On the wide alleyway between my brother’s house and mine there’s a large brick wall, behind which is a small courtyard and house. Branches of a few trees peek out from the top of the wall, but it is otherwise a very solemn and lifeless sight. It has an imposing metal door, which I’ve only seen open once before. Months ago, a group of boys, who often play tag or soccer on the little streets and alleyways between houses, had gathered in front of this house and started pushing and shoving, about to fight, and getting quite loud. The mistress of the house, a no-nonsense older woman, opened the door to the racket and promptly threw a bucket of water at the boys, along with a few sharp words, which helped them to disperse rather quickly. In the few moments I stood watching this scene (happening to pass by at that opportune moment) I remember thinking that that’s a good trick to know :), and I also remember noticing that the courtyard was beautiful, with lots of green plants and many trees.
It’s a hallmark of traditional Damascene architecture to be ugly from the outside and beautiful from within. If you walk through the Old City you’ll see lots of imposing brick walls, metal gates, and sometimes entry doors to homes that are extremely small; but if you entered inside you’d find spacious, beautiful courtyards with lemon and orange trees, gurgling fountains, and the floor sketched out with mosaic tiles.
I’ve heard many reasons for this, one being that traditionally there is a clear line between the outside world and the inner sphere of one’s home, family and property; another, that it was meant to ward off ‘the eye’ and keep from advertising one’s wealth and prosperity to those who may be less fortunate; and most interestingly, I heard that the small doors were meant to force the owner of the house to have to enter his home literally and physically with his head lowered, as a way to instill humility in a person who may become proud of what he owns.
It’s a depressing sight though, to always be looking from the outside…. but it’s a good lesson to learn. Don’t be so shallow, and don’t focus so much on externals. Sometimes there’s beauty hidden away, and sometimes it’s not for you to see.
I must have passed this brick wall a thousand times or more, and in the last few months the branches that reach heavenwards have been bare and lifeless.
Yesterday I noticed that one tree among them had blossomed, it’s branches covered with tiny white flowers. In the stark sandy-beige of the street, the wall, and the surrounding houses, it’s vivid color is so gorgeous, masha’Allah. I think it’s the first touch of spring I’ve seen this year. As the days grow warmer and the trees and flowers come into bloom, there’s a vibe of life and energy in the air that’s really uplifting…
I ask that Allah make the upcoming season one full of growth and renewal for us, and a time when our hearts are thawed from the coldness of indifference into the warmth of dhikr and remembrance of Him, His mercy and kindness.
May Allah grant us leave from dark days, and enter us into days of happiness, hope and beauty. (ameen.)
P.S. : I know that there are a lot of good people who read this blog, so I’d like to request that you please pray for my Mom, who is not feeling well these days. Jazak(i) Allahu khayra.
wasalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.