Mourad El Hanafi
Mourad El Hanafi
Morocco World News
Oujda, Morocco, October 11, 2012
Frequent tinkling hand-claps mixed with Qur’anic hums were emanating from somewhere. It was lmqdem who was roaming the corridors of the school to awake students. “It’s about the dawn, shine and rise!!!” lmqdem regularly cried. The laziest students were still tucked up in their dimly lit rooms–indulged in their slumbers as they had not heard the hand-claps/ “Has the meuzzin announced for Alfajr prayer or not yet??!!’ they asked each other in vanished tone, seeking the possibility to snatch extra minutes’ sleep before Lfqih came and woke them by banging at doors. Lmqdem who volunteered to run the school had to be patient-more than what patience means, to cope with some stubborn mentalities of students, especially during small hours, for they kept attributing their restless sleep to his disturbing hand-claps. But lmqdem seemed to enjoy his work though, judging by his credible performance of the affairs of the school and of students alike.
As students got out one by one–all towards Lmyadi to perform ablution for prayer moving slowly in silence–only their squeaky soles on the floor could be heard. They were communicating only by puffy eye-looks. The squeak increased as the meuzzin was beginning to start prayer, prompting scores of idle students to dash off to join the prayer, but landed on the rear rows. The few lively students had previously stationed on the front row, exchanging cheerful looks with Lfqih. He had been honored by their regular attendance and so he listed them on the top of other students, and considered them ‘epitomes of resistance’ since he realized that their staying at the school was dictated by genuine will to carve out their aspirations.
The prayer was over, and Lfqih turned. From time to time, he raised his head, somewhat absent mindedly, toying with his thick grey long curly beard and rolled his eyes to espy where every student stationed within the worshippers in the mosque. Worshippers started to leave the mosque as they had finished their religious rituals after prayer. Thus, students joined their sheikh in front of prayer niche and came around in a well-organized circle in which every student should manage his sitting strictly as a uniform suit. A rebuking look from lfqih sufficed to get all things organized as they had been tailored to suit his mood. They all gathered to read lhizb collectively. Lmqdem was assigned by Lfqihto launch lhizb and he instantly greased his larynx and set out without hesitation. Upon reaching the end of a part of lhizb or its quarter, lfqih tended to make a short pause to accelerate or decelerate the rhythm of reading depending on his mood. But now, Lhizb’s rhythm was a slow bass tone accompaniment to the pure atmosphere of the early morning. As their collective reading advanced, their bodies were swaying spontaneously and their heads were regularly shaking as if they were automatic machines that were under no control but of the pitches in which verses were being flowed.
Further ahead, some other hymns were recited after lhizb had been finished. Long after their legs were crossed, their joints were so stiff and needed to be greased, as if they were at the late days of their lives; needing crutches to stand and walk. Afterwards, students scattered in every nook and cranny in the school. It was time, again, to pore over Qur’anic verses and memorize; the atmosphere was now fresh. Everyone was in a hurry to fetch his wooden slate, pulling some separated mats and fleeces, and bumped their bodies on. The slates were laid to be abraded again and banged frequently as a means to make it easier to memorize. Looking at those wooden slates for a while gives you the impression as you are glancing at old dark premises in the old medina. Cracked in all corners, and the hand-writing was blurred on them, except of those few new students. But the morning was really enlivened by their sacred shrieking hums, since frequent readings out immersed some of them in a poetic mood, and recited their hearts out of their chests.
The morning crept on, and there was no break at all, but some students would have some stolen chatting aslfqih was receiving students to recall and recite currently memorized slates, whereupon the other students flocked in a nook where they cleaned their slates with bits of white pug.
Hand-claps filled the air again, those were for breakfast’ time announcement, “Allah! We are saved by the bell!!” said someone in a soothed mood, as he thought of draining cups of tea to the dregs and devouring bread. Breakfast took few minutes, for there were only tea and some few chunks of bread and oil that tasted of humility.
