People were scared. The first call to prayer, the fajr, was wrong.
Abdelkader the muezzin came with his wife in tow. He was a thin, wiry Sudani with hair like a pan scourer. Nobody could work out why they’d sent a Sudani. Some opposed it; the children stood in the streets and stared at the black man when he came.
His azan silenced the critics in an instant. Ringing out with lilting cadences, its sweet sound made you want to give thanks to God in itself.
This morning something was broken. His voice started waveringly, uncertainly. It cracked. Twice he stopped. People started to gather in the dark streets, astonished, as the word went round. The muezzin is crying.
They stood in clusters and listened to him cry into the microphone and out of the loudspeakers. Families gathered outside their houses, mothers holding their children.
He finished, the last broken line of the azan echoing. Then there was silence.
He started to talk, in a halting voice at first but then something, somewhere gave him strength and everyone heard him.
‘My wife is dead, people. My wife is killed, people. They have taken her from me to God but I cannot rejoice for God, because he has my light and my companion and I am jealous of him, please forgive me God, but I am jealous. Why should they have been the instruments that took her to God, people? Why should I have her taken away from me, be forced to give her up, when her skin was still young and her eyes still filled with life and her laughter echoed around my house like the sound of a stream in the springtime?’
The men became angry and started to walk towards the mosque, but the doors were barred and so everyone gathered outside. Soon the whole village was there and the light was starting to show above the hilltops.
As the muezzin fell silent, his grief taking away his power to speak, the men grew heated and made each other angrier. They started to talk about taking action, about revenge.
It was Selim’s father in law to be who was most vocal. He was a large, brutish man. ‘We will revenge you,’ he cried out to the minaret and the tiny figure hunched up on high. Abdelkader was silent, save for the occasional sound of deep breaths, like sobs. The men stood, talking and threatening the direst things, but against whom? Who had done this to the muezzin? Who had taken his wife from him like this?
The arrival of the Israeli drone was a Godsend, the women agreed. Some of the men had already gone home to get their guns. They usually ignored the drones but this day brought them a culprit and guns ready in their hands. It was Selim’s father in law to be who hit it and brought it down.
The men ran, as one man, to the wreckage of the drone and stood around the small pile of crumpled white fibreglass and wire. They exulted and fired bullets in the air and shouted revenge.
This was to be how Selim became a billionaire.