Allah is Merciful: Perhaps Allah Needs Me

By Patricia Cockrell — Set in the Chechnya

Alicia Homichenko, age 16

Everyone liked Shaman, and he liked everyone and everything. He lived in the Muslim village of Sernovodsk in Chechnya in a green valley with small farms. The people lived a good life, and were proud of their school, agricultural college and hot sulfur baths. Shaman worked in a bakery, but he liked mechanics, electronics, construction, Beethoven… even rock music. He could mend practically anything, from cars to sewing machines. 

When he was 24, he left his family, job, friends and hobbies for Moscow to earn money for his parents and younger brothers. Before long, however, war broke out in Chechnya. Shaman took the first plane home. He sat next to foreign journalists on the plane. Shaman accepted their offer of 1,000 U.S. dollars to be their driver and guide in Grozny, the capitol of Chechnya.

There, Shaman found a world of bombs, dead bodies, ruined buildings, shattered glass, broken furniture, and belongings scattered everywhere. To his surprise, people still lived in the basements amidst this horror. Most were Russians, but some were Chechens, Azeris or others. They all huddled together, terrified and helpless, without food, water, heat or light.

Shaman promised, Allah willing, to bring them food, water and medicine. He kept his promise again and again. Running and dodging on backstreets, Shaman and his brother Adlan avoided snipers to take in supplies that he had bought, and bring out the sick and wounded. 

“Allah is merciful,” he told himself. “Perhaps Allah needs me.” 

When his own village became blockaded, he walked 43 kilometers (nearly 27 miles) over mountains to take food and medicine to survivors in another village. He even brought food to Russian soldiers, who had attacked the Chechens, because they were hungry and cold. To Shaman no one in need was an enemy.

Meanwhile, Shaman’s neighbors refused to let war take over. They set up a peace camp on the main road to speak to passersby and pray around a campfire in a makeshift mosque. People stayed in the peace camp all winter, but in the spring thousands, including Shaman’s family, fled new bombings. Luckily, Shaman and his family were taken in by friends in neighboring Ingushetia.

Shaman knew that neither the Chechens nor his Russian friends wanted war. He looked forward to returning home to raise a family of his own, in peace. Finally, that time came. The fighting stopped. Shaman, Adlan, and the rest of their family and friends returned to Sernovodsk. They found much destroyed, but worked hard to rebuild. 

Best of all, Shaman met and married Milana. Their baby girl, Diana, was born on Christmas day. They rebuilt more than a home. With the help of a young British Quaker, Chris, and others from many cultures, they set up a mill to grind 50 sacks of flour a day for people in need. Meanwhile, Adlan and Chris opened a center in Grozny called Little Star to help children, who were hurt by the war, to laugh and play as children should.

Discussion Questions

  • Why was Shaman the one to go out of his family to Moscow to earn money? Put yourself in his place. What do you think it was like for him?
  • Why did Shaman go back home to Chechnya? Whom did he meet on the plane to Chechnya, and why did he go with them to Grozny?
  • How did Shaman spend the $1,000 the journalists paid him? How did he and his brother Adlan help the people of Grozny? How would you have spent the money?
  • In the midst of his dangerous activities, Shaman said to himself, “Allah is merciful: Perhaps Allah needs me.” What do you suppose he was thinking and feeling?
  • The author tells us at the beginning of the story that no one dreamed that Shaman would turn out to be a hero. What does it mean to be a hero? Do you think Shaman was a hero? Why?
  • The author tells us, “To Shaman, no person in need is an enemy.” How did Shaman’s actions express this belief? Do you share these beliefs?
  • Have you or your family ever received or given humanitarian aid?
  • What does peace mean to you??
  • PREAMBLE of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations): Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
    Article I of the Universal Declaration of HumanRights (United Nations) All human beings are born free and equal are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

    • Shaman promised (Allah willing) to bring food to ALL many times using his own money, even Russian soldiers who where cold and hungry. How does this show that “no person in need is an enemy?” How does this relate to Article I, above?
    • How do you think the “Little Star” children’s program helped the children overcome the emotional damage of the war? How does this relate to Human Rights Preamble and Article I, above?