Bimillahir Ramaanir Raheem

I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it.

It was a bit overwhelming for me. I mean, since the previous week, I knew that something within me wanted to change. I had even started trying to pray my Salaah. I mean, I was really trying.

And then, when Waseem came to me this morning, asking me to give him company for an errand, I thought maybe it would be just another boring day. I hadn’t contacted Farah in days, after messaging to tell her that I needed some time to think about ‘us’. I know it was so typical, but it gave me room to think about me, my issues and what I wanted myself to become.

I knew that I wanted to be better, and I had been looking for just the thing that Waseem was telling me to find. He kept on telling me about how I was looking for love and satisfaction in the wrong places.

“Contentment,” he had said, sounding oh-so-wise. “That’s what’s gonna calm you down.”

But really, where was this ‘contentment’? It sounded like a far-fetched thing to me. Like a place that old people reached when they’ve nearly kicked the bucket. A place where you’re just kind of chilling out because there’s nothing else really left to do.

But man, I was so wrong. I realised that today.

“Waseem, are you even hearing me?” I asked him, waiting for some kind of reaction from him.

Okay, I knew that I might have been in a little bit of trouble, but in hindsight, I was just trying to be helpful by checking the house. I had heard the old man mentioning something about leaks so I thought I’d just see what the problem was. Not that I would know what to do, but just so I knew what was going on.

Well, at that time, it kind of made sense to me.

“Ziyaad,” Waseem finally said, sounding a bit too calm for my liking. Not for long, though. “What the hell were you THINKING?!”

The last word made me jump, and I noted Waseem’s blue eyes looking even more icey than normal. Honestly, he was just freaky when he got angry.

“I was just going-”

“Just what?” Waseem snapped, cutting me off. “Just thought you’d take a walk into someone else’s house?! C’mon Ziyaad… I thought you were sharper than that!”

Now I was beginning to feel a little silly for actually doing what I did. I was quickly beginning to realise my mistake.

But, like, those girls didn’t have to act like they were seeing a ghost. The one actually went to hide under the table. It was just darn weird.

I shrugged off the niggly feeling I was getting. It was my Dad’s place. I could do what I wanted. And plus, I had found what I was looking for. I finally knew what Waseem was talking about all this time. This was the other side of the fence.  Where serenity was the brush that painted the picture. Where the grass was definitely quite a lot greener.

And of course, I grinned to myself, where the girls were nothing short of bombshells.

“You need to cool off, Waseem,” I said, finding that he was over-reacting. “I was just trying to see the place. I didn’t mean any harm. Those girls were squealing like they never saw a guy before in their sheltered lives. They must be stuck in that house the whole day. You know how people like that are.”

Uh-oh. The words came out of my mouth before I even thought about what I was saying.

Waseem didn’t reply to me straight away, so I assumed that he decided to ignore my dumb comments and the discussion was closed, until we turned into Muhammed’s driveway. He pressed the bell and then turned to me, looking like he had got a lot still left to say.

“People like that?” he started, sounding reproachful, and I knew I was in for a long speech.

“I meant,” I started, trying to do defend myself. “I mean, you know what I meant. They’re just different… To the people we usually see.”

I looked straight ahead, watching the guard coming toward us to open the gate. I avoided eye contact with Waseem. I knew I was in for it.

“People like that are the reason why there’s still some hope in this place,” he finally said cynically, driving forward. “You don’t know about them because their qualities are of people we’ve never learnt before. Modesty is something that you and I never cared about, but they take so seriously. It’s so important… A quality of the wives of our prophets.”

Modesty? Is that why they were so… Different?

“And yeah, they are different, but it’s only because nowadays, being on Deen, means you’re strange. The minute you tread on the straight path, immediately, people call you weird. And thats exactly what people like you and me think.”

Islam began as something strange and it will return strange as it began, so glad tidings for the strangers. (Ibn Maajah)

That was, ironically, so true. I actually felt a little ashamed at myself, because I was guilty of thinking the same too. Yes, I knew that there was something special about those girls I saw, but it was only because of superficial reasons. There was something ‘mysterious’ about them that made me call them different.

It was stupid to base my words on that, but I knew that these people probably had what a lot of people I knew didn’t. I mean, I’ve seen and rubbed shoulders with some of the richest Muslim people in the country, but what I felt in that house was just different. It was just pure. Real.

I didn’t say anything as I jumped out of the car, and Muhammed walked towards us. It looked like he was squinting his eyes as if he wanted to see me properly.

“Ziyaad?” He said incredulously. “That you, boet?”

I cracked a grin, and he squeezed my face in his hand, as if feeling my new stubble.

“Waseem, what are you doing to this owe?” He  asked, turning to Waseem. He was smiling like a fool.

I could hear Waseem telling him about the place we went to see and I left the two of them to talk, going inside to find something to eat.

My sister-in-law was busy in the kitchen, and I grabbed a few of the cheesy chip things she was setting on a platter.

“Hey!” She said jokingly as I sneaked away, and went to sit with my brothers. She was busy spooning some green stuff on the top that looked kind of weird.

“What’s that?” Waseem stopped talking as I came in, eyeing my third cheesy chip thingum.

“Get your own,” I said, kicking back on the recliner, thinking that it was a nice day for a swim.

I expected Waseem to get up and get his own, but he just sat there like a recluse, and started talking to Mo about rent on some property.

“Aasiya,” I called out, hoping Mo’s wife would hear me. My snack was finished and I was too lazy to fetch more.

She came on to the balcony, platter in hand, setting it on the white outdoor table. She took a seat opposite me, scrutinising my face.

“Suits you,” she said, nodding slightly.

I didn’t say much, because I noticed that Waseem and Muhammed had suddenly gotten very quiet.

Waseem was looking slightly uncomfortable and it took me a few seconds to realise why.

Mo gestured to his wife, and she got up quickly, leaving us alone again. That was just weird. Waseem was getting a bit hectic.

I mean, Aasiya was family, did he really have to be so awkward even with her?

I rolled my eyes, obviously not understanding any of it. Yeah, I was trying to change, but at that stage, I just thought that Waseem was taking it a bit too far.

Nevertheless, I had the perfect opportunity to put in my two cents about my latest discovery. What Waseem was talking about the other day. I had to tell Mo.

We needed an ice-breaker. I knew that I was in no position to take the step, but I knew who was just perfect for it. And just the right person to compliment him…

“Mo,” I said, leaning forward and adopting just the right tone. I was about to drop a bombshell, but it was definitely gonna be fun to see this going down.

He looked up inquiringly. I was itching to say it.

“Mo,” I said again, building up the suspense. Wait for it.

I paused until I couldn’t hold it any longer.

“Mo, our brother is getting hitched!”




Bull’s Eye

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Waseem: Taking the first step...

You can’t let the odds be against you. You can’t dive into the deep end, when you have no idea how to swim. It’s no use taking that leap, if your feet weren’t even planted firmly on the ground. It’s a recipe for disaster.

We’ve been told and we’ve heard it all, but sometimes we just have to try it out. To ride it all out, just so that we can be sure.

And that was me. That was the kind of person I was.  I aimed for the sky and beyond, always believing that there was never a limit. Never a place that I could reach where I could not get further.

But damn, when  Molvi Umar began to work on me, I slammed into a reality check.

“Step one,” he started, rattling off. “Change your life. Step Two: Repent. Don’t even go near the sin ever again. Number Three: Find yourself something steady. Get married, kill your urge for haraam.”

I felt like I should’ve been taking notes.

“I can’t even cool off at the usual spots?” I asked him, making sure I was hearing right.

Like, there was nothing I could do any more. He had basically advised me against going out for a simple meal with friends.

“Anything that gives you opportunity, bru,” he reinforced. “No-one said it’s gonna be easy.”

And for sure, it was anything but easy. But when he saw me that night after the new year, he knew that I had now fully understood why the sacrifice was so great.

