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Author Topic: PC346: The Pilgrim and the Angel  (Read 4350 times)

Talia

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on: January 17, 2015, 07:56:11 PM
PodCastle 346: The Pilgrim and the Angel

by E. Lily Yu

Read by Rajan Khanna

Originally published in McSweeney’s Quarterly 45.

Three days before Mr. Fareed Halawi was washed and turned to face the northeast, a beatific smile on his face, he had the unusual distinction of entertaining the angel Gabriel at the coffeeshop he operated in the unfashionable district of Moqattam in Cairo. Fareed was tipped back in his monobloc chair, watching the soccer game on television. The cigarette between his lips wobbled with disapproval at the referee’s calls. Above him on the wall hung the photograph of a young man, barely eighteen, bleached to pale blue. His rolled-up prayer mat rested below. It was a quiet hour before lunch, and the coffeeshop was empty. Right as the referee held up a yellow card, a scrub-bearded man strode in.

“Peace to you, Fareed,” the stranger boomed. “Arise!”

Fareed laughed and tapped out a grub of ash. “Peace to you. New to the neighborhood?”

“Not at all. I know you, Fareed,” the stranger said. “You pray with devotion and give generously to the poor.”

“So does my neighbor,” said Fareed, “though that hasn’t helped him find a husband for his big-nosed daughter. Can I get you a glass of tea?”

“The one thing you lack to perfect your faith is the hajj.”

“Well, with business as slow as it is, and one thing and another…” Fareed coughed. “Truth is, may God forgive me, I’m saving up to visit my son. He’s an electrician in Miami. Doesn’t call home. What would you like to drink?”

“I have come to take you on hajj.”


Rated PG.

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« Last Edit: February 03, 2015, 08:13:36 PM by Talia »



Anyanwu

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Reply #1 on: January 18, 2015, 05:12:00 PM
Brilliant story! Mr. Halawi's hajj was not incomplete. In fact his desperate  desire to see to the well being of his son, echoes Hagar's desperate attempt to find water for her son. Like Hagar, Mr. Halawi is gifted with opportunity to provide his son with "water of life:" faith, family, forgiveness, and acceptance. Like Hagar, Mr. Halawi is gifted with a promise of future generations. Make no mistake, at its heart this is a completed hajj, a perfected faith. Strong work, Pod Castle! As-salamu alaykum



mkhobson

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Reply #2 on: January 18, 2015, 08:17:47 PM
I appreciate that perspective, Anyanwu! And I do prefer the "happy" interpretation of the ending.  :)

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FireTurtle

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Reply #3 on: January 19, 2015, 01:55:50 AM
Brilliant story! Mr. Halawi's hajj was not incomplete. In fact his desperate  desire to see to the well being of his son, echoes Hagar's desperate attempt to find water for her son. Like Hagar, Mr. Halawi is gifted with opportunity to provide his son with "water of life:" faith, family, forgiveness, and acceptance. Like Hagar, Mr. Halawi is gifted with a promise of future generations. Make no mistake, at its heart this is a completed hajj, a perfected faith. Strong work, Pod Castle! As-salamu alaykum

Yay! Mr. Halawi's request to see his son seemed to noble. Sacrificing his hajj to reunite his family seemed like a true act of faith but receded beyond the bounds of my knowledge of Islam. Completely accepting this interpretation because I really like a situation when family wins over personal desire. (Simplifying things, yes but I need to get my daughter out of the tub before she destroys something.)


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ElectricPaladin

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Reply #4 on: January 20, 2015, 12:14:36 AM
I really loved this story. It was very sweet and touching. I was also under the impression that Mr. Halawi was going to be okay - God's not that big of a jerk. Also, I didn't think that the hajj was a prerequisite for getting into heaven, but I'm a Jew who studied Islam briefly, so I'm sure there are others who could answer that question more thoroughly than I.

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RDNinja

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Reply #5 on: January 22, 2015, 10:04:25 PM
I liked the parallelism in this story. Gabriel visits Fareed (which, if he was as pious as Gabriel insisted, he should have been thrilled about), but he reacts with annoyance. So to give him a taste of his own medicine, Gabriel grants his request to visit his son, where he's on the receiving end of the exact same reaction to his visit.

It's possible Fareed got to complete his Hajj after visiting his son. Maybe that got Fareed's attention, and he was able to show God the same kind of gratitude and closeness that he wanted from his son. Or maybe Gabriel realized he was a lost cause, but gave him one last chance for mercy's sake anyway, and used it to get Ahmed's attention instead.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #6 on: January 22, 2015, 10:53:57 PM
I liked the parallelism in this story. Gabriel visits Fareed (which, if he was as pious as Gabriel insisted, he should have been thrilled about), but he reacts with annoyance. So to give him a taste of his own medicine, Gabriel grants his request to visit his son, where he's on the receiving end of the exact same reaction to his visit.

