The Hollow Crown
The main office at the Concord Mosque, Imam Faisal dressed casually in a sweater and cords is talking to two slightly younger men both dressed in business suits, a middle aged woman wearing a hajib but otherwise dressed casually is tidying some papers at a desk. There is a knock at the door and a man dressed in an overcoat and scarf against the weather enters.
‘As-salam alaykum Imaad’ says Imam Faisal, ‘Wa `alayks-salām’ replies Imaad warming hugging the Imam, ‘thank you for coming says the Imam, I wanted to thank you you for all the work you and friends are doing on behalf of the Mosque’, he indicates the two younger men, ‘you will recognise Mr Khan and Mr Malik’, more greetings are exchanged before the Imam continues, ‘they are here as representatives of the Mosque trustees who also wanted to express their thanks’. The man introduced as Mr Malik speaks ‘We are very grateful for the things you have done for us and the wonderful way your friends have helped too, particularly your good friend Mr Hardcastle’, Imaad cringes slightly but luckily they don’t seem to notice, ‘we thank Allah for the gifts we have recieved’ Mr Malik continues before the Imam speaks ‘We thank the givers for their gifts and we thank Allah for making them so generous!’, Mr Malik momenteraly glares at the Imam before composing his features, Mr Khan seeming to surpress a laugh coughs. Imaad smiles and nods, ‘you are familiar with that quote?’ asks the Imam, ‘yes it’s Rumi, from the Mathnawi, it’s a book I use a lot in my teachings’ says Imaad. The Imam smiles ‘how are your teachings going?’, ‘Very well thank you’. Mr Khan speaks ‘Are many of your students Muslims?’, ‘practicing Muslims?’ Says Imaad, ‘virtually none’, ‘yes practicing Muslims’ says Mr Khan. ‘Since the Holy Koran says all are born Muslim! interjects Mr Malik gleefully. Mr Khan glares at him, there is quite clearly some rivalry there.
The small talk continues for a while until the woman ,who had finished tidying the papers, comes over and joins in, ’How old are you Imaad?’, ‘30’, ‘are you married?’, the Imam interjects, ‘you know Imaad isn’t married his lady has accompanied him here, you have seen her’, the woman speaks again ‘ah yes the blonde American woman, is she older than you Imaad, she looks older than you’, the Imam grimaces and Imaad starts to answer, ‘eh…’, ‘You need to be sure she’s not too old’, Imaad looks at the woman slightly confused, ‘Children Imaad! They are a gift from Allah! Has she mentioned children?, ’No..’, ‘selfish Imaad, American women are selfish, career focused’, Imaad continues to stare at the woman who hardly seems to pause for breath, her and Eleanor do seem to have somethings in common he thought though he wasn’t about to mention it, ‘eh…’, the woman continues ‘we could find you a nice Pak..’, ‘Enough!’ the Imam shouts ’Imaad’s relationship is not your concern, go and help downstairs!’ The woman meekly gets up and leaves though she shuts the door rather louder than is necessary.
‘Sorry about that’ says the Imam, ‘my wife likes to play eh, happy families!’, Mr Khan & Mr Malik laugh, ‘Not at all, I think American and Pakistani women are not as dissimilar as they might like to think!’, they all laugh before the Imam continues, ‘your friend’, ‘Eleanor’, ‘Yes Eleanor, seems very nice and will always be welcome here, please thank her on our behalf for the assistance she has already given to us’, Mr Khan & Mr Malik nod in agreement.
The Imam glances at his watch, ‘come we had better prepare for evening prayers’, they all get up to leave and as they do so Mr Malik turns to Imaad, ‘After late prayers some people are coming to my home, I have satellite TV, Australia Pakistan!’ he mimes playing a cricket stroke, ‘I have satellite too!’ says Mr Khan, ‘and I have bigger TV!’
Imaad smiles at them both, ‘thank you both for the invitations but I am tired and have much to do tomorrow’.
On the way home Imaad checked the business cards he had received from Mr Khan and Mr Malik, it seemed Mr Khan was the owner of K Star Drugs a pharmacy chain and Mr Malik owned CMIT a Cambridge based IT Support Company. When he got home he showed the cards to Eleanor who recognised both, she used to shop at K Star when she was mortal and had had some contact with CMIT while working as they had done some work at the university.