When Billy Smith Met The Baralwi And The Deobandi


“I just want to love God, I blurted out….” Piscine:  The Life of Pi

Billy Smith was a quiet little English boy who lived on a working class estate in Bradford. Although he was only twelve, Billy had an extremely deep approach to life, unlike all the other kids. His mum noticed this even when he was a baby. Laughing and giggling at things she could not see or comprehend, his mum thought that her son seemed to exist on a heavenly plain. And what a difference between Billy and the typical lads around him when he grew older! While he would sit in awe, watching the splendour of the setting sun or marvel at the starlings looping in the grey sky, the other kids would point at him and laugh. They just played X Box.

But Billy’s contemplation became so deep, that he made an unprecedented step in his family’s history.  A step which mildly perplexed his mum; which shocked his granny so much that she spat her false teeth out and prompted some of his teachers to suggest counselling. Yes, he had converted to Islam.

How he became a Muslim was a simple yet profound story. But what he said one day to the Baralwi and the Deobandi became the stuff of local Islamic legend.

It was on a Friday, when Billy got a little bit lost on the way back from school and he passed by two mosques on the same road. It was here that his journey to Islam began rather dramatically.

At the top there was a converted office building, topped with a modest little green dome, which was now called Masjid Abu Bakr. And down the bottom there was a grand, purpose-built mosque like something out of a Mughal history book. Below its lustrous green dome the grand sign read: Masjid Ghausia.

However, it was two things, two words, in fact, which took Billy’s breath away that day. First he noticed the word, Allah, in gold Arabic letters cresting the doorway of Abu Bakr Masjid. Billy noticed the shape of the word, the letters: A L L A H.  And then, he was lost…lost to himself, the world and everything else. He was lost in love…Love for that word, whatever it said.

A Muslim devotee stepped out of the doorway. Billy asked him:

“What does that say above the doorway?”

The Muslim looked and smiled: “It says Allah. Allah is the name of God in our religion.” And he walked away.

Billy walked on, mesmerised. That feeling of love was engulfing him. It was immense. He felt like he was going to explode, not physically, but inside, in his spirit. Not just for the word, but for the One who the name represented. God, Allah. Whoever that was.

He felt like he just about to crumple on the floor in a flood of tears, when he found himself staring at something outside the gates of the Ghausia masjid. Another word, in that strange language. Was it Urdu? Arabic? Pakistani? Billy didn’t have a clue. But what he did notice was equally sensational. When he looked at this word, which was etched onto a gold plate on the right side of the main entrance, he felt a wonderful sweetness and calmness. The intensity of love that he felt ebbed and settled so that he didn’t feel like exploding any more.

A Muslim walked out of the door, crowned with a wonderful green turban. To Billy, the man looked like he had just walked out of a film set from Sinbad the Sailor.

The Muslim smiled broadly at Billy. Billy also asked him:

“What does that say next to the door?”

After glancing at the word, the Muslim smiled again: “It says Muhammad, Ya Muhammad. And on the other side it says Ya Allah. Allah is the name of our God. Muhammad is the name of our Prophet.”

Billy thought for a moment about the way he was feeling and said:

“Excuse me, but have you got a leaflet which has those two words on there. I’ve got some homework to do.” Good thinking. That would make his interest sound more plausible.

“Sure!” And the green turbaned man walked back into the mosque and returned with a little leaflet which said: An Introduction to Islam.

And right there, at the top of the leaflet, Billy could see the two words which had arrested his heart and made him feel a way he had never felt before. Allah, the name of God. And Muhammad the name of God’s prophet.

He took the leaflet home. His mum was too busy to notice what was going on. But deep within, Billy was experiencing a rapid transformation. He felt like a grubby little caterpillar growing wings and being filled up with colour. With the colours of love. Not lust. He had learned about puberty at school. It wasn’t that. It was something different. This love made him feel so great that he wanted to cry forever. And every time he looked at the name, Allah, on the leaflet, he felt suddenly overcome, like he was being drowned in light. He couldn’t handle it. But then all he had to do was to look at the name Muhammad, and this calmed him down and gave him some relief.

He loved this new feeling and he wanted to find out more about it. So he decided that he would make a visit to the two mosques he had passed. Masjid Abu Bakr and Masjid Ghausia.

This is where things got little bit more interesting, or should we say explosive…

So two weeks had elapsed, Billy read the leaflet carefully, learning the information comprehensively, then soon enough, he became well-known to both mosques. However, he kept two things a secret. One: why he came to Islam. Two: he hid the fact that he attended both mosques, from his mother and from the two opposing congregations.

The first thing he did when he visited both mosques was to announce to the youngsters there, that he had come to Islam of his own accord and had proclaimed the shahadah in another mosque in Bradford. Neither mosque therefore could credit themselves with his conversion. But it was Billy’s style that made him loved.

