Growing up, I often saw my sister as the pillar of strength of our family. Unflinching. Unchanging. Always there, constantly protecting, going on, headstrong, even though she may be heading into a battlefield herself. A warrior in spirit, her head was always high, her resolve always unwavering.
And there’s something about the beginning of a story that sets the tone for a very long time to come. The beginning is usually the time when our hearts are said to have perfect vision. That first moment. First look. First impression. The first feeling that we become accustomed to, is almost a forever one. I often wonder about that theory of love that promises that people see each other clearer as we get to know each other… but in my opinion, it’s probable that the opposite may be very much more truer.
And even after all that… whichever way it all happens, when the dust settles and it all works out… One day you wake up in this place where everything feels right. Your soul is lit. Your heart is calm. Everything seems to be going according to plan.
But life has a funny way of shaking you up, when you may be slipping. Sometimes when we feel like we’re gliding through, spiritually we may just be sliding away. You see, sometimes we pin all our hopes on people. On conditions. On creation. And life has a way of bringing you back to your base, no matter how your journey may be going.
Sometimes we just become complacent, and need to be brought back. For us, during that time, it all started with an unwelcome message.
Plz tel ur sister that I’m really sorry.
The message came at 11.30 that Sunday evening and even though Maahira was the last person that I wanted to hear from after how she treated my sister, I was a little inclined to indulge her at that hour, when sleep was horribly evading me.
I lay on my bed, silently praying, hoping for the best, still digesting the events of the evening, trying to figure out how everything was changing and why it was all moving so fast. My gap year was nearly over. My sister was getting married. Life was changing and it was time to start growing up. My mind was running away with me and I couldn’t seem to stop it.
I kno I was wrong, I shudnt hav dun what I did.
I was trying to get into sum1s good books and now I kno that I was doing it all wrong.
I had a response but I wasn’t going to respond.
I had heard Layyanah and Mohsina talking. I wasn’t sure that I was going to believe the excuses but I wasn’t going to judge her either.
Plz jus tel her to reply.
What about those two months she spent waiting for her reply?
The evening had been eventful enough and maybe it was time to just give in. And what better to reply with than something that would burn her. Just a little.
My sister is busy. She’s proposed.
I pressed the send button, and her reply came almost immediately.
Oh Emm Gee!!!!!!! *dancing girl emoji*
Who is the lucky guy?
I smiled. I was absolutely ecstatic for my sister.
His name is Hamzah.
There was an elated feeling as I typed it. I wasn’t sure if it was nerves or excitement for her.
There wasn’t too much of a chance of Maahira knowing him because we were from the plaas part of Gauteng and Hamzah wasn’t.
Wats his sname?
I knew exactly why she was asking. And I knew exactly what to tell her.
He doesn’t have Instagram.
I typed. Mohsina warned me about that.
That was my next message.
I knew she was probably googling him on her browser while we chatted.
She obviously did not know what else to say, and she was entitled to say it.
What the ….?!
How the hel is this going to work, even? The guy doesn’t even exist.
I knew what she meant. Someone I couldn’t find on Google was more or less non-existent.
But he was who he was and we were pretty in awe of it.
He may just surprise us.
And I left it at that as I crept down the hall that moonlit night and tapped at her door, opening it slightly as I watched my sister, her face illuminated as she either scrolled through her Instagram feed or watched a Netflix series on her phone. Her eyes shifted to me as I pushed the door open, and a small smile crept on her face as she realised that it was one of those nights that we were both a little too stimulated to catch even a wink of sleep before midnight.
I sat next to her as I tapped on my phone, scrolling through some of my own Instagram feed posts, wondering what kick my sister got out of it. I often deleted the darn thing, only to download it again, just because I was getting FOMO because all my friends were on it. Till this day, I still didn’t get the whole hype. Influencer feeds and bloggers… well, they just didn’t interest me. Mohsina, however, understood everyone on there and made excuses for them, saying it was their space to express themselves so they could sit on it for hours. For me, it was hogwash.
”Do you even know what you’re liking?” I asked, as I saw her double tapping a few times, and scrolling, almost unconsciously.
“I need some mindless entertainment,” she murmured, finally putting her phone down and looking at me. “I abandoned Netflix last month and I can’t sleep.”
”Thinking of Hamzah?” I teased, as she rolled her eyes at me.
