“We pray that God will find you a friend who will support you and help you along the path.”
What does it mean to be homeless, a refugee, and struggling to find a way to righteousness in a strange land? In A Stray Adan (Barkhad Abdirahman) is a young Somali immigrant in Minneapolis. He has been kicked out of his home for stealing from his mother and from friends’ apartment because he doesn’t work or help out. He finds himself living in the mosque, but soon finds someone there who will give him a chance working in a restaurant. But on a delivery, Adan hits a dog with the car, and in the aftermath loses his job and is out on the streets with a dog in his charge.
For many Muslims a dog is considered unclean. This becomes yet another barrier between Adan and those around him. (Although the imam does tell a story from Mohammed [peace be upon him] about the treatment of animals that reflects a different view.) Yet as Adan and the dog make their way through the trials of homelessness, Adan begins to find a new sense of responsibility that allows him to begin to grow.
The obvious metaphor is that Adan is as much of a stray as the dog. He feels as though no one truly cares for him. His friends lead him down the wrong paths. His mother won’t help him until her returns what he’s taken. An FBI agent provides him with help, but expects him to inform on (perhaps even frame) his friends. He even ponders if God cares, because he feels as though his prayers are unanswered.
The key question asked in the film is what does it mean to be a stray? It is of note that the term “astray” comes up in various prayers and readings from the Quran. For Adan his life has been defined by going astray—not just from the paths of righteousness (although he does seek to be a good Muslim), but from all the cultural underpinnings of his life. He is (as was Abraham) a stranger in a strange land. This is not his home, but it is the only chance he has to find a home. We are asked to consider our response to the “strays” in the world around us. Often the stray animals we encounter can become beloved parts of our lives. What of the stray people we meet?
Photos courtesy IFP Screen Forward