, it's probably to be secretive. You can't be too secretive if the entire island is present."

"Hm, I don't know about that," Muhammad interrupted. "Logically, everyone would assume he wouldn't do anything that stupid since the whole town is here and there will probably be guards too. But then, that is exactly what makes it a perfect plan. No one is really expecting you to try anything, so now you have the element of surprise on your side."

"What?" Imran and Usama both asked in unison.

"Never mind. I'm just trying to use a little logical insight. In any case, we have no idea what exactly it is he will even try to do. I mean is he out to kill Uokuk or what? The lady just said he's been attacking people. Why?"

"Does it really matter why?" Imran asked with a confused smile. "He's a criminal with a bounty on is head, one that is going to pay for our meals and a few other things. We're going to capture him and get paid, which will also help our efforts in da'wah here. If we help them get rid of one of their wanted criminals, I'm sure the people will lighten up to us and perhaps be more willing to hear what we have to say."

"Maybe. I'm just saying that perhaps we should think a bit more about this. They might accept our help and start listening to us. Or they might accuse us of a scam and say we're in alliance with him since we're all coming from the desert. They've already made assumptions and allegations against us just from the mere fact that we're different. We don't yet know the full height of their ignorance and hatred."

"That's true, but what's your point, man?"

"Well, thinking about this more in depth, I'm beginning to wonder if-"

"Never mind that," Usama cut in. "I just saw him!"

"What?! Where?"

"Are you sure it was him?" Imran asked.

"Yes, over there on one of the buildings. It was a skinny man, not too tall, not too short. I couldn't see his face but he had a turban on it looked like. Aside from ourselves, I have not seen a single person wearing anything resembling a turban since we got here, other than that picture."

"Alright well let's go after him," Imran said, pulling his bow down from over his shoulder.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa-" Muhammad began.

"Calm down. I'm not going to kill him or anything. I'm going to use some of my blunt arrows and just use them more in an attempt to scare him. We need to split up so we can trap him."

"Okay, so who's going which way?"

"I'll go straight and you and Usama can go around the other ways. We'll corner him on one of the rooftops hopefully and force him to give up. Don't be afraid to pull out your weapons to scare him if he tries anything."

"Alright."

"Let's go already," Usama impatiently spoke. "Let's move before he gets away." With that, the group split apart, the men all heading in different directions. Imran headed up straight down the path, bumping into the people of the crowd as he ran along. Ignoring the angry shouts of the people, Imran kept running until he reached a large stone beside a building. He hopped onto the stone and used it to help himself atop the building. He pulled himself up and got to his feet to immediately keep running.

Imran ran until he reached the edge of the building where he then stopped to look down. He drew a deep breath and took a few steps back before running forward and jumping across the gap. Landing atop another rooftop, Imran rolled over his shoulder and got to his feet. He saw a figure standing in the distance a few rooftops away and smiled. The man was standing still and hadn't noticed Imran sneaking closer and closer, hopping across the rooftops.

When there were but two rooftops between him and the other man, Imran began to slow down so as not to make any noises that would alarm the man. He crept to the edge of the building and hopped across as quietly as he could, still holding onto his bow. When he landed, Imran crouched down in case the man turned a glance in his direction. There was only one rooftop in between him and the man. He was close to capturing him.

From the corner of his eyes, Imran could see another figure sneaking up across the way. Seeing the short stature of the man, Imran smiled, knowing that it was his friend Usama. He waited a moment for Usama to get closer so that they could both approach the man at the same time. When Usama himself was only a few rooftops away, Imran decided to make his move. He ran as fast as he could and hopped the rooftop before rolling over and immediately springing up to hop the next one.

