Lieutenant Mary Bowden

Lieutenant Mary Bowden

by Emily W

lieutenant_mary_bowden

 

At first Mary sat in a stunned daze in the cockpit. The crash had been as brief as it had been terrifying. Once it was over she still needed several moments to collect herself. Even now, staring down at her hands she had trouble believing she had survived the crash. Slowly her senses returned and she opened up the cockpit. With her sidearm and supplies in hand she stepped out. The plane was partially buried in a sand dune and Mary was able to descend a gentle slope of the stuff before turning around.

She marveled at the sight of the wreck. The fighter jet was horribly mangled. It almost seemed like a miracle that she survived such a crash. There did not seem to be any fires or other signs that it was going to explode but just to be safe she quickly put some distance between herself and the jet. Once she thought she had distanced herself enough she turned around again to survey the scene.

The twisted wreck of the plane lay at the end of a long stretch of disturbed sand. Mary then slowly turned 360 degrees to survey her entire surroundings. For the most part it was nothing but a seemingly endless expanse of desert. The only thing that broke the landscape was a small hill off in the distance. The dark rocks of it contrasted with the white of the sand.

Mary took out her portable radio. The one in the plane was ruined so her only hope of reporting her position was the device in her hand. She adjusted it, trying to find a signal. All she could pick up was a distorted sound, it was not static. It sounded different somehow.

She turned her attention back to the small hill, really no more than a large pile of stones. She was going to need shade and since she was not entirely sure that her jet was not dangerous due to the damage inflicted by the crash she figured she had no choice but to search for it in the hills.

She lifted up all of her survival supplies and began the trek. When she had joined the air force she had become accustomed to keeping her body in top shape. The distance was probably less than a quarter of a mile and after just a few minutes she reached it. The hill was probably no higher than fifty feet up from where she stood. As she walked around it she found the far side bathed in shade. She hurried her pace a little and then collapsed into the (relative) coolness of the shade. She pulled out her radio and worked with it some more. Unable to make progress she took out her map and began to extrapolate her position.

She had taken off from an aircraft carrier off the coast and flown inland. Her mission had been reconnaissance. The world community had not taken a side in the civil war that had been raging in this small Arab country. Unlike some of the other Arab states, the country in which she was currently stranded was very resource poor. As a result, no one was particularly interested in the fighting that saw one tribe holding the coastal cities and the other holding the large interior. Still, conflicts were always a source of instability and the West was monitoring the situation. Lieutenant Mary Bowden had successfully completed her objective which was taking photographs of various rebel camps when she had experienced a severe jolt and the next thing she knew her craft was crashing to the ground. She did not think she was hit by a missile but she was still at a loss to explain the cause of the crash.

She touched the sidearm on her belt. She felt better having it with her.

After completing her work with the map she looked around some more. That is when she noticed it. There was a cave on the side of the hill. Instinctively she pulled out her handgun and brought it up to the ready. Her heart raced and her mind went through the different possibilities. The cave could be empty, it could have a wild animal in it, it could be a rebel position with men it in.

Slowly, cautiously she approached. She came from the side so that if there was anyone in the cave they would not notice her until she was right upon them. When she was only a few paces away she had to take several breaths to steady herself before she was ready. She quickly stepped in front of the entrance and after seeing what was inside she lowered her weapon.

The interior of the cave was about the size of a walk in closet. She returned her sidearm to its holster and stepped inside. The cave might make a useful place to escape the heat once the shade was gone.

She turned around to face the entrance but found only a rock wall. Confused she turned completely around. Was there a cave in? She did not hear anything. She panicked but soon the panic became confusion. If the entrance has closed in, then why was she still able to see?

Almost as if in response to that thought everything became dark. She immediately reached down for her side arm but found it was gone. All she found was here bare thigh. She wondered how she managed to reach her hand down under her pants when light returned and she discovered herself to be completely naked. She quickly covered her breasts with one arm and brought the other to between her legs.

The shock of her situation had only just worn off when another came.

