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Chapter 17: Discussions with the soul

George got out of his bed with great difficulty. He felt lazy and preferred to stay the whole day in the room and not meet with anyone, but he had to deal with Kach and the job he had given him. He was determined to outwit Kach and to perform well in his difficult task, so he had to forget his personal affairs and the fear, hesitation and boredom that might overcome him, and not let them affect his work and future negatively.
He had an appointment with Jamal that day at ten o›clock, so he still had enough time to have his breakfast and check his e-mail. He didn›t have the desire to leave the room, so he called the restaurant and asked them to bring his breakfast buffet up to him. Then he went to the bathroom to take a quick shower while waiting for the food.
A few minutes later the waiter knocked at the door and entered with the food. He put the dishes on the table and left. George began eating his breakfast while he was checking his incoming messages and found a message from Katrina:
“My beloved George, Though you have only be gone for a little while, I don’t know why, but I feel that I miss you very much and need you a lot, and that I can’t wait for the month to be over for you to return. I have some problems and am confused and in dire need of your wisdom and support. I can give you an indication of my quandry by telling you that I, the devout Catholic, have cried while listening to some translations of the holy book of the Muslims which they call the Qur’an. I am in severe turmoil right now and need you, Yours, Katrina”
Then he replied:
“My beloved Katrina, I believe I shall return soon, since yesterday’s appointment was very bad and showed me a negative example of Muslims. I do not know whether the problem lies in the Muslims or in their religion? One thing I know for sure is that I hate Mustafa, with whom I had an appointment yesterday. I’ll try to come back in a few days so pray for me; I do not want to fail in the assignment with Kach, Yours, George”
He also found a message from Janolka:
“Dear George, I have received your message, and I was happy that my opinion concerning the theft of Muslims was true - please don’t ever jump to conclusions so quickly again. As for the status of women, I have no problem with it, but my principal concern is about freedom in Islam! So, if you have any view or opinion that could be useful, please do share it with me, Janolka”
Then he replied:
“Dear Janolka, You may be surprised that I have changed my mind in such a short period of time! Yes, there is no injustice to women in Islam, but rather, Islam came with what is suitable for her stature and nature, even though we’re not used to that in our European societies as it is an entirely different system. I have discussed the matter in depth and have become certain of it, but I have not read or discussed the issue of freedom. So, if you have something about it, please send it to me, and I’ll send it to the entire group as well. I’ll try to discuss the issue of freedom as well and also read about it, George”
While he was checking his mail, the phone in the hotel room rang; it was the receptionist telling him that he had a visitor waiting for him in the lobby. He looked at his watch and found that it was only half past nine. Was it possible that Jamal had come half an hour ahead of schedule?

•George: Excuse me, but could you tell me who is waiting for me?

•The receptionist: Yes, a young lady.

•George: Who is she?

•The receptionist: She told me that you know her, but she didn’t tell me her name.

•George: Okay, I’m on my way downstairs to meet her.

George went down to the parlor to find Diana waiting for him. She was dressed simply; her hair was gathered back and she wasn’t wearing any make-up. There was a big difference between the way she looked the day before and now; she seemed more splendorous and the expression on her face was softer. Her fair eyes had a look that revealed her intelligence and astuteness.
He welcomed her and invited her to sit in the visitor’s lounge.

•George: What would you like to drink?

•Diana: Nothing. I won’t keep you for long. I just wanted to discuss something with you.

George signaled for the waiter to bring them two glasses of juice. Then he turned to Diana wondering why she had come. He saw that she had tears in her eyes that she was trying to hide.

•George: Go ahead, Diana.

•Diana: I’m the one yesterday who wanted to run away from the questions that keep destroying and killing me from inside! I’m the one who you insulted yesterday! I’m the fugitive orthodox! I’m the ‘educated silent one’ as you said. And I’m the one who is tired!

•George: Yes, I remember you well. But what do you want from me?

•Diana: Am I not pretty?!

•George: Yes, you are very beautiful. It is a glamorous oriental beauty! But, have you come to me to tell you that?!

•Diana: Then why did you insult me yesterday?

•George: I didn’t. I was just asking you questions and having a discussion with you.

•Diana: You mentioned that the questions tire you, just like me, and that running away will not resolve the problem! Can you give me the answers to these debilitating questions, then?

•George: Did you come to ask me that?

•Diana: Yes!

•George: What if I told you that I don’t have the answers yet, and that I was, at one time, about to commit suicide because of these questions?!

•Diana: If what you said is true, then it indicates that you are intelligent.

•George: Finding no answer indicates intelligence!?

•Diana: I mean not running away is evidence of intelligence.

•George: Then why do you run away?

•Diana: We are human beings and go through moments of weakness.

•George: But aren’t there real answers to these questions?

•Diana: Undoubtedly there are.

•George: How I wish I could find them.

•Diana: As for me, I know the answers, but I don’t have the courage to act on them.

•George: You know them?!

