I had been so sucked into work this morning that I wouldn’t have even known if something had happened at the office to cause all the drama. It was clear that something was off. Plus, Layyanah was wearing a turban style hijab which was completely new to me. I was wondering what and why and whether Divine inspiration had come from above… because I never saw Layyanah covering her hair before.
And now I was left with the ardent task of trying to figure out what happened, after being forced to hold down the show while Liyaket went for his meeting, so Layyanah wouldn’t have a nervous breakdown in his absence.
How was my luck such? I internally groaned. So much for not getting involved.
Gosh, I should have trusted my instinct and walked away. it was no wonder I steered clear of these kind of situations. It just gave me unnecessary anxiety. But then what kind of friend would I be?
Stop being selfish, I chided myself.
At that point, there must have been some deeper reasoning as to why I was the one who Layyanah was going to turn into her most entrusted confidante…. I just didn’t know it yet.
Because of course, I couldn’t just leave the girl there. At that point, though we weren’t best friends, I actually quite liked Layyanah. She was one of the less snobbish but feisty girls who were at the office. She also wasn’t scared to say what she needed to when it was required. She didn’t worry about those few who would purposely stare at you when you walk past them, and then say something inaudabile just to get you all revved up.
“I’m leaving work,” she explained. “I mean, I have to. My parents are adamant that I must stay home and they want me to get married. To someone of their choice.”
Hmmmm. I widened my eyes appropriately.
Being in the crappy mood I was, I was tempted to nod and be impartial, but I knew I couldn’t be so heartless. Plus, if Layyanah left, she would leave me alone here with those annoying girls, I don’t know what I would do. She can’t leave work. No, that’s not going to work for me.
“Are they forcing you?” I said, wondering if she even knew what this meant.
Like, do those old forced marriages still exist? Arranged marriage, I understand. I knew that there was no pressure to say yes, if you weren’t compatible. But this sounded like something out of some nineteen-voetsek Bollywood movie and I couldn’t fathom that it was still allowed.
Layyyanah shrugged. It didn’t seem like she thought it was abnormal. It was almost like she expected it. But like, how do you even just accept someone who your parents choose? And then, what about Liyaket? Most of all, what about me?! Was this even real life or some soapy drama thing.
I took a deep breath in and looked at my acquaintance turned friend, trying to put on a comforting voice to ease her fears. Only problem was that I wasn’t very good at that, so instead of sounding kind, I just sounded edgy. Partly because I was worried about how long this coffee break was taking and partly because the whole situation was just stressing me out.
“Lets meet at lunch to talk,” I said decisively, knowing that I needed to get back to work it would also give me time to wrap my head around the problem and think of a practical solution. After all, I really did like Layyanah and it was horrible to think that I wouldn’t see her again. Because in all fairness, I really needed her to be my friend slash work-ally.
And though I made my way to my desk, eyes on me because my coffee making break had taken a little longer than expected, my mind was already consumed by worst-case scenarios. Opening the spreadsheet I was working on, my mind could simply not focus on it. Besides trying to avoid Jameela incessant messages about what I thought about her new design for her coffee shop logo, I finally called it a morning at 11.45, messaged Layyanah and told her to meet me at the coffee shop down the road.
It was a popular place that many of the office occupants frequented during the week, and today, I was hoping we could find a quiet spot to chill with minimal interruptions. Plus, I wanted to catch up with some posts. We weren’t allowed to be on social media at work and my lunch break was my haven to reconnect with the world.
Grabbing a table in the far corner, Layyanah bought us two cappuccinos and joined me while I took out my phone to take a snap of the coffee cups. I mean, there was no use going to fancy coffee shops if you didn’t share a story about the presentation of the coffee you drank. And the pattern of the frothy layer on the top. Latte art was always trending. Like duh.
I placed my laptop next to it my coffee. Just for extra effect took another snap, zooming in so I could get the full effect. Ooh yes, that was perfect.
The two cups looked good together with the Laptop and I immediately clicked the post icon.
Caption: Coffee with BFF.
Nah. Something more work inclined.
Caption: A dose of work earns a dose of coffee with the bestie.