The thing was, everyone goes through difficulties. A believer has burns and the Kaafir has burns. The believer gets disease and a Kaafir gets disease. The believer loses a brother and a Kaafir loses a brother. The believer loses his wife and the Kaafir will lose his wife. Everyone experiences the same types of difficulty.

Everyone experiences trials and tribulations, but because of what is contained within his heart, the Mu’min has patience and is pleased with the decree of Allah. Doing this, he is seeking a reward from Allah and seeing the wisdom of Allah through every difficulty, and then… Then he will then be raised to such a status that he is so, so beloved, that he becomes the recipient of great rewards.

The greater the sacrifice, the more  perserverence… The more the reward. The more beloved you come in His eyes.

As recorded in Bukhari and Muslim: The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever Allah wants good for him, he puts them to test. He puts them through difficulties. Like a diamond or some metal that has to be burnt, and then that which is bad from it is removed, so that you have that which is the pure diamond or the pure gold or whatever. Put them to tests, trials and difficulties.”

And since I had started making the sacrifices, I glimpsed the real gold. I had become more confident. I learnt to have some faith, and leave it in the hands of the Almighty.

And so, I took a step and went ahead with what had been on my mind since I glimpsed the girl I had first seen over a month ago. I knew I had to make a stop there, as per my Dad’s instructions, but my heart just couldn’t allow me to. The property that our house overlooked was a dilapidated piece of land with a single standing house. Mo and I both had no idea that Dad had even rented it out, until I saw the girl hanging washing in the yard. I had honestly thought that she and her family had maybe invaded the house, seeing it vacant, and took it as an opportunity to move in.

Yeah, I know it sounded far-fetched, but it’s happened before.

I pulled up outside the house gate with Ziyaad, mentally preparing myself. I had no idea how I was going to tell these people that the rent was going up in the new year, especially when the place looked as crappy as it did. Being here again refreshed my memory. It was even worse than I remembered.

“Coming?” I asked Ziyaad, noting his weird expression. He didn’t answer, but opened the door, following me to the gate. He started pulling it open, so I stopped him quickly.

“Hey boss,” I said, pulling him back. “The house doesn’t belong to you. You can’t just go in.”

“It’s my father’s,” he said, looking at me as if I was stupid.

“These people live here,” I said, gesturing to an old Toyota parked in the driveway. “They pay to stay here.”

“Oh,” Ziyaad said, shrugging. “Whatever.”

I rattled the gate a few times, and finally saw an elderly man in an off-white kurta coming towards us. He looked familiar. He was gesturing for us to come in, so I took it as an invitation to open the gate and go in, just to save him the trouble of having to open it himself.

The thing was heavy… It probably needed to be oiled as well.

“‘Salaam-alayakum bha,” the man said, smiling at us invitingly. “Come, come… We’r just sitting for supper, come have something?”

I looked at my watch, feeling bad about intruding on a meal time. Especially to talk about rent.

“A simple phone call will do the trick,” Muhammed had said.

But I was glad I didn’t, because I really would have no idea about what this place really looked like. Although now, it was even harder.

“No, no,” I quickly refused the meal offer. “We ate.”

We followed him through the badly painted front porch, and I noted him taking off his shoes. I quickly did the same, expecting Ziyaad to oblige, but the idiot didn’t bother. He was gawking at something on the wall.

“Zakiyya.. Err… Zaynah… beti,” the man was saying. “Get some…”

I wasn’t sure who he was talking to because the house wasn’t that brightly lit. He turned to me, speaking softer.

“What will you’ll have bha? Tea? Cold drink? I think we got some Pepsi…”

There was a spluttering next to me, and I nudged Ziyaad hard, hoping he would behave himself. He sat on a chair outside and I hoped he would stay there until I was done.

That was the thing with people like that. They were so pure. Like, you could practically see right through them. He just brought us into his home, practically offering us the best he could. The best among people, I now realised, was truly the ones with kindest hearts. Most giving souls. Best of character.

That was what our Nabi (SAW) said. Over 1400 years ago. It blew me away for a bit, and I almost forgot my purpose of coming here.

We entered what looked like the lounge area, and I looked around for a Television. I quickly remembered that people like this calibre probably didn’t even own one. I sat on the couch. It was soft. Too soft.

“Your brother is okay?” the man was saying.

I quickly sifted my memory to figure out which brother.

Ah. He was the guy at the accident scene, helping us out. Now I remembered. Wow.

“Yes, he’s here,” I replied, gesturing outside.

He seemed surprised.

“Alhumdulillah. And your father okay?” he asked,

“Er.. Jhee,” I replied, trying to be extra civilised. “He just wanted me to stop and check if you’ll alright with the place….”

“Jhee, jhee,” he said, a bit too eagerly. “Everything is fine. Don’t worry, there were a few leaks, but we sorted it out last week.”

I felt bad that this man had to do his own maintenance. I pulled out my business card to give him.

“Next time, just phone me,” I assured him, handing it over.

He clasped the card, looking at it from afar. Bad eyesight, I realised.

“Waseem,” he said, reading the card eventually. “Okay, JazakAllah. I’ll phone.”

I got ready for the kill. I had to tell him about the rent.

“Maaf,” I started. “Dad just wanted me to stop and-”

A scream and torrential rapid exchange silenced me immediately. It sounded like girls’ voices toward the back of the house. I stood up quickly, not knowing what to do.

The man also looked extremely startled.

“Nabeela? Za-Zaynah?” he called out, going toward the door.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to do, so the only thought that came to my mind was to go and check up on Ziyaad.

And lo and behold, as I stepped onto the porch, my idiot younger brother was nowhere is sight. I audibly sighed, getting extremely irritated. Even as a child, Ziyaad always had the irritating habit of wondering off. I just hoped that…

I froze, fearing the worst.

Crap. It was too late to hope. My fears were confirmed. Ziyaad emerged from somewhere within the lounge, with a sheepish look on his face.

“Oh hell,” I muttered to myself, feeling my cheeks burning up. Now, I usually never get embarrassed, but this situation was definitely a cause for some sort of blushing and reddening ears.

More than ever, I knew that now, I definitely couldn’t say what I needed to. I’ll have to somehow tell my father to just forget about his petty rent increase. This place wasn’t even worth the money they were paying for it anyway.

I grabbed Ziyaad roughly, apologising and making my way out. I didn’t think he really understood that there were people actually living there. I wanted to literally smash his face in.

I contained myself until we got to the car, just in case anyone was watching us leaving. Anger was bubbling up inside, and I unlocked the car, pursing my lips tightly.

I was trying to control my tongue, but Ziyaad was making life a bit difficult for me at that moment. Me losing it was a sure thing, until Ziyaad couldn’t hold his own mouth any longer.

What he said was both insanely stupid, but at the same time, unimaginably accurate.

“Was, did you see her?” he breathed, jumping into the passengers seat. I was completely confused, not knowing what on earth he was on about.

I gave him a death stare, still consumed by fury. Ziyaad never ceased to amaze me with his inappropriate banter. I wanted to smash him.

Then he said it. Just like that.

“Was, now I know what you were talking about! I think I finally found it!”


No Small Thing

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Waseem: How it all began...

Fresh starts and new beginnings. They happen every year. A new start brings a new hope. A new opportunity for change, and a chance to let go of whatever has always been holding me back.

But what really gets to determine when the old ends, and the new begins? I mean, it can be anything. Maybe a stirring within… A seemingly insignificant change. Maybe an event that can make or break. Big or small. Something that just… ‘Moves’ us.

It’s a way of telling us that something needs to change… Something here has to let. And that was exactly how I felt that day, as Ziyaad gave me the famous ‘Are you for real?’ look.

Ziyaad’s eyes narrowed significantly, and I could just tell what he was thinking.

“Waseem… What the hell?!”

I expected that. Kind of.

“I think my life needs some direction,” I said, choosing my words carefully.

There was an underlying message for him… An ulterior motive. Realising that I needed to change made me want him to make the big move too. I wanted him to want it too. I wanted him to do some introspection and realise that just ‘being ‘ with a girl is never enough.

But just because you glimpse the light, even if it’s just a tiny bit of it, doesn’t mean that others will see it the way you do.

