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.”