in our Iran adventure we met ali zabei former racketeer mosbster turned moslem servant sari mazandaran iran copyright ali torkzadeh escapefromtehran.com

Mobster turned Moslem servant
“Mortician, wash my dead body calmly”

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This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Iran Road Tour: Tehran to Mashhad via the Caspian Coast

Ali Zabei is a 30-year-old former racketeer who turned his life around by turning to Islam. Hiding his tattoo-covered body with long-sleeved shirts, he is a volunteer caretaker at a hoseiniye (a Shia gathering hall, similar to a mosque) in Sari, Iran. We met him on our Iran adventure in Sari, on the Caspian Sea, this morning on our latest escape from Tehran.

Meeting interesting characters on an Iran adventure is common. Iranians are curious about foreign visitors and usually reciprocate by talking about their own lives.

ali zabei former racketeer mosbster turned moslem servant sari mazandaran iran copyright ali torkzadeh escapefromtehran.com
Ali Zabei, 30-year-old repented former mobster we met on our Iran adventure tour of Caspian Sea region of north Iran. He volunteers at Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin Hoseiniye, Sari, Mazandran Province, Iran Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh, EscapefromTehran.com

In his own words:

“I didn’t even have to ask for protection money. Shopkeepers just came out in the street and gave it to me because they knew what I would do to them if they didn’t.

“But I have asked forgiveness from every one of them.

“I repented all of a sudden because someone I cared about told me to stop doing it. He didn’t say anything special. Just said stop throwing your life away. Also my mother influenced me.

God was my reason for change

“But God was really the reason I changed, not a human being. Before you couldn’t even look me in the eye, let alone tell me what to do. Now people yell at me all the time. But I stay quiet, keep my peace. And in silence, I actually feel powerful.

“When I repented six years ago, I had everything. But since then, I’ve lost my wife, my child, my money. I lost everything. It’s God’s test. He wants to know if my repentance is real or not.

ali zabei former racketeer mosbster turned moslem servant sari mazandaran iran copyright ali torkzadeh escapefromtehran.com
Ali Zabei, 30-year-old repented former mobster, who volunteers at Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin Hoseiniye, Sari, Mazandran Province, Iran Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh, EscapefromTehran.com

“I’m still paying for my past. People still haven’t changed their minds. I can see it in their eyes, in the way they move around me. But for me, it’s not important. Why? Because my owner, my creator, my elder is someone else. So because I have Him, then what people think is not important to me. Actually, they are also being tested.

“God pulled Joseph out of the well and made him the beloved of Egypt. My God is the same God. So if I choose to, I too can go the same route.

My volunteer work

“I work here at the hoseiniye as a volunteer servant. I don’t receive a salary like the other servants here. People give me handouts. Sometimes I do roze khani (form of preaching). I have to pay 1.5M tomans a month [about $50 USD] for my wife’s mehriyeh (form of dowry).

“My entire body is covered with tattoos. When I go home at night, I try to stay covered so my mother doesn’t see the tattoos. The only way to get rid of them is by laser. That’s going to cost a pretty penny too.

“Here, it’s a cross and here it’s a gun. Here it says, ‘Mortician, wash my dead body calmly.’

“The tattoos serve a purpose, too. They remind me of my past. I remember who I was. So the tattoos, in a way, straighten my path.”

ali zabei former racketeer mosbster turned moslem servant sari mazandaran iran copyright ali torkzadeh escapefromtehran.com
Ali Zabei, 30-year-old repented former mobster, who volunteers at Seyyed Zein Al-Abedin Hoseiniye, Sari, Mazandran Province, Iran Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh, EscapefromTehran.com
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Ali and Saeideh plan their Iran roadtrips from their home in Mashhad. More about us here >>

Other dioramas in the category of The People of Iran

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