It's possible Fareed got to complete his Hajj after visiting his son. Maybe that got Fareed's attention, and he was able to show God the same kind of gratitude and closeness that he wanted from his son. Or maybe Gabriel realized he was a lost cause, but gave him one last chance for mercy's sake anyway, and used it to get Ahmed's attention instead.

Angels are really annoying.

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Unblinking

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Reply #7 on: January 28, 2015, 04:25:48 PM
I was interested throughout, but the ending completely lost me.  I mean, I got that he was dead, but seemed pretty random.  In hindsight and with Hobson's comments I see that he must've been approaching death and had to go on his Hajj to be ready for the afterlife, but I relistened to that ending 3 times and still didn't get it.  Did the angel kill him to exact a cost for making him haul him all the way to Florida and back?  That was my thought on it, which gave me a very much "So WTF was that actually supposed to be about then?" reaction, which probably wasn't the intent.  If I'd read just the story without any commentary that's probably what I would still think happened, so I think the ending really lost me.

Brilliant story! Mr. Halawi's hajj was not incomplete. In fact his desperate  desire to see to the well being of his son, echoes Hagar's desperate attempt to find water for her son. Like Hagar, Mr. Halawi is gifted with opportunity to provide his son with "water of life:" faith, family, forgiveness, and acceptance. Like Hagar, Mr. Halawi is gifted with a promise of future generations. Make no mistake, at its heart this is a completed hajj, a perfected faith. Strong work, Pod Castle! As-salamu alaykum

Thanks for posting that perspective.  In my own point of view I felt like he did the right thing asking to see his son, especially wanting to do so to be certain his son is safe and to reassure his wife of that fact even though God's messenger is standing right in front of you telling you there is something else you're supposed to be doing--that would take guts and I loved the character for it.  But I don't know a lot about Islam, so I couldn't have said whether my opinion meshed with someone who was a member of the faith. 



Moritz

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Reply #8 on: January 29, 2015, 12:42:40 PM
I have mixed feelings about the story. It was well written and has a nice message, though he did not complete a Hajj (more on that later). It reminded me a bit of the magical realism in Salman Rushdie's work, which I mean as a compliment. On the other hand, the motive of father trying to reconcile with "lost" son was handled in a very straightforward way which I thought could have been done a bit more interestingly.

Now, concerning the Hajj, in my humble interpretation (I am not a scholar, but I have actually been on Hajj in 1433/2012) he did not perform Hajj, because he only completed the rituals of 'umra (including tawaf and sayy) but not the standing at 'arafah, listening to the sermon, and the stoning of the devil. You could accept that some parts of the story could be metaphors for these rituals, but I didn't see such parallels within the story. Also, as far as I know, drinking zamzam water is not a requirement, though it's kind of a no-brainer, because the Masjid al-Haram, which incorporates the two hills and the Ka'aba, is full of little faucets connected to zamzam. ... this doesn't invalidate the message of the story in any way, though.



Devoted135

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Reply #9 on: February 01, 2015, 02:00:42 AM
I enjoyed this as another "angel gets in the way of regular person's daily life" story. Nice to see it from the perspective of another religion this time. :) FWIW, I also thought that he must have been about to die without realizing it and the angel came to give him one last shot at the hajj.



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Reply #10 on: February 02, 2015, 03:33:43 AM
I've got a lot of feels for this story, so much so I've relistened to it a couple of times, tried to write a post capturing my thoughts, and failed. So I'll just say I think it was beautiful and well-layered, and I appreciate that it's a story about reconciliation on several levels. Anyanwu nailed it with the Hagar parallelism too--that stood out to me too.

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albionmoonlight

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Reply #11 on: February 12, 2015, 02:11:36 PM
FWIW, I also thought that he must have been about to die without realizing it and the angel came to give him one last shot at the hajj.

That's what I got, too.

I really really liked this story.  I thought that it was wonderful to have a fantasy story that unabashedly embraced a mainstream religious tradition.  I also thought that the parallel between Hagar and Fareed were very well done.  Fareed's son was just as much in a desert as Hagar's son.  It was just a desert of isolation and not sand.  And he went on a desperate journey to save him.

I also felt like this whole story was full of light and joy, which was another wonderful and refreshing approach that you don't always see in contemporary fantasy.

Very, very well done.