Caps under feet
File Photo

Caps under feet

And, throughout wintry weather, the hammam was being heated up by the firewood burnt through an outside small iron door of the hollowed fire chamber by the hammami (caretaker of masjid hammam).

There was a two-storey masjid in downtown Kashir with a typical Kashur-style hammam opening into main prayer-hall, in its ground floor; while its second storey above the ground floor, spread over full span of 3000 sq. ft., was used for bigger congregational prayers on Fridays and other religious occasions to accommodate, comparatively, larger than usual number of worshippers congregating in the masjid on such special days. However, the worshippers were Shariah-bound by a wall-notice, not-to-offer prayers (salah) on hammam's floor—-hand-hewn-limestone-rectangular-slabs—-that stood upon a hollowed fire chamber beneath. And, the wall-notice, also, notified & commanded the worshippers to withhold praying bareheaded since wearing a cap during prayers was deemed a token of self-respect, just as many other religious communities, too, lay emphasis to such a formality during prayer-connection with God. But, during chilly winters, that prayer-cap-formality was self-satisfied, as people, in that cold part of the world, Kashir, in the cold protected & covered their heads with multiple kinds of karakul, woolen pakol, Afghani & golf caps. And, throughout wintry weather, the hammam was being heated up by the firewood burnt through an outside small iron door of the hollowed fire chamber by the hammami (caretaker of masjid hammam).

One winter Friday noon, when the masjid-imam was already leading the congregational Friday prayers, a dozen of the devotees who had been late to the masjid couldn't find any space in its main prayer-hall that was full with spiritual bliss of ecstatic worshippers who stood shoulder to shoulder and lined up within the fixed number of horizontal rows, & those latecomers, one dozen in count, held back by winter-lethargy, didn't take trouble to move upstairs to pray in 50% vacant second storey of the building. Instead, contrary to well notified wall-notice, they stepped on the stony hammam floor that was too hot by flames & heat of below-burning firewood to be tolerated by human feet. They formed one more horizontal row, though smaller in width, of the worshippers with each other on the very hot stony floor of the hammam [room] that was separated by two big arches from the frontal main prayer-hall of the worshippers & demarcated from behind by a line of small bathrooms that were generally used for ablution purposes. 

The imam had, in fact, just begun the second round (rakat) of the congregational Friday prayers when the latecomers, in their anxiety not to miss it, since they had just joined it in its second round only, had no time in the world to feel, initially, the heat beneath their feet that were wrapped up in multi-colour thick woolen socks. Moreover, they all had woolen caps of different designs & colours crowning their heads. Half of them had long warm mufflers around their necks and shoulders. Standing up in a row, listening to the recitation of the Quran by the imam, their feet below began feeling the heat of the hammam floor. At the outset, the woolen wrappings—socks–defended soles of their feet against intruding excessive currents of heat but, when these woolen-defenders themselves became helplessly saturated with the incoming heat, they couldn't prevent it touching their feet, and consequently, the standing worshippers on the hot hammam floor started showing the signs of discomfort by intermittently raising their feet, one foot after another, a little up, to feign a normalcy; honestly, that wasn't there, underneath their feet. The lethargy had apparently landed them in a big trouble. 

Ultimately, intolerable waves of heat flashed across and made it to the tender feet of theirs, and so, they couldn't resist further onslaughts of it for long recitation of the Quran, and took off their caps slowly, one after another, stooped to place them under their one foot each, one by one, to avoid increasing heat torture by the hot hammam. But still, it was one foot on one cap only leaving 'other foot' of every latecomer at the mercy of terrible attacks of heat. Thus, six of them removed their six mufflers, thumping them on the hot floor & dragging them with the 'other feet' to share them out tacitly & accordingly, in between. Now, twelve feet, one of each latecomer, stood upon twelve caps while six mufflers spread extended shared-protection to the remaining twelve feet. 

When the congregational prayers ended, the latecomers were still standing with bodies upright & legs straight in their own second round of the prayers to complete mandatory total two rounds of Friday prayers of which they had missed first round with the imam. The rush of the worshippers from the main prayer-hall started converging on, and exiting from the masjid through, its two corner doors but while leaving, their eyes caught sight of the latecomers still standing & praying with their feet on their caps, and in view of they themselves being still within sanctum sanctorum of masjid's main prayer-hall, they simply smiled & suppressed their laughter with hands on their mouths. Before departing from the masjid, they murmured with each other, non-facetiously, non-satirically: "disobedience to rules dislodges respect, so what should decorate head is disgraced under feet". One sharp-minded among them said a bit louder: "you mean caps under feet?" The other quick-minded replied in a hushed tone: "yes." Probably, the whispering voices hadn't reached the ears of the latecomers, worshippers, as they seemed deeply concentrating on, and absorbed in, their prayers.  

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