Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
In this thing that we call life, we all have our own battles. Our own victories. Our own heroes.
Heroes. We all have them- People we look up to. People who we admire or aspire to be. Sometimes our heroes are just regular people, like you and me. But what defines them, is a seemingly small gesture. A passing smile. A kind word. A simple but genuine ‘hello’, that takes you by surprise, in this ruthless world. It’s the fact that they stand out, that makes them heroic.
Sometimes, we don’t recognize our heroes until it’s too late. These people are the essence of integrity. They are the reason for hope in this ugly world. They are, the light that shines through, when you were so sure that the sun of goodness had already eternally set.
Those heroes… they have something greater than superpowers. They have compassion. They have kindness. Most of all, they have an amazing ability to sacrifice their own needs to fulfill those of everyone else. They are selfless to the very core.
Because once in a while, Allah sends you your very own superhero who simply…. takes your breath away.
And it’s rare. So rare.
Because everyone in the world is out there for themselves. There are some people in this world who will do anything to kill your peace. To hurt you. To taint your shine.
As much as you may strive to do good, they are the ones who will bring you down. As much as you try to be the light, they will block it out. Instead of seeing the good things too, they will pick out and point out what is your weakness. Where you went wrong. What you need to fix.
When Hannah and Aunty Nas had left that day, I couldn’t help but feel a huge hole somewhere within my gut. Zuleikha had tried to comfort me. She had told me that she would see if what Hannah was saying was true. She even offered to go to Rubeena and talk to her.
I had to refuse. I didn’t want the situation to spin out of control. I didn’t want to be in a deeper fix than I already was.
I sulked around for a few days, not able to control my feelings. Foi Nani tried to cheer me up. She had said that I needed to be a soldier. The warrior that I always was. It wasn’t like me to be so negative. But the energy that Aunty Nas and Hannah had brought with them seemed to be contagious.
How was I going to fix this? How did I explain to Rubeena that I didn’t mean to put her in a fix. The memory of me leaving that day played over and over in my head, as I left. Did she let me go willingly? Was she upset with me? Was she just fed up of all her own issues that seemed to revolve around me?
I couldn’t make sense of everything. I felt like I needed to just go to her and speak it all out, but I couldn’t bring myself to face her. I thought I could try calling, but it was to no avail. I left a message. Rubeena had either forgot about me completely or just didn’t want to talk to me.
And amidst the emotional tornado that seemed to wreck havoc within me, there came a peak to the storm.
Foi Nani suddenly got really sick. Foi Nani, who we had kind of took for granted over the years. Foi Nani, who was always there. Foi Nani, who was our very own superhero.
It all started with a sudden fever. A sudden fever that no-one could explain. She was weak. She was shivering. Worst of all, she seemed to be completely disorientated. She had no idea what was happening, neither could she comprehend our explanations.
Abba had called the doctors home. They had set up drips. Antibiotics. Feeding tubes. Just to ensure she would get everything she needed. Even Ahmed came home to see her, and seeing her condition, he knew that he couldn’t take any chances. Despite his feud with Jameel, he wanted to be there with Foi Nani in her last stages.
That was when Zuleikha made the call to the UK, to Foi Nani’s long lost son, urging him to come and see his mother.
It was a long shot. We thought we would lose her before they came, and when they finally did arrive, I could literally see Zuleikha let out the hugest of breaths, as if she was just waiting for them to arrive before she finally let go. I supposed we all relaxed a bit, the moment they arrived.
Deep down we knew that Foi Nani wanted nothing more than for him to come home. She wanted us to know them. She wanted us to be a real family. It was just that it was a little too late for that…
Now you must understand, although these were my immediate family, I could barely remember their names, leave alone their faces. Abba had stood awkwardly at the back of the entrance hall as they entered, and I looked at my cousins for the first time in over 10 years. The eldest was a boy, who was a little older than me. Then came a girl, who was probably around fourteen. And the last was another girl who was seven. Like Danyaal. My uncle looked at us awkwardly as we went forward to greet him. We didn’t know him, but he knew us. We did the quick formalities before we guided them to the room where Foi Nani was.
