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.