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Chapter 1: The Beginning Days

Everyone Works To His Own Manner

The big classroom with its many shelves where the students can range their books along them. the noise caused by the children in the school yard, all that have arouse Husayn's learning instinct. who for the first time has put his feet inside the house of mulla Muhammad Raza Nahadeh. He was wearing a striped shirt, and black trousers. The boy began to search out the class room with his eyes attentively. Eventually he inquired into the upper side of the wall where a picture was suspended and drew his attention. Husayn couldn't divert his eyes from the picture which showed a man in a white cap with bis eyes wide, moustaches. and odd ears: it was somc1hing interesting to the boy. Meanwhile, the teacher, wearing his medical glasses and who got brown heard. entered the classroom.

The teacher who seemed short and fat, sat where he always used to.

- Hello dears. I hope you are alright. Today is the second of Shawwal. but we can smell the aroma of the two ‘Eids; ‘Eid Al-Fitr and Noroow.; Anyhow, I would like to remind both the new and the failing pupils that the school has its rules and orders, which should precisely be observed. You must be polite and keep quiet. Instead, you have to attach importance to the lessons.

- Ouch, ouch.ouch..!

That was the voice of Husayn son of Mashhadi ‘Ata-Ullah (the greengrocer). and thus, the speech of the mulla was interrupted. So the later shouted angrily:

• What happened?

• Ja’far hit me with the pen. sir...!

• When shall you behave like a human being Ja’far?

• He's lying.

• And who else did that? The wall? You have been lazy since last year, and apparently this year too. It is better that you go out and sweep the yard. By the way, clean the water-closet too!

Again, mulla went on his speech, saying: Very well, we shall have a general view of what we have learned previously. Those who like to sit an examination, can have it tomorrow. and after tomorrow I will test the others. Now try to read your lessons carefully and be ready.

‘Ali Goudzi, whose face was sunburnt and have thin body got up and asked:

• How many lessons e must read for the examination?

• All that which we have already read.

Then the teacher turned his face towards Husayn and said:

• Well, Husayn! Come on here.

Husayn got up bowing his bead and proceeded to the teacher. The mulla stroke gently on the boy's shoulder and asked him:
• Arc you happy to be here in 1he school?

• Yes sir, certainly.

• Your fa1her has told me that you have learned the alphabet and could rcci1e the Holy Qur'an.

• Tha1's right, sir

• And what about writing? Can you write?

• Little.

• Very well, I will give you a lesson so that you can drill on it., until noon.

The boy began to watch his master who was drawing some strange and queer lines. so he asked:

• What do these lines mean?

• They mean the date 1299.

• What?

• It is this year's date. Now go and practice. Don't forget to continue the drill at home too.

Before Seven Years

The father was sipping his tea, taking small quantities each time. He turned towards Husayn and said:

• Have you gone to school today?

• Yes father.

• So, what have you learned?

The boy hurried end opened his copy-book.
• Look daddy, this is the first lesson.

His father had the copy-book. examined the lines on the light of a lantern.

• Well done. Well done my dear. Do you know what you have written?

• (1299).

• And what does that mean?

• It is the date of this year. That's what the muster bad said. But I didn't understand what he has meant.

• That means that (1299) years had passed since the Holy Prophet (S) had emigrated from Mecca to Medina.

• And what does this denote?

• Well. to what number can you count?

• I can count up to 400, daddy.

• So.it means that more than 400 and 400 and 400 ‘Eids had gone by that event

• Was you there, daddy'!

• No, of course not dear. Neither me nor you or your mother. You were born only seven years ago, namely in 1292.

• You mean seven ‘Eids ago?

• Yes seven.

Here, the mother who was arranging the sheets and blankets for bed called:

• Husayn It is time to be in bed son. Go early to bed so that you can wake up early and go to the school.

The Examination

The class was filled with the worried conversation hum of the pupils.

Some are repeating poems they learned, others are putting what they have learned of holy verses into their memories. while few pupils stood before the mulla to answer his questions to have their knowledge tested by this examination.

The examination started at early morning and still. Mulla seemed very tired. He spoke to the rest or the pupils saying:

• I'm sorry dears. I think it is better to postpone examining the remaining pupils for tomorrow. by the will of Allah. You should take good care of your lessons. Of course, I don't keep you from playing nor joking or laughing, but I mean that everything has its own time wherein to be performed. The lesson too has its time. Anyhow. I do not ask you but to listen carefully to my speeches. Now look at Husayn, he has been here for only one year and yet he learned the three years lesson as a whole. He does not possess four ears. He is exactly like you. The only difference between you and him is that he attentively listens to every word I say, and if he didn't understand what I have said he asks. You can obviously watch his marks and level of knowledge and etc.

Mocking voices in the corner of the classroom interrupted mulla’s speech.

• mulla shouted nervously:

• Who is that stupid. Let him introduce himself if he has enough courage. Or I will be obliged to punish the whole pupils.

Complete silence reigned. The class seemed uninhabited.

Abul Fadhl shattered the silence saying:

• But we didn't laugh, sir, Muhammad Baqir is the one who bas laughed.

