Time would tell

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


Tell me, Khalid,” I said, letting my legs freely dangle below me, enjoying the soft breeze that caressed my skin. “Tell me about it. What did your father say?”

“About Jannah?” He asked, in his jolly voice. It was still childish. He was probably about 9 or 10 years old at the time. 

I nodded.

“Ah, Khawlah,” He said, sounding defeated. “It’s hard to explain. Papa says it’s a beautiful place that the eyes haven’t ever seen and the mind can’t even imagine. All the words we ever know will be finished… and we still won’t be able to explain it.”

I frowned thoughtfully. That sounded deep.

I shifted slightly on the branch of the biggest tree that we had climbed, trying to get myself to a more comfy spot. I still wanted to know more. I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t satisfied. It was a yearning that came from within.

“But the gardens, Khalid,” I insisted. “I want to know about the gardens.”

”Oh, that easy,” he said, with newly found wisdom. “Jannah is full of gardens, Khawlah. Huge trees. Flowers, roses, orchards… you name it. Even banks of pearls and gold! And Khawlah, you know what’s the best part? No-one will scold you if you pick them!”

I grinned. That would be awesome.

Abu Hurairah said that the Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “There is not a tree in Paradise, except that its trunk is made of gold.“ [At-Tirmidhee 2525]

“All those flowers, Khalid,” I said with wide eyes,  already mesmerized by my own childish imagination. “Can you imagine the colors… the smell?”

He nodded eagerly.

“The fragrance of Jannah will be smelt, like, a universe away. The greenery, Khawlah, will be like a blanket spread before you. Jannah, will be so comfortable….  that no one will be too hot or cold. And then… Papa said…  it’s not just rivers of water. The magical rivers will be water, milk and wine… and the taste and smell pwill never change. How cool is that?”

Jannah. Where beauty is spread out at your feet. The life of Paradise. Where anything that you want is just a thought away. His description of the gardens didn’t disappoint. That was the only thing I truly cared about. Gardens for me, meant bliss. Rivers of milk and honey. I would probably sit next to them the whole day.

But wine?

”What’s wine?” I asked innocently, and Khalid looked at me and frowned.

And then of course, he titled his head back in that oh-so-familiar way, opened his mouth to show his white teeth, and let out a rumble of heart-felt laughter, just like his mother always did. As funny as he thought I was, I wasn’t in the least amused.

I wanted to reach my hand out and whack him at the back of his head, but I was afraid of losing balance. The tree branch was already violently shaking from his hilarious laughter, and I frowned at him reproachfully as he chuckled away, obviously miffed at his response.

“Don’t worry, Khawlah,” He said, still smiling a me, even as I frowned at him with disdain. “When you’re older, you’ll find out.”

And he left it at that as Yunus shouted for us from below and we slowly made it down the branch of the highest tree in the yard.

I wasn’t even sure how we had got there, and it looked even more frightening as I glanced at it now as an adult, towering over the house. It was like we were made of pure adventure and fearless ambition. To climb that tree now… I would be scared to death.

Time. Time had changed a lot.


It’s actually quite astounding as to how much can change in what we recall as a relatively small amount of time. People grow. Things change. Most undeniably, much can be lost as well.

All with time. Each minute. Every moment. Because with every moment that passes, we are given a choice. A choice to eaither live by the conforms of society, or to break through. To progress. To focus on our faith, and grow it too.

I blinked now, as I stood in awe, still a little startled by what stood before me.

I couldn’t believe it. I was rendered speechless as I stood there, feeling awkward and at a complete loss.

I couldn’t forget. Suddenly, everything just seemed so clear. The energy. The drive. The restless ambition of youthful splendor. There was so much of it. It was both exhilarating yet exhausting, and I clearly remembered those days we spent, just soaking up the blazing sun and chatting about our childish aspirations. It was rainbow smiles and sheer bliss. The life I knew I would always miss.

This was before it all changed. I never thought that I would see that day, but here it was. And right in front of me, was the painful proof.

It was Khalid that spoke first, but not to me. He was behaving like he didn’t even know who I was. Maybe he didn’t.

“Maaaaa,” he shouted, turning away as he called. “Someone’s here for you.”

He turned back, his icy gaze settling on me once again. He eyed my hjijab, and then narrowed his eyes cynically.

It was definitely Khalid. But Khalid wasn’t Khalid. He was like some seriously deranged version that had morphed over the past few years.

What on earth had happened to him? He didn’t have to talk to me but he didn’t even make any effort to be polite. He was never like this.

My throat had turned dry and my palms were actually getting sweaty, as I waited under his scrutiny. Boy, he had a really serious way of making people feel uncomfortable.

I wanted him to know that I wasn’t scared of him. I was just annoyed at his rudensss. I didn’t want to look at him, but he was making it difficult as he stood there.

His hair had been styled in some weird mohawkish way, and he wore a chain around his neck. I narrowed my eyes.

It wasn’t this Khalid. And although I never admitted it back then, in my heart I always knew it. It wasn’t my Khalid.

Aunty Radiyyah’s footsteps were loud as they finally approached, and I could hear her voice pitch changing erratically.

“Khalid, don’t be so rude,” she half shouted. “Let the visitor in, what are you doing just…”

She trailed off as her gaze finally fell on me, and then widened her eyes emphatically.

She was definitely not expecting me, and I felt stupider than ever at that moment. I could literally hear hear shallow breaths as she stared at me, rather silently, and in shock.

It wasn’t me. I knew what it was. She didn’t want me to see Khalid. It wasn’t me. It was just that she didn’t want me to see him like this.


She breathed out, and it was then that Khalid sharply turned his gaze, and briskly walked away. I felt stunned. Completely stupefied as I witnessed it, my heart beating so violently that I was certain Aunty Radiyyah could hear it.

But of course she didn’t. She didn’t even seem to notice my disorientation. She just started her jovial chatter, as if there had been no awkwardness in the first place. It was so strange. Almost as if she was trying to hide something.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, biting my lip as I replied to her, still feeling awkwardtrying to explain my presence. “The garden. I came to see the garden.”

“My darling, don’t even worry about it,”  she beamed, and her smile returned back to its jovial version that I had known from way back when. I felt like she wanted to apologize about Khalid. But what did she really apologize for? Because he didn’t talk to me?

It didn’t matter, right? Boys and girls weren’t supposed to be friends.

The smile was still on her face. I missed it, even as I saw it… I missed the days when there was no pain lingering behind it’s warmth.

”You are always welcome here, my Khawlah,” said, weaving her way through the charming house that I remembered from when I was little. “Come.”

I could feel her energy as she ushered me through the kitchen and the back door. It was contagious. I soon forgot about Khalid and his behavior. If we were still kids I would have rattled him for acting like a nincompoop.

Instead, I glanced around appreciatively at the familiar surroundings, remembering they days of freedom and beautiful splendor I had spent there. I didn’t appreciate it then, but the openness and easiness there with the magical garden was the most perfect reminder of what I needed right then.

Surrounded by concrete and being lost in my own world hadn’t done much for me.

