Empires Of Faith

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Chapter 34: Among Heroes

15 Shawwal, 1663

The radiant sun was shining with a superfluous glow. Even before he opened his eyes, Muhammad could hear the beautiful chirping of birds flying overhead. The cool, soft grass held his body like a spongy pillow, with a sweet smelling musk emanating from it. A gentle breeze blew over and stirred him awake. He sat up, feeling calm, relaxed, and at peace.

Sitting in the meadow, he was dressed in a loose green thobe, his favorite color, and a pair of black pants. He ran a finger through his curled hair as he took in his surroundings. He smiled as his eyes moved across from the hills of green grass to the large shady trees; from the birds up high, varying in their beautiful, radiant colors, and even to the river bank where the cold, crisp waters ran. His eyes stopped as he gazed upon a large mansion like he'd never seen before. The spacious home was crafted of finer materials than he'd ever seen in his life. Marvelous designs were etched into the walls of the pearly white building and on the tall pillars which held an arch shaped balcony high above the entrance. Long curtains of silky green decorated the tall windows on the sides and fronts of the walls.

As Muhammad's eyes looked over the amazing structure before him, his gaze fell upon the black oak door which opened slowly. There in the door way stood a woman, someone he recognized. Muhammad drank in the refreshing sight of her modest blue dress; its simple white embroidery briefly catching his eye as it fluttered in the gentle winds. He lifted his gaze further upward. Her dark brown hair fell in graceful curls, framing her beautiful face and draping down her back. A delighted smile was spread on her luminous, golden face as she looked upon her husband.

Muhammad blissfully returned the smile, seeing Munirah awaiting him in the distance. He got to his feet immediately and hastily made his way through the fields towards his wife. He was so elated that he began to laugh uncontrollably. Munirah also began to laugh with delight as he grew nearer. In fact, a third, higher pitched laughter echoed as well. Without question Muhammad began running to his wife, seeing her cradling something in her arms and beckoning him closer. His heart raced with anticipation of her loving warmth; his joyous laughter filling the air until...

Muhammad awakened in a tent, a quiet laughter just escaping his lips before his eyes opened. Feeling pain all throughout his body, Muhammad looked around in the dimmed space, seeing three medics standing over him with relief breezing over them now. They smiled, greeting him with Salaams even as he struggled to sit up. The head medic urged him to lie down, saying that he needed rest. He, along with his two companions, said they needed to retrieve someone or something, and would be returning shortly. In the meantime, Muhammad looked down on his aching body to see that he'd been bandaged up in several places. His armor and some of his clothing had been removed for his wounds to be treated but he was pleased to know that his awrah* remained covered.

A brief flashback to the night of the battle played in his mind. All of the enemies he'd taken on. The struggles he and his comrades endured. The clashing of swords, the burning fires, the shouts and cries, the bloodshed, and the lives put on the line. "Ma Shaa Allah," he said to himself, content with having survived it all. His mind immediately wandered to his companions; everyone he'd left beyond at the various stages. Did they all survive? Were they granted martyrdom and he the only living one among them? Were they pleased with how things turned out? How in fact did things turn out?

His answer would come soon as the tent flaps fluttered open with a man walking through. With one eye shut tight and one barely open, Muhammad lifted his head towards the approaching figure. “You’re awake now,” the familiar voice said. “How are you feeling?”

“Alhamdulillah,” Muhammad managed to say while wincing in pain. “I’ve been better.”

“Really? I don’t think I’ve seen you better, more honorable, and more respectable than you are now. Do you know what you have done?”

“What?” Muhammad asked, forcing himself up to face his friend. While his voice sounded firm and serious, the look on Imran’s face showed that he was proud and happy. He walked over just beside Muhammad’s resting body and reached out a hand. Muhammad awkwardly shook it before giving a questioning look.

“You have become a hero,” Imran said. “Ma Shaa Allah, by the will of Allah, your plan was a success. As you know, Juan surrendered and he has now been locked away in one of the prisons to await trial for his treason to the alliance.”

“Alhamdulillah,” Muhammad smiled. “Then the alliance is still ongoing?”

