She was the biology teacher, a petite dark skinned woman in her late thirties, with extremely long dark silky hair and a very thin skeleton. Fatima came from the east, from a city known to be the home of shiaa in Saudi Arabia. One can easily sense her distraction and loneliness; she was separated from everyone with no exceptions.
While everybody called her weird I saw something interesting in her. I followed her whenever our paths crossed. I waited for any diversion from the subject of biology in class, something personal about her, anything that reflects the sadness in her eyes, but she was taking the classes very serious.
It was about midyear when Fatima smiled and gave the class warm gestures for the first time, that day she decided to take us through the fences built around a simple biology class. She asked us to play a little game. The roles were very simple; we all travel through time with different bodies, different faces and names in different places and describe how it looks like.
We were naïve to a class that required participation not being receptive to whatever said. She stole our attentions and we were addressed for the first and last time. Fatima was simply trying to discuss the subject of incarnation, which of course was a taboo.
The news circulated and soon the new gossip became about the shiaa teacher who spoke of incarnation. I couldn’t form a clear picture of the theory of incarnation, and as always I said to myself I don’t know! But that isn’t the case with everyone else.
It was a matter of resisting the diversity of opinions, a matter of fear from the other. And eventually the school was visited by an investigation team made from three women who traveled a distance of 800 km to question the whole class about the incident.
We all mentioned exactly what happened, all spoke well of Fatime. But they weren’t easy with her; she was accused of brainwashing the young girls and the inception wrong concepts without sticking to the main scientific subject.
After the investigations ended Fatima separated herself even more, and the biology class became the most devastating of all. I used the opportunity to approach her after the class, in attempt to break her silence, I said ‘’I was sorry for her; she didn’t have to go through all of this’’. To my surprise my words were appreciated and she broke her silence, she was angry and told me about their final decision, she would be transferred next year to another city, and there she will be under a strict supervision, she was simply treated as a threat.
Sharing thoughts with someone of different beliefs and backgrounds refreshed my bored self. I needed to stay in touch with her constantly to avoid suicidal thoughts, and so we met after school, I listened to her speaking about the story of Islam from a shiaa point of view, regardless of my thoughts and beliefs I just listened. I saw her praying and saw her mourning at the month of Muharam that represents the historic memory of the division of Muslims into Sunni and shiaa. I showered her with questions, and she answered some and escaped others. Curiosity kept me busy, and knowing satisfied me. And it became like scratching an itchy skin, I could hardly stop.
My relationship with my teacher was a critical point in my life, It exposed me to another level of consciousness where I started asking myself questions like what’s the point of my existence, and how would I like to spend my time on earth? What do I really believe? Who am I and most importantly who am I not?
Fatima was like a windy cloud, she isn’t the person you would miss, but defiantly leaves imprison. I thank her for my curiosity and for keeping me interested in a place where silence had a sound.