The fact was that, otherwise, I had gotten a little lost. I had forgotten the essence of life… and the purpose that we were supposed to remind ourselves of every day. Of course, as I stepped out, the scene before me was so striking that I almost stumbled over my feet as I gazed in awe.

The garden was amazing. Dazzling. Even more striking than I remembered.

“Oh my word,” I breathed, taking in the scent of the pungent roses that were next to the pathway going down.

There were rows. Rows and rows of roses, each of them a different colour, shade… and I dare say, a different scent too.


“When did this happen?” I asked, clearly in awe.

This was the essence. This was what I had forgotten. Our purpose here was to worship Allah Ta’ala. To praise Him.

Aubty Radiyyah didn’t answer. She just smiled and chatted about the birds that come to visit the garden ever so often, as I looked on, at the next bed in which lay some beautiful lilies that were at different stages of their bloom. They were just gorgeous. Their vivid colors were a true feast for the eyes.

“Oh gosh, Khawlah, I’m sorry,” Aunty Radiyyah said, now slapping her head as she turned to look to me. She stopped in her tracks. “I’m busy yapping away and I’m not even concentrating! You came to see your garden and I’m showing you all this!”

I wasn’t complaining. I was truly amazed at the magnificence. With just a few seeds and soil, the bounty that Allah can provide was unimaginable.

“You want to see your patch, right?” She said, turning to face the opposite direction. “It’s really grown.”

My patch? I didn’t even know I still had a patch. She guided me to another section of the garden that I now vaguely remembered. Little lilac flowers were on either side of the pathway, but as I came nearer I had to blink in disbelief as I saw it.

In front of me, where Aunty Radiyyah had stopped, was the hugest, and most beautiful pomegranate that was definitely  ready to be plucked from the sturdy tree. My eyes widened in sheer amazement.

“Wow…!” was all I could manage to say, astonished by the size and it’s most obvious beauty. It was perfectly rounded and shaded too.

“That’s yours,” Aunty Radiyyah said, and I thought she was taking about the pomegranate. I looked at her.

“Mine?” I asked. “You mean you left this one for me?”

Aunty Radiyyah shook her head, and then she tilted her head back in the way that she always had done, and let out a hearty old roar of twinkly laughter. It sounded a bit like clunky wind chimes that knocked together with the whimsical winds.

I couldn’t help but catch the giggles too as she chuckled, holding my tummy as I let her humour, humour me.

Gosh. It had been ages since I laughed that much. It felt so good.

“No, sweetheart!” Aunty Radiyyah finally said, still smiling as she looked at me.

“This,” she said, using both her hands to gesture to the tree and it’s surroundings. “Is all yours. The tree, the plants. Some things have grown, flowered, fruited… and withered away. But what’s here, is what you planted.”

I widened my eyes. I vaguely remembered grabbing some seeds from the shed and tossing them carelessly into the ground… but this… I didn’t expect. So much of splendour, I was not prepared for.

Aunty Radiyyah left me at that point, giving me the time I needed to digest the beauty before me. I couldn’t believe the pomegranate tree had actually grown and flowered. It was gorgeous. I knelt down and delved my open hands into the damp soil, savouring the feeling of it’s potential.

I still loved it. Even though I hadn’t had much time in the passed few months for my gardening, I was still very much in love with the essence of nature. It’s sheer independence and ability to stop me in my tracks always got me. It was like coming home.

And of course, I had forgotten the ever so familiar reminder that always came with gardening. The texture of the sand and it’s earthy frangrance was always a reminder for my feeble mind.

That the darkness within it had a deeper meaning. Death awaits. That will be our home. The darkness of the grave awaits…. and the earth which we play and toil for too would become our home, where we would eventually reside.

And just as I processed the reality and slipped into my once familiar routine of delving in and turning the darkened soil, a rustle in the bush behind me was all it took to make me jump. My heart was almost in my mouth.

I twisted my head around to attempt a scan of my surroundings, and was pleasantly surprised to see a pretty cat with a red collar idling up to me quite confidently.

“Mieeww,” he purred, slowly rubbing his head against my knee as he tested the waters. Maybe he thought I would give him a treat. Maybe he was just a friendly cat.

He was grey and white and he reminded me of Yunus’s cat. Well, the cat that had become Yunus’s by default.

Of course! I thought to myself, instantly linking the cats together. Khalid had given us the cat and had kept one too. It was the same colour… and of course… as it glanced at me, I couldn’t help but recognize those steely grey eyes.

Their resemblance was uncanny.

I frowned now, remembering Khalid again. Although I didn’t admit it, somewhere within me, I was disappointed. Upset and disappointed. And it wasn’t because Khalid had forgotten about me.. or pretended to. It wasn’t because he probably didn’t acknowledge our bond in childhood and now he barely knew me. I knew that time happened. I knew that it changed.

I also knew what was right. I knew that boys and girls couldn’t be friends.

I just didn’t want to accept how far he had gone. How much he had changed from the person I’d expected him to be. He seemed so far away from us… so far away from Deen. So far away from… what he always was.

I could see Aunty Radiyyah’s concern and almost feel her innermost concerns. He had become a rebel. Was a good home and awareness of Deen not enough anymore?

I was so confused.

I sighed, gently petting the cat that purred in appreciation, and though I appreciated the company too, he seemed ready to be on his way. Seemingly done with his little introduction to me, he turned to leave, heading straight for the shed where I couldn’t resist following him to.

I needed some tools too, and as I entered, I was a bit startled by the darkness in there.

I pulled down th slight switch in the corner, and amongst other things, spotted the familiar red spade that I had always used as a child. There were other spades lower down, but for some reason, I yearned for something familiar. Something that gave me some hope. Something that didn’t change, even with time.

I looked up, almost on tiptoes, as I attempted to reach for my favorite tool. It was higher than I thought, and I flattened my hand, stretching my fingers out to feel for its wooden handle. I couldn’t see it, but my fingers did the searching, and just as I grasped it, something soft shifted out form beneath, and landed with a soft thud on the floor near my foot.

The spade was already in my hand now, and whilst I momentarily savored it’s well-needed familiarity, with the other hand I reached down to put the stray packet back on the shelf.

It was a blue paper bag that was stapled on the top, and whilst I attempted to toss it back on the shelf, the writing on the back of it kind of caught me off-guard. I stopped in my tracks as I processed it.

Khawlah, it simply said.

I was beyond myself with nervous excitement. What was it? It looked so old… did it get left behind? I couldn’t even remember.

Of course, now bursting with curiosity, I couldn’t resist tearing of the paper with haste. My fingers were slightly dusty, but I hastily wiped them on my pants and turned the book over. And I was glad I did.

The title was exactly what I needed. It gave me hope. Ambition. Most of all, it convinced me that it wasn’t the end. Not for me. Not for my family. Not even for Khalid.

Sometimes we don’t see things the way we need to. Sometimes we just need something seemingly small to dispel our worries, and give us some magic once again. There was always a hope beyond what we know right then and right now. There was always a lantern waiting to light up the darkness. A hope for a special place that made it all okay, once again.


The title said, and it didn’t need any caption. It was self explained. It was sheer bliss. It was all-encompassing.

At this point, no-one really knows… but we can all have a hope. Earn it’s pleasures. Pray for admittance.

