Lost Moments

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem 

Khawlah

Beautiful moments are not always perfect ones.

Some people say that they are unforgettable. Moments that stay with you. Moments that have a special place in your heart, no matter what the situation is, or how dull things may seem.

But there’s no other way to see them than this: Like the streams of light finding their way through the tiny gaps of rickety shutters .. Beautiful moments are like that. No matter what life has thrown at you, they simply blow you away.

“Muhammad,” Zuleikha beamed, wincing slightly in pain as she sat down.  “His name is Muhammad.”

I smiled as I watched him, his tiny little fists still as he slept, and his mouth making little movements, almost as if he was still hungry or sucking on an imaginary dummy. I thought he would cry as I placed him down in the little crib that Zuleikha had brought, but he didnt. He gave a tiny moan and settled again, into a deeper sleep, into his own little world. He was so amazingly special. Not to mention, extremely adorable too.

Now, by then, I’d had my fair share of experience with little humans. I was actually beginning to miss the ones I’d become accustomed to quite intensely. Looking at the little bundle and having Zuleikha here was a welcomed distraction.

I gazed at him tenderly. I stil couldn’t believe that he was my nephew.

“So when are you going home?” I asked her, eyeing out the bag she had placed on the floor. It wasn’t very big.

Zuleikha shrugged nonchalantly. She had arrived in the morning, a few days post-birth, and though a surprise, it was great to have them both.

“I don’t know,” she said, and looked away.

She seemed to have something on her mind, but I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to delve into it, because during these past days, my sister seemed so much more at peace. Content. Satisfied.

I realized something beautiful about her at that moment, as I watched both my sister and nephew. Although she may have drifted away, at that moment, her heart was so in synch with reality, that it amazed me.

She had surrendered. Submitted. She had wholeheartedly accepted that even though she had gone a little off track, and forgotten Who she owed everything to, Allah had never forgotten her.

I could feel her peace. There’s always salvation in admitting defeat. The peace of prostration. To stay in that position, with your head lowered. To stay humbled and wait, until He raises you.

When you’ve had th world and searched it for what can be found behind every closed door or even the quietest corners… and then… you finally find Him.

There’s nothing that comes close to that. 

It was so ironic that it reminded me of what she had told me once as a child. Finding life a little unfair at that point in time, Zuleikha had gently reminded me of the essence of a believer.

The beautiful thing about the lives of the Sahabah RA, Khawlah, was that, even though their every breath was that of a surrendered believer, they never called themselves Mu’mins. They just submitted. Whatever it took. Whatever came their way. They submitted and they overcame…”

Thats what we should strive for. That’s the essence of a true Mu’min. Reading my books about the Sahabah again after ages, these few days, was a welcome reminder of what we needed to strive for.

It was about being the perfect believers. It was just about submitting.

I remembered that chat I had with her at the hospital. Zuleikha seemed a lot more focused now. I didn’t often find her in a kind of aimless daze, like I would before.

Besides the fact that Ahmed was nowhere to be found, everything in the household had returned to its former routine. Abba didn’t seem to worried. He said that Ahmed knew how to look after himself. I mean, it was Abba who had been intensely training Ahmed for situations like this and although I wished that Ahmed hadn’t pulled the trigger that night, the best thing he could do now was to let the whole thing blow over.

I sighed, just a little exhausted with all that had happened during the past few weeks. Jameel and Zuleikha. Ahmed. Rubeena.

Everything was so … tiring. I felt drained.

“What are you thinking about?”

Zuleikha’s voice broke through my thoughts as I paced the room, a little unaware of what exactly I was doing.

“I was just thinking,” I said carefully. “How everything works out… in the end.”

“Is it the end?”

“No,” I replied, with a slight smile. “But it’s definitely getting there. You’re looking like you’re in a better place too, Zulz. You’re not looking stressed. Everything sorted out between you and Jameel?”

This was the first time I asked her directly about the issues in her marriage. I had been getting hints here and there about the state of affairs but she had never said anything solid. Now, she looked at me with a slight frown, thinking before she answered.

“I have to learn to stand on my own feet, Khawlah,” she said, looking pensive. “I have to make my own decisions now. I have a little life that depends on me. The counselor at the hospital…”

She trailed off and widened her eyes slightly, feeling perturbed by her last few words.

Counselor? I didn’t know that Zuleikha had seen a counselor.

Aunty Radiyyah’s words came back to me once again, and I felt jolted awake at their magnanimity. I had almost forgotten just how serious and life changing her situation was.

”Your sister is in a lot of trouble, Khawlah,” she had said, speaking quietly, because she didn’t want the rest of the house to hear. It was the first time I had heard Aunty Radiyyah speak so softly. “Her marriage is breaking. Her husband is not to be trusted. He doesn’t like Ahmed, and I’ve heard that he wants to hurt him. He has a reputation of dealing with bad people. Please, my darling… please look out for her. Look out for you all. Look out for Ahmed. You’re strong, Khawlah. You’re strong. I know you can do it.”

Zuleikha looked at me now with determination in her eyes.

“Anyway,” she said blandly. “I’m working through my stuff. Jameel says he’s going to be a better father. He knows he has to change.”

I nodded. She felt guilty. She felt guilty about what happened with Ahmed, and she was trying to make up for it too. Maybe she was doing the right thing. I wasn’t sure. Maybe she was.

Hearing Zuleikha’s hope made me hopeful too. I wanted my sister to be happy, and I didn’t want my nephew growing up on a home that was broken too.

Things were looking up. I prayed that they would stay that way as we went along with our day-to-day lives, until Zuleikha had to go back home.

I missed them when they left. It was like an ache that wouldn’t go away, and it was only after a few days that I realized that all this time, I had just been filling the gap. I missed the kids I used to look after, and now that Zuleikha was gone, that gap was now empty once again.

School had become routine, and every day was more or less the same. It was Nusaybah who kept the day alive, with her bubbly stories and constant chatter. She was truly an awesome friend to have, and I loved that she always brought some light to the dullness of the day. She would often burst into laughter for no apparent reason, and I found it hard to believe that such a small person held so much of joy.

It was Nusaybah who gave me the idea of getting back into my hobby once again.

“You’ve lost your fire, girl,” she said, shaking her head and tut-tutting at me. “You’re behaving like an abandoned puppy.”

”I miss the kids,” I said, sounding a little defeated than usual that day. “And Zuleikha. Maybe I will go and see her later.”

“Again?” She retorted, looking shocked because I had just gone the day before. “Give your sister some peace. Let her sort out her life.”

I sighed. There wasn’t much that I kept from Nusaybah, and I valued her advice.

So that day, I delved into my books again, and fate just had it that I picked the one that Aunty Radiyyah had given me as a little girl.

I hastily opened the book, gliding my fingers over the writing that was at the front. Aunty Radiyyah’s.

Her personality was so alive. Boisterous. Nusaybah reminded me so much of her. Maybe there was a sign here.

I smiled as I opened it, letting myself get lost in the world of the little girl who had lost her mother. The feelings were so familiar, yet still affected me so deeply. As I finished it, about 45 minutes later, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.

I missed Aunty Radiyyah. Her laugh. Her smile. Even her loud voice. The beautiful moments I had spent at her house were now a distant memory, but it didn’t mean that I could never see her again.

As she left, I remembered her words clearly as they came back to me.

“Your beautiful garden is waiting for you, my beautiful girl.”

My garden. She had always called it my garden. Not Khalid’s, although he had probably spent as much time there as me. She always had said that when I wasn’t there, Khalid wouldn’t even step outside. I supposed that was when it became my garden.

And of course, the last time she was here, she had quite obviously said that I could come and see it whenever I wanted to.

Why not? Why not today?

It was a Friday and Abba was home. I’m sure he would take me if I asked him. I dressed quickly, getting permission and making my way to Abba’s car.

I was already excited, as we drove through the streets of our quiet neighborhood. Going back to the street where we used to stay would be trip that would bring back a lot of memories, and I could see Abba stiffen slightly as we entered, almost as if he was anxious. He relaxed slightly as we passed our house, slowly turning to look inside.

