Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
“You can’t just barge in!” I screamed at Raees, completely annoyed by his disregard of privacy.
“I can do what I want,” he replied indifferently, unfazed by my outburst.
It was the day after Eid, and while everyone was sorting their lives out at home, Raees was making it his sole priority to annoy me.
“Don’t you have anything better to do?” I scowled, turning back to the novel that I was reading. I needed a diversion.
I was at the interesting part, and my eldest brother had chosen that particular moment to disrupt my peace.
“I know you love my company,” was all he said, making himself comfortable on the wooden chair near the door. It was one of the few pieces of furniture left in the house. Everything else had been relocated or sold, sweeping away memories of days spent in complete oblivioun.
I ignored him, grateful for his silence of a few minutes, before he spoke again.
“Besides,” he said, not getting the hint. “I get the feeling that I should stay away from Zaynah. I can’t even talk to my cousin properly. She’s acting strange.”
I rolled my eyes at him and put down my book. He was acting stupid. Of course she’s acting strange.
“She’s just lost her father,” I said obviously. “Both her parents. Within a few months. She is bound to act a little differently.”
He shook his head at me.
“Not in that way,” he argued. “Like… When her husband is around she just ignores me completely. No Salaam even. And he gives me weird looks. Like I should stay away. Like, dude. I’m like her brother.”
“But you’re not her brother,” I said, pointing out the obvious. “You’re not even her Mahram, and you act like you are. No wonder the guy gets tense.”
He rolled his eyes, frowned at me and stood up, realising that he wasn’t going to get me on his side.
I knew that Raees and Zaynah are just a year apart, and were really close when they were kids. Obviously, with Zaynah being so strict as she grew up, she kept a distance, but it seemed like Raees was having a difficult time accepting change, now that she was married. I actually felt kind of sorry for him.
Raees had come this morning to take me back home, and Zaynah would stay for a week more until Waseem came back. I really wasn’t sure what was going on with the two of them.
Our uncle had stayed for Ramadaan while Zaynah sorted the house out and saw to all the formalities of Abbi’s death.
My heart sunk again, as I remembered.
Death. I still couldn’t believe it. The reality had shook me in a way I had never been before.
I mean, I’ve heard of these things happening… About how people just die… Leaving their loved ones… Dependants… All of a sudden. I just never thought it would happen to us. I never thought it could hit home. I mean, who ever does?
“She deserves better than that,” Raees said, and I wondered what he was going on about. “If he cared so much, he would have taken her home by now.”
He was visibly angry, and I was quite surprised by his reaction. I didn’t quite expect him to take it so seriously. He needed to chill out. What was this big hype about Zaynah all of a sudden?
I shook my head, silently absorbed in my own world again.
I sometimes wondered about myself… How I could be so unfeeling and emotionless. The loss, at the time, had literally shook our lives, but now, out of Ramadaan, I seemed to have gone back to my unmindful attitude.
Reading a novel, of all things.
I closed my book for good now, looking outside the window at the orange horizon, realising how much I was going to miss this place. My school. My friends. My freedom.
And of course, him.
A streak of newly found guilt found it’s way to my conscience, as I realised that I had been completely off-track until recently. Entertaining fantasies about a guy in my mind was also Zinaa. Secretly crushing on someone was actually Haraam.
And I wasn’t a terrible teenager. I knew that. I was fairly good.
Fine, I watched the odd series and liked to dress a little smart… But I would never take it so far.
But now… Now, I was convinced that I was in love. I mean, there was no other explanation for it. My mind was completely absorbed in thoughts about him all the time.
It made me crazy to a point that it actually made me sick. It even made me starve. Because as much as I wanted it, I knew I would never get it.
It killed me that I couldn’t just let it out… Because I knew I would get put down for having feelings. Zaynah would probably ship me off to Azaadville.
Besides, he probably would laugh if he know. I could see that he looked at me as a child.
