Castles and Caves

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


I almost jumped as I heard the voice, immediately zoning out of my shocked senses and back into reality.


This wasn’t how it was supposed to be, I was telling myself.

Wasn’t there some sort of future in the horizon? Even though at that point, my priorities might have been changing, I didn’t want to be thrown out the picture completely. I still wanted a chance, even if it was only 50-50.

I still couldn’t believe it. And she didnt even have the decency to tell me. It was just… Wrong. So wrong.

“What are you doing?” My father’s booming voice was slightly accusing, but I couldn’t care less at that moment.

“You going for this?” I said, tossing the card over to the table where he was sitting.

He picked up the card and squinted his eyes, and recalling what it was, he looked at me again.

“I’ll see,” he said, not really concerned. The invite was for 3 months away. Too early for my father to make commitments for so far ahead.

I nodded, still processing everything. I was just about heading out, when my father spoke again.

“Listen, do me a favour,” he said, not even looking up as he spoke. “Go drop this off with Muhammed. Tell him to sort it out.”

He tossed the envelope to me, still busy with his Mac computer with the other hand. He didn’t even notice my frown or ask me if there was anything wrong. For the first time in my life, a certain hostility surged through me, as my father’s true nature became apparent. It was undeniable.

Oh well. I supposed that was why I had two brothers who never had hit it off with my Dad. He had his good points, as I had always admired, but to tell the truth, he wasn’t a very easy person to get along with.

It was undeniable that his work and endless pursuits of business were clearly the most important things to him. It was a bit disappointing, because in his own pursuit, he had lost so much more than valuable time. For the first time in my life, I began to actually think that I didn’t want to actually end up like him.

I needed some clarity on the matter. On Dad. On Life. On priorities. On the chic that I had supposedly had my hopes up for.

I was never a committed kind of guy, but at that moment, maybe due to novelty, becoming a more serious version of myself was actually looking awesome. Maybe this change I was trying to make in my life couldn’t have come at a better time.

With lack of anything better to do, I decided to go to hand over the envelope to Muhammed, since I would have to at some point. Maybe he would have some insight for me, since I felt like I was in a more influential mood that night. Maybe it would be good for me to listen to someone else’s advices for once.

I drove slowly, for a change, window open, just to let the breeze in. It was one of those amazing nights, where the feeling in the air was a different kind. It was like I was so in synch with myself, I couldn’t believe how clearly I was seeing things. I was still coming to terms with every thing as it was, without being influenced by any kind of intoxicant, but for that moment it was great to just… Be.

I cruised into Muhammed’s neighborhood, and realised at that moment that I was passing Farah’s house. It was a sudden realization, and it hit me just then.

I actually didn’t miss those days. I just felt slightly disappointed at myself, because I knew now that I could have been so much more than I was.

I passed the house quickly, not wanting to dwell on it, turning into Muhammed’s road and then into his driveway.

Once again, I was faced head on with the ‘perks’ of this world. My eldest brothers house was just awesome. Like a castle, with obviously, a more modern finish. I always wanted to end up as well-off as Muhammed, but with all the mentoring from Waseem, I kind of realised that there was a bigger picture out there. Building golden castles in my mind would have to change it’s perspective from now on.

I pressed the buzzer, and though it was kind of late, I knew Muhammed wouldn’t really mind me coming. As expected, the gate opened with no hassles and I drove in, parking next to a decent, but unfamiliar car.

“Ziyaad!” Mo exclaimed, his iPhone in his other hand. “Lost your way?”

I grinned sheepishly, knowing that he was secretly glad to see me. Before I got a chance to reply, a familiar voice came from inside.

“Mo, what’s all that stuff on the table?”

Waseem. I was never so glad to hear him. Was he staying here?!

“What stuff?” Muhammed replied, looking confused and putting his phone back in his pocket. “I dunno.”

He walked back inside, following Waseem into the lounge. Of course, being the Zee, I had to follow to see what Waseem was going on about.

“This!” Waseem said, pointing to the dining room table.

It was cluttered with expensive looking dishes, serviettes and some other decorative stuff I knew my Mum also kept in her dining drawers. Aasiya, being Aasiya, just loved to make everything a fancy ordeal. It was typical. But what exactly was the occasion?