Illumination returned to the room but what it revealed was not the small cave she had entered. She was instead in a long hallway of carved sandstone. lit torches were fixed at regular intervals along the hallway. Mary stood, naked and shaking for several minutes. The shock of everything that had happened left her immobilized. She simply looked down to the far end of the hallway. She could see that the hallway opened up into a room.

When she had worked up enough nerve she began to slowly walk down the hallway, her arms and hands still trying to cover her nakedness. As she approached the room she could see that it was large and rounded. There were torches illuminating it as well but because of the size of the room it was darker than the hallway.

She paused at the entrance of the room and slowly took all of it in. Aside from a stone walkway that led to a pillar in the center of the room there was no floor. She looked down but only saw darkness. An idea came to Mary and she reached down and picked up a stone from the floor. She tossed it down into the darkness below and waited to hear when it hit the ground.

It made no sound.

She looked around the curved wall of the room. At regular intervals there were other hallways but none of them had walkways leading to the pillar in the center of the room. The celling of the room formed a great dome of stone. On the center pillar were steps in the form of concentric circles that led up to a central platform large enough for a person to stand on.

Mary looked back at the hallway that ended in a dead end. Without any other options she figured she would continue on. She tested the walkway with a foot to make sure it was stable. Once she was satisfied that it was she began walking along it. Although the walkway was wide, it was still disconcerting to be walking above a seemingly endless void and she was relieved when she she finally made it to the central pillar. She took a moment to look down the various hallways. There were twelve in total and each seemed to be identical.

Mary took several steps up to the center platform and stood there for several minutes contemplating her situation. In a way she had taken it all in but at the same time she was in complete disbelief over what was happening. A thousand questions filled her head, all of them seemingly without an answer.

It was then that Mary noticed that the stone dome above her had disappeared. Instead she saw a dark sky full of stars. It had been day when she entered the cave. She wondered whether it was a hologram or something. The star field gradually descended and enveloped the entire room. Looking down Mary only saw the black sky beneath her which left her feeling slightly disoriented. She dared not move, if this was a hologram she risked stumbling into the void below. And if it was not a hologram…

Of all the extraordinary experiences she had had until now this was truly the most incredible. Her hands and arms came to rest at her sides, her nakedness forgotten.

Then she heard a voice. It was almost a whisper. It seemed to come from everywhere but nowhere, it was neither male nor female. It was simply a voice.

“Hear.”

Mary looked around at the star field around her. Nothing but blackness and small dots of light. “Hello?” Her voice was uneven, almost afraid.

Silence.

“Who are you?”

“The one who created you.”

Mary felt like someone had just dropped her. She had never been religious in her life. Her parents were non-practicing Christians so she grew up in a sort of secular form of cultural Christianity. But she had never believed.

“Do…you mean God?”

“I created all that you see before you. I created you and every being that has ever existed.”

Mary felt her heart racing. Too many ideas were coming into her head at once. “Am I dead?” The question frightened her. Here she was, a non-believer in front of God. Would she be judged and thrown into Hell?

“No.”

Relief but then confusion. Somehow she managed to keep talking.

“Why am I here?”

“To learn. To know. To teach.”

She thought about the response for a moment. It was cryptic, almost a riddle.

“I don’t understand.”

“That is why you must learn.”

“What am I to learn?”

The star field ascended up towards the top of the dome and disappeared. The room resumed its previous appearance. She stood there for a long time, shivering and half way scared out of her mind. As her senses returned she realized that there was a second walkway connected to the pillar now, one leading to the hallway next to the one from which she had emerged. With shaking limbs she descended the steps and began crossing the expanse to the hallway. When she reached the threshold she saw a room at the far end.

Her pace was a little quicker as she went down the sandstone hallway. She felt a little more confident of herself. She approached and then entered the room. It was small, especially compared to the one she just came from. It was about the size of her bedroom. Against the far wall there were five painted images, each had a small stone circle above it and the middle three had images on the circles. She walked over and began looking at them one by one. The first was of a man she thought looked like he was from biblical times. He stood next to a large square rock and looked up at the sky, presumably to God. Above the image the circle was blank. Next she saw an image she recognized. It was Moses with the ten commandments. Above this image was the Star of David. The third image was clearly of Jesus, above this image was a cross. The fourth image was of a man alone in a cave, above this image was a crescent. This made Mary pause. She knew the crescent was related to Islam, was the man in the painting suppose to be Mohammed?

