Empires Of Faith

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Chapter 24: Departure and Discipline

17 Shawwal, 1663

The pebbles crunched beneath the heavy boots of the man as he dismounted his horse. The whinnying beast was tied to the trunk of a tree as Zubayr ibn Abdul-Hakim turned his face to the modest building before him. Built of mud bricks, tree trunks, and palm leaves, the simple structure was a large rectangular shape, dust brown in color, save for the withering green and yellow leaves sitting atop it to provide shade and protection from the outside elements. Zubayr walked up to the opening, closed off only by the hanging of a simple sheet of cloth. He could hear the chattering of two low voices, both male, one adult and one young.

"Why did you not speak up when you knew the answer?" the man questioned the young boy.

"I was afraid," the boy replied shamefully.

"Afraid? Afraid of what?"

"I was afraid because all the other boys know more than me and I can never be as good as them. I wasn't sure if I was right or if I should say the answer if even they didn't know it."

"Talha, you needn't be afraid to answer something just because others don't know it."

"But they're older and better than me, it's not right for me to-"

"Talha, listen to me. I understand your feelings. Growing up with my brother Zubayr I-"

"As-Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu," Zubayr said as he entered into the Masjid. The dusty floor was plain and flat, the floor covered with the individual rugs of the community members. Zubayr took his boots from his feet and stepped onto the thin rugs. He looked upon his brother, Zayd, and the young student sitting before him. Zayd was dressed in a simple white thobe, with a white ghutrah over his curly, auburn hair. He looked up with a grin on his luminous face, his light brown eyes smiling all the same. He stroked the fistful of brown hair growing from his chin as his brother smiled back at him.

"Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu," Zayd replied. The young boy turned his neck to see the fierce looking man coming over. Zayd pointed towards him and informed the student, "Here is my brother now." He stood up and shook Zubayr's hand and embraced him in a hug, patting his back three times. "Alhamdulillah you have returned; I trust all went well in fighting the Kwaadi?"

"Alhamdulillah, we were able to drive them from the lands at last. What of you? I see you have established something of a village or city here. Ma Shaa Allah, I would never have expected this. How did this come about?"

"Teacher is our great leader," the young boy piped up with a cheerful voice. "He built up the whooooole city and let us live here so we can be safe from the enemy."

"Really?" Zubayr asked with a raised eyebrow and a slight smirk.

"Uh huh, and he's so smart. He knows aaaaaaaall the whole Quran! And he's teaching me and the other students about the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). And Fridays he teaches the whooooole city a lot of good stuff, and then we pray. My feet hurt sometimes when we pray, but it's okay because I like to hear his voice when he recites so much Quran. Do you like his voice? Can you sound like him? I can try but I need to learn more surahs first so-"

"Just keep coming to class In Shaa Allah and you'll learn it all," Zayd said, playfully ruffling the young boy's hair.

"You really think I can?"

"Yes, In Shaa Allah."

"WOW! I'm going to tell my Abu you said I can learn it all! I want to learn the whoooole thing like you!"

"In Shaa Allah."

"And someday, I'm going to have a masjid just like you and I'll teach all the other kids too!"

"Ma Shaa Allah, In Shaa Allah someday."

"I'm going to go tell him right now." The boy stood from his place and headed towards the exit. "As-Salaamu Alaikum, Teacher, I'll see you for tomorrow's lesson. As-Salaamu Alaikum Brother Zubayr!" The boy put on his sandals and ran out of the Masjid. Zayd smiled. Zubayr placed a hand on his shoulder with a wide grin.

"He sounds like you," Zubayr said with a chuckle. "May Allah guide him in that and make it true for him someday."

"Ameen."

"And you," Zubayr said waving his finger playfully. "Ma hatha?*"

"What?"

"You, this. Ma Shaa Allah, you've made it a reality. This is amazing."

"What?"

"This city, Ma Shaa Allah. I left you in charge of a small army and in my absence you have made a city. Subhaan Allah, you amaze me. I must congratulate you on your accomplishments, ya akhi."