“What the heck is going on here?” I asked, thinking I was missing out on some major event. Was Waseem having his wedding event here or something? When did all of this stuff take place?

“That’s exactly what I’m wondering!” Waseem said, putting my fears to rest and looking accusingly at Mo.

Muhammed put up his hands in self defense, but Waseem wasn’t paying attention. I knew I had to say something, just to stop Waseem from rattling off about extravagance or spmething. I could already see that bayaan kind of look in his eyes.

“I agree!” I piped up, out of nowhere.

Both brothers looked at me weirdly, but I kept my composure, knowing that now was the chance to put in a bit of useful input. Maybe I could actually say something that sounded like I really knew what I was talking about.

“You agree with what, bru?” Mo asked, still looking at me strangely.

“With Waseem,” I said, in an obvious kind of way. “His… Err…”

I couldn’t find the right words to say what I needed to. I wanted to show them that this time, I was proving my self worth. That I was really changing. I needed my brothers to believe it. I needed them believe in me.

“Ziyaad is saying what I was thinking,” Waseem started, looking from me to Mo.

He stroked his full beard, watching me carefully through cynical eyes. I could tell that he was reading part of what I was trying to convey. He sensed my desperation.

Just his assuring look made me feel that much more comforted. Beside giving me the solace I needed, it made me think of what he had told me earlier that day, before I had gone home.

I had needed that reminder, because there always comes a time, every once in a while, where we forget the important parts. Where we forget what our aim should be. We aim for the peak, but we forget to get our essentials in check. We aim too high, and sometimes lose focus on the basics.

Because when it came to getting Deen right, it wasn’t about reaching the milestones that people show or boast about. It doesn’t mean you have to constantly talk about Allah, and be doing Dawah at all times. It wasn’t only about extra actions of Ibaadat or the quantity you do, with regard to even the simplest worship.

What was most important was two things… Two fundamentals.

To be in obedience to our Lord’s command, and to stay away from sin.

Two major, seemingly simple things, that are yet so difficult to obtain. When you are constantly aware of Him, then automatically, you adopt this need to always please, and never disobey Him.

Because when I heard about this only recently, having no knowledge of it previously, I was in awe. Just a few youth, maybe six or seven, who made a difference to the world, so long ago.

Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Surely they were young men who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance.” (18:13).

A story that was amazing, captured most beautifully in Surah Kahf. When the trials and sins were too much for those few youth who were mentioned, they didn’t resort to something beyond any of us today. What was obvious here was that the youth who had escaped to the cave, and thereafter were protected by Allah, were not sitting in worship for those 300 or so years. All they had done was evaded the wrong-doing in their society by going away. They simply went to seek refuge in a cave, and fell off to sleep.

And He protected them because Allah allowed them to sleep for 309 years, by muting their hearing.

Allah says, “Then We struck upon their ears for a (great) number of years in the cave,” (TMQ, 18:11)

And He kept their bodies alive, as He says:

And We turned them about towards the right and towards the left,” (18:18).

One of the very miraculous signs in this story was just that. Allah changed the characters of sleep to accommodate 7 sixteen year olds because they trusted in Him.

And that’s what our Lord loves. They were raised to such a rank because they simply stayed away from sin. They removed themselves from the ugliness of society, and kept themselves pure.

So Allah covered them with His shade, and raised them in status because they protected themselves from the effect of evil. Because even if it means doing the most basic acts of worship, staying away from any type of sin was a miracle in itself.

And to bring that into my life, I knew what it entailed. When we ask for Allah’s help and forgiveness, sincerely, Allah will make it such that your soul is cleansed. Your heart purified. Your sins erased. So the angels won’t be any sort of witness to your sins, not because they won’t agree to, but simply because they will have no ability to. That was how merciful Allah Almighty was. Despite our indifference, He still sorts us out at the end of the day.

I turned to my brothers now, knowing that whatever I had to say would be good enough. I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone. I just needed to stay away from what had always dragged me down.

