In pre-Islamic times, it was common for the tribal Arabs that the birth of a son was cause for great rejoicing while the arrival of a daughter was considered aday of shame and disappointment. For many of these pagans, the fury at the girl child was so great that they would bury her alive. Better to wipe the baby from existence rather than bear the shame and additional cost of raising a daughter.
Once, around the time that the Prophet Muhammad had brought the message of Islam to the Arabs, a man came to the Prophet. His heart was heavy and he wanted to confess a crime he had committed.
He used to have a daughter, he said. This daughter was the sweetest little girl. She would run to him whenever he called her and would hug him and kiss him. One day this man and her daughter went for a walk. The little girl happily skipped beside her father wondering what delightful adventures awaited her. Before long, the man and his little girl came beside a well. In a sudden fit of shame and madness, the man picked up his daughter and threw her in the well. She cried out in terror and confusion, Baba! Baba! But the man closed his heart from her pleas and instead threw a load of muddy earth down the well to bury her. He then went home and left her to die. The man was telling this to the Prophet now because he was full of remorse. He felt a terrible weight on his chest, the guilt was eating him alive.
It is narrated that when the Prophet heard this story, tears welled up in his eyes. The tears spilled down his noble face in torrents. It is said that the Prophet cried so much and so long at hearing about the innocent little child’s death that his entire beard was soaked and dripping. The companions who were with the Prophet at the time also began to cry when they saw how deeply saddened the Prophet was and the Prophet did not ask them to contain themselves either.
The lessons contained within this historical episode are many but there is one in particular that is important for me right now when my own heart, like yours, is rending and twisting:
The Prophet’s actions serve as a reminder to me that on some occasions, especially where the lives of children are concerned, it is okay, nay it is more than okay, it is our duty to cry. To let ourselves be soaked with our tears. To become weak with grief. To allow ourselves to be shaken from our daily calm. To FEEL intensely.
He, peace be upon him, cried for one child. Today we have 141 dead children amongst us.
Today, I ask you: Don’t numb yourself. Don’t switch off or turn away. Don’t busy yourself in the lulling rhythm of the every day life. Allow yourself to feel this tragedy, my beloved fellow humans. Recognize it for the epic, heartbreaking, black disaster that it is. Show your warm blooded, vulnerable, beating heart. Show that you are different from those who commit these crimes in cold blood. Show the light of your heart to push away the darkness they threaten us with. The time for your and my and our healing will come soon enough. Today is the time to feel.
Today, weep tears of grief as you think of those more than 141 bright little lights that have been extinguished. Those more than 141 families ripped apart. All the other dead and injured. This nation of ours that is hurting.
Today, weep tears of gratitude as you hold your own children, with you only by the grace of God. Gratitude for all the teachers who care for them when they are away from us. Gratitude for the soldiers who are going in harm’s way, the nurses who are receiving and washing the dead and injured, the strangers who are donating at the blood banks, everyone at the front line, doing whatever they can.
Today, weep tears of anger at all those atrocious lost individuals who are bent on hijacking our peace, our country, our religion, our narrative.
Today, weep tears of renewal and determination to change things. Somehow. To put our best selves forward every minute of every day because today has shown that it is more important than ever. That there is only one minute between life and no life.
Today, weep like the Prophet.
And while you weep, hope and pray that our flowing tears combine like a river and the soft, persistent power of that river break down all the big and little rocks of evil amongst us.