As he came to a rolling stop on the second rooftop, Imran came up in a crouched position and drew an arrow out onto his bow, aiming at the man. To his astonishment, the man was no longer there. "What?" Imran whispered to himself in disbelief. "How in the-"

"Behind you," Usama shouted as he came running up. Imran barely had time to react before he was kicked over onto his side. He rolled over and got to his feet, standing beside Usama. The two looked on at the man standing a few feet away from them. He was dressed in dark brown clothing, with black wraps covering his hands and around the bottoms of his pants. A brown thobe with splits on the side covered the upper half of his body, with a black sash around his waist whose loose ends blew in the wind. His face was covered with the brown cloth of his turban, leaving only his eyes visible. He held a long bo-staff in a slanted angle behind his back in his right hand, while his left hand hung beside his body in an almost relaxed manner.

Usama and Imran stared him down for a moment, almost in disbelief. Sure enough, this was the desert fox they had been told about. This skinny, young man had presented himself before them, as if surrendering himself for them to acquire his bounty. Imran and Usama smiled as they readied themselves to attack.

Usama gripped the handles of his two swords over his shoulders and unsheathed them in a quick second. The man's glare hardened, he watched the two carefully. Imran stepped aside from Usama, putting himself at an angle with the man. He looked to Usama with a slight smirk and nodded to him. Usama smiled back and nodded in agreement.

In a split second, the two both lunged forward at the man. He quickly spun his staff over and got ready to defend himself. He swung the staff up high at their heads and the two both ducked beneath it, with Usama diving to tackle him. Instead, the man spun over horizontally and rolled over Usama's back before landing, spinning around, and sweeping Imran onto the ground. He twirled the staff over and slammed it down at Usama who just barely managed to avoid it by rolling over on his back.

Imran and Usama both got to their feet to keep on fighting. The man vaulted himself forward with his staff and kicked Usama in the chest, knocking him onto his back. Imran swung his bow at the man's head but the attack was parried with the side of the staff. Imran spun the bow over and tried bringing it up but that too was blocked and the man struck him in the chest with an open palm, knocking him back several across the roof.

With Imran stumbling backwards, the man now focused on avoiding Usama's charging attack. Usama came up swinging his two swords and the man turned his staff sideways as he shifted back and forth to block the multiple attacks. Now on the defensive, the man had to be more careful of his surroundings, lest he back himself to the edge of the building. But then, that was exactly his plan. Just as his back foot reached the ledge, the swung his staff for Usama's head, knowing that Usama would quickly put up his guard to block it.

With Usama momentarily distracted, the man leapt from the ledge, doing a backwards flip across the gap to the next building. Usama could hardly believe his eyes, but he didn't have time to stand in awe of the feat. He lowered his swords and jumped across himself. He was soon joined by Imran who came up rolling and now held onto two of his arrows as if they were swords. Imran rushed past Usama and leapt into the air, coming down swinging his two arrows.

The man raised up his staff to block the attack. The two clashed and the moment Imran's feet hit the ground he leapt back up, this time kicking the man in the stomach. The man stumbled back a few steps before charging forward, holding his staff behind him with one hand. He leapt up and delivered a smooth ax-kick to Imran's chin before immediately knocking him back up with a left uppercut. The man then dropped low and spun around backwards, sweeping Imran to the ground.

In a fraction of a second, he was standing up and blocking the single sword attack Usama swung at him. He forced Usama's arm into the air, throwing him off balance. He then stepped in closer to roundhouse kick him in the ribs. The man spun over sideways and slammed the staff down onto Usama who was only halfway towards the ground.

The man jabbed the staff behind him, knocking the wind out of the charging Imran. He twirled the staff over his head a few times before turning to face Imran. He thrusted the staff at Imran in quick , deliberate jabs, striking him in several places. He pulled the staff back and twirled it between his fingers before gripping it tightly with both hands. He swung the staff with great force, aiming straight for Imran's head.

Clack! His staff clashed with the hard wood of Muhammad's powerful spear. Muhammad stood before the man, eyeing him down as they fought for dominance in the weapons struggle. Just as Muhammad began to gain the upper hand, the man pulled his staff back and instead dropped into a forward splits position, thrusting his staff straight out at Muhammad. Muhammad parried the attack with a low swing of his spear and he then brought his spear up, moving the staff into the air.

