I’ve never been much for old sayings, but there is one old saying that I quite liked and it goes something like this: ‘A vessel can only pour out from what it contains.’
As we grow older, there comes a time in life when we have to stop and check ourselves. The state of our hearts. Our strengths. Our weaknesses and ill feelings. How Allah gives favours to some and maybe not give us the same. We come to understand that what’s come for us would have never missed us, and what’s missed us would have never come for us.
You see, some people have a naturally optimistic disposition. They can sieve the good out in every situation because they have either trained themselves hard to be optimistic, or are inherently blessed with love and light. Some people are just warriors at heart.
To want goodness for someone else, despite where their lives are at, is the epitome of excellence… And sometimes, it’s that very attitude that gets them to the greatest heights.
“You have it,” I said to Zuleikha, passing her the pretty white gold bracelet that I had slipped over my arm. “It’s not really my taste.”
Zuleikha looked at me skeptically, her amber eyes narrowing. I wasn’t exactly lying.
”I can’t,” she said, shaking her head and handing it back to me. “It was Mama’s favorite. You keep it.”
”Listen,” I said, folding my arms over my chest. “I barely even remember her wearing it. You do. Just take it.”
Zuleikha sighed and slid the bracelet over her wrist. Her lean arms donned it perfectly.
”See,” I said softly, holding back emotion. “Suits you better.”
It was so beautiful but I truly wanted her to have it. I couldn’t help the tears that had welled up in my eyes as I watched her. Her slender arm was exactly like Mama’s.
”Then you have this,” she said, pointing to the charmed yellow gold bracelet that was still in the box.
I shook my head.
“Come on,” she urged. “Stop being such a hard nut.”
I knew I wasn’t going to give in. Instead, I placed my hand inside the box, pulling out the chain that I had spotted earlier with a pendant that boasted a blue sparkly stone. Whether it was real or not didn’t faze me. All I knew was that Mama used to often stand by the window and watch us, and as I would often gaze up at her, this little stone would be twinkling in the sunlight.
”I’m just taking this,” I said, smiling as the light reflected off the stone.
”We’ll keep some aside for Rubeena,” Zuleikha said wisely. “Mama would have liked that.
“She would have,” I said quietly.
“And Yunus’s wife,” she added, almost as an afterthought.
“You think?” I asked curiously. Yunus was still my baby brother. For him to have a wife was weird.
”it might be sooner than you expect,” Zuleikha said mysteriously.
Did she know something about Yunus that I didn’t?
”Maybe we get the value and do it properly,” I suggested, shrugging the insinuation about Yunus off.
”You’re right,” she said, shuffling through the other items.
The red box was an awakening from reality for us, slipping us momentarily into the past. Ahmed had found it hidden deep in one of the upstairs cupboards this morning and immediately called Zuleikha and I to sort it out.
”That’s all I want,” I said, holding onto the pendant and pushing the red box back to Zuleikha. “And of course, some of the mini furniture.”
”Take all the furniture,” she insisted, picking out the tiny pieces that she could see. “Khadijah will love it. I don’t have a daughter who can make use of it…”
There was a certain sadness in her voice as she said it. Zuleikha, after everything she had been though had finally settled into a peaceful and contented place where she and Jameel were at, but it was no secret to anyone that Zuleikha and Jameel were battling to have another child. I prayed so hard that they would, but Allah alone knew what was in her plan. I was just glad that she was content with her life as it was. It was lovely to see my sister happy, after everything. It had taken a long time but it was well worth the wait.
”Are you sure?” I asked her, running my finger along the carved lines of the corners of the mini pieces, quite impressed by the detail that it boasted.
”It got you into enough trouble, didn’t it?” She said with a smile. “I think you earned it.”
Ah yes, it did.
I still remembered the day I had lunged at Hannah, completely appalled by her possession of my mothers gift to us. I had broken me. Those days seemed like so long ago.
”The punishment was torturous,” I said quietly, biting my lip and feeling for the little girl who I had once been.
”The only thing you would do is ask me if Khalid was as back yet,” Zuleikha said, breaking the rolling her eyes and laughing. “You were pretty obsessed with that boy, weren’t you?”
I pursed my lips and smiled back. I was, wasn’t I?
”I wasn’t,” I said with a grin.
“Don’t pretend,” she said, shaking her head at me. “And he was too, you know.”
