When Duty Calls

Bismihi Ta’ala


Sunrises. There’s just something about them that just makes you want to dive in and start all over again. Afresh. Anew. It’s a feeling deeper than gratification. It’s a deeper sense of appreciation that makes you just… ‘feel’. It inspires. Enables hope. It awakens something within. The truth was that deep down, positive feelings are what had kept me grounded. Grateful. There was just something about a sunrise that was loyal. Committed. Every day, without fail, it wouldn’t let you down. I breathed in, savoring the familiarity of it… no matter where I was in the world, seeing it had always brought out the best in me.

Every since I was a little kid, a new beginning was the highlight of every day. Something new. Something exciting. Somehow, with the inception of a new day, I knew that there would be something promising waiting for me. And today would be no different.

I took a last swig of my water bottle as I looked out, watching the two guys in my company also completely lost in the blazing colours that were before us.

The buzzing of the airport chaos was constant in the background of our setting as we gazed out. It was as if the sky was kindling a fire of it’s own as  we saw yellow streaks beyond the mountains morph to tangerine and crimsons rays of delight. The horizon was slowly evolving in all its glory, and from the glass window that boasted it, like an exhibition in progress, every person who passed by had to literally stop in their tracks and just stare.

We were entranced by the spectacle, the fiery ball appearing from behind a sheath of clouds, bringing with it a flood of warmth and relief from the darkness of before dawn. Like an ultimate relief brought out from an imminent doom… It was simply mind-blowing.

”It’s incredible, isn’t it?” someone said.

SubhaanAllah. Indeed it was.

The thing was, being here was unprecedented but now so much appreciated. Although my mother had loved the short trip to Jordan, Egypt hadn’t exactly gone as planned.

I cringed as I remembered it momentarily. of course, as always, family was lively and entertaining. The functions and the excitement was consuming and infectious as everyone went all out, in their usual Arab hospitality, preparing and hosting us out in their most exceptional ways. That was how I remembered it. There were so many memories there for me, but it was heartsore too, in many other ways.

And it was bound to happen at some point, because then, on out last day, tears had filled Ummi’s eyes, and I wished that I could somehow fix the pain that had been etched there. I felt a sense of duty to her through shielding her from it before, but as we drove out of the city for the last time, we had collided into a protest. The chants of hundreds of Egyptians filled the streets of Cairo and several other cities… the first such incident since years ago.

”Ums, don’t cry,” I said softly. “Just now you’ll make me start and then you know how that will end…”

”I can cry because it’s where it’s from,” she said softly. she gave a hint of a smile but her grey eyes were still brimming with tears. “The pain is not so much because I’m not staying here… but it’s not the same.”

“Of course not,” I had said, trying to be indifferent. The truth was that it was paining me too. ”Did you really expect it to be, Ums?”

I had tried to warn her before. I didn’t want to see this happen. I knew that it would trouble her. I just didn’t know how much.

“The thing is, Khalid,” she said softly. “I had imagined this place so many times in my dreams. Coming back home. Seeing everyone. Talking about this. But never… in my most vivid dreams… would I have imagined it being so far from my home. This isn’t my home.”

”One day, Ums,” I said softly, my heart breaking for her. I knew it wasn’t likely but why not give hope, right? “One day it will be.”

Say it loud, don’t be scared, Sisi must go.”

It was crazy how things had regressed after after the Arab spring.
It had been coming for a while, but the speed with which it gained momentum had shocked me. Political turnovers, sporadic violence, and waves of repression were rife as generation of activists energized long-stagnant politics in countrywide demonstrations that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Since then it had been somewhat of a battle, and many may argue, but the main feels out there were we that it was all for democracy.
Allah knew best. The surprising fact was that Muslims were rallying and threatening Muslims, yet still… we are still quick to call other nations our enemies. The truth, as I’d heard before… was that no one was our true enemy greater than ourselves and our sins. That was undeniably, the main cause for all the unrest. So much of unrest and bloodshed.

The bloodshed. The bloodshed was what broke my heart… but as the Ummah of Nabi (SAW), I knew that it wasn’t unexpected.

Sa’d reported: The Messenger of Allah said, “I asked my Lord for three matters. He granted me two of them, but withheld one. I asked my Lord for my nation not to be destroyed by famine, and he granted it for me. I asked my Lord for my nation not to be destroyed by drowning, and he granted it for me. I asked my Lord for there to be no bloodshed in my nation, but he withheld it from me.”

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2890

I sighed as I looked around where I stood now, wondering if I could ever call this place home.

Coming to Qatar for a few days was never in the plan, but it was an eager diversion, even if it was for a getaway. There was something about travel that opened your mind… it made you think out of the box. From everything I’d seen and experienced, my life was now completely different to what I’d imagined. I just needed some time to adjust to the concept.

”Is it your first time in Qatar?”

I had been here between trips, like how Molvi was now, but never like how I’d come this time- with the intention to visit and view this place to settle in… to be home.