•Diana: Yes, but one can’t establish one’s identity and become happy in one’s life, or change one’s situation, unless they are brave.

•George: You’re talking in riddles; I don’t understand what you are saying!

•Diana: Sometimes the poor one remains poor because he is afraid of losing his capital if he starts trading. Sometimes the unmarried one remains single because he is afraid to get married. Sometimes the ignorant one remains ignorant because he is afraid to learn.

•George: That is true and very clear, but I don’t understand what you are talking about!

•Diana: I know a very convenient answer to these questions, but I may be killed or jailed if I act on them, so I stay as I am.

•George: I’m not going to be weak-hearted! Tell me what they are?

•Diana: Are you sure you are brave enough?

•George: Perhaps. Please, tell me the answers in simple terms.

•Diana: I used to say the same as you are saying now, but in the end I became weak-hearted and started to think of how I could escape.

•George: Let me test my courage and see if I can be convinced by what you say. Where can I find the answers to my questions?

•Diana: I came to find out from you how to answer the questions, not to inform you how to answer the questions!

•George: But I’ve turned into a student. Go ahead and tell me.

•Diana: Maybe what I’m going to tell you might upset you, however I studied and searched for a long time but I didn’t find anything else but this. So let me ask you: what is stopping you from becoming a Muslim?

George turned his eyes to the sky, and then he gave a slight smile to Diana and began to recall the situations he had experienced since the time he decided to travel on the path to happiness; Katrina, Urmila, Levvi, Habib, Janolka, Mutee’ Al- Rahman, Kareemul-Allah, Adam, Sheikh Bassem and Jamal. He had covered a long distance and gone through several experiences. He had read, discussed and contemplated. Could it be that the end of this arduous journey is Islam? Is Islam the path to happiness?
Isn’t he the one who had often said: “If I find the way, I’ll directly proceed to it”? He thought to himself: “Is it true what Adam said about needing courage? And is the courage which he thinks he has just empty words? “

•Diana: Sorry, it seems that I’ve disturbed you. I wish I could have had another answer. All I hope is that your silence is not out of fear and weak-heartedness, like me!

•George: Excuse me. I was in deep though!

•Diana: About what?

•George: About your question.

•Diana: I know your answer in advance; you’re afraid.

•George: Afraid of what?

•Diana: Afraid of those who are around you - afraid of yourself.

•George: No, I’m not. But can you tell me first: why do you harbor all this fear of Islam?

•Diana: I’m not afraid of Islam!

•George: So what are you afraid of?

•Diana: I’m afraid of my family. My father died and I moved with my mother to live in my uncle’s house. And I know that if I converted to Islam it would drive him crazy, and he would probably kill me!

•George: Why?

•Diana: My parents believe that Muslims have deceived us.

•George: That may be true!

•Diana: My uncle is keen on making me meet and sit with deviant Muslims, even more than sitting with Christians. I had discussions with many Christians who said that I made them weak in their faith, therefore my uncle is keen to make me meet Muslims who have deviated from their religion because they are worse than Christians.

•George: Such as Mustafa?

•Diana: Yes! How I hate him.

•George: But, is he not an example of a Muslim?

•Diana: He is a good example of a corrupt deviant one, whether you call that secularism, liberalism or devilishness. But, answer me: what is stopping you from embracing Islam?

•George: Sorry, I first just want to complete what we were talking about. Why would your uncle kill you if you converted to Islam?

•Diana: To prevent others from apostating from Christianity!

•George: This is incompatible with the most basic rights of religious freedom!

•Diana: What freedom?! I’m a Christian like you. Do you have the freedom not to believe in the mysteries of the church which the mind rejects?! Do you have the freedom to believe that the Christ was not a god, as is written in some versions of the scriptures?!

•George: We’ll have to stop here because I have an appointment and my friend has been waiting patiently for a while now, but I’d like to complete our discussion later! I want to introduce my Muslim friend to you, if you don’t mind.

•Diana: I think that you’re evading the answer of the question as you are scared and lack courage like me, but it’s up to you. I will be pleased to meet him.

George went to Jamal and apologized for the delay. He told him the news of Diana, and they returned together to her.

•George: This is Diana, who wants to be a Muslim.

•Jamal: Hello Diana! I am Jamal from Alexandria, and we are so happy to welcome you to Islam.

•Diana: I’m also from Alexandria, but I’m an Orthodox Christian, and I didn’t tell George that I wanted to become Muslim. I told him that the solution to many of our troubling questions lies in Islam.

•Jamal: Good. This means that you want to embrace Islam, because no one likes anxiety and depression, or not to find answers to their questions.

•Diana: True, and for this reason I was asking George why he hadn’t embraced Islam yet.

•George: And I didn’t answer her…. But I was surprised by the harshness of the Egyptians, as Diana said that if she converted to Islam she would be jailed or killed!

