The True Warrior

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

Khawlah

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.

“Faaiza?”

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.

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