"This is nothing. You, Zubayr, you are the commander of an entire army. You are a brave leader and a fierce warrior. You compliment me, whilst you have just driven off the enemy forces from the lands and freed our people from harm. Ma Shaa Allah, you are an inspiration; you defeated the powerful Kwaadi armies when no one else had been able to. You and that sword of yours, truly amazing."

"Any fool can swing a sword about, ya Zayd. It only takes one good slice to end a man's life. But you, what you have done. Subhaan Allah. To build up this city-"

"I didn't really build this city," Zayd laughed.

"Of course not like that," Zubayr said chuckling similarly. "I mean that when I left you, I left you as a commander of soldiers, hard and rough. But you have managed to build up a city, a community of people. Common-folk have settled here amongst you all to live their lives under your governance. As I passed through on my way to the masjid just now I have heard nothing but praise of you and your leadership, your fairness as a judge and ruler, your wisdom and knowledge. Even from the young boy, nothing but words of praise for his great teacher; speaking so highly of your excellence."

"I do nothing more than what I am obliged to do. By Allah, I am in no way attempting to earn praise or extolment from these people."

"Ah, but you have. And from myself as well."

"Wh-what?" Zayd's eyes widened a little, his surprise was evident on his face.

"Ya Zayd, wallahi it is as if my heart will melt from joy and proudness of what you have done. May Allah be as pleased or more pleased with you as I am now. I never imagined you would accomplish so much. This is greater than anything I could ever have done. You are an inspiration, ya Zayd. May Allah reward you and may He give you the best of this world and the next. May He cause you to always walk upright upon the path and may He be greatly pleased with you. Surely I, your brother, am certainly pleased with you."

Zayd stood, speechless. His eyes began to water as his mind processed everything he'd just heard. He reached his hand and placed it on Zubayr's shoulder. Blinking away the few tears in his eyes, he smiled and looked straight to his brother. "Ya Zubayr," he spoke, his deep and sincere. "My brother, I love you for the sake of Allah, as well as for myself. What Allah has willed as for childhood and our growing up together, is now dearer to me than if it had been that my father and mother both lived and I grew up with them and only my sisters. You are to me the most beloved of all brothers in the world." He hugged Zubayr tightly, squeezing him and patting his pack with his palm.

After a moment's passing Zayd released Zubayr and smiled. Zubayr couldn't help but feel there was more to Zayd's emotions than what had just been said now, but he brushed it aside. He was here with a purpose. "You have reminded me now what I have stopped here for," Zubayr said, breaking the silence.

"Stopped?" Zayd asked, confused. "What do you mean? Have you not come to resume leadership as before?"

"No, no, I have a journey to undertake. And even had I not, I could not take leadership from one such as you, while you are more fit and deserving of it. Besides, I have had enough leadership for now."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, the Amir has sent a letter temporarily relieving me of duty since I have been out so long. This suits me just well as I have heard rumors that someone has complained I have become harsh in recent times."

"What? I can't imagine who wo-"

"It's fine. Probably some wimp," Zubayr joked, laughing a deep laugh with his brother. "No, but in all seriousness, I have been given some time off and I intend to utilize it by returning home. It's been years since we've seen our family."

"I know. Alhamdulillah we've at least been able to send letters and money from our wages to them to help them along."

"Yes, still though, it's not quite like seeing them in person and helping them with regular tasks. Just as well, Asiyah is getting married, as you may recall."

"Ah, yes, I had honestly forgotten."

"Yes, well, her wedding is in a few weeks and I intend to attend it. I wish that you could come along with me."

"As do I. It's been so long since I have seen everyone, especially your father Abdul-Hakim. Tell me, will he be there as well?"

"In Shaa Allah. He's the reason for the delay actually. They need him to return so that he can give his approval and the nikah* can be done."

"Ah, yes. Well, when you see him, give him my salaams In Shaa Allah."

