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Rasheed's Story // Project Legacy

Foreword

Rasheed's Story along with other stories archived under Project Legacy scripts were originally for use in the Western Visual Novel, Project Legacy. Since the game's development was halted, the echoes of what might have been live on here.


Story

Rasheed was born in the United Arab Emirates in the Al Sufari village in the emirate of Dubai. His birth date is the 22nd of August 2436 (making him 32.) His father (Hakeem) has always been a farm owner, and his mother never had a career. Rasheed wouldn’t exactly consider his upbringings as anything but working class; however they did have a rather large farmhouse and quite a lot of land – had they sold this land they would have been one of the wealthiest families in the UAE.

Rasheed’s earliest memory is him being around 2 years old, and his father handing him his very own salat rug (prayer rug.) He then remembers praying side by side with his father, mother and older sister (Aisha). He looks back on this memory with fondness, a time when his family weren’t as divided as they are now. The rest of Rasheed’s childhood memories are a composite of heading to the masjid, working on the farm and taking care of the animals, and the odd lesson in Islamic history from his father. In the region Rasheed grew up in, community was of very high value – Islamic societies were one of the few communities left where the young were taught to call their elders ‘auntie and uncle’ whether they were blood related or not. This stems from the Islamic belief that direct blood relations aside – all Muslims are brothers and sisters in religion.

It was a custom of this community to send your child to the only Madrassa (essentially a school) in the region, in an increasingly secular world it was one of the few places left where families could ensure their children were being taught with Islamic values in mind. Rasheed was enrolled in this school as soon as humanly possible, Hakeem went to this school, and Hakeem’s father went to this school, and so on. It only made sense for Rasheed to follow in this tradition. The school itself was fairly well regarded by outside sources for its teaching facilities and respected by Muslims and non-Muslims alike for its keeping to the core teachings of Islam without compromising its ability to teach other subjects.

Rasheed himself was rather popular in this school; he had the admirable traits of modesty and respect – toward both believers and non-believers alike. Rasheed didn’t much care for the following he got, he enjoyed having friends but didn’t particularly like how especially in the Islamic societies there was little room for individual personalities, while there was room for independent thought. He soon made it a habit to try and tease the true thoughts of his friends to the surface, and the results often surprised him. Many when questioned seemed to know remarkably little about the religion they claimed to profess, and showed distaste for anyone who wasn’t like them – the phrase ‘kuffar’ (disbeliever) was always a derogative statement. And while Rasheed agreed to some extent, he found it rather ridiculous to damn an entire people when from what little he had actually read of the Qur’an he knew judgment rests with God alone.

So between his school, his friends and his duties on the farm, he made the time to question his Imam at the masjid. Every week he would show up with a new question, and this soon earned him the title Al-Fuuduli (The Curious), a name he rather relished, and both his parents found somewhat humorous. The irony however, became apparent one day after Aisha confronted him about his newfound nickname in the community. She asked him why he constantly went to the Imam with questions rather than actually picking up the Qur’an and reading it – cover to cover. She went on to say that it is the trait of a hypocrite to profess Islam without harbouring the desire to read the book, considering it is held to be the literal word of God. Rasheed was speechless, he never had made the connection until that point. However, all he had heard from those who held high positions in his community is that the Qur’an is difficult to read and even harder to understand, and so he asked her to teach him how to read it. Aisha buried her face in her hands for some time, Rasheed had never seen his sister this disappointed. When she finally looked up, she quoted one ayat (verse) of the Qur’an to him.

‘Surah 54, ayat 40. And certainly We have made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember?’

Rasheed felt as though God was speaking directly to him, inciting guilt within his mind for asking everyone but God the questions he sought answers to. And as a result, for the next 4 years whenever he would have the time he would read a Surah of the Qur’an before sleeping. However, this wasn’t all smooth sailing. Some things which he had learned from his Imam and the various scholars that lived in his region whom he met through his father had taught him things they claimed were of God’s teachings, and yet in the book itself they were nowhere to be found, and occasionally even outright contradicted. So, considering that in the Qur’an it said God’s book was both sufficient for mankind and easy to understand, where did the superfluous teachings come into it?

The headache Rasheed encountered as a 15 year old trying to derive answers to these questions he had from those in authority could only be described as attempting to get blood from a stone. At first through his sister he learned of the difference between the Qur’an and the Hadith (reported sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.) He quickly made the connection that just because it was reported to have been said, doesn’t necessarily make it true, and it made even less sense that the Hadith in some places contradicted, and even supposedly abrogated the Qur’an. He wondered how it could even be possible for anyone but God to abrogate God’s words. It seemed as though God was attempting to open his eyes, and the Imam and the scholars were trying to close them again.

