Empires Of Faith

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Chapter 28: Open Minds

7 Shawwal, 1663

The ship docked along the shore of the Spanish nation just hours after the dawn. The crew escorted all passengers off of the ship and descended themselves for a break between the next sailing trip. Imran, Usama, Muhammad, Ishaq, and Jannah all stepped onto the dock after retrieving their animals and luggage from below the deck. Muhammad stretched his arms out wide drawing in a deep breath as he looked around. The open city was much different than any he'd seen before.

Their roads were cobblestone and the buildings were built of wood and stone instead of the mud brick and leaf huts in the deserts. The citizens were dressed in simple clothing, with women in long dresses and their hair either left to simply hang or the top covered with small scarves. The men were in simple pants and shirts, rugged and worn from their work. The chit chatter on the streets was incomprehensible as it was all in a Spanish dialect.

"Well," Muhammad said, turning to his companions. "Where to?"

"I must seek out the Cross delegates and speak with them of my mission," Ishaq reminded. "As for you all, you would do wise to find shelter. Perhaps seek out an inn or someone willing to let you stay with them."

"We'll be fine camping out," Imran replied. "I would rather be safe. We are not only foreigners here, we're also enemies."

"Not enemies," Usama disagreed. "There's an alliance, remember?"

"Yeah, between these nations, not between all Muslims and Christians."

"Can we just find somewhere to stay and stop arguing," Jannah blurted angrily. The four men looked back at her quizzically. "Sorry," she said in a small voice. "It's the boat ride. I always get a little uppity on boats because I get sea sick and also I can't swim so I'm nervous and antsy."

"In any case," Muhammad cut back in. "Ishaq is right, we need to find shelter. But we also need to establish our unity with this alliance thing. I think one of us should go with Ishaq to meet with these Cross people. We need more information on this."

"We still need to do something about the girl," Imran replied.

"That's true. We'll find any such post to allow us to send a letter to her family back home later."

"Why not now," Jannah suggested. "Ishaq can take me since he's been here before. I'll just go with him."

"That actually works," Muhammad agreed. "He and I will go to this meeting with the Cross, and then after you can send your letter to your family back home. In the meantime Usama and Imran can work on finding shelter."

"Okay, sound good," Imran said nodding in agreement. "But where will we all meet up?"

"There is a river down by the valley on the edge of town," Ishaq spoke. "I had spent some time there on my last stay. Perhaps you can set up camp there. If you have trouble finding it, ask for directions to the old Manzanares River."

"Okay, thanks," Usama said. "So I guess we will head there now then. Muhammad, would you like me to take your things with us?"

"Yes please," Muhammad said, taking his luggage to hand to Usama. "Are you sure your horse can carry the extra weight though?"

"Oh right, I forgot. I don't want to overburden her."

"Hm. Why don't you trade her out for the camel?"

"Huh?"

"Take the camel, load our things on her. Lend us your horse, and also Imran may we use yours as well? That way, we can travel easier through the town and you will not have the difficulty of getting as many animals down into the valley if the path is difficult."

"Fair enough," Imran agreed. "Take them." After everything was set, Muhammad mounted his horse, with Ishaq taking Imran's and Jannah taking Usama's. The three bid farewell to their companions and set off to the town to go and find the Cross delegates. Imran and Usama were going to head towards the valley immediately. "Let's head out, Usama."

The two began walking, with Imran leading the camel and Usama carrying a few bags and items slung over his shoulders to relieve the animal's burden. "You don't have to carry all that by yourself," Imran spoke after they had been walking a while. "I can carry some for you or you can put some back on the camel."

"It's okay, man," Usama spoke, strong and defiant. "Animals have rights over us and I do not want the camel to testify to Allah that we overburdened her with all of our belongings. Besides, carrying the extra weight is good for me, helps me stay strong and healthy. I don't want to get lazy and weak just before this war."

"Yeah I guess not, but you've never been weak," Imran recalled. "Look at you man, you're as strong as a beast." Usama laughed off the compliment. He had always kept up his strength and worked out his body as a young man. He and Imran used to train together as youth, and while Imran had a size advantage, Usama used to work extra hard to make up for his shortness with great strength.

Imran laughed, recalling an incident from the past. "What's so funny?" Usama asked.

"I was just thinking about our days of youthful foolishness. Remember that time we went into that village challenging everyone to wrestle to prove how we were such strong men?"

"Yeah, that was your idea. But what of it?"

Imran chuckled. "I was just remembering when that grown man came to tell us to leave but before he could speak you flipped him on his back and held him down."

"Ugh," Usama sighed in remembrance of his stupidity.

"And then, and then his daughter came and started yelling at you hahaha! 'You think you're such a man, you can't even grow a beard!' AHAHAHAHAHAHA! And then you said you had shaved it and she got really mad saying you were so weak you couldn't even keep one so you weren't a real man. You were all surprised and scared while she yelled at you for like ten minutes. The look on your face was so funny," Imran paused to laugh and catch his breath. "You went from being this 'brave' and 'strong' man to a little boy apologizing while she yelled at you about getting strong and being a real man."

Usama groaned in embarrassment as his friend continued on. "Then her dad just cut in quoting the hadith that the strong person isn't the one who overpowers the people with wrestling, but rather the one who controls his anger when he's mad. Then you both just shut up."

"Ugh, why're you thinking about this anyways?"

"I don't know, it was just funny. And it's funny how from all that you buckled down and got serious about your Deen, grew your beard, and somewhere down the line you ended up marrying her."

"Alhamdulillah, I was guided from that. Alhamdulillah, we both changed."

"And you got married, don't forget that part."

"Hahaha, I won't. I miss my Haqika every day that I'm away, and I pray I can return to her soon."

"Yeah."

"What about you? Do you still think about that girl back home? You're going to marry her when you return right?"

"In Shaa Allah. I really wanted to marry her beforehand, but I didn't like the idea of marrying her to just leave right away."

