Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


My brain was boggled with the information that I was processing as I reached home that day. Mishka. The red car.

I threw my bag on the floor and ran into the kitchen, searching for something to eat as I raided the fridge. My scarf was unpinned and flung on a nearby chair as I pursued my mission.

Zuleikha’s curious eyes followed me around the kitchen as I opened door after door. First the fridge. Then the cupboard. Nothing tickled my fancy. I was like an annoying tween with too much on her mind.

“Okay, out with it,” Zuleikha finally said, putting her pen down and looking at me expectantly.

Her hazel eyes looked almost green in the afternoon light. Sun was streaming in through the kitchen window and she cocked her head to one side as she watched me. My sister looked like a pretty picture- we were like chalk and cheese.

”Something bugging you,” she said, and she pursed her lips as she eyed me out relentlessly.

This was too much for my nearly-twelve-year-old-brain. I threw my hands up in the air and let out a stifled scream.

”I hate school!” I shouted, pacing up and down like a maniac. “All those silly girls and their attitudes. They think they are sooo great and they really are not.. and I don’t even know why they are… like… all so annoying!”

I was talking in riddles and I knew I wasn’t making much sense. Zuleikha stared at me in humor, amused at my outbursts. I wasn’t generally the dramatic type so it wasn’t probably was strange for her to witness.

”Well,” she said, thinking carefully. “This isn’t you, Khawlah. You either going to show them what you are really made of or we’ll tell Abba to take you out of that school. It’s no use staying there and just being unhappy.”

I sighed dramatically, just for emphasis. She had no idea. Her eyes followed me as I paced the room. My head was bursting.

“I wish I never had to go back,” I muttered, completely demotivated. I just wanted to hide away and never come out.

Everything was so confusing. What was going on with those girls and what did they want?

”It’s probably a phase,” Zuleikha continued. “They’ll get over it and find someone new to pick on. They usually pick on someone who they find may be prettier or more intelligent… and then they get over it and move on.”

Prettier or more intelligent? I was none of those. Well, as far as I knew, I didn’t see myself as competition. Besides, after today I knew that there was more to it than just that.

I looked at my sister in the eye, studying her composed expression and noticing her slight frown. I had to ask her.

“Zulz,” I said, trying to ascertain her mood.

My voice was calm and my heartbeat had slowed down as I stoped pacing.

“Hmmm,” she said, looking up as she was alerted that something was up. She was on edge.

I cleared my throat and loosened the pony on my unruly hair.

“Who was the guy in the red BMW?”

I had just blurted it out, because I knew if I stalled any longer I wouldn’t be able to ask. I watched Zuleikha’s expression change from curious, to shocked, and then angered. Her hazel eyes flashed furiously as she blinked, startled by the question.

“It’s none of your damn business!” She almost shouted, obviously perturbed by my question.

Anyone else would have gotten scared off.

I just rolled my eyes. I had no time for drama. Obviously it had become my business from today, because whoever this guy had been, that I seemed to vaguely know, had somehow come back to make my life a misery.

“I saw him,” I said, looking her courageously in the eye. I wasn’t scared of much and I didn’t want to beat around the bush.

“Today, he was outside my school with that annoying Mishka. He called my name. I wish I had tripped her.”


Zuleikha’s expression changed, and she got worried, and then curious again.

“That annoying girl who’s making my life a misery.“

Zuleikha sighed and rubbed her temples. She placed her pen carefully down on the counter, using both hands to run them through her brown hair that sat neatly below her shoulder.

“It was a long time ago, Khawlah,” she started, nibbling on her lips slightly nervously as she spoke. “And it was something I think about almost every day.”

I watched her as she spoke, telling me about how deeply she regretted it. She called it dating. I wasn’t sure what it meant but it reminded me of what Khalid had told me about boys and girls.

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

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 had said, looking at me now with glazed eyes. I remember that he looked sad too. Even though Khalid wasn’t the same, he was still my friend. It 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. I didn’t understand.

But now… Now I understood a little.

How boys and girls shouldn’t be friends… and now I understood a little bit of why… I felt… well, there was no other word for it.

I felt betrayed. Let down by my sister.

Like she had let me down. My own sister, who was my own real-life heroine… and always seemed so normal and together… she had also got carried away. I didn’t like this. I didn’t like it at all.

“So you trying to tell me,” I finally said with disdain. “This Mishka has it in for me because her new boyfriend wanted to marry you?”

Marriage. Zuleikha was going to marry that guy at one stage and then she dropped him. It was when Abba wanted us to move houses. She suddenly got jerked out of her sinister behavior and changed her entire outlook on life. She had finally come to her senses.

It just goes to prove how wrong things can mess with your mind. Make you think like a lunatic.

Zuleikha was looking at me with her eyes wide.

“Boyfriend?” She said in amusement. “No. It’s her brother. Jameel is Mishkas brother.”


Oh no. I had gotten the entire thing completely wrong.

Here I was, labeling Mishka as some kind of boy-crazy girl and all this time… she was just trying to fight her brothers battles. I supposed she felt that she had reason to.