“I was just saying that we need to cool off,” I said, just wanting to take it easy. I wasn’t about to run away to a cave, but I needed to keep myself away from sins at least. Baby steps.

Waseem nodded. He got me.

“I also reckon we need to cool off a bit with the laa-di-daa stuff,” Waseem expanded, using my statement as an opening. “You know the type of guy Molvi is, right? He won’t even sit at this table. Put a sheet on the floor, Mo… We can hit it Sunnah style.”

Aah. Now I got it. Waseem had invited Maulana Dude here for some reason, (I didn’t know what it was), and Aasiya made it all hectic.

I grinned to myself, thinking how my plain and ordinary brother ended up with her. It was strange, but indeed, a greater plan that we were about to witness soon was unfolding at that moment when Muhammed had first met Aasiya, all those years ago.

As the intercom buzzed, and Mo called for her to remove the ‘big deal’ stuff, and make it simple, I watched them fuss around. Waseem went out to fetch Maulana Dude, and I just loitered around, taking a ‘supervisor’ role. I sampled a bit of the Strawberry twist juice that Aasiya had made, instantly loving the kick. It was potent, but just what I needed.

Well, for me, supervising was a required task.

I could hear voices coming, and Muhammed started frantically gesturing to Aasiya to go out.

It was an unpredictable moment, because they unexpectedly entered through the garage door, and for some reason, Aasiya was using that door to go out from. My sister-in-law was taken aback for a few seconds as she realised that she would have to back-track, and involuntarily froze, just as they came into the entrance hall, talking animatedly. Both men, looking down, continued with their talking while they patiently waited for Aasiya to leave the room.

But the funniest part at that moment was that it looked like Aasiya was going nowhere. She just stood, as if she was stuck, rooted to the spot.

I wanted to laugh, but I knew no-one would be impressed. The whole thing was just a bit hilarious, because the awkwardness intensified, and for the first time in his life, Muhammed’s face actually turned color. I think he was probably wondering what was wrong with his wife, but didn’t realise that she was probably just completely shocked out of her senses.

There was a good minute of unending silence, until she finally broke the silence.

“Umar?!” She said, almost disbelievingly.

It took me a good few seconds to realise that she was talking to Maulana Dude. He finally actually looked at her, after what seemed like forever. As she addressed him, something of his own expression seemed to alter.

All awkwardness and discomfort disappeared, and a tiny crack of a smile, despite his obvious shock, appeared. He seemed like he was at a loss for words, and we all just watched silently, as he edged toward her. He shook his head, then looked at her again, in complete bewilderment.

“Aasiya?” He asked, moving closer.

She nodded, and I even though I couldn’t see her face, I could tell that the water-works were on, from her loud sniffles. Typical woman.

I would have laughed at her if that moment wasn’t so action packed. All this stuff was just so intense. How did they know each other?

The questions were soon to be answered, but there would be a lot more to be unveiled before we ever did find out. Muhammed was already moving forward to comfort his wife, and Maulana Dude looked like he was going to do the same, but Aasiya, being who she was, was having none of it.

She promptly turned, as if in a sudden rush, finally exiting the room through the revolving door. Both men were just as quick to follow, leaving both Waseem and I in utter confusion. We looked at each other, not sure whether to laugh or not. This was all just so weird.

In total discomposure, we both took seats on the couch, not knowing what to say. Not like we needed it, but everything just seemed to get that much complicated at that very moment.

What exactly was going on?


Changing Status

Note: Just a heads up… The writer of this blog will be taking a short break, so there will be one more post before a 2-3 week break, and season two will commence. Happy reading, peeps.

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

It was almost a month since Waseem had left home, and his absence was palpable.

Life was beginning to evolve around me, and it seemed like everyone around was progressing with their own story. As universities started opening and people started moving on, everyone became interested in making it for themselves. Long story short: the party was over.

With Waseem not around, I kind of got sucked back in to my previous mentality. I supposed that I was still trying to change, but I was less determined. I mean, there was no incentive for me, so why should I make all that effort?

I eventually found myself hanging around with friends I had stopped being with since Waseem had intervened, because they were the only ones that seemed to not be going anywhere in life. I found it strangely comforting that they didn’t care if I was studying or working, or what I did with my life.