She had never been religious or believed in God, but with her background she had always thought of the God she did not believe in as the Christian god. She lingered in front of this image a little more before moving on to the last. Like the first it had no symbol above it. At the center of the image was a woman in an all covering black outfit like the ones many women in the Middle East wore. She was on her knees on top of some fabric stretched out on the ground. To her sides where Arab men. Mary realized that they were the warring tribes that she had been taking surveillance pictures of. There was one tribe on one side and the other tribe opposite them. They had weapons laid down on the ground and were breaking bread with each other. The woman in the middle, with only her hands and a narrow slit for her eyes visible, seemed to be enjoining them to make peace with each other.

Mary stepped back and looked at all five images, trying to make sense of them. She supposed the first one to be Abraham, then there was Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and finally a woman wearing a veil. She did not understand the significance of the images. She stayed for a few moments before returning back to the central room. She again ascended the steps of the pillar and again the stars descended around her.

“What have you learned.” The voice said.

“I’m not sure. I did not understand. What was I looking at?”

“Those were my prophets and my servants.”

“But-” Mary stopped herself from speaking, afraid of her question which seemed silly considering she was speaking with God.

“What is it?”

“Why was Mohammed up there, with Jesus and Moses.”

“Mohammed was one of my prophets.”

“How could he be if Jesus and Moses were.”

“They are all in the book.”

“What book?”

“THE book.”

“What about the woman I saw, in the veil?”

There was no more responses. Instead the stars began to ascend again. Now a third walkway was visible. Mary quickly began down it and the hallway it led to.

The room she arrived at was another small space. In this one there was an ancient looking table with a white square on it. When Mary picked it up she realized it was cloth. Eager for the chance to not be naked she unfolded it. It seemed to be a single piece. When she finally had it unfolded and began putting it on she realized it was meant to cover her hair and head. She quickly covered her hair and brought it closed in front of her. Aside from her face and hands and brief glimpses of her feet it covered all of her.

She looked around the room one last time and then returned to the central room. Another walkway had appeared and she quickly went down it to what waited for her at the end of the hallway.

As she approached the room that lay at the end she realized there was a person standing there. She was dressed completely in black, with a veil on. The only parts of her tanned skin visible was her hands and a narrow slit where her brown eyes were.

“Hello?” Mary felt unsure of herself again.

“Hello. I am Aisha.”

“Oh, uh, I am Mary.”

“It is nice to meet you.”

“It is nice to meet you too, I guess. Who are you?”

“I am a servant of Allah.”

Those words made Mary’s heart stop. Ever since she had seen the painting of Mohammed she had been worried. As worried as she was about the Christian God being real, the idea of Muslim God being real was even more unsettling. Now the first being she has seen in this place is a veiled woman! Mary had always considered herself a feminist, she was top of her class at the military academy. Now to be confronted with this implication…

“Why are you here.”

“To talk with you.”

“To talk with me? About what?”

“About veiling.”

“Uh…what about it?”

“What are your thoughts about it”

Mary worried that she was being tested. She tried to be as vague as possible in her response.

“I’m not sure. What do you think?”

“I think that you disapprove of it.”

Mary felt like she was sinking into quicksand. If the Muslim God was real did that mean she was doomed?”

“I just don’t think that women should be oppressed.”

“You believe the veil oppresses women?”

“Well…yes.”

“It is understandable that you could have this misconception. That is why you are here, to learn.”

“You mean…the veil is not suppose to oppress women?”

“Of course not, it liberates women.”

“I do not understand.”

“It liberates them from the stares of men.”

“I understand, but is it necessary for women to have to go through that effort?”

“You want to be naked instead?”

“No!” Mary thought back to how quickly she had put on the white robe.

“I see you put on the jalbaiyah. Why did you put it on?”