"How did you even meet her again?"

"I bought some attar from her older brother and we had some friendly conversation where he mentioned he was trying to find a husband for his sister. I told him I was looking to get married too and we started talking about it more and more. She had all the qualities that I liked, and her brother seemed to like me, so he introduced us. It was during the courting though that I heard the war was spreading further into Muslim lands and I felt that I couldn't ignore it. She apparently felt the same, and told me that I should wait and if possible fight in the war before marrying her. That was the same week you actually asked me to accompany you for that journey to sell some old goods. I wanted to go and perhaps see what more I could find out about the war, and eventually, well, here we are. All the way across the lands and sea, about to fight a war within the Christian lands of all places. Hm, perhaps I will give da'wah to one of these women and marry her."

Usama laughed at his friend's suggestion. "I'm not even going to bother with that. Nonetheless, I do agree that you should consider getting married soon. I know you mentioned the widow issue, but what if you don't die fighting, but still find yourself unable to return and marry that sister back home? Or what if she's married someone else by now? You'll return sad and alone man. Remember our old saying, 'no wife, no life.'"

Imran laughed deeply at their old joke. That had been their saying during their younger years, times in which most youth were being paired off to eventually marry. Neither Muhammad, Imran, nor Usama had had a wife then, or even been paired. Muhammad was trying to improve himself to meet the standards set by the father of the girl he sought. Usama was busy struggling to take care of his mother and younger siblings after his father had been taken as a prisoner of war. And lastly, Imran had just been too picky in his preferences. Still, the three were determined to find someone someday, proclaiming that having no wife meant having no life.


It was just near midnight and the group had all settled in for rest. Usama agreed to share a tent with Imran and give his own tent up for Jannah to sleep in, while Muhammad and Ishaq shared yet again. Though everyone had settled into their tents and the campfire was put out, they were not all sleeping yet. Many thoughts and ideas still needed to be contemplated.

Sitting in her lonesome, Jannah was thinking about her family back home. She hadn't intended to leave them for so long or go so far. How angry and worried would her mother be after this? Getting captured, chased, nearly killed, and now travelling with a group of non-Mahram, non-familial men. And to think, she'd worried about her brother getting into trouble.

In the tent a little to the right of that, Imran and Usama slept on the opposite sides of the tent they were sharing. Imran had pulled his turban over his eyes and rested with his hands laced behind his head. Usama was laying on his right side, barely asleep. He was shivering from the cold, even under the blanket he'd been given. He curled into a ball to get warmer, but alas the cold winds were sneaking through the opening in the tent and blowing over him.

Across from that tent, Muhammad and Ishaq were sitting wide awake. Muhammad had been trying to make conversation with Ishaq all night, trying to find out about his life, but had no luck. So instead he began telling Ishaq about his own life, hoping that perhaps that would ease things up. "It wasn't easy growing up the youngest son," he continued. "Always having to prove myself against my older brothers. And I could never exactly fit into their grouping. I was always considered too young and so I was alone really. I had three younger sisters, but I didn't want to be grouped with them, I wanted to be with my brothers. Eventually they moved out, getting married and moving across the lands. For a short period of time I had taken my cousin, Adam, as my companion. That didn't really work though; we didn't really have the same interests or much in common. So I was brotherless it seemed. Do you have any broth-"

Before even finishing the question Muhammad caught himself. "I'm sorry, brother," he apologized. "I didn't mean to-"

"It is okay," Ishaq replied, his voice solemn as always. Muhammad looked across, catching a quick glance at the young man across from him. His face was covered up with the green material of the turban Muhammad had lent him for the day, leaving only his eyes exposed. His deep, brown eyes revealed no emotion, leaving his thoughts a total mystery. Muhammad lowered his head feeling guilt inside. To think of all the troubles this kid had been through, the pain and the struggles. Suddenly, he didn't feel like having trivial conversations anymore.

"So this war," Muhammad began, breaking the momentary silence. "Do you think the battle strategy will work?"

"I believe that in whatever way He wills, Allah will bring victory to the Believers over all the enemies. In any case, this plan is not to be enacted for another week. We will have time to consider it then. For now, we should consider ourselves."

"You mean our plans for now?"

"Yes."

"Well, at the moment I'm thinking I should go and try sending a letter back home to my wife to let her know that I'm okay. But for the week of waiting, I don't know what exactly I will do. Perhaps Imran, Usama, and I will refocus our da'wah efforts here. I'm sure those two will get into some sort of business, which is a great avenue for conversation and some da'wah. Aside from that, we may do a little more training to get ourselves ready for the upcoming battle."

"And what of Jannah?"

"I hadn't thought about her. What do you think?"

"Perhaps she should be trained in combat to better defend herself; you and I will not always be able to come to her rescue should she be captured again. Just as well, it would give her something beneficial to do with her time and she may be of some help to us if the need arises."

"I don't know about that; that may be putting unnecessary dangers over her. Fighting and all of that are a dangerous field; is it right to push a sister into that?"

"Think about it, whether a woman goes out and fights or not, she still needs to be protected. In our time, men are commonly taught to fight in battles, or at the very least defend themselves, by their fathers or the men around them, and women are left to be defended by them. But what about when there are no men for them to depend upon? Should she not be able to defend herself? You worry about your wife, but not as much as you would were she not under the protection of that village you saved. Imagine if they were no longer there. Enemies and strangers all around, and your wife alone. Would you leave her with no protection?"

"No, I certainly wouldn't."

"Then try to think in the same here for this sister travelling alone with no mahram or protector. We all intend to fight in the war, and we have no guarantee that we will return to protect her, nor that her family will come in time. She should have some training to defend herself and survive out here just to be safe."

"I see your point; I think we should discuss this with her tomorrow and try to begin training as soon as possible to maximize our benefit of time."

"Yes."

