Animals In The Glorious Quran


  • bookcover

  • Animals In The Glorious Quran


  • 'Uzayr's Donkey

     

    {Or like the one who passed by a town and it had tumbled over its roofs. He said, 'Oh! How will Allah ever bring it to life after its death?' So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said, 'How long did you remain (dead)?'He (the man) said, '(Perhaps) I remained (dead) a day or part of a day'. He said, 'Nay, you have remained (dead) for a hundred years, look at your food and your drink, they show no change; and look at your donkey! And thus We have made of you a sign for the people. Look at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh 'When this was clearly shown to him, he said, 'I know (now) that Allah is Able to do all things.”

                                                                                                                       (Al-Baqarah: 259)

    There is a common belief among human beings that donkeys cannot read nor write. But, this is not true, for some donkeys find this very easy.

    We can read the trail of a scent on the ground. From the blasts of the wind, we know about expected weather changes. However, it is true that we do not write except during some rare occasions, like when there is a confession, complaint or something dangerous that we want to say.

    I know that people have formed a bad opinion of donkeys but I would like to say that donkeys have also formed a bad opinion of some people.

    That is enough of that as I do not want to become distracted from the important things I want to say. It just so happens that we become distracted while we walk or talk. We look all around us when we walk instead of looking in front of us. That is why people put dark blinkers on to the sides of our eyes so that we can see clearly in front of us. If that was possible in the realm of writing, the donkey would have become something great in the world of literature.

    Oh, I have forgotten the main point that I wanted to make. I remembered now, I was talking about donkeys.

    Donkeys are a patient species and I am proud to belong to them. In fact, I descended from a great zebra that lived a long time ago in the jungles of Somalia. Then, feuds started between this great, wild grandfather and the lion. The cursed lion had no taste for flesh except that of our deceased grandfather. At the same time, this grandfather only thought about one thing and that was breeding. Nevertheless, it was in vain, as the number of his species continued to decrease.

    Finally, our grandfather found a way to save himself from the lion. He let humans domesticate the weakest of his offspring on condition that the human would carry the responsibility of protecting this offspring from the lion and in return the donkey would serve the human being by carrying him and his heavy belongings. It was a black day where our issue was divided: the wild stock issue that remained as it is, and a new domestic stock which is represented by us donkeys of today.

    Our kind is clearly different from our wild relatives. For humility changes the creature's outside appearance as well as his internal reality. Our ears have become longer, our heads bigger, our teeth have lost their sharpness, our backs stronger and our stomachs bigger. In order to fill these huge stomachs, we have to endure painful lashes over our heads and backs.

    This dangerous transformation that occurred in the life of a donkey happened about twelve thousand years ago, and it seems to me that Allah wanted to honor the human and serve him so He entrusted our patient kind with this difficult mission of serving man.

    Nobody in this universe has made use of the donkey like the human being. Despite all that there is no thanks, no praise and no confession of gratitude. The human's main problem, from our objective point of view, is that he measures everything in this world according to his own interests. He considers himself the center of this universe and the most important thing in it. Moreover, he exercises this sovereignty spontaneously from the time he was born. This is not what we agreed to.

    For, in the covenant by which we are subjected to the human beings there is a definition of man as the master of this universe and Allah's vicegerent on the earth. This item was obvious and clear in its emphasis in that the human is an elevated creature that acknowledges Allah and worships Him; who constructs the earth and changes it and who treats kindly all the creatures that Allah has subjected to him in order to serve and help him.

    Nevertheless, this particular item has been ignored and donkeys have come to discover that human beings behave even worse than lions. For, lions simply eat us without being sly about it. As for the human, he slyly devours our rights and works us to death in a very sly way. He believes he is doing us a favor whereas in truth he is indebted to us. He imagines himself more refined because he belongs to the race of the human being but really, we donkeys see that he is only human by name. In spite of all that we are still patient.

    I do not want to jump from the land of contentment to the land of bitterness. I am a donkey in contentment and if I were to know bitterness or anger, I would have been a lion, an eagle or a monster. We do not like change. Every donkey dislikes change intensely. It is an instinctive trait in us.