Rich kids like me, I supposed, who didn’t have to care.

And then, of course, the temptation was stronger than ever. At first it was easy to be good, but when your body is used to a kind of lifestyle, it begins to crave it again. It goes into a kind of after-shock, not really fully able to deal with the lack of toxins entering it.

So where there was opportunity, I started using, in small quantities, just to keep the cravings at bay.

I blocked out rationality. I blocked out the message my heart was sending to my brain, telling me that it was wrong.

Man, I was staying away from so much, I convinced myself. I just needed this one thing to keep me sane.

And so, before I could blink, another two weeks went by, with me caught up in myself. My father had bought me a brand new BMW, and you could say that I was flying high once again. Literally.

By staying away from girls, I honestly thought that I was doing too much, so I needed a little bit of a break.

And yeah, Shaytaan was so sharp. He got me even fooling myself. When you’re in that position, and you think you’re thinking for yourself, it’s never the case. The drug, the craving, the addiction… It all speaks for you. You’re controlled by that solely, and nothing you do seems sinful.

So one day, on a whim, and in a different kind of high, I decided to go to the mosque. I wasn’t sure why, but maybe it was my mind telling me that I’ve had enough. Maybe I just needed to be inspired again. I wasn’t sure what it was.

Some stupid perception in my mind made me think that some person I would meet there was going to be my guidance. That I was going to change my life, because someone else was going to make me. Someone else but me.

But as I entered, as was in store for me, my brother was the first person I saw. I kept thinking to myself, if only I had come before that, I might have not got myself into the mess I had. And of course, Waseem, looking like a like a boss in full Islamic attire, knew me too well. He immediately came up to me, taking me aside.

“Zee, what the hell?!” He asked, looking perturbed as he scrutinised my blood-shot eyes. He looked behind him, as if he was afraid someone would see him, and then guided me to a remote area of the whudhu khana.

“You’re staying here?” I asked him, feeling weird in the mosque. I was shivering slightly, but not because it was cold.

“No,” he said, looking at me as if I was stupid. “It’s nearly Salaah time.”

I nodded dumbly, and he continued to look at me, almost as if he didn’t know what to tell me.

He didn’t have a chance to say anything, because at that point, Iqamah had just started. He rushed to the front, dragging me with him.

I wasn’t sure what I was reading in that Salaah, but something came into my mind as I stood. All I could think of was that there was a reason I was there, at that moment. A reason I was still alive, with everything I had gone through and put my body through. If I could count the times I had almost over-dosed… I had no idea how I had come through.

At that time, all I knew was that I wanted to feel peaceful again. I kept glancing at Waseem, looking at his contented expression, and thinking to myself how serene it was. How he had made it happen for himself, despite everything. How he had found the gold where I never thought it could be. And I wanted that.

And then, finally, as we we went down for the most humbling part of the prayer, all I could think of was how badly I wanted to change. In that environment, once again, with those emotions coming on from that first day I had heard the Maulana dude talking, my mind was once again enlightened.

Yes, I had tried, but maybe it wasn’t what I should have strived for. I had tried, but I didn’t ask Allah to be with me. I didn’t try hard enough. I had tried, but I had been knocked down hard. Harder than before.

And you know what they say. When life knocks you down, remember, you’re right there where you need to be. You’re in the perfect position to pray.

And so I did. Salaah ended, and I prayed. For like, the first time in my life, I really prayed to my Lord, wanting to let it all out. I took the humblest position, my forehead on the ground, choking on the words that I didn’t know how to say. Hands flat, the hardness of the ground pressed against my head, it seemed as if the world was lifting off.

I asked Him for His help, because at that moment, I really and truly believed that He was the only One who could assist me. He was the only One who could help me get through this.

I knew what I wanted, and I meant it. I just needed to say it… And I finally could.

Become mine, and I’ll be Yours, forever,” my heart was begging.

They were words that came from the very depths of my soul. It was ironic, that as I placed my head on the ground, tears falling freely, that was the moment where I felt higher than ever. Where I felt lifted up enough to grab the opportunity screaming out at me. It was a chance for me. To change my status. A chance to make me better. A chance to make it all right.

