Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
Waseem: Where it all started...
“Wait here,” Molvi Umar said before we entered the security gate, gesturing for me to sit down on the somewhat uncomfortable metal airport chair.
I shook my head at him, attempting to follow him.
This was ridiculous, man. I wasn’t a terrorist. I wouldn’t tolerate any counter forces pushing me around. As far as I was concerned, they were cowards.
He turned back, extending his hand to keep me back.
“Just wait,” he said again, much more sternly. “This is not the time to act all macho. Kill the ego, boss.”
I promptly went and sat down, doing as he said. I got it.
Two or more bearded Muslim men alone at an airport was always a cause for other peoples’ concern. Trying to enter a country where there was already so much of trouble caused by who they called IS, was another story altogether. I followed him alone after he was clear, and we were soon on our way.
“We have to compromise,” he explained to me later, as we sat on a bus, heading to main town Damascus. “We can’t push our weight around if we’re heading out in Allah’s path. We gotta be humble and Allah will sort it out. They can find any reason to lock us up…. Being South African doesn’t exempt us from becoming suspects.”
I looked up at him, watching his expression carefully. He had a weird, faraway look in his eyes, almost as if he knew exactly what he was talking about. Almost as if he knew way beyond what he admitted to. It was slightly sinister, and I had to admit, a bit scary.
I wondered about this guy. He was somewhat of a mystery. I sincerely wished that I had met him a few years back, before he became the saint that he was today. He always gave me the impression that he was far worse off back then, but I couldn’t believe that.
I looked out of the window as I held the bar of the dilapidated moving mini-bus. Houses were scattered and bombings that had recently taken place were still very visible. Life seemed to go on as usual, but you could feel the underlying anxiety in the air. Well, at least I did.
“It just happened overnight,” Molvi Umar was saying, talking in a low tone. “A civilian shooting erupted into a fully blown war. President won’t step down. Few rebel groups. It’s a vicious cycle that won’t end.”
I nodded, still looking out. We were approaching some buildings and an area that was a little more developed. It wasn’t pretty, but the Masjid that we could see close by was definitely a comfort.
A place of Sujood. Always made my heart yearn for it, no matter where in the world I was.
Islamic was palpable here. You could see it. You could feel it. And it wasn’t only because it was Ramadhaan. I knew that with the war, it had been a means of bringing the locals back onto Deen. It was happening in several other places as well. These people’s Jannah was being made for them, but it wasn’t easy.
With every trial and difficulty, it was a means to make us ponder. To contemplate. To appreciate.
And I made shukar for the luxuries we were able to enjoy back home. We took it so much for granted, as if it was our right. Islam was just by the way for us, and we had no idea how lucky we were. Were we ever going to stop and reflect?
My mind was completely consumed by the ferocity that surrounded me, and it could only be a reminder for us to make shukar for the ease that we were blessed with all this time.
Well… Right until now.
My mind was zoning back in, as I heard the voice somewhere in the distance.
“Wake him up,” it was saying, sounding forceful.
I tried to look, but I was still in a parallel universe. I tried to comprehend what was going on, but I couldn’t adhere to reality.
“He’s fast asleep,” I could hear her saying, and I immediately was alerted. I felt something and shook my head slightly, reaching for whatever it was.
My hand grasped soft fingers, and I slowly zoned out of my slumber to lift my head up. I looked up at Zaynah, and then Mo, wondering what was going on.
And then it all came flooding back. Now I remembered.
I had been seated on a two seater couch in a private waiting room near the ICU. I thought that Mo had gone home, but him standing in front of us was clear evidence that he hadn’t.
And even though I was in a better reality, I felt like I was still in a war zone, with all the tension in the air. It was expected that my thoughts immediately went back to the flash-back I was having, immediately alerted as to what stemmed it.
Crime, hi-jacking and robberies. The constant living in fear, always looking over our shoulder, as if we will never be free. Like captives, even in our own homes. The thing was, this was our life. Life here was becoming like a war zone.
And like people say that Muslims are suffering all over the world for the sins of the Ummah, so is the situation in our country. It was indeed a form punishment, and a means of making us turn back. Though we may not be in such chaos as is Syria, Palestine, Central African republic or any other country undergoing torturous war crimes… This was definitely something that we couldn’t deny. Every country that was hit with the ‘War on Terror’ was in a lax state before it hit. I wondered when our time would come, but the truth was, we were already in turmoil. Maybe it was still to get worse, but we were already undergoing a hardship that we never contemplated.
“Is he awake?” I mumbled, fumbling around for my hat, trying to rub the sleep out of my eyes.
Zaynah was still looking wide awake. I wondered if she had even slept a wink while I was completely zoned out. I could see the tasbeeh still moving on her finger tips, just like it was before I had fallen asleep on her lap.
She shook her head.