Diana sighed bitterly and said:

•Diana: Please don’t accuse the Egyptians! The people in Europe and America are far harsher than us. Have you forgotten what you did in Iraq, in Abu Gharaib? Their cruelty, violence and sadism is in the darkest and worst forms, especially against the women who are living in the West. Is it possible that you are denying that the woman is exposed to beatings six times more often than the men? Do you deny that 33% of American women are subjected to beatings? Do you deny that in Britain 77% of the husbands beat their wives without there being any reason for that?!

•George: I can see that you have become angry and uncomfortable with our conversation.

•Diana: No, but I’m an Egyptian who is defending my country against your accusations.

•George: Patriotism is lovely, it’s very lovely, but loving principles is better. And although I believe that we are sadistic and cruel in the West, I’m amazed that there are the same cruel traits here. But we are better than you with regards to religious freedom; you can be Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist there without any problem.

Jamal laughed and said:

•Ha ha ha! This is why the face veil (Niqaab) has been banned in France! Is this why the call to prayer and the construction of the mosques have been disallowed in Switzerland?! What freedom are you exactly talking about?

•George: True, Jamal. But we don’t kill or imprison anyone if he wants to embrace Islam.

•Jamal: And neither do we.

•George: You’re correct. I think that there is some Christian intolerance in our country, but didn’t Islam also spread by the sword and with force?

•Jamal: Who was the commander of the army through which Indonesia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania or other countries converted to Islam? There was no such army as most Muslim countries converted to Islam just by being called to it, without ‘the sword’, and history proves it. They also didn’t force anyone to convert to Islam. Excuse me, but haven’t the Christians in these countries been under Muslim rule for nearly 1,400 years? Who forced them to become Muslims? Weren’t the Indians under the rule of Islam for more than 1,000 years? Who forced them to embrace Islam? Did they force the Christians in Andalusia, or what is now called Spain, to embrace Islam, or are the Christians the ones who forced the Muslims to become Christians and killed them in the inquisition after that?!

George felt that the tone of the debate was changing and that it had become out of control, so he wanted to finish it and not delay his schedule:

•George: We’re very late, and I ‘m happy I introduced you to each other. Diana, this is my card, and I want your phone number, please.

•Diana: Here is my business card, and this is for you, Jamal.

•George: I’ll call you - if you don’t mind - to complete our discussion, maybe later or tomorrow.

•Diana: It’s important not to let my uncle know so that I don’t become like Wafaa Constantine, Christine Masry, Merna Adel or others … but remember, you haven’t answered my question yet!

•George: I’ll be in touch with you today or tomorrow, and I’ll answer you even though the question is difficult! We really have to be on our way now.

When George and Jamal were driving in the car, George turned to Jamal and asked him, in a tone of surprise:

•Who were those people that Diana mentioned earlier?

•Jamal: You mean Wafaa Constantine, Christine and Merna, and others? They were Christians who became Muslim and were then kidnapped and tortured, and some of them were killed! So she is scared of becoming one of them.

•George: Cruelty and violence! The important thing now is that I want to finish my work in Cairo tomorrow to return to Britain for a few days and then return again to Cairo, due to some personal issues my wife’s going through right now, and I’d like to be by her side.

•Jamal: Well, today’s appointment is with the last company. Then make your decisions, even if they are just preliminary, about what arrangements you want to make.

•George: Yes, perhaps, but I’d like to develop some way of following-up and continuing the work after I travel.

•Jamal: After the interview with the last company you may find the right one for the job. We’ve arrived. What time do you want to go back to the hotel?

•George: We can go to the company together and decide after that.

They entered the building of the company and asked the secretary to see the director. She called him to tell him that George had arrived for the appointment.

•The secretary: Go in, please! Dr. Khalid is waiting for you.

Dr. Khalid welcomed them and asked them to enter the conference room.

•George: Based on the correspondence between us, I expect that there are a number of specialist individuals lined up for me to interview today?

•Dr. Khalid: Yes, there are four people today, and we can meet others tomorrow if you wish, as I’ve arranged all the technicians to come on one day and the specialists who are professionals in the management of knowledge and technology to come on another day.

•George: Fantastic! What about the specialists in the management of knowledge or technology?

•Dr. Khalid: As I mentioned to you, there are four and you will meet them today. I think they can interview the technicians on behalf of you if you are happy with them. The applicants are generally technicians and also programmers, but they have studied and have experience in the management of technical and programming procedures.

•George: When shall I meet them?

•Dr. Khalid: After you finish your cup of tea you can meet them, individually or collectively, if you like.

•George: I’d like to interview the four together, please.

•Dr. Khalid: As you like. I’ll tell them to prepare themselves until you finish your tea. Here, these are their biographies as it is good to get to know them before the interview. Now excuse me for a few minutes.

