Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


”His mother?”

His mother?! Jameel’s mother did that to her?

Well, everything  was kind of coming together now.

I remembered Zuleikha telling me a few times about her mother-in-law giving her a tough time. I remembered her also explaining to me that she was always cut up and in a bad mood because of her husband… Zuleikha’s father-in-law.

I just didn’t want to think about it because those kind of stories made me feel sick in my tummy. It made me wonder if there was anyone in this world who was good and true. Who was actually normal and loyal.

I breathed in. Then out. All this was making me a little anxious, which was a bit strange for me.

And then, of course,  there was my brother who was standing at the entrance with his handgun still glued to his hand.

With all this craziness I couldn’t help but feel that everything was turned upside down all over again.


I had to ask that question. What ever prompted a person to take violence to such a level… where there was such putrid evidence.

“We had an argument,” Zuleikha said quietly. “And when Jameel tried to intervene, she would have none of it…  and then she lashed out and hit me with some heavy duty utensil that was on the counter. I don’t know… I just saw stars… and then Jameel guided me away. It’s really sore.”

A few tears escaped her eye and she winced again as she touched the wound.

“You can’t go back,” I said to her, adamant. “You can’t.”

“Of course she can’t! If Jameel thinks she’s stepping foot in his house again he’s got another thought coming!” Ahmed exclaimed, dangling the pistol erratically. The way he was going about was actually starting to give me creeps.

Foi Nani just kept on having random outbursts. She was working herself up for no reason, and she could only talk about what people would say if they found out. I couldn’t help but think that there might be more important things to worry about than that.

The sound of the front door opening was like a melody to my ears. It meant one of the normal people in our home were here and my heart started beating a little faster as I anticipated the reaction when they would see Zuleikha for the first time.

“Assalaamu Alaykum.”

it was Abba. He always greeted and made a roaring salaam as he entered, and I whispered one back. I didn’t want to speak too loudly. It was almost as if I wanted him to see it, but was dreading it as well.

I held my breath as Abba walked into the kitchen, placing his bag down and then frowning as he looked curiously at Zuleikha. Her head was down, and he too was thinking that it was strange that she was here at this time. She slowly lifted her head, and though Abba’s gaze stayed fixed on her, his facial expression didn’t change. He just continued to stare.

He didn’t look at anyone us. He didn’t even speak.

Did he see her? Did he even noticed the huge gashes she had on her face? Why was he saying nothing?

He walked over to her quietly, and then lifted her chin ever so slightly as he studied her. His face was serious, but he didn’t utter a single word. He merely scrutinized her face, and then sat down next to her, still saying nothing.

Ahmed stood at a distance, watching them intently, and looking slightly shocked at Abba’s reaction. At least he had put the gun away. I let out a silent sigh of relief, and then held my breath again as I heard Abba speaking.

He spoke softly, and his head almost touched Zuleikha’s as they conversed.

“Are you okay?” He was asking her, with concern in his body language.

She nodded, almost numbly.

“Did Jameel do this to you?”

She looked up at Abba, and then looked down and shook her head.

“Are you sure?” Abba asked, prompting her again.

“Yes, Abba,” She said firmly now, and I could see her eyes flashing a little angrily.

Abba had to check.

“She needs to stay here,” Ahmed said. His voice was firm as he stepped forward. Abba turned to look at him, frowning slightly.

”Jameel already called me,” he said, and then I understood his reaction. So he already knew. That explained a lot. “She will be here for a few days, and she will go back to her husband. They will find a way to work through this together. Now both of you’ll go to your rooms and get ready for supper.”

Ahmed and I hastily retreated, knowing that abba would take over from here and there was no arguing. I wasn’t sure about what Abba had said. Zuleikha would go back and be exposed to that all over again? The thought made me shudder.

Even as I entered my room and closed the new pink chevron curtains, I just couldn’t stop thinking about Zuleikha and her monster gashes.

I wished that there was a way I could erase them from my mind, but as I pulled on my flowery pyjama top that night, I knew that when I went back downstairs again I would have to see her horrific injury again. It made me feel so bitter…. so hurt inside.  I felt that much more possessive over my elder sister now that all this had happened.