”So are you going to show her your crazy or must I?”

Zuleikhas voice broke through my thoughts as I snapped into reality.

“Wh-what d’you mean?”

“C’mon Khawlah!” She said, her voice getting louder by the second. “Stop acting like you have no backbone. Stand up for yourself! Don’t you remember how you tackled Hannah when she stood on your toes not so long ago?”


Ooh, that girl was something else.

She had really tried my patience. I had no choice but to put her in her place. She never took a chance with me after that. I hypo, had learnt to overlook.

But… was this the same? It was all noble being good and kind… but did it really mean that I had to act like a doormat? Where was the line?

Obviously those who incessantly and consistently continue to commit sin with no remorse were not worthy… but maybe it was worth a try?

“I’m not saying you must bite her face off, Khawlah,” Zuleikha said quickly with humour in her eyes. “Let’s talk to Abba later and see what he says. Let me talk.”

Foi Nani hobbled into the kitchen at that point, and Zuleikha quickly looked back into her books as she walked through.

“Talk to Abba?” Foi Nani asked, catching the last part of our coversation as she walked to the stove. “About what?”

I could see Zuleikha frantically gesturing to me, trying to get my attention. I looked at her, confused.

What? I mouthed.

She wanted me to keep the whole thing hush hush because she didn’t want to get into trouble about this Jameel guy. I gathered that much, Even though Zuleikha wasn’t an angel, she liked to pretend that she was. I rolled my eyes.

“Errr,” I said, not knowing how to answer Foi Nani.

It was so tricky. No matter what the circumstance, I couldn’t lie, but I didn’t want to expose Zuleikha either. I knew that there was a goodness in hiding peoples faults. Mama used to always say if we don’t talk about people, and all the wrong that they do… maybe Allah might excuse our wrong on the day when it will matter.

“Whoever conceals [the faults of] a Muslim, Allah will conceal [his faults] in this life and the Hereafter.” (Muslim) 

“You know your father has enough to worry about, besides your stories,” Foi Nani was saying. She was in one of her no-nonsense moods.  “He’s been very busy. Shukar to Allah he is doing very well, but I don’t want you girls growing up to be spoilt brats.”

I held my feelings within my heart and changed the topic.

“We’re just waiting for Abba,” I said carefully, looking at the food. “I was feeling like eating something different today…”

The moment I said it I saw Zuleikha slap her forehead with her palm and put her head down. I had kind of put my foot in it in and immediately regretted mentioning food, because Foi Nani turned around in a huff and started another rant.

“Khawlah, this is very upsetting,” she said, her light eyes darkening with anger. “I try and make what you’ll like but you and your sister keep complaining. The boys just sit and eat the food quietly… but you girls..!”

And with that she turned around and stormed out the kitchen, muttering to herself about how we are getting worse by the day.

“Wrong move,” Zuleikha said as she rolled her eyes and and  I looked at her with contempt, obviously blaming her for this whole scene.

Gosh, it was so hard to make people happy. I felt like I was too young to deal with so much going on in my world.

I spun around and exited the kitchen in annoyance, taking the stairs up to my room two at a time and escaping to my world of literature. I didn’t want to think. I didn’t even want to do my homework.

I had gone to the Islamic section in the library and found a book that went further into the adventures of Sahabiyyah. It was so gripping, and the tales of victory and empowerment were so uplifting. I got lost in my world for a little while… completely absorbed in the courageous tales of people from the past.

I didn’t even realise that nearly two hours had passed when I heard Zuleikha come in. It was time to pray my asr, and Abba should have been home by then. I prayed my Salah and waited patiently on my bed for Abba.

I literally watched the seconds tick by as I waited. And waited. And waited. I even did my homework.

It was nearly half past 6, and still Abba wasn’t home. I was started to get worried (not to mention hungry) and I think everyone else was too.

“Where’s Abba?” It was Yunus who walked into the room with the cat in his hand.

Ever since Aunty Agnus has left, the cat that Khalid had given me had become a resident in the house. Aunty Agnus had taken responsibility for it while she was here, but since She had left , I knew she he was lonely and needed company. Yunus had become its sworn companion. I think it reminded him of Khalid.

I shrugged, shaking my head at him.

“I don’t know,” I said, getting a little concerned now. Everyone in the house was slightly anxious now, awaiting the familiar sound of Abba’s car in the driveway.

“I called his cell phone,” Zuleikha said, her eyes darting around in worry. “It’s off.”

Foi Nani immediately put her hand to her mouth and started reading. She had forgotten that she was upset with us. It was a moment of extreme panic, and as the minutes ticked by and there was no progress, we found ourselves in a bit of a frenzy.

Abba. What would we do if something happened to him? We couldn’t even bear to think of it.

I swallowed nervously as I sat with my books, trying to concentrate. I wish I knew how to make it all stop… how to just end the worrying… but it was almost impossible at this point. Matters had gotten to a stage where we could no longer just overlook the obvious.