The teacher turned bis face towards Muhammad Baqir and stared at him rudely.

• Muhammad Baqir! Stand up, let me see you plainly. You have been in this class for four years. but you still can’t distinguish a class from a stable! ls there anything funny in my speech? Do you know that your answers in the examination were indeed a scandal?! Come here...Yes...Now, stand on one leg.

Then mulla looked at the other pupils, and gently spoke to them:

• As for you, you can leave now.

“Noor Bakhsh” School

• Why did you stop eating'?. Please have your food and don't consider etiquette. Make yourself at home, mulla.

• Thank you very much, Ha]. I swear I ate you out of house and home!

A relieved smile drawn on Hajji’s face.

• I frequently tell Husayn's mother that mulla made us a lot of favours.

• Don't say that Hajji, I did nothing. Husayn, thank God, is himself very clever, and he; is eager to learn everything soonest possible.

• You behave modestly, mulla. The fact is that you arc directing the best class in Boroojerd1 with your much experience of teaching.

Hajj 'Ali stood up and began to fold away the dining table-cloth, then he carried the dishes to the kitchen.

After that, he came back and sat again in front of mulla, and continued his conversation.

• If Husayn is as you say, I am thinking to convey him to Noor Bakhsh school. Thus, he shall get a special room.

• Then Hajji stopped talking for a while. Again he spoke. saying:

• As you are teaching in that school too, I request you very kindly to continue inking care of him. Be sure that I will never forget your being at pains to help him.

Bowing his head mulla said:

• I am at your disposal Hajji to do my best.

Hajj Ali, while he was putting back the teapot to the tray, commented:

• In fact, teaching is the Prophets’ job, and that which is given to teachers can. by no mean, as their reward for the praiseworthy deeds they are doing.

Hajj Ali, who then had an envelope from the shelf and submitted it to the mulla, continued:

• This is a small gift which I hope you will accept it.

• Never!

• What for?

• You have already paid me my salary yesterday.

• Yes, but this has nothing to do with the class. It is only a gift to appreciate your extraordinary efforts with my son.

Here, mulla stood up asking the permission to leave:

• Well, if you don’t mind, I have to go home. I have a lot of things to do. You know, my wife is still ill.

• May Allah bestow health on her. Please give her our best regards.

The Delayed Father

Mirza Mahdi, a friend of Hajj Sayyid ‘Ali, and after he had his breakfast, said:

• O Sayyid! There is no other place which is more beautiful than Boroojerd.

• Thank God. Finally, you realised that. Did someone tell you that information? How could

you leave this city with its good weather, and dwell at the edge of the world. in Damghan?2

• Actually, I have been forced to do that since the death of Rabab and Mustafa, as I felt that the whole world was driven out of my heart. So, I decided to go to Damghan to sell a garden which I had inherited from my ancestors and then leave for Karbala to spend the rest of my life, 'until God might determine the matter that was done'. May Allah have mercy upon her. She was a good wife. She always aimed to dwell in Karbala and pilgrim the Holy Shrine of Imam Husayn (‘a). That was the only hope of her. Whenever I remembered them 1 wished I could stay, that night and die with them under the ruins.

• May Allah have mercy upon them. O Mirza! You desire and I desire, ‘but God does Whatsoever He desires’ (14:27). Only Allah knows what is good for us.

• Praise belongs to God. We are pleased with what pleases Him. Really, the world goes

with bitterness and sweetness. Sayyid. I have nothing to do with it

• Don't say that! You are now under 45 but still repeating your despondent words.

• They are not words, Sayyid. I believe that this is my last trip to Boroojerd! I saw a dream last night. I dreamt that I arrived from a long journey while Rabab and Mustafa were sitting beside me. We had some fruit. Then Mustafa said to me 'Why you have been late daddy? We have been waiting you for a long 1imc'. Then Rabab spoke gently: ‘Now don’t leave us again’. You see Sayyid. I am sure I have got my wish.

Meanwhile Husayn entered and said:

• Peace be upon you.

• And peace be upon. Come here dear, what’s your name?

• Husayn.

• May Allah bless you son, Do you go to school?

Here, Hajj Sayyid ’Ali replied:

• He went to school for a while then terminated Jami’ul Muqaddimat of Soyooti, logic and the collection of poems of Sa’di Shirazi Gulistan. Now he is continuing his study at (Noor Bakhsh) school.

• But why Noor Bakhsh school? Why don't you take him to (Shazdeh) school, or the school of Hajj mulla Asadullah?

• Yes, but you know, Noor Bakhsh is our own school., and Husayn’s maternal grandfather is its founder. Besides. it is near to our home.

Then Mirza Mahdi turned bis face towards Husayn and spoke to him saying;

• Who is your teacher, dear?

• My former teacher was mulla Muhammad Ridha’, but now I've got many teachers. I usually look after the good lecturers.

• Mashallah You must be 14 years old boy now. Don't you?

• Yes.

Engaging in the conversation with Mirza Mahdi, Hajj Sayyid ‘Ali inquired:

• How did you know that, Mirza?