Unusually for Rasheed, he didn’t consult his sister on this crisis of faith he was going through. So he came to the conclusion that he really didn’t need Islam. He had a feeling his Imam and his friends wouldn’t be very accepting of him, so he decided the first person he would tell was his father. Him and his father were close after all, so he believed that his father would defend him against those who would likely deride him for his new stance on religion.

The opportunity presented itself one evening where his sister and his mother were both out, attending a female-only post-wedding ceremony. Rasheed had been contemplating what to say all evening whilst tending the cows; he almost decided to tell no-one and just pretend to be a Muslim, if only for the sake of his family’s reputation. But to him being an apostate was better than being a hypocrite, and since Islamic society had long since stopped outright killing apostates he figured he would have to tell his father.

On the face of things, the discussion went well – albeit one-sided. His father appeared to understand his position, and had remarkably little to say about it. He didn’t attempt to convince him he was making the wrong decision which was rather strange to Rasheed, but he was pleased Hakeem seemed to accept that Rasheed had thought about it for some time, he even joked that they wouldn’t be calling him ‘Al-Fuuduli’ anymore. Hakeem eventually ended the conversation to go outside and smoke, and Rasheed, pleased with the outcome decided to go to sleep.

Rasheed can’t recall much of the next few minutes, he remembers being woken up with the most piercing pain in his eye, coupled with the image of his father hovering over him. ‘All apostates are enemies to God’ is the last thing he ever heard his father say, and Rasheed isn’t convinced he actually heard him say that. What he does remember is the shadowy figure eventually stopped hovering over him, and slumped himself in the corner of Rasheed’s room with his face buried in his hands. Rasheed eventually managed to sit up; adrenaline began coursing through his veins. There was no struggle. In a few swift movements Rasheed had managed to remove the dagger from his own eye, and plunge it into his father’s skull. He stumbled out of the room, bleeding profusely and the emotional torment of what he had done coupled with the crippling pain in his eye brought him to tears. At first, he had no idea what to do. If he didn’t deal with his eye soon he would likely bleed out and die. The only doctor in the community was over 10 miles away and he had just killed the only one able to drive in the house. He knew hospitals dispatched helicopters for emergencies, but he was too afraid of them discovering his father. With little time left he was already feeling extremely light-headed, he remembered a biology class he took and how lasers were seeing a resurgence of use to cauterise wounds. The thought came to him of his father’s branding iron, it was a crude method, but it would be sufficient. The two minutes that followed Rasheed cannot even recall, other than the extraordinary pain of the white-hot iron making contact with his eye. He assumes he lost consciousness as a result.

He came to the next day, being tended to by Aisha. He couldn’t feel his face due to medication Aisha had given him. She quickly brought him a mirror to show him the result of his self-inflicted treatment. He had to look away, not because of the sight, but because it quickly dredged up the fleeting memory of the altercation last night. Aisha eventually broke the silence, asking him why. She said she was able to piece together what had happened from the evidence lying around, but what she couldn’t understand was why. Rasheed told her it was because he said he didn’t want to be a Muslim anymore, and Aisha’s face turned from concern to pity in the blink of an eye. Tears started streaming down her eyes, and all she could do was ask him why again. Despite the incredibly effective medication Aisha had given him, Rasheed was struggling to talk through the pain, and so he asked her to wait until he was better, and they would talk about it.

The next few weeks were Aisha and their mother taking shifts to care for Rasheed. He could occasionally hear them discussing what had happened, and the conversation usually ended with Aisha saying she didn’t know. The trepidation Rasheed felt from having to explain himself to his family was growing, and it was likely if the wider community found out there would be more people than Hakeem wanting Rasheed murdered. He knew he would have to leave, if only for the safety of his family. In the meantime, he tried to stop thinking about it so much and devoted his time to resting.

The day did come when he was more or less back to himself. The pain was still there, and so was the wound, but the latter was now covered by an eyepatch his mother had knitted for him, and the former was managed by strong medication Aisha would routinely make long trips to buy for him. So, inevitably the discussion as to why this had all taken place had to happen. It had just entered into the month of Ramadan, and iftar (the dinner wherein Muslims break their fast) had just finished. Dinner was eaten entirely in silence as for the first time in a long time, Rasheed had been present at the table. The tension was somewhat palpable, and with no-one wishing to speak, Aisha as usual was the first to begin. She beseeched him to explain what had happened, and Rasheed obliged. He began by telling them what had led to his decision, then explaining the conversation him and his father had, and ended with the memories of the tragedy itself. By the end of Rasheed’s recounting, everyone was in tears. His mother said she understood, and without another word began cleaning the table. Aisha looked at Rasheed and gestured for him to follow her out onto their land.