George browsed the CVs quickly, and he was highly impressed by them, but he did not want to rush with his decision until he had met them. He summed up their information on a small piece of paper:
Muhammad Ali - Muslim - 38 years old – he has managed e-government projects in Egypt, but they were not completed.
Amir Isaac - 43 – Christian - managed IT projects for the United Nations with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian Information Center.
Salwa Hassan - 39 – Muslim - managed IT projects for a company that works with smart devices.
Mazin Kamal - 39 - Muslim - managed two companies for programming and web design.

•Once he finished writing the notes, Dr. Khalid entered...

•Dr. Khalid: If you’re finished I’ll invite them to the conference room.

•George: I’m ready.

•Jamal: Well, George, I’m going now. When do you want me to come back?

•George: Thanks, Jamal. I don’t think I will take long, not more than an hour. I’ll be waiting for you as there’s somewhere I want to go with you.

•Jamal: Alright, bye for now!

Dr. Khalid asked the potential candidates to go to the conference room, where George was sitting waiting for them. ..

•Dr. Khalid: I’ll be quick: Concerning Mr. George, I have explained to you what he wants, and he has reviewed all your CVs, and to save time the interview will be done collectively. George, if you please.

•George: Hello and welcome; I must say that I’m very impressed by all your CVs, without exception. I’ve read over them and they are with me, but can everyone please tell me individually what he or she can offer our company, and why he or she applied for the position.

George listened to them and debated with them until he had a good opinion of all of them. He decided to choose three of them in particular; (Amir, Salwa, Mazen), since Muhammad wasn’t very suitable for the work. He asked them to nominate one of them as their director, and they unanimously agreed that Amir was the most experienced one.

•George: Don’t you have a problem that your director is a Christian?

•Amir: What’s the problem? You’re a Christian, too?

•Mazen: Amir has been a friend of mine since high school days, and I’ll say it in front of him, “He deserves to be the manager more than me.” I wish he would accept Islam, but if he doesn’t, he’ll still be my friend.

•Amir: We don’t have the same problems you have concerning dealing with Muslims, and I believe that Mazen has more managerial skills than me.

•George: I have an appointment soon. I want you to continue the meeting and establish the outline of an integrated plan to ascertain the labor and management requirements for the first year, and we shall meet together tomorrow morning to develop, review and approve the preliminary plans, and to start the work. Besides, I bring you good news: I have met an excellent group of distinguished technical staff in the International Employment Agency.

•Amir: Which is managed by Dr. Gerges?

•George: Yes, Amir. Do you know him?

•Amir: Dr. Gerges is a friend of mine and Mazen. He has a crew of special workers.

•George: I also have a very distinctive programmer I met in another office whose name is Diana Sameh.

•Amir: Ha ha ha! Diana Sameh, the programmer?

•George: Do you know her?

•Amir: Yes, she’s my sister’s daughter.

•George: Are you her uncle?

•Amir: Yes!

•George: It’s not possible!

•Amir: What’s not possible?!

•George: I must meet with you tonight; would you accept an invitation for dinner at seven?

•Amir: All of us?

•George: No sorry, I just want to meet with you for a private matter that has nothing to do with work.

•Amir: Okay! Where?

•George: At the hotel where I’m staying. Here is the address.

•George: Would you take me somewhere, and I hope that you won’t object?

•Jamal: Yes, okay, but where?

•George: I want to get to know and meet the poor; the ordinary and common folk of the country.

•Jamal: That is indeed a very strange request and I won’t object, but why?

•George: I want to hear their perspectives on certain things, and get to know how they perceive life.

•Jamal: Well, that’s a good enough reason for me!

•George: By the way, I met Diana’s uncle who would apparently kill her if she converted to Islam, and that gave me an idea.

•Jamal: Where did you meet him?

•George: Actually, he’s the one whom I nominated to be the director of the company!

•Jamal: Most definitely someone like that is not suitable for that position. Why such intolerance, George?

•George: I didn’t know that he was her uncle until after I had decided and agreed with him that he would be the director.

•Jamal: This is a flaw, and since he lacks morals, you might change your mind.

•George: True, this might be the case, but I’m going to test something out which you’ll witness this evening as you’re invited to dinner at the hotel with me.

•Jamal: What do you mean?

•George: You’ll see in the evening.

•Jamal: Well, here we are in a poor area of the city.

•George: I’d like to visit someone at his home.

•Jamal: Visit someone at his home! Okay, fine. I know someone who he lives on the other side of the street. Let me call him to make sure that he’s there and that it’s okay for us to come.

•George: Okay, and I’ll call Diana.

George called Diana and they agreed to meet at seven o’clock at the hotel, and Jamal called Uncle Sa’eed to tell him that he and George were on their way to visit him.

•Jamal: He said he’s free. We should buy lunch and take it with us.

•George: Why?

•Jamal: Because it’s not proper to go at lunch time without Uncle Sa’eed giving us some food, but I know that he’s not able to give us a meal, so I don’t want to embarrass him.

•George: Okay, good! Then let’s buy a very impressive lunch with sweets and all things which are suitable.