And then of course, was the moment that would be etched in my mind forever. It was like Foi Nani just knew that her child had come home. I wasn’t sure how she could even sense him, in her induced sedation, as he held out his hand out to hold hers, I was sure she had reciprocated. Those moments of final consolation were just what we needed. I suppose it was just closure. Somehow, as much as I hoped I was wrong, I knew that the end was near. Against all my hopes that Foi Nani would miraculously pull through, I thought that this would be it.
It wasn’t long after that. That same night, as we locked up, it was Ahmed who was sitting at Foi Nani’s bedside when he suddenly called for us. Zuleikha had been staying over, and even during this extremely trying period, I noticed how Ahmed and Jameel avoided each other. As Ahmed, in a panicky voice called for us to come, our hearts were in our throats. Was this going to be it?
And amidst the dreaded pain of what we may lose, it was a moment of pure affirmation for me. How quickly someone can be right there… and how fast everything can change.
This life was nothing but a really fleeting journey. A journey that we don’t realize, until we see the end. Our road is paved for us, but it’s up to us to build the houses along the way. We have to invest for that final destination. We have to earn enough to pull us through. We have to make it count in a way that we will see long after…. in the next world.
And that was Foi Nani. She had been there. She had been our constant. She was the one person who had never left us while we needed that something solid. She could have easily left us and went with her son overseas. He had asked her to come at the time. She didn’t owe us a thing. At a time when we were just four messed up little kids, she was our very own superhero, and for being that, we couldn’t be grateful enough. We couldn’t be thankful enough.
Foi Nani breathed her last around midnight that very night, with all four of us grandchildren at her bedside. My Uncle sat on the chair in the corner of the room and read Yaseen aloud. Ahmed was reciting his Qur’an loudly by heart too and so was Yunus. The moment when Foi Nani passed away, all I saw was a slight frown on her face, as her rooh exited, and then… it was just peace. Peaceful peace.
“The gift to a believer is death.” (Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1609)
And it reminded me so beautifully of what I had once heard about those whom Allah loves, who leave this world. For the true believer, there is no ‘death’… There is a mere transfer from this world to the next. SubhaanAllah.
All I could think of was… what more beautiful way can there be to leave this world? No machines, hospital bed or emergency. It was so controlled… so serene.
No more of this warped Duniyaa. No more hurt. No more pain. No more sickness. No more grief.
That was Allah’s promise. And of course, amidst the confusion and the overthinking, the consolation was that it was Allah’s will. Allah’s will. And of course, it wasn’t goodbye.
It was, till we meet again.
Foi Nani was buried that same morning, and during those last few days before Ramadhaan, life was somewhat of a blur for us. It was different to when Mama passed away, but in some ways, I felt the same. This time though, there was a certain relief, because I understood. I understood so much more. Foi Nani was not just a lifeless figure for me like Mama was. Foi Nani was now gone to a better place, with Allah’s will.
What was amazing was how the thought process matures and changes as we get older. Amazing how we see things in a completely different light as we grow up.
Thoughts plagued my mind. In my sleep, I was awake. In my wake, I was restless. That’s how the first few days of overwhelming grief are. They suck you in, and the only refuge is to let it all out and put your heart out to the One who knows you better than anyone else. And then, of course, I remembered. I remembered what I had forgotten. But how could I forget?
When everyone and everything else in this world has left, there’s still a constant. No matter what. No matter who. It was your Lord who 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.
Although my heart was aching deep inside, the courage I sought was finding its way to the surface. It was like I was lost in a sea of emotion, and now, I was finally breaking the surface.
And honestly, it’s effect was immediate. As soon as the realization sunk in and hit me, things started to fall into place, piece by piece. Indeed, the miracle of putting your trust in the One who controlled it all, was just inconceivable. When you truly believe that all your worries are in the hands of Allah, He will take it upon Himself to sort it out.
I had seen many people at the funeral that day. Even Rubeena was there, but in my own emotional state, I had done nothing more than greet. Nusaybah sat at my side the entire time, like the pillar of strength that I needed to pull through. As for Aunty Radiyyah, she took over everything. Besides sorting out the ghusl (bath for the deceased), she went beyond what we expected. She saw to the feeding, she arranged extra help for the house, and she basically kept everything in control. At times like that, it was people like that who defined what Akhlaaq was. Beautiful character and pure compassion. Her true character showed in her selflessness, and as we thanked her, all she could say was that it was her duty. Mama would have been happy if she knew.