“I did not want to be naked.”

“Deep down, inside, you understood it was better to be covered.”

“Yes-No. I mean, I did not want to be naked but I did not want to be veiled either.”

“Why did you not want to be naked?”

“I was uncomfortable.”

“You were uncomfortable because you knew it was immodest. That is why women wear the veil.”

“But it is different!”

“How?”

“Well, If I am wearing pants and a shirt I am not naked.”

“What is the difference?”

“Well, if I’m naked a man will become aroused.”

“Do men only become aroused by naked women?”

“Well…no.”

“What is the difference if a man looks at your breasts and becomes aroused and if he looks at your face and becomes aroused?”

“…I…” Mary could not think of a response.

“Go on to the next room, I will help you to understand there.”

Mary backed up a couple of steps and then turned around and returned to the central room. Another walkway had appeared. She followed it to the next room…

When she reached the next room it seemed to be completely empty. Then there was a flash and Mary found herself in a place of white light.

Aisha’s voice spoke to her. “Welcome.”

“What is this place?”

“This is to help you understand.”

Two figures emerged in front of Mary. To her shock both figures were her. Standing before her were two representations of herself. One was wearing a pink string bikini and the other was in a black abaya and was in the process of putting on the face veil that soon left only her hands and eyes visible. Mary looked from one representation to the other and felt her stomach knot up. One was of a black ghost of a figure, even the purse she carried was black. There was of a woman with long hair dyed platinum blonde. Her pink bikini was the barest of swimsuits that covered very little. Also…her breasts were much larger than Mary’s, by at least a couple of cup sizes. She wore pink high heels and held a pink purse in one hand and a cellphone in another that she brought up to her ear. Her face was heavy with makeup.

“There are two ways here. One is the way of Allah, of modesty and respect. The other is of degradation of a woman. Forced to wear less than underwear for the enjoyment of men. Her body surgically altered for the same reason. Her feet painfully perched on ridiculous heels.”

Mary did not particularly care for either image.

“You will experience both to understand the difference.”

“What do you-”

A blindly flash of light and suddenly Mary found herself on a boardwalk. It was a bright summer day and people were going about their business, some carrying bags from the tourist shop.

Mary looked down at herself and nearly collapsed. She now had a tanned body that was barely covered by that ridiculous pink string bikini. She brought her hands up to the ridiculously inflated breasts on her chests. A horrifying feeling was swelling inside of her. However, before she could react her body started moving of its own accord. As she walked along the boardwalk on towering heels her large breasts swayed.

Very quickly Mary became all too aware of the stares she was getting. Every man and teenage boy leered at her body. Mary felt aware of what they were thinking. Each man fantasied about using her in a sexual way. Mental images of her being forced to perform degrading sex acts flashed into her mind.

It was not just their thoughts that assaulted her. There were several catcalls and lewd comments. And one man walking by pinched one of her buttocks.

Soon she was standing in front of an ice cream stand. All during the process of deciding what she wanted, making her order, and paying, the clerk never once looked her in the eyes. Instead her openly leered at her breasts.

The rest of the time was spent in the company of a muscled blond man who was her boyfriend. He was aggressive and nearly got into a couple of fights with other people on the beach. Later in their hotel room they had rough sex in which she was forced to be on all fours like a dog.

When it was over Mary found herself breathing heavy. The experience had been a most unpleasant one. Mary had always considered herself tough but she found herself wanting to curl up and cry.

But before she could recover she found herself once more on the board walk. Only when she looked down it was not that horrible pink bikini. Instead she was completely covered in black. She could tell from her sight that she was seeing the world through the slit of her face veil. Soon her body was moving forward.

The contrast was stunning. There was no catcalls, no lewd comments. The thoughts the men had were all respectful. They all lowered their gazes out of respect. The ice cream clerk looked at her eyes when she spoke to him. Later she met up with an arab man with a trimmed beard. They had dinner together and had a pleasant conversation.

When it was over Mary found herself alone in the room. She walked down the hallway to the next room…

Inside the room was another table, this time with a stack of black clothes on it.