And of course, right then, as I thought of it all, I knew.

Only time would tell.



Lost Moments

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem 


Beautiful moments are not always perfect ones.

Some people say that they are unforgettable. Moments that stay with you. Moments that have a special place in your heart, no matter what the situation is, or how dull things may seem.

But there’s no other way to see them than this: Like the streams of light finding their way through the tiny gaps of rickety shutters .. Beautiful moments are like that. No matter what life has thrown at you, they simply blow you away.

“Muhammad,” Zuleikha beamed, wincing slightly in pain as she sat down.  “His name is Muhammad.”

I smiled as I watched him, his tiny little fists still as he slept, and his mouth making little movements, almost as if he was still hungry or sucking on an imaginary dummy. I thought he would cry as I placed him down in the little crib that Zuleikha had brought, but he didnt. He gave a tiny moan and settled again, into a deeper sleep, into his own little world. He was so amazingly special. Not to mention, extremely adorable too.

Now, by then, I’d had my fair share of experience with little humans. I was actually beginning to miss the ones I’d become accustomed to quite intensely. Looking at the little bundle and having Zuleikha here was a welcomed distraction.

I gazed at him tenderly. I stil couldn’t believe that he was my nephew.

“So when are you going home?” I asked her, eyeing out the bag she had placed on the floor. It wasn’t very big.

Zuleikha shrugged nonchalantly. She had arrived in the morning, a few days post-birth, and though a surprise, it was great to have them both.

“I don’t know,” she said, and looked away.

She seemed to have something on her mind, but I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to delve into it, because during these past days, my sister seemed so much more at peace. Content. Satisfied.

I realized something beautiful about her at that moment, as I watched both my sister and nephew. Although she may have drifted away, at that moment, her heart was so in synch with reality, that it amazed me.

She had surrendered. Submitted. She had wholeheartedly accepted that even though she had gone a little off track, and forgotten Who she owed everything to, Allah had never forgotten her.

I could feel her peace. There’s always salvation in admitting defeat. The peace of prostration. To stay in that position, with your head lowered. To stay humbled and wait, until He raises you.

When you’ve had th world and searched it for what can be found behind every closed door or even the quietest corners… and then… you finally find Him.

There’s nothing that comes close to that. 

It was so ironic that it reminded me of what she had told me once as a child. Finding life a little unfair at that point in time, Zuleikha had gently reminded me of the essence of a believer.

The beautiful thing about the lives of the Sahabah RA, Khawlah, was that, even though their every breath was that of a surrendered believer, they never called themselves Mu’mins. They just submitted. Whatever it took. Whatever came their way. They submitted and they overcame…”

Thats what we should strive for. That’s the essence of a true Mu’min. Reading my books about the Sahabah again after ages, these few days, was a welcome reminder of what we needed to strive for.

It was about being the perfect believers. It was just about submitting.

I remembered that chat I had with her at the hospital. Zuleikha seemed a lot more focused now. I didn’t often find her in a kind of aimless daze, like I would before.

Besides the fact that Ahmed was nowhere to be found, everything in the household had returned to its former routine. Abba didn’t seem to worried. He said that Ahmed knew how to look after himself. I mean, it was Abba who had been intensely training Ahmed for situations like this and although I wished that Ahmed hadn’t pulled the trigger that night, the best thing he could do now was to let the whole thing blow over.

I sighed, just a little exhausted with all that had happened during the past few weeks. Jameel and Zuleikha. Ahmed. Rubeena.

Everything was so … tiring. I felt drained.

“What are you thinking about?”

Zuleikha’s voice broke through my thoughts as I paced the room, a little unaware of what exactly I was doing.

“I was just thinking,” I said carefully. “How everything works out… in the end.”

“Is it the end?”

“No,” I replied, with a slight smile. “But it’s definitely getting there. You’re looking like you’re in a better place too, Zulz. You’re not looking stressed. Everything sorted out between you and Jameel?”

This was the first time I asked her directly about the issues in her marriage. I had been getting hints here and there about the state of affairs but she had never said anything solid. Now, she looked at me with a slight frown, thinking before she answered.

“I have to learn to stand on my own feet, Khawlah,” she said, looking pensive. “I have to make my own decisions now. I have a little life that depends on me. The counselor at the hospital…”

She trailed off and widened her eyes slightly, feeling perturbed by her last few words.

Counselor? I didn’t know that Zuleikha had seen a counselor.

Aunty Radiyyah’s words came back to me once again, and I felt jolted awake at their magnanimity. I had almost forgotten just how serious and life changing her situation was.

”Your sister is in a lot of trouble, Khawlah,” she had said, speaking quietly, because she didn’t want the rest of the house to hear. It was the first time I had heard Aunty Radiyyah speak so softly. “Her marriage is breaking. Her husband is not to be trusted. He doesn’t like Ahmed, and I’ve heard that he wants to hurt him. He has a reputation of dealing with bad people. Please, my darling… please look out for her. Look out for you all. Look out for Ahmed. You’re strong, Khawlah. You’re strong. I know you can do it.”

Zuleikha looked at me now with determination in her eyes.

“Anyway,” she said blandly. “I’m working through my stuff. Jameel says he’s going to be a better father. He knows he has to change.”

I nodded. She felt guilty. She felt guilty about what happened with Ahmed, and she was trying to make up for it too. Maybe she was doing the right thing. I wasn’t sure. Maybe she was.

Hearing Zuleikha’s hope made me hopeful too. I wanted my sister to be happy, and I didn’t want my nephew growing up on a home that was broken too.

Things were looking up. I prayed that they would stay that way as we went along with our day-to-day lives, until Zuleikha had to go back home.

I missed them when they left. It was like an ache that wouldn’t go away, and it was only after a few days that I realized that all this time, I had just been filling the gap. I missed the kids I used to look after, and now that Zuleikha was gone, that gap was now empty once again.

School had become routine, and every day was more or less the same. It was Nusaybah who kept the day alive, with her bubbly stories and constant chatter. She was truly an awesome friend to have, and I loved that she always brought some light to the dullness of the day. She would often burst into laughter for no apparent reason, and I found it hard to believe that such a small person held so much of joy.

It was Nusaybah who gave me the idea of getting back into my hobby once again.

“You’ve lost your fire, girl,” she said, shaking her head and tut-tutting at me. “You’re behaving like an abandoned puppy.”

”I miss the kids,” I said, sounding a little defeated than usual that day. “And Zuleikha. Maybe I will go and see her later.”

“Again?” She retorted, looking shocked because I had just gone the day before. “Give your sister some peace. Let her sort out her life.”

I sighed. There wasn’t much that I kept from Nusaybah, and I valued her advice.

So that day, I delved into my books again, and fate just had it that I picked the one that Aunty Radiyyah had given me as a little girl.

I hastily opened the book, gliding my fingers over the writing that was at the front. Aunty Radiyyah’s.

Her personality was so alive. Boisterous. Nusaybah reminded me so much of her. Maybe there was a sign here.

I smiled as I opened it, letting myself get lost in the world of the little girl who had lost her mother. The feelings were so familiar, yet still affected me so deeply. As I finished it, about 45 minutes later, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.