“No,” she said, sitting up in bed as letting her hair fall over her face. It wasn’t often that I saw my sister let her hair down. Literally. She was actually quite serenely beautiful and at peace when she relaxed and just took it easy. It’s not that she wasn’t usually. She just always appeared to be so occupied and fiercely independent. Everyone saw this stunning but busy working girl, but for me, well, now I saw Mohsina as a woman who was so much more.
”Just thinking,” she said softly, putting her phone down and looking at me.
I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I had an idea that she had a lot on her mind. I mean, who wouldn’t?
“Maahira messaged me,” I said quietly. “To tell me to apologize to you.”
”I’m not sure how to tell her that I don’t feel like talking to her,” she said bluntly. “I’m just a bit disgusted.”
“I think she already knows that. I think she regrets it.”
“I didn’t know quite how to get back there with Maahira. To that comfortable place.”
That was understandable. Betrayal was hard to stomach.
“I told her you’re proposed.”
She looked at me and frowned.
”Really?” She said. “But it’s not like, official and you know Maahira…”
Well, we didn’t do the final asking and saying yes thing, but I was sure that it was all going to go smoothly. And Maahira could tell who she wants. I was so happy for my sister.
”Everyone likes him,” I said quietly. “Even Nani. Are you shocked?”
”Not really,” she admitted. “Hamzah is a born charmer. He has dodge ways.”
I grinned. Trust Mohsina to put it that way.
”At least Nani will like one of you then,” I said and she smiled back.
Nani’s reaction though, was priceless. But truth be told, I didn’t expect it. And to be honest, I just found it so cute because the seal of the deal came when Nani came in with her look of extreme scrutiny, trying to suss him out, and Hamzah, being Hamzah, was barely even fazed. Maybe he was used to it, but it helped that he wasn’t shy, because all he had to do was take the bull by the horns and shamelessly get up, introduce himself and sit next to Nani after, with not a worry in the world.
It was the most unexpected yet admirable interaction of ever seen Nani have.
Despite her hounding her about how Mohsina knew Hamzah and everything else, meeting him today, Nani was literally blown away by Hamzah. And even though I coundn’t believe it myself, we could not have been more ecstatic.
“Did you tell him to bring the flowers for her?” I asked, shaking my head as I remembered how thrilled she was at the allocated bunch of lilies that was just for her. It was one of her favourite, white ones too.
”No ways,” she said. “The most I would have done was tell him to bring flowers for me. I got chocolates, but hey, I’m not complaining. I have to hand it to him- He thought of that all himself.”
She grinned and then shook her head. And it wasn’t easy to do but Hamzah knew just the right moves and in what doses to do them to impress her.
I climbed into her bed now, pulling the covers up and plopping my head down on the spare pillow next to her. It smelt of Mohsina – Chanel perfume and Dove body wash. My sister had her own distinct smell that I always loved.
And although we weren’t always sharing every second of our lives, I knew my sister pretty well. I hung onto every thread of information she gave me or I heard her talk about. I knew how her mind worked.
At any normal time, she didn’t have much tolerance for drama and she often had fought with Nani over things that didn’t make sense to her, but today – well, today, she had displayed forbearance like I had never seen before and that’s how I knew how much she wanted this to work. And yes, I knew Mohsina and I was very aware that to many people she could appear be very self-absorbed and indulgent at times, but today, she was a completely different person.
The truth was, Nani was a handful at times. And there were many unsolicited things that Nani complained about but to tell the truth, there were deeper secrets in our family that were worth fighting about. Mohsina was a lot of amazing things that no-one spoke about and if she even knew the half of it, I knew Nani would have been silenced.
And as I watched my sister for a few quiet moments as I thought about it, I almost missed it and thought that I was mistaken, but as she sniffed I glimpsed the glimmer of a single tear rolling down her cheek and I found myself feeling all kinds of emotional too.
“Hey, are you okay?” I asked, sitting up slightly and reaching for her hand and grasping it lightly. “Is everything okay?”
She nodded silently, not yet able to talk. And it was so unlike Mohsina because I barely saw her emotional, but … well, a lot had happened and I was sure that it was all settling because maybe because she needed to work this out in her head.
“I’m sorry,” she sniffed, her voice strained due to the emotion.
“It’s okay,” I said softly.
“I’m supposed to be happy,” she said, wiping her eyes and shaking her head. “It had all turned out okay, but somehow, when people are all excited, I always get the feeling that I’m going to let them down. Like really badly.”