Although we had an influx of visitors at first, things slowed down towards the beginning of the next week and I could feel the grief subsiding. I still missed Foi Nani but the fact that acceptance was on its way, gave me the hope of breathing easily. The stages of grief were taking their effect.
Nusaybah would pop by from time to time when she wanted to visit, and as it happened, there came a day when she called me to say she was coming and I really did not expect what she had brought.
I could barely believe it, as they all came into the lounge, one by one, I felt like I was coming to life again.
Not only was Nusaybah standing in passage, but so was Rubeena, Danyaal, Dayyaan, Zia and Zaydaan.
My heart swelled as I took them all in, blinking a few times as I processed exactly what was happening. They were here. They were all here, at my house, and I could not have been more elated!
I immediately got up from the sofa I was sitting on to greet, and I bent down as each boy came toward me, gripping them with all my might, just because I had missed them so much. The empty gnawing in my gut had temporarily departed as I grasped onto them, one by one. Danyaal, as usual, slunk back as I looked at him, and for the first time since I left, I felt like the hugest traitor in the world.
Somehow, I could just read him. I could see it in his eyes.
I had left him. At a time when he needed me most, I had deserted this precious little kid, and I wasn’t sure if he’d ever forgive me.
I swallowed hard as he looked away, and I could see that he was blinking back tears. He looked just like his uncle, and the resemblance today startled me. His lips were pursed together and he avoided eye contact, and all I could do to keep myself from audibly sobbing was reach out and drag him into the hugest of hugs I could muster.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered to him, breathing him in as he stood, almost like a statue. He still smelt of Nivea lotion and skittles. I soaked in the familiarity but he didn’t hug me back. He didn’t even move.
Give him time, something told me. Just give him some time. Everything will fall into place.
I fought back my own tears as I guided them to the lounge, but amidst the excitement, there was a certain uneasiness that hung in the air. My cousin, who was very much like me, was excited about the kids, and immediately took it upon herself to entertain them. With the kids now gone into the next room, it was only then that I recalled the tension with Aunty Nas and Hannah, which I had forgotten about for the past two weeks. Strangely enough, they hadn’t made an appearance since Foi Nani’s death and I actually found it a bit strange. I wondered if they were even around.
I offered a shaky smile to test the waters, and Rubeena came forward, embracing me affectionately as she said all the right things that made me tear up once again. I had felt exhausted from all the emotion, but as the days were going by, I was starting to feel more human again. The grief was no longer so… stifling. I could finally breathe easily, once again.
”I’m so sorry that we didn’t come earlier,” she said, and I could hear the sincerity in her voice. “We thought we’d give you some time. The kids really wanted to see you though. And…”
She paused, almost as if she was thinking carefully about her next words.
“We really need to chat,” she said, giving me a smile and squeezing my hand. “There’s so much I want to tell you…so much has happened… but… there’s no rush. When you are ready.”
I frowned slightly, curious to know what she wanted to talk about. I didn’t want to think about the past, and I knew Rubeena wanted to chat about everything that had happened too. With Hannah. With Adam. I was aching to know too.
With time, I reminded myself. All with time.
We chatted for a while and they listened. Every time I spoke about it… about those last few days before she passed away, the pain eased a little more. Speaking about it gave me a little more closure. I made sure we still read every day, because that was the only thing we could do for Foi Nani, now that she was gone.
”I’ll come see you,” I said to her as she eventually got up to leave, and she smiled.
“You have to,” she said. “I have to apologize to you properly. I’m trying to get on my feet now… it’s been a little hectic being a single mum.”
A single mum? I widened my eyes. What had happened?
I walked her and the kids out, taking a little time to hug them again, assuring them that if see them later in the week. I was feeling a little more relieved, and as Ramadhaan came closer, I knew that I wanted to sort the mess out before the blessed month came upon us. I wanted to make the most of it and for that reason, I felt the overwhelming need for closure with Rubeena. Maybe I would see her tomorrow. Maybe even sooner than that.