"For now, let us take some rest; we'll deal with everything tomorrow bright and early." Muhammad stretched his arms before stifling a yawn. He wiped the ground where he intended to sleep and turned over onto his right side. "As-Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu."

"Wa Alaikumus Salaam," Ishaq spoke, still sitting in his place. He wasn't quite ready to rest. No, his mind had more thoughts to sift through. He sat, arms crossed and legs folded, closing his eyes and fully engaged himself in his inner thoughts. Even while being uncharacteristically surrounded by a small group of companions, he still needed time and space to himself, to his thoughts...


8 Shawwal, 1663

Muhammad woke up in a coughing fit. He sat up in his tent, holding a hand to his mouth while coughing deeply. His head was pounding and his stomach felt like it was on fire. His nose was stuffed and he could hardly breathe. Rubbing his temples, he looked around himself while groaning lowly. Ishaq hadn't returned from wherever he left to go after Fajr. It must still be early, Muhammad thought to himself. I probably only slept for an hour after Fajr.

How wrong he was. It had been several hours since he'd gone back to sleep. Ishaq had been in and out of the tent since the morning. In fact, so had the others. The memory was coming back to him now, he'd thought it was all just dreams. Imran had awakened him to tell him that he was heading to town to buy some supplies. Usama had come thereafter to invite him to some training. Ishaq had even come returning his clothes after washing his own in the river nearby. In his sleepy daze, Muhammad had ignored all of these.

By now, it was mid-noon, the time for Zhuhr prayer was in. In fact, it was nearly gone. Muhammad moved to get to his feet when everything started spinning. He fell onto his stomach in a frustrated groan. His body felt so weak. He could hardly stand to move.

"Are you awake in there?" he heard a soft voice ask. He opened his mouth to answer but his voice was too weak to speak. "As-Salaamu Alaikum? Are you awake yet? You need to get up and pray before you miss salah."

"Wh-what?" Muhammad managed to mutter in a raspy, pained voice.

"It's late. We all tried waking you up. You wouldn't budge. Ishaq says you're sick, so he just left to get you some medicine. Your other companions and I are about to take a trip into the town to visit the blacksmith. Ishaq suggested that I do some combat training so I can defend myself better. He's so wise, don't you think?" Muhammad lay in his tent, giving no response. "In any case, I'm borrowing your horse for the day since you're sick and can't go anywhere. We'll be back later after Asr In Shaa Allah, As-Salaamu Alaikum."

Muhammad heard the fastening of a saddle and a few frustrated grunts before the clunking sounds of the horse's feet on the hard ground started up. As the footsteps faded into the distance, Muhammad lay on his stomach, weak and sickly. He didn't want to move at all; every movement sent pain surging through his limbs and increased the suffering. Still, he needed to pray.

He pulled himself to his knees and began slowly crawling to the opening of his tent. As he made his way to the outside, he felt the sunlight beaming down on his flesh. The warmth was greatly welcomed and he felt slightly better just being outside with the fresh air. He crawled over to the river to make wudhu. Splashing the warm river water in his face, he felt himself shiver. His body still felt weak. He grunted as he sat on the dusty riverbed to make ablution. After washing up, he dragged himself over to the cliffside. Leaning up against a large boulder at the bottom, he sat and made his prayer. He didn't have the strength to stand, and there was no blame on him for not doing so.

All throughout his prayer, Muhammad had been coughing like a barking seal. His chest was hurting and his breathing became hard for him until he had to complete the last part of his prayer laying down. As he made tasleem*, Muhammad coughed up and ended up rolling on his side. He lay there, face in the dirt, coughing in pain. He supplicated between coughing, until he was almost back asleep.

"Wake up," he heard a voice call out from over him. "Sit up." Muhammad tried peeping his eyes open a bit to see who was there but he coughed a little more and his eyes were squeezed tightly shut. He felt two strong hands reach down and grab him by the shoulders, leaning him against the rock. His breathing was heavy and his chest felt tight.

He managed to open his eyes to a little squint, just catching a blur of brown colors before him. The brown cloth over the man's face was enough to reveal who it was. "Here, take this," Ishaq spoke, pouring black cumin seeds into Muhammad's right hand. "It's Black-seed. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that black seed is the cure for every illness except for death."

"I know the hadith," Muhammad grunted, holding the Black-seed in his hand. "B-but where did you find this at? Black-seed is nearly impossible to find nowadays."

"Yes, its rarity is well known. I managed to acquire some on a journey a long time back. I was saving it in case of an emergency; a lot can happen when you're wandering the earth."

"Ishaq I can't take this; this is yours. What if you need it someday?" Muhammad coughed.

"Then it is as Allah Wills; as it would have been had you fallen in your attempt to rescue me back on the island."

"So this is you thanking me for saving you?"

"Yes."

"Okay then, thank you brother." Muhammad raised his hand to his mouth and chewed the tiny black seeds. The bitter, metallic taste was strong. He chewed the tiny seeds as best as he could and Ishaq handed him a small cup of water. He gulped the water down quickly to rid himself of the horrible taste of the medicine. As he nearly finished drinking, Muhammad started choking and he spat the water out.

"'Do not drink in one gulp like a camel,'" Ishaq began, quoting the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). "'Rather in two or three (gulps). Mention the Name of Allah (i.e., say Bismillah) when you start drinking and praise Him (i.e., say Alhamdulillah) after you have finished (drinking)."

"Thanks for the reminder," Muhammad said quietly. "I wasn't choking from the water, I was choking because I had to cough. I felt a tightening in my chest again." Muhammad held his fist to his mouth as he coughed a little more. "I hate being sick," he groaned.

"This sickness of yours, it will pass In Shaa Allah. But you should consider this illness and pain as a blessing. It was narrated from Abu Sa'eed al-Khudri and Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with them both) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said what means, 'No tiredness, exhaustion, worry, grief, distress, or harm befalls a believer in this world, not even a thorn that pricks him, but Allah expiates some of his sins thereby.'"