“Alhamdulillah, through your efforts, yes. However, there have been some changes.”

“Such as?”

“Those you will learn of later; that’s not a worry for now. You should be pleased to have succeeded in what you’ve done. You have saved thousands of lives, Ma Shaa Allah. Even some of the non-Muslims of the nation are calling you as a hero of Spain. You warded off the evil Juan was about to bring in and the consequences they would all have had to face because of him. You truly are a hero.”

“Subhaan Allah,” Muhammad said under his breath. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was all too unreal. He was but a simple man who was too stubborn to turn back in the face of supposed defeat. Never did he imagine being heralded as a hero; his goal had only been to do what he felt everyone else should and would do. There was nothing special in that. That aside, “I wasn’t alone,” he spoke. “You, and Usama, and Ishaq, and all the others, Alhamdulillah, you all helped me and I’d never have made it through without you all. May Allah reward you all immensely and grant you peace and blessings in this life and the next.”

“Ameen, and you as well.”

“How are the others anyhow? I see you appear to be fine.”

“Alhamdulillah, I survived with only minor injuries. Got a few cuts on my midsection, and a gash on my leg but Alhamdulillah I’m fine. Usama took on some damage protecting his brothers, but he’s fine as well. Many of the guards we were fighting were called out into the streets of the city after their camps were set ablaze by Nizaam and the others. Alhamdulillah, we all survived.”

“What about Ishaq? He wasn’t with you guys; he and I went ahead but I had to leave him behind at a wall. Did he- is he okay?”

“Allahu ‘Alam. I haven’t heard anything of him, good or bad. I only know of those that I was with and just now I came to know of your faring.”

“Is there anyone who might know? Where are the medics? Perhaps they know?”

“The medics have gone to speak with General Saeed; he requested to be kept informed of the status of your health.”

“Why? What’s he want with me?”

“Allahu ‘Alam. Don’t worry yourself with that for now. The medics said you still need to be resting, so I’m going to leave. I just wanted to stop by and say Salaams.”

“Where are you off to now then?”

“Well, General Saeed and the others are supposed to gather and determine the next course of action. All three of the Cross captains had already left far away before Juan marched in, so they currently have no idea of it all. Our leaders need to decide whether to continue marching on with the original plan or what. In the meantime, all of the wounded and injured soldiers have been retired, so Usama, Farhan, and I are returning to the house back in the village to check on things.”

“Ah.”

“You should get your rest. We’ll be returning to the camp tomorrow In Shaa Allah to hear the announcements and visit the wounded again; checking in on everyone and such. If you’re well enough, we can probably bring you back to the village.”

“In Shaa Allah.”

“Alright, I’m going to let you get your rest and we’ll see you later. As-Salaamu Alaikum.”

“Wa Alaikumus Salam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.”

Imran turned and exited the tent, leaving Muhammad to lay back in the bed mat and stare up at the roof. The sun outside was dimmed, with hardly any light penetrating the dark blue cloth of the tent. The shadows of branches from a nearby tree danced along the top of the tent in the wind, making various figures appear to be lining it. Muhammad’s tired eyes watched the shadows move about, with a sea of thoughts flowing through his mind. His dream, his wife, his journey, his battles, his struggles, his triumphs, his enemies, his comrades, his past, his future. No worries…just….wonderment. It was in that state that his eyes became heavy once more and his thoughts faded into dreams; his breathing became light and he was asleep once more.

-------------

16 Shawwal, 1663

“Moradores de Madrid*,” a voice called out from the city square, summoning all of the citizens to a gathering. “¡Moradores de Madrid! ¡Reúna!*” In small crowds, the citizens all emerged from their homes, confused and befuddled. There was a buzzing chatter in the air as the baffled inhabitants of Madrid assembled in the city center, witnessing an unfamiliar scene. Standing on an elevated platform, General Saeed, Captain Roshan, two out of three of the city heads, and one other man awaited the peoples’ gathering.

The caller stood at the forefront of the group, near the edge of the platform as he raised his voice in summoning all of the people. General Saeed stood in the center, holding with him a scroll with an announcement he was preparing to read off. Captain Roshan stood beside him, a wide smile on his face, despite a long slash across it that he’d earned in battle the other night. The two council members stood just off to the left of General Saeed, their heads held low in disappointment and shame.