“This is too much, bru,” he said, shaking his head.

I watched his back walk back up the stairs, heading back to the Salaah area of the Madrassa. It was where a place I had stumbled upon one night, when I was just a little bit out of my senses, on my usual Saturday night spree.

I had heard a few things said, and being in the state in was in, got up, left, and never looked back again until two months later, when I was forced to reflect. Who would’ve thought that I would have come back here, attempting to change my life for good?

And then, amongst other great people, I met Maulana Umar. He was right when he said that the heart can be turned at any time. A simple moment, a mere second thought or seemingly insignificant occurrence can sway the depths of your soul. You never know what’s coming your way to drag you out of what you never realised was bringing you down. It was simple:

The Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) used to often say these words, “O You Who changes the hearts, make my heart firm on Your religion.”

We said, `O Allah’s Messenger! We believed in you and in what you brought us. Are you afraid for us’

He said, Yes, for the hearts are between two of Allah’s Fingers, He changes them (as He wills)”
[Sunan Ibn Majah]

And I could literally feel my heart changing. The influence of the people around me and the recitation of Qur’an and Ahaadith that had always been lacking in my life, definitely had it’s effect on me.

Always having everything literally dished out to me on a plate didn’t always help when it came to figuring things out for myself. I never had the time or insight to stop myself and reflect.

And then, of course, who would have expected a girl to actually cause me to start doing some reflecting?

Scoring girls was always something of a game for me… Something I never took seriously. I had focussed my mind on more important things like my studies or earning extra cash, because to me… That was worth my effort. As a guy, I didn’t have that concern of not getting hitched one day… Until I realised what I was setting myself up for.

Did I really want to be that guy who didn’t think it worth his while to find someone to share his life with? Was I going to be the type to disregard one of the greatest practises in my religion, by just messing around?

So I made up my mind. I didn’t want that. I wanted something secure, something that lasted… And as my reality broadened and my  heart had altered, I realised that I didn’t want what had been temporary. I didn’t want the short end of the stick.

And I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak to anyone about this. Speaking to my father would probably also be disastrous, as I knew that he would feel a need to control the situation. So when Maulana Umar came into the picture, I knew that the Almighty had sent him in our midst for a reason.

The fact is, I knew that I wasn’t the best of people, leave alone Muslims, and I knew I had a lot of work to do on myself. At that stage, I was battling with myself more than ever, trying to keep away from every vice I had previously given in to. It was a battle on that night, and I sat behind, thinking to myself whether it was all worth it. Whether all this effort was actually going to get me to the place that I wanted to be.

“You alright, Mus’ab?” a voice asked, penetrating my somewhat hopeless thoughts.

It took me a while to figure out that he was speaking to me. I glanced upwards to see him grinning. It was weird, but I never really pictured such pious people grinning like that before. Maybe because I had met so few in my lifetime before. And obviously, because I had never took the time to learn about what our Prophet (SAW) was really like.

I cracked back a grin, wondering if I would actually be able to talk to this guy. Like, would he ever be able to relate to what I wanted to say?

He was already sitting cross-legged, directly opposite me, looking like he was waiting for me to just pour out all my inner worries or concerns. There was no-one else around that night, and I wondered if he didn’t have anywhere else to be. Like, what about his life and his family? Didn’t he have things to do, a job… Or the world to pursue?

I had so many questions that had no answers. I had so much that I still needed to know.

And so I let myself say it, because Molvi, as I came to call him, didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Hew listened, and basically, I just needed it to be heard, and I needed to know whether I was actually doing the right thing. Whenever I felt the need to give up, I always needed some coaxing to get me back on track again.

“Don’t let your thoughts interfere with what you know is right,” he was saying. “Shaytaan is greatest influence for people like you. Believe me, he doesn’t care about the ones who are out there doing the crap. He wants you, because you’re trying to get straight. And believe me, you’re gonna get there.”

He said it with so much of confidence, I really believed him. But how did I move passed it all? How did I not let my past suck me in… How did I not let it take me back to that dark place that I know I deserve to be in?

“Let Allah be the judge of that, boss,” he said simply.

“But it’s not fair,” I replied, getting anxious. “I’ve done every sin you could imagine… Every wrong a person could do. How can it be right if I still get a good ending here?”

That was my main concern. That was what scared me. Because although I know I didn’t deserve the happy ending, the thing that really got me was… I really wanted it. I wanted to be happy and content. I wanted the girl who would be good for me and my Deen. I wanted my kids to grow up differently to everything I had known in my life.

Despite previously not even scraping a pass with every other aspect of Deen, right now, I wanted distinctions.

It took a few moments for him to answer.

“When you change your life,” he finally said, looking at me straight in the eye. The brightness of his face, even on that dark night was absolutely remarkable. “A young guy like you… In this time and place of fitnah… Bru, you cannot imagine how significant an act like that, is in the eyes of the Almighty. Really, brother. You cannot even begin to think how much Allah Ta’ala is looking at you with so much of love and gratitude. He is As-Shakoor. He knows your battles and He loves it. What you are doing is really no joke. It’s not a small thing, and don’t you ever think that it is.”

There was a lot of truth in his words. He was right. I knew that we sometimes undermine whatever we go through, but I didn’t know that Allah appreciated every hardship we go through for His sake. Besides that, we are even rewarded for it.

I sat back, thinking to myself. I wondered how Molvi Umar found the energy to actually be away from home and spare time for people like me. He seemed like a busy man. It can’t be easy to do what he did, because it seemed like his job never ended.

I wondered about his life and his family… If he even had one. I wondered how people like him could be so selfless, because my life and it’s purposes had always been the exact opposite.

In essence, what he did, was no small thing.

“So,” he said, getting up, as if he was ready to take on the world. This guy was really something else.

“Let’s work this out,” he said, looking determined. “Let’s make sure you never go back to where you came from.”



Curve Ball

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

I followed my brother up a driveway, leading to the entrance of what seemed to be some kind of learning institute. Posters with schedules and Salaah times were pinned to the front walls, and two students clad in Islamic attire were entering. Waseem greeted them as if he knew them, mentioning something about a youth programme, and they glanced briefly at me enquiringly.

“This is my brother, Ziyaad,” Waseem said, introducing me to them.

I nodded at them but they didn’t move. It took me some time to realise that they were waiting on me to extend my hand. They clasped it readily in turns, exuding a warmth that I had never witnessed in anyone that I’ve newly met before. It was unexpected. It just felt so… Different.

We went toward the door leading to a staircase that led to a fully carpeted area. There were tons of people there, and a few were gathered in a certain area, as if gathering for some kind of meeting.

Oh hell, I thought to myself, quite annoyed. Waseem brought me for a second Friday bayaan.

As it is, I never sat for the usual ones, and now he was forcing me to sit for another one, out of choice.

“Waseem, ey,” I said, speaking in a loud whisper. “I cant park here… I’m not even dressed.”

I felt a bit weird to be dressed in my Guess jeans and golfer today, even though I usually prided myself in it. Almost everyone here had on their traditional Friday garbs.

“Just wait,” Waseem said sternly, pulling me aside, his eyes penetrating mine. “It’s not a lecture… It’s a program, boss. Just. Listen.”

I rolled my eyes at him, already bored. Mosque twice in one day?

Nonetheless, I sat put, noting Waseem’s piercing gaze. Unfortunately, my brother had a knack of getting people to do things against their own will.

Obviously, I couldn’t block out what was being said. Waseem moved over to sit close to the crowd, but I stayed back, still not eager. I found myself thinking that maybe it wouldn’t do such harm if I could be a little more co-operative. Just a little.

“So, respected brothers,” the voice was saying. I caught him in the midst of whatever he was saying. “Our next speaker needs no introduction. He has inspired many with his words. May Allah Ta’ala enable us to take the lessons from whatever he has to impart….”

There was a murmuring as I saw some people look up to see this Maulana dude. Since I was at the back, I stood up, trying to see who they were talking about. I could hear someone in front of me talking softly about the kind of man he was. I strained my ears to hear.