Was Abba really sending her back to that home? Was it the right thing to do? I didn’t understand how all these matrimonial things worked, but if there was a big problem, why couldn’t she just stay here? Why couldn’t she just leave?

I didn’t understand that divorce was so bad. I mean, Abba had been through it. For good reasons too, right? To me, at my tender age and with everything that had happened, I just wanted Zuleikha to come back home.

Jabir reported that Allah’s Messenger SAW said:

Iblis places his throne upon water; he then sends detachments (for creating dissension) ; the nearer to him in rank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension. One of them comes and says: “I did so and so.” And he says: “You have done nothing.” Then one amongst them comes and says: “I did not spare so and so until I sowed the seed of discord between a husband and a wife.” The Satan goes near him and says: “You have done well.” A’mash said: He then embraces him.” [Sahih Muslim]

I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand why Abba just didn’t tell Jameel that he doesn’t deserve Zuleikha. That he should never come back here. The question of how this all happened was still hanging in my mind, as we sat at the table that night, in complete silence.

No-one spoke. No-one laughed. It was as if there was a huge cloud looming above our heads that night, and it brought back the most awful memories. I excused myself quickly, saying I was tired and needed to rest for school tomorrow.

The day had been too eventful. First my pending job. Now this. I wasn’t sure what to do about either. As the night progressed, and I heard Zuleikha coming up to her bed, I tried to ignore the sobs that she was trying to stifle in her pillow before she slept. I pretended as if I didn’t hear the whimpers that escaped her mouth every few seconds, and she tried to fall off to sleep. It was heartbreaking. She sounded so … broken.

I wished, with all my heart, that there was something… anything… that I could do to make it better… but I came up with nothing, and all I could do was turn my face away and live with the pretense that I didn’t hear it. As weird as it sounded,  I didn’t want to disturb her sobs.

All I could do was be the sister who was the warrior. The strong one. The one who held it all together. Sometimes being too tough for your own good did actually have it’s perks. Sometimes courage came in different forms altogether.

You’re strong Khawlah, the voice said, as I tried to reason with myself. You’re a warrior.

A warrior. A warrior.

The flashes kept coming as I drifted into slumber. Where was the courage? Where was the fervor?

A battlefield. War. Hope. It was a vivid array of images, unlike any other dream I’ve had. I couldn’t picture it yet I couldn’t forget the visions.

The green shawl was wrapped around her loosely as she advanced. Her brother, Dirrar RA was a great skilled warrior of his time, and taught Khawlah RA  all she knew about fighting- from spearing, to martial arts, to sword-fighting. She was his companion wherever he went – be it at the market place or amidst the battlefield.

It is said that the love between these two siblings was on astounding. It was on another level. Given this level of love between the two, when Dirrar RA was captured in the battle of Ajnadin, it was said that Khawlah RA became hysterical and uncontrollable. She did not know whether her brother was alive or not, but on the hope and tawakkul in Allah that he was alive, she donned armor, jumped up a horse and galloped with the sole aim of saving her brother.

This wasn’t any fairytale or fictional story. No one can imagine- a female protagonist (under an armor, so no one knows she’s a female yet), taking on dozens of highly capable Roman soldiers at a time, to save her brother. The soldiers who saw her take on the enemy misjudged her to be Khalid ibn Waleed RA, the sword of Allah, who was leading the army at the time. SubhanAllah.

However, when they saw Khalid (رضي الله عنه), who was highly impressed as well… they were nothing short of astounded.

“Who is this?” was the question on every mind and tongue. A mystery soon to be revealed… 

My body shuddered as I woke up that morning, feeling slightly unsturdy, but mentally focused. I saw clearly now. It wasn’t just the erratic dawn light that was creeping in… I knew now what I had to do. As I watched my sister sleep, I knew that my calling was here. It was time that I had to step up… time to show my worth.  I couldn’t let anything else take preference now. Right now, my sister really needed me. She needed my courage. There was no question about it.

Every now and then, a trial and calamity would befall… but how we deal with it was a test. And although many may think that tribulations are the bigger test, but when Allah grants us ease… this is when we truly need to reflect and ponder over where our focus is. Pleasing Allah when times were good was the greatest test and best way of thanking Allah.