Walking to the doorway, I couldn’t help but hear Ahmed’s distinct laughter from outside, and both Rubeena and I turned to see what was going on.
It was quite unexpected, and actually surreal, because it had really been ages since I’d heard Ahmed laugh. He wasn’t exactly the easy type to humour. Yunus too, as I saw, was chuckling away, and so was my father.
After Foi Nani’s death, our house had been like a mortuary. We just went through the day-to-day rituals of living. But today… as I saw a little life in my brothers’ eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder what had inspired it. What magic had brought this on.
I turned my face away as I saw Adam there, not wanting to look. It was obvious that he had been the cause of the amusement, and Rubeena shook her head, embarrassed as she mumbled something about her brother causing a scene at a funeral house.
I smiled at her, assuring her that it was okay. In fact, after two weeks… we needed to smile again. Yes, we still hurt at times, but we needed to a little reason to lighten up, after the storm.
My heart was thudding in my chest for some strange reason, and Rubeena smiled at me as she stepped out, with a single sentence that caught me a little off guard.
”Whenever you are ready, we are waiting. All of us.”
I swallowed the saliva that had gathered in my mouth. Now I knew what she had meant… After everything that I had been through during the past month, a lot had changed. A lot had come into perspective. And I realized a lot of things I had tried to ignore before, because the fear of losing love for me, was greater that not having it at all.
But now I realized, that I didn’t need to be scared.
Through love… through loss… through life. Yes, grief was in its place, but there was always a little light in the distance. There was always a reason to live. I just didn’t know that the deal was already halfway sealed.
Yes, I was still in school. Yes, I was so young. Yes, there were so many excuses I knew I could make. Despite my reservations and despite my answer not been given as yet, my family had already knew what was best for me.
And this was how it happens. You can’t set an alarm for these things. You can’t put them on your calendar. I supposed, when you least expect it, some people just ‘get’ you. They move you, in a way that you’ve never experienced before. They stir up emotions, from deep down, bringing a whole new understanding to life that you had never yet realized.
And of course, there he was. A little light in a tainted world. A shimmer in the hazy distance. There was a hope for us… because everything would soon fall into place.
Because in this ruthless world, there are people who stand out from the rest. They have qualities that make them shine. They have a warmth that they exude, and spreads to all those around them.
They are compassionate. They are kind. They see the best in every situation. They are those people who are a cut above the rest, and it’s only because of the beauty of their character, that makes them stand out.
And in our unlit world, we needed a little sunshine. We needed to shed some light into our darkened doorway. Yes, the love of a mother could never be replaced but with Allah’s will, after hardship and loss.. there’s a always a lesson. A reminder about life. A reason to return to Allah.
And of course, after hardship, always comes an ease.
Another super-hero was just what we would need.
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A reminder that highlights the main theme in today’s post. Death is the cutter off of pleasures, but for a believer, death is a mere transition into a more beautiful world. SunhaanAllah.
May Allah make us of those believers who earn Paradise and its beautiful pleasures. May He make us of the steadfast, and assist us in attaining the most out of this blessed month that comes upon us.
I’m thinking that this post will be the last post of season one, and I think it provides the closure that readers were asking for..? Shukran to all the readers, and I wish every one of you a blessed Ramadhaan. Please remember this sinful servant in your Duáas.
Sayyidina `Ali (r) said, “If Allah wanted to punish the nation of Muhammad, He would not have given them Ramadan nor qul huwa allahu ahad.”
P.S. Remember to make a timetable to assist in achieving all goals and aims in this beautiful month.
Rinsing the mouth after eating.
It is mustahabb to rinse the mouth after eating, because Basheer ibn Yassaar narrated that Suwayd ibn al-Nu’maan told him that they were with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in al-Sahba’ – which is some distance from Khaybar – and the time for prayer came. He called for food, but he did not find anything but some saweeq (barley mush). So he ate some and we all ate with him. Then he called for water and rinsed out his mouth, and then he prayed, and we prayed, and he did not do wudoo’.
(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5390).
How easy to practise!