What words come to your mind when you are describing a frog? Slimy, sticky, wet, clammy? I bet “attachment” is not one of them?
Perhaps you will change your mind after you read this incredible true story that was told to me by former Guantanamo Detainee Shaker Aamer, who was released nine months ago.
A few weeks ago I was walking near Southside shopping centre in Wandsworth when I bumped into Shaker. He had just passed his UK driving test so I told him that we should have lunch together to celebrate. We did this at a halal Lebanese restaurant. The food was good, but the conversation was exceptional.
Umar bin Al-Khattab, the second caliph and Companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) once said that if it were not for three pleasures, he would not find any joy in life.
One of these three pleasures was “sitting in the company of men who like to pick good topics for conversation just as people like to pick good dates from a tree.”
I enjoy sitting in the company of people who inspire me. People who inspire me are those who try to search for the best out of every situation, no matter how bad things may seem.
People whose company I find heavy and difficult are those who are always complaining about the situation that the world is in.
It is one thing being informed about a person, people or situation. But it is another quite thing constantly whinging, whining and complaining about things without proposing a solution to do something about them.
One of my favourite lines of poetry from the famous ancient Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi is:
“Forget about the plundered vaults,
Tell me, instead, about the mounts.”
In other words, don’t tell me about the number of losses that have been sustained, I don’t want to hear it. Tell me, instead, about the number of horses (“mounts”) that have been mobilised in order to recover those losses and stop more losses from happening.
Anyway, returning to Shaker Aamer, somehow, our conversation turned to the encounters each of us had with animals when we were in custody. And somehow we ended up talking about frogs.
I told him the story of a frog in an American federal prison that another prisoner had caught and was using as a pet. I told him what I did about it. He in turn told me this incredible true story…
To begin with, all those who know him will testify that Shaker is a very generous and open-hearted person. His generosity extends to animals. He loves animals, just like the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did. And that includes amphibians and insects. He cannot sit still and let pass any opportunity to act kindly to an animal.
Shaker told me that while in Guantanamo Bay, he would always save a portion of his food in order to feed it to the animals. He would have to hide this food because it is considered contraband.
I lived under the same rules for two years while in an American Supermax prison. You are handed a tray of food through your door slat at meal time. 20 minutes later an officer comes with a rubbish bag (“trash bag”) to collect your tray and any leftover food.
Hiding prison food in your cell is prohibited. At best, you will have it confiscated and at worst you will be subjected to disciplinary proceedings if prison food is found in your cell. Over the years I lost plenty of prison food that I had stashed away for a rainy (hungry) day.
Some prison officers would prefer to throw away trays of untouched food rather than let a prisoner eat it. I witnessed this several times while in prison in both the UK and US.
Whenever Shaker left his cell for his daily outdoor “recreation” period, he would have to smuggle this hidden prison food to the outdoor exercise “dog cage.” He would then feed any animals that happened to be in around the outdoor cages.
One of these animals was a frog. Yes, a frog.
Every day a frog, the same frog, would hop out to the dog cages where the detainees were on “recreation” and Shaker would feed it his leftover prison food scraps.
One day Shaker was placed in a dog cage far from the cage where the frog would normally visit. Being unable to feed the frog himself, he tried to pass the food to the detainee in the neighbouring cage and asked him if he would feed it to the frog.
“Are you serious?!” the detainee replied as he refused. “If it was a cat, I can understand. But you want me to feed this dirty, slimy, sticky little thing? No way!”
Shaker then asked another detainee, then another, then another. All refused. No-one was willing to take the food from Shaker through the cage wire and feed it to the frog.
Then something amazing happened. While all this was going on, the frog suddenly began to hop in Shaker’s direction. It hopped past several detainees and then it stopped in front of Shaker’s cage. Shaker promptly took out the food that he had brought and he fed it to the frog with his own hands.
The other detainees were astonished at this sight. They had always thought that frogs were cold-hearted amphiibians with no feelings. And here they were witnessing, with their very own eyes, a frog hopping all the way to Shaker’s cage because he knew that this man would feed him.
The next day, the same thing happened. And then the day after that. And then the day after that. Whichever of the cages Shaker was in, the frog would hop to it and stand there patiently waiting to be fed some food.
“I fed that frog the whole of Ramadan,” Shaker smiled as he ended this story.
This wasn’t a cat or a dog or a horse; it was a frog. But it was still part of Allah’s creation and it recognised when someone did good to it.
If a frog does not forget when a human is kind to it, how can humans forget when God is kind to them?
Enter your email address in the box below to receive a notification every time I update my blog.