And as I got up and I felt like I had come back down to earth, Waseem sat next to me, eyeing me out.

“Go home and have a rest, ” he advised, .

And so I did. It was a sleep like no other, because when I got up, all I could feel was peace. No other symptoms that usually accompanied the crap I did. It was amazing.

Become mine, and I’ll be Yours forever.”

I remembered those words I had uttered, clear as day, and I could feel something change within me. It was like Allah says:

 “Take one step towards Me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards Me, I will run towards you.” Hadith Qudsi.

The night had just closed in, and I read my Esha, promising myself that from then on, the mosque would be the only place I would pray my Salaah from then on.

And since I had made a sincere intention to stop everything I had found myself caught up in, I knew I had to change a lot else. I had to change my state of mind for good.

I needed to speak to my father, to try and get him to set things right with Waseem. I knew I needed to make some effort on him. I never thought I’d say it, but I needed Waseem back home.

It was late, but I knew Dad would be in his office. He was obsessed with his work. I made my way there, trying to rehearse what I was about to say. I was slightly on edge, but I forced myself to relax.

As I reached, although the lights were on, Dad wasn’t inside.

He must’ve gone into the bathroom, so I sat around, waiting. And of course, being the Ziyaad I am, I couldn’t just wait without getting bored, so I started sneaking around. And that’s when I saw the fancy box, looking like some kind of gift. On it were initials, but I honestly didn’t even pay attention to them, until I opened the box. I took out the card, scanning the contents. It was ridiculously fancy.

I had just scanned through, but my chest seemed to momentarily contract as I really read it. I mean, till then, I honestly didn’t think I had real emotions when it came to people, but this was proof that maybe I was just a little bit human.

The card was clear. I knew exactly who it was . I froze, as I read, and then re-read it. The one line stood out, like it was in bold.

… to grace the marriage of our daughter…

Dad’s business friend’s name was there, and I did a double take as I digested  the information.

Life had stood motionless, just for that moment, as I seemed to finally believe what I had just read. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but I supposed I still had a hope.

I just couldn’t let it happen.

She was getting married. And not to me.

Step Up

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Waseem: The next step forward...

I had decided to take the step. Number three on the list. The last step left to take, and I had tried.

And if there was one thing I realised as I went through with the final measure, it was this: It doesn’t matter how tough you are. A wound always leaves a scar. It gets under your skin before it leaves completely. It follows us home and changes our life. But maybe the pain has a point. Maybe we have to get a little messed up, before we can step up.

Because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew that there were way too many hurdles to cross before I could actually be worthy of a lifestyle that was actually straight. At first, hope had completely evaded me, until I realised what it was due to.

A test. It was all a test, to see how I would emerge. Defeated or not. Firmer faith or not.

“You want to get married?” Mo had asked, looking just slightly concerned.

His expression didn’t falter, but I looked him in the eye, not denying Ziyaad’s random comment. I wasn’t sure what he was getting at with telling Muhammed at that moment, but my gut told me that it was an opening to ask my eldest brother’s honest opinion.

“Time to change my life,” I said, sincerely meaning what I had said.

Because when it came down to it all, that’s what my aim had to be. Till that point, every single thing in my temporary life was just a huge hoax. Nothing I knew was true, so how could anyone ever possibly enjoy a lie? It was like taking pleasure in a dream, when you know that it’s going to end. Pointless and inevitable.

Because as they had told us the other day at the Masjid, when it came to Jahannam, such was it’s strength and horror, that when a person is dipped into it, even for the minutest time one can imagine, it will be such that he forgets every pleasure and happiness he has ever experienced in his life. It will be as if he had never had a favourable moment during his entire existence.

And yet… Yet, when it came to Paradise, once a person is given that privilege of experiencing it, even for just a fraction of the most trivial amount of time, he is absolutely astounded. And at that moment, he will recall no grief or hopelessness in his worldly life. Amazingly, he will remember no fear or dissatisfaction at all. His world will be coloured by the Jannah that he had been momentarily surrounded by, just for that short while. A mere milli-second will eliminate every hardship he had ever encountered.