    I have not introduced myself to the reader. I am a reddish-white donkey. I live in a rural city in Palestine. My master is a good, white-haired man called 'Uzayr. Most people misread his name as being `Aziz, and then they say that donkeys are slow and stupid! Ha ha ha!

    I will not pause to debate about that! I simply continue wagging my tail.

    Why do I want to write about my memories even though I know that donkeys are distinguished by the virtues of humility and self-denial?

    This is an important question and it will be answered Insha' Allah. I want to assure the reader, whether he is a donkey or a human, that I am not writing this to show off or to seek glory and pride. I do not want to prove that I am more important than all the other donkeys. It is just that I had a strange experience; an interesting and astonishing one.

    The experience I had was such that if anyone were to experience and tell me about it, I would probably not believe him. The problem is that this experience happened to me personally and I am going to narrate it exactly as it happened.

    Can you imagine that I died! That my musical bray stopped! That my bones turned into dust! And then, by the Mercy of Allah, I carne back to life again and I began to bray.

    My head becomes dizzy whenever I remember what happened.

    How about starting the story from its very beginning? Good idea, right? I do not like the new technique of narrating stories starting from the end and then using flashbacks.

    I was born one day and there is nothing new about that for all donkeys are born. But, what was unusual was that when I asked about my father, my mother looked confusedly at the dozens of donkeys that were in their stalls and said in despair, "Your father was the great beast that fought the lion."

    My mother went on telling me a long story about the glories of my father who lived in the jungles of fear. By the end of the story I found that she still had not answered my question.

    I found when I grew up that I was faced with the first fact in the world of donkeys; there is a mother but no father.

    The mother does not know who the father is from all the commotion of life and the large extent of excessiveness in business and polygyny. Also, the young donkey does not know who his father is because the male donkey does not bring-up his children or care for them. This fact pained me in during my childhood. However, what I regarded as harsh soon disclosed great new wisdom.

    A donkey is a silent and patient animal enduring great hardship that might shorten his life on earth and it is important for our stock to increase in number in our world. For this reason the donkey is always preoccupied with a desire for the other sex.

    Actually, there is not even one donkey thinks that there is a female devoid of beauty or charm and our kind does not believe in forbidding any kind of affection.

    For sure, giving reign to sensual desires without restrain js considered one of the donkeys' traits, but we sometimes find this trait in people too ...Whenever I see someone who is immodest like us, I say to myself, "There goes a true donkey hiding behind the mask of human skin."

    I feel compassion and closeness towards this colleague. For he enjoys his freedom in making love just like us. He, like us, thinks only of two things: food and women.

    Sometimes I talk to myself, "What do you think? Maybe this creature was a donkey at some time. He maybe a more developed image of a donkey... Who knows?"

    I love talking and I would like to talk about my childhood just like human writers, but I regret not remembering my childhood. All I remember is the fairy tale about our great grandfather that lived in the jungle. Anything other than that is dark and foggy in my mind. As donkeys, we do not think about the past and do not worry ourselves with what has not happened yet. Our minds are completely absorbed with the present moment; we do not think about what was before it and do not comprehend what is after it. All I know about our childhood is that we were named differently. We were happy little donkeys that had not yet turned away from the mask of illusion. The little donkey lives under the delusion that the world is his mother that feeds him and after whom he walks happily while wagging his tail.

    Then, the little donkey grows up, stops nursing and starts his own life. Then he is in for a big shock. He no longer remembers his mother. He would not recognize her even if he saw her. She is just the same as anybody else.

    My master 'Uzayr has arrived. I can smell him coming home. I raise my head and bray to welcome him. He is a kind man who has never hit me either with his staff or his hand. He feeds me the best of what he has and eats the rest himself. He treats me with mercy and comforts me while being hard on himself. I have been living with him now for two years. And after having lived with him for a year and a half I discovered that the man was a Prophet of Allah. I apologize for having failed to discover this fact earlier but in the end I am after all a donkey and I do not want to claim virtues that I do not have. Before being employed by this generous and kind Prophet, I worked for a rich tradesman, or to be more precise I worked for a stingy thief.