Muhammad spun his spear over his head and behind his back before bringing it down over the man's head. The attack was blocked and the man sprang up to a standing position. He jumped up and swung his staff and Muhammad blocked, promptly spinning around to turn his spear in a low attack. The man quickly spun his staff over, successfully parrying the attack away from himself. The two went on back and forth swinging high and low with each blocking the attack of the other.

The click-clack sound of the wooden weapons clashing grew louder and louder as the two fought fiercer and fiercer. It appeared as though neither could get the edge over the other, with Muhammad being extra careful to keep the man at a distance lest he gain an advantage with him like he had with his companions. Little did he know, the man had already taken him down mentally, and it was only a matter of moments before that plan came to action.

As the back and forth strike and block pattern continued, Muhammad tried to develop a way to switch it up. Unfortunately for him, the other man had the same plan. On one of Muhammad's upper swings, the man ducked under and came up hitting him with a spinning horse kick to the face. As Muhammad stumbled back, the man stepped forward and grabbed hold of his spear, yanking it away from him. Now with a spear and bo staff in his hands the man continued his attacks.

He spun the two weapons in his hands before sliding them out at Muhammad. With the spear swung down low and the staff up high, Muhammad was forced into a midair layout spin to avoid getting hit. As his feet hit the ground he immediately looked up towards the man who then swung the staff up, knocking him in the stomach. Putting the two weapons in a V shape, the man prepared to swing them down on Muhammad's head.

Just then, Usama made another attempt to tackle him from behind. The man dropped down low as he spun around and swept Usama over with the spear in his hand. Usama fumbled over, crashing into Muhammad instead. The two crashed back onto the ground as the man remained crouched with his back turned. Muhammad angrily pushed Usama off of himself as he watched Imran have another go at fighting the man.

"Did you guys really have to attack him," Muhammad asked as he rubbed the back of his head.

"He attacked first man," Usama said, leaning forward on his hands.

"Well you guys did show up with weapons at the ready, he probably-"

"Why are you defending him, man?"

"I'm not, he seems to be doing a pretty good job of that himself."

Muhammad and Usama jumped to the side as Imran came rolling over after being dealt another blow by the man. As Imran sat, wiping a little bit of blood from his face, Muhammad shook his head. "This is not how I imagined spending the night before Eid, fighting some desert fox on a rooftop in a town of idiots."

"Night before Eid?" the man spoke in a solemn voice. "You have not celebrated your Eid with these corrupt people?"

"No, but what's that matter to you?"

"If you are not following them in such a manner as that, I think it would be safe to assume that you are not one of the ignorant blind-followers of Uokuk."

"Of course not," Usama spoke, a clear hint of anger in his voice. "Do we look like him and his people?"

"No," the man replied. "You look much more like my people."

"Your people?" Muhammad asked confusedly. "Who are you and where are you from?"

The man spun his staff over and put the end on the ground. He was done fighting. He looked on at the three observing their intentions before deciding to speak any further. "I am is Ishaq Al-Ghareeb, The Wandering Fox. My people are the true and sincere Muslims all around the world."

"Then what are you doing here?" Imran asked as he slowly relaxed his stance a bit.

"I was sent here on a diplomatic mission. I was to deliver a message from one of the generals of The Cross to the rulers of these island lands."

"The Cross?"

"Yes. In an effort to finally rid the locale of Kwaadi evils, there was a proposed alliance between the Muslim and Christian lands. I and one other man have been sent to deliver messages to the leaders in the Muslim lands. I do not know the results of his efforts, but I have yet to be heard even. When I arrived here weeks ago, this Uokuk man immediately had my message hushed. He says that there is no worry for the people of this island except that us 'dusters' come and force our Islam onto them and make them hardliners who would then draw ire from the other peoples around. He says that peace will only come from blending into the norms of secular society, and that with no major differences from the Kwaadi around or notable oppositions to the Christians, this Muslim nation will flourish and that is what modern Islam is all about."