Yep. That sounded more like it. At least they would know that I worked hard to earn my play time. And I had a good friend that I could talk about my work nuances with. Well, not really, but it was all for the gram so no one really cared about the truth anyway.
My mother was sending me a WhatsApp message but I purposely ignored it. There was no need to reply immediately. I was doing something important and posting updates for people that paid attention to my life. It made me feel good, and my social media following was reaching nearly 6.5k. That was important. People who didn’t really know me were most important. What wasn’t hitting me was that this media I called social, was actually anything but. I was slowly becoming an anti-social freak with a gadget attached to my hand.
Oh but yes, what about hashtags?
#coffee #friends #bff #bondingtime
I quickly put in a heart and two girls emoticon, making sure to hashtag more appropriate things like #work, and then tagged @layyanah_m before looking up at the real life version.
Layyanah was sipping on her cappucino carefully, deep in thought while finished with my snaps, took a quick selfie and then put my phone back in my bag. I was tempted to take it out again to check the likes in the post. I had already seen some double taps but Layyanah didn’t look like she was in the mood for an Instagram update, so I waiting for her to spill her story.
And then she started and the urge to pick up my phone was overwhelming. I wasn’t sure how to engage with her without it. Nowadays it was normal to chat to people with one hand occupied, right? I saw it all the time.
I grabbed my phone, scrolling through posts of old friends with their babies, through some other influencer type feeds, wondering what it was I could do to earn more followers. It wasn’t like what she was telling me wasn’t important, and she wasn’t looking annoyed that I was on my phone, but it wasn’t making me stop in my tracks. Well not yet.
”So Liyaket thinks we should make Nikah,” I heard her say all matter of fact, while I conveniently spat out my coffee all over the table. Oh gosh. How did we get to this point?
I put my phone down. Finally, and then looked at my friend.
Layyanah didn’t look fazed. I wasn’t sure if she even noticed.
”What?” I asked, widening my eyes at her. “Why on earth would he suggest that?”
She frowned slightly.
“Erm,” she started, not really noticing my discouraging approach. “Because we’re compatible. Because it’s the right thing to do. And because I really want to spend the rest of my life with him and no-one is going to stop me. Weren’t you even listening?”
I looked at her shamefully.
She had a certain defiance in her eyes as she gave her motivation and I was in between wanting to cheer her on and wanting to slap some sense into her.
Make Nikah? Just like that. Like, whose bright idea was that? Like, they were only going out for 2 seconds.
“Why can’t you just talk to your parents and let them know that you have someone and do things properly?” I said, wondering why all the drama but kind of guessing at the same time. As I said, drama, it wasn’t my thing.
Layyanah sighed and looked at me, her eyes looking all melancholy once again.
“They’ll never accept a son-in-law from another cast,” she said finally, swallowing hard and saying the word ‘cast’ emphatically. “Outdated Indian traditional thinking. Crazy, but that’s how we are. Nevermind we’ve lived in western world and want to everything else like the west. They still hold onto their old stupid old-fashioned and warped values. Of course, I’ll tell them, but I know what will happen. It’s too much of a blow to their egos to accept a ‘Khan’ as a son-in-law. My brother already knows- he was ready to approach Liyaket at the airport. Lucky Liy was fast to get out of there. Hashim messaged me with his derogatory terms and threatened me after he dropped me at home. But I don’t care. You know why?”
I shrugged. I really didn’t know. Probably because I wasn’t listening properly in the first place
“Because I see my sister suffering every day,” she almost spat, her whole demeanor changing as she became angry. “Married to a first class idiot who cheats and lies and parties every weekend. And she can’t go anywhere because his parents have too much of pride to ever let it out the bag. And they have too much of money. And contacts. Not like my parents are any better… but for Liyaket… well, it’s not the same. He wasn’t brought up like that. It’s not like Liyaket even has a father to fall back on or vouch for him. He knows what it is to come from somewhere that has no privilege. He doesn’t take anything for granted. Liyakets father passed away when he was a baby. He was raised by his grandmother because his mother had to work 18 hours a day to put food on the table. Gosh, I cried when he told me the story. His life is too far-fetched… too basic… too lower class for them. They would say I need to marry better. That we’re not compatible. But to tell the truth, Mos, I know I won’t find better. He treats me like a queen and I know it’s wrong to carry on like this, but I think that this is what’s best for me and that’s why when he said that Hamzah says we should make Nikah then I think that may just be the solution…”
It took me a few moments to process, feel the emotions, and then I narrowed my eyes at her before cutting her off.
