A Thanksgiving story about prayer in the Islamic world

Once in a while an unexpected act of random kindness makes Thanksgiving a day that can happen any time of the year. This is one of those stories. Photo: Muslim Writers Guild of America

CHARLOTTENovember 21, 2012 – While I was living in Saudi Arabia in 2003, my father was scheduled for minor surgery back home. Two days before the procedure he suffered a stroke. 

Even with internet access, it was difficult to get up to the minute information.  First reports indicated the stroke was relatively minor and that Dad was doing all right.  

I have heard stories of events in people’s lives where they instinctively know when something has happened to a family member. Before long, I had a strange feeling that something was terribly wrong. In my gut I sensed that my father was going to die.

While getting a cup of coffee, I ran into a colleague named Salah. He inquired about my dad and mentioned I thought he had taken a turn for the worst. I told Salah I’d like to go home to see Dad alive rather than attend his funeral. I figured a face to face goodbye was a better option than the alternative.

As we talked I received a message to call home

It was 3:15 in the morning in the states.  My wife answered the phone. 

“Your Dad died at 12:05 this morning,” she said.  “He died in his sleep. It was a peaceful passing.  They did all they could, but he just had too many complications.”

The conversation lasted about 20 minutes. Now the only thing to decide was whether or not to go home. In my mind, the window of opportunity had passed.  To do anything now would be a mountain of red-tape. I was halfway around the world.  The time difference.  The logistics.  The itinerary. None of it seemed feasible

When my only American co-worker, Joan, stopped by my office I gave her all the reasons why I decided to stay in Saudi. Joan insisted it could be done and that Salah would help me. 

“In a case like this, I react. Then I figure it all out later,” said Salah frantically. “You need to go home.  You need to go home now.”

“There’s no time.  It’s just too complicated,” I replied.

“You got a multiple?” asked Salah.

He was referring to a multiple entry visa which allowed unlimited access to and from Saudi Arabia

“Yes.  No problem. My passport is good.”

“Great.  Can you go tonight?” asked Salah.

“Sure.  All I need to do is pack and get to Bahrain.  But there’s no way to get out of here.  I need approval.  I need tickets.  It’s just too difficult.”

“I don’t care,” said Joan, “You need to go.  You’re the youngest son aren’t you?”

“No,” I said, “I’m the oldest.”

The words were barely out of my mouth.  Salah’s head snapped to the eft looking at Joan with concern.

“You’re going.  You have no choice.  In Islam, you’re next in line.  You cannot do this to your family,” said Salah with urgency.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll get the permissions and make the arrangements.”

Throughout the day, Saudi colleagues stopped by my office to offer condolences.  They all said the same thing.  “This is the life,” they would say and nod their heads slowly from side to side.

The Arabic didn’t translate precisely, but I knew that they were saying “it’s all part of the cycle of life.”  In Arabic English it just came out, “This is the life.”

Over the course of the day, Salah continued working the phones, bypassing all the usual protocols. Late in the afternoon he rushed into my office.

“How long will it take you to pack?” he asked.  “I got reservations.  You leave at 10:45 from Bahrain.”

By 5:15 I had a plane ticket in my hand.  Roundtrip to the U.S. was a little over 5,000 riyals.  About $1,200.  Not bad considering the last minute arrangements.

Salah and Joan had pulled every Saudi string they could muster, and it worked.

My taxi arrived at my compound just in time to make a frantic dash to the airport limo service in Khobar.  I hastily unloaded my bags and presented my plane ticket.  Within minutes we were headed to Bahrain

Through an incredible series of last minute arrangements I made it.  Even at home it would have taken a perfect set of circumstances to make it all work.  Doing it in Saudi Arabia was nothing short of phenomenal  

At 10:45 I was on the first of four legs that would take me to Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Newark and home.             

It was a miracle.  A miracle created through the perseverance of a man whose religion is often bewildering and filled with contempt.  A man whose countrymen had flown planes into buildings almost two years before, killing 3,000 people. 

A man motivated only by the goodness in his heart and his belief that it was the right thing to do to help a Christian. 

Throughout my life I have been told there is power in prayer. It is one of the five pillars of Islam and one of its basic foundations that happens five times each day. A Saudi man named Salah who made a personal focused commitment through to offering help in a time of need.

How ironic that the Arabic word salah translates to mean “prayer.”


Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 70 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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