Far from Pretty

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Note: Apologies for the delayed posts. An extra long post to make up. 

Please remember my family and I in your Duaas. Posting should resume as normal, Insha Allah. Shukran for the comments and Duaas 🌸 


“Leave her alone!” I shouted, overcome with an intense over-protectiveness over our ten year helper. “She didn’t do anything!”

Aunty Nas’s finger was still pointing at Aunty Agnus accusingly, but as I shouted out, I could see her confidence dwindle.

Her hand dropped to her side slowly and her mouth turned down slightly at the corners, as she tossed her head back and sighed emphatically.

“And what do you think you are doing?” she spat, narrowing her eyes and staring down at me.

I swallowed hard, standing my ground and looking up at her. She wasn’t that much taller than me. Without her stiletto heels that she habitually wore, she actually looked a bit like a child. She was that much less threatening too.

“I warned you before, missy,” she said in a venomous tone. “If you keep on getting in my way, I will wipe you out.”

She said the least three words with her eyebrows raised and increased venom, but I held my ground, standing between her and Aunty Agnus.

“I’m not scared of you,” I said to her, putting my hands on my hips and glaring at her.

Aunty Agnus was trembling behind me, obviously fearful of this horrible woman. Zuleikha stood on the staircase with her mouth open, watching us in awe. Ahmed and Yunus were loitering on the top, and out of the corner of my eye I could see a figure at four-o-clock. Actually two figures. Aunty Nas saw them too and the words that were on the tip of her tongue died as she did.

”This is so embarrassing.”

The words were head-splitting and abrupt.

Hannah stood in the middle of the entrance hall and rolled her eyes at us both. Her stick straight hair was now a different colour to what it had previously been. Her eyes had dark eye-liner around them and her lips, surprisingly, were puffy and devoid of any colour. She looked far from pretty.

What shocked me most though, was her company. She stood there, all done up, but the person who she was with was a dishevelled bad-boy type who looked like he needed a serious scrubbing. Not to mention, a serious shave too. His moustache was a bit much for me. Maybe Hannah thought it was cool.

A boy. Hannah had brought a boy home, and her mother said nothing. Instead of the angry expression she wore a few minutes ago, she now beamed at both of them, as of they were the most beautiful sight on the earth. I scowled. Aunty Agnus took the opportunity to sneak away silently, and I breathed a small sigh of relief.

“Hannah, darling,” Aunty Nas said, still beaming at them, and fluffing her hair out again.

She smiled at the boy in a different way, and it made me feel uncomfortable. Was Aunty Nas trying to impress this teenager too? Wasn’t she a bit old for him?

There was something seriously wrong with Hannah’s mother if that really was the case.

“Excuse me please,” Hannah said to her ‘friend’, dragging her mother aside and whispering to her in the corner of the room. I could feel eyes on me, and I turned to look at the boy staring at me. He shifted on his feet, and I looked at him in reproach, hoping he would quit the staring. He didn’t seem to care. Who was he, anyway?

I spun around in an attempt to escape, but instead wound up face-to-face with narcissistic Hannah. She frowned at me, shoved me aside and then hastily grabbed her boyfriend’s hand and walked out.

Her boyfriend.

I sucked in my breath. So much had happened in such a short time, and I was still reeling in shock as I headed up the stairs again. I could hear Aunty Nas scurrying behind her and calling for her daughter, but Hannah ignored her.

That was Hannah. She never listened to her mother. Actually, she listened to no-one.

My other siblings had disappeared, but Zuleikha stood at the top of the stairs and grabbed my hand as I went up, dragging me to our room and shutting the door behind us with a force.

“Are you crazy?!” She almost yelled, her eyes wide in astonishment, wondering how I had just gotten away with almost murder in Aunty Nas’s eyes.

I shrugged at her. I didn’t see what I did as wrong. The strong reasoning within the cravices of my inner soul prompted me to speak out. I just wanted to do the right thing.

“Don’t you understand, Khawlah?” She said, in a slightly kinder voice. “We can’t just say and do as we please. There are consequences to everything. You have no idea what Aunty Nas is really like.”

“But Zuleikha,” I said, changing the topic because I was  still awestruck by what had happened with Hannah. “Hannah is wrong. Isn’t Muslims are not supposed to be like that?”

I was thinking about Khalid again. How he had told me boy and girls couldn’t be friends. He was probably getting ready to leave for his Madrassa now. I wasn’t sure when I would see him again. I felt a sudden emptiness in the pit of my gut. I missed my friend so much, that sometimes it hurt.

Zuleikha turned away for a few seconds and then met my eye again.

“This world is not a nice place, Khawlah,” she said, swallowing hard, but speaking with affirmation. “It’s not all about gardening and tree houses. We live in an ugly, disturbed world that has no morals. Sometimes we do things to make ourselves feel better. Sometimes, Khawlah…”

She trailed off, and spoke in a much softer voice.

”Sometimes, we do the wrong things.”

A boy and girl were not supposed to be friends. It meant they shouldn’t be together alone because Shaytaan would always tempt them to do evil. It wasn’t just about what they would do, but when they are involved in those boy-girl things, they leave Imaan altogether for that time.

It is reported that Nabi SAW said: “When a person commits zina, Imaan (faith) leaves him, until it is like a cloud over his head…”

I looked at my sister momentarily, not seeing the farwaway look on her face and the remorse in her eyes.

“Anyway,” Zuleikha said inconclusively, as we closed the curtains after watching Aunty Nas’s car reverse out. I hoped she was going home and wouldn’t come back. She was a lot to deal with.

“I think we should tell Abba that she mustn’t come here,” I said pointedly, as Ahmed and Yunus loitered into our room to watch her leave.

Ahmed just shrugged. He was taller than Abba now and he had retreated into a world where no-one could reach him or talk to him. Yunus was growing older too, but I still felt responsible for him and made sure he was still half-human.

