The mausoleum was heavily crowded. The pilgrims moved in waves circling around it. Those who were near the tomb would touch the cold silver lattice in mesmerized gesture and then rubbed their faces to transfer the holy effects. Others just extended their hands to receive the remote form of the sacred vibration. The older pilgrims in the outer limits just held their hands in prayer and moved with a slower pace.
Everyone’s center of attention was the shrine. Other activities including kicking, punching and cursing were of minor importance. They all focused on one purpose, receiving a miraculous reward in return for their pilgrimage. In the middle of this confusion, I noticed an unusual movement in progress. A servant of the Holiness, readily recognized from his uniform, was attentively observing the crowd. He was big, heavy, and exceptionally interested in an old man holding both hands at his belly level, palms upward, whispering prayers.
He reached into his pocket, pulled out a bunch of crumpled bills, squeezed them into a lump within his hand, and approached his target. I was truly fascinated by his swift movement when he mixed with the crowd. He maneuvered in such a way to appear right behind his target. He then reached from behind and embraced the tiny old man. His left hand provided support for the extended hands in prayer and his right hand pressed the lump of money into the old man’s palm closing his fingers to make sure he had gotten hold of the bills. The next second, he was far away moving with the chaotic crowd to the outer orbit and away from the subject.I was confused for a few seconds. Then I realized what the servant’s mission was. The old man was filled with joy. The Holiness had finally responded to his prayers. He was going back to his village with the good news.
I followed the servant and caught up with him in the courtyard.
“I just saw what you did in the shrine,” I whispered in his ear.
“What are you going to do about it?” he answered smiling. “Nobody will believe you.”
“But your action is wrong and misleading,” I said.
He stopped and pointed at the shrine entrance. “Look at them,” he said. The crowd entered and exited in haste. “How are you going to convince them what they are doing is superstition? This is part of their life. It makes their suffering tolerable.” Then he turned and continued walking.
All of a sudden, there was an uproar in the courtyard. “Don’t get excited,” he said, “this is another common site here.”
On the other side of the courtyard, the people were following a man running away. Whoever could get hold of him would grab at his clothes, tore a piece, and went away.
“This one,” he said, “is a blind man who’s been cured. We do not sponsor such incidents—he comes here from the remote parts of the country—stays around the shrine for a while pretending he is blind, and now, all of a sudden, he cries, “I can see!” The pilgrims use pieces of his clothes as charm. He is financially secure for the rest of his life—people pay charity, you know.”
“And you encourage the superstition by ignoring his false claim,” I said.
“It is nothing personal, my friend,” he said. “This is a big business—one of the most important Shiites attractions in the world. We help the holiness with a few miracles once in a while.” He looked at me with an evil smile. “You don’t want the pilgrims to leave disappointed, do you?”
“You work for Satan,” I replied. “I am going to shed light into this matter and reveal the real face of your boss.”
“Well, many reporters have tried that before. We do not prey on your readers—the intellectual type, you know. Our targets are Muslim devotees, the illiterates, and the simple-hearted peasants—the ones you won’t be able to reach,” he said.
I recalled a great saying of Zoroaster, “To battle the darkness, I draw not my sword, I light a candle.” “You are wrong,” I said. “The mother of all miracles, the internet, will soon shed light into every dark corner of your villages. You are going to lose this battle.”
His face turned blank indicating a signs of weakness. I left without waiting for his answer.