The air was filled with the aroma of local food, a sweet fragrance of freshly cooked jalabi lingered in the atmosphere. The horns of rickshaws and the prayer call from a nearby mosque could be heard from across a mile. This was a regular day in the lives of people living in the most cultured city of the country: Lahore, a city which belonged to the kings and to the poets equally. Every street of this historic city has its own tale to tell. Everyone is struggling to make the most of their lives. The day depicts the busy life but as the sun starts to set down, a new life emerges in the night. People seem to look care free and try to have the time of their life. Lahore has many stories to tell, many characters to be fond of. In the same city, a narrow street famous for an old mosque has its own charm. People come from nearby area to offer their prayers in the majestic white mosque. Those who lived in the street are mostly merchants and some work hard all day at shops to make a living. The mornings are always cool but as the afternoon approaches, the sun shines much brighter with an intense heat. The evenings are smoothing, children come out of their homes for a match of cricket whereas some teenager boys prefer playing football. The ladies seldom leave their homes. The nights are quiet and peaceful. Everything seems to be in a perfect order. Above the mosque a house was built consisting two small rooms which belonged to the Imam Sahib, a person in charge of the historic mosque. He was short heighted, his chest long beard now bore some strands of grey hair. He always wore a white kurta with a piece of cloth lying on his shoulder. A white cap with embroidery always covered his head. He was known for his virtues and was indeed, a pious man. He had a sweet tongue, always talking about the mercy of God and how great the prophets were. The mosque was usually jam-packed on Fridays. People used to come to offer the prayer and to listen to the imam Sahib’s religious sermon which touched everyone’s heart. He used to say: “A person who wants to be a good Muslim should try his level best to be a good human first”. He was an educated man who knew what he was talking about. The street was kept clean and seemed different from the other streets in the same neighborhood. The man who was responsible for its tidiness was a Christian named Joseph Maseeh. He was an aged man with stooped shoulders and a dark complexion. He never spoke to anyone and kept his mind occupied with his work only. He never bothered about the surroundings. But he had one friend in the street; the imam sahib. They were both fond of each other. At 9’O clock, when Joseph used to arrive to sweep the dusty streets, Imam Sahib was always there to provide him with hot steaming breakfast. Joseph always hesitated but could not refuse to him. “I just had tea” he would shyly say and Imam sahib would respond immediately: “well, one more cup hasn’t hurt anybody, right?” Joseph told his wife, Mary, who was a young girl with a beautiful face and sharp mind, to cook potato stuffed chapati for the Imam Sahib. To what she replied “He will turn down your offer, Muslims never eat what we cook with our hands. Do not ruin your relation with him” Joseph softly whispered “you are right, sometimes I forget where we people belong to, it is only him who behaves nicely to me” “don’t be sad, there are many people in this neighborhood who love us and you are like a brother to all of them” Mary referred to the Christians living in their community.  As the time moved on, the white mosque welcomed another Muslim named Abdullah Asif, He just moved from Karachi because of his job. He had light brown hair and hazel eyes, broad shoulders and he seemed to be around 6 feet tall. He had long mustache, a symbol for his manliness. Whenever he talked, a frown used to appear on his forehead. He entered the mosque for the Friday prayers. After prayer, he was rushing back to his home when imam sahib called out to him. “I have never seen you here before” “Do you tend to remember everyone’s face that comes here?” Abdullah said with an annoyed tone. “Yes, I try my best to remember” replied imam sahib with a smile. “I need to rush, I didn’t come here to have a chit chat with you” snapped Abdullah. “Why don’t you stay for a while and you could listen to a discussion we have here on every Friday?” imam sahib asked politely. “I will try to attend the next one” Abdullah rushed out of the mosque. He took his slippers those he left on the stairs of the mosque and began to walk towards a shop to buy cigarettes.  He paid for the pack of cigarettes and moved on to his home. When he reached his home, he shouted at his wife for being lazy and not being able to fetch him meal right in time. She was a young girl, in her early twenties named Rasheeda. She had a pale complexion and a weak body structure. She struggled to hold the big tray in her hands and made her way to the bed where Abdullah sat. “For how many times do I need to tell you that I want the meal in my bed before I arrive” Abdullah shouted at her. “But the food will turn cold” Raheeda mumbled. “You do not have to answer back every time” Abdullah snapped at her. A boy of age 8 came running towards Abdullah. “Aba, can we go to the carnival today? All of my friends are going too” the boy said with a pleading voice. “We shall, we shall. But let me finish my meal first” They boy went out of the room happily. “I wish to go too; maybe we will find some things to buy for the home and you haven’t taken me out since we moved to Lahore” Rasheeda complained shyly. “No, you do not know these people; they go crazy over seeing a girl. I can’t worry about you and take along Munna with me as well.”
