Time is about prayer. I’m left alone today, Granny left very early to attend the weekly Taleem. She usually doesn’t go without me. I woke up when everything was done. While watching TV, I heard someone by the chain gate. I thought about who the visitor might be. But as I took the keys to open the door, I looked through the door’s peep hole and saw that it was Balisa.
I greeted her as I made my way with the cluster of keys to the gate. She came through the gate with a big smile on her face. I told her that her friend, my niece Unathi, was at school. She replied with an “okay” and hurried into the house, as if she were hiding from someone. I looked up and down the street to check if anyone might have followed her, but there was no one there.
She was my niece’s friend and I was older than her. I wondered what on earth she would want to talk to me about. She told me her story, about how her mischievous behaviour caused her father to chase her away from home, the result of her dating a guy very much older than herself. I thought of telling her that her father had the right to discipline her, but thought I might make her feel worse than she already was. As her friend’s aunt, I played the sister role, which made her feel better about her situation.
As a way of getting her to tell me everything, I started the conversation by talking about the weather. She then told me about how she was unable to watch Generations the entire week because of the load-shedding in her area. I found out what I wanted to know and knew that she wasn’t going to talk about the subject any further.
I reached for the remote and switched the channels from Edge to SABC 1.
The program had just started so we continued watching that. I asked her what her age was and with a disgraced face, she told me that she was fifteen-years-old. When I asked her why she hadn’t been attending school, she blatantly told me that she became bored and stopped going. I replied with an “Oh”, while I thought of the next question. I asked her what she was going to do after what had happened with her and her father. I told her that it was never too late to fix things with him. As I explained what I meant, she grabbed the remote out of my hand and turned the volume up as Skeem Saam started playing. I stared at her waiting for a response to what I had said. She told me that she was going to go do a security course or try getting into a FET college.
I then fixed my eyes on the television, because my interrogation was over. I couldn’t fathom the idea of her giving up on herself and ruining her future at such an early age. Her unwillingness to look at the reality frustrated me. I wished that I knew of a way to show her what to do or how to do it, but it wasn’t my place to do so.
She then enthusiastically commented about the characters that were on the screen at that moment, saying that she knew that the guy would fall in love with the girl. I told her that soapies were predictable and that a viewer always knew what the story line was.
Balisa then took her cell phone, which she had plugged in to charge by the TV set. I was relieved to see that it was full because she had begged me to allow her to charge it. She asked me to look at a video she had on her phone. It was a video depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It showed men beating him as he carried his cross. I felt very uneasy watching that, the blood dripping from his face. Biting my bottom lip, I gestured to her to switch it off, no man deserved to endure such pain and suffering.
Jesus’s crucifixion is a strong reflection of how strong the human body really is. I told her how bad that was as I handed her he phone back. She then told me to keep on watching because I was missing the best part, the actual crucifixion. So, I continued watching. I watched how Jesus was put on his cross, his body being taken to his tomb and him rising from that same tomb.
After watching the entire video, I told her how bad what we were watching was. I felt an ache in my heart because of the pain that Jesus had gone through. I told Balisa that what that video showed was a lie. She told me that it was true, that that is what was what was written in the bible. She said that was the reason there was Christianity. But I told her that my family and I were Muslim and we didn’t believe that Jesus was crucified. In Muslim religion, Jesus was called Essa and he was not crucified.
“There are many similarities between Islam and Christianity, but they also differ in a lot of ways,” I explained to her. I wanted to enlighten her not to fight with her.
“Do you believe that the bible was a lie, because you don’t believe that Jesus was crucified?” She was annoyed. “I feel sorry for you if you don’t believe.”
I told her that I believed her, that I, however had a different understanding.
“Islam Jesus or Essa, was taken to a king who was very jealous of him, because Essa had many followers. He did miracles; he split the sea into two, so that he could cross safely to the other side in order to continue his journey because the king had treated him badly. Then Essa went to praise Allah or God on a mountain which had milk and honey on it. In Islam Jesus is believed to be one of Allah’s messengers.” I explained to her.
Balisa became angry and yelled.
“Jesus is our God and He is God.” She was banging her fists on the coffee table and shouting. “Jesus died for all our sins. I am believer.”
She told me that when they, Christians, prayed, they said the Holy Trinity: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I then asked her who God was, she told me that it was Jesus. I proceeded to tell her that he was not God, that Jesus was God’s son born from the womb of Mary the virgin.
I continued to explain by telling her that we, Muslims, prayed to the creator of the Heavens and Earth, the one who created all humans, the sea, the sky and all the leaves under it. I further proceeded to tell her, that it wasn’t good to create an image of the creator and that Jesus was not a disciple but a messenger of Allah who is God. I wanted to know from her, if Jesus was God, then who was he crying out for help to?
I pushed on further reciting Mathew 45 verse 24: “Eloy, Eloy I Iamazabathany (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me)” and Luke 6 verse 12: “Jesus went to the mountain to worship God, which God he went to worship if he is God.” This rendered her speechless and quiet.
I told Balisa that we had to stop talking about the Bible or Quran, because I didn’t know both of these ancient books that well. All I knew was how to pray and that’s all she knew too. After the heated conversation, the atmosphere was awkward. She turned the TV to Etv to watch Scandal. I went to the kitchen to make some tea.
I opened the cupboard to get two cups and sugar, which I stored in a Stork Margarine container. I placed them on the coffee table hurriedly. I reached for the elegant plate displayer, the only expensive piece of furniture that I had as a memory of the once rich life my grandmother and grandfather lived. Sometimes I wish that I was born at the age in which my grandparents lived, so that I could experience that wealthy life too.
We enjoyed the tea and continued chatting about what was playing on TV.
Tell us what you think: Do you ever fight with people who don’t understand your religion? How do you handle it?