"I will do so, as with everyone else; I will give them all your salaams and congratulate Asiyah for you."

"Thank you. Ah, wait." Zayd dug in his pockets quickly and pulled out a few small coins. "Should you come across any markets on your journey, purchase some perfume and give it to your sister on my behalf. Tell her that I'm sorry that I could not attend myself because I-"

"I'm sure she will understand, Zayd. Honestly, I doubt she even expects to see me there."

"Well she won't, not if you arrive too late. You have a long journey ahead of you, you'd better be setting off."

"Yes, you're right." Zubayr shook his brother's hand with a firm grip and embraced him one last time. "As-Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah, may Allah keep you in excellence."

"And may He guide you aright and make your journey safe and swift. Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahamtullahi wa Barakatuh." Zubayr released his brother and turned to leave the masjid. As Zubayr exited, another man entered. He walked over to the back right corner and had a seat on the ground. Zayd walked over to him and squatted by his side. "Ya akhi, it has been narrated by Abu Qatada Al-Aslami that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 'if anyone of you enters into a Masjid, he should pray two rak’ah before sitting.'"

The man got to his feet, smiling at Zayd. "Jazallahu Khairun for the reminder," he spoke. He took a step to the side and raised his hands up to begin prayer.

"Ya akhi, it was also narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 'la tussali illa ila sutra,' do not pray except towards a sutra*. You should go forward towards the front wall and use that as a sutra."

"How close shall I go, ya sheikh?"

"According to the hadith, the distance between your place of sajood* and your sutra should only be enough that a small sheep could pass through. Do not stand so far back that someone may pass in front of you."

"Ya sheikh, there is no one here but you and I. Must I really do so? Would you pass in front of me?"

"No I would not. However in another hadith the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said 'do not let Satan invalidate your prayers.' So pray with a sutra."

"Okay, In Shaa Allah." The man moved forward to the front of the room, using the front wall as a sutra for himself. Zayd smiled and headed towards the exit. Sliding his feet into his sandals, he pushed the curtain aside and stepped out into the sunlight. The sun rays beamed down on his face as he peered out into his city. He smiled, seeing the many faces of his citizens. There were still construction workers from the mainland erecting many buildings all around the town and just as Zayd had done with the building of the Masjid, many of the men from the army had taken it upon themselves to help out with all of the building.

Grabbing his staff he'd had leaned against the outer walls, Zayd began walking to explore the city after he placed his free hand behind his back. There had been much progress since he'd first received the letter making it an official city territory of the Ummah. As he walked down the cleared roads of hard sand, Zayd looked all about. One road had been dedicated as a marketplace for the merchants to buy and sell their goods. Zayd made it a habit to regularly inspect the marketplace at random times to ensure that the people were being fair in their dealings.

"Whoever cheats is not one of us," Zayd had said, quoting the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to all of the merchants the day he officially dedicated the marketplace for them. As of yet, he'd had no trouble with anyone doing unfair business. The people were always certain to sell only the best quality of their goods, to measure and weigh with good balance, and always set fair prices. Things were fair and just in the marketplace.

As he walked through the dusty road, Zayd smiled and gave a wave to the people out under their small tents selling off their goods. The people all greeted him with a smile back, saying salaams to him even as their customers were viewing their merchandise. He passed by the tents of the women selling soft fabrics, tan in color, and baskets, lowering his gaze respectfully. There were tables of men selling fresh meats and some selling vegetation. He passed a small stand with two young boys selling thick wool sheets. The sullen looks on their faces were more than telling of how their business was doing. It was much too hot in these times for anyone to be purchasing any wool products. But the wool was all they could manage to sell for themselves; their father was a shepherd but none of his sheep were in good enough health for him to sell off and they needed money.