Mary stood motionless for what felt like an eternity. She understood what was now expected of her, but she felt as though she was at a crossroads. If she choose this path there would be no coming back.

With shaking hands she let the white cloth fall to the ground. She then reached out for the black clothing on the table. First Mary put on black underwear. Then she picked up thick and long black stockings. She pulls them up her legs to where they end just above her knees. After the stockings are on she then pulls onto her legs a pair of black baggy trousers that she then tightens with a draw string. Then she puts on some black slippers. Then the abaya comes on and with hands that strangely seem to be operating themselves she covers her hair and then finally the niqab…

As she pulls it over her face and adjusts it she can practically hear her heart beating like a drum. She was becoming a veiled woman. Whether it is the Christian God or the Muslim God or something else she is being propelled into a new existence.

Mary looked at her down at herself. She was covered in black, the very ideal of modesty.

She left for the next room…

She found Aisha in the room waiting for her.

“You are wearing the niqab. How do you feel?”

Mary thought about it for several minutes. “Good I suppose, it feels better than being naked.”

“Good. You have questions about Islam for me?”

Mary was beyond being surprised that Aisha knew what was bubbling up inside of her.

“Yes.”

“Then please begin asking.”

“Is Islam the true religion?”

“It is a true religion.”

“Does that mean that the other religions are true?”

“Let us say, the other religions have truth in them. They have a glimpse of THE book created by Allah. Mohammed, peace be upon him, was the latest prophet and brought more truth.”

“So the Muslim religion is right.”

“Yes.”

“Ok, but what is going to happen to the Jews and Christians?”

“You have not read the Quran.”

“No.”

“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.”

“That is from the Quran?” Mary was genuinely surprised. Her perception of Islam had always been of terrorists and angry men rioting through the street. But hearing such beautiful sentiments made her feel something.

“Yes.”

“So the Jews and the Christians are like u-they uh, they are like Muslims.”

“Yes. Though naturally they would be better off as Muslims.”

“But what about the way Muslims treat women, that can not be right.”

“It is not right. And the men who do it are not practicing Islam.”

“But they use Islam to justify it.”

“That is wrong as well. Anyone who truly practices Islam will honor and respect women.”

“Why must women veil though? I understand about modesty, but it just doesn’t seem fair that women have to wear more.”

“When you lived in America, did you sometimes go to the beach?”

“Yes.”

“And did the women wear swimsuits that covered more than the men?”

“Yes, but that is because women have different bodies than men.”

As soon as she said it Mary realized she had made Aisha’s point for her. She stood silent for a moment.

“Do you have any other questions?”

“No..I just…I’m not sure…”

“You are not sure if you want to be a Muslim.”

“I never thought I would be one. I never thought I would be dressed as I am now.” She tugged at the abaya she wore to emphasize her point.

“You are learning…and changing.”

“I’m just not sure.”

“Of course, please go on. You will find the answers you seek.”

Mary turned around and went back to the central room. Again, there was a new walkway. She went down it into the next room…

Inside the room was another table. On it was an X-shaped stand on it. Mary knew what it was before she even was able to see the cover. “The Holy Quran.”

She picked it up and began reading it. She read it for what seemed like an eternity…

When Mary found herself in the central room again she felt more confident than she ever had been. She was full of knowledge and understanding. She went down the new walkway into the room that awaited her. In it she found a fountain and a prayer rug laid out for her. She had been in the previous room for what felt like forever, reading page after page in the Quran. Now she was here, she had to choose. The choice could not be made for her, Islam taught that there was to be no compulsion in religion.

She removed her sandals and stockings and began the adulations in preparations for prayers…

When Mariam emerged into the central room she paused for a moment. How long had she been in this place. There was no day or night, no feeling of being tired. She simply existed. She had made her transition from being a warrior in service to the pursuit of power into something else. She was one who submitted to Allah. She traced her line of sight along the walkway in front of her to the hallway it led to and beyond. There were two more hallways that were not connected yet. Three unexplored rooms in all. She felt as though she was coming close to the answer to a question she had not asked, but that had been dwelling inside her.