As the crowd grew and they’d amassed a suitable audience, General Saeed decided he was ready to begin. The villagers were silenced and General Saeed began to read off from the scroll, with the caller in the forefront translating in Spanish to the audience. “O People of Madrid,” General Saeed began. “I am General Saeed, commander of the 43rd fleet of the united Muslim army. I came to this land as an ally, joining arms with you and the Cross in unison of a shared goal: to combat the growing oppression from the Kwaadi and ward off their evils. For this purpose thousands upon thousands of Muslim soldiers left their homes and families behind, putting their lives on the line for those of others. We came expecting peace and unity, only to face treachery and deceit at the hands of your governor. Not only were our lives threatened, but those of our Muslim brethren in these lands were as well. Your governor, along with his accomplices in several other cities, not to mention his reinforcements from amongst the Kwaadi, stood against us in aggression while we provoked them not. Alhamdulillah, by the Mercy of our Lord and through the efforts of a few extraordinary men among us, their wicked plans were thwarted. We have captured your governor and he will be put to trial for his treason.”

There were startled gasps and a sudden chatter arose among the crowd, surprise setting in among them. While many had known of their peoples’ treachery, many were also left unaware. People began questioning the purpose of this gathering, an uneasy feeling rising in their minds. The last time a governor of a town was found to have been acting in treason, he was put to trial and sentenced to death, with the population of his town being slain and sold into slavery even among their own brethren. This could not be any better with the Muslims coming from a land far away and having no commonality with these inhabitants. Fear and worry became evident on the faces of the crowd, their voices were raised aloud with questions and shouts filling the air.

The translator hushed the crowd and when the noise finally died down, General Saeed continued on his announcement. “Your governor, and his accomplices will all be put to trial by a council of judges from among ourselves and from among the Cross. We will not, however, leave you without leadership. Instead, by order of myself and on behalf of Al-Amir Ul-Muslimeen* Muhammad ibn Abdul-Muhaymin, I hereby declare Madrid, and all of its surrounding cities, as territories of the Muslim Ummah.”

The crowd erupted in gasps and shouts. Had they just been conquered?! Shock, bewilderment, fear, astonishment, and panic set into their hearts once again as they all turned to their leaders up on the stage. They were shouting now, defiant chants and demands of answers from the two council members. The council members turned their heads in defeat, looking anywhere but at the crowd. “¡SILENCIO!*” a voice boomed out over the crowd.

A deathly silence sealed out all noises as the crowd turned in fright at the roaring of the Lion. The people shuffled; everyone began turning in their spot to face the direction of the voice. Far in the back of the crowd stood a tall, muscular figure; his tattered brown garb draped over him casually. His black mane was disheveled and his bearded face was stern and solemn. The people began to whisper to one another, “El Leon de España,” “He’ll save us,” “El León será derrotar a todos*,” “Here is our champion.”

Gabriel Guerrero made his way through the crowd and approached the stage. He stood just below the platform and raised his hands to gain the peoples’ attention and silence their whispers. “Mi pueblo*,” he addressed his people. “No hevenido a peleary oposición de estos hombres. Escuchelo que dicen porque ellos son sus conquistadores. No soy más queuno de ustedes. I have not come to fight or oppose these men. Listen to them, for they are your conquerors. I am merely one of you."

This time the absolute shock of Gabriel’s words left the crowd speechless. The man they considered to be the greatest among them was himself submitting to these conquerors. Their champion, their hero, their Lion was defeated and would not stand with them in opposition. With their leaders in captivity and their hero in submission, the people were vulnerable. They were exposed to their conquerors in a way that they had been protected from for so long. This was a grave matter and the people were at last ready to give their full and total attention to everything being said.