Zayd walked over to their table and stopped just in front of them. Neither of the two boys even looked up to acknowledge him. They suspected that as usual, a customer would stop by only to look upon the wool and then walk away. This had, after all, happened for the past four days. Zayd reached down and rubbed a corner of a wool mat between his fingers. "This is fine enough quality," Zayd complimented them. "There seems to be no distracting designs on it either; that's hard to find. This is a rare piece."

The boys perked up at the last line. Whoever this was, he seemed interested and perhaps unaware of just how poor the mats and sheets were in comparison to what he could actually find in the other stands. An amateur buyer. "Uh, yes," the older of the two boys said, examining the fabric himself. "This is from a very, very special breed and the sheering of them is a very, very delicate process that takes hours, sometimes days. Then we soak it for days to clean it and make it a certain texture perfect for spinning and yielding the fine fabrics we then weave into the rugs and carpets before you."

"That sounds like quite a lot of work," Zayd said, eying the boy carefully.

"Oh it is sir, very exhausting."

"And so I assume these fabrics must be very expensive, no?"

"Hm...Normally yes, but I can give you a special deal for the day. I will give you one sheet for only ten coins and a bundle of dates."

"Hm. As for the dates, I haven't any, so-"

"Okay ten coins, just ten coins! That's it."

"Hmph," Zayd said, rubbing the cloth once more. "I've seen sheets for as little as 5 coins..."

"But these are special! These are a different kind of fabric than anything you've seen, and the price comes from the hard work put into making them. But, because you've got such a keen eye, I will sell this to you for 7 coins. How's that sound?"

Zayd smiled. Seven coins was more of a fair price for the actual quality of the cloth they were selling. He reached into his pocket and grabbed a handful of coins. He sat the coins, 20 in total, on the stand and grabbed up a sheet, throwing it on his shoulder. The two young boys smiled in astonishment as they looked to count the coins before them. They then looked up and even more surprise overcame them as they looked up into the eyes of the smiling governor before them.

"S-sir," the younger boy said. "Thi-this is more than s-seven coins." The older boy nudged him a little, trying to hush him up. Zayd smiled.

"Is it now?"

"Y-yes sir."

"Well then," Zayd said reaching down to the coins. He scooped some over to the side until only three remained alone. "Here are seventeen for the carpet, and here are three as a reward for your honesty." The younger boy looked up at him with his mouth open in disbelief. Zayd grinned back and began to walk away. "Say salaams to your father for me, tell him I will come and visit soon In Shaa Allah."

The two boys nodded in acceptance and Zayd took his leave. As it was, their father was home bedridden with a terrible illness, hence the two boys had taken to the markets to handle the business affairs while their mother remained home to care for her husband. Zayd had made it a habit to be well informed of all of his citizens and their wellbeing. It was not unusual for him to befriend the people on a personal level, despite his often busy lifestyle.

As he continued walking down the road, Zayd bent over to pick up a small bundle of thorns that had blown into the path. As he was rising up, Zayd heard a terrified scream coming from down the road. Gripping his staff and the bundle, Zayd ran down the road to where he'd heard the screaming. Arriving on the scene, Zayd looked upon three men on horseback standing in a circle.

They were dressed in the dark gray cotton cloaks common of the people in eastern lands. In the middle of their circle stood two young women, holding to one another frightfully while the men laughed mockingly. One of the men reached down and tugged at one woman's hijab even as she screamed out and begged for him to stop.

Zayd tossed the bundle of thorns aside and grabbed his staff with both hands. He came running up fast and leapt up, smacking the man in the head from behind. "What in the-" the man said, releasing the woman's scarf to rub his now aching head. The three men all turned around angrily, ready to face whoever dared to attack them. It was then that Zayd caught a good look at all of them.

Their olive brown skin and long hooked noses seemed reminiscent of people from the far north, somewhere in the west. Zayd gave a curious look as one of the men with a thick salt and pepper mustache rode forward towards him, holding a straight edged sword up to intimidate him. Zayd gave a determined glare back, refusing to back down.

"Who do you think you are?" the man spoke down to Zayd.