Our old house still looked the same. It was still cream and double story, but there were different cars parked in the driveway. I almost expected to see little Yunus run out of the garage door or Zuleikha shout to us from the window, but with a pang, I realized that those days were long gone. Things were different now. Everyone was different too. We had all changed in so many ways.

So many memories. So many hopes. Those little minds held many aspirations and countless ambitions….

I blinked my eyes, trying to erase the past from my mind.

Aunty Radiyyah’s house was coming up, and I quickly averted my mind and looked up, ready to jump off.

My heart hammered as I spotted it. I could see it. I could already see the flowering creepers making their way further up the terraced wall, as we approached. The house was very much the same, but it had an heir of exuberance that I never noticed before. Colors had changed, and I could literally smell the freshness of it all I stepped out into the open and took a deep breath.

That garden. That garden. It was my haven, and I could already feel myself being summoned to it as I climbed the step to the front door, realizing that I’d never entered from there before.

I simply couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait to sink my hands into the dewy earth. I couldn’t wait to revile in the scent of nature, once again. It’s calmness and serenity would be just what I would need.

I breathed in deeply, already lost in my own little world. And then it hit me.

How stupid could I be?

I didn’t even check if Aunty Radiyyah was home! I didn’t even check if I could come. What if she was busy? Worse, what if she wasn’t home? It was just a simple etiquette that I had forgotten.

I let out an exasperated sigh, hoping for the best as I pressed the doorbell. It had been so long. The memories of Yunus, Khalid and I playing in the patio all replayed in my mind as I waited. Where had the time gone to? How did it all go so fast?

Those were unforgettable times. Beautiful moments that I could hardly define.

I breathed out as I heard footsteps come to the door, relieved that I wouldn’t be waiting outside until Abba came back for me.

I braced myself for Aunty Radiyyah’s dynamic voice, and without doubt, her warm embrace. She was always so welcoming, that I hadn’t prepared myself for anything else. I hadn’t expected anything less.

The door swung open as I looked on, and I blinked in surprise, hardly believing my eyes.

My eyes were still adjusting to the darkness inside, and I still wasn’t sure if I was seeing right

It had been years. Almost 5 years. The time had seemed to go so fast, but at that moment, it felt like it was just yesterday that I had left this life behind.

Instead of Aunty Radiyyah, steely grey eyes peered at me enquiringly, with a hint of something that I couldn’t recognize.

Was it hostility? Disappointment? Maybe even resentment? I wasn’t sure, and I had a feeling that I didn’t want to find out.

I swallowed hard, feeling awkward as I cleared my throat, hoping that the right words would come out of my own mouth.

It was like Murphy’s Law. Even when you have so much to say, something happens that spins you around… and then… you just get stuck.

Aunty Radiyyah’s last words to me as she left that day. The truth of it stuck me now, and the hurt in her eyes was now clearer than ever.

“Don’t lose her, Khawlah. Don’t lose your sister. Sometimes, you can lose someone even when they’re right there. Sometimes, you can miss them, even when they are right next to you. Sometimes, you can have everything but you can’t have peace. That’s the worst type of loss.”

She took a breath, and that’s when I saw it. It was almost like it wasn’t there, but once again, the flicker of untold hurt entered her eyes again, clear as day.

Trust me, my Khawlah,” she said, In almost a whisper.

I know. I know exactly what it’s like.”

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Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Khawlah

“Where is she?”

My father reached the top of the stairs as I came out, a worried look on his face.

“She’s inside,” I said, with a tiny smile.

I had just witnessed the most beautiful moment for my sister, and my mind was still wrapped in the amazement of it all. Amidst the worry that consumed me, I was still in awe of the miracle that came in that little bundle of joy.

“Is she okay?” He asked anxiously. “And the baby?”

I nodded silently. Abba was looking more like himself these days. The worries that had seemed to consume him were fading and his happiness now was quite visible. Yunus was there too, and they both looked exceptionally relieved at the news.

“When can we go in?” Yunus asked, shifting on his feet nervously.

My younger brother had changed a lot over the years. Yunus was generally the nervous type, and although he was always busy with some sport or activity, close contact with other people put him on edge. He wasn’t exactly sociable, and as he grew up, I found him withdrawing a lot. I wished I could speak to him and get through to him more… but somehow, as we grew up, things just changed.

Both Yunus and Abba headed for the room while I stayed back, just trying to catch my breath.

So much had happened in such a short time, and I couldn’t help but be completely blown away by the beauty of it.

Seeing Zuleikha there with a little baby was so moving, yet awesome.

“Did you see him?” She asked me, her eyes shining with something that I’d seen once before. I couldn’t seem to place the look she had in her eyes… but its presence was remarkably familiar.

I nodded.

“He’s beautiful, Masha Allah,” I said as i caught a glimpse and the nurse wheeled him away. He was. “Looks like you.”

She smiled at me, and I could see that she was in pure ecstasy. I couldn’t quite believe it too. I was an aunty.

“How’s Jameel?” I said, knowing that I had to ask. “Happy that his baby is here?”

Her expression hardened, and she blinked. It was like I had yanked her out of the little happy place that she ha been in, the moment I said his name.

“Ahmed,” she said, her voice shaking. “Where’s Ahmed? Did you hear what happened?”

I nodded. I knew that Ahmed had shot Jameel. Intense guilt consumed me as she said it, because I knew that whatever grudge Ahmed had acted on was due to information that I was responsible for giving him. I couldn’t tell Zuleikha that now, though. I stayed silent.

“Everything was so crazy,” she said, her eyes darting from side to side as she recollected the days events in her mind. “Ahmed… Jameel… and then… the blood. Khawlah, there was so much of blood! I can’t remember much after that, but honestly, I can’t believe that I actually got through this day.”

She sounded tired as she sighed, her worried eyes watching me.

“And then he came,” she said, after a few seconds, and the dreamlike haziness entered her eyes one again. “And I just could not believe how lucky I was. How perfect he was. Khawlah, motherhood is the most beautiful feeling ever. But when you are on your own….”

She trailed off there as she swallowed, and I moved closer to hold her hand. She looked up at me and her eyes were desperately seeking mine, almost begging me for some hope… some inspiration that she needed to hear.

I grasped her hand a little tighter, knowing exactly what to say.

“You are never alone,” I whispered to her. “Never. Even when life knocks you down on your knees… remember, Allah is placing you in the perfect position to pray.”

Zuleikha looked up at me in wonder, and slowly, as her eyes lit up again, she nodded.

“Remember how mama used to say to you, Khawlah? Remember?”

Of course, I thought to myself, looking away… not able to say the words. How could I forget?

I could almost hear her voice. After all these years… I still couldn’t forget. I could almost picture her saying it.

Allah. He was always there. No matter what. No matter who. He was always there. He remained.

“When they slept, He was awake. When they broke, He carried you. When no one else was there, He was. He remained. He always remains. Remember that always, Khawlah. Remember that. Remember Who you owe everything to.”

By then, I had tears in my eyes, but I hastily wiped them away. I didn’t want her to see it.

“I want to change, Khawlah,” Zuleikha whispered, her voice shaky as she wept. “I don’t want to be like this… I don’t want to be stuck. How did Mama do it, Khawlah? I cant even be half of that! I want my son to know the beauty of Deen that we knew as we grew up… I want him to learn his Kalimahs and go to madrassa…I want him to learn the Sunnah and practice it. Khawlah, I’ve gone so far away… ! I don’t know how to do it. I’m not strong enough, Khawlah… I’m not strong enough. I’m not like you…”

She was broken. A broken girl from a broken home… like the little girl I had left behind, so many years ago.

I placed my hand on my sister’s, swallowing my own emotion before I spoke.

“You  are strong, Zuleikha” I said calmly, keeping my hand firmly on Zuleikha’s. “You just don’t know it. Speak to Him. Allah will guide you. He is always listening… and right now, He knows exactly what you need to do.”