    I swear by the beans that have been dried by the sun and by the fields of green hay that my former master was a stingy thief. When he bought me, he went on patting my head and my back so I thought that he was kind and so I loved him. But we had hardly reached his house when I started to feel worried.

       The man used me to make a daily fortune that would have been enough to buy a field of beans. Nevertheless, he lived on an egg for a whole week. For he would eat one-sevenths of an egg each day along with a piece of stale bread, and would then hit his wife because she had eaten a whole egg. He lived in a very simple house made out of tree-branches. The walls were hardly winter-durable. And, when the food was put in front of me I brayed a long bray that meant, "My stomach is big and this food is very little." He gave me a harsh look and hit me hard. Therefore I understood that he realized the meaning of my braying. After that, I was careful not to bray in front of him.

    And so the black days of my life in his employment began.

    I discovered that he had bought me in order to build a stone-house. Some men would break-off stones from a mountain and I would carry them on my back to the building site. Days passed by and my back became raw from my heavy load. He only served me the worst food. Moreover, if I were to look at a white female donkey and invite her for love, he would hit me and prevent me from practicing my favorite hobby.

    He would say that he wanted me to save my strength to finish his work, What selfishness! I hated him just as I hate the wolf and perhaps even more.

    I patiently continued with the work and also with the hunger. I endured torture, beating and starvation and became a prisoner to my peaceful nature. So when my freedom in practicing sex was threatened, I found myself thinking deeply. For surely this is the only situation that could make donkeys think deeply.

    Examining the lives of people and donkeys closely, I can say that reward is not distributed according to each one's effort, rather it is distributed according to each one's ability to bluff. I found that the most debased of persons sit on thrones of pride, wealth and respect. Also, I saw that sinners rarely pay the price for their sins, but continue their journey on earth, in safety and at ease. As well as being robbed by thieves, I saw thieves stealing the food of orphans and as a result orphans and innocents were the ones thrown in prison. To my surprise, I found that the more man steals, the more value he has and the less he usurps the less he is appreciated. I saw the human is unjust to his fellow man and permits for himself what he prohibits for others. I saw a white she-donkey and I brayed to her but then I felt the strikes upon my back, and we were separated from each other.

    It was unbearable. I had enough ...That was the last straw!

    This situation scarred my heart like rivers scar the solid earth to pave the way for their course. It completely broke my heart. I expressed myself in a painful bray, "The food is scarce, my stomach is big, it is terribly hot, my back is raw and I am alone and this is for your information."

    Donkeys always say, "This is for your information," at the end of their braying as an old routine that all donkeys follow. There is nobody like the donkey for keeping to routine.

    My bray was over and so I decided to change my life style. Should I become a horse and waste my life carrying a tyrannical Sultan or an unjust king?

    It is a kind of ruin to wear the cloth of elegance. Anyway, it is impossible for me to become a horse because donkeys shy away from change. I have no other choice but to be stubborn.

    So I decided to resist!

    My tyrannical master made me carry his load and when he poked me with his stick to walk, I refused. Therefore, he struck me on my back and face but that only increased my patience and firmness. I absolutely refused to move.

    He took me to an old man who claims knowledge in the field of donkey medicine and he asked him, "Is the donkey sick?"

    The man touched my stomach with his stick, opened my mouth and looked at my teeth. Then he said, "This donkey is as fit as a fiddle but he is lazy."

    I drew my features in a lazy expression.

    The blows became even more violent and I became more insistent on not moving, even one step. I stopped dead in my tracks. I brayed saying, "It is just a beating, and I shall not die."

    Then, one day the blows hurt me badly and they were coming from behind me so I raised my hind feet and kicked the aggressor. It was one kick that could be classified as legal self-defense.

    My kick hurt the tyrant's hand and so he yelled out in pain, flamed up with rage and said, "The donkey is being stubborn! He hit me. I will kill him. Bring me a knife and an ax."

    I did not even blink an eye.

    I knew he was stingy and so would not carry out his threat. He might however think of selling me.

    The stubbornness policy was fruitful and so the man decided to sell me at the first market to be held.

