By Zach Patberg
The woman asked him if she was permitted to give her parched child the dirty liquid, even though Islamic law forbade it. Taken by her religious propriety amid such emergency, the man assured the mother it was no sin given the circumstances, as long as she did not sell it to others.At a Friday prayer service at Masjid Al-Hikmah, a Queens Indonesian Muslim community center in Long Island City, Ivano Yusuf relayed the man's account, e-mailed from overseas, to an overflowing, largely Indonesian congregation. It was an example, according to the Saturday school teacher, of the resilient devotion among Muslims even as the death toll in Indonesia's hardest hit city, Banda Aceh, continued to rise beyond 40,000. Many of the more than 300 Queens parishioners who attended the service have relatives among the dead or missing. The large number of bodies yet to be found or identified, coupled with severed phone lines and jumbled Web sites, have thrown some residents into an agonizing limbo as to their kin's fate. For others, the only feeling is grief.Yusra Zaini, a Muslim from Astoria, is still waiting to hear what has happened to most of her family. She said she heard from Indonesian authorities that the Dec. 26 tsunami destroyed a Banda Aceh hospital where her sister was recuperating after giving birth to her child the day before. Their fates were unknown.”The hospital flooded and all the patients are gone,” she said at the Long Island City center, her eyes filling with tears.Although her parents are safe in a shelter, Zaini and her husband, Muhamed, have hit walls trying to contact much of their extended family, including another sister, an uncle and his three children. “I still keep calling, calling, calling from Sunday until today,” she said.Another congregant, Ismet Salim, found out that morning that his parents and brother who were previously reported dead were actually alive in Aceh. His aunt was killed, however, and he has been unable to reach some 27 other relatives still missing in Aceh and Jakarta. “If they died, I must accept it,” the 31-year-old from Elmhurst said resolutely. “I have no more tears to cry with.”Aside from the spiritual support offered at Friday's khutva, or sermon, a drive to collect money, food and clothing donations was a pressing concern for many.Lefty Effendy, of the Indonesian Muslim Community Inc., which organized the relief efforts at the center, said about $10,000 had been raised since the Dec. 25 disaster. More than $22,000 was donated on Friday alone.Send donations to: Indonesian Muslim Community Inc. 48-01 31st Ave., Long Island City, NY 11103Make checks payable to IMCI. Tax exempt I.D. number: 11-3188256.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.