“Aw Mosee, dont say that,” I said softly, not understanding the pressure she was feeling. I didn’t know what it was to be her.
She barely showed it, but Mohsina’s heart was pretty incomparable. She was considerate. She was fair. She usually didn’t care about people’s perceptions or what they thought. Her focus wasn’t on those superficial things. But this, what she was feeling now- it was her sense of belonging and protectiveness that was overtaking her, more than ever.
And it was one of the unmentionable things in our household, but to be in her place now as I grew up, I think I was finally beginning to understand her feelings. The thing is, no one ever said it, but Mohsina had had immense pressure to start work, while she was still busy with a degree. Before she started working, for a smaller company before Hammond’s that she was working for part-time, we pretended not to notice, but things were getting pretty difficult, financially. The shop was quiet, I would see mummy filling samoosas for orders late at night. Often, she would take on more than she could manage. Muhammed Husayn had to change schools. Things weren’t looking good.
It was only when my sister started at Hammond’s, did things ease off. She saw to the house needs, took care of my brothers new wardrobe, gave my mother spending money, and even bought groceries regularly. Never once did she mention it, even to Nani, but I was in awe of her because she was so selfless to so many degrees. Being the eldest, I knew she felt responsible when Papa’s shop wasn’t doing well, when he couldn’t meet payments and she silently checked his books and helped out without even as much as a thank you. Almost like another parent, that was just the Mohsina that I knew and had grown up with over these few years.
She had held so much of responsibility…. she couldn’t help but feel her leaving us so much deeper than anyone else. We just didn’t know yet how much it would affect us.
“Okay, and I’m not one for soppiness,” she said, smiling through her tears. “To be quite frank, I’m the most un-soppy person you can ever find. But when Hamzah came today, it was like alarm bells were ringing… and just like that, it felt like one of those strings that were holding my heart so rigidly in place just snapped. And I supposed it was because I saw a side to him that I never saw before, but there was something else that just made me realise how much my family means to me.”
I blinked. This was a mouthful of emotion from my sister.
”What do you mean?” I asked carefully.
“I mean,” she went on, comfortable in the dark because it was way past midnight now and late at night.. well, secrets are best shared at this moonlit hour.
“It’s not like I know him so well… but I know a bit about him. A significant bit. But today- when I watched him with people who I love the most, I already knew that I don’t want to let anyone down. Neither does he.”
She sighed audibly.
“I’m just so scared, Jamz. I’m just so scared that I’m going to hurt him, or hurt Papa, or just mess this whole thing up…”
My heart contracted momentarily.
I knew what she was saying and it was the one thing I didn’t tell Mohsina. I just didn’t feel it fair to her, but she may have even noticed herself.
I mean, I knew that she had taken them by surprise, but out of everyone, there was something that just didn’t feel right and I could tell that Papa’s behaviour was most worrying.
And though I had asked him countless times if he was okay, all he did was nod, smile, and then a minute or two later, look worried again. He was beginning to make me worried, because the thing was, I really wanted this to work out for Mohsina. I just hoped that there wasn’t any major problem that he wasn’t telling us about and we weren’t going to be caught in the dark at the most unexpected time.
And okay, besides the one family connection of his that had freaked me out at Layyanah’s wedding, what I did know was that Hamzah was so good for Mohsina. Decent. Easy-going. Independent. The best for her in every way even though he seemed so different from her in other ways, it was how I could also see why the two of them just gelled. Of course, there were changes I noticed from both of them- good changes- now that time had progressed, but everyone’s journey is different, and people change as they realize whats most important but through this… and I only hoped that they would both help each other to be better, to find each other and most of all, to find Allah.
The thing was, I wasn’t sure that Mohsina was being honest with Hamzah. I wasn’t sure if he even knew the half of what she did to keep us afloat.
It was just that I felt that right now, more than ever, I really needed to step in. I just couldn’t let my sister carry this burden any longer. But how did I make her feel better without letting her know exactly what I intended to do?
Ah. I knew just the thing.
”Mosee, have trust in Allah,” I said quietly. “I know you’re scared and it’s a big step to take, but you have to have Tawakkul that it will all work out for the best. I know it’s late and you have work in the morning, but you know that this is the perfect time to ask of Allah? When Allah Taála waits for us to ask of Him? Right now.. at this hour… when everyone is asleep in their comfortable beds… To pour out our worries and hopes, to ask for whatever you want… to trust your decisions, make Duaa and then take the plunge…”
Your Lord has proclaimed, “Call upon Me, I will respond to you. Surely those who are too proud to worship Me will enter Hell, fully humbled.” (Holy Qurán, Surah Ghafir, Verse 60)
There was a few seconds of silence.
