Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Salat al-Janazah (21 JUN 2016)

[Author's Note: This story directly follows OPERATION DEMON HYMN despite being published after OPERATION COLD HYMN; Due to real life issues, and the sensitive subject matter in this story, it took much longer to write than it should have.
Also note that this is a work of fiction, written by a Christian and an American. I have solicited advice from muslim acquaintances, but this is pretty much entirely the result of internet research. No disrespect is intended if I have not gotten any details right. I hope to show honor to any and all muslim troopers who adhere to the rightful teachings of the Prophet, and to those who fight the good fight to defend their fellow man, no matter what their creed or beliefs.]


It was another somber night in the XCOM HQ.

The Skyranger, bearing the remains of SGT Khadem had just departed for Egypt, where he would be interred with all proper ceremony by his family. The barracks and the common areas were full, but quiet, as they always were following the death of a comrade. Unlike the previous times, there remained a small group in the hangar.

-

CPL Jared Houston looked around at the others. CPL Ramli, SPC Safar and PFC Benhassi were known to him, but not exceptionally well, but they all shared the same faith. When Khadem's death had been reported, SGT Hassan had requested Houston to visit in the medbay, where he'd asked him to prepare for funeral rites for Khadem. Jared had agreed immediately, though he was only a somewhat recent convert to Islam. He was the ranking person of the islamic faith, and XCOM had no chaplains. The Skyranger was inbound with the squad and SGT Khadem's remains, so he got to work.

Between his copy of the Qur’an and the internet to fill in the blanks, Jared got a passable understanding of funeral rites. Once he was done, he hesitantly approached CPL Ramli, who was also from Egypt, with his plans. She was surprised to be consulted, but she agreed that, under the circumstances, with such a mixed lot of islamic faithful, that following some of the general muslim funeral rites would be best. The he went to Bradford, to request the remains be given to his brothers and sister for preparation, before being sent home.

The Skyranger was vectoring in for a landing when the word came back from the Commander. With no chaplain on staff, it seemed appropriate that Khadem be honored as best as he could be by his fellow troopers, though their time would be limited, in order to get him home to his family as expeditiously as possible. CPL Houston asked Central Officer Bradford to relay their gratitude, and that it would be enough.

When the Skyranger landed, they discovered that SPC Dhalon had been wounded, and would not be able to join them. He, like SGT Hassan, would be stuck in medbay. This left the task of preparing SGT Khadem's body to the four of them.

Houston, Safar and Benhassi had prayed and performed their ablutions to become wudhu prior to the Skyranger's arrival, so CPL Ramli escorted the medics who brought the corpse to them. They did not have the necessary herbs to make sidr or camphor water, a problem that Bradford said they'd try to fix for the future, so they'd opted just to do the three cleansings with pure water drawn up from the natural reservoirs beneath the XCOM HQ.

Khadem's body was mostly untouched, except for his head. He'd taken the plasma blast above his left eye, and most of his head on that side was gone, and the burns marred much of the rest of his face. The only grace was that the heat had completely cauterized the wound. Houston had helped guide the medics in placing the body with the feet facing northeast, toward Mecca. Once they had left, and CPL Ramli had stepped outside, they carefully stripped the body, placing a folden linen bedsheet over the lower belly to upper legs, and then began the ghusl mayyit.

Later, after the body had been enshrouded in a kafan improvised from bedsheets, they'd finally taken SGT Khadem's body back to the hangar. Jared prayed that their efforts would be acceptable to the family, and would be sure to push the issue of proper funeral preparations in the future. Still, though it had not been the same as might have happened in a primarily islamic nation, Houston felt that SGT Khadem would be satisfied with the honor paid to him by his brothers and sister.

-

The hangar doors close above, cutting off the dim twinkle of starlight, and leaving the four in darkness and silence. With no words exchanged, they turn and file out of the hangar, making their way through the corridors to the medbay, where Hassan and Dhalon await. It had been decided that, even though his body would not be present, that they would recite the Salat al-Janazah for themselves and their fallen brother. His face only betraying the slightest nervousness, Houston stepped forward, and his fellow troopers gathered around the two medical beds in front of him.

"Allahu Akbar," he began, then took a breath and continued. "B-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi..."

The prayer continued, with the other troopers murmuring and speaking at the appropriate moments. A few times, Jared caught hesitation and realized he must have done or said something incorrectly, but he pushed through it the best he could. It didn't take long before he felt the sting of tears, and the warmth of them upon his cheeks, but he didn't allow his voice to waver.

"Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatu-Allah", he intoned, bringing the prayer to an end and bowing his head for the final time. Peace and blessings of God be upon you, my brother. Finally wiped his eyes, and saw tears standing on the cheeks of the troopers gathered in front of him. The small smile from the bed-bound Hassan told him that he'd done well enough.