And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” (Surah Ghafir, verse 60)

Her hazel eyes were overflowing with tears as she spoke, but she wasn’t finished. There was still one more thing that she needed to say. One more thing that she needed me to know.

She turned her face away momentarily, and the streaks on her face glistened as I watched her.

She didn’t look at me as she said her next sentence, and I almost missed it completely.

“There’s one more thing, Khawlah,” she almost whispered, and I inched forward in an attempt to grasp her words.

I nodded solemnly.

“Promise me,” she said, her hand clenching and unclenching, almost as if she was releasing a rage from within her.

I nodded again.

“Promise me, Khawlah,” she repeated, as I nodded once more. I didn’t trust myself to speak.

“Don’t let them lie to you,” she said, and I looked at her in confusion.

“Don’t let the money, cars and status make you lose yourself,” she said, and my heart beat faster as I wondered why she was telling me this. “Even if he promises you the world, Khawlah… stay away. In the end, it’s not worth the heartache. At the end of the day, to his family, you’re just going to be the poor girl who has no mother.”

She spat out the last few words with such venom that my heart pounded violently at it’s ferocity. I widened my eyes in disbelief, unnerved by her directness. What was she saying? What did she know?

I wasn’t sure if she was talking about me or herself. The reality of what my sister was going through was sinking in, and I didn’t like it. Aunty Radiyyah’s words resound in my head.

My heart was still thudding in my chest as I walked out, barely able to put one foot in front of the other as I walked.

I answered Abba’s questions as normally as I could, keeping my voice stable.

She was okay, I assured him. She had just had a baby. It wasn’t abnormal for her to be in a bit of pain.

Right now though, I had other concerns on my mind. Zuleikha’s words just before I left the room were still with me.

“Go check on Ahmed,” she said as I walked out, sounding worried. “Now you know why I don’t trust Jameel.”

In her entire married life, my sister had never so much as uttered a negative word against her husband. Everything had always seemed rosy and perfect. Although I might have had doubts about him myself, nothing she ever said ever confirmed that.

Today, everything was new. Shocking. Inconsistent. Like her whole life, thus far, had been a horrible hoax. I couldn’t help but feel betrayed and hopeless.

I nodded and headed home with Foi Nani, who was exhausted from the day spent at the hospital. As much as she didn’t like to admit it, Foi Nani was getting old and a bit cranky too. I felt a bit sorry for her as she climbed up the stairs to our home. I remembered the days when she had taken the place of Mama, and been there for us as we grew up. She was the one constant we had… and as a child, constants were really important. As a kid… you crave that person who you know, no matter what, is always around.

I thought of the children that I looked after, realizing something that I’d never processed before.

I was their constant.

With the exception of weekends, for the past year or so, I had been the one thing that was consistent for them. Every day, our routine… though changing at times; we had a certain continuity that kids in general thrived on. The responsibility alarmed me, but a sense of possessiveness comforted me. I couldn’t let the down. I wanted to always be there for them, no matter what. When Danyaal had uttered the words that struck my heart, I already knew… I couldn’t let them down. I couldnt control my own heart. It was swelling with love.

I just didn’t know that some things, even the heart couldn’t control.

I held Foi Nani’s hand as she struggled up the stairs, thinking how fast time goes by. There was a time when she would be the one holding my hand as I struggled to step up… hoisting me along and prompting me to take that one more step as a little girl. When Mama was sick, it was Foi Nani who looked after us, making sure we were taken care of, bathed, changed and the whole lot of care that’s comes with bringing up little kids. I patiently waited as she took the last step, tears stinging my eyes when I processed that she might not have that many chances left to climb those steps again.

“Where’s Ahmed?” Foi Nani finally asked as she caught her breath, and I remembered about my brother again.

A thudding in my chest signalled the warning that something may be up, but with a mixture of hope and fear, I searched the house, hoping he would be hiding somewhere here for now. As much as Ahmed wasn’t scared, he also wasn’t stupid.

He wasn’t in his room but I wasn’t yet worried.

It was only after Maghrib that my feelings took a bit of a plummet. Now that darkness was overtaking the day, my fears were escalating. He hadn’t called either.

The shrill ringing of the phone got all our hopes up after Salaah, and I hastily grabbed the receiver, greeting and speaking into the it with purpose. It was Ahmed’s voice I was now aching to hear.

”’salaam,” the voice replied back to me, but already my hopes were shattered because it was a female on the line. I wasn’t despondent.  Maybe the call would at least bring some news about my brother.

“Khawlah?” The voice asked, and I vaguely recognized it.

“Yes, it is she,” I replied. “Who is this? Are you calling about my brother?”

I had to ask. The desperation was overwhelming.

”Khawlah, it’s me, Ruby.”

My heart plummeted to somewhere near my feet.

Ruby. Rubeena. What on earth was she doing calling my house phone now? At this hour.

“Oh,” I said, my thoughts hazy, because I couldn’t focus. I was still consumed with worry. What did she want?

“I needed you to spend some extra time here tomorrow,” she started, not even waiting for a further response. “I have a date with the girls and then the usual. But I’ll run a bit late because Matt is shifting my session to accommodate my luncheon. So yeah, I’ll be late. I hope you will wait till six. If Shabeer is home early you can leave, but not before 5.30 because you know him. He won’t manage alone with the kids for over half an hour.”

I could picture her rolling her eyes as she paused for a breath.  I couldn’t believe her audacity. She didn’t even ask. She just demanded.

Matt was her trainer and it was a bit weird that she had a male trainer, but I didn’t ask any questions. It was her life, after all. Rubeena wasn’t exactly the type that you could get through to easily.

“Rubeena,” I said stiffly, knowing that I needed to tell her in a diplomatic way that I have a bit of a family crisis. “My sister just had a baby. Things may be a bit crazy. Can I confirm with you?”

Besides, Abba will never let me stay out till so late. It got dark early these days.

“What do you mean?” She asked, sounding peeved that I didn’t just relent. She was used to getting her way.

“I’m going to have to ask my father,” I said, trying to explain that I can’t do as I pleased. Although I was nearly fifteen, I was barely a grown up.

“Can’t you just ask him now?!” She snapped, sounding annoyed.

“He’s at the masjid,” I said, pursing my lips. Not that she could see, but I was getting pretty annoyed too.

“Listen, Khawlah,” she said, in a no-nonsense tone. “I need to know ASAP, because I can’t cancel anything so you just need to be here.”

I wasn’t sure whether to say it. I didn’t want to risk sounding cocky, but I also didn’t want to commit in case I couldn’t make it.

What if Ahmed was still missing? What if Zuleikha needed me? She was probably going to leave the hospital tomorrow… and even if she wasn’t coming home like we thought, she might still want me with her.

I had to tell her. I had to let her sort herself out for once. I was tired of being bossed around.

“I don’t think I’ll make it,” I finally said. “I think you should cancel for tomorrow.”

I knew that she wouldn’t like it. I thought that she might ask her brother. He would be a better option than a helper or some stranger. At least he cared about the kids and they seemed to really like him.

Despite the impression I had gotten the first time Nusaybah and I had met him…. he  had actually surprised me.

I could hear Rubeena’s shallow breathing on the phone. The silence was a bit deafening.

“I have a better idea,” she said, and I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

Her next words were as icy as a snow storm. I wished that I hadn’t opened my mouth, but it was already too late as she uttered the final blow.

I didn’t know that she would dare to put a spanner in the already messed up works.

“If I cant rely on you, Khawlah,” she snapped with dismay. “I’d rather just find someone else.”

And with that, there was a click of the phone and she cut the call.

 

 

 

The First Mistake

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Khawlah

The day that Zuleikha gave birth was a rollercoaster for the entire family. With the ups and downs of emotions, all I could do by the end of the day to avoid dropping to the ground was dwell on the simultaneous splendor and heartache of it all.

Motherhood. Over the past few years I had seen many different types… different forms. Mama was, of course, the highlight that would never escape my mind. Aunty Nas was the rejected substitute, and I didn’t wish that for anybody ever. Although I saw Hannah from time to time in school, and she seemed to turn out okay, I didn’t think that her mother’s methods in our home were ideal.