Rather than summarising Aisha’s statements and questions, it is better if I quote what she said. ‘You know I am disappointed in you, right? Where is the patience we are taught to exhibit? Islam is a slow process of understanding, how shameful is it to make such a snap decision? Do you not see what you have caused? Yes, I am your sister and yes, I can forgive you – it was only partially your fault. This does not excuse you from the abhorrent manner in which you disregarded your religion based upon what others had to say about it. Did I not tell you that you could come to me with questions?’ Rasheed had nothing to say. He just sunk in his chair, the gravity of her words like needles in his skin. Before he could even answer one of her questions, she began anew. ‘You realise what this causes, right? You can’t stay here – you can’t force us to lie to others to protect ourselves. I love you, but this puts us all in a very difficult situation.’ Reduced to a toddler, all Rasheed could do was nod.

‘You should have come to me with your questions. You were too young to remember it, but I was much like you, asking questions no-one really wanted to answer. Whether you understand this or not, I hold a very different set of views from those that surround us. Have I ever recounted to you a hadith? Did I ever try to stop making you eat with your left hand? These things aren’t important. The Qur’an and the Qur’an alone Is what I hold to be the truth, so I beg you – please, read it again. Without all the hearsay, without the opinions of these scholars or these imams, try and discover the truth for yourself.’ Towards the end of her speech Rasheed could hear her voice beginning to break. He’d made his sister cry again. He left the toddler on the seat, stood up a man and embraced his sister. They stood there a while, Rasheed trying to hold back his tears, and Aisha sobbing uncontrollably into his shoulder. He wasn’t sure it would change his mind, but he knew he had to read the Qur’an again, if only for his sister. The next couple of weeks were spent preparing for Rasheed’s departure. It was somewhat difficult considering he was still only 15, and their extended family were either incapable of taking him, or lived in the same community he grew up in. Aisha decided to take matters into her own hands, with her mother proving of little use. She got into contact with a professor that used to live in the same community they did. Rasheed would be the youngest to ever enrol in the university; however it wasn’t to be an official enrolment until he became of age – essentially making him spend 6 years there rather than the usual 4. Rasheed however didn’t mind, and so that was decided upon. The problem now was how would he take care of himself living alone in Dubai City? Again, Aisha took the initiative to care for her younger brother. She proposed that she would divide her week into two, spending half the week taking care of Rasheed and the other half with her mother on their farm. Their mother wasn’t entirely pleased with this solution, but she had little choice other than to accept it.

The transition between life in such a small village compared to the technological metropolis was to say the least, confusing to Rasheed. He’d seen the buildings from a distance oftentimes, and on a couple occasions he’d actually visited. But those experiences were nothing compared to the culture shock that was actually living there. Due to this, he rarely left his house to begin with – no-one seemed to dress, act or look like him, and the things Aisha brought him to occupy his time had him busy enough anyway. He cherished the half of the week he spent with Aisha, they did everything from watching films, to cooking lessons to Quranic study together, and even when she had to leave to go back to the farm, they always had at least one phone call a day together, oftentimes it would be two. It was just before Rasheed’s enrolment in the university that he rediscovered his faith. He and his sister had just gotten to surah 36, entitled ‘Ya Sin’. They usually read asynchronously, with them alternating on each verse. Halfway through, Rasheed fell silent and covered his face. Aisha thought it was something to do with his eye, and read on for him. A few moments later, Rasheed got up and left the room, Aisha being worried about her brother, decided to follow him after finishing the verse she was reading. She found him in the bathroom, his sleeves and trouser legs rolled up; he seemed to be performing ablution. Aisha just smiled; she had a feeling this day would come.

She decided to let him finish, and rolled out a pair of makeshift prayer rugs. She then began reciting the call to prayer, although traditionally it would be Rasheed’s duty to do such a thing – since he was the man, Rasheed and Aisha’s relationship with God was anything but traditional. And so, as brother and sister they completed their first prayer together in some time. When it was over, all Rasheed could do was thank his sister, for the effort, time and patience she gave to him. She simply told him to thank God instead. They then ate dinner, and Aisha had to leave later that evening to go back to the farm. Rasheed was elated, he’d found inner peace that evening and didn’t know what to do with it.