She didn’t say anything further. Zuleikha knew when to draw the line.
I looked at my sister, draped in a pretty lacey hijab, feeling at peace with how content she looked today.
Yunus had gone to see Khalid and mentioned the new occupant from Egypt. He had heard Aunty Radiyyah and her talking in the next room. Khalid, however didn’t offer any information.
“There’s a lady with them,” Yunus had said in passing, and I looked at him in confusion.
Of course, the question flew right over Yunus’s head.
Now, though, with the return of Khalid and this new lady that Yunus had mentioned, a lot was clear to me. I had put two and two together.
It was possible now that his father had the accident, a turn of events would mean that he was preparing to stay here with her. Presumably his wife. Whoever she was.
“And you’re okay with that?” Zuleikha said, looking at me openly. “Even after everything you had told me last week?”
“Of course,” I said. “I wish him all the happiness in the world.”
”You’re so confusing…” she murmured, shaking her head.
Zuleikha had heard about the beautiful purple house last week from Nusaybah, and obviously had jumped to my imaginative friends theories.
I, however, had adopted a new approach to life. I didn’t want to dwell on last week. I didn’t want to dwell on what had happened and what could have been. Even after Yunus had revealed what he knew and even after I had toyed with all the possibilities.
Yes, I had maybe been a little too ambitious in my thinking after Nusaybah had left. I had felt lonely and a little confused after seeing the purple house again. When Yunus had relayed to me that Khalid had been rescuing the kittens from under the purple house for the old lady that had lived there, and struck up a relationship with her, I had sort of understood what had happened all those years ago, but it was the recent updates that had confused me. Despite Yunus saying that Khalid was probably responsible for the beauty of the garden too, I didn’t dwell on it. After him being gone for so long, part of my mind didn’t want to believe it. Maybe I was in denial. I had put through the offer for the house and hoped for the best.
And just when I was about to clarify any misconceptions that Zuleikha had, it was at that precise point when Yunus, Ahmed and his family came in, entering the lounge in their enormous glory.
”We’re back,” he said to us.
Like we couldn’t hear them from outside.
“Are you’ll nearly done?”
The way my brother was avoiding eye contact was amusing. He knew that it would be an emotional task, sorting out Mama’s things, and he had made himself extremely scarce. He didn’t know that this had brought on other kind of emotional.
”How are you coping, Ruby?” Zuleikha asked, smiling at them. It did amuse me to think that their family size would be significantly increasing in the next few months.
“I can only blame Ahmed,” she had said with a grin. “I mean, this never happened to me before.”
I smiled. I was really happy for them. I had so wished that they would have their own. I knew my brother wasn’t always set on it, because he wasn’t exactly the ‘baby-crazy’ type but seeing him with Khadijah wasn’t exactly bad to watch.
Ahmed smirked and shrugged as we looked at him.
”It never happened to me before either,” he said offhandedly.
Zuleikha laughed and shook her head. After the initial shock of it all, it was good to joke about it. It had been a while since I had to see them and I was glad that I did. The house was always buzzing with excitement and now that the babies were on the way, somehow, the feels were even more jolly.
”So are you excited about the babies?” Zuleikha asked Danyaal.
Danyaal nodded at Zuleikha shyly and then looked away. Of course he was excited. I could remember how thrilled he was when Khadijah was born. after Aadam passed away, he had become so subdued. He was, after all, very close to him… but the strange part was that as he grew up now his features were maturing and he was obviously beginning to look more and more like his uncle. As he grew he was also losing that baby-ness that I so loved about him. It was strangely sentimental for me, seeing these kids growing up now. I wasn’t sure if I liked it.
He put his hat on his head again as he turned around to leave. Ahmed was going for namaaz and had called the two bigger boys to join him.
”I’m not excited,” Dayyaan said pulling a face. “Babies. Ugh.”
Rubeena shook her head but ignored him. Dayyaan wasn’t impressed with much these days. Except motor-bikes and fast cars.
”Dayyaan, Salaah,” Ahmed said sternly, raising his eyebrows at my nephew.
”Aw man,” he squealed. “Can’t I skip? I just came back. Dad doesn’t go. Can’t I just go and live with him?”