Because when the believers are given their rewards, our Lord’s promise always holds true. And that’s what He tells us:

“O My servants, you will have no fear on that day, nor will you grieve.” (Surah Zukhruf: Verse 68)

No fear or grief for His servants. It was unimaginable. I wanted that so badly. A realm of perpetual bliss. Of gardens where rivers flowed. A place to abide eternally.

Yes, I wanted the gold, so I had to work for it. I wanted to be at a place where life wasn’t as taxing as I had felt all this time. I wanted to go to a place of tranquillity, reside in the realm peaceful bliss. I wanted to meet the friends and lovers of Allah, and sit in their company for eternity…

My mind instantly backtracked to the mental picture I had stored in the back of my mind of the girl I had seen, and I remembered the urgency I had felt on that day. How badly I had wanted to see the other side of life.

And when I thought of how I wanted to become a part of that life, I realised that none of my previous tricks would work this time. All of my well-versed pick-up lines and game moves wouldn’t serve me for this pursuit. It was like using an outdated engine in a brand new BMW. Completely anti-climatic and useless.

“You have to go ask her father,” Muhammed finally said, as if it was the most obvious thing.

I knew that was a possibility but the thought of discussing marriage with a man I barely knew seemed so… Strange.

But I had to follow what my heart was inclining me toward. At that point, I had no other guidance but Mo and my own ego, so we made a stop at the house that I had been to the previous week, determined to go ahead with my initial intention.

I left my brother to do the talking, and although the man was polite as he was the last time I had met him, the minute I asked about his daughter, I could feel the strain. He also seemed extremely surprised at our request.

“Your father didn’t come?” he asked, looking around the room.

I wasn’t sure if that was the way that these things usually went, but I thought that I would rather make it clear from the outset.

“My father trusts our decisions,” was all Muhammed said.

He nodded slowly, pulling softly at his greying beard.

“Maaf, bha, but my younger daughter is not ready yet,” he said, sounding only a little apologetic.

I could feel the impact of those words on my heart already. With a heaviness somewhere within my chest, we greeted and left. The whole thing seemed pointless. How did I get to change my life when every door of opportunity was being shut on me? I felt like my past was still coming back to haunt me.

“Don’t stress, boss,” Muhammed assured me. “I’ll ask Aasiya. Maybe she knows of some other girls.”

I knew there was no use arguing. My spirits were on a low at that time and I honestly believed that this was payback for all the crap I had done and put girls through. Despite what Molvi Umar had said, I believed that I didn’t deserve anything good.

And so, as a last resort, I approached my own father to speak to him, hoping that he would be some sort of assistance in the whole thing. It was such a weird request, because I had never relied on my parents for anything. I never knew their value when it came to issues of this nature. I was always self-sufficient, and I was proud of it.

And that was my downfall. Pride. Leaving every other vice was a piece of cake, compared to the egotistical vices that surged within. Pride and anger… That was the real test. When you leave the evil of those influences… That’s when you became a real man.

So I took the plunge and approached him one evening. It was either bad timing, or fate, that my father was checking his accounts that night.

“Waseem, why is this statement still reflecting last years amount?” He asked, taking off his reading glasses to look at me.

I was confused, but I took the statement and scanned it, looking at the one he had ringed in red. ‘M Trust Property’, it said.

Confused, realisation quickly dawned.

Oh shit. I had completely forgotten about the rent. I didn’t even tell him about what I had decided. I knew I had to.

“Dad,” I started. “That place is a dump. You can’t raise the rent.”

My father narrowed his eyes at me, and his face changed slightly.

“I didn’t ask for your opinion, Waseem,” he said steadily. “I’ve got plans for that house, and if they’re not going to pay the price, then they rather move out.”

“They can’t,” I argued.”Lease is signed for a year now.”

I barely got scared of my father, but at that moment, a streak of fear shot through me. There were no words to describe my father’s outburst right then. He sounded like he was going to literally blow the rooftop off.

“Dad, chill,” I said meekly, trying to calm him down.