    He pulled me to the market and yelled out, "Look here! Look here! Here is an energetic donkey whose capacity to work never ceases.”

    One of the tradesmen asked him, "How much do you want for him?"

    He said, "Ten silver pieces."

    The tradesman rode me for a while so I acted like a slowpoke. The tradesman opened my mouth and said, "His teeth are fit and youthful... so what is the secret behind his laziness ... two silver pieces."

    My master screamed as if someone had stabbed him with a knife and beat me while assuring that, "I equaled my weight in gold." Once again he tried to persuade me to run. I refused. I acted lazy and moved slowly. I knew that I was putting myself at risk of not being sold and remaining with my aggressive master, but I persisted in what I was doing because I wanted to be sold for the cheapest price to irritate my stingy master. That is exactly what happened. He lost hope in me and sold me for two silver pieces and left. As soon as my new master climbed on my back, I flew with him down the road. My old master stood looking at me and his eyes were filled with tears of rage.

    Once we had ridden out of his sight, I slowed down. What do we get in return for energy, work and speed? Nothing! So I became lazy.

    We reached the tradesman's house and I found that he owned a large number of donkeys. I saw more than one white she-donkey, so I raised my head and brayed, "I am happy! I am happy! Is there a white she-donkey next to me? I feel lonely. This is for your information."

    A wonderful night passed by and the next morning I made a discovery that heightened my already bad opinion of human beings.

    I heard the tradesman telling his assistant, "I want you to sort out all the lazy donkeys and put them aside."

    I was from the lazy lot. The tradesman lighted a piece of wood and passed it fast over the donkeys' hind legs. He tied up the donkeys and tortured them by burning. I did not understand the secret behind these mysterious rituals except in the market.

    When we went to be exhibited in the market, a stick would hardly touch us from behind where we were burnt, as it is a very tender area, thus we would run fast like the greatest horse. So through cheating and fraud our prices would soar. Then, after the wounds healed we returned to our lazy state.

    I was the luckiest. I was bought by a white-haired old man named 'Uzayr. He said to the tradesman, "I want a slow, smart donkey who would carry me to people, help me in my land and may Allah provide both me and him with the means of subsistence."

    The tradesman pointed at me and said, "We bought him yesterday for ten gold pieces and we will sell him for seven pieces to you as favor."

    'Uzayr paid what the man had asked for without even bargaining. I was surprised at his generosity. I went back home with him and found out when he climbed my back that he was a kind man. He did not carry a stick with him, and he did not poke me in my stomach. He was like a soft breeze passing over my back, so I loved him. I saw him preaching to people on our way back and telling them to follow the Ten Commandments. That was the first time I had ever heard of the Ten Commandments and I did not bother myself with what I had heard.

     I lived with 'Uzayr. He was married with three children and a little maid that dedicated herself to both his and my service. The maid's name was Hanim and she was generous in feeding me. I knew her from her voice.

    I came to have my own room in 'Uzayr's house that had a window that had to be closed in the winter because it let in the cold. But, when the summer came we would open the window and it would let in an invigorating breeze. I confess that I completely enjoyed my life with 'Uzayr.

    My life passed by peacefully but tediously. I ate well, practiced my freedom in love, my weight increased and 'Uzayr had two new saddles made for me and I brayed when I saw them saying, "I have two new saddles and I am happy. That is for your information."

    I was never overtired with the man. The distances to and from the places he rode me to were short and endurable. When he passed by the village, he would talk to the people about Allah, call them to obey Him, warn them against worshiping the devil and advise them to follow the Ten Commandments.

    Despite the fact that I had heard the name of the Prophet that the Ten Commandments were brought down upon, I cannot recall his name. My mind sometimes is not focused without any explainable reason. I confess that I noted two things in my master 'Uzayr that I never understood; his constant talk about the Day of Judgment and his preaching to people for free. I noticed that he talked a lot about the day when the dead would be resurrected, But I did not understand how that could happen.

