“Ok, Salman, where was the Prophet (PBUH) born?”

15 Jan

While my friend S. was finishing her history dissertation at Harvard back in the day, she was hired by a Saudi family in Boston to be their developmentally challenged son’s private teacher in Arabic and Islam. So they’d meet at the family apartment in what was then the Boston Ritz (now Taj Mahal or Mandarin Oriental or something) and over the course of a few months his reading in Arabic improved greatly and he pretty much got the architecture of prayer down — for the most part. He continued to have one problem that even S. couldn’t solve. When that moment in Muslim prayer comes when men put their hands to their ears, Salman would hold them out and flap them back and forth like elephant ears. It was rough on S., because she’s Iraqi-American, politically way to what was then the left of the scale and asking her to be your kid’s faith-nanny is like leaving him with Cruella Deville for catechism.

The worst, however, he saved for an oral test, with parents and other relatives present. He made it through everything perfectly, when S. asked him the $64,000 question.

“Ok, Salman, I know you know this one. Salman, what’s the name of the city where the Prophet (PBUH) was born?”

And he closed his eyes, took a breath, threw his arms up in the air and shouted:

“N-E-W! Y-O-R-K! C-I-T-Y-Y-Y-Y!!!”

Poor kids. And poor connections they have to make between the bricolage we throw at them incessantly.

Who knows where or how often he heard “New York City” pronounced like that? So, he must’ve figured, well, this guy (PBUH) you’re all always talking to me about twenty times a day, somebody that important must have been from a city that sounded like THAT!

The assembled family all bent over themselves in laughter, which made it even harder for Salman to ever say “Mecca” ’cause it never got him the laughs that “N.Y.C!” got him, but eventually he understood issues like this aren’t παίξε γέλασε

Except for us and S.’s παρέα. Literally, for years afterwards, none of us could say “New York City” in any other way but Salman’s.


Point of this post. I was going to post this cool map of he city that I’ve had sitting on my desktop forever. So I did. And thought of Salman. :) The map is cool because despite its small scale, it’s incredibly detailled! There is not a single mews, alley, driveway, missing. If anyone can find its original size please let me know.


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