She approached the new room. Inside it she found Aisha waiting for her.

“Peace be upon you sister.”

“And upon you be peace.”

“How does it feel to be a Muslim.”

“It feels so liberating. To know the truth…of everything.”

“Good.”

“Aisha?”

“Yes Mariam?”

“Why am I here? It can not just be to help me revert, could it?”

“Allah would be more than joyed to help do all of this to help you revert. But you are right, there is more to it than that. Mariam, the Muslim world is in a lot of trouble. Everywhere the House of Islam is experiencing war and turmoil. Women are subjected to abuse. This is not the will of Allah.”

“But what does that have to do with me.”

“Before I can answer, first I must show you some things.”

And so the two of them traveled across the world, they traveled like angels. They were neither seen nor heard. But they were able to see and able to hear. They saw the terrible wars. The wars between Muslims and between Muslims and other religions. They saw Muslim men and non-Muslim men strike their wives. They saw the starvation, the suffering. They saw the same things again and again before returning to the room.

By the time they returned Mary was crying profusely.

“There is so much suffering in the world. Too much to comprehend.”

“Allah does not intend for this to happen. Go to the next room to see what he wants.”

Mariam went to the next room. Again Aisha was there and again they traveled in the way of angels. Only instead of exploring the world that was, they explored the world that could be. They saw a world free of wars. People looked for the poor so that they could help them. Muslims working to protect Jews and Christians. And the women. The women wore the niqab. They were not oppressed, they went out and went to school and worked and were people in their own right. The veil was a reminder to men that women were people too and needed to be respected as such.

When they returned from this journey into what an ideal Islamic society would be like Mariam was crying, only they were tears of happiness. This time Aisha followed her out to the central room.

“There is one last room you have not visited yet Mariam. You have a choice now. You can go back out through the room you came here by. Or you can go into the last room first.”

“What happens in the last room?”

“You will learn to rule.”

“Rule? Why?”

“A Kalif.”

“Kalif? You mean he wants me to be a…” Mariam thought back to the first room she explored. The paintings of the servants of Allah. The last one was of a woman in black, a woman in black like she was… “But why me? I was not even a Muslim when I came here.”

“Allah choose you. You must trust his judgement.”

“But I am a woman! The men who are not following Islam properly will not listen to me.”

“You will make them listen. With the miracles performed by Allah they will have no choice. But again, it is your choice whether to take on this burden.”

They stood there in silence for a long time…

***

Ahmed looked through his binoculars to the dust being kicked up in the distance. The tribes from the coast were driving inland, no doubt they wanted to plunder the American jet much like his own people did. He looked back at his own fighters. Several were gathered around the aircraft, looking for anything of value that could be salvaged. The rest of his people were searching for the pilot. The Americans had not taken a side in this war yet. Both sides were eager to avoid incurring their wrath. If Ahmed’s fighters found the pilot first they could return him to the Americans and possibly get weapons in exchange.

There was not time for that now. He called out to his people and they hurriedly hid behind tall dunes or behind the rocks on the small hill. If he could surprise his enemies he may be able to wipe them out quickly and take their vehicles, he would then have more time to search for the American pilot.

Pausing to take one last look at the approaching column of dust he leapt behind a dune and brought his weapon to the ready. He looked down the long line of his fighters. Some had been with him for years, others were new and had young faces. He felt sad that they had to have their youth cut short. Instead of going to school and playing soccer they were firing rifles and throwing grenades.

He clenched his fist and hit the sand beneath him. It was just one more reason to hate the coastal tribes. They plagued his people are every turn. All he had to do was remind himself why he fought and his will was renewed. Not until his people were free from repression would he stop.

The vehicles came closer and closer. As they approached the wrecked aircraft they slowed. Armed men jumped out of the trucks and formed a loose line that approached the jet. Ahmed made some hand gestures to his men who nodded to show they understood.

A moment passed.

Ahmed’s men got up and aimed their weapons at the enemy below. They pulled their triggers and…nothing.

