The Nile that divided his land also united it, he believed. If it were possible he would make his life a bridge between north and south. Perhaps blood, his own included, would continue to flow beneath this bridge before finally the clear water of peace and life would wash the blood and bloodstain away. There would be celebration at the confluence of cross and crescent as at the marriage of the White Nile and the Blue Nile. He carried a simple message: the story of a rock that had become a shrine and site of a contest for religious space and gods.
The holy man settled under the shelter of an acacia tree to spend the night. He spread a battered old rug on the gravel ground and, facing Mecca, knelt on it and did salat. A strict observer of the tenets of his religion, he prayed, dutifully, five times a day. He sat cross-legged on the rug after prayer. He deferred the gratification of his thirst and hunger, a discipline his unusual asceticism had taught him. It had taught him to defer the gratification of thousands of hungers, tens of thousands of thirsts. He would endure until he reached the remote village, close to the border with the South, in this dry and sparsely populated part of his country. He was nearing the end of his journey.
He was a tall man, lean and very dark, with a long-flowing white beard. Age had wrung his smooth skin into wrinkles. His head was wrapped in a white turban and he wore a flowing white jelabiyah. His sandals of worn brown leather protruded from under the robe. His deep penetrating eyes, filled with piety, appreciated his surroundings, splashed scarlet, everywhere, with sunset. There was serenity all around. He held his Koran close to his heart and recited, softly to himself, suras he had been taught to memorize since the time when his mind was still in its infancy. (more…)