I sighed at my own stupidity, fidgeting around in the last of my bags, making sure nothing was left behind. I was thorough enough. I mean, I had a whole month in which to pack. I was just dreading the whole transition.
Because being back home didn’t mean fun. It meant I would be stuck doing housework and correspondence learning, because my father wouldn’t allow me to set foot in the goverment school a few kilometres away. I didn’t blame him. I just wished that there was another option.
Although… Maybe this would be good for me.
Because although I wasn’t a teenage terror, I wasn’t like Zaynah. I wasn’t all Deeni and focussed. I didn’t know what I had to do to make my parents feel prouder, because I honestly believed that I didn’t have the potential. People like me just weren’t meant to be pious. It wasn’t me. It was just the way I am.
And then Ramadaan came. And of course, it went just as fast as it dawned. And though it might have not changed me completely, a little Taqwa I had attained had now allowed me to see my wrongs.
To attain what I had been missing. To guard my tongue. To guard my gaze.
And not only when it came to the guy I had set my ‘sites’ on…
But from things I knew would make me lose my focus. From switching on the laptop when I knew no-one was around. From holding myself back when I knew I had every opportunity to sin.
Because to be of the Muttaqeen… To be of the pious, didn’t mean that you had to be in Ibaadat all the time. You didn’t even have to read Qiyaam in the depths of the night or fast all the time. All you had to do was stay away from sin. And that was the only aim I had. My only aspiration for after Ramadaan.
And of course, for a woman, Allah has moulded the path for us.
Hibban narrated that the Prophet(Sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) said, “If a woman prayed five prayers, fasted in Ramadan, protected her honor and obeyed her husband; then she will be told (on the Day of Judgment): enter Paradise from any of its(eight) doors.”
And I was hoping to become of those. To anbandon all Haraam. To rid my mind of all evil, and to attain the eternal rewards.
Being away from here would make that easier. I wouldn’t have to worry about getting sidetracked or risk seeing him. I would be completely safe, because I would remove myself from the environment that was causing me to sin. And that itself, was a huge step.
I zipped up my bag, hearing a sudden heighten in noise down the passage, wondering what was going on. I was certain I could hear a man’s voice, and my heart anticipated it, but I wasn’t sure if it was him.
He would only come if Waseem came, and Zaynah had clearly said that he would only be back next week.
After coming home briefly after Abbi passed away, Waseem had left again for Jamaat, determined to complete the term he had committed himself to.
I walked dowm the passage, peeping in shyly through the door. Zaynah was smiling from ear-to-ear, humming some Arabic nasheed as she packed a few containers.
I missed Zaynah. I watched her smiling, realising that right now, I missed her more than ever.
Was it even possible to miss someone when they were right there? I couldn’t even remember the last time she had smiled like that. She caught sight of me in the doirway, and beamed even more.
“Nabeela… You won’t believe it!” She breathed, turning to me briefly as she continued packing. “He’s back.”
She sounded… Relieved. Exhilirated. Completely liberated, and free of any burden.
I was so glad.
I smiled back, looking to see if he was around the area. I knew I would dive straight back into the room if I had to see him. I always felt really shy of Waseem for some reason, and I wasn’t sure if that would ever change. It was a good thing, I knew, but only wished I could exercise my modesty with the person I needed to.
“Waseem’s gone to the bathroom,” she said, assuring me that he wasn’t in the vicinity. “But that’s not all. There’s a reason he’s back a little early…. Some big news.”
I looked at her, waiting for her to break the big news to me. She smiled mysteriouly, and I hated the suspense.
I rolled my eyes at her. I didn’t know why she did that.
I was already on edge, feeling certain that the news could potentially affect me. I just didn’t know how much it would, until I actually heard it.
I couldn’t help it. If I had been so careful before, right now was the moment where everything would be exposed, not even leaving some dignity in tact.
It was like my whole world shook when she said the words.
“Ziyaad’s getting married.”