They sounded so much in awe of him, that I couldn’t help but scan the crowd carefully to at least catch a glimpse of the man they seemed to be going bananas over.

I mean, I’ve met famous people before. Really famous people, actually. Quite a few of them, at functions that Dad had took me for. I had even rubbed shoulders with them, so I wasn’t rearlly going to start getting all papparazzi here.

But this kind of hype was different. It was a contained, peaceful excitement. The man in question, who I caught a glimpse of now, was the epitome of humility. No bodyguards or huge barricades surrounded him, as he moved forward to shake hands with a few people in the crowd. He didn’t seem to have any chip on his shoulder, but you still could still tell that this guy was special. He was anything but normal.

“That’s the guy,” Waseem said, and I jumped, not even realising that he was next to me.

Did he move back or was I unconsciously moving forward?

“Oh,” I said, trying to sound neutral. I didn’t want to reveal my true feelings, but I’m sure Waseem knew. I mean, if he was impressed with this Maulana dude, then I’m sure he knew I was too.

Maulana dude was talking, and I watched him, just a little sceptically. I wasn’t too sure what he was saying, but something about his tone was so… Appealing. He spoke loudly, but he was in no way condescending. He made people want to listen to him.

“So, brothers,” he said, actually sounding so affectionate. He was speaking with so much of passion. “My message to you all today…. Here.. Now… is to give you hope. If we’ve been messing around, this itself should give us hope. Every brother should leave here, knowing that there is a chance for him. By being here, we have that hope… We have that level of faith.”

His words just sounded so pure… So true. I wondered… How can just a few lines uttered by someone I never knew before already move me?

“We know that Allah Ta’ala will not even allow us to utter His name, had He not willed it. He chooses who is privileged enough to do so. He is the only One who can allow us, even in that greatest time of greatest need, to turn to Him. To converse with Him. To know Him.”

I didn’t even stop at that time to realise that it was only precisely because of what he had said, that I was actually even present here. His very words, just a few seconds before that, didn’t even occur to me at that time. This was obviously no coincidence. It was like every word was aimed at me.

“That guy who’s regretting something he’s done,” he was saying, looking around at the crowd. “I want to speak to you. I want to appeal to you, my brother. We know how appealing western ideologies seem when you’re in the mix. When you’re caught up, it always seems to be the best to fit in… To go with the flow.”

That was me. All of me.

“My friends, don’t get me wrong. I’m in awe of you. I’m in awe of youth today who can restrain themselves. Allah knows, brothers, it’s a great jihaad.  I can’t imagine what you guys are going through now. The challenges that you’ll are facing. The temptation of drugs, alchohol, zinaa… You know it all. You know you shouldn’t be with that girl, but you’re battling to fight your urges. You shouldn’t be taking that fix, but you think you need it. You’re convinced that you do.”

I was all ears by now.

“Bright lights, pumping music, goosebumps and heart pounding,” he said, his voice sounding sinister. “Yes, my friends. But when you come down, and your head is screwed back on, on that pillow in the darkness of the night… Everything is a just a waste. The emptiness that awaits afterwards is traumatic. But you can make a choice, my friends. You have the choice to change. At any moment… At any time in your life, you have that choice. You can decide and you can say; this is not how I’m going to end my story.”

And then… Then he told us of a true story… A story of a young guy who came from a background where life was pretty much on the right track. A pious guy, you would say. And he was thrown in the deep end, in a secular system, with the freedom of it at his feet. And he did what anyone would do, given that.

He committed the ultimate. He got caught up one night after a party. He gave in to Zinaa, and went through with it, out of pure emotion.

At this, my breath quickened, as I re-lived my own experiences. As I thought of my life, not that long ago.

My heart literally burned at that moment.

But the difference here was that he lay there, afterwards, filled with regret. Filled with remorse. He knew he needed to make amends. He had betrayed his Lord. And so he set forth, back home, in effort of this… Wanting to seek some guidance on the matter.

And my inner being, somwhere beyond my soul, literally ached as I listened to this guy speaking, with tears in his eyes. He was actually sobbing as he told us the story, in awe of this youngster who came back to the path. Who made it happen for himself. He didn’t let his sin drag him deeper, but let his pain become a means for change. He let his sin be the reason he changed.

So, immediately, the realisation hit me. I always had this perception that these things, this kind of belief, was only restricted to certain people. ‘Piety’ was only for a certain breed of people.

There was no way that a person like me, who had done so much of wrong and had so many grievances, could ever actually invoke his Lord. I always had the notion that my turning to Him would probably be like a joke. Like, the angels listening to me would probably laugh in my face or something.

But, I was so wrong. I was so misled.

Because, if it was true… If only the pious can go to Allah… Then where do people like me go to? Where do we go?

“Indeed, the regrets of the sinners make Allah more impressed than the piety of the pious. Make a choice to be the cream of the crop… To be the best of the lot. Do good deeds… Cancel your sins. Allah loves those tears of the sinners. It will cleanse you. Your Creator wants to know where you are headed and why you have left Him. Return to Him in a beautiful and amazing way. “

The crowd was dispersing as the Du’aa commenced, and I walked out, finding it all too much at once. My mind was in over-drive. Over-loaded. Uncomprehending.

So much of information, so much of chance. Thrown at me all at once. I wiped my own eyes, looking out onto the tarred car park, with no-one in sight.

“You okay?” asked someone, and I turned around to see Junaid, standing next to me.

I nodded, pulling out a cigarette to light it, eager for a distraction.

“Waseem’s looking for you,” he said, not making any other attempt at conversation.

My brother suddenly appeared, scrutinising me relentlessly.

“What?” I asked, annoyed.

“Come meet him,” he said, moving his head toward the entrance.

I didn’t really want to meet the guy. I wasn’t sure what it was but somehow, I felt like this Maulana guy could probably see right through me.

I shook my head, not budging. I needed to go home.

“Just come, he’ll be leaving today,” he said again.

Waseem’s insistence was getting to me, and I finally snapped, getting fed-dup.

“Why the hell is it so important?!” I snapped.

Waseem didn’t answer straight away, but just looked at me kind of blankly.

“Because,” he said, looking slightly awkward. “He’s the guy I want to arrange my Nikah.”

True Colours

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

“Who is it?” I asked, slightly less obnoxiously.

Curiosity caught hold of me as I found myself straining my neck to see past the doorway. I didn’t have to wait long.

I  inhaled the scent of the perfume before I saw her. Wasn’t sure what it was, but it was definitely something new today.

“Salaam,” she said, studying me. Well, more like scrutinising.

Under other circumstances, I would have been annoyed. That was just my usual temperament, but I was just so glad to see her. Everything negative that I had felt before this seemed to diminish as she came inside, sitting on my two-seater leather couch, with a look that said so much more than words could ever mean. Somehow, the words I wanted to say didn’t make way through my mouth.

“Are you okay?” She asked, still looking a bit reluctant and uncomfortable.

I knew why. My mother was still standing in the room, unsure of what to do. It was the first time a girl had actually been up to my room, and I assumed that she didn’t know how to behave. Waseem had brought girls home before, but never under these circumstances.

I nodded at her, gesturing for my mother to go. She obliged, and left us alone.

I wasn’t sure what to say to Farah. I couldn’t even look at her properly. I felt.. Weird. Conscious of something. Everything felt strange after yesterday. It was strange how confident I usually felt, but even in my own room, I couldn’t even feel comfortable enough to say what I needed to.

Well, I thought to myself, obviously feeling flattered that she had come. YOLO. You only lived once. When words failed you, I knew that actions never would.

Something within me altered as I forced myself to just be normal. I had to show my true self… My true colours. A subtle whisper within my conscience said; be the Zee that everyone knew and obviously loved. Give in. Be who you want to be.

I caught her gaze and moved towards her, missing her more than ever at that moment.

It didn’t feel wrong any more. Nothing was stopping me. Opportunity was knocking at the door. I was going to make it up to her. I  knew that I just needed to show that I was worth it… That I could live up to be the caring, compromising person that she needed.