“Hamzah suggested Nikah?” I asked incredulously. I almost wanted to laugh now.
Treats her like a queen? Please. It was probably only because he wanted her to succumb to him. I knew that Liyaket was a nice guy but no guy was that amazing. Right? He probably had some dodge connections to do it too. Highly possible.
“Like just like that? No plans, just Nikah?”
“Apparently Hamzah’s family is very holy like,” she said, looking slightly calmer as her eyes strayed to the doorway where the devil himself was standing.
Hamzah and Liyaket had entered the coffee shop and I kind of got the feeling that they were looking for us. Well. For Layyanah- but you get what I’m saying.
And besides the fact that Hamzah annoyed me, I generally steered clear of him for other reasons too, only addressing him if he really got in my way. Because of default company and Liyaket and Layyanah, he was often around, but the fact was that he had earned his reputation in the months he had been here, I didn’t plan on even indulging his witty charm. He was the one who everyone looked at as the craziest guy in the crowd, who always cracked a joke at the most inappropriate moments, and, who, though extremely good-looking, no sane Muslim girl would ever touch with a ten foot pole because they knew that all he was good at was auditing and messing around.
And that was why I found it so hard to believe that he had actually suggested they make Nikah, because boy, the guy himself was way off that track of thinking.
I mean, what on earth happened to him, if his family was so holy?
And because I had been engulfed by darkness for far too long, for some reason, I was unable to see that this was probably coming from a good place.
Nevermind the fact that the longer they carry on making Zinaa, the less barakah there would be if they had a future together. Nevermind that Imaan actually lifts out the body when you engage in that sinful act. Nevermind that that maybe Hamzah was actually trying to recommend something good that would serve them well in future.
Nikah was the last thing I wanted Layyanah to do right now and I wasn’t even sure if my reasoning was valid. If she made Nikah she would definitely leave work at some point soon. Knowing Layyanah, she’d probably fall pregnant really soon and then feel all nauseated when she came to work and that would be the end of my friend.
The thing I didn’t realise was that Allah Ta’ala created an inherent thirst for companionshipin the heart of every human. The objective of Nikah was to attain peace of mind, which was something I had been lacking of late. Due to my Netflix addictions that were clouding my mind, I was a little delusional with regard to the purpose of this blessed union. My sins had played a huge part in making me see wrong things as right, and right things as wrong. Sometimes we were so quick to make judgement and say what we feel, but seldom, we actually stop and think about what Allah will be happy with. About what Nabi (SAW) himself would have advised us to do. Our lives are so far from that and my life was particularly in need of reform at that point.
I grabbed my phone again, raising my eyebrows in greeting and then ignoring them as they came to the table, taking the chance to catch up on any Instagram comments. The truth was, I was annoyed at the two of them for suggesting this Nikah thing. This would put a spanner in the works and change everything as we know it. I delved into my phone, tuning my mind out of the present, avoiding any confrontation.
And as always, the virtual world was eventful. Already a few followers had commented with some emojis. Obviously they thought that this was the best kind of corporate life ever. And then of course, Maahira, an old school friend who I chatted with often and was now working in London messaged to check one where we were having coffee. She had worked in Sandton before she moved to London and I was in the midst of replying to her when Hamzah rudely clicked his fingers in front of my face.
“Hey TikTok,” he said, his voice intruding my precious moments of Instagram fame. Why did he have to always make himself important?
I didn’t look up at him, because I felt like there was no point. Well, until he said smoothly:
“There was an announcement. Bossman is looking for you. I suggest you go and see what he wants.”
Mission Sunnah Revival!
Wearing Shoes and Covering the head when entering the toilet.
It is recommended not to enter the toilet with the head uncovered, because of a report which says that when the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) entered the toilet, he would put on his shoes and cover his head. End quote.