• Husayn was born few months before that doleful event, namely when Rabab passed away under the ruins.

Then Mirta stood and continued:

• Have you forgotten my and Rabab’s visiting you? Now please excuse me, I must go. I

have a lot of things to do.

• It is too early.

• The caravan of Karbala-i Mustafa shall move on Saturday, and I must go first to (Soofiyan)3 to recite Fatiha in the shrine of Sayyid Muhammad. I have visited him just yesterday afternoon, and I called Allah asking him by the high rank that Sayyid to forgive us our sins and muster all of us together covered with his mercy, all-embracing.

• So, have the lunch with us today.

• No Hajj, I must go to (Silakhorbala)4 near Che old mosque. I will visit (Hajj Yadullah Goderzi) my old partner, whom I was trading with bis money. I want to see him and offer him my apology for what I might have done with him. He is a good man after all.

Mirza again kept silence, then be said:

• My late father had once told me that your family (At-Tabataba’i) has dwelt in Boroojerd for two centuries, while the (Gordezi) family were here a thousand years ago. or maybe more.

Mirza Mahdi laughed and added: My family came to Boroojerd only twenty years ago.

• Please do visit us in the evening.

• Well. Maybe, albeit probably I will visit (Mashhadi ‘Abbas Quli Banna) and I may spend the night there. Now farewell.

A Leaving Friend

Hajj Sayyid ‘Ali woke up with panic caused by a noise in the house yard.and began to rub his eyes:

• What happened?

• “Hajj Yadullah Godrezi hammering on the door”. Husayn replied. “He insists to see you. I told him you are asleep, but he argued to waken you”

Hajj Sayyid ‘Ali hurried towards the door. He realized that there is a calamity, when he gazed at Hajj Yadullah’s appearance with staring eyes. Hajj Yadullah was wearing black clothes.

Hajj Yadullah, forgetfully, passed over the greetings, instead he screamed at Sayyid 'Ali:

• Hurry up Sayyid!

• But, what’s wrong?

• Mir Mirza Mahdi is dead, may Allah have mercy upon him.

• May Allah have mercy upon him. But he was in good health this morning.

“Surely we belong to God, and to Him we return” (2:156).

• We left the quarter of (Shuja’t) at noon, and in the way. he fell down near Sultani masjid

and died there. It came quite suddenly, as I have been told. I think that we have to make the necessary preparation, Sayyid. Tonight, is the night before Friday, and it is a blessed night. May Allah forgive us all

• I will be ready in a minute.

Sayyid hastened to his room and soon came back putting on bis complete mourning uniform so that to participate in the funeral ceremony of his friend.

The Grief-Stricken Hearts

The whole members of Sayyid 'Ali family assembled in his home, and Sayyid’s brother was sitting smoking hooka and blowing the smoke bitterly, until a blue cloud of smoke covered him. He spoke to his nephew, Husayn saying:

• So, you decided on travelling?

• Yes uncle. Tomorrow by the will of Allah.

• Travel means hardship and estrangement, and hearts hasten to their nests eagerly.

Couldn't you stay and continue your study in Boroojerd?

Hajj Sayyid 'Ali who was listening, immediately answered:

• Searching for knowledge is above all targets, brother. Boroojerd has given him all that it could, and it is time now to fly towards another place. Besides, travelling, hardship and estrangement all that are elements to make a person mature enough to be given too responsibility.

• That’s right. But a heart is only a piece or flesh not a stone.

Isfahan is not (Khorbala) so that he can go and come whenever he likes.

Sayyid 'Ali and as an attempt to put an end to this conversation, continued:

• It seems that Husayn has seriously intended to travel. He determined to learn and come back home.

Husayn’s uncle sipped his tea deliberately, and with a smile he said:

• Well done, brother. It is time for him to marry. Let us be glad with his wedding before we face (God forbid) the destiny of (Mashhadi Safar). He slept in the evening but he didn't wake. What you say bro1hcr?

• Don't say that? Azra’il5 does not pay compliment to anyone as you know. Mashhadi Safar was more active and vigorous the night he died. We talked and laughed so much, and we determined to go on the next day morning to urge his brother-in -law to make it up with his father-in-law. But we were overtaken by his death the next morning.

• You are right. but as for Husayn it is still early and we shall do our best to him, very

soon.

Sayyid 'Ali's brother stood up and said continuing bis speech:

• Now I must go.

Then he turned to Husayn saying:

• Give my regards to Nooh ul-Din and tell him that we have waited for him in the ‘Eid but

he didn't come.

He, later kissed Husayn on bis head commenting:

• May Allah guard you, son, and return to us admiringly honoured.

• May Allah protect and guard you too, uncle.

The uncle, accompanied with his wife went out; while Husayn and his father stayed at the house door until they disappeared in the darkness.

  • 1. An ancient city south of Tehran.
  • 2. A city in far north-west of Iran.
  • 3. A quarter of Boroojerd.
  • 4. Another quarter of Boroojerd.
  • 5. The angel of death.