“Aunty Agnus is not here,” Yunus said, shrugging his shoulders. I shook my head, not believing him. She probably just went for a walk to her friend. She would come back later.

But when Abba came home that night, Aunty Agnus still wasn’t around. Abba called Foi Nani to stay with us for a while, when he went to see Aunty Nas.

I didn’t mention the red box to anyone and Zuleikha didn’t speak about it as well. I assumed that everything would go back to normal the next day, but there was still no sign of Aunty Agnus. A few days passed and she still had not returned. I could see Abba feeling stressed, and he finally asked us what happened that night. I could tell from the look on his face when we explained to him. It the first time he was hearing this version of what had went on the night Aunty had left. He didn’t look happy at all.

A week went into two, and Aunty Nas didn’t return either. Foi Nani had come home to leave food every day, and some days she stayed over.

Foi Nani was getting older and a little bent as she walked. I studied her one night as she slowly lifted the pot lid, spooning the pungent curry slowly onto the platter. She was getting older. Everything was changing. Why couldn’t it all just stay the same?

Foi Nani had started staying with us full-time now, and although she enjoyed having her space, Abba’s desperate pleas to her since Aunty Agnus left had brought our her sympathetic side. She agreed to stay for a little while until Abba found someone else to help him. And as if that wasn’t enough, that night as we all sat around the dining area doing our homework, Zuleikha’s news was another curveball. A good change of events, but a change none-the-less. A change that the stubborn part of me didn’t want to come to terms with.

Being in her third year of teaching was Zuleikha’s dream, but now that she was getting older, Foi Nani had other hopes for her.

“I want to see some great grandchildren before I die,” she said in her no -nonsense voice, in response to Zuleikhas protests. Although she denied it, I had a feeling that Zuleikha secretly wanted to  get married too. She would keep saying taht she would never find the right husband, but in her heart of hearts, she wanted someone to whisk her away.

Her eyes were averted and her cheeks were flushed as the Ahmed family were due to arrive that breezy Sunday afternoon. It was a summery afternoon and excitement was in the air in our home for the first time in a long while. It was abuzz with activity and our nerves were on their wits end .

It wasn’t because of the expectant boys family. Foi Nani was behaving like she was getting married. Everything had to be perfect. I could get a whiff of her strong White Musk Itr that Mama had bought her on their Hajj trip years ago, as she came down the stairs.

“Ya Allah, I don’t know what they are going to think!” she exclaimed, her eyes wide and her voice pitch heightening with every moment that passed where Zuleikha wasn’t appearing to be the perfect granddaughter, wife and daughter-in-law, all at once.

She scanned Zuleikha with an inspecting eye, tactlessly disapproving of her scarf colour and making her change it four times before it was decent enough to get a small nod of approval. I shook my head as I watched them, wondering how this ‘mangu’ thing, as Foi Nani called it, was such a hefty event. Foi Nani was making a big deal about every detail. Do bigger boys really look at the colour of a scarf pin?

“All this effort…. If the boy is ugly I’m going to die,” Zuleikha muttered to me as she walked down the stairs for the last time, determined that she was not changing a single thing more.

Lucky Foi Nani was too busy setting the samoosas on the platter or she would have given her a repeat lecture of ‘looks are not the most important’. I had heard her telling Zuleikha that earlier on but I was wise enough to keep my mouth closed. Getting involved in Indian proposal politics was not a wise decision, especially when you had no experience of your own.

The buzzer rang and literally everyone started running around the house like mad people. Abba was making sure that he looked his best too, and Foi Nani was tying her dupatta for the umpteenth time just to make sure all her greying hair was all covered. Ahmed was teasing her. This happy event had brought out a playful side to him, although I didnt like all of it. He said she was trying too hard to look like a young Nani. Yunus was just smiling. It seemed like a long time ago that we had so much laughter in our home. I wished, a very silent wish, that we could be like this always. I wished Mama could see us too.

A single tear rolled down my cheek, and I hid my face away as Zuleikha’s pretty face glowed too with anticipation. With all her protests, I could tell she was still excited.

Although my insides were churning with mixed emotions, I had a smile pasted on my face as the guests  walked in, and so did everyone else. The first person to enter was a youngish girl, who I guessed was the sister. She looked nice. I could see her shy smile as we looked at her entering, but Foi Nani shooed is away quickly when she saw Ahmed staring and guided her into the lounge.

Next was a older looking man who I assumed was the father, and I wasn’t sure if he was just being respectful as he entered, or rude, but he walked straight ahead with not a word, following directions to the dining room. He was round and stern looking, but he looked like the type who had a good heart.

Third, came in the famous Yousuf that Foi Nani wanted for Zuleikha. I looked at him with interest, and I could tell Zuleikha was looking too. He had a long face, a small beard and the deepest dimpled smile I had ever seen. He had a very nice nose too, and he stood confidently for a few seconds before he was ushered away to the Dining area, where the other men were. He wore a simple kurta and I watched him scanning the room for a sneak pre-view of my sister just as he entered the men’s area.

Abba never really worried about keeping men and women separate, but with Foi Nani, it was a strict rule. Everyone was just getting ready to sit down when the last person finally entered  with a stern look on her face and an unreadable expression. We were waiting for her. I could see her examining our home probably for some kind of fault as she entered, and she pursed her lips as Foi Nani greeted her enthusiastically, determined not to even crack a smile. This lady, I could tell, was going to be a tough one to crack.

She looked around with an heir of arrogance, sitting down with a back straight and an elegant poise. Her daughter spoke easily and asked us questions about our school and Zuleikha’s studies, but her mother said nothing. Foi Nani tried to warm her up by offering her a variety of sweetmeats or impress her with cooking tips, but nothing seemed to work.