"Wow, Subhaan Allah; thank you for telling me this."

"This hadith I learned as a very young boy. It is recorded in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim."

"Wait, you were able to get your hands on those books? HOW?! WHEN?!"

"That is not important; it was a very long time ago."

"Oh." Muhammad sighed, leaning against the rock. He should've known better than to ask Ishaq anything about his past. He slumped down lower until his head was resting against the rock. The pain in his body was suddenly more bearable, given Ishaq's words of wisdom. Still, he didn't feel much like moving, so he would rest where he could. Ishaq sighed and sat beside him. Even though he figured Muhammad was probably going to sleep, he wasn't going to leave his side just yet.

"I have had many travels," Ishaq finally spoke, surprising Muhammad. "Alhamdulillah, through the most unfortunate circumstances of my life, Allah has brought me many blessings. One such blessing came during my eleventh year of life. As a young boy, I had no real home. I was fed and taken care of in minimal ways by whatever people were gracious enough to feed a poor orphan every so often. As I got older, people were less sympathetic. I wondered from village to village, staying briefly in different locations. Sometimes the locals would welcome me and feed me what scraps they could afford to spare. Other times, I was rejected as a lowly orphan and run from town. I took up pilfering as a means to survive, relying on stealing what others had grown or hunted for food. I became notorious in quite a few villages. I was like a sneaky little fox, hiding in the shadows, creeping in to town to steal what little I could use to survive. Cloth to wrap myself, food to feed myself, and in one case, knowledge to teach myself."

"Knowledge? What do you mean?"

"I had heard rumors of a great and wise man in a distant town. He was so respected and beloved by the people and they would travel for weeks to go and meet him, visiting him and studying with him. Some abandoned their businesses and wealth to go and stay near him, saying his presence was a more fulfilling richness than any material wealth. I didn't quite understand what they meant, but I was willing to take a chance and find out. After one final raid on a small village, I packed what little I had and set out to go and meet this great Abu Mujahid I'd heard so much about."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, did you say Abu Mujahid? I've heard of him. Ma Shaa Allah, the knowledge Allah blessed that man with! He studied under some of the great scholars from before!"

"Yes. I traveled the lands alone, having almost no food and no shelter. I kept myself warm by wrapping up in my cloths in the way I had seen everyone else do. I wore a turban on my head and wrapped it over my face in case anyone were to see me. When I made it to the town of Abu Mujahid, I was ready to go about my usual business of nightly raids through the peoples' farms and homes. Unfortunately, it was Ramadan, and so the life of the peoples did not die down at night. The nights were short and the days were long, so in the night they were either up in prayer or in eating."

"So you weren't able to sneak in and get any food?"

"No. At least, not until I saw a man carrying a few sacks of oats and grain and leaving them at the doorsteps of others. I was confused as to why anyone was out giving away food. I followed the man all the way around the village, sneaking in the shadows as he met and greeted the many different people, giving different sorts of foods for their households. When he ran out of foodstuffs, the man made his way to a building in the center of the town. I assumed that to be the place where he was getting the food from. He was a skinny man, and with the grays in his beard covered up with dark orange henna, I figured he was old enough for me ambush and take down no problem. I could go in and grab as much food as I would need for weeks. But when I came to attack him, what I saw surprised me."

"What happened?"

"He greeted me with a warm smile and greetings of peace. He offered me food and said to take as much as I needed. I eyed him suspiciously, and he chuckled, offering to fix me a meal. I ate, and he asked me who my father was. I told him that I was an orphan from another land. He asked me where I stayed. I told him I had no home. I told him my life was just a miserable existence while I struggled to survive. He quoted to me the hadith I have just now told you. He told me that I was welcomed in the House of Allah, so long as I respected the rules of course, and said that food would be provided for me."

"So you found a home? Alhamdulillah."

"For the time being. Even though Abu Mujahid took care of me, dropping off food from time to time and allowing me to reside in the Masjid there, it was still not much of a home. The villagers were not too pleased with an outsider living in their Masjid; not since what had happened the last time someone was allowed to stay."

"What happened then?"

"They burned the Masjid down."

"What? But how? Why?"

"Allahu 'Alam, but after that, the village people became distrustful of all outsiders. Abu Mujahid did his best to make me feel welcome, defending me from the people and letting me sit in during his weekly classes. Things were still not working. The people became harsh, even against his constant reminders to fear Allah and be kind to orphans. It was not as though the purposely mistreated me, but rather they were insistent upon ignoring me and not treating me well. Even in some of their attempts to be kind, I could sense their displeasure at my presence. It reminded me of how unwanted I truly was in this world. Abu Mujahid decided to teach me otherwise. He gave me personal lessons every day; teaching me to understand life and the purpose of my existence. I learned a great deal from him."

"I'm curious though, why did you ever leave from there?"

"Tensions flared until there was a great fitna in the town. Certain people took a real issue with the sheikh's favoring of me. They said that it was unjust for him to give special favor to some orphan boy who was a known thief from other villages while his own people could only get his knowledge and lessons once a week. This opinion grew until half of the town was ready to turn on him. I did not want to be the cause of any more chaos; so before a year's completion I left. Back on my own, I had to fend for myself once more. I did not wish to go back to stealing, so I sought to learn to hunt and use different sorts of weaponry. I traveled the many lands, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, training on my own and under others, mastering the arts and increasing my knowledge."

"How come you never settled down anywhere? I'm sure by now you could find work, get married and have a home."

"Possibly. But, I think that my journey is not yet over."

"Journey?"

Ishaq sighed, staring into the distance. He remained silent, so much so that Muhammad had wondered if he was even still there. Peeping his eyes open, Muhammad looked beside him. He saw Ishaq still sitting there, his left leg down on its side and his right knee up, holding both of his hands. Ishaq's dark brown eyes held a deep stare, indecipherable to anyone. Muhammad opened his mouth to apologize but was cut off when Ishaq suddenly got to his feet. "Get some rest, brother," Ishaq spoke. "Your journey is not yet completed either."