Gabriel turned to General Saeed and gave a nod. Saeed gave a nod back before his eyes returned to the scroll. Reading through the rest silently he inhaled deeply. He rolled the scroll up and walked to the front of the stage, looking to his translator. “O denizens of Spain,” he spoke, his voice loud and booming. “Upon you are three conditions, any of which you are free to choose for yourselves. The first is that you accept Islam and bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship but God and that Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is His servant and Messenger. I urge you to accept this sincere calling and turn your hearts to God in full submission, believing in and obeying His final Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) whom your Messenger Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) foretold of. Your Lord will forgive you your sins, accept your repentance, and spare you from a miserable return on the Day of Judgement. Learn this Deen which we invite you to and you will benefit in this life and the Next.”

The crowd was awestricken. Taken aback completely as the translator reiterated Sa’eed’s words to them in Spanish. There was a hushed murmur and confusion among the peoples as the man mentioned to them Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Some were curious, some were outraged, and all were concerned about further things General Sa’eed had to say.

“If you refuse this,” the general continued. “Then upon you is the jizya* tax in return for our protection and caretaking over you. If you refuse even still, then upon you is the sword and force of the law. We will allow neither rebellion nor dissent from among the citizens. Those who wish to leave with their families and their properties may do so, but all who remain will submit to one of the previously stated conditions. These are your options, and I leave the choice to you. May God guide you to what is right and may you be spared a horrible disaster in this life or the next.”

As the translator spoke to the people in Spanish, General Saeed eyed their faces carefully, scrutinizing their apparent thoughts. When he felt satisfied that his message had been properly relayed, he turned to the two council members. They’d only been present to show their acceptance and submitting to all of this, even though they’d already signed the agreement on the scroll General Saeed held. They, like the perturbed people below, were now free to go. General Saeed gave them a nod before folding his arms behind his back and marching down the stairs of the platform in the back, followed by Captain Roshan.

After a long moment of chattering and conversing, the crowd was dispersed. There would be no argument, nor any opposition to the new rule. Madrid and the few surrounding cities whose leaders had betrayed the alliance were now under Muslim rule, all because of a treacherous plot by the capital’s governor. The nation itself would be changed thenceforth, and all this on the eve of yet another attempt at a Muslim-Christian united front against the Kwaadi. Only time would tell how things would play out from there.

Gabriel Guerrero, one of the first and greatest proponents of the alliance, was disappointed to have seen it come to this. Even though it was not to Kwaadi hands, much of his beloved Spain had fallen and was no longer the home he lived to protect. A great despair sunk into his heart as he stood there, all alone in the midst of it all. He hung his head low as he sighed heavily and began a glum trek back to his home, his mind swimming through various thoughts…

___________

18 Shawwal, 1663

“I thought that was going to be the end of me,” Usama spoke, sitting amongst his brothers and friends in a tent outside of Farhan’s home. The men all sat, sipping tea and relating the tales of their battle, rejoicing in their victory, and visiting with Farhan’s family. After pausing to gulp down the rest of the steaming brew, Usama continued his story.

“I called out to Sumama and told him he would have to take care of our mother and siblings. I remember everything was fading out and I was bleeding heavily. Alhamdulillah, I’d taken the brunt of the attack and protected my brothers from Juan’s men, but I still worried about them and everyone else. They kept fighting on, shooting their arrows and swinging their bows at the enemies that got too close. As I lay on the ground in a pool of blood, my body felt weak but my heart felt strong. Too strong to just lay there and die. I said ‘Bismillah’ and mustered all of the strength that I had left in me to pick up one of my swords and stand myself up. I found Imran by my side, lifting me up and standing next to me to fight as well, despite the blood running down his face seemingly blinding him in one eye. He smiled to me and this guy, you know what he says to me?”

Imran shook his head, looking down with a smile as Usama carried on. “He smiles and looks at me, then says to me, ‘having fun?’”

The men all burst into laughter and Imran shook his head. Usama laughed and patted Imran on the back to show that they were laughing with him, not at him. As the laughter died down, a familiar voice entered the room with a chuckle.

“Only Imran would say something like that in the middle of a battle,” Muhammad laughed. The men all looked up with smiles, welcoming Muhammad in with Salaams. “Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.”

“Alhamdulillah, you made it,” Imran said, motioning for Muhammad to come over and sit beside him. “Have a seat.”

“Alhamdulillah, how is everyone?”

