Death at Number Sixty-Nine
M. G. Vassanji
August 1, 2011
On a Saturday morning Mulla Jamaluddin was explaining a dakhila, an example, to his young pupils in a classroom in the grand new Salam-e-din Mosque in Toronto’s Rosecliffe Park neighbourhood.
“One day in Baghdad, a notorious robber was finally captured after a great deal of effort by the sultan’s police,” Mulla went on in his dry, modulated voice, gesticulating with his arms, and the children at their little desks all leaned forward, eyes sparkling with curiosity, and surely mischief in the pressed smiles of some. “He was called Yusuf the Robber and he was hanged at the public square, where many people from the city came to watch and cheer as the scoundrel died. Whereupon, the great mystic and man of God, Abu Junaid, pushed his way through the crowd and kissed Yusuf the Robber’s feet . . . ”
At this point my master knew he had picked the wrong sort of example to narrate, one not easily comprehensible to the tender minds of his audience—for he paused and looked up briefly above them at the framed picture of the Kaaba as if for guidance.