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Eclipse

Sitting at my computer, writing letters late at night. The swish of the ceiling fan comforts me- it has been a week of power outages, some of them lasting for hours, exacerbating everyone’s heat rashes, causing tempers to shorten, and making it difficult simply to breathe. At night it is almost like being buried alive when the power goes out, laying in the still darkness, feeling the weight of the hot, humid air descending, wrapping one tightly in arms which offer no comfort. Just as I am thinking of shutting down my computer and joining the rest of the family in sleep, I hear the calls from the muedhins at the surrounding masaajid:

“Assalaatu Jaami’ah”

“Assalaatu Jaami’ah”

It is past the time for the nightly ‘Isha prayers, and this is not the usual call to prayer…then I remember- the eclipse. I had read about it in the news, a total eclipse of the full moon, something which had not happened for fifty years or so. I sat and debated with myself over whether to leave the relative coolness of my room to go out into the stifling night to witness this rare event; but I knew from the beginning I would give in.

As I shut down my computer and wrapped a scarf around my head, I remembered another night almost ten years ago now, in a small town in New York State. It was during the month of Ramadhaan. I had woken the children up to eat a pre-dawn meal, then bundled them up in warm clothes and scarves. We left the baby and my husband in the house, and walked down to the field in the cold, silent night, that moment of almost morning before dawn has drawn its first breath for the day. The children almost held their breaths as well, wondering at this unusual excursion. Juwairiyah, then the youngest, held my hand tightly, her little cheeks red, her eyes taking in the surroundings with wide-eyed wonder. The houses we passed were silent, the souls within them still wrapped in slumber. I wondered how they could sleep, when the sky itself was preparing to offer them a once in a lifetime show.

We reached the field, and stood, our faces upturned to the night sky. The wind raked its fingers through the gaunt treetops, causing them to whisper and talk amongst themselves. There was no other sound to be heard except the wind, the trees, and our breathing. Then the show began.

First one bright arc of light shot across the sky. Another followed close on its tail. Then another. And another. And soon the sky was full of streaks of light.

“Indeed We have adorned the nearest Heaven with lamps, and We have made such lamps as missiles to drive away the Shayaateen, and have prepared for them the torment of the blazing Fire.” (Qur’aan, Surat al-Mulk, Ayat 5)

And then the woods around us filled with baying, wailing cries. The children looked up at me, startled, but I didn’t know what sort of animal could have been making these amazing, chilling, sounds. Coyotes? Wolves? I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now, but their voices rose to the sky, calling and crying to the shower of falling stars.

I remember that wondrous morning as I grab an emergency light to take with me in case the power goes out. I unlock the front door, greeting the little tribe of feral kittens that inhabits our little walled in yard. I step out into the darkness, and turn my face to the sky.

At first all I see is blackness. Then, in the blackness of sky between the waving tree limbs I see it, its perfect roundness, usually white, now three-fourths covered with swirling shades of orange. I hold my breath. The beautiful sound of Qur’aanic recitation from the surrounding masaajid fills my ears, tugs at my heart, brings tears to my eyes. The power goes out, and the earth is plunged into near blackness for a moment before the stars shine out in celebration of this powerful night, this amazing manifestation of Allaah’s power, this sign, this gift. And I think of all the troubles, all the sorrows, all the trials, and I remember a promise that Allaah has made to us in His Noble Book: “After the hardship comes ease.” And I know that just like the shadow will slip from the moon’s cold shoulders, leaving it as white and shining as ever, those cares will be removed from my own warm, living shoulders, and indeed the ease will come, insh’Allaah.

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