Mustafa and Ali stood outside Masjid Abu Bakr, which was nestled into the corner of ancient Walford street and the adjoining Stratham Road. Row upon row of red bricked, terraced, Victorian houses dominated the scene. Busy traffic zoomed by as Friday evening had arrived; the sun was settling for its slumber, and the late-night shopping districts were now warming up for the oncoming shoppers.

    “Come on Mustafa, man! Come to milaad at Jami masjid with me! They expecting hundreds and hundreds tonight, gonna be wicked!” urged Ali, grabbing Mustafa by his arms.

    “I told you already bro, I can’t go, my dada said I had to help with milaad here tonight.”

    “I know bro that’s what you said before, but this little place gonna be dead. Just some bawei bro. Milaad at Jami masjid is looking top drawer, bro, top drawer! Wallahi! They got these naat khawaans like superstars, with voices that even the angels will be jealous of! People be throwing them like thousands of pounds, you watch!”

    “No way, really?!”

    “No joke bro! No joke! They got scholars coming; they reckon Pir Saab coming from Bradford. You know the one with the TikTok channel. Million followers…”

    “Sounds good bro, but…”
    “There gonna be brudders coming in kitted up cars, nasheeds, langar, literally EVERYONE gonna be there man!”

    “Look Ali man. You go, you enjoy yourself, I can’t leave this place. My dada will kill me. He’s still in hospital and he’s organised this little milaad here tonight. I got to show it on WhatsApp to him.”

    “Just get someone else to do that bro, should be easy….”

    “Nah man. I can’t. He specifically asked me…”

    Ali sighed: “Oh well…. Can’t say I didn’t try.” And with that, Ali skipped down the road, shouting after some brothers to wait for him.

    Mustafa looked up at the tiny mosque, which barely breathed between houses and streets. Now it seemed that much smaller.

    “Great night tonight….” He sighed and off he trudged along into the mosque.

   Within, Maulvi Ayyub Saab with his trusted aged assistant, Makki Saab, were preparing the little stage area at the front of the modest prayer hall, ensuring plump red cushions and a soft, furry quilt were spread for the expected guests. He was to give the talk on the topic of Milaadun Nabi, whilst Mustafa’s grandpa, Haji Ghulam Saab, had arranged for four naat singers to join the proceeding. All expenses and food had been arranged under Haji Saab’s auspices and his grandson, Mustafa, would be on hand to help the proceedings. However, Maulvi Saab was already complaining, after this maghrib prayer, because Mustafa hadn’t turned up yet, and it looked like most of his congregation, and including Haji Saab’s sons and other grandsons, had elected to do milaad at Jami masjid tonight. And deep down, even he wanted to be there!

    But Haji Saab was an essential donor to this masjid, and to Maulvi Saab himself. He knew that Haji Saab would never use this reality for coercion; he was a decent man who had true love for Allah Most High and His beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace.  But even Maulvi Ayyub was beginning to sound like Mustafa: “Great night, tonight…”

    So, the programme was about to start. The stage was ready. Mustafa had finally turned up and had taken his instructions from Maulvi Saab about welcoming the guests and getting the langar ready in the side hall. Fifty men, mostly elderly, many half-dozing, were now seated in the main hall, surrounded by green celebratory lights, milaad flags strewn across and diagonally above; and the stage was set for this gathering.

    Maulvi Saab looked at his watch and then at Makki Saab and Mustafa; the anxiety growing in his eyes. The naat khawans had not arrived, and the programme must start now. Mustafa was playing everything via WhatsApp video call to his grandad, who looked in from his hospital bed, waiting patiently….

    Then, all of a sudden, four of the most unusual characters came in and planted themselves onto the furry quilt and rested against the lovely cushions! Makki Saab dropped his glasses whilst starting at them. Mustafa gawked, then noticed his video call seemed to have dropped. And now Maulvi Saab felt a potent mixture of fear, confusion, and shame bubbling within. Around ten of the old men coughed, arose, excused themselves, heading straight for the spectacle at Jami masjid, and the three coursed langar…

    Now Maulvi Saab plucked up the courage to speak: “You are…”

    “From Haji Ghulam Saab…” Said the first stranger.