And then there was Rubeena. She was the typical spoilt and privileged housewife, who took motherhood in her stride and did the least possible for her children, whilst shrugging off the necessary tedious  tasks to an underpaid employee. Although she wasn’t a bad person, I found myself thinking often that as a mother, I would never want to be anything like her.

Because when I saw Zuleikha with her baby, I just knew. I knew that no matter what, Zuleikha comprehended the value of this. I knew that she wouldn’t take this as a light thing. I knew that not only would she devote herself selflessly to the task at hand, but she would also do it with the utmost love and care.

I wasn’t being biased. I just knew my sister.

“I have to go,” I hastily rambled into the receiver, glad that Rubeena had answered the phone on the first ring. “My sister went into labor. She has no one else. I need to go.”

I knew that I was sounding slightly deranged but I couldn’t help it. This was something of an emergency.

“You can’t leave the kids alone!” She almost shouted, and I held the phone away from my ear as she did so.

Her helper had left. Again. So me leaving with no-one around was impossible.

“Of course,” I said, my voice now calm. “I jus’ thought that maybe you could come home earlier.”

”I’m in the middle of my Pilates session!” she snapped, not even attempting to hide her annoyance. She sighed, and I almost thought she was going to apologize.

Of course, she didn’t.

“I’ll check if Shabeer could come home a bit earlier for a change,” she said, sounding a bit calmer. “After all, they are his children.”

She cut the call after that and I paced the room, picking up balls and other gadgets that were lying around. If her husband was coming now I needed to make sure the house looked decent. I had yet to meet him, although I had seen the back of him once while he was getting into his fancy car. Other than that, he was still a mystery.

I paced the room a couple of times, checking on the kids a few times while the two middle ones played with some LEGO’s  quietly, for a change. The smallest was still napping and the biggest was busy with some school work. He stared intently into the book as I offered to read the rest of the instructions. They were turning out to be pretty good kids, and since I had cut back on technology and made them devote more time to the beautiful garden and regular play, I saw a major change in their moods. They were friendlier, more alert… and definitely, they were on the most excellent behaviour they had ever been.

”Are you going now?” Danyaal asked me asked as I sidled up to him, checking on his work. “So soon?”

I smiled at him and ruffled his hair.

“My big sister needs my help,” I said to him quietly, squatting slightly so I could be eye to eye with him while I spoke. “She’s having a baby and I want to be there for her.”

Of all the others, he was big enough to understand. He nodded solemnly with a serious expression on his face.

“Like when Mum had Zaydaan,” he said seriously. “I helped a lot. To bring nappies and the wet wipes. You know mummy even called me the big brother helper?”

I smiled again.

“I’m sure you were the best helper ever,” I said, nodding at him.

His expression changed suddenly.

“I miss Mummy,” he said, looking morose.

My heart sank. What did I tell him?

His mother barely spent much time with them. Especially since I was around and her training routine had become more intense… she was barely at home. When she came home it was time for bed and then school was the next day.

“And now you’re going early too,” he continued sadly. “I’m going to miss you too.”

My heart contracted slightly as I heard the sincerity in his little voice.

Kids. They were just so… real.

“Mummy says Dad will come,” I assured him, hoping it would cheer him up.

Instead, the little creases on Danyaal’s forehead deepened.

“Dad’s got no time,” he said, sounding strangely like a grown up. “He’s always busy on his phone or his laptop. Mummy also says she’s doing work but I see her taking selfies all the time. Is that grown up’s work?”

I stifled a giggle as he looked at me questioningly. How did he even know about selfies?!

“Your mummy and daddy love you very much, Danyaal,” I said to him now, not wanting to entertain the selfie topic. “And they know just how special you are… even if they don’t say it all the time. I’m sure they wished that they could play with you the whole day if they didn’t have work to do.”

Danyaal didn’t look very convinced. I felt sorry for him. How did you explain to a child why their parents didn’t have time for them? How did you explain to them why love doesn’t go beyond nice toys and those three words? I was stumped.

And even more so when he uttered his next words.

“Khawlah, I think I love you.”

He said it so naturally, but the enormity of his words just stunned me. I swallowed hard as he turned back to his books, without any expectation.

It was just so real. No conditions. No reservations. For a child, love was so natural and unconditional.

“Tell him,” a deep voice from behind us said, and I jumped as I heard it.

I didn’t even hear the car pull in or anyone open the door. I was so busy taliking to Danyaal that I noticed nothing.

Instead of finding a strange man there, who I assumed would be the boys’ father, a familiar face looked in as I froze, a little stunned by his presence right then.

It had been months since I had seen him, and I knew it was because Rubeena didn’t want him here when I was around. Maybe she sensed my feelings or caught on to my  concerns… but it looked like she just wanted to keep the two of us as far apart as possible and I was so glad. It would mean that I didn’t have to lie to Ahmed every time he asked. It would mean I didn’t have to risk any more sin.

“Tell him,” Adam continued, looking quite serious. “Tell him that you love him too.”

My heart beated momentarily in my chest and I opened my mouth.

I wanted to tell him, but I didn’t want to just say it. How did I make it as real as he did?

“Uncle Adam!” Dayyaan said before I could get word in. I breathed out, a little relieved. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with Rubeena’s brother eavesdropping on our conversation but I couldn’t do much about it now.  I also wished that I had said what I needed to Danyaal… but now it was too late. I had to leave.

The kids were now occupied with their uncle who they were thrilled to see, and I grabbed my bag as I whispered to Danyaal in his ear that I’d catch up with him tomorrow.

Abba was waiting at home for me, and I knew that I would have to run really fast to stop him from thinking anything suspicious about me. He still thought that I went to Nusaybah to do my homework, and although I didn’t lie, I didn’t correct him either. He had just never asked again.

I made salaam to the boys, who were literally all over their uncle. They loved him to bits because he had time for them.

”You know Aadam was the first Prophet?” Dayyaan said to his uncle, making the connection with the names. “Khawlah told us the story. Allah made him with sand and made him alive.”

I could see Adam smile. And then, he looked at me.

That was when I made the first mistake. I smiled.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not like that. I wasn’t smiling at him. It just happened that he caught my eye as I smiled and as he locked eyes with me, I couldn’t help but notice his new look.

My obsessed friend, Nusaybah, would always describe him as unforgettably handsome, and although she might have argued that he still was, something major had happened in his life to spark some changes.

I immediately realized my error, and headed for the door in haste. What was I doing?

I didn’t mean to stare. I didn’t even want to look at him, since the risk of giving him a false impression was so high. But he just caught me unawares. Instead of the modern, gelled hair type that I had known him to be… Adam was changing. His hair was different, and instead of just stubble on his formerly clean-shaven face, the guy was actually sporting a proper beard.

At least it was good news for Nusaybah, I told myself, shrugging away the ugly feeling that had invaded my conscience.

I couldn’t risk that happening again. I had to be more careful in future. Shaytaan had to be put at bay,

I forcefully shifted my mind to the kids and how amazingly special they were. Every kid was, for that matter. Their feelings, their thoughts… and their unminced words. They were so unique and admirable. Those little humans were so much more than they were given credit for, and truly, I had come to love them unreservedly too.

I sighed, wishing that I would realize the enormity of it if I were ever to be a mother. Allah reminded us in the Qur’an that our children were a test for us. To do the best and fulfill their rights was a reward unimaginable. I know Zuleikha would be a good mother  but I truly wished that she knew just how much she was getting herself into here.

Zuliekha. I had to get to Zuleikha. The sinking feeling I had felt returned as I remembered, and though I knew it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t help how I was feeling.

Guilt. I was ridden with guilt since I heard about the drama that had unfolded that day, and my heart thudded in my chest, knowing that it could bring so much more than we could handle right now. If anything had to happen to Abba or Ahmed or even Yunus… I knew I would blame myself.

I sucked in my breath as I walked, anxious to get home, but Abba was one step ahead of me. I was so lost in thought that neither did I hear the car coming up or hear him calling me.

I jumped in as he pulled up, urgently gesturing to me.