But as fate would have it, my newly enlightened brother entered the room at that precise moment. Without even knocking or announcing his arrival.

Awkward wasn’t the word.

“Sorry, sorry,” he said, looking away when he saw Farah.

Say what?! Waseem couldn’t even look at a girl?

I glared at him, waiting for his explanation.

“I didn’t know you had visitors,” he said, saying it with a certain undertone.

“Just one,” I said, gritting my teeth.

Waseem mumbled something back and I was sure I heard something about the devil there, but didn’t leave. He just stood there, despite my glares. Like, didn’t even budge.

“You guys carry on,” Farah said, sensing the hostility and standing up. “I have to go. I just wanted to leave this.”

She gestured to a small gift bag she had left on my coffee table.

My eyes pleaded with her to stay, but I knew she was already mentally not here.

I watched her walk out, then turned to Waseem. Every devastating emotion I had previously felt, resurfaced. Every ounce of relief that Farah had brought with her presence disappeared, the moment she left. On top of it all, I was just so furious.

All that had come with seeing her had now gone, leaving with me a bigger hole than before. It was all…

I knew exactly what Waseem was going to say before he even said it.

“That satisfaction,” Waseem said, cocking his head and shrugging. “It’s wrong.  It’s just an illusion. Temporary.”

Really?” I asked, being sarcastic. I was getting angrier by the second. “So, do me a fave, boet, can you make your being here also temporary?!”

I edged closer to him, trying to be a threat.

Waseem still didn’t budge.

“You still think you know better than everyone else?” He said, coming close to me, poking me with his extending hand. “Even after yesterday, you still act like you got no worry in the world?! You need to do some growing up, Ziyaad! Be a man! Not a bloody fool!”

“I’m not a fool,” I retorted, enraged. “You’ll just can’t leave me alone! Even with my chic here, you’re sitting on my head! You’re not perfect yourself! Can’t you just lay-off?!”

“Lay off?! When I can see what’s happening! You walk around like you’re not gonna die,” he said, striking a nerve. “You’re caught up… You are your own worst enemy. No-one else!”

I couldn’t help myself. I flung myself at him with no warning, using all the strength I could muster, and gaining the upper hand with Waseem for once. It was a short-lived victory.

He tackled me back, breaking free, pushing me off him. He held my face tightly for a few seconds, getting me to look directly at him.

“I’m not provoking you, Zee,” he said now, speaking calmly. “I’m just tryin’a get you to see the bigger picture.”

I knew I wouldn’t see it unless I really wanted to. And I couldn’t fathom his desperation.

What was so great about what he was trying to tell me anyway? I wanted to live. I wanted to be me. Why must I follow all of these rules…? Why must I be so… Limited?

“Come with me,” he said, giving me no option but to follow him outside and straight into his car. His ‘new’ car.

“Where’s your car?” I asked, missing his two-seater that he had driven for the past year. He drove a less flashy Mercedes. Decent, but not my kind of ride. It was a definite downgrade.

“A car is just a car,” was all he said.

He sounded like how I had felt yesterday. In those moments when every materialistic thing meant absolutely nothing. When I truly realised that having the top of the range of almost everything was so futile.

“These things are not for us. I learnt a lot… You’ll never believe the kind of people I’ve met… The places they’ve come from.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, confused.

“I mean…. We don’t belong here,” Waseem said, after a few seconds, concentrating on the road.

We don’t belong here?

He continued, enlightening me.

“I mean… This is not our home,” he said, as if clarifying everything.”But, the good news is,  there is a place where we do belong. A place where there will be no discomfort, like you feel now. No anxiety… No pain. A place where nothing, and I mean, nothing at all, is just temporary.”

My heart beat just a tiny but faster, in anticipation for what he was saying.

Yes, I knew about that place. And yes, I wanted it.

Waseem’s voice dipped now, almost to a whisper.

“But, Ziyaad, are you earning it?” He said, as if he was seeing right through me.

It was like he had been building up this great golden tower, only to knock it right back down to the ground.

“You want to be special, right?” He asked, taking a turn. “Look around you, bru. Everyone you know is just like you. They’re all looking for some kind of worldly recongnition… Some happy-time here. Pursuing it like a dog catching his tail.”

“So?” I asked rudely, missing the point.

“So, Ziyaad,” he said, all matter-of-fact. “If you want to be different, you don’t do the stuff that the normals owes do. You wanna be conspicuous, you do what the special people do. You wanna be a cut above the rest, look at the ones who know their Creator. Look at the ones who go the extra mile. Look at your friend, Junaid.”

“Junaid?” I was confused for a few seconds.

Oh, that owe. He was different. Yeah, definitely.

“That, my friend,” he said, glancing at me. “That’s where you’ll find what you’re looking for.”

Ah. The gold. The ever-so-evasive gold.

How did Waseem even know all of these things?

The car halted. We were outside what looked like a house to me, but was actually something else that I had no idea about.

“Where are we?” I asked, looking around.

Waseem had a mysterious look on his bearded face.

“I’m taking you to meet a real man,” he said. “You’ll see.”

Testing Waters

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

You can’t stop breathing because the oxygen might run out. In the same way… You can’t stop living, just because you’ve faced death. Life wasn’t meant to be spent treading on egg-shells and waiting for something beneath you to cave in.

You had to make it happen. Be open. Be free.

Well, that was my theory.

That’s exactly how I felt that day as I left the hospital, glad to be alive. I know I was lucky. My brothers had drilled in into me. I know it was no coincidence that I was still here… Still breathing. But I was still not completely convinced.

I sniffed the air. It smelled different. New. Fresh. Like something had awakened within it. I loved it.

I lay my head back on the head-rest, keeping my eyes shut to ward off the nagging feeling in my mind.

It was a Friday, and Muhammed was playing some Qur’an recitation in his car.

I wasn’t sure when he had started keeping that type of listening material. Friday or not, it didn’t usually affect me. Muhammed, on the other hand, knew he had his wife to contend with. And though I wasn’t used to hearing this, somehow, I felt soothed as the sound reverberated throughout the car. It was different to music, of course… It brought about a whole different feel.

“So where are you going?” The arabic translation was saying.

I was stunned for a few seconds. Like, I actually checked to see if Muhammed had set this whole thing up. He seemed unaffected.

It was like the voice was directly speaking to me.

So where are you going?” (Surah At-Takwir: Verse 26)

My heart drummed in my chest, and I felt slightly perturbed.

Where was I going? Where was I headed?

Literally, obviously, I was probably headed home. I was probably being led somewhere safe and secure… Somewhere free from external influences that can probably affect or harm me.

But in essence… Where was I going? It made me think of what Mo had said to me yesterday, before I left.

“Choose your path carefully, boss.”

It was all about choice. And the fact that he had said that, at that moment, made me make a choice. A small thing that I had done that might have opened a tiny doorway for me.

But, in retrospect, I wondered… Had I left the path and gone astray? Have I been treading a completely undirected road? Have I turned my back to this bright torch that I might have glimpsed and gone toward darkness?

Those final moments… The minutes before I actually blacked out… I found myself re-living. It was terrifying in a way that I could probably never encompass again. It was awakening to the degree that no other incident could do… But I still wasn’t quite there.

Yes, in my moments of confusion, I had thought that I had finally found the gold, but maybe in my confused state, I was actually more in tune with reality than when I was completely sobre?

I was another weird theory I had always had. Feeling high and out of it always made me feel confident and on top of things. That was why I had always done the stuff that I did.

Last night might have been a different story, had I actually been to the places I had planned. Who know what my state would have been this morning, when merry-making, friends and the urge to feel ‘liberated’ took over?

Obviously, I knew Waseem was right. I was lucky, but it was no coincidence.

The car halted to a stop, and Mo turned to look at me.

“Alright?” He asked, looking concerned.

I nodded.

“Don’t tell them about your car,” he advised. “Yet.”

