Muslim Peace Fellowship
Ramadan 2001/1422


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Mas'ood Cajee <>
is a member of the
Muslim Peace Fellowship.

On the Road in Mecca
wherein the author gets a street education in Ramadan conflict resolution
By Mas’ood Cajee

I saw two men fight on the road in Mecca on one of the last few days in Ramadan, at the intersection of Umm Al Qura, Ibrahim Al-Khalil and Bab Al Kaaba Streets, at the edge of the plaza of the Grand Mosque.

It was just after the Asr afternoon prayer, as tens of thousands of worshippers made their way back to their hotels, inns, hovels, or cardboard sidewalk homes to prepare for the imminent breaking of the daily fast.

One man’s car had knocked the other’s car, one right headlight colliding under the late afternoon sun with the the left rear taillight of the other – two more casualties of Mecca’s friction-filled dent-galore driving.

The two men –- one a burly man in a bright yellow early 80s Toyota and the other a scrawny man in a white early 90s Toyota –- looked at each other fiercely. They raised their voices until they both crescendoed to an anger-filled cacophony of unrestrained Arabic cussing.

Both unshaven, with sweat gathering on their bald foreheads in thick beads, they drew closer.

A crowd of spectators also began gathering on the street, amidst the immobilized honk-happy traffic and endless streams of returning worshippers.

Suddenly, the burly man slammed a Mike Tyson-style fist against the side of the scrawny man’s head. The stunned and enraged scrawny man replied by grabbing his plastic Chinese-made sandal and attempted to swat his foe.

Instead, he swatted – in a courageous moment colored by a bit of physical comedy – a passer by who had placed himself bravely between the two combatants.

As the two streetfighters continued to lunge at each other, two groups of men attempted to restrain each fighter.

“Haraam! Haraam!,” they cried out. “Fighting is forbidden; this is the month of Ramadan!”

Various onlookers offered up their own advice and cautioning.

“Ya Ikhwan! O Brothers! Your fast will be broken and void.”
“Astaghfirullah! Seek forgiveness from Allah!”
“This is the House of Allah!”

One passer-by in a brown robe –- a tall, well-fed bearded man who looked Cairene -- hugged the scrawny fighter, imploring him to stop fighting as he embraced him. Then, as a mother would kiss a son, the passer by began planting little pecks of peace – several smoothing smooches -- all over the scrawny man’s head.

“Fighting is forbidden; this is the month of Ramadan!”

Finally, both fighters stopped lunging at each other in hate and anger. It appeared the kissing, the imploring, and the physical restraint of a dozen men had worked. The burly man and the scrawny man returned to their respective yellow and white cars.

Passers by continued to counsel the two men through their car windows.

It’s Ramadan, they reminded. We cannot fight, they cautioned. Even if it wasn’t Ramadan, this is the House of Allah, they continued. Even if it wasn’t the House of Allah, you just shouldn’t fight like this, they said.

“Haraam! Prohibited! Forbidden! Unthinkable!”

The fat lady hadn’t sung yet. The burly man proceeded to inch his car alongside that of the scrawny man, and the two continued their exchange of insults and assignments of blame. Suddenly, the burly man got out of his car again –- surprising the peacemaking passers by – and punched once, twice, three times through the scrawny man’s open car window.

Some passers-by went back to their duty of restraining the fighters, berating them for choosing to fight and inflict bodily harm on each other –- again.

Others, frustrated by the two incorridgible fighters, continued their walk up the hill. The chorus of honking cars grew louder as frustrated drivers waited impatiently for the melee that had brought traffic to a standstill to end.

The two fighters had managed to bring the entire intersection to a complete halt, but also had provided riveting street theater in the sweaty, hungry, pang-filled late Ramadan afternoon.

The scrawny man -- an underdog in the streetfight and bitter that the burly man had decided to resume their brawl –- walked defiantly towards a green Suzuki Vitara police car parked nearby. It would be the lucky policeman’s turn to resolve the conflict between the now exhausted fighters and the exasperated onlookers. The policeman strolled over in his green beret, Rambo sunglasses, regulation moustache and epaulettes, looking simultaneously macho and confused as he cleaned his teeth with his siwak, or wooden toothbrush stick. Both drivers and seemingly every onlooker proceeded to offer their own version of events.

The policeman –- siwak in mouth – curtly instructed the two drivers to drive to the quiet edge of the plaza to unclog traffic, demanded identification, and then began to disinterestedly listen to the stories of the burly man and the scrawny man. No Solomon or Judge Wapner was he.

It wouldn’t be long before they would all have to adjourn for the breaking of the fast as the sun found its way inevitably to the horizon.

Allahu ‘alam. And God knows best.


Copyright ©2001 Muslim Peace Fellowship. All rights reserved.
Muslim Peace Fellowship
Rabia Harris, Coordinator,
The Muslim Peace Fellowship is part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation network