It was around that time of the month when the slump was in full swing. The days when less and less people stood in line for prayer. Early morning prayers no longer saw the numbers witnessed in the earlier days. Daytime prayers was worse with most people fully moving back to their daily schedules. But the post dusk prayer still had large numbers.
More accurately, the numbers picked up recently . After the first four days, the slump had kicked in and the prayer lines became shorter and shorter until only the pre Ramadan regulars were left standing in the prayer rows. So the sudden spike in numbers was a curious case. Why did people all of a sudden start trooping to the mosque, specifically for the Maghreb prayers? And it was just not a matter of making it to the mosque, people scrambled for the front rows. Had they seen a vision of an angel? Were their faiths suddenly on fleek?
The answers lied stacked in the huge baskets carried to the mosque everyday just before the time for breaking of the fast. When the fast started, the praying space was blessed with fruit baskets from poor but spiritually rich members. The usual oranges and over ripped bananas were carried in daily. This was not enough to attract multitudes to the mosque.
But with the visit of one of the many Turkish migrants in the city, perfumed rice with thighs of chicken changed the fragrance of the environment. Suddenly, the numbers in the tiny mosque went through the roof. People shoved each other just to get to the front. It was like a scene in a camp for displaced people in Fallujah. The packs of food were limited and the closer you were behind the imam, the higher your chances of getting a meal.
Ahmad was one of the many peeved persons after Maghreb today. A regular at the mosque regardless of the month, he could be found standing behind the imam solely for the sake of Allah and not in search of nutrition from a munificent Turk. His frustrations was for two reasons. For starters, he could no longer pray in peace like he used to. Why fight with others just to find praying space? But funnily, he was angry those who were not regulars seemed to be getting the food and not people like him.
Today was not the first time and it certainly looked like it was not going to be the last. He had to do something about it fast and soon. When tomorrow came, Ahmad was in the mosque with considerable minutes before the call to prayer was made. After the imam said his Salamaun alaikum, he leaped to the basket before anyone could make a move to share the food. Selectively placing packs in front of faces he knew were regulars, murmuring trailed him as he moved from row to row. A couple of people protested but in classic “I no see you sef” fashion of old men, he continued until he met the kid at the end of the mosque whom he knew from months before the crescent was spotted.
The day after, he did the same. Nothing changed within the subsequent days. Like a powerful repellent sprayed on parasites, the mosque crushers reduced till all the faces around Ahmad were recognizable!!!