In the Abu Bakr mosque, after introducing himself he said: “I want to know about Allah, tell my about Allah. For I love to see his see his name.”

The brothers at Abu Bakr mosque responded heartily:

“What an abid!”

“What a Momin!”

“What a gora!”

When he went to the Ghausia mosque, the youngsters there exulted as they heard him say: “Muhammad, tell me about Muhammad, for I love to see his name.”

“What an ashiq!”

“What a lover!”

“What a gora!”

But what he kept a secret was that in Abu Bakr mosque, he felt the love for Allah surge through his veins and lift him up into a sky of lustrous light. Light filled with endless love. So at Abu Bakr mosque he would do his maghrib.

His astral projections at the Abu Bakr mosque would leave him dizzy and on the verge of a breaking point, so he would pray his Isha at the Ghausia mosque. There, the pain and ecstasy left him and the soothing name of Muhammad, peace be upon him, calmed the stormy seas within his heart.

So his simultaneous attendance of each mosque remained a secret, until one day… after he had been absent due to illness, two rather striking characters turned up outside his door.

That day, his mother was interrupted from her knitting by two separate loud knocks on her front door. It was midday, just after Zohr prayers at the mosques. Billy had just finished his prayer and lay resting in bed. The sick note from his doctor lay neatly by his side for comfort. School wasn’t one of Billy’s favourite places.

Anyway, the two loud separate knocks echoed through the house and mum reacted with:

“Cor blimey! Someone’s in a hurry!” And mum made her way to the front door.

She wrenched opened the front door and was just about to tell off the hooligans who had so rudely disturbed her sewing, when she noticed the two personalities standing there.

On one side, a bearded gentleman, Asian-looking, wearing a long white robe, a white turban, a bit like Usama Bin Laden, mum thought to herself. And on the other side, another Muslim, same beard, they almost looked like twins. Only this one wore a long white tunic and baggy trousers, and his turban was as orange as mum’s jar of marmalade.

Both of them stood, aware of each other’s presence, with an air of discomfort.

“Oh! Erm…. how can I…er….er…. help you gentlemen?” Mum was kind of lost for words.

“Hello, Missus, my name is Ghulam Rasul, I come from the mosque down the road, Ghausia.” And as he mentioned, “Ghausia” he straightened his back and shifted his orange turban a little.

“Yes, hello, Missus, I’m Abdul Ahad, I’m from the Mosque, further down the road, Abu Bakr.” And he pronounced “Abu Bakr” in a very clear manner, enunciating each syllable very clearly, as if he was making a really point of it.

There was an awkward silence. Mum didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.

“Okay, thanks for that…But how can I help you?” Mum was growing rather tired of these two.

“It’s about your son..” begun Ghulam.

“I wanted to see how he was doing,” interrupted Abdul Ahad.

“Because he hasn’t attended mosque for a while, so I just wanted to check,” interjected Ghulam.

“If he is okay,” added Abdul.

The two glanced at each other, uncomfortably, then looked at mum.

“Okay, you want to see Billy.” Mum was very polite and didn’t hold a trace of racism in her heart, but she was rather perturbed to see these Muslim-types interested in her son. She wanted to know what was going on. “Alright, you better come in then.”

“What both of us?” Ghulam began.

“Me, with him?” Asked Abdul, pointing at the man opposite.

Bemused, Mum replied: “Ye-ees, the two of you, if that’s okay? Come this way.”

Neither man could hide their annoyance and they simultaneously walked into the offered open door. A second later, mum looked back to find both men wedged in the doorway, and then with an almighty push, they stumbled forward into Billy’s house, nearly knocking over mum’s decoration pieces in the landing.

“Oh so sorry,” said Ghulam, while glaring at his adversary.

“Likewise.” Replied Abdul equally bitter.

“Please gentlemen, come this way, Billy’s in here.”

They walked into the living room where mother announced their arrival and Billy, having realised what had happened here, began shrinking underneath his quilt while he lay on the sofa. He had met both of these characters before; they always gave him a lecture every time he visited the mosques; he didn’t really like them.

“Hi Billy, I’ve got some visitors for you, some well-wishers, the Muslims from down the road!”

Ghulam took a seat to the right and Abdul made sure he was safely to the left.

Once again, the awkward silence hovered over the four of them.

“I’ll get a cup of tea then,” offered mum, breaking the silence and disappearing into the kitchen. What they didn’t know was that mum was hiding behind the corner, listening in to the following conversation whilst making the tea in the kitchen.

Billy looked at both men in dismay and realised he would have to explain himself.

“So Billy.”

“Brother Billy.”

“Ashiq Billy.”

“TJ Billy!”

“I have come to see how you are doing and to ask if you need any help from us at Abu Bakr mosque,” said Abdul, taking the lead.

“Yes, but of course, you will come for help at Al Ghausia first won’t you?” Retorted Ghulam.

Billy didn’t know what to say.