I missed Aunty Radiyyah. Her laugh. Her smile. Even her loud voice. The beautiful moments I had spent at her house were now a distant memory, but it didn’t mean that I could never see her again.

As she left, I remembered her words clearly as they came back to me.

“Your beautiful garden is waiting for you, my beautiful girl.”

My garden. She had always called it my garden. Not Khalid’s, although he had probably spent as much time there as me. She always had said that when I wasn’t there, Khalid wouldn’t even step outside. I supposed that was when it became my garden.

And of course, the last time she was here, she had quite obviously said that I could come and see it whenever I wanted to.

Why not? Why not today?

It was a Friday and Abba was home. I’m sure he would take me if I asked him. I dressed quickly, getting permission and making my way to Abba’s car.

I was already excited, as we drove through the streets of our quiet neighborhood. Going back to the street where we used to stay would be trip that would bring back a lot of memories, and I could see Abba stiffen slightly as we entered, almost as if he was anxious. He relaxed slightly as we passed our house, slowly turning to look inside.

Our old house still looked the same. It was still cream and double story, but there were different cars parked in the driveway. I almost expected to see little Yunus run out of the garage door or Zuleikha shout to us from the window, but with a pang, I realized that those days were long gone. Things were different now. Everyone was different too. We had all changed in so many ways.

So many memories. So many hopes. Those little minds held many aspirations and countless ambitions….

I blinked my eyes, trying to erase the past from my mind.

Aunty Radiyyah’s house was coming up, and I quickly averted my mind and looked up, ready to jump off.

My heart hammered as I spotted it. I could see it. I could already see the flowering creepers making their way further up the terraced wall, as we approached. The house was very much the same, but it had an heir of exuberance that I never noticed before. Colors had changed, and I could literally smell the freshness of it all I stepped out into the open and took a deep breath.

That garden. That garden. It was my haven, and I could already feel myself being summoned to it as I climbed the step to the front door, realizing that I’d never entered from there before.

I simply couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait to sink my hands into the dewy earth. I couldn’t wait to revile in the scent of nature, once again. It’s calmness and serenity would be just what I would need.

I breathed in deeply, already lost in my own little world. And then it hit me.

How stupid could I be?

I didn’t even check if Aunty Radiyyah was home! I didn’t even check if I could come. What if she was busy? Worse, what if she wasn’t home? It was just a simple etiquette that I had forgotten.

I let out an exasperated sigh, hoping for the best as I pressed the doorbell. It had been so long. The memories of Yunus, Khalid and I playing in the patio all replayed in my mind as I waited. Where had the time gone to? How did it all go so fast?

Those were unforgettable times. Beautiful moments that I could hardly define.

I breathed out as I heard footsteps come to the door, relieved that I wouldn’t be waiting outside until Abba came back for me.

I braced myself for Aunty Radiyyah’s dynamic voice, and without doubt, her warm embrace. She was always so welcoming, that I hadn’t prepared myself for anything else. I hadn’t expected anything less.

The door swung open as I looked on, and I blinked in surprise, hardly believing my eyes.

My eyes were still adjusting to the darkness inside, and I still wasn’t sure if I was seeing right

It had been years. Almost 5 years. The time had seemed to go so fast, but at that moment, it felt like it was just yesterday that I had left this life behind.

Instead of Aunty Radiyyah, steely grey eyes peered at me enquiringly, with a hint of something that I couldn’t recognize.

Was it hostility? Disappointment? Maybe even resentment? I wasn’t sure, and I had a feeling that I didn’t want to find out.

I swallowed hard, feeling awkward as I cleared my throat, hoping that the right words would come out of my own mouth.

It was like Murphy’s Law. Even when you have so much to say, something happens that spins you around… and then… you just get stuck.

Aunty Radiyyah’s last words to me as she left that day. The truth of it stuck me now, and the hurt in her eyes was now clearer than ever.

“Don’t lose her, Khawlah. Don’t lose your sister. Sometimes, you can lose someone even when they’re right there. Sometimes, you can miss them, even when they are right next to you. Sometimes, you can have everything but you can’t have peace. That’s the worst type of loss.”

She took a breath, and that’s when I saw it. It was almost like it wasn’t there, but once again, the flicker of untold hurt entered her eyes again, clear as day.

Trust me, my Khawlah,” she said, In almost a whisper.

I know. I know exactly what it’s like.”


Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


“Where is she?”

My father reached the top of the stairs as I came out, a worried look on his face.

“She’s inside,” I said, with a tiny smile.

I had just witnessed the most beautiful moment for my sister, and my mind was still wrapped in the amazement of it all. Amidst the worry that consumed me, I was still in awe of the miracle that came in that little bundle of joy.

“Is she okay?” He asked anxiously. “And the baby?”

I nodded silently. Abba was looking more like himself these days. The worries that had seemed to consume him were fading and his happiness now was quite visible. Yunus was there too, and they both looked exceptionally relieved at the news.

“When can we go in?” Yunus asked, shifting on his feet nervously.

My younger brother had changed a lot over the years. Yunus was generally the nervous type, and although he was always busy with some sport or activity, close contact with other people put him on edge. He wasn’t exactly sociable, and as he grew up, I found him withdrawing a lot. I wished I could speak to him and get through to him more… but somehow, as we grew up, things just changed.

Both Yunus and Abba headed for the room while I stayed back, just trying to catch my breath.

So much had happened in such a short time, and I couldn’t help but be completely blown away by the beauty of it.

Seeing Zuleikha there with a little baby was so moving, yet awesome.

“Did you see him?” She asked me, her eyes shining with something that I’d seen once before. I couldn’t seem to place the look she had in her eyes… but its presence was remarkably familiar.

I nodded.

“He’s beautiful, Masha Allah,” I said as i caught a glimpse and the nurse wheeled him away. He was. “Looks like you.”

She smiled at me, and I could see that she was in pure ecstasy. I couldn’t quite believe it too. I was an aunty.

“How’s Jameel?” I said, knowing that I had to ask. “Happy that his baby is here?”

Her expression hardened, and she blinked. It was like I had yanked her out of the little happy place that she ha been in, the moment I said his name.

“Ahmed,” she said, her voice shaking. “Where’s Ahmed? Did you hear what happened?”

I nodded. I knew that Ahmed had shot Jameel. Intense guilt consumed me as she said it, because I knew that whatever grudge Ahmed had acted on was due to information that I was responsible for giving him. I couldn’t tell Zuleikha that now, though. I stayed silent.

“Everything was so crazy,” she said, her eyes darting from side to side as she recollected the days events in her mind. “Ahmed… Jameel… and then… the blood. Khawlah, there was so much of blood! I can’t remember much after that, but honestly, I can’t believe that I actually got through this day.”

She sounded tired as she sighed, her worried eyes watching me.

“And then he came,” she said, after a few seconds, and the dreamlike haziness entered her eyes one again. “And I just could not believe how lucky I was. How perfect he was. Khawlah, motherhood is the most beautiful feeling ever. But when you are on your own….”

She trailed off there as she swallowed, and I moved closer to hold her hand. She looked up at me and her eyes were desperately seeking mine, almost begging me for some hope… some inspiration that she needed to hear.