Before Muhammad could reply, Ishaq turned and walked away. Muhammad laid his head back down, not speaking another word. His curiosity was high, with hundreds of questions raced through his mind. But he wouldn't press the matter. I'll let him tell as he likes, Muhammad thought to himself. And for now, just be grateful for what little he has shared. Something tells me that opening up isn't a normal habit of his...


The busy streets were full of hurried market-dwellers. People were buying and selling with a desperate need. With the war coming to their town soon, they had to do what they could to survive thereafter. Men who would be fighting were desperate to ensure their families' survival in their absences. The blacksmiths and weapons dealers were busier than ever, putting out swords and other weapons for the war effort.

Imran, Usama, and Jannah were riding through the streets on their horses, trying to make a short trip quicker. No one wanted to dwell around the market for too long. They had already decided exactly what they were there to get, and nothing else would distract them. "We're looking for a light steel sword," Imran spoke to the owner of the town's blacksmith. "We need something light enough for a woman to carry, but strong enough to defend against a man."

"Mmhm," the blacksmith replied, pulling at his furry mustache. He was a tall, burly fellow. Tanned skin, strong sturdy hands, and covered in black filth. He eyed the three with much scrutiny; Muslims, coming into Christian lands, looking for weapons. For what purpose?

"Did you hear what I asked?" Imran said, snapping the man from his thoughts. "Do you have anything like that, sir?"

"Not for filthy Muslim scum; take your business elsewhere."

Usama sighed and patted Imran on the shoulder. "Let's keep searching," he suggested.

"Yea, look somewhere else for weapons, you killers. I'll never support you evil cowards! Not after you attacked us in our homeland."

"Wha-" Imran began before Usama cut him off.

"Never mind it, man," Usama said, walking out of the shop. "He's ignorant. Don't worry about it. We'll find another blacksmith."

"But we've been wandering around here for a good while now; there aren't any other blacksmiths around." Imran hopped onto his horse as did the others with him. "Where will we get a sword from now?"

"You're looking for weapons?" a woman spoke from nearby. The three looked around until they spotted a young Muslim woman standing before them. She was tall and slender, with beautiful eyes that smiled a warm welcome, even while she kept a stern look on her dark face. She wore a flowing black abaya and a hijab that reached down to her waist. She stood, arms crossed beneath her large hijab, waiting for an answer.

"Uh...yeah, sorry," Imran finally spoke. "We need a sword for the sister here," Imran pointed to Jannah. The woman raised an eyebrow and Imran smiled. "She needs it for protection until her mahram arrives to come get her."

"What?"

"It's a long story. In any case, you seem to know where we could acquire weapons. True?"

"Well, for one, you'll never find them here."

"But this is a blacksmith, what're you talking about?"

"Yeah, in a Christian nation that's had a recent encounter with some fake Muslims stirring up trouble. No one's really doing business with Muslims that aren't usual trading partners already."

"So then, how can you help us get weapons?"

"I'm here with my brother, Farhan. He's selling wool products for the upcoming winter season, but I'm sure that he knows where to get you some weapons."

"Excellent."

"Do you mind if we join you then, sister....uh?" Jannah spoke up.

"As-Salaamu Alaikum, sister," the woman spoke. "My name's Farhiyah, and I don't mind at all."

"Great," Imran cut back in. "Where's this brother of yours?"

"I'm right here," a man spoke as he rounded the corner, carrying a large sack on his back. He stood a few inches taller than his sister, and had a bulkier frame. He wore a white kufi on his head and a maroon colored thobe over his white pants. He placed his hand on his sister's shoulder and looked towards the group before them. "Who's asking?"

"As-Salaamu Alaikum," Imran said, dismounting his horse to shake hands with the man. "I am Imran ibn Ali, this is my companion Usama ibn Shameem and this is a sister traveling with us for the time being. We thought it best she learn to defend herself while she awaits the arrival of her mahram to pick her up, so we are searching for somewhere to get her a sword of some sort."

"And you have come here?"

"My companions and I are intending to fight in the war In Shaa Allah."

"As am I. I will help you get what you need In Shaa Allah. Come, let's set out for my home. After I return my merchandise I will take you to a man who will sell you what you need."

"Ma Shaa Allah," Usama spoke up. "That's, quite helpful of you. Will you also be purchasing anything for yourself?"

"No, not yet. I haven't got the means to purchase any weapons just yet. I hoped that my profits from today would be enough, but I suppose I shall have to try again tomorrow."

"Hm. What if we purchased something from you? Wool matting would provide more comfort than sleeping on a thin blanket and also keep us warmer. It would be a mutual benefit. How many would you need to sell in order to buy what you need of armor and weapons?"

"I would need thirty shells or a small sack of coins for even just a sword. Armor and shield would be more than twice that. Even if you bought all that I have, it would not be enough for everything. I couldn't ask you for anything but a reasonable price, and I just do not have that much else to spare; I still have my family to look after."

"Are you married or something?" Imran asked.

Farhan's eyes widened a bit and he turned his face away, his body tensed up. "I was," he spoke in a low voice, his eyes shut tight. A look of sorrow wiped over his face. His sister put a comforting hand on his shoulder and rubbed him gently. Farhan drew a deep breath.

"My brother's wife and their child were slain by a group of tribal bandits terrorizing our village back home in the Southern Continent," Farhiyah spoke. "We moved to join the small Muslim village outside this city to escape all of the petty wars and violence. It seems we can't escape war though; so he's determined to fight this time to ensure the protection of our family."

"A noble cause," Imran praised. "May Allah reward you and make it easy for you. We want to help you."

"Yes," Usama said, dismounting his horse and walking over as well. "I will pay for your armor and buy the wool from you."