I just continued nodding. I knew I was in no position to argue with anyone, so for once in my life, I closed my mouth and shut off my ego, doing just what I was told. I knew my brothers would sort it out. I was spoilt like that.

I chilled in my room for the rest of the day, obviously being fussed over by my mother, just because she probably felt sorry for me.

A few friends had phoned, wondering what had happened to me the previous night, but none of them really bothered to come see me. I acted like I didn’t care, but somewhere, deep down, it did have an effect.

New feelings started to surface. I felt crap for missing out on last night, but more so, it made me realise the truth in what Waseem was saying. What kind of friends did I really have?

Waseem took me with him to Jumuah, and then I was left to my own devices for the rest of the day. That was the worst thing when you’ve been through something major. The worst place to be was with yourself, because I knew that I would probably end up being my own worst enemy.

Everything was a complete anti-climax. Social media got to me more, knowing that I could probably never relate to anything that friends were posting about. One thing that caught my eye was a snap of my written-off car, already being shared by the whole of Jo’burg and Laudium. It was no surprise.

I wasn’t sure if anyone had really meant any harm in posting it, but my first feeling was annoyance. Then, utter irritation. Like really, was there like, no privacy in our lives these days?

I couldn’t even meet in a damn accident in peace.

I flung my replacement iPhone into a corner of the room, determined to just shut out the world. I wanted to retreat to a place where I wouldn’t have to think of anything. I hadn’t felt so crap in a really long time. The worst part was that, this time, it wasn’t even because of drugs.

And that’s precisely what made me want to use even more. I needed to shut out reality for a while. Just to bring myself out of the hole I was in. I needed a diversion.

I sheepishly got off my bed, going to the corner where I had thrown my phone.

I just needed a little, I convinced myself. Just to feel okay.

But, as fate would have it, somehow, my iCloud storage didn’t back up the particular number that I needed. Now I would have to get it, somehow.

I was determined. I knew which friend would have it. I attempted to dial the number, just as a knock sounded on the main door of my room. I cut the call quickly, tossing my phone on the bed.


It was my mother, entering my room. It was like the 125th time she had been up here.

“What?” I snapped, annoyed.

“Are you awake?” She asked, peeping her head in.

I gave her a blank stare, but it was like she didn’t even notice it. Duh.

“Someone’s here to see you!”

A Cut Above

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Waseem: Every saint has a past...

“I found the gold.”

“You found the gold?” I asked, highly amused.

I wasn’t sure if he had a concussion. There was that injury on his head… But it looked like just a shallow cut above his left eyebrow. I had to check.

“You not talking about your car, right?” I asked. “Coz that thing is a write-off, Zee.”

He closed his eyes again, but there was a hint of humour somewhere beneath his stagnant expression.

“I found it,” was all he said, with a mysterious undertone.

We were quite close to the hospital by then, and they were wheeling him off to the casualty ward, to check for any other injuries.

Muhammed took care of the paper work and I saw Ziyaad getting checked up, to make sure everything was okay. I did the phone calls to whoever needed to know, down-playing the accident drastically.

“They say I was lucky, huh?” Ziyaad was saying, as I walked in and the doctor walked out. “They don’t know how well that car is built for it.”

I frowned at him, thinking about how dense my younger brother was. Maybe it was the knock on his head.

“Oh, shit,” he said, looking alarmed all of a sudden and trying to sit up.

I was hopeful.

“The airbags… Waseem… The airbags popped! But I didn’t have my seatbelt on. Yoh, those people lied.”

I stared back at him, trying to telepathically drill some sense into this owe. He was a tough nut.

“Yeah, but, it’s okay,” he continued. “That’s probably what kept me safe.”

I didn’t know whether to smack him at that point, or to laugh in his face. I decided on neither.

“Err, boss,” I said, getting just a little bit impatient. Not to mention, emo. “Do you understand that you nearly, just, like, scraped dying? Like, you could have died. Even in the car you were driving. Even with the airbags and everything, you could got so badly hurt, and have still died?”

I got a blank stare. Muhammed entered the room at that point. I was already on a roll.

“Understand that it was nothing to do with all that shit,” I continued, gaining momentum.

Now I was getting angry. My voice shook as I continued, realising the truth of what I was saying. I had to let him know.

“When every other means failed,” I started, staring him down, “HE saved you from the life that was tearing you apart. When… When you were broken, bru, that night… And even I had no hope that you could be fixed, don’t forget Who fixed you. When every other creation failed you, when you were down and under, don’t you ever, ever forget… your Creator never did. Only He remained. Only Him.”

My voice broke, and the words resounded in my ears, as if I was hearing them again.

Never forget what He saved you from. That moment when you swore you couldn’t fix it, He did it for you.  Never forget Who put you back together. When everyone pulled out, and you had to face it all alone, don’t forget Who pulled you through. Never forget who carried you, when the storm pushed you to your knees and there was no one else left. No matter who or what is beside you now, never forget the moments when it was only Him. Don’t forget Who remained.

He remained. He always remains.

It was a moment when everything I had thought I didn’t understand seemed to come into perspective. When the confusion disintegrated and the darkness lifted. When I met a guy whose words truly made me realise exactly what I was missing all this time.

My mind jogged briefly back to that day, not that long ago.

“There’s someone you have to meet,” Junaid was saying, that day in the car.

It was the first time I had met him, and I was kind of confused by him wanting me to meet someone else. I mean, he didn’t even know who I was, leave alone what kind of people I got along with. I was immediately sceptical… Not to mentiom, completely averse.

I had thought about it often, wondering if he had planned it all. If he had known what was going to happen, and set out with that intention. Or if everything had just worked out the way it did, because there was obviously something great in store for me because of it.

We reached the Masjid that day, reading Maghrib in Jamaat. At that stage, I was trying to do the Mosque thing as often as possible, but it was always an effort. I didn’t take it quite as seriously as I was supposed to.

We were on our way out, when Junaid tried to steer me in the oposite direction. I was about to tell him to back off and leave me alone, just because I was so arrogant, but something made me stop and think.

For once in my life, instead of having some kind of recognition and being the main man in a crowd… In this place, everyone who came here for the true purpose were all equal.

I was slowly learning to eat some humble-pie for the first time in my life. Humility had always been a foreign concept to me.

I looked at who he was pointing to. He looked like a Maulana kind of dude, and though he seemed like he was probably really hectic, he was young and there was something about the few people who gathered around him that made me also want to be a part of it. He had the type of presence that made you instantly like him.

How he reached out to meet and greet every person within his midst, making them all feel like they were something special. I mean, this was something I had learnt about in business. To butter people up and get them on your side. It was a common trick even when dealing with girls, but the way that this was done… Was different to how I had known it. There was so much of sincerity… It was just so real, that it caught me completely off guard.

This guy was definitely a cut above the rest.

Before I knew it, I was within the crowd, Junaid by my side, quickly edged forward.

Junaid seemed to actually know this guy, and he greeted him back warmly, smiling broadly. I studied this guy, maybe just a tiny bit sceptically. He was tall… Even slightly taller than me, with a enviable build. His face was cladded with a full beard, and he was literally permanently smiling. Really, like, his face shone. You know how they say some people just let off ‘light’? This was the guy.

“This is a friend,” Junaid said, gesturing to me. “A Mus’ab of our time.”


The Maulana dude smiled, and I actually felt like I was staring at him. Up close, he was even more influencing. There was something about this person that made me want to know his story. I felt like he could probably see right through me, but because of this, I wanted him to be the one who would offer me some type of guidance.

“He’s talking about Mus’ab bin Umair, Radiallaho Anhu,” the Maulana dude finally said, looking at me, with a more serious face. “Famous, wealthy sahabi… He sacrificed the world for Deen. Read up on him.”

Mus‘ab bin ‘Umair (RA) was a very handsome young man with a pair of natural Blue eyes. He was the son of ‘Umair who was a wealthy person. Mus‘ab (RA) accepted Islam at a time when life had been made unbearable for Muslims. He was turned out of his home and was socially boycotted. He had to suffer countless miseries. This pampered young man embraced Islam at a time when those who believed in Islam were refused food and water and were thrown in dark prison cells. 

