Broken pieces of clay and pottery: A lesson in Humanity

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

I was once walking along a narrow but busy street in Cairo when ahead of me was a donkey-cart laden with handmade pottery and clay utensils. It was owned by an old man who had been walking slowly beside it, and trying to sell whatever he could to make an income. He walked with hunched-shoulders, a turbun tied round his head like a Sa’idi from Upper Egypt, his face wrinkled by age and the harsh Egyptian sun. It wasn’t hard to see that many difficult years had passed over him and he had probably been doing this for a long while.

As I continued to walk, I heard a cry and some commotion. The donkey had staggered back (probably startled by something) and as a result, the harnessing pushed the cart upwards, sending the pottery and clay shattering out into the street. It was heartbreaking to see the poor man’s face turn dark and sorrowful. With a heavy heart, he began to pick up the broken and chipped pieces of clay and pottery; his livelihood and merchandise which no-one was going to buy now.

But as he did so, I began to see random people come out of shops and apartments, hurrying towards him and picking up his pottery from the street. There was no more hustle and bustle; just a quiet silence as people stopped to help him. Cars stopped out of respect, or slowly diverted around the broken and chipped clay. What was truly moving was to see many people pull out money and give it to the man as if they were purchasing the broken clay, except they weren’t buying anything (other than Paradise I guess). Drivers stuck out money from their window for the poor aged man, and almost every person who helped pick up the pieces also chipped in with sadaqah. They realised that today, he wasn’t going to be making much money… in fact for that whole month to come, he probably wasn’t going to be making much at all.

It was incredible to see the hearts of people move like this. Humanity may disappear and people may be cruel towards the poor in certain places and at certain times, but in other places and at other times, the humanity is truly beautiful.

Keep your heart close to the poor and needy, they help to keep it alive.

15 thoughts on “Broken pieces of clay and pottery: A lesson in Humanity

  1. This story reminds of a women who came to complain to Suliman AS since her only livelihood was dependent on small yarn which she would entertain, and a bird snatched that. As she was explaining, ten business entered the chamber of Suliman AS and told him that they wanted to donated 100 dirhams (not sure of the amount), and the reason was because they were about to drown when a bird came and dropped a piece of yarn. Suliman AS said to the women: your lord does business for you and you call Him a dhalim.

    • Jazak’Allahu Khairan, I remember reading this a long time ago and was recently thinking about it but didn’t know where to look. Alhamdulillah that you wrote this reminder..x

  2. Wallaahii this made me weep beacuse it just shows how Allaah’s mercy manifested itself on that day and time in these people, and if the creation of Allaah could be so so compassionate imagine how compassionate and just. Allaah azza wajjal is! SubhanAllaah subhanAllaah subhanAllaaah!

  3. Assalam o alikum warahmaTULLAHI wabarakatu,!
    jazakELLAH dear fajr!, you know what, i made an attempt like you to share something good on my blog, because i got inspired from your work, really really inspired fajr. may ALLAH give you ajar, and grant you more and mora humility in your work and nature.
    JazakELLAH again.
    one of your sister:

  4. For me the Old man metaphorically represented Allah carrying us as humans…broken into pieces…..yet Allah’s love and mercy still evident amongst human beings by being there for the other that is hurting…..even if invisible…..someone will always care….yet it is a universal mandate that humanity, at least, try to ease those in pain…and broken..by those usurping their authority..ie Syria, Palestine and others…..children need to be saved from being broken by those who inflict wars on them and others…..Thank you for posting your story to remind me!.x

  5. And the other lesson is that we might see something at first as a disaster but it is in fact a blessing and Allah will give you more. May Allah bless all those who gave and may Allah bless that old man and his family and let him be thankful for Allah’s rizq.

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