"This wretched man and his modern Islam," Imran spat. "Allah says in the Quran 'This day I have perfected for you your Religion, and have completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.' How does this twit justify trying to say the religion should change with time?"

"If you go quoting the Quran or the hadith to them they will merely jam their fingers in their ignorant ears and call you a duster."

"Yeah, I've been called a duster here," Muhammad said. "And I still don't know what the heck that is."

"That's not important, what's important is me completing my current task, which you've interrupted."

"And that is?"

"I'm collecting information on this Uokuk guy and his puppet king. Within one week I intend to return to Spain and report on the response I received. After all of this matter is dealt with, I now intend to report my findings here to the Amir. I think he would best know what to do with these peoples and their deviant rulers."

"I'm going to take a wild guess and say you're not really the criminal they've made you out to be, right?" Ishaq nodded in affirmation. "I'm assuming they've done to you what some of them have done to us. Making you out to be the bad guy because you want to call them to good and keep them from evil." Ishaq nodded again. "So then what of these attacks on the town's merchants and nobles? Are these also false allegations?"

"Yes, and no."

"What?"

"They have exaggerated the manner in which things took place. I entered into the market place soon after arriving here and found some of the merchants to be cheating their customers and weighing unjustly. When I warned them by the word of Allah, they called on their men to attack me and send me back to the desert as they said. I merely defended myself against the wicked men. The nobles who had their hands in the dirty business sent men of their own after me to silence me, lest their names be sullied as well. So it was for that reason that I fought with them as well."

"Mmhm," Imran said standing up. "If you're really this innocent hero like you're portraying yourself to be, why did you attack us?"

"Do you know a fox relies on its large ears to hear and stay alert so as not to fall victim to predators or enemies? Similarly, I am determined to defend myself against any assumed threat. I apologize for any harm that I have done to you, however it was you who came after me. Was it not?"

"See?" Muhammad said, turning to Usama. "Didn't I tell you?"

"In any case," Ishaq continued. "I have work to do, and now thanks to your distractions I am quite certain that I have missed my opportunity to listen in for Uokuk's little sermon. I wanted to confront him publicly about his deviance in hopes that perhaps I could reach the minds of the people and spark an interest of the truth in them."

"Hm, we actually intended to confront him ourselves," Usama said, also standing now. He put his swords away and shook his hands out to stretch them after holding them closed tightly for so long.

"Actually," Muhammad began. "Why don't we all confront him together?"

"Together?" Imran asked, still eyeing down Ishaq in a slightly suspicious manner. "Why?"

"Well, we have the same purpose and we're all just trying to please Allah in our actions. Perhaps things will be made easier for us if we go as a team. The more voices there are to an opinion, the more ground it holds in some cases."

"He's right man," Usama agreed.

"Fair enough," Ishaq spoke, his voice nearly muffled from behind his turban. He lifted Muhammad's spear and tossed it to him sideways. Muhammad caught the spear and spun it around before placing it down on the ground with the spear end pointed up. He and Ishaq now stood mirroring one another, and he reached out his hand to shake Ishaq's hand.

"You have with you the support of Muhammad ibn Sulayman," he said with a smile. Usama came closer, also smiling and shook Ishaq's hand as well.

"And Usama bin Shameem."

Imran reluctantly walked forward and also shook hands with Ishaq. "And I am Imran ibn Ali."

"It seems as though our intentions are one and the same," Ishaq spoke. "And so for that purpose our paths have crossed this night. In Shaa Allah nothing but a great benefit will arise from this."

Muhammad smiled. Looking around to his companions there seemed to be no hesitations at the crossroads. Through a common desire to please their Lord, all of them had now agreed to join forces to combat the spread of deviance and falsehood. He felt all of the stress and worries from before slowly leaving his mind, as he now felt certainty in their cause. Ishaq's du’ah was already coming to fruition, there was certainly a great benefit to arise from the crossing of their paths....


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