Abba was not home, and we were helpless. Zuleikha had gone into a panic-stricken mode where any sound would make her jump, and Foi Nani was like a force of another kind.

She was literally phoning everyone she knew, checking if they had any news at all on Abba. My brothers were sitting around quietly, and as for me, well… I sat at the top of the stairs and silently watched the commotion.

I silently zoned out into my own world… it’s own battle finding its way to truce… my mind taking me to its own haven. A haven from which I would draw silent strength.

The battle is fierce. The fighting is terrible. The Greeks have chained themselves together so that none can flee.

From the rear, a brave warrior waves a sword and shouts, “Cut off the arms of these uncircumcised!”

But the battle seems nearly lost.

The Muslims drop back. It seems futile. Panic quivers through their ranks. More and more withdraw.

And then it happens. Out of nowhere a tall, imposing knight, enveloped all in black, with gleaming eyes, gallops into the field, sword flying.

It’s amazing. Heads turn. The Muslims stop their retreat in awe at the reckless courage of this Arab warrior, penetrating the lines of the Byzantines, rushing right into their center.

The wreckless warrior- a heroine of such esteem.


I whipped my head up as my name was called, knowing that I was being summoned.

Like a call to serve, I could see red and blue lights through the front window, and I could practically smell melancholy in the air.

My family knew me. They knew that I was the toughest one here. Whenever there came a time where no-one could bare to withstand… Khawlah would always come through.

I could see flashing lights from the top of the stairs, and Foi Nani was starting to weep incessantly as she feared the worst. Zuleikha was stunned into silence, and my brothers too were rooted to the spot.

“Khawlah, answer the door!”

Yunus was calling from the lounge. I didn’t even hear the doorbell ring. I nodded numbly as I trudged down the stairs.

I knew I would have to up the strength today. I would have to keep it together for us all.

Khawlah, be strong, the voice was telling me. Be the warrior you know you are inside.

Now I knew that everything that had happened to this stage was a moulding for what was to come. It was the training for the battle… it was the camp that provided the skills.

That was life. That was how we grew.

It was going to be a fierce battle… and the battle was just about to begin.




The True Warrior

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


The horsemen charge in behind the knight. One of them has slashed a head and holds it high.

Inspired, the Muslims turn to fight again. As one body, they raise their swords and follow the black knight into the smoky battle and soon the Byzantines have fallen or run away.

Khalid (RA) cocks his head in wonder. Who is this wild and mysterious warrior who’s won the day? When the battle ends, he canters up to the black knight. The knight’s captains close in like a shield.

“We are grateful to you;’ Khalid (RA) says. “But who are you?”

The black knight’s eyes meet Khalid’s, then drop. 

“I am Khawlah bint al-Azwar al-Kindiyya, sister of Dirar ibn al-Azwar and descendant of Arab kings. I only avoided you out of modesty, for I am a woman of rank and honor. I came to you with the Arab women to strengthen you in your fight.”

The true warrior. 

I slammed the book shut as I heard the door bang, alerted that I wasn’t alone anymore.

How amazing was that story?

My heart was still beating rapidly as I placed the book on the shelf above my bed, eager to read more whenever I got a moment. This was better than the silly books I would borrow from the library. Those were so shallow compared to the truth of these stories. What hardships they endured to get to their amazing rank.

I was inspired. Soaring. Above everything that happened that day, there was a glimmer of hope for me. Those were true heroes. How brave they were.

“I’ll never get married,” Zuleikha said as she plopped back onto her mattress, closing her eyes as she lay back.

“Don’t be stupid,” I retorted, annoyed about the pessimistism after the incident with Aunty Nas. She had sunken into this lull and nothing anyone said could get her out of it.

It was Zuleikha’s worst nightmare. Yousuf’s family hadn’t phoned back. It had been over a week now and there was no word from them. Not even to say they weren’t interested. I knew that things were getting a little hectic that day but a little courtesy never hurt anyone.

”I’m going to die old and lonely,” Zuleikha moaned as she lay on the bed, pulling down her bottom lip and looking for some sympathy.

”You can stay with me,” I said, giving her a quirky smile. She didn’t look impressed.

I was getting fed up with all these grown up problems. Abba’s Divorce. Dada’s sickness. Foi Nani’s getting older. I didn’t want to deal with another death.

Abba had already given Aunty Nas a divorce a while ago, but because she had some kind of problem, she had to be admitted to hospital to treat it. Abba said she shouldn’t be worrying us for a while now.

And now… with Khalid gone, school life was not getting any better.

I sighed, not wanting to open my books to complete the work I was supposed to be doing. I didn’t want to be reminded about school. The friends I thought I had at one stage were not friends at all.

Zuleikha was going on about how terrible her life was and how Aunty Nas was the worst thing that ever came into our lives. I was zoning out as my mind drifted to the events earlier that day, remembering the ugliness of girly problems.

“You can’t sit with us,” the new girl said to me as we stepped out for break. She sauntered arrogantly down the passage, tossing her hair back as she swayed her hips from side to side.