Frantically Ahmed pulled his trigger again and again but no bullets emerged. He looked down his line and everyone else seemed to have the same problem. Panic seized him, the enemy below…

Ahmed almost had to rub his eyes. Below them the soldiers of the other tribe were pulling on their triggers with no sound but their own curses. Eventually both sides stopped trying to work their unworkable weapons and remained still. Uncertainty ruled both ranks and finally Ahmed pulled out his knife. Knives never jammed. He was about to lead the charge when he heard it.

The voice. It was feminine, soft but forceful.

“Put down your weapons.”

He spun around but saw no one. Everyone else present, those who were his men and those who were not, did the same.

“Allah was made your weapons worthless. Put them down.”

There were whispered gasps and some men did throw down their weapons. Others followed. Ahmed held onto his knife. Who was speaking to them? He looked around desperate to see. Then he caught sight of her.

A woman was near the top of the hill. She wore an abaya and niqab. Behind her the sunlight was shining brightly, it almost seemed to outline her.

She slowly began descending down the hill. She was followed by several of Ahmed’s men and then several of the enemy. Everyone, Ahmed included approached her. Curiosity was the overriding feeling. She walked up the dune and then stood on top of the aircraft. The men formed a circle around her with about twenty feet between them and the woman.

“Are you Muslims?” Her voice, it was almost like music.

A few brave men answered in the affirmative but most were silent. Their faces showed that they knew not what to do.

“Muslims do not fight each other, correct?”

Some of the men from both sides answered in the affirmative.

“Then why are you fighting each other?”

There was some uncertain mumbling. Ahmed worked up the nerve to speak, but his voice sounded hollow. “They killed my parents. They fight us. We are fighting to defend ourselves. The Quran gives us the right to defend ourselves.” There was some angry muttering from the other side but it died down because the woman raised her hands, which in addition to her eyes was the only part of her visible. Ahmed saw that she was white, and even the thought that she might be the American pilot entered his head. But when she spoke he listened.

“They surely think that they defend themselves as well. Everyone who raises a sword thinks they are right. But did Allah create you to raise swords or worship him?”

Several soldiers from both sides answered an affirmative to the latter notion.

“Allah has made his will known. He has stopped your weapons from working. He has made this flying weapon I stand on stop working. I know because I was its pilot. But Allah has shown me the error of my ways and brought me to Islam. He wants all of you to return to Islam.”

There was more mumbling amongst the men. It was much to take in and there was not time to be scared or angry. The woman continued speaking.

“Ahmed,” Ahmed froze, his heart seized with terror. “Your parents were killed when the men from the city came to your village searching for rebels. You were eight years old, yes?”

His mouth dried up, he could not speak.

“Mustafa,” A man on the opposing side stumbled forward. “You son was killed by a bomb set off in the capital, yes?” The man nodded weakly.

“Allah is the most beneficent. Allah is the most merciful. Is this not the truth?”

There were many positive responses to this question.

“Allah has performed miracles here today on my behalf. So that I may act as Kalif.” The words would have filled Ahmed with anger under normal circumstances, but these were not normal circumstances. One soul spoke up,

“You are a woman, how can a woman be a Kalif?”

“And yes, I am a woman. Why can a woman not be a Kalif. Does not the Quran show that a woman is a spiritual equal to a man?”

More silence as the profound truth sank into each man present.

“Ahmed, Mustafa. Allah wants you to hug each other. He wants you to let go of the hardness in your hearts. He wants you to follow his will.”

All was still. No one moved or said a word. Slowly, hesitantly, Ahmed approached the man who began to approach him as well. Ahmed looked down at his knife and then dropped it to the ground. The two men wrapped their arms around each other and the tears flowed down their cheeks. There were many approving sounds coming from the men and soon they were embracing their enemies like they were brothers.

Soon they were lined up behind the mysterious veiled woman who led them in prayer. No objection to a woman leading the prayers were raised. Instead they concentrated on their relationship with Allah.

Afterwards they gathered on a carpet that had appeared from nowhere and ate a meal together. The first men to do so in the presence of a kalif in many years…

 

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