Everyone has their own struggles in life. Some people are struggling to make ends meet. Some people are struggling in their marriages. Some people have struggles with their kids. Some people are just struggling through the day to day ups and downs that make this thing called life… well, life.
And yes, I had my struggles. With my life. My husband. My past. The things that I thought I had missed out on. The things that I had messed up. But sometimes we have to just say it how it is and move on. Yes, we make mistakes. We gave in to our Nafs. We disobeyed Allah’s commands. We broke His Divine laws. We dated people and made our lives hell. We married someone who wasn’t as he seemed. We cherished people who turned their backs on us. We made bad choices. But we learnt and we found ourselves along the way. We fought. We conquered. We filled our barren hearts and we rose.
And whether I was stuck on a rut or just feeling down, the story of Yusuf (AS) was one that I looked at often for inspiration. This Nabi of Allah was a mere servant who lived for years in the house of Zulekha, a woman of beauty, power and influence. Day in and day out, Zulekha was exposed to his physical allure, a composition so stunning that the Messenger Muhammad [SAW] said:
“Yusuf has been given half of all beauty” [Muslim].
Zulekha suppressed her desire for Yusuf until she could no longer control it. She was overwhelmed by the inclinations. She waited until her husband left the home, and alone with Yusuf, she lured him into her room, locked the doors and called him to fulfill her lust.
Imam Muhammad Al Qurtubi, the great Quranic commentator, recounts the story:
[After locking the doors] Zulekha attempts to seduce Yusuf. She beautifies herself in the most attractive of ways and says:
“Oh Yusuf! You have the most handsome of faces.”
Yusuf, sensing what Zulekha is attempting to do, replies, “This is how my Lord fashioned me in the womb.”
“Oh Yusuf!”she says, “You have the finest of hair!”
“It will be the first portion of me to wither in my grave,” he replies.
Undeterred, Zulekha presses on. “Oh Yusuf! Your eyes are so beautiful.”
“I use them to look at my Lord,” he retorts.
“Yusuf, raise your sight and gaze at my face,” she responds.
“I fear [if I do so] that I will be resurrected blind in the afterlife,” Yusuf answers.
She tries to press herself close to Yusuf, but he moves away. “I come close to you, yet you distance yourself from me?” she asks.
“ I desire, by that, the closeness of my Lord,” he says.
“Yusuf, I have prepared my bed for you so enter under its sheets with me,” she says.
Yusuf replies, “Your sheets will not shield me from my Lord.”
“Yusuf, I have prepared the finest of silk covers, so I order you to fulfill my desires!” she exclaims.
“If I do so,” he says, “My portion of paradise will be lost.”
Her attempt to seduce him was fruitless, and his desire to remind her of Allah was falling on a barren and deaf heart.
And Yusuf [AS] was inclined to her, but he was a prophet of Allah who was in control of his desires. Zulekha, like you and I, was not. She had an inclination and she went all out for it. She gave in. She allowed her desires to overcome her love for Allah. She found herself to be living with the object of her want…
Her Nafs. Our Nafs. A beast inside each and every one of us that we must tame. An unbridled nafs will lead us to prefer all carnal desires over the love of what Allah and His Messenger Muhammad (SAW) call us to.
“I just can’t believe it…”
I looked at my sister as she said it, a little overwhelmed by everything she had just offloaded onto me. I was in just a little bit of shock. With the constant battle we fight within ourselves sometimes the Nafs can lead even the most unassuming of us into loads of trouble.
”Me neither,” I mumbled to myself as I met her eye. It was a helluva load of information to process right then and I was a little overwhelmed.
”Do you think he knew that she had a baby?” I asked. I said carefully, watching my sister tie her curly hair back as she looked ahead, almost in a trance. I could imagine that there must be a lot on her mind. “Why would she tell you that she had a ligation and now come back and cause havoc? You think she has an ulterior motive?! Like what if she thinks he will die and then the inheritance…”
Khawlah looked back at me solemnly as I slapped my hand to my mouth. I could barely believe that I had said that. It was a petty thing to worry about but I knew that Aadam was pretty well off and it could be a reason for this whole occurrence. What if this woman was just trying her luck and making my sister miserable in the process..