I was still breathing a little heavy.

“Assalamualaikum,” I said, hoping Abba would not ask many other questions.

Abba replied to me and continued to drive. He didn’t say anything about Zuleikha. I supposed he was worried. Foi Nani was already at the hospital and Yunus was getting a lift with a friend from soccer. Abba didn’t mention Ahmed. I should have known that’s something was up but I forced myself to ignore it, hoping for the best. I just didn’t know how bad it would be.

Ahmed. For Ahmed, I was worried.

It all started the day Aunty Radiyyah came home to see me. She had come with good intentions, of course, but the news that she brought wasn’t good. It was something we needed to know… something she hoped would help the family to stabilize again. Something that would bring some hope for us once again.

She had had a dream about Mama. My Mama. She didn’t go into details but the gist of what we neeeded to know was that Zuleikha was in trouble. She was going through some tough times… and eventually, it would affect us all.

Now, I know it was just a dream. Sometimes, dreams are just dreams. But sometimes, there are deeper meanings to it and when Aunty Radiyyah looked into the situation… she found some facts that were quite alarming. She found something that could potentially hurt us really, really badly.

And, innocently, and ridden with worry, I made the first mistake.

I told Ahmed.

The Silver Lining

Note: Dearest readers. I’m so sorry for the delay. I will be posting soon again to make up for it, InshaAllah 

A 🌸

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Zuleikha

Many people in life live just for the moments. They are searching. Craving. Hoping to find that one moment, that will define them. 

The moments make them. It makes them run… cry… sometimes…

 Even fall.

But the heart of what makes us run… after anything…. is simply love. The need to give and receive love. This need has been put in us by the Creator. And every need created by God, has been created for a purpose. The need to give and receive love was created as a driver.

You see, we began with our Lord, and He wants us to come back to Him in this life—even before we come back to Him in the next. So He puts inside us, drivers intended to bring us back. Intended to bring us back Home.

But our problem is we get lost along the way.

More than a thousand times a day, we are ‘born’… We forget that each birth is a new opportunity to start over, to turn around, or to keep going. To rise higher, to heal, to grow. To be different. To be better. To grow. To transform.

But mainly… To return. Through Tawbah.
The problem is… we’re too busy dying.

”I’m dying! I’m dying!”

It was Jameels voice that was murmuring, and as the fluid continued to trickle down my leg, I held my breath, gaping at my brother. 

“He’s overreacting,” Ahmed said, throwing his hands up in the air.

What had he done?

The pistol was nowhere in sight.  He walked over to where Jameel was laying, and I watched him with my mouth hanging open. 

“You’re not dying, idiot,” he said, shaking his head. “I just knicked your shirt.”

I could see Jameel stiffen as he lay on the floor and Ahmed came closer, and I could almost imagine the hostility in his thunderous eyes. 

It didn’t stop Ahmed. He thrust his face close to Jameel’s as he spoke.

“Next time,” he said softly, but loud enough for me to hear. “Next time you touch my sister, I’ll aim for your head.”

I heard Jameel spit, and Ahmed shot back, getting onto his feet again. 

My mother-in-law was screaming murder as she raced into the lounge of my house, kneeling down at Jameels side as he squirmed in pain. I can see blood somewhere close to him, and I immediately went slightly dizzy as I processed.

Was Ahmed serious? Was it his head? His arm? Or maybe it was just his nose again? 

Blood. Bloody blood. I couldn’t stand it. The minute I saw it, I felt all dizzy and out of it. It was all a bit much for me. And although it might hav not been serious, I was scared to death for Ahmed. 

“Ahmed, go!” I urged him, hoping he would listen and just remove himself from the whole scenario. 

My discomposure increased as I heard the raised voices, and the dull throbbing in my lower tummy persisted. 

Crazy!”  My mother in law spat at my brother. “Don’t think you’re going to get away with this! We’ve got more money than you could even dream of, boy. You mess with us and you’ll regret it.”

She was talking about money now? Really?! I was almost as shocked as I had been when I first heard the gunshot. 

Money. Gosh. It was true that nothing satiates a person until they die. Even in this situation. 

My sister -in-law was now at the door, silent but in shock. She had a purple dress  on and her hair was disheveled. She was wondering what on earth had happened. 

And then, as she looked at me questioningly, her gaze fell on the floor beneath me, where a small pool of liquid had gathered. She blinked a few times and then swallowed, pointing downwards. 

“It’s … err…” 

I looked down, and then it hit me. 

I didn’t know what was going on. I was still in limbo. But as I spotted the puddle. I realized that there was a urgency that I needed to act with. Something was happening with the baby, I had to get to a hospital, and I had to get there fast. 

There was a series of shouts and a instructions, and during that time all I could feel was panic. Panic and fear. 

I knew that this moment would come and although it was inevitable… I couldn’t seem to shake that nagging feeling. How was I going to get through this

Too much was happening all at once. I needed Ahmed to get out of here, and I needed to as well. For the first time in my life, I felt nothing for Jameel as he rolled around on the floor, wincing in pain. Everything that he had put me through had made me emotionless, and the fact that I was in pain at that moment too was certainly his fault. 

I screamed with agony for the first time as I felt the once dull ache become something close to severe, and I made my way to the door. This was no joke. This was definitely serious stuff.

“I’m calling the ambulance,” Mishka said, worry in her tearful eyes. “For you both.”

I looked around as I slumped to the floor, looking for my brother. 

Thankfully, he was nowhere in sight. My father-in-law wasn’t at home either and during the few months I had come to realize that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it came to bad habits.

Jameel and his father were the same. It clearly explained his mother’s indifference when I told her about him. It kind of explained her manner and her progressive ugliness. She had been going through this years and needed a scape goat. 

I breathed heavily as I waited for the pain to soothe again, and the minutes before the ambulance arrived seemed like eternity. Everything was in slow motion as I glimpsed the flashing lights through the window, and then, as the pain intensified along with my outbursts, everything whizzed by like I couldn’t believe. 

It wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was far from beautiful, as some mothers explain their birthing process. There was nothing further from the truth. The labor was excruciating and the baby was too big. There was no time for an epidural. I had to have multiple stitches and couldn’t do much besides cry and scream out of pain, even after I heard the baby let out his first cry. 

I had no one. I was alone, and I had no one to even support me whilst I struggle to get past the most torturous experience in my life. 

The baby was still crying. 

And then I paused, just for a millisecond. I stopped breathing and I stopped pushing, because suddenly, the realization hit me.

My goodness. I was a mother

The cries sounded so innocent and pure.

And then, when I could feel the pain finally start to wear off, tears filled my eyes then, for a completely newfound reason. 

This baby, that was now thrust into my arms looked like a stranger to me. I knew nothing about him and yet, there was an inexplicable bond between us, because we had shared so much for the past few months. Beyond the blood and oxygen that had connected us so directly, there was something so much more intimate, that I couldn’t believe. I held him close to my chest as I felt his heart beat, and I already knew. 

I knew that I was going to love him forever. I knew that he was mine. I also knew that I would do anything for him.

He squirmed and let out a tiny moan, signaling hunger. I clumsily pressed him toward me as the nurse showed me how to latch him, and it was the most beautiful  moment ever. He just knew. How did he know? He just knew. 

His tiny hands clenched discreetly and his eyes stayed shut as he drifted back into sweet slumber. 

It was a baby. A real, living and breathing baby.

I was so relieved that he was normal. After everything, I didn’t think I deserved this. It was a miracle of my Lord. He was perfect. Normal, healthy, and so, so perfect. 

I hummed a little song like I remember Mama doing when we were young, reciting the Kalinah that we were accustomed to hearing from the time we were born. It was the lullaby we would hear as we drifted into slumber, and the motto that kept us grounded to our Deen. Even as I grew up… I prayed that it would bring me back somehow.. and I would learn it’s true meaning in a completely different way now that I was a mother. To see the magic that was brought from within me in an entirely different perspective. 

Lost in thought, I was jolted up as the door opened and the first person who they called for me stumbled in. Neither could I believe it nor could I surrender this new bundle of joy over to him.