"You don't ha-" Farhan began.

"And I will buy your weapon."

"Jazakallahu Khairun," Farhan said, embracing the both of them in a hug. They smiled and shook his hand when he released them. "Thank you very much. Please, I invite you all to come to my house to have supper with us."

"We actually have two other companions with us back at camp," Imran spoke. "Do you mind if we bring them along?"

"Bring whomever you wish, In Shaa Allah. Go and gather your friends, my sister and I will go and inform our family that we will be having guests. We can meet back here in half an hour and set out to get the weapons and armor; then we will head to my home and have supper after Maghrib, In Shaa Allah."

"Sounds good, In Shaa Allah. We will see you soon." Imran shook hands with Farhan, as did Usama, and they returned to their horses.

"Wait, your wool," Farhan reminded them.

"Take it home for now, we will check later with our companions present and perhaps they will buy some too.

"Okay, In Shaa Allah. As-Salaamu Alaikum."

"Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahamtullah."

"As-Salaamu 'Alaikum, sister," Jannah waved to Farhiyah.

"Wa 'Alaikumus Salaam."

The trio turned their horses and set back to camp. The brother and sister turned to head back to their own home. They had food and space to prepare. Just as well, Farhan wanted to go and retrieve his best mats and products for his customers. They would all meet again soon and be helping one another out...


The hours of the day blew past like a summer breeze. The seal of night had come and the group had all met at Farhan's home. Imran and Usama had purchased armor and weaponry for Farhan as promised, and he had given them the wool mats and he even gave them new padding for their saddles. A light, straight-edged sword with a thin handle and a broad handguard had been purchased for Jannah. It was not a familiar weapon for her, but nonetheless, she would learn to fight with it. Imran had even bought a sword for himself, saying that he'd rather fight in all ranges of battle this time.

Now the group was sitting inside Farhan's home. Aside from he and his sister, there were eight other children, ranging from seven years of age to twenty-three, with Farhan, the oldest, at twenty-five. Also living in the home were their parents, who'd grown old and needed care. Farhan and his one brother took care of the family, seeing that their father couldn't work and it wasn't safe for any of the females to be out working alone. Even when he was married and living away from the family, Farhan had continuously spent on them and made sure that they were taken care of. After his wife and child were slain back home, he moved back in with his parents and siblings so that he could relocate all of them to a safer land. Now that there was another war close by, he wanted to be sure to do whatever he could to protect his family.

Sitting in an isolated room, Muhammad, Ishaq, Usama, Imran, Farhan, and his brother all sat around a thin red maidah on the floor. There was a large platter sitting between them, holding plain white rice and on the side of that was another platter with beans. A third platter sat adjacent to them both, holding sliced bananas. This was a common dinner for the people of the household, even if foreign to the land.

Candles burned in every corner of the room, lighting it up just enough for them to all see one another. Muhammad leaned against a wall, still feeling a little sick. Beside him, Ishaq had loosened the turban wrap on his face, lowering it to place food in his mouth before putting it back up. Imran sat between Farhan and Usama, with Farhan's brother sitting outside that. Soon they were joined by Farhan's elderly father, and the circle was complete.

"These beans look good, Ma Shaa Allah," Imran said.

"My sister prepared them," Farhan replied.

"Ma Shaa Allah, she prepared the whole dinner for everyone?"

"Yes. We take turns doing so; tonight was Fariyah's turn."

"Mmhm. It's really good Ma Shaa Allah."

"Glad you like it. Please, eat as a much as you like. Is anyone thirsty?" The others nodded yes and Farhan smiled. "Farooq, please go and bring some milk for everyone."

"Actually, can I have water," Muhammad spoke, his voice hoarse from sickness. He coughed little between his words. "I'm sick and I think milk might make it worse."

"Bring some water for our brother Muhammad, please."

"Yes," Farooq spoke as he got up to leave. He stood at the door way and knocked three times to alert the women on the other side that he was coming through in case Jannah had removed her hijab or anything. He was told to enter and he walked on through to go and fetch the drinks. Back in the room with the men, the others were discussing the war.

"So what do you think will happen after this war?" Imran asked Farhan.

"What do you mean?" Farhan queried.

"Assuming that this alliance works and there is a victory, the Kwaadi will be expunged from the lands, correct?"

"That's the goal In Shaa Allah."

"So then what will you do if that is achieved?"

"Well, there's actually a lot I am hoping to do. I hope that with my wages from the war I can buy a plot of land in the new territories and do some farming there. I can relocate my family there and providing for them will be easier. My brother and I can work the farm and I can work on marrying my sisters off."

"None of your sisters are married either?" Imran asked. "Not even the oldest?"

"No. I am the only child to have gotten married. Things were not easy back home. My brother and I were working to help my father take care of things financially. As for my sisters, they were helping at home, with Farhiyah and the other older ones helping my mother take care of the younger ones. Just as well, all of the conflict and violence back home was off-putting. Too many of the young men were getting into trouble and senseless violence, so there were no suitors whom my father would approve of. Perhaps, In Shaa Allah, after the war when many of the Muslim men settle in some of the conquered lands we will find a suitable suitor for them. And Farooq can find himself a nice wife too."

"In Shaa Allah. Will Farooq be fighting in the war by the way?"

"No. We agreed that I will be the one to fight and he will stay behind to take care of the family in my absence. Should the war be drawn out for a long while we will trade places for a period and go back and forth until either we gain victory or one of us is slain. But it makes no sense for both of us to go and jeopardize our family's only support with no back up plan."

"Oh."

"How are you planning to fight anyways?" Usama asked. "There is no Muslim army here, from what I understand. Is this not a Christian nation?"

"Indeed, this is a Chrisitan nation, despite the few of us Muslims who live in this city. We are but refugees and we have no authority or army in the land. However, there has now come to us a large army from the Maghreb Kingdom. They are camped outside the main city. Within the week I will join them there and fight among their ranks."

