Chapter 7: Parting Words
23 Sha'baan, 1663
Ishaq and Gabriel stood outside the wooden door. Ishaq looked up to the sky, seeing that there remained only a red glow from the sun. To him, it meant that it was time for the 4th prayer of the day, Maghrib. To Gabriel, it meant that he his last night with his family for weeks was just beginning, and he needed to get home. Before then, however, he would share one last conversation with Ishaq.
"As the day becomes night or the night becomes the day, one must truly must ponder at the miracles of God," Ishaq spoke.
"What do you mean by this?" Gabriel asked.
"He merges Night into Day, and He merges Day into Night; and He has full knowledge of the secrets of (all) hearts," Ishaq replied, quoting an ayah from the Quran. "Were He to have made night and day suddenly shift in time, would we not be in loss? Wouldn't it be a stressful thing for us if we were suddenly jerked into night, and similarly into day? But God has made it a merging, such that it happens subtly and gradually."
"You seem to be quite thoughtful of these subtle wisdoms, my friend. How is it that you came to think in this way?”
"My deen is all that I have in this world. What I have spoken to you is not merely my own speech, rather I mentioned to you one of the Signs of God."
"Deen? That's religion right?"
"It's an acceptable equivalent word for this language yes."
"And just how did you learn religion my friend, are you not a wanderer, orphaned at birth? Who taught you these things?"
"I sought the truth and God is ever ready to Guide those in search of Guidance. This Kwaade man, he most certainly has the people led astray. It is the natural fitrah* of mankind to believe in God. We are born with an instinctive belief in Him, even if we do not know fully about Him."
"That's an interesting way to think."
"I tell you of all this because you seem to be a man of good judgment, unlike your companion Juan."
"I only do my best to seek God's favor. As for Juan, I don't know what to tell you about him. I am just a citizen; I have no authority over him and his sins are upon him. The people tell me I should take command, but I do not think that that will be my best course of action. For now, I am content with whatever God would have me do. I remind myself that Jesus didn’t seek to just rule over mankind and seize power for himself, so what right have I for it?”
"So long as you continue on the path of good morality and seek Guidance upon truth, the answers will all come to you. Just remember that and the straight path may be shown to you."
"I will pray for that."
"Yes, and speaking of praying, I really must leave now to pray; I do not want to run out of time."
"Ay, si. Actually, if it is no bother to you, I would like to join you in that. If we are going to be fighting together, I would like to understand my comrades better."
"It is fine by me. In non-Muslim lands I must really be cautious during my prayer, lest I get assaulted or distracted from my prayer. If you would stand guard over me it would be most appreciated."
"Excelente. Where shall we go?"
"Follow me," Ishaq said, walking quickly. Gabriel followed after him until they reached to a stony path which abruptly ended at a cliff. Ishaq and Gabriel descended down the short wall of the cliff and arrived at the old site of the Manzanares River. Having once been a great river of 52 miles, the Manzanares was now reduced to a few scattered little pools of water with little vegetation growing around it and no animals. In these times, the river was no longer the valued resource it had once been. Instead its waters had been mostly used up or contaminated by strange chemicals. Ishaq and Gabriel were fortunate to be at one of cleaner locations.
Ishaq walked to the river and washed is face. Gabriel watched as his companion prepared himself for prayer by making ablution. Ishaq then returned to the area just below the cliff. There he raised his hands and began to pray. Gabriel watched intently as Ishaq recited from the Quran in his prayer. He couldn't understand the words, but he felt an odd feeling come into his heart from the moment the recitation began to the moment it ended.
Thereafter, Ishaq went on bowing and prostrating as he continued his prayer. Gabriel watched in awe as his companion prostrated his face on the dusty ground. What is this, he thought to himself. I lower myself by simply kneeling before God and think that I am humble. Yet these people place their faces on the ground, submitting wholly to Him and surrendering all pride and ego before Him.
Ishaq completed his prayer and sat in near silence for a few moments. Finally he looked up to Gabriel and thanked him for standing guard. "It was no trouble at all," Gabriel replied. "Tell me though, what were those words which you were saying while you stood?"
"They were verses from the Quran, the final revelation from God."
"Interesting. And what do they mean?"
"What you heard me say in my first standing translates to this, that God says 'Say: "O people of the Scripture: Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God, Then, if they turn away, say: "Bear witness that we are Muslims."’ (3:64)"
"Who are these people of the Scripture?"
"They are the Jews and the Christians."
"There are hardly any Jews left in this world, but I would not doubt that any sincere folk amongst them would be willing to accept this as I, a Christian man do."
"Perhaps, or perhaps not. You are different, even amongst the other Christians."
"No, rather I am the same as all my Christian brethren. We are all equal before the Eyes of God. And that will be our unison. It will keep Espana together and then with the Muslim assistance we will drive out the evil men from the Kwaadi."
"There can be no unison if we do not all do our parts," Ishaq said as he got to his feet. "You and I must make haste in delivering our messages before the wicked schemes of others can fall to place."
"Most certainly. The peace between our peoples is on the line; we cannot fail and must not allow anyone to prevent us from our jobs. With this ax in my hand, I pledge to fight until victory is given and peace ensues, or until God takes my soul from my body."
"Devote yourself to that and remain headstrong in it. I would be most pleased to see the good come from you; and you are most certainly a brave warrior."
"You are quite skilled yourself. In fact, there has been one that that has not escaped my mind since our first encounter."
"What is that?"
"When we met and we fought one another, were you fighting in a serious manner or were you simply toying with me? Did you give your all to that fight?”
"I gave what I had to give, but my intention was not to kill. As I told you then, my mission was and is one of peace. I came only for your attention and fought only to defend myself and to test your skill."
"I figured as much. Even during the fight, I felt an odd sense from you. I could not figure it out but it would not allow me to kill you as I would have done to any other attacker. Still, if neither of us gave our all to that, then I want to fight you again."
"Not here, not now. What I mean is, I want to test my mettle. That fight between us was one of the best I've fought in; and you are a skilled warrior like I've never seen in someone so young. Promise me that when this is all over and we are at peace, you will humor me with a fight. One on one, nothing at stake, just a friendly match."
Ishaq looked at the man and sighed. "Well enough, I shall give you this promise." He reached out his hand and Gabriel shook it.
"Excelente! I look forward to our match. For now, let us make haste so that you can retrieve your letter and set out and so that I may return to my family."
The two ascended the cliff and began their journey back to the war room of Juan Gutiérrez. As they were heading back into town, they noticed in the distance Juan himself was about to set off on a black horse. He wore over himself a dark cloak and pulled a hood down to cover his face. As he rode off, he shot Ishaq a spiteful stare. Gabriel felt uneasy but chose to ignore it as he and Ishaq continued to the war room to retrieve their letters. When the time comes I will deal with this man, he thought to himself. When the time comes...
Fitrah: an Arabic word meaning ‘disposition’, ‘nature’, ‘constitution’, or ‘instinct’. The context quoted above is from a hadith (saying) of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), as quoted below:
Narrated Abu-Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him):
Allah's Messenger [Muhammad(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)] said, "No child is born except on the fitra and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian (Zoroastrian), as an animal produces a perfect young animal: do you see any part of its body amputated?"
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 441