I gritted my teeth as I watched them, Mishka and her sidekick, being the annoying little brats that they always were. It wasn’t like I wanted to sit with them. Faaiza and Mishka were some kind of relatives to each other, and by default, we sometimes ended up on ‘their side’ of the field. I was actually glad that I wouldnt have to watch them snickering behind the backs of other girls or star at the grade 7 boys playing soccer. They were so immature.

I looked around for my own friend, but she was nowhere in sight. I hastily grabbed my lunch that Zuleikha had packed, and made my way down to the passage way behind the grade 6 classrooms. There was a quiet corner with a bench there that I usually went when I felt like being alone. Now was definitely one of those times.

I sat on the cold cement bench  unwrapping the cheese sandwich that was in my lunch bag. I didn’t really feel very hungry, and although it was not entirely my fault that I was alone, I could feel hostile stares as I sat there.

You’re strong, Khawlah, I could hear the voice saying.

Too tough for your own good.

It was Mama’s voice, somewhere within my subconscience.

Didn’t she want me to be strong? Or was it a warning?

I was seeing it in a different light today.

I spotted Faaiza in the center of the playground, but instead of coming to sit with me like she usually would, she completely ignored me and went to join Mishka. My heart sunk a little lower as I processed what was going on. They were ganging up on me, and I couldn’t believe it. How childish.

I breathed in as I felt an urge to cry, knowing that I could stop myself if I really wanted to. I got up as the bell rung, making my way back to class and starting my work silently. I didn’t speak, but my heart held a million emotions as we were let out for the school day, barely noticing the red car that was parked at the entrance as I passed it.

The next few days were no different, but I kept to myself, taking my favorite book with me to break as company instead, knowing that I would never need anyone if I truly believed in my own strength and Allah’s presence.,

It was a few days after as I packed up my book and lunch box, and I passed the familiar passage that I would as I walked to class, when I heard a whimpering from within.

My ears were immediately alerted. I knew that voice. It was soft and barely forming audible words, but I knew it. I knew it and I couldn’t ignore it.

I immediately turned back, venturing into the little lane where my friend stood, quietly bawling her eyes out. I had seen her the past few days, but being the Khawlah that I was, I remained independent and left her to her horrible new friends. I just didn’t realise that they were probably being horrible to her too.

“Is everything….okay?” I ventured, trying to ascertain what brought on this outburst. My own hands were trembling as I reached for her, as her shoulders heaved again with another bout of tears.

She was really upset.


There was no answer. She just kept crying. I thought about leaving her to it. I mean, this girl has completely avoided me when I was left alone and the mean girls made me their target. Was she even a friend worth caring about?

And then, something within me ignited my mind, and there was a huge awakening that I had been completely ignoring.

Wasn’t this what I had been waiting for? Didn’t I want to prove myself in a way that people would actually stop and think… what made her do it? What sparked this change?

It was like the story I had read a few months ago. Not only was it the Sunnah of my beloved Nabi (SAW), but also the Sunnah of all the beloveds of Allah.

It was when I had read the story of Musaa (AS) that I became awestruck by the wisdom of it. The amazing story. The inspiration from Allah to his mother. How Allah had taken care of his Nabi even in the house of his arch enemy. And then, of course, how Allah Ta’ala then instructed Musaa (AS) to deal with Firaun. It was a story of many lessons and multiple morale.

Be good. Be kind. Even if the whole world is against you. Even when people have committed the gravest of atrocities. Even when we feel there is no hope… Allah never gives up. He will still give us a chance.

And this was only true because from the story we see… He instructed Musaa (AS) not just to preach, but to preach beautifully. To preach in a peaceful and kind manner, so that the Pharoah may learn the religion of Musaa (AS) and his manners. So that he too may have a chance to get on to the path of righteousness.

It was a win-win situation, but it took lots of humility to do it.

I sucked up my pride, held my head up, and reached out for the friend I once had.

“Don’t worry,” I said to her, knowing that sometimes we just need to know that we aren’t alone. “It’s going to be okay.”

Isn’t that what everyone wanted to hear at some point?

She looked up at me, slightly baffled, and then, a small smile crept onto her face.

“I’m sorry, Khawlah,” she said to me through tears. “I didn’t want to be mean. That Mishka is horrid. She said she would make my life miserable if I was your friend. For some reason, she has it in for you.”

My heart beat a little faster as I heard that, and although I knew it, her saying it made me aware of how a single person could change my entire school life. Since Khalid had left, I felt so alone… and this just added to it all. I shivered slightly as I procaessed it.

But why?

I grabbed my friends hand with a force, holding tight as we walked, side by side through the busy corridors.

I ignored some of the glances I got from the mean girls. I didn’t care. It seemed like Mishka had done a lot of damage in a short time, and I was beginning to hate her. I had a feeling it may have been because of the hijab that I started wearing at the beginning of the month, but a few other girls wore it too so it couldn’t be the sole reason. I was inspired by the heroines I had been reading about, and besides the fact that hijab was awesome,  it was so much easier with my unruly hair. Though some of my friends had envied my locks, I just found them bushy and unpredictable.