And as Zuleikha went off to talk to her prospective husband, I was forced to go around offering guests countless eats, even though I wondered how much these people would be able to ingest. Ahmed was looking at me and snickering, and I was getting so mad that I wanted to kick him. My fingers were sore from all the trays I had to carry, but I didn’t complain. I was just getting annoyed that Ahmed was sitting there like a recluse with no inclination whatsoever to help. Even Yunus was helping to take drinks.

I stuck out my tongue at him as I passed him in the passage, and he gave me a fake smile back, with a condescending glare. It made me so angry that I stuck out my hand to push him back, hoping to hurt him in the process. He jumped back as he saw me reach out for him, and instead of pushing him, my own balance wavered and I could feel my legs crumble beneath me. I tried to hold the tray straight, but it was to no avail. Both the tray and my clumsy body toppled to the ground, right at the entrance of the lounge. I was absolutely mortified!

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, but I tried to hastily clean up the contents that lay on the floor as Foi Nani and Yousuf’s sister came rushing to help me. Ahmed had conveniently disappeared, and the other lady sat as she was seated, with no intention of moving anywhere. I just hoped that this wouldn’t cause it for Zuleikha. I looked up at her, but contrary to my fears, there was actually a crack of a smile on her face. Maybe my little stunt had actually brought out her sense of humour.

“Are you okay?” she asked me kindly, and I immediately felt bad for judging this woman who I thought was a bit horrible at first.

I nodded and smiled, relieved at the turn of events. The rest of the afternoon was looking a little less hopeless, and I smiled to myself a little prematurely, thinking that this was going to be it. Everything was going to be perfect! Zuleikha would get married and it would be happily ever after.

Well, it was just a simple case of counting chickens before they hatch, because no sooner had I given Zuleikha a thumbs up and a dazzling smile to show my ambitious hopes, did we hear a huge noise outside the front door. At first I thought something had fallen, but as the front door was literally kicked open, and a purple wedged boot appeared in my view, I immediately knew that something game-changing was going to occur from this point on.

Aunty Nas had gatecrashed this party, and it was not going to be pretty.


The Red Box

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


Nothing happens without purpose.

No move. No change. No transformation. Nothing. Not even broken spirits and shattered hearts.

The thing is, every setback is a sign for us.  A change in the path is a sign for us. A sudden death is a sign for us. Broken hearts, too, are a sign for us.

These are all signals that something has to change.  That the very fact that pain exists, is a pointer to where our attachments lie, and what needs to change.

Emotional pain reminds us that we need to detach. That we may have to break free of the shackles that are binding us to this duniya. And the more this world hurts. And hurts. And hurts. The more it hurts, the more we keep our distance.  The more we move towards the eternal fulfillment.

And the path to the purest fulfillment, though necessary, can be painful too.

“I’m sorry, Khawlah,” Khalid said again, and I looked at him in confusion, not understanding what’s the big deal.

“Papa says he’s sending me to the madrassa two hours from here. I won’t come home very often. And they don’t allow girls there either. He said we shouldn’t play together anymore.”

I cocked my head to one side, not really believing what I was hearing. Khalid was going away? And on top of it all, when he would come back, I wouldn’t be able to see him anymore?

I didn’t understand.

“Papa says we are gone too big now,” he continued, sounding like an recording machine. “And boys and girls are not supposed to be friends.”

I could tell he was just robotically repeating everything his Papa said. I only met his Papa twice before but I already didn’t like him. How dare he take my best friend away from me? 

Khalid was supposed to be my forever friend. I didnt know what the problem was with boys and girls being friends. I wasn’t completely naive at that age. I had heard friends talking and seen the stuff on the TV Aunty Nas watched. Maybe Khalid’s Papa was worried about that?

I felt a funny feeling in my stomach.

“I’m sorry Khawlah,” he said, looking at me now with glazed eyes. He looked sad too. Even though Khalid wasn’t the same, he was still my friend. And I would definitely miss him. This was so … terminal.

There was a voice in the distance. It sounded like his mother but I wasn’t sure.

”I have to go,” Khalid said, shifting around now, his shoulders slumping a little more.

I nodded, because I didn’t know what else to say.

Khalid!” The voice rang out from the back part of the house now, and we knew he was being called back.

“I have to go, but maybe I’ll see you before I leave,” he said hurriedly, shifting his feet and turning around to leave. He paused for a few seconds, and then turned back and pulled something out from under his jacket.

It was a paper bag, and I could see there was something a little hard in it.

“Mummy sent this for you,” he said in his croaky voice, giving me a half, almost apprehensive smile and then turning around again to go back to his home once again.

The packet was slightly warm from being concealed under Khalid’s jacket. I held onto it, keeping it close to my thudding chest, letting its warmth comfort me.

My heart sunk a little lower as I processed everything that happened. The hole in my gut seemed to expand as I covered the seeds I had planted, and located a bottle to fill some water. I loved planting but I wasn’t in the mood anymore.

I trudged back home with a heavy heart, feeling betrayed by life and angry at the world. I had lost my mother. Our father was barely around. And now, the one constant in my life was going to be lost too, forever.

This wasn’t fair. I was only 11. Why did I feel like I had the burdens of the world on my tiny shoulders?

I wished I had some place to bury my fears. At that tender age I didn’t know much about talking to Allah. Mama had always said I could, but I had forgotten her wise words.  I had forgotten that Allah knew every single whisper of my bleeding heart. I had forgotten that a Muslim does not complain to anyone but Allah. I had forgotten where to place my hopes and wishes. I needed someone to remind me that He is always there.