I grasped her hand a little tighter, knowing exactly what to say.

“You are never alone,” I whispered to her. “Never. Even when life knocks you down on your knees… remember, Allah is placing you in the perfect position to pray.”

Zuleikha looked up at me in wonder, and slowly, as her eyes lit up again, she nodded.

“Remember how mama used to say to you, Khawlah? Remember?”

Of course, I thought to myself, looking away… not able to say the words. How could I forget?

I could almost hear her voice. After all these years… I still couldn’t forget. I could almost picture her saying it.

Allah. He was always there. 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.”

By then, I had tears in my eyes, but I hastily wiped them away. I didn’t want her to see it.

“I want to change, Khawlah,” Zuleikha whispered, her voice shaky as she wept. “I don’t want to be like this… I don’t want to be stuck. How did Mama do it, Khawlah? I cant even be half of that! I want my son to know the beauty of Deen that we knew as we grew up… I want him to learn his Kalimahs and go to madrassa…I want him to learn the Sunnah and practice it. Khawlah, I’ve gone so far away… ! I don’t know how to do it. I’m not strong enough, Khawlah… I’m not strong enough. I’m not like you…”

She was broken. A broken girl from a broken home… like the little girl I had left behind, so many years ago.

I placed my hand on my sister’s, swallowing my own emotion before I spoke.

“You  are strong, Zuleikha” I said calmly, keeping my hand firmly on Zuleikha’s. “You just don’t know it. Speak to Him. Allah will guide you. He is always listening… and right now, He knows exactly what you need to do.”

And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” (Surah Ghafir, verse 60)

Her hazel eyes were overflowing with tears as she spoke, but she wasn’t finished. There was still one more thing that she needed to say. One more thing that she needed me to know.

She turned her face away momentarily, and the streaks on her face glistened as I watched her.

She didn’t look at me as she said her next sentence, and I almost missed it completely.

“There’s one more thing, Khawlah,” she almost whispered, and I inched forward in an attempt to grasp her words.

I nodded solemnly.

“Promise me,” she said, her hand clenching and unclenching, almost as if she was releasing a rage from within her.

I nodded again.

“Promise me, Khawlah,” she repeated, as I nodded once more. I didn’t trust myself to speak.

“Don’t let them lie to you,” she said, and I looked at her in confusion.

“Don’t let the money, cars and status make you lose yourself,” she said, and my heart beat faster as I wondered why she was telling me this. “Even if he promises you the world, Khawlah… stay away. In the end, it’s not worth the heartache. At the end of the day, to his family, you’re just going to be the poor girl who has no mother.”

She spat out the last few words with such venom that my heart pounded violently at it’s ferocity. I widened my eyes in disbelief, unnerved by her directness. What was she saying? What did she know?

I wasn’t sure if she was talking about me or herself. The reality of what my sister was going through was sinking in, and I didn’t like it. Aunty Radiyyah’s words resound in my head.

My heart was still thudding in my chest as I walked out, barely able to put one foot in front of the other as I walked.

I answered Abba’s questions as normally as I could, keeping my voice stable.

She was okay, I assured him. She had just had a baby. It wasn’t abnormal for her to be in a bit of pain.

Right now though, I had other concerns on my mind. Zuleikha’s words just before I left the room were still with me.

“Go check on Ahmed,” she said as I walked out, sounding worried. “Now you know why I don’t trust Jameel.”

In her entire married life, my sister had never so much as uttered a negative word against her husband. Everything had always seemed rosy and perfect. Although I might have had doubts about him myself, nothing she ever said ever confirmed that.

Today, everything was new. Shocking. Inconsistent. Like her whole life, thus far, had been a horrible hoax. I couldn’t help but feel betrayed and hopeless.

I nodded and headed home with Foi Nani, who was exhausted from the day spent at the hospital. As much as she didn’t like to admit it, Foi Nani was getting old and a bit cranky too. I felt a bit sorry for her as she climbed up the stairs to our home. I remembered the days when she had taken the place of Mama, and been there for us as we grew up. She was the one constant we had… and as a child, constants were really important. As a kid… you crave that person who you know, no matter what, is always around.

I thought of the children that I looked after, realizing something that I’d never processed before.

I was their constant.

With the exception of weekends, for the past year or so, I had been the one thing that was consistent for them. Every day, our routine… though changing at times; we had a certain continuity that kids in general thrived on. The responsibility alarmed me, but a sense of possessiveness comforted me. I couldn’t let the down. I wanted to always be there for them, no matter what. When Danyaal had uttered the words that struck my heart, I already knew… I couldn’t let them down. I couldnt control my own heart. It was swelling with love.

I just didn’t know that some things, even the heart couldn’t control.

I held Foi Nani’s hand as she struggled up the stairs, thinking how fast time goes by. There was a time when she would be the one holding my hand as I struggled to step up… hoisting me along and prompting me to take that one more step as a little girl. When Mama was sick, it was Foi Nani who looked after us, making sure we were taken care of, bathed, changed and the whole lot of care that’s comes with bringing up little kids. I patiently waited as she took the last step, tears stinging my eyes when I processed that she might not have that many chances left to climb those steps again.

“Where’s Ahmed?” Foi Nani finally asked as she caught her breath, and I remembered about my brother again.

A thudding in my chest signalled the warning that something may be up, but with a mixture of hope and fear, I searched the house, hoping he would be hiding somewhere here for now. As much as Ahmed wasn’t scared, he also wasn’t stupid.

He wasn’t in his room but I wasn’t yet worried.

It was only after Maghrib that my feelings took a bit of a plummet. Now that darkness was overtaking the day, my fears were escalating. He hadn’t called either.

The shrill ringing of the phone got all our hopes up after Salaah, and I hastily grabbed the receiver, greeting and speaking into the it with purpose. It was Ahmed’s voice I was now aching to hear.

”’salaam,” the voice replied back to me, but already my hopes were shattered because it was a female on the line. I wasn’t despondent.  Maybe the call would at least bring some news about my brother.

“Khawlah?” The voice asked, and I vaguely recognized it.

“Yes, it is she,” I replied. “Who is this? Are you calling about my brother?”

I had to ask. The desperation was overwhelming.

”Khawlah, it’s me, Ruby.”

My heart plummeted to somewhere near my feet.

Ruby. Rubeena. What on earth was she doing calling my house phone now? At this hour.

“Oh,” I said, my thoughts hazy, because I couldn’t focus. I was still consumed with worry. What did she want?

“I needed you to spend some extra time here tomorrow,” she started, not even waiting for a further response. “I have a date with the girls and then the usual. But I’ll run a bit late because Matt is shifting my session to accommodate my luncheon. So yeah, I’ll be late. I hope you will wait till six. If Shabeer is home early you can leave, but not before 5.30 because you know him. He won’t manage alone with the kids for over half an hour.”

I could picture her rolling her eyes as she paused for a breath.  I couldn’t believe her audacity. She didn’t even ask. She just demanded.

Matt was her trainer and it was a bit weird that she had a male trainer, but I didn’t ask any questions. It was her life, after all. Rubeena wasn’t exactly the type that you could get through to easily.

