بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful
I was making my way back home, walking on the very familiar path back from work.
It was raining- I could never explain with words how amazing it feels to walk in the cold rain in the middle of June. As I cherished the pure happiness of rain in the summer, I passed by a man sitting on the sidewalk writing something on cardboard. Curious as I was, I leaned over a little to see what he was writing. My heart sunk instantaneously when I saw him completing the “E” in his big, bolded HOMELESS sign. Here I was happy for the cold rain knowing I’d go home to warmth, and there he was, left on the sidewalk with no place to go… Alhamdulilah (all praise is to Allah), how blessed I am to have a roof over my head. Alhamdulilah, how blessed I am to be able to have the all-too-familiar temperature change experience when going from the cold, harsh weather outside and into the warm house. I looked around for any sign of a grocery store or food place to buy this man some food; it was the least that I could do, but I found no store around. I sighed and kept walking, kept saying alhamdulilah for all of the blessings that I have been given without necessarily doing anything to deserve it- This is why we say “All praise is to Allah, who fed me this food and gave it to me without any power or might from me” after eating a meal, or saying the last part for anything we have. I walked on that day, soaking in the rain with this reminder that indeed, everything that I have been given was without any power or might from me, and indeed it is all a blessing from Allah.
It was almost iftar time, and I had been craving pizza for the past week. Could my building location be any better than literally attached to the best pizza parlor in town? I think not.
The wonderful smell of pizza filled what seemed to be a 20-meter radius from the parlor, and the smell become stronger and stronger as I approached.
Drenched from head to toe, I walked in feeling blessed to be in the presence of a blazing fire oven. I looked up to see a man say something to me; I knew it was a greeting but I wasn’t sure of what it was. I could almost make out a “salamualaikum” on his tongue, but I couldn’t be sure. I got in line and made my order with my mouth watering from seeing all of the pizza toppings laid out before my eyes.
After putting every imaginable vegetable onto the pizza, I got to the cash register. While waiting for the cashier, I looked outside through the glass walls, and in the same instant my stomach voraciously growled from the fast. The combination of the harsh weather outside and my empty stomach reminded me of the homeless man, and all of the homeless and starving people for that matter. I wished that I could do something, so I did.
The cashier came to the desk.
“That’ll be $10.47,” He said.
“Can I ask you something?” I retorted, “do you see any homeless people around here?”
“Yes, there are a few that come by and walk in for the smell of pizza.
My heart sunk. That was probably the saddest thing I had heard all week- that there are people who walk by just to smell food, but who can’t have food because they can’t afford it.
I had to, I had to, I had to.
“If I pay you double the amount, can you make that exact same pizza- with all of the toppings- and give it to the next homeless person that you see walking by?”
“Uh…..Sure. I’ll let my manager know. Thank you.”
And how wonderful it felt to remember these verses, hoping that I too will be included in these people:
Then I remembered a story of Aisha, one of the wives of the Prophet (PBUH), may Allah be pleased with her:
“….She developed the nickname the Mother of Fragrance, for every time a beggar knocked on her door, she would touch the money with perfume before giving it to him. When asked why, she explained that the charity would reach Allah before it reached the beggar’s hands, and she wanted the charity to be given to Allah in a fragrant condition.
In another report, a needy person knocked on the door. She only had one grape, and gave it to him. When asked what the value of a single grape was as a charity, she quoted the following verses from the Qur’an: “So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” (Qur’an 99:7 – 99:8).
She rationalised – how many atoms are there in a grape?”
After paying, I stood by the fire oven where I waited for the pizza. Working at the fire oven was the man who greeted me when I came in. I watched him as he skillfully tossed pizzas around. Then he noticed me there.
“How is your fast?”
I beamed at his question… So maybe he had said “salamualaikum” when I walked in…
“It’s good,” I replied.
“Where are you from?” He responded.
“My mother is Russian and my father is Syrian.”
“Ahlan wa Sahlan” (Welcome)
I don’t know why, but my face was stuck in a smile at this man’s openness. And yup, he definitely said salam when I walked in.
“Are you fasting as well?”
“Sure, of course,” he replied.
“While making all of these pizzas all day?!” I was completely taken aback by how cool this guy was to be surrounded by the aroma and site of pizza all day long while fasting. “MashAllah, that is really amazing.”
He continued baking pizzas while I continued to watch. He took out a pizza from the fire oven and began preparing its box. It was for a customer in front of me. He took his pizza cutter and began cutting the 8 slices as per usual, and as I watched him do it I realized there was ham on the pizza.
I began low-key freaking out- this guy was super fast at baking and cutting pizzas and I really needed him to not use that same cutter on my pizza because it had just touched ham. I looked around for any sign of another pizza cutter but I couldn’t find one, and the next thing I knew he had my pizza in his hands. I opened my mouth to ask if he could wash the pizza cutter, but before I could say anything I saw him take out a new one from under the table.
I let out a heavy sigh. “You changed the pizza cutter,” I said, unsure if he had done so because he, too, realized that one should not be used on my pizza, or for some other reason.
“Yes, for you,” he responded, “you are my sister, I know what you have to go through.”
I couldn’t help but smile so widely. It was such a small gesture but it meant so much– to know that people are looking out for you, even the pizza man who could have easily shrugged you off as any other customer– meant so much.
He gave me the pizza. I stayed standing there, still smiling endlessly by how cool this guy was. When I realized I had the pizza in my hand, I said “JazakAllahukhairan (May God reward you with goodness)” and walked back out into the rain.
I couldn’t help but think of the reciprocality of it all- people doing good for other people who then do good for other people. It was all too perfect an experience. It was all too perfect a day. Alhamdulilah.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection. ” [Bukhari, 2442]