“We’re all good,” Farhan spoke for everyone. “Glad to see you’re okay. Ma Shaa Allah, you’re a hero.”

“Not this again,” Muhammad sighed. “Look, we all fought and put our lives on the line to ensure that justice prevailed. I am no different than the rest of you. Alhamdulillah, Allah allowed me to be the one to force Juan into submission, but that doesn’t make me any more of a hero than any of you.”

“Then we’re all heroes,” Obada said cheerfully. “And you can just be the bravest.”

“No,” Muhammad sighed, looking to the young man with a smile. “I’m not the bravest either.”

“That’s not what General Saeed thinks,” Imran replied. “He wants to honor you with some special recognition and some title or something I hear. You’re supposed to be summoned to his quarters tonight or tomorrow to be awarded with whatever he’s chosen.”

“Where did you hear this from?” Muhammad queried.

“I heard it from Roshan. General Saeed questioned him about you and your leadership in the attack and the role you played in the fighting. He told him your planning was clever, your leading was brave, and your fighting was heroic. And so General Saeed wants to honor you as a hero of Spain.”

“What about all of you? What about the soldiers, what about- Ishaq?!”

“Huh?”

“Ishaq! He fought with me up until the last gate. He took on several men at once to protect me so that I could go on. He was gravely injured when I left him but I still hoped that- just tell me he survived right? I didn’t hear anything of him from the medics. Did he survive or no?”

There was a silence. Muhammad’s eyes scanned the rooms even as all of the heads were turned down and the faces were turned away. He looked about worriedly, desperate for an answer. When the silence continued Muhammad stood up. “No one knows?” he asked, growing impatient. “Surely one of you must know! Imran, you said you all went to visit the wounded yesterday. Did you see Ishaq among the patients being treated or no?”

“I, we, um-”

“Did you see him or not?!”

“Look Muhammad, no disrespect to him at all, I have nothing but respect and admiration for him, -especially after hearing what he did- but why does it matter so much for one person you’ve only recently met to have survived? He fought bravely and put his life on the line for the sake of Allah, so if he died, then Ma Shaa Allah, he is the successful one. And if he lived, Alhamdulillah, he can fight another day. But there’s no need to get all worried abou-”

“If you’re not going to tell me then I’ll just head back to camp and find out for myself.” Muhammad turned towards the exit, his heart and mind racing in worry. He reached for the flap of the tent and stepped outside before being called back.

“Muhammad, wait,” Usama called out. Muhammad paused a brief second for him to speak. When no words came out, Muhammad sighed and began marching on. As he stormed away he heard the fluttering of the tent flaps and soon the crunching of sand beneath two boots.

“Ya Muhammad, wait up,” Imran called. Muhammad continued walking in his usual fast pace. Imran ran to catch up to him. When he reached his side, Imran put a hand on Muhammad’s shoulder and continued to speak to him. “Look man, I suppose you’re not just curious but are in fact deeply concerned.”

“Thank you for coming here to tell me the obvious,” Muhammad snapped in sarcasm.

“I came to give you an answer,” Imran replied calmly. Muhammad stopped in his tracks and faced his friend. Imran sighed.

“Well? Is he alive?”

“I- I can’t answer that in words.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Calm down, you’ll understand shortly. I’ll take you to him.”

“Take me to him? So he is alive?!”

“Nn- well, just come with me.”

Muhammad hastily followed Imran to wherever he would lead him. The two made their way through the town and off towards the camp. Muhammad began to speed up, taking the lead as he noticed the medical tents coming up. Imran placed a hand on Muhammad’s shoulder to steer him away from those tents and off toward a different direction.

There were knots in Muhammad’s stomach, his mind swam a pool of edginess as they turned away from the medical tents where the wounded were being treated. Ishaq had sustained tremendous injuries; there was no way he could have been healed and released already. Muhammad anxiously followed his companion through the edge of town until they made their way to a small hut. As they approached, there was a tall, hooded figure walking away glumly. Muhammad worried about what news he may have gotten inside but brushed that aside as he and Imran reached the entrance.