“Rubeena,” I said stiffly, knowing that I needed to tell her in a diplomatic way that I have a bit of a family crisis. “My sister just had a baby. Things may be a bit crazy. Can I confirm with you?”

Besides, Abba will never let me stay out till so late. It got dark early these days.

“What do you mean?” She asked, sounding peeved that I didn’t just relent. She was used to getting her way.

“I’m going to have to ask my father,” I said, trying to explain that I can’t do as I pleased. Although I was nearly fifteen, I was barely a grown up.

“Can’t you just ask him now?!” She snapped, sounding annoyed.

“He’s at the masjid,” I said, pursing my lips. Not that she could see, but I was getting pretty annoyed too.

“Listen, Khawlah,” she said, in a no-nonsense tone. “I need to know ASAP, because I can’t cancel anything so you just need to be here.”

I wasn’t sure whether to say it. I didn’t want to risk sounding cocky, but I also didn’t want to commit in case I couldn’t make it.

What if Ahmed was still missing? What if Zuleikha needed me? She was probably going to leave the hospital tomorrow… and even if she wasn’t coming home like we thought, she might still want me with her.

I had to tell her. I had to let her sort herself out for once. I was tired of being bossed around.

“I don’t think I’ll make it,” I finally said. “I think you should cancel for tomorrow.”

I knew that she wouldn’t like it. I thought that she might ask her brother. He would be a better option than a helper or some stranger. At least he cared about the kids and they seemed to really like him.

Despite the impression I had gotten the first time Nusaybah and I had met him…. he  had actually surprised me.

I could hear Rubeena’s shallow breathing on the phone. The silence was a bit deafening.

“I have a better idea,” she said, and I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

Her next words were as icy as a snow storm. I wished that I hadn’t opened my mouth, but it was already too late as she uttered the final blow.

I didn’t know that she would dare to put a spanner in the already messed up works.

“If I cant rely on you, Khawlah,” she snapped with dismay. “I’d rather just find someone else.”

And with that, there was a click of the phone and she cut the call.




The First Mistake

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


The day that Zuleikha gave birth was a rollercoaster for the entire family. With the ups and downs of emotions, all I could do by the end of the day to avoid dropping to the ground was dwell on the simultaneous splendor and heartache of it all.

Motherhood. Over the past few years I had seen many different types… different forms. Mama was, of course, the highlight that would never escape my mind. Aunty Nas was the rejected substitute, and I didn’t wish that for anybody ever. Although I saw Hannah from time to time in school, and she seemed to turn out okay, I didn’t think that her mother’s methods in our home were ideal.

And then there was Rubeena. She was the typical spoilt and privileged housewife, who took motherhood in her stride and did the least possible for her children, whilst shrugging off the necessary tedious  tasks to an underpaid employee. Although she wasn’t a bad person, I found myself thinking often that as a mother, I would never want to be anything like her.

Because when I saw Zuleikha with her baby, I just knew. I knew that no matter what, Zuleikha comprehended the value of this. I knew that she wouldn’t take this as a light thing. I knew that not only would she devote herself selflessly to the task at hand, but she would also do it with the utmost love and care.

I wasn’t being biased. I just knew my sister.

“I have to go,” I hastily rambled into the receiver, glad that Rubeena had answered the phone on the first ring. “My sister went into labor. She has no one else. I need to go.”

I knew that I was sounding slightly deranged but I couldn’t help it. This was something of an emergency.

“You can’t leave the kids alone!” She almost shouted, and I held the phone away from my ear as she did so.

Her helper had left. Again. So me leaving with no-one around was impossible.

“Of course,” I said, my voice now calm. “I jus’ thought that maybe you could come home earlier.”

”I’m in the middle of my Pilates session!” she snapped, not even attempting to hide her annoyance. She sighed, and I almost thought she was going to apologize.

Of course, she didn’t.

“I’ll check if Shabeer could come home a bit earlier for a change,” she said, sounding a bit calmer. “After all, they are his children.”

She cut the call after that and I paced the room, picking up balls and other gadgets that were lying around. If her husband was coming now I needed to make sure the house looked decent. I had yet to meet him, although I had seen the back of him once while he was getting into his fancy car. Other than that, he was still a mystery.

I paced the room a couple of times, checking on the kids a few times while the two middle ones played with some LEGO’s  quietly, for a change. The smallest was still napping and the biggest was busy with some school work. He stared intently into the book as I offered to read the rest of the instructions. They were turning out to be pretty good kids, and since I had cut back on technology and made them devote more time to the beautiful garden and regular play, I saw a major change in their moods. They were friendlier, more alert… and definitely, they were on the most excellent behaviour they had ever been.

”Are you going now?” Danyaal asked me asked as I sidled up to him, checking on his work. “So soon?”

I smiled at him and ruffled his hair.

“My big sister needs my help,” I said to him quietly, squatting slightly so I could be eye to eye with him while I spoke. “She’s having a baby and I want to be there for her.”

Of all the others, he was big enough to understand. He nodded solemnly with a serious expression on his face.

“Like when Mum had Zaydaan,” he said seriously. “I helped a lot. To bring nappies and the wet wipes. You know mummy even called me the big brother helper?”

I smiled again.

“I’m sure you were the best helper ever,” I said, nodding at him.

His expression changed suddenly.

“I miss Mummy,” he said, looking morose.

My heart sank. What did I tell him?

His mother barely spent much time with them. Especially since I was around and her training routine had become more intense… she was barely at home. When she came home it was time for bed and then school was the next day.

“And now you’re going early too,” he continued sadly. “I’m going to miss you too.”

My heart contracted slightly as I heard the sincerity in his little voice.

Kids. They were just so… real.

“Mummy says Dad will come,” I assured him, hoping it would cheer him up.

Instead, the little creases on Danyaal’s forehead deepened.

“Dad’s got no time,” he said, sounding strangely like a grown up. “He’s always busy on his phone or his laptop. Mummy also says she’s doing work but I see her taking selfies all the time. Is that grown up’s work?”

I stifled a giggle as he looked at me questioningly. How did he even know about selfies?!

“Your mummy and daddy love you very much, Danyaal,” I said to him now, not wanting to entertain the selfie topic. “And they know just how special you are… even if they don’t say it all the time. I’m sure they wished that they could play with you the whole day if they didn’t have work to do.”

Danyaal didn’t look very convinced. I felt sorry for him. How did you explain to a child why their parents didn’t have time for them? How did you explain to them why love doesn’t go beyond nice toys and those three words? I was stumped.

And even more so when he uttered his next words.

“Khawlah, I think I love you.”

He said it so naturally, but the enormity of his words just stunned me. I swallowed hard as he turned back to his books, without any expectation.

It was just so real. No conditions. No reservations. For a child, love was so natural and unconditional.

“Tell him,” a deep voice from behind us said, and I jumped as I heard it.

I didn’t even hear the car pull in or anyone open the door. I was so busy taliking to Danyaal that I noticed nothing.

Instead of finding a strange man there, who I assumed would be the boys’ father, a familiar face looked in as I froze, a little stunned by his presence right then.