Rasheed was soon after enrolled in University. He’d been for a few visits beforehand to meet the professor he would be studying under, but he still wasn’t quite ready for the full university experience. He was only 16 at this point, surrounded by adults. All he had with him was his money and the tablet Aisha bought him for taking notes and recording lectures – the latter was to prove extremely useful toward his development. The classes Rasheed was to sit in on were largely Biology, a subject he didn’t really care too much about at first, but he decided it was better than sitting around doing nothing at home. At first all he did was vaguely stare at his tutor, picking up the occasional word when his mind became idle. Over a period of months this transformed into him intently listening, then actually recording the lectures to listen to at home, and then he began taking his own notes and researching them in his own time. He had a lot of catching up to do to be ready for university-grade study, but he did have two years to do it. His academic career soon became illustrious. In his early years he developed a deep interest in research, caring about the intricacies behind them rather than just observing the face of the matters and coming to a conclusion. This soon separated him from the majority of his peers, Rasheed wanted to discuss the intellectual aspects of what he was studying, and most of those around him seemed to care more about their social lives. He eventually established his own small clique of those who actually wanted to discuss biology, as well as other more philosophical topics. And it was with this same clique that he went on to do graduate study with, which marked the beginning of his professional career, and the end of his academic one.

Medical school came easily to Rasheed. He’d prepared himself for it, and decided that Neurology although not exactly being his ‘calling’, was definitely something he could be passionate about. There were few definitive answers in this field, which meant there was all the more to research – and for Rasheed that was significant motivation. Aisha’s visits often ended up turning out longer than they were supposed to just because she became so enthralled with the manner in which he would present his latest research to her. He had a gift for teaching without patronising, Aisha thought he would make a fine professor – but Rasheed had other ideas. He wasn’t particularly interested in teaching the same kind of people who he studied with, he knew the majority of them didn’t harbour that same passion he did, and he would likely find it soul destroying to spend a life imparting wisdom on deaf ears.

Rasheed was never really interested in glory or academic achievement. He just wanted to be proficient at what he did. The glory soon came to him however in his last year of graduate study. Him and his clique had been researching the genetic mutation process of Huntingdon’s disease, and by chance one of Rasheed’s friends whom had already graduated was testing advanced gene therapy solutions to a variety of diseases. The two came together and discussed their findings and over the next 8 months, and happened upon a breakthrough. It was possible if detected in the early stages to effectively replace the mutated HTT gene with an artificial ‘healthy’ gene – essentially stopping the development of the disease in its tracks. Rasheed at first had no idea what to do with what he and his friend had discovered. His friend however, knew exactly where to go. Awards and promises of wealth soon followed, however due to differences in the opinion between Rasheed and his partner of how to test and eventually distribute the cure, Rasheed agreed to have himself removed from the equation for a modest (yet still quite large) amount of money.

A third of the money he gave to his mother and Aisha, ensuring they’d never have to sell their land, or work if they didn’t want to. His mother and naturally Aisha also were extremely proud of him, especially for not selling himself out just to make more money. A portion of the money went into his own savings, he then bought his own apartment in Dubai City rather than the one Aisha and his mother were subsidising for him, and lastly he gave a third of the money to various charities – charity is an Islamic principle, it is necessary to give a small portion of whatever you make to charity if you can afford it. Rasheed could certainly afford it and went above and beyond the usual amount one would donate to charity.

As much as he loved research, he realised that in that capacity of medicine there was far too much politics involved in just the end result of helping people. He wasn’t interested in devoting his entire life to research if it always came down to people trying to turn research into liquid assets. So he decided he would find a way to combine his two loves, research and helping people. The opportunity came as quickly as he decided, with one of his university friends soon contacting him about a joint physician role aboard a pair of privately hired ships, attempting to disband a smuggling ring that was compromising Corporation A’s business. The notion of space travel appealed to Rasheed, and so he accepted.

It was on this mission that Rasheed met up with Nolan. Nolan was the captain of one of the two ships, and at first they had relatively little to say to each other. It was only when the mission became somewhat disastrous and Nolan got injured that they had time to bond, and they really did bond. Nolan would often fill Rasheed in on the major events of the war, which Rasheed had essentially ignored. And Rasheed would often fill Nolan in on his culture. But where they really bonded was their ideologies. Although Rasheed had a more religion-centric viewpoint on many things, they both shared something of a vision for humanity, and they could spend hours playing the role of armchair diplomats. It was after the mission was over that Rasheed became Nolan’s first choice for a physician on any mission he would have.

Project Legacy

- Written by Ruben Fisher, Mid 2012.


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