“Billy, I didn’t realise that..”

“You went to ..”

Their mosque,” and both men pointed at each other as they announced this discomforting fact. For a moment, their index fingers remained pointing sideways in each other’s directions, kind of hovering in mid-air, then after noticing they promptly put them down.

“Yes, I do like going to Abu Bakr Mosque and to Ghausia Mosque.”

Ghulam Rasul laughed and then became serious: “Now brother Billy, that is all well and good, but I must advise you sincerely that you should avoid attending that mosque.”

Abdul Ahad coughed loudly and added: “Well actually akhi, I would advise you to avoid this mosque, Ghausia.” And he gave some sarcastic emphasis to the final word.

“Erm, I don’t see what the problem is with…” Billy’s explanation was quickly interrupted.

“Brother Billy, you don’t understand, I am only saying this to protect your aquida,” began Ghulam.

“And I am only telling you to protect you from innovation,” replied Abdul.

Ghulam’s voice was now steadily rising: “You must be protected from, well, how can I put it? Munafiqs!”

Abdul wasn’t having any of it and matched Ghulam’s intensity: “I have to warn you until it’s too late, until you fall into bida and shirk!”

Ghulam’s turban shook: “Billy, they are gustakei Rasul!”

Abdul waved his fingers at Ghulam: “Billy! They are biddatees!”

“They denigrate our Prophet!”

“They worship our Prophet!”

“They will take you away for forty days to Pakistan!”

“They will make you sing to Madina all day and make you miss your prayers!”

“How dare you! Gustakh!”

“Take a hike, bidatee!”

“Acha! Fir bihar ar jow, mei aap ko teek karown ga!”

“Fine let’s step outside, Mr Bida Shirk!”

Suddenly mum appeared in the room: “Now gentlemen, I think we need to calm down…”

Ghulam jumped up from the sofa and said with passion: “No, Missus! This is challenge between truth and falsehood!”

“Now you will see the haqq vanquish the batil!” Announced Abdul, rising.

Then Billy couldn’t take it any more and jumped off the sofa: “I JUST WANT TO LOVE ALLAH AND HIS PROPHET!” He yelled.

Abdul fell silent and straightened his robe. Ghulam held on to his turban as if it was going to fall off, and mum said: “Billy? I didn’t know you’d become….Muslim?”

Billy looked down, tears beginning to flood his eyes. “Mum, I was going to tell you, and I was waiting for the right time. Yes I follow Islam, and I love Allah and Prophet Muhammad, I’ve never felt this way before about anything. It fills me with love and light.”

Mum was awestruck: “okay dear, I only want what’s best for you.”

“And you two,” at that, both mullahs coughed a little in embarrassment: “I love both of your mosques. I love the way you talk about Allah at Abu Bakr mosque, and I love the passion and the songs about Prophet Muhammad at Ghausia mosque. Can’t I just attend both mosques?”

“Yes, erm, can’t he attend both churches…I mean mosques,” added Mum, trying be a help.

“Well, er, you know…” Began Ghulam.

“It’s like this, it’s er, not really that….” Attempted Abdul.

Suddenly, they both said in unison: “Brother Billy, good luck!” And with that, they promptly left the room. However, they both got wedged in the doorway again and mum had to do a run up and give them a little push to set them on their ways. Then Abdul Ahad strode away to Abu Bakr mosque and Ghulam Rasul marched off, humming the latest Owais Qadri track.

“Right son, now it’s time you came clean.” And mum sat with her son and heard the story of the how Billy had become mesmerised by the word Allah and the word Muhammad, peace be upon him. The story actually brought a smile mum’s face and all she could say was this:

“Look son. As long as all this doesn’t disturb your education, or take you away from me, you have my blessing.” Mother and son then embraced and smiled.

In the following days, Billy found that Abdul Ahad, Ghulam Rasul and their cliques paid little more interest to Billy. In their eyes, he was just a confused Gora who didn’t fit in. But he managed to strike a lasting relationship with the two gentlemen he had met the first time he saw the name of God, Allah and the name of His Prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon. The man with the green turban at Ghausia mosque was called Aashiq Ali, and the man from Abu Bakr was called Owais. When he asked both men about why they prayed in their respective mosques and didn’t really mix, amazingly, they gave him the same answer, and then didn’t talk about the issue again. Instead they preferred to say their prayers and offer their own unique acts of worship and praise. Aashiq Ali loved to sing naats and send prayers and blessings upon the Prophet, and Owais loved to spend his time pondering on the meanings of the Quran. Billy found solace in both of their expressions of love for Allah and for Allah’s Prophet.

But what they said to him would stay etched in his heart, as he grew and matured in the love that he had found for Allah and for Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him:

“Allah’s beauty shines upon us and we love to stay in those places where we feel it the most.”

This entry was posted in comical, satire, Short Stories and tagged , , by Novid Shaid. Bookmark the permalink.

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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