They arrived at Uncle Sa’eed’s house. It was a very old house in a narrow and unclean street. Jamal knocked at the door and Uncle Sa’eed opened it. They were welcomed warmly with the Islamic greeting and received with a friendly smile. They entered with the parcels of lunch, fruit and sweets, and he showed them to an old but neat room which was furnished with a worn-out floor sofa. There was a dining table in the middle of the room which was set for lunch. It had some pieces of bread, vegetables and a dish of rice on it.

•Sa’eed: Come in, please, and take a seat!

•Jamal: Thank you. Here, please, help yourself; we’ve brought some lunch with us.

•Sa’eed: I’m grateful, but there was no need since I had prepared some lunch for you. Just a minute, I’ll take it inside to put it out for us.

When Uncle Sa’eed went inside, George asked Jamal to tell him exactly what they had said, and asked him to translate what Uncle Sa’eed said as soon as he said anything, and not to leave a single word without translating it. A few minutes later Uncle Sa’eed returned with a large tray on which the lunch dishes brought by George and Jamal were laid.

•Sa’eed: Please, help yourself. We’re honored to have you here in our home.

•George: Jamal, ask him what he wishes for from this world.

•Sa’eed: The protection of God and health, my son.

•George: Is he happy in his life?

•Sa’eed: Son, the blessings Allah has given me are great; I have a house and children, and every day I find a means of living. What more could I want than that?

•George: Doesn’t he wish for wealth and riches?

•Sa’eed: May our Lord bestow upon us wealth and increase it, but I do not ask for just money, may He increase our wealth, health and make us have peace of mind.

•George: Ask him why he wants to have peace of mind, and what he means by that?

•Sa’eed: Jamal, ask your friend how he can live like that. Whosoever does not understand peace of mind, his life must be bitter.

•George: If you don’t mind, please rephrase my question as follows: ‘How and when do you feel you have peace of mind?’

•Sa’eed: I find peace of mind when I drink tea with my children in the afternoon, when I lay on my side on the bed at night and I have not disobeyed my Lord, and I have fulfilled the rights that are obligatory on me, and haven’t hurt anyone. Ask him, son: ‘Doesn’t he feel peace of mind after he prays?’

When Jamal translated the words to George, he kept silent for a long period of time, looking down all the time.

•Sa’eed: I’m sorry, I’m afraid I spoke too much and you’re my guests, so it is your right to be honored.

•George: He doesn’t have to apologize, I’m the one who should apologize for not answering his question, and I hope I may be excused for not answering him. I’d like to ask one last question, ask him, “What does he live for?’

•Sa’eed: You ask such strange questions! Is there anyone who doesn’t know what he lives for?! Son, our Lord created us to worship Him. He is the One Who gives us provision, and all bounties and acts of generosity are in His hand. But I don’t understand, why did you give me the honor of your visit?

•George: Tell him that we wanted to benefit from him and to get to know him.

•Sa’eed: May God bless you.

George noticed that Uncle Sa’eed was eating more of the food that he had laid on the table than the higher quality food that they had brought.

•George: Jamal, ask him why he doesn’t eat from the food we brought?

•Sa’eed: To leave it for you; you are my guests, even though it is you who brought it! Besides, I really find in my humble food the same pleasure you find in your food. As long as a person is happy and well, all types of food will be delicious and all life will be happy, praise be to God!

They finished their lunch. Then they said farewell to Uncle Sa’eed, thanked him for his hospitality and left.

•George: It seems I’ve made you tired, but I want to visit a church or a humble Christian citizen.

•Jamal: Then let’s go down the street a little as Uncle Sa’eed’s neighbor is a Christian. Do you want me to ask him to ask his neighbor if we can visit him?

•George: Yes, please.

Jamal called Uncle Sa’eed and asked him to arrange the visit. After only a few minutes, Uncle Sa’eed came out with a smile on his face.

•Sa’eed: Shall we go?!

•Jamal: Where?

•Sa’eed: To my neighbor’s flat. I’ve called him and told him that you’re at his door and he welcomes you with open arms.

Uncle Sa’eed knocked at the door. An old woman wearing a scarf on her head which covered her hair and let nothing appear to them except her face, opened the door.

•The old woman: Come in, please. Saber is washing his face. I’ve woken him up and he’ll be with you shortly.

•Sa’eed: Wait a minute; I’ll just go to my house to get something quickly.

•George: Jamal, are you sure this is a Christian house?

•Jamal: Yes, according to what they have told us.

•George: Then why does the woman cover her hair?

•Jamal: Even though I know the answer, I’d prefer if you hear it from them.

Uncle Sa’eed returned with coffee and some food and put them before George and Jamal.

•Sa’eed: I told my neighbor not to prepare anything as I had everything ready. Also we surprised him with the visit, and his guests are my guests.

•Saber: Thank you for the food and coffee, and for bringing the guests.

•George: Jamal, ask them how long they’ve been neighbors?

•Saber: Sa’eed has been my friend since I was 12 years old, when my father and his were neighbors.