Allah says: ‘Fa Inni Qareebun’

‘Truly, I am near.’ (Holy Quran: 2:186)

I slammed the back door as I entered, making my way up the stairs in a huff. I didn’t even greet Aunty Agnus as she smiled at me, because I was angry at her too. For what reason, I didn’t know. I just wanted to be angry and show it too. Thankfully, Aunty Nas was not there. That would have been the cherry on the top.

“Hey, Khawlah.”

I looked up as I entered my room, and was pleasantly surprised to see my elder sister there, smiling at me with her pretty eyes twinkling.

She looked like she was getting ready to go out. I studied her with curiosity, noticing her slightly smudged eyeliner and her berry coloured lipstick. She wore her scarf in a turban style, with her neck exposed, and I could see her eyebrows were shaped wven from where I stood. Her long nails were painted red in that new nail polish that some girls at school wore. They said it was okay to use when you made Salah. I wasn’t too sure.

Since I had turned 11, somehow I noticed finer details a little more. And although my sister looked pretty, there was just something artificial about her that I was wary about. She gave me a little bit of the feeling that Aunty Nas always did, and a sneaky feeling of judgement crept into my thoughts. Mama wouldn’t have liked how she looked right now. She would have probably made her change.

“Where are you going?” I asked her inquisitively.

She frowned slightly, looking confused.

“Nowhere,” she said, matter-of-fact. “ I just got home. What’s wrong with you?”

She scrutinized my forlorn expression. Her own face brightened and she rushed to her bedside dresser.

“I have something to show you,” she said, looking excited.

She silently removed a red box and left it on the bed, beckoning for me to have a look while she opened it.

We slowly lifted the lid, and I almost gasped as I saw the contents.

It was the red velvet box full of Mama’s jewelery, and  in it was also the little furniture that Hannah had taken all that while ago. My heart swelled with joy as I saw that, reaching out to feel the little pieces of carved wood. It reminded me of Mama.

Zuleikha slapped my hand away and shut the box.

“You can’t take it!” She said, shaking her head crossly. “What if she sees it? Aunty Nas can never know!”

I looked at Zuleikha, confused. Aunty Nas? What does she have to do with this? It belonged to Mama, not her.

”I heard Foi Nani talking to Abba the other day,” Zuleikha said, in a hushed voice. “I think Abba wants Aunty Nas to go.”

I was still confused. Did she mean like forever? Like divorce?

Divorce wasn’t a nice thing. I heard a bout it in madrassa. Allah didn’t like it. I had also heard about it from one of the boys in school. He asked me why my mother didn’t stay with us. He asked if my parents were divorced. I told him to mind his own business.

“Why?” I asked, as if I didn’t know how horrible she was.

Zuleikha shrugged, and used an ugly word as she spoke. It kind of summed up her true feelings on the matter. She didn’t like her. I wasn’t sure if any of us did. Not even Aunty Agnus.

I was still holding the brown paper bag in my hand, and although I was still sad about losing my friend, I was excited about the gift. It was the silver lining.

I sat on my lilac duvet cover and braced myself for the contents of the packet. The lump in my throat was still there, but there was a slightly accelerated anticipation as I tore the bag open, eager to peep inside.

It was at that moment when I heard a shrill shriek from downstairs, and my hands froze.

“It must have been you!”

The voice was ugly, loud and intrusive.

It belonged to Aunty Nas. I didn’t even know she had come. Zuleikha and I looked at each other, wide-eyed with shock.

Both of us were here, so what on earth was going on? I just hoped that she wasn’t fighting with Foi Nani again. That wouldn’t be nice at all.

We raced to the top of the stair, trying to see over the ballistrade, our eyes searching for the recipient of her screams. Aunty Agnus stood at the bottom of the stairs with a fearful look on her face, tears in her eyes and we didn’t envy her.

”You took it, didn’t you?!” She accused her. Her voice was patronizing, her eyes wide with fury and her finger was pointing at her newest target.

Aunty Agnus was shaking her head fiercely. It was a terrible accusation.

No, missus!” she almost cried. “I’m not stealing!”

Aunty Nas’s eyes narrowed as she stared her down, not backing off.

“It was in my cupboard, and now it’s not there!” She shouted, her eyes flashing angrily. She put her hands up, annoyed at the no response she was getting.

Aunty Agnus was silent, but she was trembling.

“You just wait!” She said after a few seconds, her expression changing again. She had a slight smirk on her face, and her arms were crossed over her chest.

“When boss comes, and I tell him,” she said, almost sadistically. “You’ll see. He’ll send you away and you’ll never come back!”

Dear readers,

I am so sorry about the delayed post. Due to a family death I could not get a post together sooner. I will try and post regularly this week. Hope everyone is enjoying the read. InshaAllah it will be beneficial.

Much love

A xx

Strange Behaviour

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Khawlah: One year later


The voice was mild, but still piercing. I frowned as I heard my name being called, half annoyed and half anxious about the repercussions it may bring. I didn’t move.


Her voice changed it’s tone as it got louder. A bit like a shrill bell ringing. Aunty Nas was sitting on the couch with her head back and her legs up, peering at me expectantly as I approached. I could see her manicured toes. I scowled.

“Don’t do that to your face,” she spat, clearly irritated. “You look like a devil.”

I frowned at her, wondering why she called me to her. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I don’t know why she just didn’t go away. I supposed she wanted to be there because my father stayed with us.

Sometimes I wished that he’d also go and stay somewhere else, so I wouldn’t have to look at this annoying woman.

I put my hands on my hips and pursed my lips, waiting for her to talk. She raised her shaped eyebrows and looked at me up and down.

“You’re filthy.”

She stared at me, not impressed by my dressing. Of course, I wore my oldest jeans and my white sand shoes. We had just finished playing outside. Of course we would be dirty.

I rolled my eyes as I turned around, eager to escape her gaze.

The woman was strange and she made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t think it was possible for me to even feel more weird, but Aunty Nas always had a way to make a situation worse.