I looked at Maulana Umar and the guy who he called his brother-in-law. Another one of his crew had gone to get something to eat. Of course, I wouldn’t have ever in my wildest dreams imagined that I’d meet him at the Salaah room here but it was so good to see him because he reminded me of home. Or the place I used to call home. And I couldn’t help but be quite intrigued by the fact here we all were, united in another place that was so far from our unanimous home. Qatar had already gotten under my skin, and even though I was on my way out for now, I knew I’d be back here again.

The smoke from Ziyaad’s mouth was escaping unstoppably as he glanced at us, dropped his current cigarette into the tray and squished it, then promptly lit up another.

If anything, meeting Maulana Umar and the guys that he was with was enough to cheer me up after the ‘down in the dumps’ feeling I had after Egypt.

”Hey bru, do you ever stop?”

I could tell Maulana was joking but Ziyaad was the type of guy who always had a quirky answer for everything. And most of those times, his answers were chuckle-worthy.

“Sorry Molvi,” he said, taking a puff as he shook his head at us. “I know I need to quit but trust me, when you have Nafs like mine, you rather just stick to cigarettes.”

I grinned. He was a great guy but he cracked me up.

“You smoke, Maulana?” he asked, looking at me.

Smoking wasn’t my thing, but I wasn’t completely averse to it.

“Not really,” I said carefully. Back in the day, yes, I had smoked sometimes… in the past. But those days were over now. His face fell and I patted him on the back, feeling bad for him.

He was obviously addicted to it and who was to make him feel bad about it? Everyone had their weaknesses.

“But don’t worry,” I said promptly, winking at him. “I understand. Life’s stressful sometimes. I completely get you.”

Zee’s face immediately lit up.

”See!” He exclaimed, pointing at me and looking at Molvi Umar with a comical grin. “This guy! He’s like the coolest Maulana Dude I ever met… Was, meet Maulana Khalid.”


This guy was something else. I was so amused that I didn’t even notice the other guy approaching us, but as he pointed, my eyes settled on a well-built character who came toward us with a variety of chips and drinks in his hand.

Maulana Umar introduced us properly. He made me smile when he said that if I ever forgot his name I can call his Mus’ab, and of course, the name fit. Like the blue-eyed Sahaba, who was the flower of assemblies. Like the handsome youth who had wealth at his feet and gave it up for Deen. I didn’t know that this very guy was a guy who found the light amidst the throngs of darkness too.

“I’ve never met a guy named Khalid before,” Waseem said, looking thrilled as he shook my hand. “Reminds me of all those warrior stories Molvi used to tell me on our previous trips.”

I grinned. The Noble warrior. The sword of Allah. As a kid it was my only inspiration, and Ummi never ceased to thrill about the stories of Khalid Bin Waleed (RA). If only I could live up to that kind of courage. If only I could truly fulfill that kind of duty. Sometimes I felt that the older I got, the more mellow I became. Once upon a time I had that spark within me… but for a while, it had been somewhat lost…

Talking about lost, there was something about Waseem that I couldn’t place my finger on. Somehow, as we chatted easily about general things, I felt like he was strangely relatable. It was a while before I checked my watch, realizing that my family would be finished with Salaah and would be waiting for me.

”I’m going to have to leave you guys,” I said, looking at my watch and holding my hand out to greet them all. They still had a few hours before their flight. Maulana had already settled in the corner of the lounge with his Mushaf. He knew that there was no time to waste.

“No problem,” Waseem said. “but listen Maulana…when will you be heading back home? It’ll be good to see you again.”

I looked at him, not really sure if I should tell him. The truth was, I wasn’t sure where home was anymore. It felt nomadic but for some reason my heart wasn’t feeling settled in the place that I’d always sought refuge. It wasn’t settled back in South Africa.

”I haven’t really made any solid plans yet,” I said, looking them all as they waited for my answer. Maulana had put his Quran down as he cane to greet me. “I’ll take my mother back to Egypt and see from there. At the end of the day, whatever plans Allah has for me is on the cards.”

Molvi smiled and Ziyaad looked shocked.

”That means you don’t have a woman telling you what you need to do,” Ziyaad exclaimed, looking at me in admiration.

I grinned, but didn’t answer. Now wasn’t the time to get into that topic…

“Young and free, huh?” He said, looking at me with even more admiration. “Charming and good looking Molvi Dude like you, you must be having all the girls after you, nuh? I remember those days…“

He shook his head sadly and I couldn’t help but burst into laughter.

”Ignore him,” his brother said, shaking his head. “Ziyaad doesn’t like to admit that his marriage is the one thing he loves more than food.”

Heeeyy,” Ziyaad moaned, tossing the empty packet of chips in the bin. “That’s a low blow.”

Maulana Umar chuckled along with me. It was fun to see these brothers at each other.

“Don’t worry about this guy, Maulana ,” he said seriously. “When the time is right and you’re back in SA hopefully we’ll see you again. You’re brave to be out here. Taking big steps in Deen. Doing things that some of us are afraid to do.”

How did I tell him that even though I was brave on the outside, I had so many other fears.

”I’ll see you, Maulana,” I said, embracing him as he patted he on the back. “They’ll be waiting for me.”

“Jhee,” he said, nodding. “We’ll see you on the other side. Assalamu-Alaykum.”