The hum was now suspended. At lmajlis, they all gathered again, settled on the worn out carpets to write on their slates with cane pens and in inky black gum that every object in lmajlis was reeking of. They all cooperated with each other in definite fraternity; adjusting and verifying each other’s slates. Still, one less knowledgeable tended to pay homage to the more knowledgeable, as they all do with their sheikh, in a salute becoming to the sacred symbolism of being called lfqih.
Having finished writing and verifying their written slates, some of them preferred to go on chatting, and the others to go back to their rooms to stretch their long-imploring cricked bodies. Unfortunately, the few hours’ sleep were never enough to extricate their emotional arsenals from being in “lazy mood,” so it was difficult to keep the soul and the body together.
Things seem to go on this way, but afternoons bore different atmosphere. Slates were almost put aside, and the toil was, somehow, gone down as the afternoon wore on. Instead a great deal of freedom was enjoyed then, for they were emancipated from being stuck to the floor, and rescued eyes from being riveted on slates. But now, they have the possibility to roam in twos and threes in the yards of the school, revising Qur’anic chapters in tandem. Unusual noise was made when gathered to sip afternoon’s tea; miscellaneous subjects were being discussed, for some of them while sipping afternoon’s tea, they metamorphosed into distinguished preachers or even veteran statesmen, but silence ensued when one indignant student interfered to speak.
“We are fed up with this way of living!!!!” a voice said.
“Why? What’s the matter?” asked someone next to him
“Tea, tea, tea…oil, oil, oil…isn’t there any other substitute?” he asked.
Deep silence reigned when they all considered this situation.
“We, tlba, never received due respect we deserve!” he added, as he tried to draw their attention to more interesting issues. Some of them nodded their heads as a sign of agreement.
“Can’t you see that our dignity is trampled on? Still, in all dimensions. We look pitiful! You know why? Our stooping heads bespeak the answer of all my questions. We never dare to tell the truth from our lord as it is in all costs; we bowed to mundane things in a world in which everyone is no more than his own pockets’ weight. Then, aren’t we deserved to be labeled ‘devourers of food,’ and with ‘fattened stomachs?’ ” He went on. They seemed to assume all what he was saying, for they know that his oration acumen was attributed to the fact that he had been to a modern school that they had been deprived from.
“llah ihdina” concluded lmqdem in deep breath. A blame mien showed on everybody’s face; they had become suddenly aware of the fact they ignored most of the time. So, they all pledged to do good in the future and repair self-esteem which had been damaged. To escape from this haunting fact and alleviate meanwhile the wavelength of their innermost soliloquies, one student raised some verses, and they all carried on together, but some seemed to be in hurry and the others found it difficult to catch up with them. No doubt that this disagreement was really imposed by their psychological crisis. Those verses were recited on purpose; they were the revision of the evening’s hizb which would take place instantly after Almaghreb prayer. The evening’s hizb was always an important phase in the day as it witnessed regular attendants of all ages from the neighbors of the school, in addition to those few elders who sat in the recesses of the mosque waiting for Alaisha prayer. So, Students should appear in dignified look to satisfy all those people who attended as guests, especially those children who invigorated lhizb with their cherished voices.
Sometime after Alaisha prayer, hand-claps summoned students to dinner in which leftovers of vegetables were concocted a cocktail meal that tasted of everything but nothing at the same time. They filled their stomachs only to satisfy their hunger–the quality of which was beyond discussion. But listening to their monologues, their long-overpowered stomachs imposed them to swear revenge if they had been invited to some banquets, they would have collected all what had been left.
Having spent a long tiring day, nights came as a good relief along their rooms turned into forums where a sundry of themes were debated. You could hear chuckles and loud laughter-the more so because those certain rooms in which they huddled up with each other harbored different creatures with strange experiences. This nightly atmosphere made them feel at home. They wouldn’t go bed until the light went out and matched the tone of lmqdem’s remark “Go to bed to embark on another blessed day Insha’Allah/”