"Never mind that, what is your business with these women? What is the meaning of this?"

"Our business is none of yours, foolish man; you should leave before any harm befalls you."

"Any harm that befalls my people is harm upon me. Now, I will ask again, what is your business with these women? Who are you?"

"They are bandits from out of the city," one of the women spoke. "Protect us, please, Commander Zayd."

"Commander?" the front man spoke with a raised eyebrow. Looking down on the simple man before him, dressed in a plain white thobe and white ghutrah, he saw a truly curious sight. A leader, a commander, walking through the streets of a town, in old sandals and carrying a dirty old staff. No guards, no riding animal, not even a single servant to carry his merchandise. Definitely not something they'd expected to see.

"You're the leader of these people?" the second man, a grim looking man with a series of scars on his face, spoke as he came up.

"Yes," Zayd said calmly. "I am the governor of this humble town; what of it?"

The three men laughed to one another. The one whom Zayd had struck previously dismounted his horse and walked over, pulling out the sword from his side. "If you are the governor then these people have really been done a great disservice," he said coolly. "I will fix that right now."

He leapt forward, swinging his sword. Zayd reached up his staff, blocking his face with ease. The sword cut into the hardwood but didn't quite slice through it. Zayd spun the staff over and pushed the man back. He quickly rolled up the bottom of his thobe and tied a knot in it to keep it from falling past his knees.

The man came running back, swinging his sword upward. Zayd swung the staff out to parry the attack. The man swung the sword over, coming down with force. Zayd stepped aside and the man ended up striking the ground. He swung for Zayd's legs but Zayd hopped up and came down with his own attack. He cracked the man upside the head with the blunt end up his staff and the man fell onto his back, dropping his sword and holding his head in pain. Zayd spun the staff upwards, busting the man in the mouth and making him roll over, spitting up blood and broken teeth.

Zayd kicked his sword aside and stepped over him. The other two men dismounted their horses and stared Zayd down. "That was a mistake," the leader spoke, brandishing his blade. "Now we will-"

"No," Zayd spoke firmly. "Coming here and terrorizing these women was a mistake." The men spat angrily and approached Zayd from opposite sides. Zayd stayed alert, but kept his focus on the two women just ahead. He wanted to ensure their safety. The women worriedly watched as the two men circled Zayd carefully. Zayd signaled for the women to flee to safety and they nodded in understanding.

When the men stood at the farthest ends, the two women fled towards the city. The men paid them no mind; they were no longer interested in harassing women, rather they wanted revenge on the man who just beat one of their members. Watching the two men carefully, Zayd reached for one end of his ghutrah.

As the two men launched themselves forward to attack, Zayd tore away his ghutrah, tossing it into the air. The two instinctively looked upwards at the flying cloth as Zayd dropped to the ground gripping his staff. He spun around down low, sweeping over one man and causing him to crash into the other. Zayd stood tall as the two men lay on the ground before him, pushing each other apart to rush to their feet.

"I don't know who you are but I advise you to leave now before you end up like your companion."

"Quiet you," the leader barked, hopping to his feet and charging at Zayd. Zayd sidestepped the attack and smacked the man in the back of the head with his staff. As he turned around, Zayd could see the other man was coming straight for him. Zayd dropped the staff and reached for the man's arms, gripping his wrists firmly. He wrestled with the man until he flipped him over onto his back and snatched his sword away.

No sooner did he have the sword in his hand than did Zayd put it to use in blocking the blade of the leader swinging down at him. With their swords locked firmly against each other, Zayd and the man were evenly matched. The man lying on his back reached for Zayd's leg to trip him up but Zayd instead lifted his leg and kicked the man before him in the chest. As the leader stumbled backwards, Zayd spun and swung the sword low to the ground to push the man's hand back.

Rolling over a few times, the man got to his feet and stared Zayd down. Behind him, Zayd could also see that the leader had been joined by the first man whom he'd beaten. Zayd had enemies all around now. One armed with a sword, two unarmed but still a threat. Zayd carefully watched the shadows of the two men behind him, while also keeping an eye on the man before him.

