The Stranger in the House
The following article is culled from The Reality, Volume 7, No.3,
Muharram/Rabi'al Awwal, 1420 AH (April/June 1999). It is written by Jahid
A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our
small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this
enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The
stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a
few months later. As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family.
In my young mind, each member had a specil niche. My brother, Yusuf, five
years my senior, was my example. Samya, my younger sister, gave me an
opportunity to play 'big brother' and develop the art of teasing. My parents
were complementary instructors - Mom taught me to love Allah, and Dad taught
me how to obey Him. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the
most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries, and comedies were daily
He could hold our family spellbound for hours each evening. If I wanted to
know about politics, history, science, he knew it. He knew about the past
and seemed to understand the present. And the pictures he could draw were so
life-like that I would often laugh or cry as I watched.
He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Yusuf and me to our
first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see movies
and he even made arrangements to introduce several famous people. The
Stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn't seem to mind, but sometimes Mom
would quietly get up, while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his
stories of faraway places, and go to her room to read the Qur'an. I wonder
is she ever prayed that Stranger would leave? You see our dad ruled our
household with certain moral convictions. But this Stranger never felt an
obligation to honour them.
Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house - not from us, not
from our friends, or adults. Our Stranger, however, used occasional four
letter words that burned our ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the
Stranger was never confronted. My Dad was a tea-drinker who never permitted
alcohol in his home.
But the Stranger felt like we need exposure and enlightened us to other ways
of life. He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often.
He made cigarettes look tasty and pipes distinguished. He talked freely
(probably much too freely) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant,
sometimes suggestive and generally embarrassing. I know that my early
concepts of man-woman relationships were influenced by the Stranger.
As I look back, I believe it was Allah's Mercy that the Stranger did not
influence us more. Time after time he opposed the values of my parents. Yet
he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave. More than thirty years have
passed since the Stranger moved in with the young family on Morningside
He is not nearly so intriguing to my Dad as he was in those early years. But
if I were to walk into my parents' den today, you would still see him
sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and
watch him draw his pictures.
The name of the Stranger you ask? We called him TV.