In retrospect, I realised that maybe it wasn’t the right thing to say… But I just had no idea how to deal with it.

It was completely unexpected. I mean I didn’t even see it coming. My father was a big man, but I was never afraid of him. I never thought I would witness this, but over the years, there was one thing I had learnt: When it came to money and power, my father never backed down.

He shoved me hard with both hands, asserting himself and his power. Without a second thought, still raging and swearing, he came up close, provoking me. I wasn’t one of his business acquaintances. I mean, really?

I wasn’t going to lunge at my father, as irritated as I was. The best thing for me to do was to turn and walk away, as difficult as I found it at that moment. I wished I could just sit and talk to him, for once, without him yelling or complaining about something. It was like his whole life revolved around the things that I was trying so badly to stay away from.

With all the noise and fury, both Ziyaad, my mother and two of the helpers in the house came rushing towards his office, looking worried. They were trying to find out what exactly was going on, but I really didn’t have the patience or energy to explain. My father wouldn’t back down either way.

If it wasn’t Muhammed and my father having it out, it was my mother getting the brunt, or me. Ziyaad was most like my father, so he was the only one who seemed free from the effects, so far.

I made up my mind, at that moment. I really didn’t need to deal with this. I need peace and a clear frame of mind if I wanted to stay straight. It was always these issues that made me resort to every vice that I had so mindlessly been addicted to. I didn’t want to go back to that dark place, so I knew I had to step up, and do what was best for me and my Nafs.

I went to my room, pulled out my new suitcase, and packed essentials for a few days. Zipping my bag, I knew that there was nothing to hold me back now. This was the only way I was going to break free from this environment and everything it had brought with it.

The heavy weight seemed to immediately lift off my shoulders. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go, but one thing was for sure.

I had to leave.

Just Over the Jagged Fence: Zaynah


Bismillahir Rahmaair Raheem

“Nabeela!” I shouted, extending my height by standing on tip toes to look over the wall. I was absolutely terrified that someone was going to see her.

We were busy practising some racquet skills in the yard and the ball had gone over. As much as I tried to persuade Nabeela to leave it, she insisted that she needed to get it back. The wall was a short one, but it still was an effort to get over.

“Got it!” I heard her say victoriously. I was so glad. Her head popped up from beyond the wall, and then her hands found their way over, gripping the wall to get back into our yard again.

“Shooh,” she said, sounding exhausted. She lay on the overgrown lawn, ball in arm, soaking up the sun.

I grinned at her, sitting next to her, gesturing to Zakiyya to come and join us. She was standing in the kitchen doorway, watching us from afar. Her husband had left her with for a few days while he went on jamaat, and we were enjoying our bonding time together after ages.

“What are you guys doing?” Zakiyya was asking sceptically, hands on hips. She was in bigger sister mode, and I refused to tell her what Nabeela had just done. I knew she would probably lecture us so I decided to leave out the details.

“Enjoying the scenery,” I replied, pulling at a few weeds in the grass beneath me. It was nice just sitting here, hearing the sounds of nature in the midst of city-powered life. I enjoyed living here, but I knew that I’d always be a farm girl at heart.

The whole pollution, noise and high-building blend didn’t mesh well with my personality and inner peace.

“Zaks, what do you think of our neighbours?” Nabeela said suddenly, changing positions.

Nabeela was sitting up and watching Zakiyya now, looking very curious. I wasn’t sure what she was getting at but I just hoped that her recent whereabouts wouldn’t feature in it.

I sighed incredulously, noting Zakiyya’s confusion.

“Zaks, Nabeela is obsessed with rich people,” I explained, rolling my eyes.

Ever since that boy had decided to take a walk into our house without an invitation, Nabeela seemed to take it upon herself to do some sort of investigation on them. Like it was possible for a simple teenage girl to get enough resources to find out about high-flying people in the Gauteng province. It was unheard of.

I turned to Nabeela, focussing my attention on her.

“Nabs, you better not get any funny ideas,” I warned her. “People like that… They don’t care about us. In this society where everyone is competing for the best of everything materialistic… We just don’t fit in.”

