In a 10-foot square cinderblock room, painted pale yellow, with a stucco ceiling marred by water stains in each corner, Senjeep Zendawi stood by his mirror observing his aged face. He had arrived at Guantanamo a young man, with tight skin, bright eyes and a full head of dark curly black hair.
The face that looked back at him had deep crevices across his brow, puffy, saggy cheeks, long round pouches under his eyes and cracked wrinkles all around his mouth and lips. His long grey beard covered the bottom half of his face. The scar across his nose from where a rival in the prison slashed him many years earlier had faded over the years. But he could still see it and when he did, he could feel the pain from the beating he endured at the cursed American hellhole.
He ran water through his fingers from the sink in his cell and wet his eyebrows, pushing them back into alignment with the ridge of his eye socket. He fumbled with his hair to untangle it the best he could. He had a visitor. He didn’t know who, but someone had requested to meet with him. Jeep straightened his orange jump suit, cupped a sip of water and gulped it out of the palm of his hands.
“I am ready,” he told the guard, who affixed handcuffs to his wrists and then knocked on the 12-inch-thick iron door to alert his partner to swing it open and let them out.
“Who could it be?” Jeep asked himself as the greenish fluorescent lights passed overhead like traffic lights on a highway. “Uncle Abud is dead. Maybe Iman Ali is here to take me back to the mosque? Maybe master Al Khomeni Massad?”
Two burly guards flanked him down the long corridor, through several security doors where they held his silver wristband over a sensor to register him through each check point. They rounded a corner and the guards opened the door to another ten-foot by ten-foot room with two-way mirrors on three sides.
“Walk in, sit down and don’t get up from the seat until you motion to us that you’re finished with your discussion,” the guard spoke. “You have ten minutes and no more. When you’re ready, raise your two hands in front of your face. We’ll come escort you out of the room. Do not make contact. Do not stand up or brace yourself on the table. If you get out of the seat, we will enter the room and taze you. Do you understand?”
Jeep nodded and entered the room. The tall, lean figure sitting across from the metal table sent shock waves down his body. He quivered and nearly lost his step as he moved toward the seat.
“You,” he spoke. “You came to see me?”
“I came to see you Senjeep Zendawi.”
“You live still?”
“I am here, in your presence.”
Jeep’s eyesight had started to fade, but he peered closely at the dark, wavy hair and the ice blue eyes of his nemesis, the holy man, the infidel, the false profit, the imposter, Jaio.
“The Brotherhood failed to destroy you and your teachings?”
“There are those in your Brotherhood who have come to embrace the idea of working together with members of other groups to coexist in peace.”
“Does the Jihad continue?”
“There are others who continue to resist,” said Jaio. “But there are fewer acts of Jihad than there used to be. The most extreme of the group have blended back in with moderate followers. There are fewer solutions rooted in violence. Discord and disagreement are more often addressed through discourse and compromise.”
“Tell me of the world outside these walls. Does Islam still flourish?”
“Yes, your people are strong in number and resolute in their beliefs,” said Jaio. “The Koran still guides billions of faithful Muslims.”
Jeep’s lips parted in what looked like the beginnings of a smile. His head bobbed slightly. He looked Jaio in the eye and did not see the enemy he once envisioned. Sitting four feet apart, speaking in calm tones, he felt comfortable in his Jaio’s presence.
“My friend, Senjeep,” Jaio continued. “You would like to know about your sister?”
“Yes, very much,” Jeep’s small smile widened at the mention of Sariahj. “Please, thank you.”
“Leaders of your faith have recognized that you were used as a pawn and manipulated by those you trusted. The Iman Ahmedi in New York has commissioned a sizable sum to cover Sariahj’s living expenses in recompense for the confusion and suffering you have experienced. He prepaid her rent for ten years and donated a sum from which she could draw a salary.”
Jeep leaned into the desk but kept his hands in his lap as instructed by the guards.
“As a widow of a Martyr, by Shari law she was allowed to remarry. She wed a Doctor and bore a second child. They fled Damascus during a spree of violence and settled in the Emirates where she lives a life of relative luxury, the wife of an accomplished physician.”
Jeep beamed at the news of his sister. His heart leapt from his chest and he felt the urge to stand up and reach out to embrace Jaio for sharing the news.
“Also, my friend,” Jaio continued. “Your nephew, Sriram.”
“Yes, yes, Sriram.”
“He concludes at the University this year. He is in his 20th year. He has studied to become a Civil Engineer. He plans to contribute to the growth and development of the great city of Dubai.”
Jeep felt a tear run down his cheek. He had, for so many years, mentally flogged himself for not having completed God’s mission and for not having amounted to a worthwhile follower of Islam. As much as he had tried not to, he couldn’t help wondering if Iman Ali’s betrayal had really been the result of God’s will or just his own human instinct of self-preservation. He questioned why he would have to wait so long in such misery for God’s reward. And he wondered if Allah had forsaken him, leaving him to fade to dust and never reach the state of Jaddah.
“I am sure this life is not what you envisioned for yourself,” Jaio continued, with a more somber tone. “But, do not doubt that Allah loves you. God is great. And you do not have to wait until the end of your life, my friend, to reap your reward. Allah has graced you already with the good fortune he has bestowed upon your family. Your acts and your sacrifice have led to her happiness. When they release you from this place, and there are those who work on your behalf to secure your release, return to her and start a new life. Seek out Sariahj’s and Vilai’s mosque. Their Iman in Dubai will help you understand the Koran and the words of God in ways that you did not previously know. And you will live an honorable life. God is Great, and God loves you my friend.”
Jeep’s tears flowed freely, and he let them drop. He didn’t want to bring his hands to his face and signal the end of his conversation to the guards.
“Thank you, Sir,” he said to Jaio, his smile wide and his tears dripping down into his beard. “Thank you for saving me from my despair. Thank you so much.
God is great.”
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Greg McLaughlinWrite a Review