Ramadan 10, 1423
A lesson in life
Abdullah is now a professor in English, or at least this is what I think he is, the last time I heard of him being when he was preparing for the PhD around seven years ago.
As I saw him only once or twice in my life, my weak memory fails to produce an image of Abdullah of whom I just remember few things which are: a beard, blue jeans, a shirt and sport boots
He was one of my father’s brilliant students at the Department of English in the 1980s, and often did he visit my father at home when feeling the lectures did not satisfy enough his hunger and thirst for knowledge. When he graduated, he was listed among the top students with a good average at his time.
The above is just the introduction of a story that I used to hear many times from my mom when telling other people on many occasions the story of this person who was esteemed by his professors as a real giant in his field of study. The story is full of excitement that my words here unfortunately cannot reproduce.
The story says that Abdullah was not rich. The bitter life he had prevented him from having the luxury of affording more than a jeans and a shirt. His father could not finance him and he used to work and work and work. Anyway, he graduated but his desire to allay his thirst for knowledge namely for learning other languages exceeded the limits, and thus he decided to leave for France and pursue the Master’s degree.
He worked hard and worked hard, and day after day he could save up only 15,000 Syrian Liras (around 108 JDs at that time) and bought a one-way ticket to France.
In France, he was admitted to a university, but when the hostel administrator, who was a Jew, learnt that he was an Arab, Abdullah was denied accommodation.
The only solution for Abdullah was to sleep in a sleeping bag on the street, distribute his books among friends and try to find a job. When he told us his story he recollected how frequently he used to be frightened when drug addicted people passed by thinking he was like them and asked him for some drugs. He suffered a lot, until he found a butcher who was of an Arab origin and let him work and sleep in his butchery.
“On the floor of the butchery, I typed my MA thesis”, said Abdullah with a deep sigh. “And, the time came for me to submit and attend the public defense of my thesis.” With despise, the external examiner looked at the ragged and long-bearded man submitting his thesis, for this person when judged from appearance could be anything but a scholar who was about to be granted a graduate degree in literature. Here, I remember how my uncle’s wife, who is French, met Abdullah later on and attested to his excellent command of the French language in addition to English. Well, anyway, Abdullah showed excellence in presenting and defending his thesis and amazed his examiners, who could not escape granting him the MA degree with an Excellent grade with honour. Now the external examiner fully understood what a “giant” Abdullah was, he handed him the degree, shook hands with him, and with a warm smile he said to him: “Vous êtes le l’un que ne peut pas être battu!”
Now as a teacher, when remembering this story of Abdullah Mahmoud, I know that the bitter circumstances I had in my life as a student were a luxury in comparison with Abdullah’s, but I am sure that some of our students are undergoing similar circumstances, indeed bad circumstances, sad moments of despair and agony. To each of them I say, be like Abdullah Mahmoud. With patience and perseverance proceed forward. With your faith in God admit no failure. And, there will come a day when I will shake hands with you, and with a warm smile I will say to you: “anta ar-rajol al-lazi la yoqhar“