“That’s my girl,” Mohsina finally spoke with conviction, sounding like she was so immensely proud. Of me. She was proud of me?
I didn’t know what to say. I wish I had accomplished half of what she did.
“You’re my very own spiritual warrior, Jamz,” she conceded, turning to face me. “No jokes. You always know where to shove those worries and concerns and make them all go away. How you just know what to say, I have no idea. I love you so much right now.”
I smiled into the dark. I wasn’t what she said I was but it was just something that I tried to do myself. I also knew that talking wasn’t always the best thing. Yes, I had many ambitions for myself, but I was still so confused. I did know that I didn’t want to study, but I also knew that marriage wasn’t an option right now. I just needed some time. Between my dream of going into business, doing an Aalimah course and studying a BEd, I was the most confused teenager in the world.
It’s just that I had an idea that could work. I had so many plans. Papa could sell the shop and be managing it. Ma could use her baking and cooking expertise. Muhammed Husayn could help out in weekends. I had the most amazing of ideas and I knew that our small plot of land with the barn in front would be the perfect place for it. No-one would listen but I was going to make it work, regardless.
I wasn’t scared of working hard. My parents had both worked hard to put us through school and bring us up. I had business in my blood and I knew that I could make it good for us without taking too many risks.
Tomorrow was a new day and a new week and I knew that I would do some serious things if I put my mind to it. I just needed that push and this was it. This was what I needed.
Yes, there are many uncertainties, but life has a funny way of shaking you up, when you may be slipping. Sometimes when we feel like we’re gliding through, spiritually we may just be sliding away. You see, sometimes we pin all our hopes on people. On conditions. On creation. Sometimes we get so sucked in by this Duniyaa, that we are completely distanced from Allah, even when we are blatantly ignoring the fact that he is taking care of everything so beautifully for us.
You see, there’s a special kind of journey for those who choose Allah above everything. Above wealth. Above comfort. Above love, even, the love of this world. When we choose to submit, through difficulty or ease. When you choose Allah and His way of life, things are not always promised to be easy.
But when you remember that there’s a way to resurface, to overcome, to revert from any dip that we may have taken… it’s pretty simple to come back. Yes, to be strong is great but there are times when we have to come undone. To be vulnerable. Let the weight of your emotions flow. When we let it all go.
I looked at my sister now as she got out of bed to make a fresh ablution. For all these years, her life had been solely focused on getting our family through the tough times. Her small but grand gestures would never be anything I could compare to, but I knew that even a little perseverance could go a long way. And even when I watched my sister, one thing I realized now was that growing up doesn’t just simply end. It’s not a once-off journey.
We are always growing, always changing. We keep trying new things. We keep coming back to where we left off.
Change isn’t always smooth-sailing. Growing up isn’t always the easiest thing. But sometimes it’s the only way to progress, to be selfless, to care about something other than yourself.. and to reach greater heights.
From time to time, even when the scars on your soul start to ache, remember that you made it through that rough time and once again, as you grow, it will get you through again.
Mission Sunnah Revival! Sunnah before sleeping.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيمر
Hazrat Baraa Ibne ‘Aazib
(حضرت براء ابن عازب)
رضى الله تعالى عنه
When رسول الله صلى الله تعالى عليه وسلم would retire to his bed, he would lie down on his right side, thereafter he supplicated:
اللهم اسلمت نفسى اليك
O الله! I submit myself to You
ووجهت وجهى اليك
And I turned my face to You
وفوضت امرى اليك
And I entrusted all my affairs to You
والجات ظهرى اليك
And I placed my back (body) in Your protection
رغبة و رهبة اليك
In anticipation of Your reward and due to fear of Your punishment
لا ملجا و لا منجا منك إلا اليك
There is no escape, nor salvation from You, except with You
آمنت بكتابك الذى أنزلت
I believe in Your book, which You revealed
و نبيك الذى أرسلت
And (I believe) Your Prophet, whom You sent.
Supplicating the above, is actually a renewal of belief.
Sleeping on the right side, is beneficial from various perspectives and a Sunnah.
A person can get up early, without difficulty
It reminds of the grave, because we are buried in that position.