"Hm, sounds good. What was our plan again, Imran?"

"Pretty much the same," Muhammad answered.

"Yeah," Imran spoke. "We're staying at our own camp for the time being, so we can look over Jannah and make sure everything is fine while she awaits her brother's arrival. When the time for the departure comes, we will join up with army outside the city as they march on through and head for their assigned attack point in the Kwaadi Empire."

"What of the Cross?" Usama asked. "Are they marching with us or what?"

"Yes," Ishaq answered. "Because Uokuk spoiled the plan by rejecting our alliance, we will not be able to carry out the planned attacks on the Kwaadi in the east. Instead, our focus will be on the north and the south. During the meeting yesterday, I pledged our support for the battle up north, so now we will be marching alongside the Cross until we reach the outer city limits. There, we will divide, with the Muslim unit driving westward taking the long route. The Christian unit will march on forward until they too split; one branch will march to the east and camp there as a wall of defense. The main Christian unit will push forward into the Kwaadi fortress and face them, with support from our unit in the west."

"You seem well informed," Farhan spoke.

"He was at the meeting for planning yesterday," Imran said.

"Oh." Farooq reentered the room, holding a stack of cups and a container of water and one of milk. He sat a cup in front of all of the men and poured their desired drink for them. He then had a seat and continued eating with all of the others. Farhan had a sip of milk before continuing to talk. "Speaking of plans, what are all of your plans until the war?"

"Well, we have work to do, training and getting ready. We're going to train the sister to defend herself so that she is able to survive while we are away."

"Why not leave her to stay here?"

"What?"

"I don't mean to intrude in your affairs, but she is a woman traveling among a group of men. It isn't proper. And my family consists of mainly females. It would be better for her to remain here with my sisters in a home where she is safe and among similar company."

"We don't want to burden y-"

"Nonsense. She is our Muslim sister and a welcomed guest. This removes a burden from you all, and will surely be more comfortable for everyone I think."

"That actually makes sense," Muhammad said. "We won't have to worry about her really. I mean, I know she'll still be in a household with three non-mahrams, but at least she will be able to go and be isolated with other women and be in their company. And we don't have to worry about transportation issues or any improper interactions. Akhi, you have made a wise suggestion. We should bring this before her and ask her opinion."

"Later," Imran said.

"Actually," Farhan continued. "Why don't you all stay with us?"

"All? No, no, no," Usama said. "Thank you for your generosity, but that is too much. We couldn't-"

"Akhi, I insist," Farhan said with a smile.

"We must decline," Usama replied with a chuckle. "It's not proper. We have too many people, we can't bother you like that."

"It won't be a bother," Farooq replied.

"What about your sisters," Muhammad interjected. "It will be a bother for them to have to remain covered all day inside and outside for a week. We couldn't put that on anyone."

"No worries, akhi," Farhan said. "You will camp out back behind our home then. How's that? You are close enough to be our guests, and far enough to give my sisters a respectful distance."

"Okay, that sounds better," Imran said with a nod. "But even so, we are four men, we cannot come and eat up all your food for a week. It's still too much."

"How were you planning to eat otherwise?"

"Buying foods from the markets of course."

"As we do. So we can simply divide the costs. You will stay with us, we will prepare food for you, and us men will pray together, train together, and perhaps work together."

"What about bathing and all of that? We were relying on the river to deal with that."

"My brother and I go there daily to carry back water for my family. It's part of our morning routine after Fajr. Up and down the path, descending and ascending the cliffside with the buckets of water and going back and forth; it's a healthy workout. Keeps you fit and strong." Imran looked to Usama and chuckled a little. Usama shook his head. "Is something the matter?"

"No, no. This brother is very strong Ma Shaa Allah, I think he used to carry water back home."

"Oh. That aside, what is your decision?"

"Well, I suppose I am fine with it if the others agree," Imran said.

"I see no problem if it's not a bother," Usama said, shrugging his shoulders.

"Not at all."

"You sure?"

"Yes, akhi."

"Okay, then, no problem. Muhammad? Ishaq?"

"I'm fi-" Muhammad began before losing his breath to a short coughing fit. When he'd ceased coughing, he sighed. "I'm fine with it."

"Akhi, I think you should have some honey," Farhan's father suggested. "And drink some tea; it will help with your sickness. That's what I have my son bring me when I am sick."

"And stay extra warm," Farhan advised. "I will give you an extra blanket for the night; your body needs to keep as much warmth as possible."

"Yeah man," Usama spoke. "I think you probably got sick from the cold and the air. Last time, when you left the tent open in the desert, I got sick. Remember?"

"Whatever this sickness is from, staying warm and taking some medicine should help get rid of it."

"In Shaa Allah," Muhammad spoke.

"It is almost Isha time," Ishaq spoke. "We should pray soon so that he may rest. With his body resting, he stands a better chance of getting better."

"Yeah," Imran agreed. "Actually, I think we should go and get all of our things. If we're staying here, it makes sense to bring our things now, then pray when we get back and then we can set everything up and rest."

"Yeah," Usama said. "Muhammad you should stay here and wait; we'll bring your stuff back for you. Actually, we can just bring everyone's things back, right Imran?"

"Yeah, no problem, In Shaa Allah."

"Are you brothers done eating?" Farhan asked them, looking at the platters which held only a little bit of food left.

"I'm full Alhamdulillah," Imran said, holding his stomach. "It was good, Ma Shaa Allah. Thank you for the food, may Allah reward you immensely. Jazakallahu Khairun, akhi."

"Barakallufik. And you all?"

"I'm fine, Alhamdulillah," Usama said.

"Me too," Muhammad spoke.

"Ya Akhi, you've barely eaten any at all," Farooq laughed.

"He's sick," Farhan reminded his brother.

"No, he eats like a sparrow anyways," Imran joked. "Sick or not, he barely eats much."