I went home that day, sinking into my book again and knowing that we would get to the bottom of the drama somehow. It couldn’t carry on forever, right?

The next day held small challenges and snide remarks, but I held my ground and got through it. I just wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to put up with it without lashing out. I prayed for the strength to deal with it in the best way possible, and a heart that could still overlook.

It was finally the end of a long day, and my heart soared as the final bell rung. I jumped up as the teacher opened the door, waiting for the major part of the class to pass through and following behind. My lanky legs carried me swiftly through the corridors, and being smaller built, I could easily navigate through the crowds at a good pace. I reached the gate before most of the class that had left before me, looking out for the mini bus car pool that usually took a few of us to our homes.

“Hey Khawlah.”

The voice was loud and brazen.

I swung my head around to find its owner, nearly coming face to face with Mishka as I did so. She took a step back, slightly alarmed, as I stared at the person next to her. It was an older boy who looked slightly familiar, but what was more mysterious was the car that he drove.

It was a red BMW.

My breathing ceased for a few seconds as I made the link, blinking my eyes profusely in confusion. Mishka. The boy. The red BMW.

This was all no coincidence. There had to be some kind of  story behind this… but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know it all.

Before I knew it, the couple was gone and I was left standing there, even more confused than before. I walked in a daze to the kombi, almost in zombie mode. I had to get to the bottom of this. It may be hard to, but I had to figure it out somehow.

And I would do it, whatever it took… because now I knew that this wasn’t just some bully who was trying to try her luck with me.

This was going to be a little more challenging. It might take a lot out of me… and it may even break me.

But most of all, what I hope for… was to bring out the true warrior within me.

An Extraordinary Heroine


Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem



I said her name softly before I entered our room, not wanting to intrude.

Although it was my room too, I didn’t want to be rude. It was one of the things I had learnt as I matured. Privacy. It was actually an important thing for bigger people.

There was no sound nor any reply from my sister. I pushed the door open slightly, and looked inside the room.

Zuleikha lay on the bed with her head propped up on the pillow, staring blankly at the ceiling above. Her eye didn’t even flicker as I walked in. It was like she was completely oblivious to her surroundings… lost in a world where no-one could reach her.

”Zuleikha, can we talk?”

It was Abba. He had just come up, and stood with his hands stuffed in his pockets at the door to our room. He looked somewhat apologetic, but at the same time, I could see the shame in his eyes. It was a look that my Abba didn’t often wear. He was embarrassed.

I don’t want to talk to you,” Zuleikha retorted, turning around and sinking her head into the pillow.

She turned her flushed face to where I was sitting on my bed and I could see her amber eyes were puffy. Her long hair was open, and a bit dishevelled as she tossed it around trying to avoid eye contact with my father.

”Zuleikha, I’m so sorry, my baby,” Abba said, stepping forward into the room and  looking like he was about to break down.

I was not going to feel sorry for him, I told myself.

Abba used to be my superhero. He was the perfect dad. The best husband. And then he married a woman with a dirty heart who ruined our lives.

He stood just in front of the couch in our room and kind of slumped down into it, almost as if he had no energy to keep himself up. His head fell into his hands as he sat there, witnessing his daughter sobbing into her pillow, knowing that this time, it had gone too far. This time, it was too much.

He looked up. Sympathy was creeping in from somewhere within the boundaries of my hardened heart. Although I didn’t want to, I was feeling sorry for Abba.

He was saying that he had left Aunty Zuleikha two weeks ago at her aunties house, because he wanted a divorce. He didn’t think she’d come back to the house because she was really angry.

”I know it’s been hard,” he said, now to us both as we sat there and spoke. “And I put you’ll through so much after your mother passed away. It was such a hard choice to make for me, but you’ll must understand… she was different then. I thought she will help us. ”

She was different then. She was never nice. But in the first year or so I still gave her a chance. After she twisted my ear and targeted me as a doormat, I wrote her off. I didn’t realize it but I had written Abba off too, the day he pushed aside my concerns and fell into his own world of wealth, power and luxury.

That’s what Aunty Nas did to him, and with all the damage done, it was a little too late for regret.

“I never want to see her face ever again!” Shouted Zuleikha, as she lifted her head up from the pillow. She was completely Infuriated and I didn’t blame her.

Abba just nodded and swallowed.

“Me neither,” he mumbled, looking out the window with a pensive expression.

He played with the threads of his stubble, that had seem to gotten a little longer during the past two weeks.

He seemed… sad. At that moment, he looked a little more like the Abba I remembered before Mama had passed away. With his slightly reserved nature, he had always kept to himself, but he was still the best. Caring, comforting and fun too. He didn’t have big ideas about the world and the things he owned. I missed Abba, even though he was sitting right there.

Without any warning, as I looked again, Abbas head drooped. His shoulders heaved ever so slightly, and were it not for the heavy breathing that accompanied it, I wouldn’t have known.

My ears were alerted as he shook his head, almost to himself, hastily rubbed his face, and looked up. The only evidence that his face wore was a slight glistening in his eyes. He was trying to hide it but I knew. I knew. Abba, my superhero, was human too.