    Also, I noticed that he worked all day and night without being paid. He preached to people for free. I asked myself how he was able to feed his family and me. Then, I found out that he had a faraway garden which in order to reach, you had to go through the graveyard. 'Uzayr made his living from this garden, and I knew that he intended to go to this garden because he slung two big baskets on my back.

    My master 'Uzayr entered carrying the two baskets and I realized that we were going on our weekly journey.

    And so our journey to the garden began.

          I became content and energetic breathing in the pure air.

    After passing a dirt road we entered upon a green road edged with fields on each side. Then, the road changed into a pale yellow color, which was the most annoying part of the road. We were in a barren area. We completely left the village and voices became vague. I started to walk slowly. We came to the outskirts of the city of the dead and I worried as we were passing the old ruins.

    I walked faster when we were passing the graves. My master 'Uzayr laughed when he saw that I was trying to pass them as fast as I could. He knew that I was scared of them so he patted and calmed me until we got away from them. My master 'Uzayr did not know what I sometimes see next to the graves. We animals have this spiritual insight and can see what people cannot. I saw unmentionable things next to the graves.

    After we had traveled a good way, we reached the garden. My body was sweating allover and I was completely tired. So I ran towards the shade, chose a sandy spot, threw myself to the ground and started rolling in the sand.

    I had hardly finished rolling when I felt my strength come back to me and I got up feeling energized as if I was just awakening from a deep sleep. I saw my master filling one basket with grapes and the other with figs.

    I knew that it was time for us to go, so I filled my stomach with soft cool grass. This was cheap for me but I would pay for it later.

    My master 'Uzayr put both the basket of figs and that of grapes on my back and we headed back.

    I walked energetically in the beginning then I started breathing with difficulty as the sun was so hot that it seemed as if it had descended from the sky and climbed on my head. Two were riding on my back; my master 'Uzayr and the sun. 'Uzayr I could handle but the sun was frightening. I had hardly walked a few steps when all my body was swimming in sweat and I am one who hates rivers and swimming in general. I stood and brayed, "The sand is hot, it is very hot, my stomach is full and I am fed up and this is for your information."

    My master patted my neck and I resumed walking. We came closer to the graveyard and I saw the shadows of its ruins take the form of a beautiful garden. I ran towards the shade and entered the city of the dead. My master smiled and let me go wherever I pleased. I felt frightfully hot. 'Uzayr climbed down, took the fig and grape baskets off my back and sat on the ground.

    Everything was worn out from the heat; me, my master, the ruins and the ants of the area. 'Uzayr sat down and squeezed some grapes into a bowl and then he broke off some pieces of dry bread and put them in the grapes so his teeth could chew them. I watched him prepare his food in amazement. Human beings eat small proportions of food, and it seemed that my master 'Uzayr was also absorbed in his meditations. I noticed to life ...Look how the dust seeks the dust and becomes bones and look how they were covered by blood and veins, observe how skin grows over them and how the hair covers the skin. Your donkey is still dead so look at how he awakes from the dead. 'Awaken! O, donkey that has been dead for a hundred years.'"

    The last order was directed at me. I was listening to this Light without seeing neither Him nor 'Uzayr. As soon as I had heard the order I awoke suddenly from my sleep. I raised my head and found that the weather was nice and all the heat had gone. I did not see anybody except my master 'Uzayr. He stood in front of me amazed as if I was corning back from the dead. I got up trembling and tried to bray... I discovered that my musical voice was still in action.

    'Uzayr said while he was examining me and trembling, "I know that Allah has power over things."

    My master's food was unspoiled. How could it be that even though we had died for a hundred years and my body had decomposed to dust and the grape juice remained unspoiled! Usually this juice spoils after a couple of hours in the heat!

    I saw 'Uzayr immersed in deep prayer. He reached out for his food but his emotional state did not allow him to eat more than a mere morsel. After that, he climbed onto my back and steered me towards the village.

    This first surprise I encountered on that mysterious day was that there was no longer any village!

    I mean the village we had left before we went to sleep in the graveyard. The houses had changed, people's clothing had changed and the donkey bridles had changed... everything had that he was contemplating the ruins, the bones and the deathly silence that surrounded him. Then, I heard him say in amazement as if was assuring himself of Allah's omnipotence … I heard him say, "Oh! How shall Allah bring it (ever) to life, after its death?"