Jameel stood a few feet away from my bed and looked at me. His shoulder was bandaged and he wore a faint look of defeat, but other than that, he seemed fine. 

“Are you still dying?” I asked him, not holding back on the sarcasm even minutely.

I didnt care about his injury. I knew he would be fine when Ahmed said so. My brother was an expert with the gun, unfortunately, he barely ever missed his target.

He had certainly not wanted to kill Jameel. Just to scare him. I wasn’t sure that I was entirely at peace with all that transpired, but it is what it is, and in retrospect, Allah definitely had a plan for me right then. He was the only was who got me through this. Throughout it all, He was the one Who remained. He always remains.  

Today… right now… was something that was completely unexpected, and to put it lightly, I was kind of blown away.  

Jameel, at least, was awaiting my invitation to come closer, and I eventually acceded to his silent request by turning over to the other side, despite the pain that I was feeling in my lower body. I looked at him, half-beckoning him over, although I felt fiercely protective over this innocent life that now lay in my arms. He was the father, after all. 

“Baby, I’m so sorry,” Jameel whispered, and I could see him lower his head as he sat down, almost hiding himself in agony and embarrassment. He wasn’t looking high.

Maybe they had given him something at the hospital that had sent him into this emotional state. I almost felt sorry for him, but I didn’t. There was no need to. He didn’t want pity. He just wanted another chance. I wasn’t sure what his parents would say or what would come out of all of this, but there was only one way to find out. 

I looked down at the baby, and he did too, reaching out to touch his cheek. 

This baby. This little miracle. A piece of my heart.

His birth was a milestone that I would never forget, and his presence would be one that would stay forever.

Motherhood. Motherhood was not for the faint hearted. It consumes you and it seizes you completely. As I looked from him to Jameel, I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t know whether to forgive him and move on. I didn’t know if it was  worth even trying this again. I didn’t even know if he was sincere. 

All I knew was that I would never let my son see the man that his father had become. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but I knew that there was one plan I had to put in place.

There was only one thing I could do, and only one way I could ensure our safety. There was no other Refuge beside the one who created me… and this little life that had lived inside of me for these few months. All I had to do was put my full faith in my Lord, and trust that it would all work out. Whatever the circumstances. Whatever the consequence. 

This was going to be the start of the most challenging chapter in my life… a virtue not only of this little life, but of me as well. 

More than a thousand times a day, we are ‘born’… We forget that each birth is a new opportunity to start over, to turn around, or to keep going. To rise higher, to heal, to grow. To be different. To be better. To grow. To transform.

But mainly… To return. Through Tawbah.
The problem is… we’re too busy dying. Too busy dying to see the bigger picture. Too busy dying, to see that maybe… this isn’t the end.

Too busy dying to see that after all, and despite the storm… 

There’s always a silver lining. 

This is War

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Zuleikha

“Jameel, you’re…” I tried to say, fear gripping me from within, and my heartbeat escalating to a nearly unbearable rate. 

Hurting me, I wanted to say. You’re hurting me.

But the words couldn’t escape my lips. Even my saliva wasn’t able to slip down my throat.

His grasp finally loosened and I loosely fell to the bed, coughing and gasping for breath. I was so sure that he was going to hurt me. I almost thought he would kill me. For the first time in my married life, I felt out of control. Out of control, and freakishly fearful of what this man could do.

But this was your choice, the voice within me said, reminding me that I’d basically dug my own grave. I had to let go and give up. There was no way I could get out now… no way I could leave this. I told myself that there was no escape.

And although not ideal, life becomes such that, you find yourself in some kind of rhythm. Abnormal things become the usual. Strange things become a norm. 

I was stuck in this world, sworn to secrecy and trapped in a place where I wished I could get out of…

At the beginning I would think a lot. I kept on thinking about Abba. About what Jameel had said. Did he mean that he made Abba go missing? Did he mean that Abba was involved in drugs? No matter what way I looked at it… nothing seemed to make sense. It just made me feel even more lost in the home that I was beginning to feel like a prisoner in.

Jameel didn’t let me go anywhere alone. To console me, he said he would stop the cocaine. I believed him. I forgave him. I wanted to forget it. Maybe he wanted to stop. Maybe he truly thought he could get better. I did too. 

It was okay, I would tell myself. He gave me everything of the best. It was just a small compromise.

I knew I was being foolish, but I couldn’t help myself. What would I do if I ran away? Where would I go? No-one would want me after this… especially pregnant with someone else’s child, I stood no chance.

It was a case of manipulation and forced guilt. It’s what Jameel would tell me when he would realize that I was catching up with his antics too. The thing with cocaine was that it was a drug that wasn’t easy to always detect. It had really short periods of ecstasy and really fast crashes. Because it caused the user to become ultra alert, something else would have to be taken to kill that. I learnt that those were called beans, and they helped Jameel when he came down, or needed to get some sleep. All this, I realized long after I needed to.

Sometimes I thought that maybe he was high. Sometimes I didn’t know. Sometimes I just suspected. I tried to learn more. Jameel was good at hiding it. Things didn’t change. The parties would continue. The life of luxury, material wealth and unlimited pleasures, for him, was at its best. There was no shortage of good things…. no limit to the worldly whims that had become a part of our world.

The voice inside would remind me… as always… but I felt helpless. I was sucked in… devoured by the world of that was at my disposal. The money. The cars. Food and drink. It knew no limits… it was pure extravagance. The endless socializing that Jameel was always a part of. Those nights always ended off with a drug binge, and we would end up at square one, with a screaming match that always ended in tears for me. 

“This can’t carry on!” I had screamed, on one particular night, not caring if his parents would hear and have a rant about waking the neighbors. They didn’t care that he was abusing drugs. They didn’t care about me or the baby. As long as they didn’t lose their respect in this world of wealth, game and fame.

I was exhausted from running after him, trying to keep tabs on this grown man. He was an adult, for goodness sake. Why was I always having to look after him… to make sure he didn’t lose control?

Tonight was wild. It was one of those nights when the party had reached a height of extremity. It was rough and very much explicit. Too many people knew him. Everyone wanted a piece of him, and Jameel, as usual, would go to the limits to satisfy. He would compromise the anything for the respect of the VIP’s, no matter what it meant to me or our marriage.

The music was purely satanic. The drugs were too exposed. The women were too naked. Everything was just too much. That night, I had reached the limit. 

Of course, Jameel thought it was all cool. My bulging tummy now made me more tired than usual. I felt heavy, burdened and really, really exhausted. 

“Leikha, just chill,” Jameel had said, trying to persuade me that it wasn’t a big deal. The problem with Jameel was that nothing was a big deal. He didn’t realize that we were living our lives like non-Muslims. I wasn’t even sure if our Imaan was still in tact. 

Chill?!” I asked incredulously, so fed up with his laid back approach to things that were both morally and religiously wrong. On so many levels. “I will not! This is getting out of control, Jameel. You are getting out of control!”

I still had the fear of approaching him after the last time, so I tried to lower my voice as I noticed his face hardening. I didn’t want another onslaught of his. I could see his high was starting to wear off, and he came a little closer to me, tightening his grip around my bare arm.

“Zuleikha, you don’t own me,” he said stubbornly, clearly irritated and wanting his way. “In this business, I have to do what it takes to step up. I have a big deal that’s going through. You think all this money comes from nothing?! You think I just make a few deals and we get rich?! Babe, I have bills to pay. People to impress. Don’t give me shit about my job. I know what I need to do.”

And with that he shoved me away as he stepped back, gave me a dirty look and stormed to the room, slamming the door. It was time for him to crash and I didn’t want to get in the way.

I sighed in relief, rubbing my arm. At least he wasn’t violent. At least he didn’t try and force me to be intimate tonight.  The drugs didn’t change him all the time. It was only sometimes… before he would crash… that a slightly sadistic side would come out. That was when I had to watch my back, and stay out of his way. Nothing I could do could make him see sense, and of course, his family would be of no help.