“Were you playing with that boy again?” she said suddenly, causing me to stop and look at her again.

If I was rude I knew Abba wouldnt be happy. I had to be tolerant, as hard as it was.

“That boy,” I said, turning and looking at her again, with a hint of irritation in my voice. “He has a name.”

“Don’t you think you’re getting a little too old for all these boy games?” she asked, looking at me condescendingly. She thought for a few seconds before she continued, in a sing-song voice.

“Unless you’ll are playing other games…”

She was silent for a few seconds, and then suddenly burst into shrieks of uncontrolled laughter. It was more like a vicious cackle.

At that moment, I honestly doubted that this woman had even an iota of sanity within her. She was that crazy. I wasn’t even sure what she was talking about.

For all I knew, she was probably comparing me to her Hannah who acted like she was 21 insead of just 11.

WIth her posh accent, double straightened hair and cherry lip gloss, that girl was really something. My friend Faaiza from school didn’t even believe that she was our age. Sometimes I felt the same way.

Aunty Nas’s strong perfume was toxic. Abba was doing really well in business and she didn’t miss out.  This woman made sure she had the latest of everything, and I could just tell it was expensive  stuff.

I shook my head and started backing out of the room.

Little did my step mother know, Khalid barely played with us any more. It was mostly Yunus and I, and sometimes one of his friends who lived close by.

What was more strange was the fact that Khalid’s mother would seem happy about it. She said we were always welcome there, even if we wanted to play in the garden, but many a time, Khalid wouldn’t join us. When I finally did see him a few days back, his behaviour was so odd that I actually wished he would go back to his house. He was acting so strange.

I shook my head to myself as I walked up the stairs to my room, taking off the takkies I had been wearing. My cap was fading from the rays of the sun hitting on it, and my arms were extremely tanned. I could see that summer was not far off, and inwardly I was delighted. The holidays were my favourite part of the year.

Yunus was still outside with his friend, and I enjoyed the peace inside as I lay back and took out my favourite book. It was a book that Khalid’s Mummy had gifted me last year, about a little girl who had lost her mama. It was such a perfect gift for a girl like me, because I could relate so well. The most important lesson was that in the end, she found Allah.

I had come a long way from where I had been… but every time I read it, I wanted to be closer to my Creator. I remembered Mama saying that He was always the most important. No matter what. No matter who. He was always there. He remained.

When they slept, He was awake. When they broke, He carried you. When no one else was there, He was. He remained. He always remains. Remember that always, Khawlah. Remember that. Remember Who you owe everything to. 

I jumped out of my bed, not wanting to dwell any longer. I had to show it too.

”Yunus!” I screamed out the window. “It’s nearly dark. You have to come in!”

It was Maghrib time. The time when our crazy household would somehow come to a temporary standstill, and we would all pray.

At least one prayer a day for now, Mama would say when I was six. And though I tried to read more as I got older, I never fully understood the importance of it. About how I should never miss even a single one. About how it cleanses your heart and soul too, when you pray.

Khalid had taught me a lot of what I knew, but how I wished I had a mother to help me with the important things. Zuleikha was so scarce these days.

The holiday, as always whizzed by, but the warm summer days left us with unforgettable memories. Abba had taken us away for a few days, and we were ecstatic at the break without my step mother.

I wasn’t sure what he told her but when we returned, she didn’t look very pleased. I would hear the arguments, but I didn’t want to dwell on it. Abba knew that we weren’t thrilled with Aunty Nas and he was just trying to keep the peace.

Once again, towards the latter part of the holiday as I heard an argument escalate, I escaped through the back door, entering Khalid’s garden gate with a sunken heart. She said such ugly words sometimes.

I loved my Abba but I didn’t like to see him unhappy. I feared that we were making his life hard. Was all this our fault? 

I grabbed a garden tool from the shed, delving into the moist sand and letting the fingers of my other hand revile in its beauty. I fell in love with nature all over again as I sat there. I was thrilled by the fact that the soil was so dark and wet. There was so much of opportunity. So much of potential. It gave me so much of hope.


I looked up, a little startled by the intrusion. The voice sounded a bit different, but I still knew it.


I looked up at him, frowning slightly as I tried to guard my gaze from the afternoon sun. He realised, and came around to the other side of me, smiling slightly as he bent down, letting his own hands toil with the topsoil. He knew that it was the perfect planting opportunity too.

“You have any seeds?” I asked him, tucking into the sand with fervour, and enjoying every bit.

He shrugged.

“Maybe in the shed,” he said in his croaky voice, but he didn’t move to fetch them. I frowned.

I was doing all the work here, couldn’t he at least get something? Why did he even come here?

I stood up forcefully, dropping the tool on the ground with a clank. I wanted to whack him on the head with the spade, but I restrained myself.

Pushing the door of the garden room, I grabbed a pack of seeds from the shelf and tore them open. I ran back and sprinkled some in the hole I had dug, reaching out to grab the garden tool again.

Khalid was thinking along the same lines as me, and also extended his hand at the same time to take the spade. I didn’t think much of it then but as I tightened my grip to show him whose boss, Khalid pulled his hand back in haste, almost as if he had been stung. It was so strange, and as I turned to him with a questioning look, I saw him shake his head and swallow hard, almost as if he was scared.

“Khalid, what is wrong with you?!” I blurted out, studying him for the first time in weeks.

I noticed tiny hairs above his lip, and his facial features had become more pronounced. His eyes were even more cat-like than they had previously been, and I could definitely see a change in his height. Khalid wasn’t Khalid.

“Sorry,” he muttered, almost under his breath. He frowned slightly, fiddling with his fingers as if he was nervous.

Nervous. This was so strange. Why on earth would he be nervous?

