Kiss from full moon transformed teen’s despair into hope

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 8, 2017

Dijla Al-Rekabi, forced from her home in Iraq by the Gulf War, found hope in kiss from full moon during Ramadan.
Photo by Warren Harbeck

Toward the end of this week – Fri., June 9, 7:09 AM Cochrane time, to be exact – we will be treated to a full moon in the middle of Ramadan.

The rising of the full moon evokes a powerful memory for our longtime coffee companion, Dijla Al-Rekabi, a frequent visitor to Cochrane. I’d like to revisit her account of that memory from when she was only 14 years old. In view of the distress our world is facing today, we just may find real encouragement in her hope-filled words.

This also provides me an opportunity to wish all our Muslim readers Ramadan Mubarak, Happy Ramadan!

It happened while Dijla and her family were fleeing their bombed-out home in eastern Iraq as innocent victims of the First Gulf War, and she was feeling really down. After all, she lamented, where was God amidst their distress? Wasn’t it the middle of Ramadan?

Ramadan is the month of fasting, prayers and charity marked annually by Muslims. It began this year with the sighting of the new crescent moon on May 26.

I’ll let Dijla, now a Canadian citizen, share in her own words her memory of her one-of-a-kind experience of Ramadan 1991 (1411 Hirji in the Muslim calendar):

DEAR WARREN: What made it a one-of-a-kind experience was when that Ramadan occurred. It began two days after we were forced out of our home because of the Gulf War.

That Ramadan of 1991 was different because of the state we were in. All our preparations for welcoming the month were shattered, and since we were in a war zone running for our lives, we couldn't fast in the sense of a voluntary religious fast, but we undoubtedly did a different kind of involuntary fasting – “starvation” – due to the scarcity of food.

After 14 days of walking, we ended up on the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It was an arid desert, empty of everything except us and the sand that stretched as far as we could see.

We came to God during that time in our most vulnerable stage of humanity. We came to Him seared with endless types of wounds, wounds that were treatable with gauze and bandages; wounds that were better left open, visible and exposed; wounds whose shattering impact on our souls we could never begin to describe. Most of our time was spent nearly passing out due to the extreme hunger and thirst.

I remember all too well how deeply hurt I was by the fact that our suffering took place during such a holy month. Though I was only 14 years old, I have no doubt that I was extremely angry with God. What had we done to deserve this? Couldn't He at least have waited until after Ramadan to allow this mess to take place?

Although we continued our daily prayers as long as our physical strength permitted, I realized how disappointed I was with God – to the degree I thought He was not even worthy of a reproach over what He had allowed to happen.

During the third night on the border, I forced open my weary eyes an hour after dusk, only to see a full moon rising from the far horizon, and it was unlike any full moon I'd ever seen before. It was huge, embracing the whole gathering of people (33,000) on that empty, harsh desert.

Everything was pallid compared to the moon that night. It was bright red in colour. Though it was so far away in terms of distance, it felt as if it was kissing the face of everyone and everything its light came in contact with.

Ironically, though I’ve fasted many Ramadans since, I have yet to experience a reward as magnificent as that kiss from a full moon!

Dijla Al-Rekabi, Calgary

© 2017 Warren Harbeck

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