“I saw him,” Mo said, still hovering around, looking all disorientated. I glanced up at him, noticing not for the first time how messed up he was looking. His hair was all over the place, his face was unkempt and the bags under his eyes were making them look like sockets.
I understood that he might have been going through rough patch at the moment, but I was still annoyed at how he had spoken to Zaynah just now. I could see that she was feeling uncomfortable with him here.
“He’s bad, bru,” he continued, ignoring my penetrating gaze. “Baaaad.”
I narrowed my eyes, not saying anything back. I didn’t have to, because I could see Ziyaad coming through the doorway, looking like a man on a mission.
He was alone now. Wedding night dramas weren’t always the most awesome thing.
“Why so serious, boss?” He said, greeting us and stepping back, trying to add some humour to the whole situation.
Maybe it was my mood, but I honestly wanted to rearrange his face for asking such a stupid question. Ziyaad had a knack of choosing the wrong moments.
I got up now, ignoring his comment too and moving my brothers away from the waiting area and Zaynah. Of course, I had to check what was really going on.
“Where are you going?!” Mo demanded. “I’m telling you that I just came from there, bru. The situation is hectic.”
I was getting annoyed. It was true that pressurising situations sometimes got moods in a twist, but Muhammed was definitely treading on fine threads.
“Is he dying?!” I snapped, spinning around to face him. “Already dead?!”
Mo shook his head slowly, holding his hands up in self defense.
“I just meant,” he said, speaking softer now. “That he is going to have a rough life. He can’t move his legs. He’s going to need to change his entire lifestyle.”
I swallowed. I didn’t know.
Dad was paralysed. It wasn’t something that we didn’t expect, but the reality of it was a real shocker.
“So now what?” Ziyaad said callously. “What does it mean?”
I knew what he was asking. We all needed to know. How will this affect us? What role do we have to play here?
“It means we have to be there,” I said simply, stating the obvious. “Help Mum. Assist Dad. Do what it takes. Serve our parents.”
They both looked at me, then at each other. I felt like I was speaking to aliens.
“Someone needs to be with them,” I continued, speaking slower. I wasn’t sure if they didn’t understand.
I could literally see the wheels in their brains turning, as if the whole idea was rocket science. Moving back into the main house was probably a foreign concept.
“I’ll always be around,” Ziyaad said, but I could see that he was hesitant.
I understood that guy had just got hitched, but certain situations called for extreme measures. Someone needed to compromise here. I mean, no matter what issues we had with Dad, he was still our father and there nothing he wouldn’t do for us, especially when it came to money that Ziyaad always seemed to need.
Couldn’t Ziyaad give at least a little bit of a damn?
“Seriously guys,” he said, pulling at his beard and now genuinely looking stressed. “I’m not the best option. Besides, my father-in-law will probably put a hit on me if I had to move home.”
It was the most messed up thing I had heard in a while, but it was probably true.
I really wasn’t sure how Ziyaad could live with a father-in-law controlling his life. After all the hectic theories doing it’s rounds about his wife, if I were him, I would probably run for the hills. But the fact was, in this day and place, all of it was probably just bored people doing what they do best- making stories.
I looked at Mo next. I knew that Dad and him had history, but we had to put it aside at some point, right?
“I have issues at home, boss,” he said candidly. “If I make a move, Aasiya will run for the mountains. Probably the Magaliesburg ones… They have a spa. Either way, I can’t.”
I wanted to shake him up.
Cowards. I felt like I was pushed in a corner, all by myself. Both my brothers were selfish.
That’s all it was. Plain selfish.
I knew exactly where this was headed. All eyes were on me, and I couldn’t avoid it.
In their mind, I was the only one who didn’t have any real commitment. My in-laws were non-existent, my marriage was prospering and my wife was the most amazing I could have hoped for.
Whatever it was, I knew she would understand.
Life would take on a whole different approach, if we were to stay with my parents, but at this point, I felt like I was completely alone… Until I realised that it would never be that for me. The guiding light of my past, deluded life, and the sweetness that I tasted through every bitterness I had felt… Zaynah was going nowhere. She was easy. She would be there.
I glanced back at her as I stood there, knowing that I would have to say goodbye to the life we had planned for ourselves, just yesterday. Our dream apartment would have to wait, our honeymoon phase would be cut considerably short and we didn’t know it then, but unfortunately, our love would be put to it’s greatest test.
“I’ll do it,” I finally said, not knowing exactly how far I was getting myself in, with a single commitment. I didn’t know how much this would change us. I didn’t know just how deep I would get sucked in.
Here I was, contemplating this great plan.
I mean, why not? Both my brothers looked relieved that they were off the hook, and I felt glad to be a comfort for my parents. I just didn’t know the if there would be consequences when I made the deal. Like a dodgy contract, nothing was transparent, but I was still prepared to deliver.
“I’m moving in,” I said after a few seconds, almost as if I was reminding myself.
There was no going back now.
The deal was sealed.