”It’s okay,” Khawlah said softly, her eyes looking sorrowful. “I had thought the same thing but I don’t think it’s his baby. I mean, maybe it’s wishful thinking… But maybe she wanted me to believe that she couldn’t have kids. I don’t know why…”
Her dark eyes were slightly narrowed, as if she was thinking carefully, and her pale cheeks were looking a little more flushed than usual. I could see that she was a little more stressed about the doctor friends visit than she had let on.
”Are you sure it’s not his baby then?” I said, expecting the worst. What if my brother-in-law did have a child out of wedlock? It would be one of the worst possible things to find out at this stage. It would change everything.
”It doesn’t make sense,” she said softly. “Like the age and the time frames. I really hope that she’s not turning up here to try and unsettle everything. What if his mother finds out?! The baby is only about 14 months. It’s impossible for if to be his child unless…”
Unless he was still seeing her when he had supposedly change his life and was actively becoming interested in Khawlah…
”You should have just asked her,” I said, really hoping that if the kid that pitched up at Aadam’s flat yesterday wasn’t Aadam’s kid. “Just to clarify.”
”I’m seeing her again,” she said. “She didn’t want Aadam to know she was there and wouldn’t stick around in case he saw her. I didn’t argue because I didnt want him to see her either. She thought he would be at hospital or something…”
”Aadam won’t lie to you,” I said confidently. “If he says that it was over then it was over. He’s not the type to drag someone along when he was clearly changing his life. Just don’t ask him as yet. Don’t jump to conclusions. Remember what happened the last time? You were miserable and so was he. Talk to her first and then see the outcome…”
I was pretty sure about this one. The fact that the doctor who said she was Aadam’s old flame had pitched up out of the blue meant nothing right now. There was definitely something she was hiding but it wasn’t a baby. That much I knew. I would expect something like this to happen to me. Jameel was the type to have messed around and hid it all, until someone randomly showed up to divulge his secrets… but Aadam…
Khawlah’s relationship with her husband was worlds away from mine. Where I had always had some kind of reservation about Jameel, Khawlah, in the other hand always had full faith in Aadam. It gave me hope and an amazing sense of peace to know that my sister had made a good choice. That Aadam was everything he had seemed and more. That my Duaa for her when she had made Nikah had been answered in so many ways, that it simply blew me away. She was so happy with him and it made me emotional when I thought of it… I just wished that he would feel well and get better soon so everything could go back to normal.
”Zuleikha, can I ask you something?”
I looked at my sister as she looked at me, unsure of where she was headed with the question but nodding anyway. Her pretty face was looking a little slimmer than usual. I wasn’t sure if she was eating properly. I could only assume that all the stress was getting to her. With exams on the way and her husband in a state of uncertainty, I could imagine that having an appetite was not exactly easy…
”How do you hide something from someone you love? Like, how do I be normal with him right now… when this could be so disastrous..?”
I swallowed as I digested the question, pursing my lips slightly as I thought of how to answer her.
“Sabr,” I said softly, meeting her eye. “Lots of Sabr…”
She seemed contented and I wished that I could take my own advice more often. Sabr. Shukar. It seemed so contradictory for me but the sore fact was that my marriage was not exactly a typical one. Jameel and I had had our fair share of gripes and we weren’t completely undamaged due to it. It was just that at certain moments I felt like there was a wall that we couldn’t break down. My thoughts drifted back to this morning’s events, when I walked in to see him with his head in his hands as he stared at the kitchen counter.
”Is everything okay?” I couldn’t help but ask, getting worried.
He looked up at me, giving a small smile as Muhammed ran and climbed up to where his father was and gave him the cutest of hugs.
”Yup, I’m fine,” he said, running his hand through his now prominent beard stressfully and kissing Muhammed’s forehead. “Just family issues. You know how it is.”
I nodded but I didn’t really. It was something we didn’t get into much. I knew that his parents often had marital problems. To put it lightly, if was the cause of my husband’s drug problem and where Jameel had picked up some of his womanising habits too. As a result, his mother was often going on crazy tangents and his sister was always seeking attention in other ways. How parents mess up their kids with their irresponsible behaviour.. sometimes I wanted to bang my head on a wall at their deliberate incompetency as parents. It was Mishka’s first year in university and it seemed like Jameel posed a new issue with her every week.