•George: But you don’t follow the same religion!

•Saber: True, but we’re neighbors and friends. Every day Sa’eed advises me about Islam and he wants me to embrace it.

•George: Ask him about his view of Islam and Christianity, and the relationship between them.

•Saber: Son, Jesus and Muhammad are all messengers of God, and my father and I are Christians, and Sa’eed and his father are Muslims, and the relationship between us has been good for a long time.

•George: Ask him why he didn’t convert to Islam since he believes that Muhammad is a Messenger of God?

•Saber: Ha ha ha! Sa’eed also believes that Jesus is the messenger of God, so why didn’t he convert to Christianity then?!

•George: Because the Muslim believes that Jesus is the Messenger of God, but the Christians don’t believe that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.

•Saber: The same words of Sa’eed! Do you want the truth, my son? I’m afraid to leave what my father and my grandfather believed in, otherwise I’m pretty convinced by what Sa’eed says, and he is dearer to me than my cousins, but I have a question for you: are you Christian or Muslim?

•George: Sorry, but I want to keep the answer to that question to myself, for the sake of time and because I have another question: why does your wife wear a scarf like the Muslims?

•Saber: My wife dresses just like all Egyptian women, Christians and Muslims!

•George: Christian women in Europe don’t cover their heads.

•Saber: I know that in Europe women used to cover their heads and sometimes even their faces, and this habit didn’t change until only recently. If you want to check this fact, then look at pictures of your grandmothers or their mothers! They dress the same way our women do, but young girls and especially Christians love imitating you, though I wish they would only imitate your good points.

•George: Why is this? And why especially Christians?

•Saber: Because the religion for Muslims is like a dye that changes all of the person’s life, and sins and faults are eliminated only by sincere repentance. While as for Christians, the religion only alters one’s life when he is in the church. And for us, it is enough that Jesus has redeemed us from all our sins, so the problem of sinning is solved.

•George: Express my gratitude to them for entertaining us! We must go now so as not to be late for our dinner reservation at the hotel.

They said farewell to Uncle Sa’eed and Uncle Saber, and walked to the car.

•Jamal: Have you achieved what you wanted?

•George: Yes. And my mind is on the brink of exploding. I feel like there is a volcano exploding inside of me, and had it not been for the appointment with Diana and her uncle, I would have tried to stay longer with these simple people. They express a deep and simple view of life. Jamal, excuse me, I don’t feel like talking much.

•Jamal: Okay.

George’s head was nearly blowing up due to the pressure of only one question: “What stands between you and the path to happiness?” He kept thinking, “Are you a coward? Has the way not become clear to you yet?! Or do you know what you don’t want and don’t know what you want!?” He wished that the questions would not be so difficult on his mind which had become troubled due to the quantity and quality of information that had been offered to it.

•George: We have almost arrived at the hotel. I’ve invited Diana and her uncle to dinner too.

•Jamal: And what do you plan to do?

•George: I want to encourage the woman to embrace Islam and solve the problem with her uncle.

•Jamal: Fabulous! You’ve become an advocate of Islam, but when will you yourself become a Muslim?

•George: As I said to Uncle Saber, I’m keeping the answer to that question to myself, as my head is almost bursting due the greatness of the question, or maybe I just want to run away from it - I don’t know!

•Jamal: How will you call her to Islam, O caller?!

•George: Thanks for your mockery! She wants to embrace Islam, but she is afraid of her uncle, and so I plan on removing this fear.

•Jamal: How?

•George: You’ll see, as we’ve arrived.

•Jamal: The important thing is not to cause any problem for Diana with her uncle.

•George: We’ve arrived on time. I’ll go upstairs quickly to put down my bag and then come to you in the restaurant.

Jamal entered the restaurant and found Diana and her uncle sitting together at the same table, waiting for George, so he sat down with them.

•Jamal: George went upstairs to put his bag down and will be with us soon.

•Amir: I don’t know what he wants. Once he learned that I’m Diana’s uncle, he insisted on inviting me to dine with him. Do you know what he wants?

•Jamal: Diana probably knows..!

•Diana: I don’t know anything! He told me in the morning that he would contact me to answer my question: ‘Why hasn’t he become a Muslim?’ I was surprised that he invited me to dinner!

George arrived at the hotel restaurant. Diana saw him and signaled to him from afar, so he went towards the table where they were sitting.

•George: Let me introduce you to each other. This is Amir, the regional director of our company in Egypt, and this is Diana, the distinguished programmer. This is my Muslim friend, who is not a programmer, but his specialty is the father of programming; I mean mathematics.

•Diana: My uncle is the director of your company?!

•George: He is efficient enough to be the director of the company, and this is according to the testimony of all his colleagues, even though they are Muslims.

•Amir: Thank you for thinking well of me.

•George: But I’m still surprised that his fellows are Muslims and yet they are the ones who nominated him to be the director!

