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A sturdy guard and an open door.


We're sometimes reminded to look past what we think we see. Maybe we think we see a portly security guard sitting in his little booth. When a couple of tourists get out of line, he politely--but firmly--ensures they get themselves back to the right side. Maybe we think this is his job...but...


"Assalamu'alaikum." He waved a come-here. And again and again until the gap was closed. He unlocked the sturdy door and waved one last come-here.


We walked into the mausoleum where tradition says Sayyid Abdullah, or more famously Mir Arab, is buried, the man who had built the madrasa about 260 years before the U.S.A. had a Constitution. It's hard to say how many people are buried alongside him. No idea who they are, either.


The light was unusual. Although the sky outside was colorless, the cavernous room seemed to let in light and shadows in a nostalgic sort of way, one that made it seem sunnier than it was, but only at certain soft angles.


The guard waved to sit beside him. Dust motes joined us. He raised his hands chest level, palms upward, and nodded for me to do the same. He cleared his throat.


What came next was almost dreamlike. "Audhu billahi minash shaytanir rajeem." It was Deep. Melodious. Reverberating. "Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem." The words filled the tomb. They seeped into the walls. They made my heart quake, the vibrations penetrated so deeply.


The next three minutes or so would be transcendent. That word--transcendent--isn't chosen lightly. If anything, it isn't remotely powerful enough to convey what it really felt like. Some things just can't be described. This was the Holy Qur'an--alive.



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