It had been months since I had seen him, and I knew it was because Rubeena didn’t want him here when I was around. Maybe she sensed my feelings or caught on to my  concerns… but it looked like she just wanted to keep the two of us as far apart as possible and I was so glad. It would mean that I didn’t have to lie to Ahmed every time he asked. It would mean I didn’t have to risk any more sin.

“Tell him,” Adam continued, looking quite serious. “Tell him that you love him too.”

My heart beated momentarily in my chest and I opened my mouth.

I wanted to tell him, but I didn’t want to just say it. How did I make it as real as he did?

“Uncle Adam!” Dayyaan said before I could get word in. I breathed out, a little relieved. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with Rubeena’s brother eavesdropping on our conversation but I couldn’t do much about it now.  I also wished that I had said what I needed to Danyaal… but now it was too late. I had to leave.

The kids were now occupied with their uncle who they were thrilled to see, and I grabbed my bag as I whispered to Danyaal in his ear that I’d catch up with him tomorrow.

Abba was waiting at home for me, and I knew that I would have to run really fast to stop him from thinking anything suspicious about me. He still thought that I went to Nusaybah to do my homework, and although I didn’t lie, I didn’t correct him either. He had just never asked again.

I made salaam to the boys, who were literally all over their uncle. They loved him to bits because he had time for them.

”You know Aadam was the first Prophet?” Dayyaan said to his uncle, making the connection with the names. “Khawlah told us the story. Allah made him with sand and made him alive.”

I could see Adam smile. And then, he looked at me.

That was when I made the first mistake. I smiled.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not like that. I wasn’t smiling at him. It just happened that he caught my eye as I smiled and as he locked eyes with me, I couldn’t help but notice his new look.

My obsessed friend, Nusaybah, would always describe him as unforgettably handsome, and although she might have argued that he still was, something major had happened in his life to spark some changes.

I immediately realized my error, and headed for the door in haste. What was I doing?

I didn’t mean to stare. I didn’t even want to look at him, since the risk of giving him a false impression was so high. But he just caught me unawares. Instead of the modern, gelled hair type that I had known him to be… Adam was changing. His hair was different, and instead of just stubble on his formerly clean-shaven face, the guy was actually sporting a proper beard.

At least it was good news for Nusaybah, I told myself, shrugging away the ugly feeling that had invaded my conscience.

I couldn’t risk that happening again. I had to be more careful in future. Shaytaan had to be put at bay.

I forcefully shifted my mind to the kids and how amazingly special they were. Every kid was, for that matter. Their feelings, their thoughts… and their unminced words. They were so unique and admirable. Those little humans were so much more than they were given credit for, and truly, I had come to love them unreservedly too.

I sighed, wishing that I would realize the enormity of it if I were ever to be a mother. Allah reminded us in the Qur’an that our children were a test for us. To do the best and fulfill their rights was a reward unimaginable. I know Zuleikha would be a good mother  but I truly wished that she knew just how much she was getting herself into here.

Zuliekha. I had to get to Zuleikha. The sinking feeling I had felt returned as I remembered, and though I knew it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t help how I was feeling.

Guilt. I was ridden with guilt since I heard about the drama that had unfolded that day, and my heart thudded in my chest, knowing that it could bring so much more than we could handle right now. If anything had to happen to Abba or Ahmed or even Yunus… I knew I would blame myself.

I sucked in my breath as I walked, anxious to get home, but Abba was one step ahead of me. I was so lost in thought that neither did I hear the car coming up or hear him calling me.

I jumped in as he pulled up, urgently gesturing to me.

I was still breathing a little heavy.

“Assalamualaikum,” I said, hoping Abba would not ask many other questions.

Abba replied to me and continued to drive. He didn’t say anything about Zuleikha. I supposed he was worried. Foi Nani was already at the hospital and Yunus was getting a lift with a friend from soccer. Abba didn’t mention Ahmed. I should have known that’s something was up but I forced myself to ignore it, hoping for the best. I just didn’t know how bad it would be.

Ahmed. For Ahmed, I was worried.

It all started the day Aunty Radiyyah came home to see me. She had come with good intentions, of course, but the news that she brought wasn’t good. It was something we needed to know… something she hoped would help the family to stabilize again. Something that would bring some hope for us once again.

She had had a dream about Mama. My Mama. She didn’t go into details but the gist of what we neeeded to know was that Zuleikha was in trouble. She was going through some tough times… and eventually, it would affect us all.

Now, I know it was just a dream. Sometimes, dreams are just dreams. But sometimes, there are deeper meanings to it and when Aunty Radiyyah looked into the situation… she found some facts that were quite alarming. She found something that could potentially hurt us really, really badly.

And, innocently, and ridden with worry, I made the first mistake.

I told Ahmed.

The Silver Lining

Note: Dearest readers. I’m so sorry for the delay. I will be posting soon again to make up for it, InshaAllah 

A 🌸

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


Many people in life live just for the moments. They are searching. Craving. Hoping to find that one moment, that will define them. 

The moments make them. It makes them run… cry… sometimes…

 Even fall.

But the heart of what makes us run… after anything…. is simply love. The need to give and receive love. This need has been put in us by the Creator. And every need created by God, has been created for a purpose. The need to give and receive love was created as a driver.

You see, we began with our Lord, and He wants us to come back to Him in this life—even before we come back to Him in the next. So He puts inside us, drivers intended to bring us back. Intended to bring us back Home.

But our problem is we get lost along the way.

More than a thousand times a day, we are ‘born’… We forget that each birth is a new opportunity to start over, to turn around, or to keep going. To rise higher, to heal, to grow. To be different. To be better. To grow. To transform.

But mainly… To return. Through Tawbah.
The problem is… we’re too busy dying.

”I’m dying! I’m dying!”

It was Jameels voice that was murmuring, and as the fluid continued to trickle down my leg, I held my breath, gaping at my brother. 

“He’s overreacting,” Ahmed said, throwing his hands up in the air.

What had he done?

The pistol was nowhere in sight.  He walked over to where Jameel was laying, and I watched him with my mouth hanging open. 

“You’re not dying, idiot,” he said, shaking his head. “I just knicked your shirt.”

I could see Jameel stiffen as he lay on the floor and Ahmed came closer, and I could almost imagine the hostility in his thunderous eyes. 

It didn’t stop Ahmed. He thrust his face close to Jameel’s as he spoke.

“Next time,” he said softly, but loud enough for me to hear. “Next time you touch my sister, I’ll aim for your head.”

I heard Jameel spit, and Ahmed shot back, getting onto his feet again. 

My mother-in-law was screaming murder as she raced into the lounge of my house, kneeling down at Jameels side as he squirmed in pain. I can see blood somewhere close to him, and I immediately went slightly dizzy as I processed.

Was Ahmed serious? Was it his head? His arm? Or maybe it was just his nose again? 

Blood. Bloody blood. I couldn’t stand it. The minute I saw it, I felt all dizzy and out of it. It was all a bit much for me. And although it might hav not been serious, I was scared to death for Ahmed. 

“Ahmed, go!” I urged him, hoping he would listen and just remove himself from the whole scenario. 

My discomposure increased as I heard the raised voices, and the dull throbbing in my lower tummy persisted. 

