A Heart Broken Open: The Story of a Tortured Iraqi

A Heart Broken Open: The Story of a Tortured Iraqi

I have learned from [Imam] Hussein how to be oppressed yet victorious.
— Gandhi

I was reminded of Gandhi's words as I listened to Quays' story. Arrested on suspicion of being members of the Dawa Party, Quays and others were held in a security centre in a suburban district of Baghdad in the early 1980s. Quays was severely tortured and had several bones broken. He revealed to us the scars on his wrists and legs from over 20 years ago. He told us how, after three days of torture, his hands were so big and swollen that it was almost comical. He felt so thirsty, but was refused water and was left in a cell to die. He remembers the horrendous pain in his body, the bleeding from his eyes and nose, his feet and nails. His legs were broken and his shoulders dislocated. He thinks he lost consciousness, and then felt that he was in the Shrine of Imam Hussein...

Two scholars came, one moved ahead of the other to lead the congregation in Noon Prayer. After the prayers, the leader invited him to come and sit beside him. [Quays] went over to him, and he was offered two bowls: one with grapes in it and the other with dates in it, neither of which Quays enjoys eating. He chose three dates, and at that point regained consciousness, his thirst and hunger had disappeared, and he felt strengthened in his spirit, and able to remain steadfast to the end.

It was his faith in God and the inspiration he drew from the story of Imam Hussein that helped him through. The story of Imam Hussein helped him to become victorious in the face of oppression. S.H.M. Jafri, in The Origins and Early Development of Shi'a Islam, argues that [Imam] Hussein was aware that victory through military might would be only temporary, because of the inevitability of a stronger power emerging; whereas victory achieved through suffering and sacrifice is everlasting and leaves permanent imprints on people's consciousness, as it did with Quays.

And this spirituality elicited in me sympathy, a note of recognition, as it echoed for me some of the power I experience in the redemptive story of God's work in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Ray Gaston, A Heart Broken Open, pp. 70-72


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