Maulana dude held out his hand for me to shake, and I greeted him, correcting what Junaid was saying. Me, compared to a Sahaba?

“Name’s Waseem,” I said, unyielding in my stance. I wanted to figure him out… To see why he was so distinct.

“Good to meet you, bru,” he said, still shaking my hand warmly, smiling again. I cracked a smile back.

He spoke again.

“I’m Umar.”

A Fool’s Gold

Bismillair Rahmaanir Raheem

Waseem: Every sinner has a future...


A poisonous shrill from behind me pierced right through somewhere at the back of my brain. I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it, but I suddenly got a malicious headache. A sign, maybe?

I paid for my gum and cold drink, deliberating whether to turn around or not. If it was the same girl I thought it was, I had a good mind to just walk out without even looking in that direction. And no, I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. The voice persisted.

And not just the voice… It was an incessant tapping on the shoulder that really got me this time.

“Where are youu gonna be, Waseeeeeeem?” It was saying. “Thought we would see you at Sammy’s place later?”

Sameer was a friend I had known. A while back. The past always come back to haunt you at some point.

It sounded like a rhetorical question, so I didn’t answer.


Muhammed nudged me as hard as he could in between my ribs, as if to prompt me to answer. I ignored him. Maybe the nagging was getting to him. I was honestly a bit over this whole game. The satisfaction that was so temporary.

“Err,” I said, turning slightly, just barely glancing at her. Straight brown hair, bright red lipstick and one of those heavy smelling fragrances. It was a slight over-kill.

I looked away, nodded a half-greeting, walking out quickly, glad to be out of there.

Footsteps followed fast behind me.

“Hey, whatsup?”


“Nothing,” I replied.

“That chic was all over you,” he continued, looking at me. “It’s new years, bru. I won’t judge.”

He held up his hands, as if to edge me on, but I opened the car door and sat in the passenger’s seat, waiting for Muhammed to start the car. He should know me by now. Well, the new me.

I had known that girl about a year ago. I remembered her well, but I honestly couldn’t figure out what had attracted me to her. I had met her at the gym… A few times.

I would see her every day. She was always around the guys section, and from what I can remember, she was some kind of fitness trainer. That’s how it all progressed. Or should I say… Regressed? Now that I think about it, it made me feel disgusted with myself. She seemed so… Easy. It was sin upon sin. What was the point?

The low hum of Muhammed’s car sounded, and I sat back, closing my eyes, trying to forget. Muhammed had switched on the radio, but I turned it off, not wanting to listen to crap. At least his music wasn’t the heavy type that Ziyaad listened to, but it didn’t mean it was okay.

“Really, bru? I can’t even listen to my CD?” Muhammed exclaimed, clearly irritated. “You’re becoming worse than the vrou.”

Muhammed’s wife was a bit on the hectic side, and I could only imagine that she must have come from a family who was probably really orthodox.

No-one knew much about her, but it was okay. Muhammed was happy. And it was okay, because even I felt that she was way too good for my extremely ordinary elder bro.

And now that I thought about it, it was actually weird how no-one really cared about her, based on the fact that she ‘seemed’ like perfect wife material. Despite the obvious draw-cards, how she had evidently been raised brought another dimension to the opportunity. Different to any of the girls we had ever known.

It made me think that our lives, as they stood, were completely missing the point. I mean, up till recently, I had thought that driving my Lambo with a hot girl in the passengers seat was the best that it could get.

I hadn’t ever really thought about it before, but now… It really made me realise that there was so much more to life… So much more to my religion. In getting everything materialistic that I could ever dream of, there was so much of real value that I had obviously been deprived off.

I raised my hand to my chin, feeling the newness of the imminent beard, and liking it. The notion of being sucked in by this world was clearly surfacing for me, because, although we have this knowledge that it isn’t forever, the fact is that we live here. We are part of this world, that we get carried away with. We all have aspirations.

I had aspirations… I always did. With regard to my studies, I wanted to do Masters and excel in my field. I had aspirations with regard to the type of lifestyle I wanted to lead… And I even had superficial aspirations with regard to the types of girls I had wanted to be with.

But, where I was lacking, I didn’t realise. Where I needed to make aspirations, I didn’t, until something happened and caused some kind of spark within me to rekindle. It was just the glowing splinter that suddenly ignited, introducing an entirely new perspective, and unveiled the window looking out into where freedom truly lies.

Seeing another side of life, where the grass was literally a picture of over-germination, was so simple and content in comparison. Like a newborn, it made me open my eyes to a true reality.

And of course, I couldn’t expect everyone to see it, just because I did. I couldn’t expect everyone to suddenly get up and realise they needed some desperate guidance in their life. I didn’t want them to see it the way I had, because coming from somewhere beyond the gutter, I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else that way.

I wanted bring it in slowly… Make it gradual, and let it stick. I wanted to guide Ziyaad and my family in a way that made them think for themselves, and not just come at him with every ounce of Islamic bayaan material I had heard during the past month. I wanted him to find the gold for himself, because that was the way that anyone could really appreciate it.

“It’s Ziyaad,” Muhammed said, suddenly braking and doing an extremely dangerous u-turn, in the midst of Pretoria New Years Eve traffic. He had his phone in his hand.

I didn’t even hear it ring. Why was he talking about Ziyaad?

“What does he want?” I mumbled, watching him with heavy eyelids. I had zoned out there completely for a while.

Muhammed didn’t answer, just drove like a slight maniac as he weaved in and out of cars.

“Muhammed?” I asked again, sitting up and rubbing my eyes. What was going on?

With Muhammed’s driving on the islands, we reached our destination pretty quickly. Flashing lights and a gathering crowd immediately signalled something wasn’t right. And it was intense, because we had no idea whether he was going to make it or not. We had no inkling of what would lie ahead for us, even during the next few hours into the new year, while they were trying to get my youngest brother out of his car.

Struggling with my own demons, and regretting why I hadn’t tried harder with Ziyaad, I finally sat down on the pavement, head in my hands, waiting for the outcome.

The thought struck me, just for a minute. What if our whole world was going to be rocked with this loss? What if, tomorrow, we would only wake up with whatever we had the decency to thank Allah for, today?

“He’s alive! He’s alive!”

The voice was clear as daylight… As bright as the sunshine on the gloomiest day.

“Yoh,” was all I could say, wiping my forehead with my hands, not even realising how the perspiration was running down my face. Every other supposed ‘problem’ I had ever had in my life had nothing on this. It was the most terrifying feeling for me.

Muhammed was scurrying around, trying to figure out where the ambulance was going. I jumped in with them, not bothered with their silly arguments about casualty rules. It was my brother, and if something was going to happen to him, I needed to be there. I needed to make sure that he was in the best care and state of mind.

“Sir, can you hear us?” one of the paramedics were saying to Ziyaad, witnessing some movement.

There was a streak of blood on the top of Ziyaad’s shirt, coming from a superficial blow to his head, but other than that, he seemed okay.

“It’s a miracle, you know,” the other paramedic was saying. She was a female. I tried not to look at her. I had been trying hard to avert my gaze, realising how careless I had been before.

I just nodded watching Ziyaad’s eye’s flicker slightly. I could say it was a miracle, but I knew that there was more to it than just that. Something greater was on our side… Divine Power, for some reason, through someone’s Du’aa, was working its way against the odds just for us.

I actually couldn’t believe it, but the feeling of exhilaration was priceless.

After almost a minute of no response from Ziyaad, finally, it seemed like his eyes were actually open. I couldn’t wait for him. He was taking too long.

“Zee?” I said, eagerly awaiting a response.

He tried to open his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. I removed the oxygen mask, eager to hear his voice.

“Was,” he croaked, speaking so softly, I had to strain my ears to hear it.

“Yeah?” I prompted him on.

“I think…” He stopped in mid sentence, as if he couldn’t manage.

“You think what, boss?” I asked, getting impatient.

He looked up at me for a few seconds, closed his eyes, and then opened them again.

