Story Of Hijra

Imm Nafidh’s Story of the Hijra

At the time of the hijra, I had five children [recites their names]. It was very hard. If only we died on the garbage heaps of our country rather than coming here. My late brother said, “I know a Christian woman in Lebanon” — may God make happy your evenings and her evenings! I didn’t know her.

My brother’s wife was with me — we were many women. It was pouring rain and my children, haram, were shivering; they were cold. We came upon a woman at the beginning of Rimaysh. I said to her, “Ya khalti, where is Imm Elias?” She said, “Which Imm Elias?” I was angry; I said, “How do I know which Imm Elias!?” She said, “There are many Imm Eliases.”

I went on walking, haram, with those children. We met a man on the road, and the rain was rolling over us. He asked me, “Where are you from, hajji?” I said, “We’re from Sha`b.” He said, “Follow me; I’ll show you bayt Ma`tooq.” What did I care, Ma`tooq or not Ma`tooq; I just wanted to get those children in bed!

We walked; we reached the door of a house. He called, “Ya Imm Elias!” When I heard the name Imm Elias, my heart opened. I thought, maybe this is my brother’s friend. She answered, “Who is it?” He said, “Come out and see this pitiful sight!” She said, “From where?” He said, “From Sha`b.”

She said, “Ya hala, ya hala, ya meet ahlan wa sahlan. Anyone who comes from Sha`b comes from Abu al-`Abd.” She started undressing the children, taking their clothes — they were drenched in rain — and putting them in dry ones. All the people who had left Sha`b with me were with her.

She lit a fire in the mawqada ; she lit in the kanoon ; she lit a fire in the mastaba. She wanted to warm these people up. She dressed the children in her grandchildren’s clothes, and she took off her own clothes for me. We slept that night in her house.

The very next day, ya habeebat salaami, some of our relatives came; they came to ask about their wives. They said to Nafidh [her eldest son], “Do you want to see your father?” Nafidh cried. He said, “Where is my father? He’s dead!” The man said, “No, my nephew. Come, I’ll take you to your father. From the day he arrived in Lebanon he’s been waiting in the coffee house. Everyone who comes, he buys them food so that God may send his children people who will take care of them.”

The result, ya habeebat ‘albi, he [the relative] took him [Nafidh]. A car came, wallahi. Abu Nafidh was just about to leave; he had one leg in the car and one leg on the ground. The man shouted, “Abu Nafidh!” He turned around. He [The man] said, “Here’s Nafidh!” Abu Nafidh said, “Silence, man! Don’t make me suffer! God knows on what road Nafidh died.” Nafidh shouted, “Here I am, Baba! Here I am!” They hugged each other with a big hug. Then they came together to where we were. When he saw us, he cried. There were thirty-five of us, children and women, and…how shall I tell you?

In the end, habibat ‘albi, he went and brought food and told me to distribute it to everyone. He bought cheese; he bought olives; he bought bread. He said , “Distribute it to everyone.” He gave in gratitude because his children were alive.

Imm Nafidh was born in 1912 in the village of Sha`b, and she married in 1930. Her husband had been a railway worker which is probably why he had cash with him to buy food. This story was recorded by Rosemary Sayigh on May 17, 1992. Translation by Rosemary Sayigh.
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