”Dont cry Abba.”

It was my voice that spoke out but I didn’t expect it. It was like my heart cried it out before I could even think.  Although I had always been the strong one, to see someone else crumble before me was something that I couldn’t bare. Seeing Abba in distress was like my very own mountain crumbling before my eyes.

Abba pulled me to him, holding me tight within his outstretched arms. My father’s arms had always been open and strong, but today they seemed insignificant as they clung to me, almost for dear life. He hung onto me and I held him back, feeling slightly awkward but breathing in that familiar scent that I remembered as a child.

It had been months. Months since I had felt the consuming embrace of my dear father.  Months of a cold and pre-occupied father figure that was present in our home. Months that I had felt the warmth of Abba’s engulfing warmth once again. It felt so strange yet so welcome. I wanted to accept it and then lock it in, wishing it would never go away.

“I’m so sorry, so sorry…” Abba cried, still breathing into me, as he held on, his hazel eyes filling with regret once again.

“I don’t know why… what to do… how to stop it…”

Zuleikha’s head shot up, and her swollen eyes open wide as she watched us. She snarled as she said her next words, with not even an ounce of pity within her next sentence.

“Just give a damn divorce and let her overdose. She even got Dada sent to a home. She deserves to die.”

I sucked my breath in as Zuleikha spat out the last word. Dada. I thought Dada had gone to stay at his brothers farm. That’s what he had told us. I missed him.

I wasn’t sure what Zuleikha was saying about overdosing. My heart jumped to my throat as Abba looked at her in shock and then got up.

“I know you are angry, Zuleikha, but that’s not nice.”

”I don’t care,” Zuleikha retorted. “She’s a witch, even when she’s sober.”

“I’m going to sort this out, okay?” He said to her, pleading with her to be easy on him. Pleading with her to just keep it contained a little longer.

All Zuleikha did was exhale tiredly, and roll her eyes. I wasn’t sure who to feel sorry for anymore. This was all so confusing.

Abba ruffled my hair, kissed both of our foreheads and then left us in a hurry. Ahmed and Yunus stood outside the door, almost in anticipation, wondering where the next part of this road would lead us all.

I looked at my siblings, wondering how we had gotten here. The glimmering sunlight was streaming in onto that oak sideboard once  From running carelessly playing catch in the passage to losing the most important person in our lives. From streaming sunshine on and endless giggles as we would escape outside to play. From loss to hardship, and an ease within.

We had so much, yet been through so much, and yet still… we pulled through. It was tough and it was harsh, but we were still standing. Our fragile hearts had been battered and bruised, but instead of pushing us to the ground, it was our restoration. It was like a rehabilatiom for our mutilated souls. It was the means for us to withstand so much more than anyone had ever thought our little hearts could bare.

I breathed in, and almost as if the scar had penetrated within, the aching within my gut was now far, but very much still there. A lost mother. A lost friend. A lost hope.

If only someone had explained to us that all that is beautiful on the outside doesn’t always shine from within. That this world was not meant to be the eternal bliss that a kid always wished it would be.  That life hurts. That love hurts. That it hurts a lot.

But most of all, that it all ends. The hurt ends. The pain ends. Nothing in this life will push us to the point where it will break us completely, becAuse a Mu’min was not one who would lose hope. A true believer would never give up. That this life that played before our eyes was never the entire truth. A beautiful jannah awaits that not even the most brutal memories can penetrate.

But reach it, we have to comprehend. Our journey only begins here, at that point. The route to discovery was open, but it was our duty to explore, and find the beauty that can rest within your inner being. The beauty that lay beyond the obvious treachery of the world.

My eyes darted around the room, almost searching for a comfort within. All that met me was the barren gazes of my siblings, with no promise for me to cling onto. They too, were searching. They were also seeking some solace, and just as I was about to give up completely, I caught sight of a brown paper bag that had fallen between the bed and the headboard.

My eyes widened as I saw it, and I flew forward, grabbing it with fervor as I gaped at it in disbelief.

I could not believe that I had forgotten about it. Khalid’s gift. With the Aunty Agnus drama that night, it had fallen behind my pillow and I hadn’t even thought about it since then.

I sat there for a few seconds, not even blinking an eye. The day he gave it to me seemed like a lifetime ago. Was it really there? 

Ever so slowly, I removed the brown packet from over, sliding my hand inside slowly to pull out the contents with my right hand.

I could feel the hardness of a book and my heart beat a little faster with excitement, understanding that there was so much of potential within this little bag. An entire book of unveiled treasures, promising to add some depth and meaning to my life.

I pulled the book out with haste, revealing its bold cover in the dim light of the night lamp that I had since I was four.

The book, just from its cover, exceeded all expectation. It would be the tool I would use as my inspiration and my daily motivation. It was the foundation of my journey to the uplifting of my soul, and a burst of energy filled my gut as I re-read it’s title once again. It was the driving force I would need for a lifetime of battles that may still lie ahead. It was the hope that would bring me back to where I would find my roots again, and bring to light the struggles of people centuries ago who were raised in status because of it. It would bring me back, connect me, and help me to find my Creator within  the darkened hue of my life.