Diana smiled and said:

•Diana: What’s so strange about that?!

•George: Some Christians prevent people from embracing Islam.

Amir said with astonishment:

•Amir: Because they don’t understand Islam very well!

•George: Amir, do you mean that you don’t see anything wrong with them embracing Islam?!

•Amir: I’ll tell you what I’m convinced of, although you may not want to hear it, but I don’t see anything wrong if a Christian embraces Islam. In fact there is something you may not know about me, which is that three weeks ago I started visiting one of the centers that explains Islam to the people. And who knows, maybe I’ll become a Muslim soon?!

•George: Your uncle might embrace Islam, so what is holding you back from doing the same?

•Diana: Ha ha ha! Now I understand. Ha, ha, ha!

•George: What do you understand? What’s wrong with you?

•Diana: Uncle Amir is not the uncle whom I told you about.

•George: How come? So you mean he is the brother of your uncle that you told me about.

•Diana: No, and you’ll probably be surprised by what I am going to say; but my grandfather married more than one wife.

•George: He is Christian and was married to more than one wife?! I don’t know any Christian who advocates polygamy!

•Diana: Who said that? We’ve had those who professed that the Bible does not prohibit polygamy, not even that, but also Pope Mark V was imprisoned because he rejected polygamy while the people wanted it, and they were supported by some bishops at the time. So there is polygamy, whether this was because of the influence of the Muslims, as their enemies say, or because the New Testament does not prohibit it as some of the supporters of polygamy from among the bishops say, or because polygamy is better than having mistresses. In any case, my grandfather’s wife died and he remarried. So Amir is my uncle, but he is not the full brother of my uncle, Marcos, whom I told you about. He is his half-brother; the son of his father.

•George: Amazing! People want polygamy?!

•Amir: Now I understand why you invited me. You thought I was the one who was preventing Diana from embracing Islam.

•George: Yes!

Diana pursed her lips and said firmly:

•Diana: But I understood that the invitation was to tell me why you hadn’t converted to Islam.

Jamal, with wonderment…

•Jamel: Let me intervene, and this is very true by the way. If you are so eager for Diana to embrace Islam, then why don’t you convert to Islam yourself?

•Diana: I have asked him this question, but he keeps evading the answer. So I thought the invitation was to tell me the answer to that question. Could you answer the question now?

•George: I should answer it, but if you’ll allow me some time, I’d be grateful to you.

Amir smiled while he said...

•Amir: Then don’t answer; we want the answer, but when it is said without you feeling embarrassed.

Diana looked up and said:

•Diana: I know the answer and I’ll keep it to myself as long as you don’t want to say it.

•George: Thank you all, but I don’t think anyone knows what’s inside me!

•Diana: You’re a human being, and you want happiness. My Uncle Amir and I are the same, and what has prevented us is the same that is preventing you, whether we’re courageous and declare the reason, or are cowards and hide it even from our own selves. For example, I lie to myself and use the circumstances as an excuse when I say that the reason is because of my uncle, Marcos! If I had the courage and was truly free, I would have made the decision.

•George: You are confusing me! Then what is preventing you?

Diana wiped her hand on her hair and said:

•Diana: What is really stopping me is the same thing that is preventing you and Uncle Amir, and we’ve allowed you not to tell us so as not to make your contradictions clear in front of yourself, so why don’t you also allow us not to tell you. Every person has contradictions, aspirations and desires inside himself, and being truthful with oneself is often difficult, especially if it’s to do with why he is actually alive, and the meaning of his existence and his life. That’s why people flee from this difficulty with wine and trivial merrymaking, as I did, acting like a weak coward!

Amir was apparently amazed and touched by Diana’s words. He looked down and said,

•Amir: I understand very well what you are saying. A person has to live happily and discover himself in order to recognize his Lord and enjoy his life. But it’s still a decision that has to be taken based on one’s own free choice and it also needs a lot of courage, and you, Diana, are the bravest one among us. That’s why you said what you did.

Jamal kept turning his face from one guest to the other. He did not thoroughly comprehend what was being said...

•Jamal: I don’t understand anything! What courage are you talking about?!

Despite her deep soft voice, Diana said firmly:

•Diana: The courage to get rid of the diseases of the soul and to overcome life’s circumstances and its desires, suspicions and compulsions. The freedom to make a decision that is different from anything you’re used to, and to overcome all the suspicions you have and also overcome any cunning plot that may be directed against you… and also the courage to believe what your tongue itself keeps denying although your heart knows it very well.

•Jamal: I’m still trying to understand!

•Amir: Maybe it is difficult for you to understand because you were born a Muslim. But as for me, I understand what Diana means and I think George understands it as well.

Diana’s eyes filled with tears as she said:

•Diana: Except if he doesn’t want to understand, or if he doesn’t want to show that he understands. Many people flee from themselves to give themselves the delusion that they feel happy.