“I need to tell you something Khawlah,” he started. I looked back at him, trying to be neutral. I knew something was building up. What was this big secret that he couldn’t divulge for so long?

“But please, Khawlah,” he continued. “I know I should have told you long ago. Please don’t be angry.”



Good Old Days

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


Abba looked at Zuleikha sharply, and his expression changed as he processed what she had said. Marriage? 

She was serious. There was not a glint of humour in her amber eye. The trait of my elder sister was that she had the amazing ability to make others just… well, succumb.

Abba needed her. He needed her to be there. Even though he had married Aunty Nas, he knew that he didn’t want to force her out of the family home. Not like this.

When Mama had died, she had been the foundation that formed our home, and kept it stable. Although she was still young, she understood the enormity of three younger siblings, and the burden that my father carried. She cared for us like a mother would, and took over chores that my father couldn’t find the strength to. She matured at an amazing rate and carried herself in a manner far beyond her years. No-one could question the value of my elder sister.

“Okay,” my father said, nodding now. He didn’t ask her who she will marry. He didn’t ask her anymore. Maybe he should have.

I could see that he was thinking. This was a lot for little minds to process. We had lost our mother. We had partially lost our father. We didn’t want our sister to go.

My sister stood straight with her chin out, stubbornly staring my father down and waiting for him to speak again. Her olive skin made her amber eyes seem even more stark, and her eyebrows furrowed slightly just the way my fathers did. The pair of them were so much alike at that moment, I found it hard to believe that they were not seeing eye-to-eye.

She was not backing down on her threat, even as my father seemed to relent.

“We will stay here,” he said finally, his hands tiredly running through his hair.

He got up and looked at us all, probably wondering how everything had gotten to be this way. My father’s tanned skin looked drawn and his eyes was sunken. Although he tried to obscure it in his dress, he was definitely aging in a way that was not so graceful. Abba was getting old, and acting it too.

“Abba, can we go to the park tomorrow?” Yunus asked, his eyes suddenly lighting up. He saw an opportunity and he didn’t want to miss it.

“Okay,” Abba said, without even a batter of an eyelid. Maybe he was feeling bad. I didn’t realised it, but guilt was settling in as he stood and looked at the kids he had left to bring themselves up. Well, that’s how I saw it, even at that tender age.

”Abba,” I blurted out now, seeing an opportunity too and not able to keep it in any longer. The guilt was consuming me too. Was this my fault?

“I’ll be better, okay? Please don’t make us all leave,” I cried, my eyes were burning as i tried to hold back the tears.

What would I do? I wouldn’t have my friend Khalid down the road. Our lives would change. Everything would just be so messed up. The simplicity of a nearly nine-year-old caught my father off-guard.

My father’s mouth turned up at the corners, and he shook his head at me.

That was my Abba. That was precisely how I remembered him. Not the harsh, unapproachable version that had become Aunty Nas’s husband. I liked the obliging, hopeful, and always cheerful one that kept our family going. The Abba That would surprise us with a pack of jelly tots late at night. That would whisk us off after bed-time, with a complete disregard for Mama’s rules. He was the fun parent. I missed that.

“Alright,” he said, his eyes sparkling. It was like the light within him had been switched on again. He seemed so much more alive.

“Tomorrow we will go out. And tomorrow we will be like the old days with ‘the gang.’”

I forgot about the antics of the afternoon then as my heart expanded in my chest, excited about the upcoming day. Abba was true to his word and took us out the next day. He seemed to give us more attention than the past few weeks during the months that followed.

True to his word, the mention of the other house dint come up again. I remembered the arguments that followed that day, accompanied by hushed whispers and disgruntled voices, but being so young, I brushed in under the carpet and carried on with my childish day-to-day life.

Every day would bring a new adventure, and though we seemed to sometimes collide, I found my step mother and sister not home as often as they usually would be. In keeping the  peace, my father had split his former family and his new one, and that way, there was much less conflict. And of course, they got the new house.

It was only one day, when I ran from outside into the house that I realised how much had been going on behind the scenes. I climbed up the little ledge on the kitchen skirting, trying to each for a glass to get some water. I could hear the voices in the passage, but I ignored them until I heard Zuleikha.

“Thats not yours,” she said, in an acid voice.

”Well, she doesn’t know it, and we are just borrowing it,” my stepmother said, her ugly voice even colder than usual. “We’re not stealing it. And you better keep quiet before I tell your father about your Mister with the red BMW.”

I froze as I listened, trying to figure out what they were talking about.

“You can’t just come in here and act like you own this house,” Zuleikha said, her voice icy. “It doesn’t belong to you, and we don’t deserve this. You’re not my mother so don’t try to threaten me-“


It was Foi Nanis voice that came from somewhere further than where the pair of them stood, and I too got an enormous shock as I heard her. I didn’t even know she was around.

The glass dropped from my hands, and as it crashed to the ground all the voices ceased. The footsteps scurried to the kitchen where I stood, shattered glass around me and a guilty look on my face.

Aunty Nas stared at me as she usually did, with complete dismay, while Foi Nani put her hand to her mouth in shock, obviously disturbed about what the nine-year-old ears might have heard. Zuleikha was nowhere to be seen.

Now don’t get me wrong. Aunty Nas was not the best person for me in my childhood years, but it didn’t mean that she was ugly on the outside too. She was actually a very attractive woman who kept herself physically on top on things. But as a child, Mama had taught me a very important lesson as I would gaze into the mirror and admire my own aesthetic beauty.

Character. Beautiful character. That was what truly mattered.

It was the greatest asset a person could ever have. I remembered her  words so clearly, the day I got into trouble for making another girl cry after she picked on me. I sought revenge. It was a trait I tried hard to break.