On top of it all, there was this innocent life inside of me that I felt I was ruining even before it breathed its first breath. 

The tears were rolling down my cheeks, as I thought of my life that night. ‘The introspection was bound to come sooner or later, and with the emotions toiling within me, I knew now, I had to reflect. Jameel ignored the sobs. I couldn’t seem to control them either. What was I doing? What was I doing

I wasn’t raised like this. This wasn’t how my Mama had brought me up. What would Abba say? If they knew what had been going on in my life, they probably wouldn’t have been able to bear this. I was on the verge of tipping over too. 

Where was the inspiration? I wanted to change, but I didn’t even have the energy to take the step. What had our lives become?

It was a rivalry… a competition for worldly wealth that was being chased.

I wasn’t sure when last I had truly prayed. I had tried to read some of my Salaah. I didn’t remember when last I had opened the Quran. I had known so much… I had been so aware. I had looked at people like me before with pride. I never thought that anyone could lose so much of Deen, but I was a perfect example of neglect. 

I got up from where I sat, slowly walking across the room as I reached for the Qur’an on the top shelf of my cupboard. There was actually dust on its cover, and I felt like a hypocrite as I wiped it off, and settled on the dressing table chair. The dim light in the dressing room was sufficient to see. I didn’t want to risk waking Jameel. I opened the cover carefully to my marker, eager to see what the last page was that I had read.

My eyes settled steadily on a page toward the end, and I sucked in my breath as I read the verses. I knew exactly what he devoured us. 

It was just as Almighty Allah says, so clearly and aptly. Just that first verse sent chills down my spine. 

أَلۡهَٮٰكُمُ ٱلتَّكَاثُرُ

Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you

I was astounded with the truth that stared at me.

The increase. The constant competition for increase. The rivalry that came with the increase of wealth. It was a curse that couldn’t compare… until reality hits. 

2. Until you visit the graves.

3. Nay! You shall come to know!

4. Again nay! You shall come to know!

5. Nay! If you knew with a sure knowledge.

6. Verily, you shall see the blazing Fire!

7. And again, you shall see it with certainty of sight!

8. Then on that Day you shall be asked about the delights!

The delights. What delights we were enjoying in this world… would surely be a cause for the fire in the next. I had forgotten was simplicity was. I had forgotten about the most beautiful examples. I had forgotten about the lessons that I needed to change.  

 

Where had I gotten lost? Where was I going? So far I had wandered… and my life was such that I had no relation whatsoever with the pious people of the past. 

I was lost. Truly, I had lost my way. Was I going to die like this?

No. I couldn’t.  But how did I find the path again?

I breathed in. I breathed out. Where did I even begin?


Everything seemed to be going downhill. I couldn’t seem to find a way out.

And then later that day, as I lay in pensive thought… I heard a loud knock on my door. Because my house was attached to the main house, I had no bell and neither did I get many visitors. I looked up, wondering who it was. 

The mad knock on the door was loud enough to wake the dead, but Jameel slept on obliviously, as I went to open. I almost jumped  with shock as I saw my brother standing at the door, muttering something about a psycho woman who I guessed was my mother-in-law. I remained silent as I let him in, noting his roaming eyes as he surveyed my home and then let his gaze settle on me. It was only the second time he had been here.

“Yoh, you are HUGE!” Ahmed said loudly, not even trying to be polite about it.  I looked back at him, narrowing my eyes.

 “Thanks,” I muttered, wanting to get to the point and get him out of here fast, before Jameel woke up. He didn’t like my family visiting. He had his reasons, but I knew he was worried I would say something that would kill his reputation as being as amazing as he always pretended to be. It was only Ahmed who didn’t seem to take to him. 

“What are you doing here?” I asked. 

He poked around in a few of my stuff as he walked in, finally settling on the suede couch near the kitchen.

  “I came to see my sister,” he said, as if it was obvious.  “You’ve been scarce. Jameel treating you okay? Whens the baby coming?”

There was a hint of something in his voice and I almost suspected that he knew more than he was letting on. 

Baby stuff. I had been thinking about that. Somehow, with everything going on, I didn’t even have much time to look at the options. I had ordered the basics online, and kept them in the little room in the back. I just couldn’t seem to get very excited about the baby at this stage. I wasn’t sure if there was something wrong with me.

 I was about to say something back, but the door of the room slowly opened as Ahmed continued talking about Khawlah and her plans for when the baby arrived. They were expecting me to come home. 

Jameel sauntered in casually, and I already knew that something was up. For all I knew, he was probably pretending to sleep. He had that look on his face and I was already wishing that Ahmed didn’t come. I didn’t want him to see this side of Jameel.

“Zuleikha is not going anywhere,” he said, and his voice was icy as he eyes Ahmed out.

Ahmed’s expression changed in an instant, and he stared at him, with his eyebrows raised. I remembered the time Ahmed wanted to kill my husband. The situation was getting close.

“No one asked you, idiot,” Ahmed said, and I could tell that he wasn’t scared. That was the problem with Ahmed. He wasn’t scared of anything.

I could practically see the smoke coming out of Jameel’s ears. He was fuming. He started hurling swear words at my brother like there was no tomorrow, and Ahmed looked back at him, with an indifferent eye, almost in amusement. I wanted to run but I was frozen. This was soon going to get out of hand, as Jameel got even angrier. He couldn’t stand when someone made him feel stupid, especially on his own territory.

And then, just when he couldn’t take it anymore, his entire body suddenly lunged forward, and charged at Ahmed. It didn’t help that he was still slightly out of his senses. It probably contributed to his disorientation.

As he reached Ahmed in a kind of fury that I had seen glimpses of in recent weeks, I could already sense that something bad was going to happen. I wanted so badly to control it, but I could do nothing. Jameel shoved Ahmed backward as he almost stumbled himslef, but he remained intent on getting his own back. And then, my worst fear became a reality. 

It was almost in slow motion that I saw Ahmed pull out his handgun, and my heart jumped straight to my mouth as he aimed it at Jameel, and then looked at me in expectation.

I was in limbo. In utter limbo. I couldn’t say a thing. Time was at a standstill.

Ahmed was always quick. Too quick. Quick with his food. Quick with his work. Quick to lose it… completely.

He was equally quick with the trigger. 

The piercing bang resonated through the air, just as I felt trickling down my leg. I couldn’t believe what was going on, and even as I averted my gaze to focus on what was going on with me, the feeling of excruciating despair was overwhelming. 

What had he done?! What had he done?

I couldn’t swallow it. It was all too much. We didn’t know what this would all bring… and I didn’t know that it would go so far. I could hear the screams from somewhere close by but I didn’t know who it was.

All I knew was that whatever the outcome was here…

This would be war. 

 

 

Apologies…

Assalamualaikum

Dearest readers

I am so sorry for the delay in posting. Know that the post is on its way and in the final stages of editing. Things have just gotten a little crazy this week, but I will post it as soon as possible.

Maaf again.

Much love,

A 🌸

Trapped

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Zuleikha

I am lost. I am lost. Truly, I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere but Your door to go to.

I’m in the midst of the storm… and there is no-one who can save me from it but You. I am searching for the way out… but every path looks the same. Truly… without You…

Without You.

What had my life become?

Those two words had summed it up quite accurately.

Without You. Without Him. Without my Lord… truly, I had become lost. I had lost my way… lost the path. Lost my entire purpose.

And now, everything was a mess.

The sound of the front door opening was a shock to my now calmer system. Just those few minutes of realization had settled my mind momentarily.

My heart jumped up to my throat once again, and I sat up, hearing Jameel place his keys down… and then waiting for the confrontation I expected.

His footsteps were loud and with purpose. There was no question that he was looking for me. He was checking the lounge. Dining room. And then, after what felt like ages, he finally entered the room, and looked at me sitting on the Musalla.

“So now you pray,” he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “How did you get home?”

I glared at him with hatred. I ignored his question. I had gotten a lift from a friend I had met through him, but I didn’t want to tell him that. I didn’t want a reason for him to start name-calling again. 

“Jameel, how could you?” I asked, my voice trembling. I didn’t realize how affected I was.  “I trusted you. How could you?!”