Ahmed looked at Rubeena and she turned her gaze to her second son. I had often noticed how Ahmed would voluntarily assist with the other kids, even when it came to discipline, but left Dayyaan for his mother to handle. He was, unquestionably, the most troubled of the lot and I didn’t blame him. He was somewhat of his father’s son and I could see that there were times when Ahmed just didn’t know how to handle him. Besides, I knew from past experience that dealing with Dayyaan and not giving into him could have disastrous consequences.
Rubeena got up from the couch, leaning down as steadily as her slightly protruding tummy allowed her, and looked him in the eye.
“Don’t you think that Allah will love you so much more when you make Him happy?” She asked him sweetly.
It wasn’t magical but it had the desired effect. The thing was, sometimes we take for granted our kids perception. We forget that Allah is watching over us with love, yet we still sometimes build them up with fear. We forget that sometimes we have to be their warriors… reminding them about all the love that Allah promises us if only we obey him.
The truth was that even as we go along, Allah is nudging us with love. Helping us along. Giving us hope to continue, not making us learn only through fear. How we build our kids is dependent on us.
Dayyaan hastily put his shoes on and skipped out after his brother and I could see Rubeena and Ahmed exchange a look as they watched him.
Parenting was something I’d always done on my own, but it was interesting to see this. I often wondered how Aadam would have handled Khadijah and her quirky comebacks. She was much like him, but I had a feeling that two of them together would have driven me crazy, in a completely love-to-be-driven-crazy way.
The other three boys were already running outside again, and Khadijah was pottering around with her little bag, playing on her own. Sometimes she did get tired of the boys. I was desperately wanting Rubeena to at least one little girl, so my daughter could have a friend.
I sighed as I left the room, still thinking about the boy’s and how their life had changed over the past few years. In some ways I really could relate to them, yet I was so glad that they hadn’t had the unfortunate experience of a terrible step-parent. I halted as I saw Yunus pulling on his jacket at the front entrance hall, looking like he was way out too.
“Where are you off to?” I asked Yunus. “Also for Salaah?”
“I went for early Salaah,” he said. “I need to make a stop for Faheem before I head home.”
“Can I join?” I asked. I was hoping to drill him about the hints that Zuleikha had mentioned.
“Of course,” he said, grabbing his keys as I greeted Rubeena and the lot. Khadijah had decided that she was having too much fun to leave, so I knew that I would have no choice but to leave her with Zuleikha for a few more hours.
Yunus, though pleasant and sweet, was not exactly the expressive type, so I knew that I’d have to do a little bit of prodding if I had to find out about this girl Zuleikha had thought was nearly a part of our family.
”So Yunus,” I said, clicking in my seat belt as he started the ignition. “How old are you again?”
Yunus looked at me weirdly.
Okay, I was being a bit weird.
”Twenty,” he said, frowning at me slightly as he backed out the driveway.
”Good age,” I said stupidly.
Ugh. This wasn’t going well.
”Yeah it is,” he added. “I’m stopping to fetch a USB from down the road. That okay?”
I didn’t ask him what down the road was. I just nodded. I was onto something and I needed to get it out of him.
”You ever thought of marriage?” I asked him, knowing that there was no other way to ask this.
”I have,” he said, slightly reservedly. “But not seriously.”
”Why not?” I pressed, wondering what Zuleikha was talking about. He didn’t seem keen on the prospect. At all.
“I don’t know,” he said offhandedly. “Taqdeer. When the time is right, it will happen I suppose.”
“Ah,” I said. He was obviously not serious about it was yet. But it didn’t mean that there was nothing to tell. “Are you interested in seeing girls?”
”You seem more interested in them than me,” Yunus said, a smile on his face as he met my gaze. I knew that I was being tiring.
“I’m just asking,” I said, deciding that I’d rather drop it now. I’m sure Yunus would tell me in his own time. If there was anything to tell. “I just want to see you happy. All settled.”
Zukeikha and Ahmed were pretty much settled and content. Somehow, I felt like a mother to my little brother. As always, I felt responsible for him.
Yunus was indicating and slowing down at Aunty Radiyyah’s house.
“You’re worrying about everyone else, Khawlah,” he murmured. “What about you?”
”I’m fine the way I am,” I said hastily.
”Im happy too. But’s lets make a deal,” he conceded. “When you settle down, I’ll think about it too.”
”Oh goodness, Yunus,” I exclaimed, throwing my hands up in the air. “I’ve already been there! The topic is exhausted. There’s nothing more I can give.”
”I know you’re a warrior at heart,” he said. “But do you really keep fighting your feelings all the time?”