I didn’t know it then, but just a glance  would have an awesome impact on my life. I would discover not only my own strength, but would draw strength from the stories of the noble companions of my Nabi (SAW) who would teach me about what struggle really was. I would learn patience. I would aspire for their endurance. It was just what I needed and it was the perfect timing for it too.

Khawlah Bint Al-Azwar, it read.

An Extraordinary Heroine.







Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem 


“I feel like I’ve seen you before.”

Yousuf’s pale face immediately reddened as he said it, and he looked away, slightly embarrassed.

Wasn’t that like the cheesiest line, like ever?

“Shucks,” he muttered, obviously realizing what he said. And of course, what I was thinking.

“I’m sorry,” he said, all flustered. “I don’t know why I would say something so stupid.”

I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t. I was actually kind of glad he said that. It was a good ice breaker.

I finally got the guts to look up at him, swallowing nervously as I did so.

My worst fears dissolved. He wasn’t ugly. Thank goodness. He was far from it. Somehow I was glad I had made a little effort. Maybe Foi Nani wasn’t that old after all. She kind of knew her stuff when it came to impressing people.

What was most intriguing thing about him though, wasn’t his dazzling smile or his perfect nose.

It was the fact that he was just focusing on me. And okay, maybe I was the only other person on this partition of the dining area, but I had met boys before who would be trying to talk to me, but trying to suss out what venture is next at the same time. As I looked back at him, albeit a little shyly. I wanted to kick myself too, because I had judged him because he said it.

I felt like I knew him too.

Corny, yes. But I’d definitely seen him before.

“Did you go to tuition?” I asked him spontaneously. I wasn’t even thinking.

All I was thinking was; that was probably the place I had seen him. I didn’t want to think further than that because it was also the place where I had done a lot of unmentionable things.

I didn’t want to even go there. I flushed as I thought about it, wishing I didn’t mention it.

He shook his head. He didn’t look like the type that went for mass tuition. He was probably really intelligent too . He had passed his final year and was doing his boards. He said that he wanted to go back to madrassa. We had stopped there when he realized that he knew me from somewhere.

Why must I always open my big mouth?

It was a typical example of the past coming back to haunt me. I’ve heard people talk about it happening before but I never believed it. When you did things in jest, just for the fun of it, you only think about it with remorse when it’s too late.

I shivered, remebering those winter afternoons after Mama passed away… feeling that sinking feeling all over again. The coldness had sunken into my thoughts and bones… and darkness had engulfed from all angles. How great was Allah that he had brought me out of it?

The greatest part was that he made me come out of my sinful ways.

“Are you okay?”

He could see that faraway look on my face and Yousuf was concerned. He sounded so … caring. Concerned. Was it for real or was he just playing the part? My life had made me so skeptical of everyone around me.

This boy was just the perfect balance. He wasn’t an overly ambitious charmer or smooth talker. He looked genuinely concerned. My whole life had gone chasing the things that I had always been lacking. My pursuits were always to try and fill that gaping hole that lay within.  I wasn’t sure what it was about me.

I wasn’t strong like Khawlah. Although she fully understood, she had barely shed a tear when Mama died. Every day for me was a reminder of that gap Mama had left when she had gone. My heart grieved her loss in a way that was terminal… The pain didn’t go away. I was broken.

But even with that, I knew, within the cravices of my  very soul, I truly believed that a strong person could lift me up again. That a solid heart that was filled with the love of the One who Created it, could heal. It’s what I needed to make myself stronger… and to build my faith up once again. Yes, I had been weak at one point, but I was on the road to recovery once again. Some people could do it on their own… but some people, like me, needed help to get themselves to be the best believers. To get themselves thriving spiritually, once again.

Suhaib RadhiAllahu Anhu narrated : Allah’s Nabi Sal Allahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam said. “Strange is the case of a believer, there is good for him in everything, and this is only for the believer. If a blessing reaches him, he is grateful to Allah which is good for him, and if an adversity reaches him, he is patient which is good for him.”


I wished that I could achieve that, and truly understand the gift of being a true believer. As I looked at Yousuf, I could see he showed signs of someone who was Islamic. Not just there, at the borderline, like Abba had become now, but completely devoted.

He wore a traditional kurta with no distinct branding, and his beard seemed to be grown freely with no fashionable adjustments. I knew about these things because Mama used to always tell Abba about them. After Mama died, Abba’s beard had diminished to close to nothing. I just knew Mama would like Yousuf too.

A large noise that sounded like it was just outside the house caught us both off guard, and Yousuf glanced at me, looking really worried.

“Is this area safe?” He asked, immediately getting up and going towards the passage door. He looked slightly anxious. Maybe he had a bad experience in the past.

I wasn’t scared. It was probably nothing. This area wasn’t the safest but we were so used to those noises that it didn’t even faze us anymore.