Imran gave three knocks in a precise pattern before a voice called out telling them to enter. The two stepped into a dim room, illuminated only by the small flame of a single candle. Four figures sat at the corners of a square mat on the floor. There was a distinct odor about the air, neither foul nor pleasant. Beside that was the unmistakable scent of blood and mud, though both were dulled. Upon the mat there was a body, spread out and covered in a large cloth, leaving only the head of a young man exposed. Even in the darkness Muhammad recognized Ishaq by the structure of his face and the curls of hair that were matted atop his head now.

“As-Salaamu Alaikum,” Imran spoke in a low voice, addressing the four men. They replied in similar whispers. Muhammad stepped forward, his eyes wide and worried as he looked over his comrade. He could neither hear him breathing nor see his chest rising or descending. He shuffled over and crouched down near Ishaq’s side to further inspect him.

“Is he-” he paused, the words getting stuck in his throat. He looked to the nearest medic for an answer and received a nod in response.

“Not quite,” replied the medic. “He is…unconscious.”

“What? So he’s alive then? He survived?”

“Allahu ‘Alam, there’s no guarantee. We found him one night after the attack. He was laid on his back, his eyes were open and he seemed to have been staring at the moon. We thought that he had died but we found that he still had a pulse, although it was very faint. His breathing continued and he seemed to be alive. But no matter what we did, we could not wake him nor remove him from this unconscious state. We took him to the army’s medical center for treatment but none of the medics there knew how to deal with him. We’ve no exact treatment for such a case and are not even certain he can be treated. We’ve not washed him up yet, in case Allah wills to take his soul and make him a martyr.”

“Then why have you brought him here?”

“There is an exemplary medic from among the Spaniards who they say can treat him. She is coming from a town a great distance away and will take another day or so to get here. In the meantime, we were told to keep him isolated from all the clamor and noises in the towns. She also said that too much light can be harmful for him, and that he should be kept in cool temperatures.”

“So she’ll be able to help then?” Muhammad asked in a whisper. “She can treat him and bring him from this unconscious state?”

“Allahu ‘Alam. This is what they say, but everything is in the control of Allah. The best that we can do for him right now is pray. Pray that if he passes, that his martyrdom is accepted and he is entered into Jannah; and that if Allah wills for him to live, it is a life of good that will be pleasing to Allah.”

Muhammad nodded in agreement. He would certainly be involving himself in deep prayers thenceforth; he owed it to Ishaq. It could’ve been me, Muhammad thought to himself. I could be the one lying here, or worse. But you protected me. You risked your life to save mine and let me go on to fight. I suppose that’s twice you’ve paid me back for that night in the palace. Hmph. Well, you’ve earned my sincerest gratitude and appreciation, and I’ll be making du’ah for you, akhi. Count on that!

Muhammad stood from the bedside, feeling slightly relieved to know that Ishaq was still alive. He wasn’t completely at rest, knowing the situation was still uncertain. Still, he was pleased to have learned of his condition and seen his friend, his brother, one last time before his death if that came. He would be praying to Allah for whatever was best, even if it were that Ishaq would pass because of that. Despite the natural dislike to lose a companion, he knew that whether Ishaq lived or passed was in truth a good thing. And he knew that whether he awakened from his unconscious state or died in it, Ishaq would certainly be counted among heroes…


GLOSSARY/TRANSLATIONS

Awrah: The intimate parts of the human body which, in Islam, must covered from the sight of others with clothing and such.

Moradores de Madrid: Denizens of Madrid

Reúna: Gather

Al-Amir Ul-Muslimeen: The leader of the Muslims

Silencio: Silence

Mi pueblo: my people

El León será derrotar a todos: The Lion will defeat them all

Jizya: a tax levied upon Non-Muslim subjects under an Islamic governance who are able-bodied adult males of military age (but with specific exemptions). Jizya is taken as a material proof of the Non-Muslims' acceptance of subjection to the state and its laws. In return, Non-Muslim subjects are permitted to practice their faith, to enjoy a measure of communal autonomy, to be entitled to the Muslim state's protection from outside aggression, and to be exempted from military service and from the zakat tax levied upon the Muslim citizens.


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