“It’s not about how people look, Khawlah,” Mama had said wisely. “It’s about the inside. About how you treat other people. You have to be good to everyone, not just the people you like. People may forget what to say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

And of course, she would, as always, tell me about the Hadith of Nabi (SAW), and bring to like the beauty of his character in a completely differing perspective. Mama knew these thing and she always pushed us to learn it too. Though I missed her every day, it was one thing that I missed most about her. The fact that she just made us want to be better people. It was things like this that you couldn’t learn in books. It is the very deed that will lead people to enter Paradise the most.
When the Prophet ﷺ was asked about which act leads people to enter Paradise the most, he replied, “Piety and good character.” (Sunan Ibn Maajah)

I ran out of the kitchen as fast as I could that day, back outside to where Yunus was waiting for me. Khalid was supposed to be there too but ever since his Aunty had bought him that PlayStation thing, he had been getting more and more scarce. It was like we had to drag him out of the house. I tut tutted as I walked down the oath to his house, shaking my head and complaining mercilessly about my friend.

I didn’t realize that Khalid was now entering another zone of his life, maybe even early adolescence. He was a full year older than me and my own mind was too naive to understand the changes that were taking place. His mother came to the door with her usual smile, beaming at us both with enthusiasm, and telling us to get Khalid out of the house to have some outdoor fun.

I simply loved her. There was just something amazing about her character that just drew people to her. The cherry on the top was that her smile was infectious.

I raced through to the lounge, knowing I would catch my friend there.

“Khalid, this is so boring!” I complained as I sat on the edge of the couch and watched him dart from side to side as he tried to aim at something with the remote controls.

“That is so cool!” Yunus said in contrast, as he fixed his gaze on the screen, his eyes wide with eagerness as he watched every move Khalid made. I shook my head and rolled my eyes at them both. This was simply torturous.

Boy stuff. Ugh.

“Five minutes, Khawlah,” Khalid said as he turned and looked at me, trying to assess how annoyed I was. He gave me a small buttering-up smile and then turned to play again, with Yunus at his side. I sighed.

Maybe we were getting too old to play outside. Why did I feel like everything was different? How had everything changed so quickly? Even Khalid was starting to look different. Was something wrong?

The five minutes lasted about 15 more, and I sulked in a corner as they finished, reluctantly getting up as Khalid gestured to me to come with them.

“Let’s go up,” Yunus said, and I got up ready to follow.

“Outside, please, my darlings,” Aunty Radiyyah said, her smile not wavering. “I’m sure you’ll know that us Mummies get worried about the mess in the rooms.”

I wanted to tell her that we knew all about it. I sometimes I felt like I couldn’t even breathe in the house, leave alone mess.

When Aunty Nas was around I did my best to disappear. I didn’t know that Aunty Radiyyah had ulterior motives for sending us outside. In her adult wisdom she knew the harms of indoor activities at our age. Though not yet teenagers, our childish innocence was dwindling away.

We made up a fun game with a soccer ball, a net and a few beacons we found outside. I had always been the Tom-boy type and although I found myself slowly outgrowing it, for Khalid, I would sacrifice my girlishness. It just went without saying. Even though I had recently befriended a new girl in school who I had really come to like, I treasured my friendship with Khalid because it had always been my security. I thought that we would be that way forever. I didn’t know that our days were numbered.

Yes, I hated the dust and perspiration as we played, with the hot sun beating down on us from above, but it’s what made it all the more exciting.

The endurance. It was both exhilarating yet exhausting, and we finally took a break as we sat on the tarred pavement outside the house, just soaking up the blazing winter sun and chatting about our ambitions. It was rainbow smiles and sheer bliss. The life I knew I would always miss.

This was before it all changed. From dreams of building the fanciest of tree houses to comparing the high hopes we had. From childish banter to actual serious chatter… The problems of the wide world were far fetched for us. I couldn’t help but allow myself to get lost in the moments, living in them as if they would never end.

For now, all I knew was that I had passed. I had passed the biggest tests that life threw at me. It was a childhood that I would never forget, but was made so unforgettable by the little things of beauty that I woke up for every day. Those were the days of our life… the good old days.

The days I would never forget.

Dear readers

Shukran to all for the comments and feedback. I know the story may be a bit sad and I apologise in advance if there are any more depressing parts. But please remember that I always aspire to have a good ending so Insha Allah, it will be, with lots of lessons to be learnt. Always appreciate the feedback.

P.S. Are posts too long? Too boring?

Just checking 🌸

Much Love

A xx




Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


The poor kitten jumped out of my hands as Hannah spoke, obviously terrified by her shrieks. Well, I would be too if I was that small.

Hannah’s dark almond eyes were mischievous and her smirk was blatant.

I wasn’t sure why, but this girl and I were just never going to see eye to eye. I narrowed my own eyes at her, but I couldn’t do it for much longer, because it only took a minute before both Aunty Nas and Aunty Agnus appeared at the top of the stairs, obviously hearing the commotion that was going on.

I couldn’t let them see just how annoyed I was at Hannah, in case they might think I had gone crazy on her again.

What is going on?”

Aunty Nas spoke with a stern look and a heated voice. She placed her hands on her narrow hips now and looked from me to Yunus, raising her eyebrows. I could see where Hannah got her piercing eyes from. Her mother and her looked almost exactly alike.

“And where do you think you’re coming from, young lady?”

I looked back at her, not answering. What did I say?

We had been staying out of each other’s way all this time, but I would often hear Zuleikha complaining about her terrible moods. Seems like she wasn’t the best person to live around.

I really didn’t want to test her patience, so I kept my head down, letting my unruly locks cover my face, almost wanting to hide.

Without any warning, I felt a shooting pain in my ear. My ears were almost on fire as she twisted it with her long fingers, and I grimaced.

Hot tears filled my eyes as she twisted my other ear, harder this time. It was awfully painful.

“I asked you a question,” she muttered through gritted teeth, her long nails digging into the fleshy part of my ear.