I took the opportunity to grab a samoosa that was lying on the table nearby, just because my tummy was virtually empty since the morning. With my nerves the way they had been, and Foi Nani making it worse, I had barely been able to put a thing into my mouth.

I walked toward the passage too, seeing Khawlah and Yunus peeping out of the lounge door.

At that moment, the spicy samoosa caught in my throat, and it wasn’t just because of the ambitious flavoring.

It was Aunty Nas, who literally kicked open our front door, and stood there with a vengeance.

Aunty Nas wore purple wedged boots, grey tights and a pink floral sleeveless top. Her hair was it’s usual blonde colour, and it stuck out on the top of her head, almost as if she had gotten shocked.

I wondered what happened to her. Her clothes were way to young for her age. I knew the latest fashion trends, and this was far from it. She had looked so much better on those days when she would adorn the abaya and hijab. This was a cheap alternative.

”My goodness,” she said sarcastically as she spotted Yousuf and Abba coming to the front to see what the din was about. “I heard what’s going on here. Aren’t we just a happy little family today?!”

She said the last few words in a mocking tone, raised her eyebrow and glared at Abba. Abba shifted uncomfortably. Aunty Nas seemed upset.

I looked around me and could see Yousuf’s father there too.

He was staring in shock. Yousuf too was in shock, but he calmly backed away. I could see him headed back to the couch to sit, ready to continue our conversation. The only problem was that now my head was completely out of it. There was no way I could form any audible words with this woman in our home.

”Let’s go to the other room,” Abba said to Aunty Nas, making his way out of the room. He gestured for her to follow but she didn’t. She stared at us all scornfully, with her hands on her hips.

Her face was scrunched up and her expression was tired. She looked like she was charged up for something, but Abba’s reaction to her didn’t allow her to vent. He had forced her to apply brakes and her fuel was running low.

“I’m not going anywhere!” She shouted, and my father turned and raised his eyebrows at her.

All of us four siblings were now gathered in the entrance hall, half awaiting the common hissing and unfiltered arguments that would usually come. We  looked at each other with hesitation, unsure of what to make of the whole thing.

Why was she here now? What was really going on?

I just wanted her to go away.

“I think they’re going to kill each other,” Ahmed said under his breath, watching them from where we stood.

The four of us clung together like our lives depended on it. It was one thing we held onto always, no matter who was the target. From the day this woman had become an additional limb of our home, we were in this together and always would be.

That would never change.

Just when I thought Aunty Nas was going to turn back, it seemed like her reserve kicked in, and much to our shock and dismay, she started screaming in utter dementia. She sounded like a lunatic.

It was one grievance after another, about how my father emotionally abused her, and how disobedient his children were. She had to add in how corrupt our minds are and how we have thieves that live here. It was like she was possessed by some kind of demonic force, and she didn’t move or stop as she accused us all of the worst of things.

It seemed like she was nearly done, and although she had caused a lot of damage, all was not yet lost.

Aunty Nas had gathered an audience now, and even if she didn’t, everyone in the house had probably heard her.

“Must we leave?”

A voice whispered from behind us, and I could see Yusrah giving me a polite smile as she spoke. Yousuf’s sister seemed really pleasant and quite amusing too. We chatted about quite a few things, and we got along really well. I just hated that they were witnessing all of this. Aunty Nas at her worst tantrum.

“We can come back,” she said when I didn’t answer.

She wasn’t so convincing. If they left now, they would probably never come back to this crazy house. We would have to do something to redeem ourselves. We would have to do something now, before this gets any worse.

Foi Nani was now in the front of the house where all the commotion was going on. Her walking stick in hand, she was trying to appear threatening without actually attacking. Her face dark with anger and her no-nonsense voice was on. Vexation was settling in, and her patience was at it’s wits end.

How dare this woman cause such a scene at this important event? 

“Nasreen,” she was saying firmly. “You need to leave or we will call the cops. You have other problems you must deal with. This is not the time for all of this.”

Foi Nani was right. She knew it. We knew it too. We could work on this at another time. Abba was trying to tell her too. I could hear him saying something else, but I didn’t understand what he meant. Problem? What problem did she have? 

She understood that now it was a threat and she knew that we meant serious business. And just when I thought she was about to relent and leave, her gaze shifted around for a few seconds. It darted back and forward, and she ran her hands anxiously through her frazzled hair as she did so. Within a few second, it settled, and almost as if I expected it, I felt it on  none other than myself.

She stared straight into me, for a few seconds, and I could literally feel the hairs at the back of my neck start to stand. It was almost as if she was seeing beyond me. She looked broken.

Her body was shaky, and her finger trembled as she pointed. She didn’t look okay.

A small, evil smile crept onto her face and to my utter horror, she let out a final blow.

“If only they knew what you are really like,” she said to me with a slight tremble, but a steady gaze. “That rich boy in the red BMW that used to pick you up every Friday… a tramp like you doesn’t even deserve that.”

And with that she turned and tossed her hair back as she walked out through the broken door, leaving a family that was broken once, broken once again.