    This answer assuaged Maulvi’s Saab’s fears ever so slightly. But he still couldn’t get over who, or what, were sitting as chief guests at his milaad mehfil. And why on earth would Haji Saab invite these guys?! They sat there, like homeless beggars, ragged clothes, ragged hair, only redeemed by the trimmed moustaches over the lips and red and green hats balancing precariously on their matted, dreadlocked hair! They were like the malangs back home. But this wasn’t back home. This was down-town Birmingham. And these types of people were usually cocaine or heroin addicts, who could rob you silly and leave you sliced up like chicken meat. Maulvi Saab gulped and made a desperate dua silently. The rest of the audience had now perked up and were smiling rather mischievously at this spectacle and the potential scandal it could create. Others were just awestruck- they had never seen these types of people before.

    “Okay, so we will begin…”

    Maulvi Saab came forward and began his address. After some heartfelt words on Milaad, and desperately keeping his composure, he introduced the strange guests.

    “So, tonight, for our proceedings we have naats from our brothers…”

    Just at this moment, Ali had sent a TikTok video to Mustafa, of the proceedings at Jami masjid. It looked like thousands had packed the hall, and these pristine-looking singers had come forward and taken their seats like princes. Ali asked Mustafa for a complementary video from Abu Bakr Mosque, for the entertainment value. But Mustafa could not send one. He couldn’t help feeling that something rather tragic was going to transpire tonight, and he avoided eye contact with either Maulvi or Makki Saab.

    “Brother, what is your name?” Maulvi Saab asked the first guest.

    “Fareed,” announced the stranger, gruffly.

    One of the elders whispered in Mirpuri to his friend: “If this one’s Fareed, who are his friends?” He chuckled. “Datta Saab?!”

    As if the stranger heard their exchange, he added: “And these are my three friends, Hujwiri, Bulleh and Bahu Saab,” pointing at the other three silent enigmas seated next to him. The two elders stared wonderingly, giving each other a little high-five!

   “Zabardast!” exclaimed Maulvi, whilst making desperate prayers to God within. “So now, we would like to call Fareed Saab to share some beautiful naat with us insha Allah.”

    Maulvi Saab retreated to the side, slightly shuddering at what may now elapse. He had no clue as to what this character, Fareed, would sing, or even emit from his mouth. He just prayed that it was something the audience would understand and approve of. Although his expectations were rock bottom. Even below the rocks, into the mantle of the earth!

    Fareed Saab came forward to the mike. Maulvi Saab, Makki Saab, and Mustafa held their breaths. He still held his smartphone, although it seemed no live video was being cast to his grandad. The audience went completely silent, you could brush against this silence with a miswaak! Up the road and around the corner in the Jami masjid, hundreds and hundreds sat in that gloriously sumptuous setting, drinking in the fine singing and the wonderful spectacle for milaad. And now, in this humble little corner masjid, it seemed as if time had come to an almighty halt, anticipating in intrigue, what would radiate from this crazy-looking man’s voice.

   And then he started singing.

   Every man and boy held their breaths tighter.

   Maulvi Saab tried but couldn’t open his eyes.

   Mustafa stood frozen.

   Makki Saab was just dumbfounded.

   And the audience just sat their wide-mouthed and stunned.

   Then in a resounding chorus they all roared in unison:


   And the whole room erupted in unprecedented ecstasy, and Maulvi Saab couldn’t hold back a torrent of tears. And Makki Saab was still standing there scratching his head. And Mustafa had the biggest smile on his face as he held the camera. And the two uncles joking around earlier could not supress beaming smiles at everyone around them.

  And the reason for this overwhelming reaction was pure and simple.

  Fareed Saab sang naats. In this case it was: “Madinee Madina Walei..”

  But he didn’t just sing- his heart sang- his whole being sang.

  And his voice was like something this little mosque had never heard before. For just an exquisite moment, every person present, and even the people at home who listened on the mosque live broadcast, they envisioned what it may be like sitting in the meadows of paradise, in beginningless eternality, with stressless hearts, and easy countenances, listening to the angels sing praise for the beloved, Allah bless him and grant him peace.

