Excerpt: Mahmoud AbdelShakour's first novel ‘Habiba as Recollected by Nadim‘

Ahram Online , Saturday 2 Oct 2021

The following is an excerpt from the first novel of literary critic and author Mahmoud AbdelShakour, Habiba Kama Rawaha Nadim ("Habiba as Recollected by Nadim").

Mahmoud AbdelShakour s

He is wounded with the swords of Yomna and those of Habiba. There is no place left in his heart without a wound. He felt weak. He felt sorry for himself. He felt humiliated. He felt that this was so unfair on him. He looked at the sky and tears came to his eyes. He remembered the Quranic verse: “And (remember) Job, when He cried to his Lord, ‘Truly distress has seized me, but Thou art the Most Merciful of those that are merciful.’”

“This is so unfair, I don’t deserve any of it,” he said to himself with so much sorrow and pain.

He spent a whole night staring at the ceiling of his bedroom. He was just trying to remember a time when he did so much unfairness to anyone that would merit such pain to come upon him. Where is the poetic justice here? Even the most reckless and immoral people, those who kill and commit all sorts of crimes end up with at least one happy-ending.

He screamed out loud: “What did I do to deserve this?”

There was simply no answer. There were just tears over and over again. He remembered poet Fouad Hadad when he wrote:

“I cried and I dried my tears

Only to cry again as I was trying to dry my tears”

In the morning he remembered this story of the three men who got caught up in a deep dark cave. He remembered that one of these three suggested that each one should recall a story of something he did out of love for God, out of sheer mercy and benevolence. And with every story of kindness being, as the story goes, the big rock at the entrance of the cave moved a little. Ultimately, with the third and last story of kindness told, the cave opened and they all found their way out of its deep terrifying darkness. They were rescued by their kind doing.

He never thought so deeply about this story before.

He might not have been a very pious man in terms of observing rituals but he clearly never lost faith; he always thought that there is this might and overwhelming power that runs this world. He knows, perhaps more than most others would do, that there is this incredible unseen power that grants some people but not all this magic touch of creativity. After all, it has be an All Mighty power that grants some, like AbdelWahab, Thouma, AbdelHalim, Najat, Faryrouz [such beautiful and talented singers] their beautiful voice that others were not endowed with.

He is perhaps the one that could talk for hours on this ambiguous nature of love and creativity. He knows better than anyone else that these are not things that can be explained in the ordinary norms of science or logic. He knows, more than most other people, that it is in the act of art and the talent of artists that the Almighty manifests his unequaled greatness through an inexplicable and magic touch of talent.

He once wrote in an article of his, “We are in an endless state of imitation without ever reaching that point of sublime creativity; we are endlessly trying to chase this ray of His beaming light; and we are endlessly dreaming to be gifted with an element of infinity by the All Eternal.

His faith could be said to have a Sufi soul as he believed that there is one and only law that makes the world goes round: it is the law of love.”

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