A pair of slippers, a set of keys, a 5 ringgit note...everyone had lost one or the other at the mosque. It was an unspoken rule that you should wear your ugliest pair of slippers to the mosque lest a slipper-thief finds it appealing. I have always taken this unspoken rule to heart. I guess I just don't have that much of faith in my fellow men.
I guess I shouldn't have given in to my 5-year-old son's demands that Friday. He wanted to follow me to Friday prayers; and I brought him along. He was bouncing in his seat, excited at the prospect of joining the mass of men in this weekly union with God. I still remember his grin, ear to ear, as we drove to the mosque. He always had a wonderful smile.
I had him beside me the whole time. I sat near the back of the mosque, so as not to bother the other men with my son's often uncontrollable behaviour. But he behaved well that day. I was proud of him. It was after the prayers that I discovered he was missing.
Initially, I thought he had gone off to play with the other kids in the mosque. There were many of kids around, brought to the mosque by fathers such as myself. I searched calmly initially, but grew desperate as I realized my son wasn't among them. Desperately I looked for his maroon-coloured baju melayu. No luck. I went over to the stairs and found my son's ugliest pair of slippers - the ones I told him to wear. But my son was nowhere to be seen.
As the mosque emptied up after that, so did my mind. I barely remember what happened after that, but an uncontrollable chain of events took place.
Police. The media. Sympathetic strangers. My son's disappearance became the talk of the nation. Horrified whispers:
"Which monster would kidnap a child at a mosque?"
"What is our society coming to?"
"Could the father have done more?"
They did not have to ask that last question. I asked myself that question a lot as it is. I had lost faith in myself.
My wife keeps telling me I was not at fault. That I was a cautious man. That it could happen to anyone. But when I looked in her eyes I knew she didn't mean it. She, too, had lost faith in me.
Its been months now since the incident. My son was still missing. I didn't get to celebrate his 6th birthday with him. And I've stopped going to the mosque in those months. Heck, I've stopped praying altogether. But today I found myself driving to the site of the incident.
The mosque was empty, since I arrived between the afternoon and evening prayer times. I apologised profusely to God. I prayed. I cried. For in those hellish months I have never lost hope that God will do something to help me. To help my son.
I put my hands up to God. Its time to have a little faith.