Spinning around quickly Zayd faced the two men behind him. He reached his foot out and rolled the staff onto the top of his foot before kicking it into the air. Catching it with his left hand, Zayd launched the staff straight forward like a dart, heading right towards the leader. The staff was knocked aside by the strong blade of the leader just as Zayd himself launched forward for an attack.

He leapt into the air and swung the sword down. The man was quick enough to raise his blade up and block, but that was exactly what Zayd had been hoping for. Locked in arms once more, the two pushed back and forth to gain the upper-hand. Zayd then reached his right leg across and put it behind the man's own right leg. Zayd pushed himself forward, tripping the man over his leg and knocking him onto his back where he also lost his grip on his sword. Zayd stomped down on his hand, making him fully release the blade.

The injured man from before attempted to come forward and snatch the weapon up but was met with a powerful knee in the face. Zayd then picked the sword up himself and turned to face the three men. Two down, one left standing. Zayd stabbed one of the swords into the palm of the leader on the ground, ensuring that he could not move to attack again. He knocked the other man upside the back of the head with the hilt of the sword, knocking him unconscious.

The one remaining man gritted his teeth as he looked to his two fallen companions. He looked up angrily at Zayd and clenched his fists tightly. "You filthy dog," the man spat. "I will cut your head off and hang it from the saddle of my horse as we ride into town and burn down everything you hold dear."

"Neither will you beat me nor will you invade my city," Zayd replied confidently. "As with your companions, I will be bringing you into town to face justice. Where you have come from no longer matters, as you will now remain here to be dealt your discipline. I will not tolerate harassment of my citizens, nor threats of their property."

As he spoke, Zayd could see the leader struggling to move himself. Zayd pushed the blade deeper into the ground as the man cried out in pain. Immediately, Zayd looked up to see the other man running towards him. Zayd positioned himself to defend against any attacks. The man dived to the side, reached for Zayd's staff. Rolling over with the stick in his hand, the man stood up and faced Zayd.

Zayd held his arms open, inviting the man to make his move. Just as the man stepped forward to charge at Zayd, a lasso was thrown over him and he was tripped, falling flat on his face. Behind him stood a group of city guards on horseback. Armed with swords of their own and carrying bundles of ropes, the guards had come to arrest and transport the criminals back to the city. Zayd sighed as he lowered the blade in his hand.

"Excellent timing," he spoke to the leader of the troop.

"O Commander Zayd," the leader said, dismounting his horse and walking over hurriedly. "Have you been injured? The women you rescued told us you were facing three armed men alone. Are you alright?"

"I was trained under General Abdul-Hakim; these three cowards were hardly enough to take on one of my brother's sisters. I am fine, Alhamdulillah."

"Good, good."

"Yes."

"Sir, these men are not from any local lands," one of the other men noted as he tied up the unconscious man. "What shall we do with them?"

"They are the same as any criminals. Chain them and bring them to the courts. We will decide a fair punishment there."

"Yes, sir."

"We?" the troop leader asked Zayd with a raised eyebrow. Normally Zayd entrusted the dealing of punishments to his appointed judge to make things easier.

"Yes," Zayd said, handing the sword to the man and turning to face the city. "These men are from a foreign land. I must be involved with every dealing with them to ensure no disputes arise as a result of any perceived injustice. Even as criminals, they have rights. They have rights, ya akhi, even in discipline."


GLOSSARY/TRANSLATIONS

Ma hatha: What is this?

Nikah: Wedding/ signing of the wedding contract.

Sutra: an object placed in front of a praying person “screen” him/her whilst he/she is praying so that no one passes in front him/her.

Sujood: Prostration

Ummah: Nation. In this case I'm specifically using to refer to the Muslim Nation (all lands, connected or separate, governed under the Islamic leadership in this fictional story).


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