"What about you?" Farhan asked Ishaq.

"I have had my fill, Alhamdulillah. Go ahead and finish it."

"Okay, In Shaa Allah. Farooq, here, you take it since you didn't get as much when you left to get everyone's drinks."

"Okay." Farooq scooted in closer to the platters to finish the rice and beans. Imran and Usama stood up and stretched. They were ready to set out and retrieve everyone's belongings from the campsite. "Just knock on the door to let the women know that you're coming through," Farooq reminded them. They nodded and walked over, knocking thrice before walking through.

The two made their way outside and got to their horses. Beside their horses rested the tall camel, lying asleep on the ground. Imran petted her awake and the camel rose up tall, ready to set out. The two got on their horses and lead the camel out onto the streets. "Ma Shaa Allah, he's a good brother," Usama said to Imran. "I didn't expect to meet any Muslims here but Allah made us cross paths with really generous and helpful ones."

"Yeah," Imran agreed. "Alhamdulillah, they're very nice. I pray that Allah helps them in all their plans and grants them success in this life and the next."

"Ameen. I want to help them in any way I can, man. I think we should buy more wool or something, find some way to give them a little more."

"Yes. I'm thinking...maybe lessen their load a little."

"What do you mean?"

"There's so many people living there; the brother has so many people to provide for."

"Yeah, man. I thought I had it hard back home when I was taking care of my mom and siblings, but I only have four siblings; he has nine. Subhaan Allah."

"Yeah. I was thinking that maybe I could help make that less."

"What're you talking about?"

"I'm saying hm...Maybe I could marry one of his sisters."

"What? You?"

"Yeah man, did you see the way his oldest sister was looking at me? Even when we first met I felt something there."

"What?" Usama laughed. "She wasn't looking at you any kind of way, man."

"No, akhi, I saw. You weren't looking I guess, but I saw it."

"No I didn't see; I had my gaze lowered, like you should have."

"First glance, akhi."

Usama laughed and shook his head. "I know I told you to consider marrying soon, but this is a bit sudden. And...."

"And what?"

"And unexpected. You've nev-"

"I know darker girls aren't really my preference, but Subhaan Allah, she's different, she's amazing. I could barely keep my eyes lowered. And Subhaan Allah, I just felt something there from the first minute."

"Really?"

"Yes. And also she comes from a good family from what I've seen."

"That's true."

"They seem to be good and strong on the Deen. She's mature and responsible enough to handle a home, but young and beautiful and would still be fun."

"Fun?" Usama chuckled. Imran hardly got excited about the topic of marriage. At least it didn't seem so; usually it had been Muhammad being the excited one talking about being married to Munirah. Usama couldn't help but laugh a little.

"Yeah man, but I'm serious. This might be it. Allah made us cross paths for a reason right? And look, all this stuff happened so fast. We needed weapons, then we meet them and get some. We needed food for the night, we get invited to their house and she cooks delicious food for us-"

"It was just beans and rice with bananas," Usama laughed. "It was good, but it was simple man. You make it sound like she's a professional cook."

"In any case man, I'm just saying, she seems like she might make a good wife. And it'd help the family out some if I took her from the home."

"But she's helping take care of the parents, how will that help?"

"After the war man. Farhan said he wants to get them married anyways."

"True."

"Yes. And since we're staying here for a week, that'll give me time to learn about her and see exactly what type of woman she is. At the same time, her brother will get to know me and see what type of man I am, then he can talk to her and her father and get them to consider me. With his approval, I'm sure she'll say yes too."

"Wow, so you're serious about this?"

"Yeah man, why not?"

"What about the sister back home?"

"What? I'm allowed to have more than one, Alhamdulillah. If they're both sincere then In Shaa Allah neither of them would have a problem with me practicing the Sunnah. So it should all be good. Don't worry. We just have to keep open minds."

"I suppose so. In any case, I hope marriage thoughts don't occupy your mind for the rest of the trip."

"No, no, Alhamdulillah. That's Muhammad with Munirah. I'm just saying, In Shaa Allah this could be something good. I'm going to pray salatul-istikharah* tonight so I can decide if I should pursue this. I want to know if I should even be considering this. I was just telling you to get your opinion and advice."

"Oh. I think it sounds good. Pray salatul-istikharah In Shaa Allah, and if it's good, go through with it. It think it's about time you get married."

"Yeah. In Shaa Allah. Make du'ah for me."

"In Shaa Allah. In Shaa Allah. For now, I think we should hurry to our camp and collect our things so we can return. Muhammad is sick and needs to rest."

"Yeah. And we have a lot ahead of us for these coming days."

"Yes. This war. I don't know why, but I have an uneasy feeling."

"Do you think something bad will happen? Or just worried about working with these Chirstians?"

"Yes, and no... I can't explain it. I just have a strange feeling..."

"Oh. To be honest, I am a little concerned with this alliance."

"You think that it may fail?"

"No." Imran paused briefly. "I just worry if they should all be trusted, or if we should be doing this. How will things work out in the end?"

"Ah, I see. In Shaa Allah things will be fine. We just... we just have to keep an open mind. Everything will go as Allah Wills it to. Whatever comes our way, it's best to just meet it with open minds."

"I suppose so..." Imran sighed, deep in thought. "Open minds," he repeated lowly to himself. "Open minds...."


GLOSSARY/ TRANSLATIONS

Tasleem: the final movement in prayer signifying the ending, accompanied with the saying of "As-Salaamu 'Alaikum wa Rahmatullah" or some variation of such.

Salatul-Istikhara: A prayer for guidance when one is uncertain on a decision between two choices. Anytime a Muslim is making a decision, he or she should seek Allah's guidance and wisdom. Allah alone knows what is best for us, and there may be good in what we perceive as bad, and bad in what we perceive as good. Thus, when making a decision, it is best for one to pray to Allah for guidance to whichever choice is best.



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