He looked at me blankly.

“Oh hell,” he said tiredly, running his hands through his hair and sitting on the bed. “Don’t psycho analyze me. I’m not one of your students.”

I stared at him in utter bewilderment.

He was going all defensive now? He was wrong. He was doing something wrong. And yet, he still had the audacity to be cocky. I couldn’t understand it. Was this what drugs did to you?

“Listen, Leikha,” He said, his voice now softening a bit. I was hopeful as I looked up, my eyes still teary. I wanted to cry again, but I needed to have this conversation first. It wouldn’t help if I broke down. 

“There’s no need to make a big deal,” he said casually, shrugging and looking at me condescendingly. “It’s just a little cocaine. It’s really no big deal.”

I widened my eyes at him, my mouth agape.

“A little cocaine?!” I said, my voice getting louder, not believing my ears. “It’s a drug, Jameel. A highly addictive drug! How can you take it so lightly?”

He sniffed a few times as I spoke and I couldn’t believe how stupid I had been before this to not notice all these obvious signs.

“Leikha, everyone is doing it,” he said, sniffing again and looking at me as if I was stupid. “All the big guys. You think all this money comes by itself? Think of it as an investment. A little cocaine… and it opens up doors I never knew were there. It opens my mind… and I can see things so much clearer. It’s just now and then… when I need to impress people. Don’t worry, it’s not an addiction.”

I blinked as he spoke, wondering if he was serious. An investment in drugs? What kind of good can that do? 

I was convinced that the cocaine had altered his brain. 

He was still talking. He was talking about being socially streetwise, and on top of the game. His words were as flowing and impressive as always, and although I always thought that drugs made you dopey and induced slumber, what I didn’t know was that this was typical cocaine high symptoms.

The perspective. The confidence. His whole demeanor was completely contradicting what I always thought a drug addict would act like.

Everyone was doing it? That was his justification. Were his cousins all drug addicts too? His friends? I had been so stupid. 

The tears were now flowing freely, and I could not believe the mess that I had gotten myself into. The money. The show. All of the pomp and luxury… it all came at a price. A price that had nothing to do with money. A price that was very, very expensive indeed. 

I was choking over all the emotion and my vision was blurry as I sat on the edge of the bed, not knowing what to do.

How did I get out of this? Where was I to go now? I had nowhere to turn. 

Jameel was looking at me with pity and I turned my face away as he tried to come closer. He wanted to comfort me but I didn’t want anything to do with him. 

I edged away. I was disgusted with him. So disgusted that I had lived with this drug-induced man for so long. So disgusted that he was probably sniffing powder right under my nose and I had no clue about it.

And now, though I felt horrible for saying it, the worst part of it all was I was having his baby. The baby that I prayed with all my heart would be normal… because he was probably using drugs even when I had fallen pregnant. He was probably using drugs from before we had even gotten married.

Of course, all that money didn’t come from nowhere… 

“Just leave me alone!” I screamed at him, jumping up from the bed, and putting my hands out to stop him from coming any closer “Just GO!”

Jameel obeyed. He wasn’t going to force himself on me… that much I was grateful for. My voice was loud, and I didn’t realize just how loud until I heard footsteps coming into our house. And then, I heard the voice of our most unwelcome visitor.

“What’s happening here?” 

He voice was acid-like, as usual, and although I usually hated her presence, for once, I was glad about the intrusion. This was something that she needed to know. 

Jameel’s eyes widened at me in warning, but I ignored him. I hastily wiped my tears as I stood up, seeing my mother-in-law entering our bedroom without permission, as usual. She looked from me to Jameel and frowned. 

“You didn’t come see me,” she barked at Jameel, obviously annoyed that he didn’t come to dote on her like she expected him to. 

“And what the hell are you screaming for at this hour? You know we live in a civilized neighborhood, unlike you.”

She made no effort to hide her hostility as she spoke to me.

“Ask your son,” I said boldly, swallowing hard and straightening up as I spoke to her. She needed to know. She needed to know the truth. 

“My son?” She spat. “He was not the one acting like a barbarian. Jameel, sort your wife out once and for all so we can all get some sleep tonight.” 

She looked at Jameel expectantly. 

“Ma, go sleep,” he said smoothly, but there was a hint of something else in his voice.

It was something that I didn’t recognize straight away. Something that Jameel didn’t often show.

Fear. Jameel was scared. And if Jameel was scared, there was only one way to nip this in the bud. I was not going to keep quiet. 

“Jameel is on drugs,” I blurted out, my voice surprisingly steady. “I just saw him. I think he needs to get help.” 

Jameel blinked at me in disbelief at my boldness, and his mother looked stunned for a few seconds as she processed what I was saying. 

“Mum, it’s not what she thinks-“

She held up her hand to silence him, and without a word, she turned around, and then started to walk away. 

Walk away. Really?! I should have known. I should have known she wouldn’t acknowledge that her dearest son has a problem.  

And then, just as suddenly, she paused, and I was hopeful. Hopeful, that maybe I had redeemed myself even minutely. Hopeful that maybe she may actually say to Jameel something that he needed to hear. 

Turning around again, she glanced at Jameel, then looked me in the eye. Those few seconds felt unbearably long. 

”He is a grown man,” she said finally, and I almost stumbled backward, feeling like there was a knife thrust into my chest. She was unaffected. “He knows his limits. And besides, with a wife like you nagging him all the time… you can’t expect the man to remain straight. Think of it as something you brought upon yourself, my dear.”

And with that, she turned around, leaving the room in a deafening silence. 

What on earth?! 

I was stunned. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even breathe. My heart was hammering in my chest again and I suddenly felt all limp. Limp and weak… like I was going to faint. 

And then I looked at Jameel, my eyes trying to plead with him. I couldn’t go on like this. I couldn’t live with this guilt. I had gotten lost, and I needed to find my way. I needed him to help me. 

I wished that I was stronger. But I wasn’t. It was a tide of raw emotion… and it was about to engulf me. I could either succumb… or…

“Jameel, please,” I said, my voice dripping with desperation. “For the sake of our marriage. For the sake of this baby, Jameel. Please… leave the drugs. Leave this life of duniyaa and fantasy. Let’s change. I’m in it with you.. let’s change our lives.”

My voice was breaking. There were tears flowing down my cheeks again, and I met his gaze with open sincerity, hoping to see something stir within him. Hoping that he would hear my plea. Hoping for him to budge… even if it was just a tiny bit. 

“There’s nothing to change, Zuleikha,” he said, his voice stiff and his expression hard. “Our lives are fine… we have everything we want and more.”

I frowned, amidst the tears that flowed down my cheeks.  

But we didn’t have  what we need. We didn’t have peace of mind. We didn’t have the richness of the soul. We were empty on the inside.

I couldn’t go on like this, and I had to let him know. 

“Jameel, our lives are not like Muslims should be,” I sighed, now feeling completely drained. “We have no purpose. We have no prayer… no Salaah, no Duaa… “

I broke off, waiting for some recognition in his expression. There was none. It was like talking to a brick wall.

I loved him. I wanted him to get better. 

I had to tell him. I had to let him know that it was now or never. 

“If you not with me on this,” I finally said, plucking up the courage to finally say it. “Then, I have to leave.”

He was looking in the mirror as I spoke, but as I uttered the last three words, his head turned to me with sudden purpose, and a certain ferocity that I had only seen in Jameel once before entered his eyes once again. In a flash, Jameel darted to me, grabbed me by the collar of my nightgown and pulled me so close to his face that I could smell the menthol bubblegum he used to disguise his cigarette breath.

 “You think your father went missing by chance?” He muttered into my ear, looking at me with contempt.

I tried to struggle free, but his grip was too tight. He was hurting me.

“You don’t know what I’m capable of,” he continued, through gritted teeth. His eyes were blazing as he spoke, and I almost wanted to gag as he tightened his grip on my neck. And then he uttered the fatal words. 

“If you ever leave me, Zuleikha, I promise… I will find you… and then… I will kill you.”