I could see that he was taking it upon himself and if was stressing him out. Besides the fact that there were different guys bringing her home every day, rumor had it that she was sleeping around. The worst part was that as much as Jameel had changed his life now… there was still little he could do to change the rest of his family. It was something we didn’t talk about because somehow, Jameel just wouldn’t open up about it. It would bring out too many skeletons that he had locked away. Where I wished that we had the kind of relationship that we spoke about anything and everything, the truth was that Jameel and I always had that little avenue where we never ventured. Sometimes it hurt to think that he would close himself up from me about those things, but I had got used to family and his past being no-go zones…
”Did you speak to Khawlah?” He asked suddenly, his brow furrowing as he looked up at me again. He loosened his tie as he waited for my answer, obviously anxious about the news I would have about my brother-in-law. There was a softer side of Jameel that Aadam had somehow appealed to, and from day one, all I’d seen change about him was due to that. Aadam and Khawlah’s union was something that had evolved so much for not just them, but us all…
”I hope he feels well enough tonight,” Jameel said to himself. “He’s been waiting for this for a while. To see everyone settled. That guy’s heart is amazing..”
And so is yours.
I wanted to say it, but somehow, I couldn’t. To compliment Jameel was something I rarely did. I wasn’t sure what it was, but the demons from the past always came back to put a spanner in the works just as I feel I could move past it all…
What was it about us that somehow prevents us from saying things to break the ice? To be nice? Especially to the people we love. And yes, sometimes we think that it’s not a big deal but those little things that remind them about just how special they truly are are sometimes those things that make or break a couple.
“I’ll call her again just now,” was all I said, making an intention to try and be warmer next time. To fill those barren spaces with something that we could hold onto.
I knew that Aadam hadn’t been well after starting treatment but I didn’t want to say it aloud. I didn’t want to mention the fatal and dreaded tumour. My mind was occupied with the possibilities of what could happen if nithing worked and Jameel looked stressed too. Somehow, Aadam had just crept into everyone’s hearts.
Muhammed was busy blabbering away to his father about something I couldn’t quite comprehend as I forced myslef to get ready for the big night ahead and hope for the best…
Of course I had been a little skeptical about Ahmed and Rubeena but since my brother was the surest about anything he had been in his life, I knew that there was little I could truly do to stop him. Part of me was relieved that he had finally come out about his true feelings and there’d be no stress about his erratic mind changes. Part of me was worried that he was taking on more than he could handle. Four boys in your home was a huge lifestyle change.
”I’m so happy for you guys.”
Our conversation about Aadam had been interrupted with their arrival and it was Khawlah who spoke as Ahmed and Rubeena walked into the house, looking completely at ease with each other as they stood there, graciously accepting Du’aas and greeting the few family members who were around. Ahmed looked good in a black kurta that made his eyes look slightly more serious than usual and Rubeena was looking rightfully flushed as she greeted the few aunties of Abba’s who had come from out of town. She was looking beautiful.
Since the Waleemah would be a small and simple affair at a small restaurant later that evening, the guests who had come for the Nikah had already arrived. The wedding house vibes were very much palpable and I was glad that I had chosen a restaurant for the venue as we simply didn’t have the space at home to accommodate Ahmed’s millions of friends and Jamaat acquaintances.
I greeted my brother affectionately, making a firm intention to let go of the past tension we had shared. He grinned as I wished him all the best and gave him a playful scolding, hoping that he was following his heart and doing the right thing this time. With Ahmed, unfortunately, we just never know…
I smiled to myself as I watched my brother talking to Rubeena’s boys who were walking ahead of them, a little surprised at how well they actually got along. They were currently dragging him off to play soccer outside and Ahmed shook his head and gave in as he pulled his Kurta off. Right now, it seemed like he had no other worries. Everything else could wait as he just took the tile to enjoy this moment and everything that came with it. He had met Rubeena at her house and brought her here because he wanted everyone to meet her before the Waleema. I really loved that she was so easy-going as she chatted and laughed with even the older ladies who were there.
I turned slightly to see my new sister-in-law next to me now and I reached out to greet her, feeling slightly awkward that I barely spoke to her before this. Somehow… we had just never made an effort to become friends but I hoped that in time we would.
”I just wanted to say thank you for everything,” she said quietly as we stepped out of view. “For planning the function. Even though Ahmed says you were mad at him and a little upset about the past few months that he made you go crazy….”