All of the stages of his exploratory journey flashed through George’s mind in front of him, like a film on fast forward. He remembered all the verses he had read from the Qur’an, all the situations he had gone through and all the contradictions he had tried to find answers to. George’s confused looks showed the volcano that was moving inside of him, which he was trying by all means to hide, but couldn’t, so he decided to limit his words.

•George: Yes, I understand.

•Jamal: I understand that you’re talking about mysteries, and the good that I wish is that you all accept Islam to attain happiness in this world and the Hereafter, and to gain all the best of every religion. Allah has told the truth when He said: [This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion] (Al-Mai-idah:3), the religion, our guide, has been completed and the favor of God on us has been fulfilled with this religion of Islam.

•George: Now I think I finally understand very well what I have been looking for since a long time ago.

•Jamal: What is it that you were looking for?

•George: I was searching for myself and for a meaning to my life and my existence. I eventually understand that I need to look for the light of true monotheism and to have a beautiful view of life; to look for the pleasures of the spirit, mind and the soul.

Diana wiped her tears and said,

•Diana: This is exactly what I’m looking for!

•George: At last I’ve found that the fine line that regulates the beads of my life have become a beautiful necklace! Finally I know very well why I was created and why I am alive.

•Jamal: I don’t understand anything. Could you tell me what you mean?!

Diana’s face shone with a wide smile and she said:

•Diana: I feel the same as you! You are more courageous and more able to make a free choice than me. How beautiful are the times when one is truly honest with oneself!

•George: Now I understand what I want, and I understand Adam and Motee’ Ar-Rahman. I understand Levvi, Tom, Katrina, Habib, Urmila, Michael, Janolka, Kach and more importantly, I understand George. Now I understand the meaning of life!

•Diana: Who are these people you have mentioned?

Amir’s eyes filled with tears as he said:

•Amir: I understand you now, George. How wonderful you are!

•George: And I understand the words of the old man about the path to happiness

•Amir: Who is the old man?! Can you guide us to the path to happiness?!

•George: My soul has answered me. I’ve just heard it. How much I owe you all!

•Amir: Your soul answered you?!

•George: Yes, I’ve been separated from my soul. My mind and my intellect recognized the way, but I kept my soul far from it.

Amir opened his eyes in amazement and said:

•Amir: It seems like you’re describing me. And what did your soul say?

•George: It says to me: ‘How can you make this world be connected with the Afterlife, and how can you make the self live a life which is built on true monotheism which gives meaning to life; built on the worship of the One and Only Creator of this vast Universe we live in, Who has no counterpart? This is what I need’

Diana was highly touched as she kept wiping her tears away from her face.

•Diana: The world is connected with the Hereafter?

•George: Yes, and now after understanding these needs of the soul, my soul has become in harmony with knowledge, and the self is in harmony with reason, and they both embrace each other instead of being in conflict. How much their conflict was making me suffer!

•Diana: Amazing! How beautiful are the times when the fog of confusion and troubles becomes lifted! How is your soul now?

George’s face was shining as he said,

•George: Now the pleasures of the body and the soul are in harmony. Simpleness and deep profoundness are in harmony. The world and the Hereafter are in harmony, and principles and one’s interests are also in harmony. Everything fits in together.

•Diana: Amazing! Wonderful!

•George: I’ll travel tomorrow evening to London; to announce the good news to him: that I have understood and found the path to happiness. How unfair I was with myself and how much of my life did I waste.

•Diana: To whom?

•George: The old man who assured to me that my soul is the one that will find the path to happiness.

•Diana: What about the company that you’re opening here?

•George: I’ll finish its procedures tomorrow morning, and my flight will be at eight o’clock on Friday evening, the day after tomorrow. And I want to tell the old man that I’ve listened to my soul and my life, and I have found the answer; so my life and my soul have become arranged and make sense. How I would like to express this to all those who are dear to me, as I’m happy now. I’m really happy! I have finally found the path to happiness!

•Diana: I congratulate you, George.

•George: I beg your pardon and excuse me; I’d like to go up to my room now.

George went up to his room and wrote the following to his mailing group:
“Dear those who were with me in the search for the path to happiness, I have found it! I have found it. Finally, I have found it! How happy I am! I have found the answer to my difficult questions. You all deserve to have your chests expanded and your hearts lightened. You all deserve the peace of mind and the light of true monotheism, worshipping the One and only Creator of this vast Universe that we live in. You all deserve your souls to be happy and for it to reach what it yearns for. You all deserve to know the correct way to live in this world and to experience the beauty of life. You all deserve happiness in this world and in the Hereafter. I wish you all the best and I hope you will all find the path to happiness as I have found it. Yes, I have found it: the way in which my soul, myself and my mind are all in harmony, the world and the Hereafter are in harmony, and pleasure of the body and the soul harmony. Me, myself and I are finally in harmony together after being apart. Everything fits in together perfectly. I’ve answered all my questions. Indeed, it is the path to happiness. All praise is due to Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Generous! Love, George Neason”