Abdullah said calmly. Abdullah took his son, Munna to the carnival in the evening while Rasheeda stayed at home. Abdullah bought him a pair of green colored shoes which had lights lit up in the sole when one would stomp their feet on the ground. Munna liked them so much and couldn’t stop thanking his father. On the next morning, Abdullah wandered around in the street to get to know the shopkeepers. He came across imam sahib who was busy having breakfast with Joseph. Abdullah saw Joseph and a broom right next to him and asked imam sahib, “You do not seem to notice the beggars around, perhaps you could ask them to join this tiny breakfast party of yours as well” “I do not see any beggars in this street, Joseph works too hard to keep this street clean, he does deserve a cup of tea” smiled imam sahib. Abdullah carried on walking forward. Joseph put the cup down and stood up. “No, do not listen to him; remain seated if you have an ounce of respect for me in your heart” imam sahib grabbed his hand gently. Joseph did not say a word and sat down again but did not raise his face up. The winter was approaching; people started to wear warm clothes and enjoyed sitting in the bazaar, sipping hot steamy tea. Joseph was shivering with cold on a Thursday morning; He could not hold the broomstick with comfort. Abdullah was coming out of his home while he saw Joseph. “Listen, whatever your name is, you should keep a distance from my home while you are sweeping the street or else you will not be able to enter this street again.” Abdullah ordered. Joseph just stood there and carried on with his work. It was the first time someone spoke to him that way. He did not get angry but his heart sank. He could not understand Abdullah’s words. If he did want him to not sweep near his home then how will he keep the street clean? Joseph’s only concern was the street. He had spent 25 years of his life, keeping the place tidy. It meant a lot to him. No one could tell him to stay away from it. It was time for his cup of tea with imam sahib but his heart told him to go straight to home. Imam Sahib waited for an hour for Joseph to come but he did not see him for the entire day. As the sun rose again, Joseph began his work in the morning and The Imam hurried to him. “Where have you been the entire day? I waited so long for you, your tea turned cold. “I was ill, it was too cold yesterday” replied Joseph half-heartedly. “I will be here with tea within half an hour till then you do your work” said Imam Sahib while rushing back to his home. Joseph was not sure of going near Abdullah’s home; he didn’t want any trouble so he refrained from going there. Imam Sahib came back and found Joseph sitting on the rusty chair. “Here, I have something for you.” Imam Sahib pulled out a light blue colored jacket from a shopping bag. “Now you won’t fall sick because of the cold” Imam Sahib said with a wide smile. “Thank you, Thank you. Oh, I badly needed one. You are the kindest!” exclaimed Joseph with tears in his half-opened eyes. Munna arrived late at school; it was his first day of 3rd grade. He was not really fond of studies; Math was his least favorite subject. During the lunch break, he saw a boy of his class studying under the tree. “Why don’t you play with the other boys? We just had 3 consecutive classes and you are still studying in the break” Munna asked the boy. “I do not want to play, we have a quiz tomorrow and I have to prepare for it in the school” replied the boy. “What is your name? I saw you answering all the questions asked by the teacher. You seem to be a bright student.” Munna put forward a question again. “Abraham Massih, and the questions were so easy anyone could have answered those” replied the boy. “So, you could teach me mathematics as well, I can’t solve a single sum by myself” pleaded Munna. “Yes sure. Anytime you want.” Abraham said proudly. This was a beginning of a new friendship between two children who had crystal clear hearts. Munna and Abraham grew closer to each other. They played together, ate together and Abraham helped Munna in studies. They would sit under the big oak tree and prepare their quiz. “Try again. I know you can do it” said Abraham every time Munna messed up a sum. Abraham would go home and talk about Munna all the time. “Eat your food, or else I will not let you play with Munna this evening” Maryum, his mother would snap at him every time he started talking about Munna while he ate his meal. It was time for exams, Munna was scared to death. He could not fail the send ups. This was his last chance to prove to his father that he could get into a nicer and a much bigger school. “I will help you in the best way possible, you need not to worry. You will get as much marks as I do. That’s a promise” Abraham told Munna.