“Was,” he started again, annoying me.

Was he ever going to say what he needed to?

He spoke again.

“Was,” he finally breathed, blinking at me.

I waited for it. Patiently.

“I think I found the gold.”

Beyond the Boundary Wall: Zaynah

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

“There we go,” I said, tying Nabeela’s hair up in a weird, funky-looking kind of bun. To me, it looked a bit strange, but the look on her Nabeela’s face was one of sheer amazement.

“I look like a different person, Zay,” she exclaimed, smiling widely. “Wow! So exciting!”

She twisted and turned her face to get a better view in the hallway mirror. We hadn’t yet got our dressing table in the new house, but we seemed to be managing fine with just one mirror. Nabeela was quite thrilled with what she saw, and gave herself a thumbs up in the mirror. I supposed she was at that age where she was now so much more conscious of herself and her body.

“Now I’m almost as pretty as you, Zay,”she winked at me. “I just need to get thinner.”

“Not at all, dolly. More lovely,” I said to her, kissing her slightly chubby cheek fondly.

She was like the little sister I never had. Nabeela was usually with us during the school term only, but had come to visit for a few days this holiday, since I missed her so much! She was my father’s sister’s daughter, and it was great to have another person in the house, just to liven things up. Things had been pretty bleak recently, and it was lovely to spend time playing silly games like pretending we were having a night out.

When Mummy had passed away, just less than a month back, I felt like we would never be able to smile again, but Allah was so Merciful to bring so many other joys into our life. My elder sister, Zakiyya, had fallen pregnant, after trying for so long, and Nabeela being here was definitely one of the bounties we were blessed with.

“Now please can I do your hair now, Zaynah?!” Nabeela insisted, squeezing her still child-like hands together.

She was almost 15, about 5 years younger than I, but I sometimes felt like she was much younger. She was so innocent compared to many other fifteen year olds I had met.

“Okay, but quick,” I replied, sitting on the chair. “I want to read Esha early and sleep. Don’t want to be awake when all the commotion starts.”

“Okay, no probs,” she said, expertly brushing and twisting my long hair. I wasn’t sure when was the last time I had cut it. Probably when I was still at Madrassa…. It might actually need a trim.

“So, do you think there will be fireworks tonight?” Nabeela asked suddenly, but sounding interested.

“Nabeela,” I said, looking at her sternly in the mirror. “It’s not our business. Is it really going to affect your life if there is?”

“I just wanted to watch, that’s all” she said, disappointed. “I wonder if any of the neighbors will have parties. It’s so different here in the city.”

Neighbours. I didn’t really know any of our neighbours, except the people who owned the property that we just moved into. I knew that they were really rich and modern, but I hadn’t ever met them. Well, except the encounter with one of them looking into our yard when I was hanging the washing the other week.

I cringed slightly, remembering. I tried not to think about it, but I just felt embarrassed that I wasn’t even decently dressed when I had gone out that day. I had glimpsed his clean-shaven face as he tried to tell me something from their balcony, but I intentionally ignored him and ran back under-cover. Maybe he was trying to greet, like modern guys do,  but obviously they wouldn’t understand about pardah.

I honestly didn’t think that he had meant to look into our rented property, but I supposed it served me right for being so careless that day. I learnt my lesson and made sure I wore my burqah and niqaab whenever I left through the back door. I don’t think he ever called for me again, and I never had the guts to look up and check if anyone was there.

“There, all done!” Nabeela exclaimed, snapping me out of my thoughts.

I looked in the mirror, looking at my usually curly and somewhat unruly hair all tied up. There were a few loose strands framing my long face, and the hair-do actually kind of suited me.

“You look like a super-”

Nabeela stopped in mid-air as a large bang resonated through the night, and a few seconds after, another one, just as loud.

I literally froze for a few seconds. It sounded like it was just outside our house. Nabeela’s eyes widened, obviously wondering what had just occurred.

“Stay here,” I commanded her, leaping up to put on my abaya and niqaabi attire.

I flung on the clothing and literally sprinted through the front door, my heart thudding in my chest. In my heart, I sent out a silent Du’aa, just for Allah to keep my father safe. He was due to come home from Esha Salaah at any minute now, and I couldn’t even imagine what we would do if anything had to happen to him.

Anyone could imagine my relief when I set eyes on him entering the driveway in that little car that he had driven for ages. Mummy would always laugh in good humour, saying that Abbi would probably never sell it, and we had countless memories in it.

He stepped out, and I ran up to him.

“Abbi,” I said, catching my breath. “An accident… I think-”

“Jhee, jhee,” he said, calm as ever. “I think I know the people. Let me go see.”

I knew that he had intended for me to stay behind, but I wasn’t going to wait. I was still shaking with trepidation. Who was it? Were they okay?

I followed my father out our gate, signalling to Nabeela to wait, as she was standing at the door. I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, as I finally saw the black car, a crumpled wreck, on the side of the road.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’oon,” my father said, kind of speaking to himself.

Indeed, to Allah everything belongs, and to Him we will be returned. The Controller of the Worlds.

I made a Du’aa for the driver of the car. If he was Muslim, I prayed that he die with Imaan. That no music was blaring whilst the angel of death took him. That the last words and thoughts that occupied his mind were pure and good.

My eyes teared up as we approached the increasing crowd.

If that was the outcome, facing death again would be hard. The second time in a month. Mummy’s had hit hard, but we were making sabr and it was slowly becoming easier, through the help of Allah. Seeing this… It brought back all those feelings of devastation. A sinking feeling within my gut.

It looked like someone had already called the ambulance. The sirens were getting louder as Abbi went towards the car, dialling something on his cell phone. I stayed back, looking on, waiting for the final verdict…. The moment of truth… The last word.

Everything was inconclusive, even when the paramedics arrived, because they couldn’t get him out of the car. It hit me, all of a sudden. It was someone’s life we were waiting on here. To see if their time was up or not. To know whether he had been given another shot or not.

I breathed out, when a few minutes later, a smart car pulled up, and two young guys got out. My mind was so caught up in the whole situation, that I watched them intently until they finally got to the car, recognising one of them vaguely. He seemed so familiar to me, and I wondered how I knew him. I dimissed the thought promptly and focussed on the immediate.

They spoke to Daddy for a few seconds, and then moved on to the barricaded area where the car was. They looked pretty worried, making calls and discussions, and I felt my heart sink as I finally turned away. Especially to know that these were Muslim people… I felt so much more affected.

I was trying to gauge what had happened from their reaction. Was their family member okay? Was he or she alive?

What was I doing? Without even realising it, with my uncontrollable curiosity, I probably was getting myself more involved in sin by being outside.

Abbi knew what he was doing when he sent us to Madrassa to learn about Deen. How to deal with something like this. Watching the activity and being present in a situation like that put a whole lot of things in perspective for me. To be honest, the situation was completely out of anyone’s control. No paramedic, police or doctor could do anything against Allah’s will. We would have to have faith in Allah’s plan and hope for the best for the sake of the family involved.

I watched Daddy approach me now, coming from the accident scene.

“Go inside, Zaynah,” he said, sounding just as distressed as I felt. “It’s getting late.”

I realised that it was, and remembered my plans to get an early night. It was the night before the new year and I knew that it would probably get a bit rowdy during the  early hours of the new year. I stepped back, still hesitant, and Abbi felt my concern.

“He was lucky… The way that car is hit… Very Lucky,” Abbi whispered to me, patting my back. “Don’t worry.”

Untold relief flooded through me. Though I was still feeling quite unsettled about the whole incident, I realised that standing there and watching was really not the best thing that I could do in that type of situation. I retreated to the house, feeling a bit sheepish.

I breathed out as I entered, smiling at Nabeela, still standing at the entrance, and feeling a little more positive. At that time, I didn’t know this family or the person involved, but I felt deeply for them all. Who knew how we would be connected so deeply in the future?

At that moment, only Allah knew the outcome of this one. My faith was unshakable though… I trusted strongly that the driver would make it through.