“But Zay,” Nabeela started, sounding argumentative. “That guy seemed really nice. He was even telling Abbi that he’ll sort out-”

“I don’t care,” I said in a huff, cutting her off. “This is all just business for them. When you grow up, you look for someone who has Deen. Not for all these fancy requirements.”

Someone who was on the straight path was so important. Abbi had always stressed that, and I agreed. Those people were different to us. Where would we get references for them? How would we even know about their values and beliefs?

Maybe I was being a little judgemental, but I knew what I wanted for me and my cousin.  I wouldn’t be able to settle for anything that was superficial in place of that. It was the best thing for us.

Women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity.” (Quran 24:26)

Allah knew best of our true characters, but I had an idea of the type of person I would want.

Nabeela’s face fell and she looked disappointed, but I didn’t pay any attention to her. We were always taught that the best amongst Muslims were those with the best character.

When it came to looking for a spouse, thats what I would look for. Someone good. Someone kind. Lastly, someone who doesn’t behave like they have a carrot stuck up somewhere behind them.

I know I was sometimes a bit harsh, but it was a harsh and hard reality out there. Marriage wasn’t all that young people thought it to be. I had heard from family and friends and I definitely didn’t believe that ‘bed of roses’ junk. I knew that it wasn’t falling for someone by seeing them and getting carried away with a simple game of love, lust and hope.

Despite my personal perceptions, I just didn’t want Nabeela to get any unrealistic expectations of what she would end up like later in life. Besides, she deserved someone who was going to secure her a place in the Aakhirah. I strongly believed that marriage is a commitment and relationship that starts in this Dunya, and will continue in Paradise together. Insha Allah.

Caught up in my own ideologies, I didn’t realise just how quiet my elder sister was all the time I was speaking. The afternoon sun was slowly finding it’s way out for the day, and it looked like someone had painted streaks across the horizon.

It was beautiful, SubhaanAllah.

“So Zaynah,” Zakiyya said, diverting my attention back to the conversation. I looked up at her emotionless expression.

“Yes, sis?” I replied, wondering what she was about to say.

“Say if,” she started, sounding pensive. “Hypothetically… Say if one of those guys actually happens to show interest in you.. What would you do?”

“I’d tell him to forget it,” I said immediately, without missing a beat.

“So you’d just write him off, without even letting him propose or anything?”

“People like that don’t propose,” I scoffed, amused. “They meet, go out for a few years and then get married. Sometimes. Else they just break up and then the guys look for fresh meat. It’s disgusting.”

It was all just a game. I hated it.

“But Zaynah,” she pressed. “What if he’s a good person?”

She was sounding weirdly desperate for an answer.

“Especially if he’s a good person,” I replied cynically. “Those are the ones you need to watch out for. Who knows what lies beneath all that simplistic charm?”

“Oh, okay,” she replied, a bit too quickly.

There was just something about her whole tone that made me suspicious about the questions that she was asking me. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more to her whole onslaught than what I perceived. Little did I know, I’d be swallowing the very words I had so carelessly uttered.

“Why are you asking me all that anyway?” I asked, pretending not to care.

She didn’t answer me straight away, but I could tell that she was hiding something. Zakiyya had always been a poor pretender, and I could always tell when she was hiding something.

I continued to drill her until she finally relented. It didn’t take long at all.

“I wasn’t suppose to be there,” she finally said. “Abbi had thought I was with you’ll at the park.”

Nabeela and I had taken a walk yesterday to the park opposite for some exercise. Zakiyya was feeling too sick to oblige.

“And?!” I pressed, getting impatient.

“That boy,” she said, gesturing to somewhere on the other side of the neighbourhood. “He came to ask Abbi…”

“Oh my word!” Nabeela squealed, clasping her hands together. Her face lit up, like she was seeing an ice-cream truck or something.

“What did he ask?” I snapped impatiently. “What did Abbi say?”

Zakiyya looked from me to Nabeela, then finally spilled the beans.

“He came to ask… Regarding marriage.”

I held my breath, unsure of what to make of the whole thing. I didn’t have to ask any more.

What came next, surprisingly, was just a bit of a blow.

“Don’t worry,” she said assuringly. “Abbi said no.”