Imam Magid was 17 when he was asked to join a group of people who were providing food at a refugee camp in Darfur, during the drought in Sudan in the mid-1980s. He was excited to be there and asked the organizers how he could help; they asked him to take a plate of food to someone across the field. Imam Magid saw that the person was holding a child, but couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman, only that the body looked skeletal. As he got closer, he saw that it was a woman, and he said with excitement, “We’re here to help, I brought food.”
“I will never forget how she looked at me,” Imam Magid said, “with eyes so deep, no tears, no expression, she just said, ‘Son, you’re too late; the child in my arms has died.’”
“It shattered me. It has haunted me all my life.”
He told his father what the woman had said to him, and his father said, “Do not ever judge people in times of stress; they are hurting, they are in the most vulnerable situation, their reaction is an expression of that hurt. Continue to serve them, even if at the time they cannot process it.”
Imam Magid and I were at an iftar together a few days ago and I was asking his permission to share this story, which he had shared for the first time when we were in the same small group at the Public Narrative training with Dr. Marshall Ganz that the El Hibri Foundation organizes. He told me that even that evening when he was breaking his fast he remembered her. He explained his father’s wisdom this way: “People who are hungry, and you might give them food, and they rush to take it and eat it, and they don’t say ‘thank you’, don’t say ‘why didn’t you say thank you’; do not expect them to say thank you, because that comes from God.”
Imam Magid shared another wisdom from his father that evening. When he was 20 years old, in Saudi Arabia, his father told him, “Son, I believe that you’re going to meet big people in your life. Just remember five things: First, people are human like you, they get sick, they’re vulnerable, give them the respect they deserve, but do not enlarge people more than anyone else; second, you have to believe that a public servant has the honor of serving others; ….
Before I could hear the other three, Imam Magid was being called to leave, and I didn’t want to delay him.
The next day, I saw a photo of him on Facebook – he was already in Karbala.
Day 9 Wisdom 9: Do not judge people in times of stress.
PS: Imam Magid didn’t have a photo of himself with his father easily available, so I used a favorite photo of him that I had (always with a smile) with Zayd, at the filming of UPF’s ‘Sultan and the Saint’. When I asked him what photo I could use of his father, he said to use a picture of his favorite book – The Revival of the Religious Sciences by Al-Ghazali.
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