I greeted him back, making my way back to the boarding area seats where they had been sitting. So many people, all from so many places… all headed in different places. It was something that I always loved about airports. Just sitting and watching… wondering where everyone’s story started and where they will end.

And right there, in front of me as I took a seat, was one of my favorite people. Just seeing her made me feel at home even in this foreign place.

”Missed me, habibti?” I asked, kissing her hand as I took a seat opposite her. Her gaze was focused ahead, as if there was something on her busy mind.

”You’re not moving so far away,” she said to me crossly in Arabic, as if she had been waiting for me to come back… just to argue with me again. It was a squabble she had started at the beginning of the trip, when I mentioned that I might settle here.

I smiled, knowing where this was going.

“And why not?” I asked her, still holding her hand. “You’ll be coming with me, you know.”

How I loved her. She was always cross for some reason or the other and it always made me chuckle.

”You’ll just be an immigrant here,” she muttered with a scowl. “You’re not just an immigrant. You’re better than that.”

”Says who?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. “Aren’t we all just slaves of the Almighty?”

“You can’t leave,” she insisted, ignoring me and getting angrier. “After all this time now you want to go again! No. It’s not right, Khalid. You must think about your parents.”

She was right but I felt like I was being held back. I knew they were making sense but how could I ignore a call to do this type of work? Here, where it just felt right?  What I didn’t know was that there’s a deeper sense of duty that had to call and it was about to unfold sooner than I thought.

”You know I’ll be back this time,” I tried to comfort her.

She shook her head vehemently.

“You‘ll change,” she murmured. “I know it and I don’t want it. No more… what they call this in English? Globe-trotting. Yes. You stay put. Get settled. Else I won’t be happy.”

I grinned, taking it lightly. Globe-trotting sounded so adventurous. I looked at the time, and my smile already faded.

The call for boarding was resounding through the speakers. Where was Ummi?

”Where’s Ummi?” I asked her, getting a little worried.

”She went to the pharmacy,” she replied, looking worried too as I checked my watch again.

I stood up, running my hands through my beard as I scanned the crowd.

“Wait here,” I said, picking my backpack up in case I needed it. “I’m going to check for her.”

I ran off to the pharmacy, only to return back to the bench where Ummi was already waiting. Relief flooded through me as I saw her, but as I got closer I could see the two women chatting fervently and I immediately felt a tightening in my chest. Something wasn’t right.

”What’s happened?” I asked them in Arabic. Fear gripped me as I saw Ummi’s eyes filled with tears.

“Not good news,” they both said. What now?

“Ums, tell me,” I insisted, the anticipation killing me.

”It’s your father,” she said tearfully. “He slipped in the bathroom. Broke his femur.”

Inna Lillahi. Not good but it could have been worse.

It was the one thing that had worried me when we had left him… knowing that he was alone back home. He had refused to join us… saying he was busy with work and would be fine. Papa was fiercely independent and wasn’t very old but worst thing that could happen was something like this for Ummi to rush back. There was no family close by to even offer their help.

”I’m so sorry, Khalid,” Ummi said softly. “I don’t want to ruin your plans. I know you didn’t plan on going back… not now at least.. but -“

Ssshhh, Ummi, don’t say that,” I said to her, shaking my head and stepping forward to grasp her arm comfortingly. “It’s no ones fault. Taqdeer, huh? We’ll take a detour. It may be fun.”

“May Allah reward you, handsome,” my mother said sincerely, clearly relieved. “You’re a good boy, Khalid.”

I smiled. Ummi calling me a good boy made me feel like a child again. I had forgotten the things I missed most about her all these years.

“It’s no big deal,” I mumbled.

Maybe a change of flights and some extra expenses but I knew I couldn’t let her down . For now, I had some time to spare before I’d get on the road, choose my path and commit to it.

”What about me?”

Ah. I had forgotten. I looked at her and smiled. It was when duty was calling, and right now we didn’t really have much time to waste. The ideal thing would be to head back straight from here. There was no time to make any stops. I had to step up and be there for my father. It only made sense to take her with us.

”What you say Habibti?” I winked at her, holding my hand out to help her up. “Maybe it’s time you come and see where I grew up?”

She smiled and nodded.

“Maybe it’s time.”

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.

Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that Allah the Exalted had said: “I have divided the prayer into two halves between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks. When the servant says: Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe, Allah the Most High says: My servant has praised Me. And when he (the servant) says: The Most Compassionate, the Merciful, Allah the Most High says: My servant has lauded Me. And when he (the servant) says: Master of the Day of judgment, He remarks: My servant has entrusted (his affairs) to Me. And when he (the worshipper) says: You alone we worship and of You alone do we ask help, He (Allah) says: This is between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for. Then, when he (the worshipper) says: Guide us to the straight path, the path of those to whom You has been Gracious not of those who have incurred Your displeasure, nor of those who have gone astray, He (Allah) says: This is for My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for.” [Sahih Muslim]

Lots and lots of Duaas. Let’s focus on trying to bring Du’aa into our daily lives…

How easy to practice …











Twitter: @ajourneyjournal