Crazy!”  My mother in law spat at my brother. “Don’t think you’re going to get away with this! We’ve got more money than you could even dream of, boy. You mess with us and you’ll regret it.”

She was talking about money now? Really?! I was almost as shocked as I had been when I first heard the gunshot. 

Money. Gosh. It was true that nothing satiates a person until they die. Even in this situation. 

My sister -in-law was now at the door, silent but in shock. She had a purple dress  on and her hair was disheveled. She was wondering what on earth had happened. 

And then, as she looked at me questioningly, her gaze fell on the floor beneath me, where a small pool of liquid had gathered. She blinked a few times and then swallowed, pointing downwards. 

“It’s … err…” 

I looked down, and then it hit me. 

I didn’t know what was going on. I was still in limbo. But as I spotted the puddle. I realized that there was a urgency that I needed to act with. Something was happening with the baby, I had to get to a hospital, and I had to get there fast. 

There was a series of shouts and a instructions, and during that time all I could feel was panic. Panic and fear. 

I knew that this moment would come and although it was inevitable… I couldn’t seem to shake that nagging feeling. How was I going to get through this

Too much was happening all at once. I needed Ahmed to get out of here, and I needed to as well. For the first time in my life, I felt nothing for Jameel as he rolled around on the floor, wincing in pain. Everything that he had put me through had made me emotionless, and the fact that I was in pain at that moment too was certainly his fault. 

I screamed with agony for the first time as I felt the once dull ache become something close to severe, and I made my way to the door. This was no joke. This was definitely serious stuff.

“I’m calling the ambulance,” Mishka said, worry in her tearful eyes. “For you both.”

I looked around as I slumped to the floor, looking for my brother. 

Thankfully, he was nowhere in sight. My father-in-law wasn’t at home either and during the few months I had come to realize that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it came to bad habits.

Jameel and his father were the same. It clearly explained his mother’s indifference when I told her about him. It kind of explained her manner and her progressive ugliness. She had been going through this years and needed a scape goat. 

I breathed heavily as I waited for the pain to soothe again, and the minutes before the ambulance arrived seemed like eternity. Everything was in slow motion as I glimpsed the flashing lights through the window, and then, as the pain intensified along with my outbursts, everything whizzed by like I couldn’t believe. 

It wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was far from beautiful, as some mothers explain their birthing process. There was nothing further from the truth. The labor was excruciating and the baby was too big. There was no time for an epidural. I had to have multiple stitches and couldn’t do much besides cry and scream out of pain, even after I heard the baby let out his first cry. 

I had no one. I was alone, and I had no one to even support me whilst I struggle to get past the most torturous experience in my life. 

The baby was still crying. 

And then I paused, just for a millisecond. I stopped breathing and I stopped pushing, because suddenly, the realization hit me.

My goodness. I was a mother

The cries sounded so innocent and pure.

And then, when I could feel the pain finally start to wear off, tears filled my eyes then, for a completely newfound reason. 

This baby, that was now thrust into my arms looked like a stranger to me. I knew nothing about him and yet, there was an inexplicable bond between us, because we had shared so much for the past few months. Beyond the blood and oxygen that had connected us so directly, there was something so much more intimate, that I couldn’t believe. I held him close to my chest as I felt his heart beat, and I already knew. 

I knew that I was going to love him forever. I knew that he was mine. I also knew that I would do anything for him.

He squirmed and let out a tiny moan, signaling hunger. I clumsily pressed him toward me as the nurse showed me how to latch him, and it was the most beautiful  moment ever. He just knew. How did he know? He just knew. 

His tiny hands clenched discreetly and his eyes stayed shut as he drifted back into sweet slumber. 

It was a baby. A real, living and breathing baby.

I was so relieved that he was normal. After everything, I didn’t think I deserved this. It was a miracle of my Lord. He was perfect. Normal, healthy, and so, so perfect. 

I hummed a little song like I remember Mama doing when we were young, reciting the Kalinah that we were accustomed to hearing from the time we were born. It was the lullaby we would hear as we drifted into slumber, and the motto that kept us grounded to our Deen. Even as I grew up… I prayed that it would bring me back somehow.. and I would learn it’s true meaning in a completely different way now that I was a mother. To see the magic that was brought from within me in an entirely different perspective. 

Lost in thought, I was jolted up as the door opened and the first person who they called for me stumbled in. Neither could I believe it nor could I surrender this new bundle of joy over to him.

Jameel stood a few feet away from my bed and looked at me. His shoulder was bandaged and he wore a faint look of defeat, but other than that, he seemed fine. 

“Are you still dying?” I asked him, not holding back on the sarcasm even minutely.

I didnt care about his injury. I knew he would be fine when Ahmed said so. My brother was an expert with the gun, unfortunately, he barely ever missed his target.

He had certainly not wanted to kill Jameel. Just to scare him. I wasn’t sure that I was entirely at peace with all that transpired, but it is what it is, and in retrospect, Allah definitely had a plan for me right then. He was the only was who got me through this. Throughout it all, He was the one Who remained. He always remains.  

Today… right now… was something that was completely unexpected, and to put it lightly, I was kind of blown away.  

Jameel, at least, was awaiting my invitation to come closer, and I eventually acceded to his silent request by turning over to the other side, despite the pain that I was feeling in my lower body. I looked at him, half-beckoning him over, although I felt fiercely protective over this innocent life that now lay in my arms. He was the father, after all. 

“Baby, I’m so sorry,” Jameel whispered, and I could see him lower his head as he sat down, almost hiding himself in agony and embarrassment. He wasn’t looking high.

Maybe they had given him something at the hospital that had sent him into this emotional state. I almost felt sorry for him, but I didn’t. There was no need to. He didn’t want pity. He just wanted another chance. I wasn’t sure what his parents would say or what would come out of all of this, but there was only one way to find out. 

I looked down at the baby, and he did too, reaching out to touch his cheek. 

This baby. This little miracle. A piece of my heart.

His birth was a milestone that I would never forget, and his presence would be one that would stay forever.

Motherhood. Motherhood was not for the faint hearted. It consumes you and it seizes you completely. As I looked from him to Jameel, I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t know whether to forgive him and move on. I didn’t know if it was  worth even trying this again. I didn’t even know if he was sincere. 

All I knew was that I would never let my son see the man that his father had become. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but I knew that there was one plan I had to put in place.

There was only one thing I could do, and only one way I could ensure our safety. There was no other Refuge beside the one who created me… and this little life that had lived inside of me for these few months. All I had to do was put my full faith in my Lord, and trust that it would all work out. Whatever the circumstances. Whatever the consequence. 

This was going to be the start of the most challenging chapter in my life… a virtue not only of this little life, but of me as well. 

More than a thousand times a day, we are ‘born’… We forget that each birth is a new opportunity to start over, to turn around, or to keep going. To rise higher, to heal, to grow. To be different. To be better. To grow. To transform.

But mainly… To return. Through Tawbah.
The problem is… we’re too busy dying. Too busy dying to see the bigger picture. Too busy dying, to see that maybe… this isn’t the end.

Too busy dying to see that after all, and despite the storm… 

There’s always a silver lining.