    And as the evening moved on, as the other strangers came forward, Hujwiri Saab, Bulleh Saab, and Bahu Saab, the audience were treated to the richest naats they had ever heard in their lives. The most intriguing thing of it all was that something so beautiful was proceeding from these men who looked so rough and unkempt. Mustafa did notice something rather miraculous. He expected an unpleasant smell around these guys as he passed them water respectively. Instead, they smelled of a beautiful, subtle musk. And through their dreadlocks, soft, penetrating dark eyes shone fourth.

   The night came to an end. Maulvi Saab and the rest had been so engrossed in the beatitudes of what they had just witnessed that they totally forgot about the custom of offering cash to the singers, as a sign of their happiness and appreciation for the praise of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

   But before any of them could move forward. Another dumbfounding event took place. The four strangers now arose, and went from row to row, giving each participant a crisp fifty-pound note! You can imagine the uproar! After every astonished participant had a fifty-pound note sitting in their hands, the four strangers only smiled and said: “This is just a token from us, for allowing us to sing praises for the Beloved. Jazaku mullah kheiran!” And before anyone could do anything, the four disappeared out of the door, and out of the mosque like ninjas, whilst Maulvi Saab, Makki Saab, and Mustafa just stood by the entrance desperately searching for where these guys had gone.

   Subsequently, whilst the langar was being served in the little hall, and each man felt the fifty-pound note in their pockets, a mist of wonder and repentance hung in the air, swirling around their hearts, so that while they ate the curry and naan bread, many could not help tears falling from their eyes. Tears of repentance and regret. Maulvi Saab still couldn’t believe what had happened and had gone very quiet, retreating into his room, shedding tears of yearning. And Mustafa stood there in a daze. He had just received a phone call from his grandad. Before he could apologise for the technical or connection problem, his grandad announced: “My son, thank you for showing that. It was so beautiful, and I feel so much better. May Allah reward you.” And then his wonder increased some more. As he left the mosque after helping to tidy up, four rather embarrassed young gentlemen approached him on the street.

   “You are Haji Ghulam Saab’s grandson?”

   “Yes, I am, how can I help you?”

   “Okay, it looks like you had a nice programme. Your dada had asked us to come along but…. Well, we thought you would be able to find replacements, so we didn’t end up coming for naats. We thought you would all decide to come to Jami Mosque anyway.”

   “No problem…” Mustafa whispered as they left. And all he could do was to remember those thick dreadlocks, and deep, deep eyes… Another miracle he experienced was that every time he tried to use this fifty-pound note to pay for something, he found that there was a generous deal on those items so that he could buy items double the amount of the money he had.

   A few days later, Mustafa came across Ali who exulted:

   “Mustafa bro, you totally missed it man, totally missed it. Naat Khawans were epic!!! One of them had a whole pile of fifty-pound notes in front of him and he drove off in a proper beast of car! It was crazy!!! Oh, by the way, heard you had some strange guys turn up at your little event… Hope it was okay…”

   Mustafa smiled with a tear approaching his eyes: “yeah, it was strange… Subhan Allah…”


This short story is dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, his family and friends, and especially to the saints: Datta Saab Ali Al Hujwiri, Baba Bulleh Shah, Baba Fareed, Sultan Bahu and Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, may Allah sanctify their secrets, ameen.


Milaad- celebration of the Prophet’s birth

Jami- main mosque of a locality

Dada- paternal grandfather

Bawei- old men

Wallahi- I swear by Allah

Naat- devotional songs for the Prophet

naat khawaans- singers of devotional songs for the Prophet

Pir Saab- Spiritual leader

Nasheeds- religious songs

Langar- free food after religious gathering

Saab- Suffix that adds respect to the name

Mehfil- gathering

Nabi- Prophet

Malangs- homeless, wandering dervishes

Zabardast- Excellent

Naarei Takbeer- An expression of appreciation which involves praising God, the Prophet and others- impromptu interruptions to a talk or song

Insha Allah- if Allah wills

Masha Allah- As Allah wills

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About Novid Shaid

I am a Muslim writer and English teacher. I have written poetry, short stories, a play, and I am currently working on a novella. My subject matter and themes are related to Islam, Sufism, politics and also my job as a secondary school teacher. My work is copyrighted and any works published here may not used or copied without my prior consent. You can contact me via the "Contact Me" page, if you wish to use any these writings. I am keen to gain the notice of publishers and if any are interested in my writings, please contact me via the "Contact Me" page. Was salaam, Peace

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