She flushed slightly as she said it, probably feeling embarrassed on his account. Or maybe hers too.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I feel responsible too… I’m just so glad that the Nikah is done. I half expected my ex-husband to barge into the mosque screaming for it to all stop…”
I smiled as she rolled her eyes, and I immediately felt at ease, despite her openness. I think one of the things that had made me uneasy was the fact that Rubeena had been married before, and her husband was not exactly an amazing guy. Obviously, it meant that it made her into an even more disagreeable person with different aspirations and hang-ups. Seeing her back then had made me realize how my life could have turned out if I had changed nothing. It reminded me of the mistakes I had made. The struggles that I had faced. But seeing her right now… at this stage was what made me realize that it was only when Allah willed for guidance to come, then it poured like His mercy. She had changed so much.
And of course, it was amazing but speaking to her now got me realizing how wrong I had been. How I had judged her. In plain sight, I could see what it was about her that Ahmed liked in the first place. She had an ease about her that I had heard Jameel mention about Aadam. She was so real and incredibly vocal. I loved the way she had a witty remark about serious things and though she was so different to my brother, I knew that these were the precise things that had attracted him. Ahmed needed someone like her to lighten up his life. He needed a balance. Someone who would give him a little allowance to express himself. Where he barely spoke about feelings, Rubeena was exceptionally expressive. She was amazingly normal, despite me thinking otherwise, and though I had previously written her off as a spoilt woman who neglected her kids… I realized that my opinions were quite widely off-base.
Somehow, after seeing them now … I was absolutely convinced. This was, by far, the most intelligent choice that my brother had ever made.
I really did like her, and as I greeted her mother who had come in wearing an exceptionally fancy dress and high heels, I couldn’t help but grin at how different they were. I could see them arguing about something about the menu that was supposed to be changed, finding their relationship pretty amusing as they went on.
I watched Ahmed as he came up to Rubeena, saying something to her and then watching her expression change as they headed down to the lounge. My heart was kind of breaking for my sister as I watched them, knowing that Aadam was having a bad day and might not make it for the function tonight. I made a silent Du’aa for it to be okay for their sake, and just as they disappeared into the lounge and I busied myself with checking if everything was packed and loaded into Jameel’s car for tonight’s function, I couldn’t help but notice a slight murmur among the outside crowd as I spoke aloud to myself.
“Sweet meats,” I murmured to myself. “Bottled water. Flowers…”
Although Ahmed turned up his nose at my ideas and didn’t seem to keen on my event planning, I had taken it upon myself to see to all the minor aesthetics and I loved doing it. It was my hobby to make things look pretty. I was seriously thinking of taking it up as a small business to keep myself busy. Now that Muhammed was growing and Jameel would never allow me to go back to teaching in a school, to do something like this would be my dream.
I ticked off the things on the list, not noticing the jolly buzz from outside simmer down as I turned around to call Jameel. Though we didn’t have much family here, Ahmed’s friends were outside and a few of Khawlah’s in laws were also around. I had just spotted Jameel and my son, when an achingly familiar face suddenly came into view. My voice caught in my throat as I opened my mouth, not really believing what I saw as I gaped outside.
”What on earth are you doing here?”
I wasn’t even sure who said it as I looked ahead, blinking idiotically as the woman looked back at us with a certain enmity in her eyes. I didn’t know what it was about this woman, but she always came back with a barren heart, a vengeance and the most putrid timing…
If was like the past was coming back to haunt me. Just when I thought that I had moved past it all, this woman just had a habit of turning up where she was least welcome.
A spanner in the works and a ripple in the tide… Abba was gaping from where he stood, not quite believing that she was actually here. My heart hammered in my chest as I expected the worst.
I already knew that Aunty Nas had come back to stir something up…
Bonus post with some awaited revelations… Wonder what Aunty Nas wants now after all this time..?!
Favorite foods of the Prophet (SAW): Pumpkin and Barley. All we have to do is make an intention for Sunnah and we’ll get multiple rewards!
Anas RA said: “I went along with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) barley bread and soup containing pumpkin and dried sliced meat. And I saw the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) going after the pumpkin round the dish, so I have always liked pumpkins since that day.” (Abu Dawud 3782)
A forgotten Sunnah. Eaten fallen particles… Sometimes we forget the Barakah that can be in even a grain of food. To eat what has fallen on the cloth or even the floor… SubhaanAllah.
Anas ibn Maalik narrated that when the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) ate, he would lick his three fingers. Anas said: “And he said, ‘If any one of you drops a piece of food, let him remove any dirt from it and eat it, and not leave it for the Shaytaan.’ And he commanded us to clean the plate, and said, ‘For you do not know where in your food the blessing is.’” (Narrated by Muslim, 2034).