    'Uzayr had hardly spoken these words when he was invaded (just like I was invaded) by a sudden deep sleep; a drowsiness that is associated with fever and makes you feel tired to the extent that you decompose into dust.

    I slept deeply. It was a sleep that was different from any other. All this occurred before I had even noticed that I had been asleep. I tried to bray and warn my master that if he slept, the squeezed grapes would be spoiled from the heat and then when he woke up he would not find any food to eat. But I could not ... I slept.

    I slept a deeply and strangely. Really it was very strange. Usually, in my normal sleep I dream of walking among the bean fields or I dream of meeting my grandfather the zebra or I dream that I am still a little donkey without any burdens or responsibilities. But this sleep, to my surprise, was different. It was a sleep completely devoid of dreams.

    Then, I suddenly felt His Presence. I am not talking about my master for I did not see my master 'Uzayr or feel his presence. But, I felt the presence of Light. This Light asked my master, "How long did You remain (dead)?" I did not hear my master's response nor did I see him. I heard this Light after a moment of silence say, "Nay, you have remained (dead) for a hundred years. Look at your dead donkey 'Uzayr ...Look at how his body has decomposed to dust ...Look at what is left of his bones ...Then look at how Allah orders the dead to come back changed. I tried to sniff the ground in search of the scent of

    'Uzayr's home but I could not find its scent. I stood in my place feeling scared. I started to realize what had happened. I realized after we had reached the center of the village that I had died and came back to life. This scared me a great deal. Were it not for 'Uzayr, I would have gone mad. This fear was not without reason. For I noticed that the sleep we had slept had separated between me and the donkey kind. When donkeys saw me they did not approach me in a usual friendly way. Instead they brayed in fright and turned away.

    'Uzayr announced that he had returned and so the people made fun of him. They said that 'Uzayr had gone out a hundred years ago and did not come back. 'Uzayr is dead. He said, "I am 'Uzayr and Allah has brought me back from the dead after a hundred years ...Where are my grand children?"

    They told him where his grand children were and he found the youngest of his grand children sixty years old. This old grand child refused to believe that this aged man was his grandfather. There was only one woman was alive from the people that were there when 'Uzayr had left the village ...Hanim our little maid. She was twenty years old when We had left and now she is one hundred and twenty years old. The maid came when she had heard about 'Uzayr. She was feeling her way on the road with her stick as she had lost her sight due to old age. I hurried towards her when I smelled her scent, brayed happily and wagged my tail.

    It was the only smell I had recognized in the village and the woman said to 'Uzayr, "Who is this person that is talking about 'Uzayr and remembers him when people have forgotten him?"

    Then, she started crying. She said while she was crying, "'Uzayr's prayers were accepted ...So if you are 'Uzayr, then pray to Allah to give me back my sight." And so, 'Uzayr prayed for her to see again, and the blindness went away and she saw him. She recognized him and yelled out a greeting then threw herself to the ground and kissed his feet while crying.

    I cried with her and 'Uzayr's grand children said, "'Uzayr had a copy of the Torah in his house and we have been searching for it after he had left but we never found it. If you aloe 'Uzayr, then where is the Torah? Its pages had been lost and torn in the war and we had completely forgotten it."

    'Uzayr pointed to his head and heart and said, "I still keep the Torah safely in my heart, and I have hidden a copy in an old tree trunk so let us look for it."

    We went to an old forsaken tree that had long weeds growing around it and there 'Uzayr put in his hand and brought out the pages of the Torah. The people cried out in surprise.

    Amidst the people's excitement with 'Uzayr, I was totally forgotten. It was over and I left the scene. Everybody gathered around their Prophet whom Allah had brought back from the dead but they had forgotten me.

    I stood by myself away from the people for a good while. I heard one of the Jews whisper to his friend, "'Uzayr is the son of Allah."

    My bones trembled from the shock. This compelled me to write my memoirs and testify before the Court of History.

          "And this is for your information!"

     

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