“I-“ I started, not really able to form audible words due to the pain. It was excruciating.

“Missis, please, no-“

It was Aunty Agnus who I could hear was trying to stop her. She tried to approach us but Hannah’s mother stopped her with a death look, almost daring to retaliate. I could hear feet scurrying away and my heart sank. Were they leaving me alone with this horrible woman?

My ear was stinging with the pain and I tried to free it of her grasp. It was in vain, because the pain got worse as I resisted.

“Next time, it will be much worse,” she warned, finally letting go and standing straight up again.

She dusted her dress with a certain heir of arrogance, tossed back her peroxide blonde blow-dried hair, and then stalked off.

I looked back at her, my heart filled with an aching loneliness and the most brutal anger. I hated her.

“Don’t worry, Khawlah,” Aunty Agnus whispered. She had come down as soon as Aunty Nas had left the room.

“Come Khawlah, lets go change,” Aunty Agnus said to me, guiding me up the stairs, taking one step at a time so I wouldn’t trip.

I was a little disoriented. My mind was boggled after the events. Where was Zuleikha? Why was she barely at home? I even missed Foi Nani. Had everyone just forgotten about me and went on with their own lives?

And then I remembered. The kitten!

“Oh no!” I said instantly, slapping my forehead with my palm. “Aunty! I need to find Chinky.”

She looked at me, utterly confused.

“That cat,” I said, pointing to the basket at the bottom of the stairs. “It ran out and -“

“Okay, Khawlah,” she said simply in her broken English. “I check when I go to my room. I keep her there.”

She knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring her in.

I nodded, relieved that at least we had Aunty Agnus. If it wasn’t for her I wasn’t sure what I would do. Yunus was already showered and busy with his cars. Aunty waited for me to finish, and slowly brushed my long wet hair as she would do  from when Mama got sick. It brought tears to my eyes, for the second time today, as I remembered my mother and her easy smile.

Oh, how I missed her.

“Khawlah, you must be good,” Aunty Agnus was saying now as she guided the brush through my hair, detangling the multiple knots that had formed there over the past few days.

I nodded. I knew I should be good. I did try. Especially for Abba. But sometimes I just didn’t know when I wasn’t being the best. Did everyone maybe just expect too much?

“I don’t like to see what is happening,” she said softly, almost to herself.

My own heart ached. It was a permanent ache. I might have been young but I wasn’t too young to feel the loss and comprehend the sadness. It was so different to when Mama was here.

Our house was bow like a derelict l shell. An empty space of no warmth or love. No feeling. Everyone had evolved into beings who were just trying to get through each day, devoid of empathy and emotion.

Abba came home later that night, but instead of coming to us like he usually did, he stood tiredly at the bottom of the stairs, calling for us to come down.

Yunus shot out of his bed, and Ahmed came out of his boy-cave for the first time that day. It was weird how much he had changed. He was even sounding weird.

His voice had become a bit croaky and he had gotten a whole lot taller almost overnight.

“I have to talk to you’ll,” Abba said as we approached him one at a time. He signaled for us to meet him in the lounge.

Abbas looked weary and rugged. He was almost unlike himself as he sat back in his favourite cream arm chair and looked at us. I could tell he had something important to say, but I did too. I didn’t want Aunty Nas to badmouth me before my father knew the truth.

“Abba, I need to tell you something.”

My father frowned at me and gestured for me to sit down.

“Let me talk first, Khawlah.”

His voice was stern and his tone was firm. My father had changed. He wasn’t the same Abba that we had known when Mama was alive. Even his beard had become just a shadow of what it used to be. Instead of wearing kurta on Friday’s like he used to, now he just wore his usual work clothes.

I felt an ache somewhere inside my gut. Mama wouldn’t have liked it.

The strong perfume that he had spritzed this morning was still lingering in the air. He wore more than usual. He passed his fingers through his hair, almost nervously as he looked at us.

“I’ve bought a new house,” he said, looking at us expectantly.

We looked back at him, a bit confused. Why?

He still looked tired. The worries of the world had engulfed my Abba. He was never so inflicted with weariness as he was on that day. It was something that we hadn’t realised, but the greed of the world had been instilled into my father, and he couldn’t help but fulfill whatever was expected. Fulfill what his wife had wanted. It was the invasion of our home that we least expected and wholeheartedly rebelled. It was the love of this world that we had abhorred since childhood. It’s what money does to you when you get too much. You just keep wanting more.

If only he remembered Mama’s words when she had told him how wretched this world was. How futile this life was. It takes a strong couple to make each other better, and she was Abbas better half.

”But Abba, this is our home.”

It was Zuleikha who spoke now in a hostile voice, her hazel eyes blazing. Her straight brown hair had been tied back into a ponytail, and she still wore her school uniform.

Even my elder sister had changed. She had become quieter. Less outspoken. Extremely obliging.

But this. This she could not just overlook. This was a betrayal.

”Zuleikha, you must understand,” Abba said, sounding tired. “It will still be the same. We will just go to another house. We will sell this one. It’s better and much bigger. Maybe you’ll will have more brothers and sisters.”

He added the last part as an afterthought and I frowned at him after he said it. I didnt want another house. I didn’t even want more brothers or sisters. That horrible Hannah was enough.

“Well, then, Abba,” Zuleikha said firmly, getting up and looking at Abba. “If you insist on moving, I cannot come. I will stay somewhere else.”


Abba’s expression changed slightly, and it was almost like he gave her a little smirk.

But what she said next was enough to wipe it completely off his face.

“Yes,” she confirmed. “It’s no problem at all.”

He looked at her expectantly and she shrugged.

“It’s simple, Abba,” she said, as if speaking to a small child. She shrugged nonchalantly.

“I’m going to get married.”