IT was the middle of the night, 3 am, and *Hajji Yunus couldn’t sleep. It was not surprising as his bed was on the floor. That previous morning, the sheriff of the court had attached it plus his lounge furniture. His bones hurt, and so did his dignity.
It had not been easy submitting to the loathsome man, who’d arrived at his doorstep with a firearm at his side and an attitude that Hajji Yunus had committed a crime. “Why do people think you’re a criminal when you’re in debt?” he thought to himself.
A week before, the same man had taken his German car – his pride and joy – at 6.30 am in front of his two children, making them cry. He’d seethed with anger, wishing to punch the sheriff in the face for traumatising his family.
Three months previously, Hajji Yunus had been in a successful business partnership – successful until he’d discovered that good intention, honesty and accountability had somehow not been enough in a cut-throat corporate world.
Hajji Yunus was an entrepreneur. For years, he’d survived by buying and selling, his nose for saleable products earning him a comfortable living. One day, he’d discovered a fertiliser product, half the price of its equivalent, after a trip to a certain Far Eastern country.
It had taken much legwork and persuasion to convince a partner to come on board for the R800, 000 he needed for the first batch to be imported. On paper, it was a win-win: for his investor, the retailers and the farmers, as even with profits and costs factored in, the fertiliser would still be much cheaper on the market than its equivalent.
However, Hajji Yunus had not factored in the greed and corruption of certain customs officials and an established fertiliser corporate, alarmed at being undercut by some small fry. When Hajji Yunus refused to pay a sleazy official his ‘special release fee’ of R15, 000 at the harbour, his troubles began.
Peeved, the official notified a representative of the fertiliser corporate, who deposited R20, 000 into his bank account to ‘stall’ the container, which he did. Unaware that he was now being played for not participating in the ‘game’, Hajji Yunus found his overtures to officialdom being blocked at every turn.
Eventually, after six months his fertiliser – being a chemical product – went ‘off’, and he was sent a bill of R800, 000 to dispose of the now decaying consignment.
“You can imagine my feelings,” said Hajji Yunus to me afterwards, “I went from hero to zero with a R1, 6 million bill hanging around my neck. I never knew people could be so nasty and so corrupt. And, of course, you always learn the truth after the fact. Was I being naïve not to give a bribe?”
Hajji Yunus was innocent, but he ended up paying the price for those who weren’t. His partner, a Muslim, turned on him, suing him for R800, 000 plus interest. That last bit really hurt me. I was absolutely defenceless and these people just wiped me out. After my anger subsided, I just felt numb. Very heart sore,” he said.
“That night I cried and made a du’ah for Allah to relieve my burden. I didn’t expect a miracle, but I certainly hoped for one!
“For weeks, for months, I struggled on, day by day. I ended up starting from scratch, my creditors grabbing every penny I earned. My wife – bless her – had to work, her salary paying for food and other necessities. My car and furniture brought in R280, 000 after the auctions, which was a blessing in disguise.”
Hajji Yunus went on to say that he would never wish his fate on anyone, even his worst enemy. But from the bad, from the suffering and from the personal pain, he said he started not only to build up his life again, but also his soul.
“I began to appreciate things…my health…a sunrise…the smell of the rain…a smile…a word of wisdom…the laughter of my children…eating chips on the beach…the Qur’an, and of course, my prayer. My focus shifted and what was important became important. But one day I had an experience – you could say an epiphany – that changed everything.
“It was Muharram, a time when we would send food around the neighbourhood. For some reason, this year we’d been overwhelmed. There was a knock on the door, and a nervous child greeted me.
‘As-salam alaikum, boeta. My auntie Zarina says she doesn’t earn a lot, but she wants you to have her Zakah.’ She handed over an envelope, and ran to a waiting car that cheerfully hooted in greeting as it drove off.
“I was gobsmacked. Her auntie had worked for me many years ago. And now here I was, her former employer. How did she know about me? It was the most humbling moment of my life. I opened the envelope and inside it was R2, 000. My eyes teared up. R 2,000 wouldn’t solve my problems, but – wow – it would certainly help us…
“For me it wasn’t the money. It was the thought. The thought that someone else actually cared about us. When I gave the envelope to my wife she cried as well. That Zakah really lifted our spirits…it had the most amazing barakah, I tell you. It was like a bunch of flowers from paradise.”
Sadly, shortly after he paid off his debt, Hajji Yunus passed away, but I will never forget his story of how one simple gesture of Zakah had filled his life with such joy.
*A pseudonym, as this is based on a true story.