My class mate from middle school was very frail and his father was very strict about his time outside their home, we became good friends in high school where both of us took part in the Islamic group that was tolerated by the school, we were having many activities like camping in the outdoors north of Medina, some times we used the ground of the school to have weekend camp (weekend was Thursday and Friday, not Saturday and Sunday!!).
Most of us were in the scout movement too, for my friend that was a major problem, in Saudi Arabia at that time the scout movement used to have a very bad reputation, so it was difficult for him to convince his father about joining the scout movement, but finally he did. I was proud of him and always encouraged him to be more outgoing, for me it was not at the beginning that difficult to go around since my parents were both very tolerant and they trusted the Islamic movement that was flourishing back then, by government encouragement, so I always wanted my friend to have same level of freedom that I enjoyed.
We used to go to the holy Masjid of the Prophet Mohammad peace be upon him, to pray the Fajr prayer, so we used to wake up early and wake any one who is not up yet before the call for the Fajr, after the prayer we used to go to school then after the first 3 classes we used to gather in the prayer area in the school during the thirty minutes between the classes, we used to sit around learning ahadeeth while some prepared the tea and breakfast (beans that we call fool , humus and cheese that is eaten with flat bread).
Many of the sixty or so members of the Islamic group (out of 800 students) used to pray the four Rak’ah voluntary prayer before joining the circle, Mondays and Thursdays we used to fast and gather at sun set at school to break our fast and have some entertainments, like plays or Nasheeds.
The three years I spent in the high school were short but very full of activities, in the last year I was no longer studying but only coming to the school after everyone was leaving (: . When I went to Afghanistan I missed my friend a lot, he managed to go too but his father came after him and managed to take him back, he was back in the high school trying to calm down the situation, before trying again!!
But I almost gave up on him coming back, his father took away his passport and he wasn’t allowed to get a new one without his parents consent. I went ahead trying to serve as best as I could, many of my school mates who were in the Islamic group showed up at some time or the other, some came in the holidays or during the summer, few of them stayed, one of them was wounded and I was helping him, we stayed in a house in Peshawar where the few wounded among the Arab volunteers were kept.
One day I heard some noise and saw a young man standing in the front door, next to him was a wounded man, we made room for them in the house, the young man and I were both helping our wounded friends, after a few weeks, the two wounded became friends and the young man and I became friends too!!
The wounded brothers became less dependant on us, so we were free to go do something useful, we decided to go back to Afghanistan. The area we were visiting was very tough to reach, so we needed some guide, we went to the border and asked the local office of the Afghani organizations to send us to the area recently attacked by the Russians, and we were told to join a group of men who were going there.
My new friend was from the tiny state of Bahrain in the Persian gulf, he started to relate to me his story as we made our way up the mountains of Konar province in the eastern Afghanistan, at first the weather was fogy and on the cold side, the men we were following took a plastic bag and filled it with cooked rice and some boiled mutton (sheep’s meat), about two hours after we started the difficult climb the Afghan who was carrying the bag called us and wanted to give us our share, we looked around and saw that the other men got their share in their two hands, literally!!
They just opened their palms and the man put the rice on their palms and they started eating it from their palms, I thought that I saw it all before I saw that, now we quickly did exactly as they were doing, the rice was almost frozen, unsalted boiled rice, then we got our share of the mutton, we looked at the men to see what were they doing with their meat, they were doing some thing I never considered before, they put the meat in their pockets!! Just like that unwrapped cooked meat in the pocket, but my new friend and I were quick study , we just put the meat in our pockets and moved on.
The climb was getting tougher by the hour, and as the afternoon brought some bone chilling wind and snow we were struggling to keep up with these mountain goats in disguise (: . At midnight we made it to the peak!! The last hundred meters were covered with frozen ice, the men started chewing into the tennis ball size meat that we put in our pockets, so we understood that they are preparing to push it to the limit!! As I was trying to carve anything out of my boney portion of meat, my friend from Bahrain was calm and quiet, doing the same and not failing to smile toward me, I liked his endurance so far, he was fit and not younger than me by much, but he had quite a story to tell.
His father was a wealthy businessman and his family was from the Sunni Arabs who trace their roots to Najd the central province of Arabia, he was living in the old house by the sea shore learning from his father the stories of the old times and learning the customs of the true Arabian hospitality, pouring the Arabian coffee to the frequent visitors to their house in the afternoons.
[His name was] Ibrahim, [he] had a friend who was newly joined in the military and they used to sit down near the sea fishing or around a fire at night, they picked up smoking to look tough!! They listened to Bob Marley songs looking for something important to do with their lives!!
One day Ibrahim told his friend about the news from Afghanistan, they shook their heads, one of them said lets go and help them!! The other said yes, one of them said whoever breaks his pledge is not a MAN!!
They knew next to nothing about Afghanistan, they thought that the Russians invaded the country and the government of Afghanistan was fighting back!!
They ran away from their families and from the military and made it to Pakistan, in Karachi they spent a week and found some of their countrymen in training with the Pakistani Navy. After a long journey by the train to Lahore they reached the end of the rope!! They didn’t have a clue where to go next.
One day at the market they heard someone speaking in Farsi!! They asked him how come you speak Farsi? He said he is an Afghan!! They made it into Afghanistan with a group of fighters and some Arab volunteers, then in Logar province they were face to face with the Russian special forces!!
The mud walled compound they hid in was under siege and the fighting was ragging when Ibrahim’s friend was shot in the hand, their Afghan leader was killed along with many of his fighters, the rounds were coming from all directions and then the helicopters were over their heads.
An Arab fighter dug a fox hole under a wall and led Ibrahim and his wounded friend along with the remaining fighters to safety as the helicopters hovered above and the Russians ducked down to avoid the friendly fire!!
Just like that Allah saved them from the almost certain death, after walking for weeks they both made it to Peshawar where we met!!
As we moved to climb down we saw the Afghans putting all they have in a large sheet and after tying it they threw it down!! It was very clear to me that if they did it there must be very good reason for it, looking down I saw an elderly women climbing toward us with her cow!! I was shocked to see her there in the middle of the night, the fighters started to climb down falling down more than once in every step!!
Some how we made it down, my friend and I falling many times on the ice, we were not wearing any special boots and the Afghans were in plastic shoes!! We found from them that we were to go on without them (:
So we were told to follow a boy who would show us how to go to Shigal Valley!!