”I’ve told you everything I know,” he said, turning to me. “By now, you should have been completely convinced. Your life may have turned out differently but why don’t you get it? He never forgot you. Khalid never forgot you.”
I could not believe that Yunus, of all people was bringing this up.
”Khalid’s not interested,” I said obviously with a sigh.
”Ah,” Yunus said with raised eyebrows. “After everything you still say so. But what about you?”
“What about me?!” I moaned. What did I do?
“Maybe he was and you scared him away!” Yunus chuckled. “You know how you can be.”
”Yunus, are you delusional?!” I scoffed, shaking my head. “Remember the lady? You said that there’s a lady with them…”
”Awh Khawlah,” he said softly. “I didn’t say who she was.”
Oh no. I did feel a bit stupid.
He was right. He didn’t say. Then who was she?
We were parked outside Aunty Radiyyah’s house now and my heart was beating crazily in my chest. I was immune to the beauty of the front garden today, as I wished with all my might that I could somehow have a quick escape. What exactly was he saying?
And why on earth were we here again?
“You coming in with me or what?” He asked softly. Yunus was always so soft. Easy. Diplomatic.
“What?” I asked, blinking stupidly.
“To see Aunty Radiyyah?”
Oh yes. Of course. I thought he was suggesting something else. Silly me.
There were so many questions that I had on my mind. About the purple house. About the lady who lived there. About how it ended up the way it was. If Khalid really made it as beautiful as it was.
Even if he was, was it really that terrible? My mind was running away with me.
Why was I always such a fierce warrior? Why was my heart so unwavering? Why did I always have to fight anything that was staring me in the face?
“She was asking about you,” he said. “She’s been busy. Khalids father’s leg is broken pretty badly.”
I immediately softened as I zoned back to the present. I could imagine that must have been really sore. I wished that I had called her to check if she needed anything before this. How could I be so selfish?
We walked up the path slowly, not fully comprehending everything that had unfolded. Yunus quietly slipped away through the side gate while I continued up the stairs, already spotting a smiling aunty Radiyyah as she opened the door.
Oh, how I missed her.
Her arms were already outstretched as I dissolved into them, savoring the familiarity that I had known since I was just a little girl. I was almost lost in a turbulence of emotion as I held onto her, now, more than ever, so confused about everything and wanting pour it all out.
Did Aunty Radiyyah know what was on my mind? All these years had passed… why didn’t she tell me about Khalid? Why didn’t she tell me the truth?
I smiled at her, concealing the pain as she let go, not realizing that tears had filled my eyes until she brushed them away.
“It’s so good to see you here,” she whispered, squeezing my shoulder as I smiled up at her. “My beautiful Khawlah.”
”Jedda,” Aunty Radiyyah called. “We’ve got a visitor.”
The hair visible at the front of her scarf was only slightly grey and the crinkles at the corners of her pretty eyes were exactly like Aunty Radiyyah’s. They’re was no longer question of who she was.
I watched as as a woman entered the room, poised and elegant as she walked forward, a little slower than most would, with the hint of a smile on her face.
”Wait, let me guess,” she said, her Arab accent pungent as she smiled a bit more widely. “This is Khawlah.”
She said my name wonderfully. There was actually no doubt in her tone as she said it. It was as if, by some default, she knew exactly who I was, despite us never setting eyes on each other ever before.
She came up to me, gazing at me with tears in her eyes as she pulled me into a fervent embrace, very much like my dear Aunty Radiyyah’s. It was achingly familiar.
”It’s so good to meet you,” she murmured. Maybe it was her accent. Or maybe it was her words… but her voice was strangely comforting. “I’ve heard all about you.”
Virtues of the ten days we are in. If we haven’t made extra efforts, let’s start now InshaAllah!
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “There is no deed that is better in the sight of Allah or more greatly rewarded than a good deed done in the (first) ten days of Al-Adha”. It was asked, “Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah?” The Prophet (PBUH) replied, “Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah, unless a man goes out himself for Jihad taking his wealth with him and does not come back with anything.” Narrated by Al-Bukhari
Sunnah of Du’aa after Salaah: One of the Sunnah of asking Allah is never to be despondent of Allah’s mercy. Remember that He is always listening and waiting to answer our prayer.
Lots and lots of Duaas. Let’s focus on trying to bring Du’aa into our daily lives…
How easy to practice …