I prayed for ease after reading Fajr, and started to get ready for my day. Getting ready for school was a bit daunting, because I didn’t want to face Nusaybah. I loved my friend to bits, but I knew that the minute she saw me, she would know something was wrong.

How was I going to explain to her about Zuleikha? How would I tell her that I had changed my mind about the job? That was the part I was dreading the most. There was no way I could say yes now. I had to be rational. I had to control my heart.

I spent most of the day doing extra class work and trying to avoid Nusaybah, but as I predicted, as soon as she saw me, the she plagued me with questions.

“Please tell me. What’s wrong?”

Although I had only known her for a few months now, it was amazing how well she already knew me. I yearned to tell her everything… to just pour out my heart.. but something was stopping me. I couldn’t do that to my sister. I didn’t think that she would want anyone else to know about her pain. I felt so much older than my true age… I felt like the weight on my shoulders was so much more than the years I had lived.

”I’m turning down the job,” I said hastily, hoping she wouldn’t catch onto anything else.

Nusaybah’s face fell, and then she blinked and smiled sadly.

“I thought you were a goner,” she said, shaking her head. “When you saw that house and went all gaga over those kids… Woah, Khawlah… I was a bit concerned!”

I couldn’t help but smile at her expressions.

“And when you went gaga over that guy,” I teased her as I blocked my eyes, and then giggled.

Thinking about it, it was actually a little embarrassing. Nusaybah looked at me with wide eyes and then started laughing too. Her laugh was so jolly and infectious, that I couldn’t help but giggle too. She reminded me of Aunty Radiyyah, and I missed my motherly friend a little as I laughed with her, feeling free once again.

Everything that had happened had kind of imprisoned me. It had stifled my emotions, and now… now, I felt completely liberated as I chuckled away with her, forgetting all of my problems for just a little while of laughter.

I knew that just now, school would be over, and I’d have to go and explain to Rubeena that I couldn’t help her. I was dreading it because I knew that just being there, and seeing that inviting garden would sway my heart again.

I knew I was tough, but I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to withstand that. When it came to my love of natural beauty, I often found it intensely overwhelming. There was very little I could do to restrain myself… but I knew that this time…. I had to. For Zuleikha. I had to be there for her, right?

I took the road to the elite part of the estate alone, knowing that this was a task that I had to carry out by myself. It was no use dragging Nusaybah into it again. It wasn’t fair on her.

I knew what I had to tell Rubeena. Aunty Rubeena. I wasn’t sure what to call her. It didn’t even matter though. It’s not like I was going to have to address her a lot… so at that moment, I didn’t worry about it. I just carried on, through the pathway that led to the house, and the splendor that surrounded me.

I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to take it all in. Although my heart was inclining me otherwise, I knew that I had to control it.

With great struggle, I reached the door of the house unfazed by its exterior, knowing that the task of walking away would be much easier now. I held out my finger and pressed the buzzer easily, listening to it’s echo within the house.

The house was unusually quiet for a house of four small boys, and just when I thought that maybe no-one was home and I should leave… a turning of the lock sent my heart on a rapid torrent once again. It was crunch time, and the moment of truth.

As the door opened, Rubeena just took a glance at me, and I could literally see her entire demeanor change. Her slumped shoulders  straightened almost immediately, and her eyes kind of lit up. It was almost as if she was seeing me for the first time, in a completely different light. and the look on her face changed from sheer exhaustion to one of extreme relief.

“It’s you!” She said, smiling from ear to ear. She sounded absolutely elated. All my reservations simply went out the window as I saw her hopeful gaze. She was relying on me. She needed me.

It wasn’t about her gym. It wasn’t about her busy husband. I didn’t care about her routine that she needed to establish.

This time, it was about me. About what I knew I needed. Sometimes courage spoke beyond the boundaries of our understanding. Sometimes courage just meant doing what you truly meant to do.

I didn’t want to look her in the eye, but I finally plucked up the courage, and then… Then I knew that I just wouldn’t let her down.

2 thoughts on “Courage

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