It was Friday and a sunny day but the wind still felt cold. The Friday prayer was over and Imam Sahib sat in between a group of people. Abdullah was sitting in the group too; Imam sahib started the discussion with a hadith: “Do not insult the religion of others so they do not insult yours”. Imam Sahib talked about the importance of keeping harmony between people belonging to different faiths and cultures. Every one shared their ideas. “We are very blessed to have you as an imam in our mosque, people are blind with hatred these days” said the old man in a white cotton kurta. “Tolerance is the key for keeping harmony” said a man with a husky voice. Among all the voices, one rose the highest. “But the non-Muslims can never be our friends. They are not sincere to us. They will stab us anytime they get a chance” It was Abdullah’s anger-filled voice. Every one stared at him with blank expressions. “We are not here to discuss about befriending the non-Muslims, I am merely asking you people to keep the hatred out of your hearts” Said Imam Sahib with a soft voice. “I know how much you enjoy a kafir’s company imam Sahib, I am not blind. I can see that shine in your eyes when you pour him a cup of tea every single morning. Why did you choose him for this act of charity?” “That is none of your business.” said imam sahib, trying hard to stay calm. “I am afraid that one day will come when that filthy kafir will be sitting in the mosque and you will be there pouring him tea and giving him gifts” Shouted Abdullah and rushed out of the Mosque with an angry look on his face. When he reached home, he found Munna sitting with a friend in his bedroom. Munna ran to hug his father and Abdullah held him in his arms. He could feel his anger fading away. Munna introduced his new friend. “He will be helping me with mathematics, and then I can get into a big school” Abdullah smiled at his son and told Abraham to keep up the hard work. Abraham kept on coming to Munna’s home for 3 days to study for the upcoming exams. Munna learned a lot from him and now found mathematics interesting. One day Abraham did not come to Munna’s home, Abdullah asked the reason from Munna. “It is his Eid today, but he will come tomorrow” “There is no eid today” laughed Rasheeda. “What is his full name?” asked Abdullah with a confused mind. “Abraham Massih, He is the son of the sweeper who comes to our street daily” “What are you talking about? Do you realize who is he? How can he be your friend? Oh, God what have you done Munna. You ruined everything” Abdullah grabbed Munna’s shoulders and kept on shaking him. Rasheeda stepped in and asked him to let go of Munna. Munna ran to his room with a confused expression on his face. He could not understand his father’s reaction.
Munna woke up the next morning and sat down for breakfast. “Your father does not want Abraham to come here anymore. Do you understand it?” Rasheeda told Munna while serving him fresh French toast. “But I need to prepare myself for the exams, Mother! Why is father doing this to me?” “You are too young to understand this. Just stay away from him. This is what your father wants” replied Rasheeda with a straight face. Abdullah came across Joseph in the street and started to bash him. “Your son came to our home, he sat with us, ate with us and I was so blind that I could not see how you planned all this. You just wanted to humiliate me. I told you to stay away from my home and you sent your son to our home. How dare you?” “I am sorry; I do not understand what are you trying to say?” Joseph threw away the broomstick and said with a pleading tone of voice. “I know what you are up to, but I will not spare you. I will not let your son to ruin my son’s faith” Abdullah could not keep his voice low anymore. People started to gather around. Abdullah could not stop shouting. “You do not belong here; you can’t even pray to your God without playing music in the church. You people destroyed the religion of God. Now you want to take my son to hell with you people? I will not allow this, not till I am alive”. Said Abdullah with his eyes filled with anger. Joseph could not take it anymore, but he could not find words to express himself. “What about your prophet who..” Joseph could not finish his sentence and felt himself falling on the ground and Abdullah kept on punching him hard in the face till he was knocked out. Imam Sahib came running towards them and grabbed Abdullah from the back. “He disrespected my prophet, my prophet, how dare he? I will kill him” Abdullah kept on repeating these words. People tried to calm him down but failed miserably. Imam Sahib took Joseph to the hospital. Later on, Abdullah went back to his home. “Where is Munna?” he asked his wife. “He has an exam today, will be back soon” “When is his mathematics’ exam? I shall teach him by myself” “Tomorrow” replied Rasheeda. In the afternoon, Abdullah went to the Bazaar and gathered people around. “Have your blood ran cold? Won’t you people do anything for your prophet? A kafir just disrespected our beloved prophet and you will stay here, doing nothing at all. We are not weak. We will take revenge. That kafir needs to learn a lesson” said Abdullah with a loud voice. “But what else can we do?” asked one man in his middle age. “We need to teach these kafirs a lesson so next time they won’t dare to say a word against our prophet. Gather together the young men, let us go to their area and burn his house down so he will know the power of Muslim blood” “What about the police?” asked a teenager. “The law is on our side my son” replied Abdullah with pride. In the evening a mob consisting of around 25 men marched towards Joseph’s home, carrying bottles with petrol in it. Some men had a block of wood, wrapped in cloth which was put on fire. As they reached their destination, Abdullah sprinkled the petrol over the small apartment located on the ground floor and one man threw the block of wood which was already on fire. The smoke started to float around slowly and the fire rapidly entangled the entire apartment in a few minutes. Screams of helpless wife of Joseph echoed in the air, the men with Abdullah ran back with fear but Abdullah stayed right there. He turned to run as well when a sound made his heart skip a beat. “ABAAA, ABA” a known voice called out at him. Abdullah couldn’t understand what was going on, people gathered around with buckets of water to put out the fire. Abdullah went nearer to the house but it was too late. Everything had turned into ashes now. A green shoe was lying outside the main door; it looked very familiar to Abdullah.


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