When it’s Crunch Time

Bismihi Ta’ala


I’ve spent twenty odd years of my life trying to come to terms with the fact that human beings do sometimes fade in and out of each other’s lives. Whether it’s friends or family, or someone you may have kept a little closer to your heart … plans change, timelines differ, life happens… people come and go…

And there are times when the transition is taken in your stride, when there may be something amazing and waiting for you instead as you barely feel the pangs of losing someone who was once your close friend. Sometimes someone leaving reminds you of a truer purpose. It brings you more, in other ways. And then there are times, when letting someone into your life can be an event of its own…

Hey you. Salaam. 

I hadn’t seen a message from her in weeks and I had to do a double take as I read her name. Two months too late. Maahira had actually messaged, as if we hadn’t really fallen out of a friendship and nothing had happened at all.

“Sorry Layy,” I said, stopping her in mid sentence as I picked up my phone.. “This girl… the one from London.. she just messaged.”

Layyanah frowned slightly.

“Maahira?!” She asked with a raised eyebrow.

I glanced at her, a little surprised. I don’t think I ever mentioned her name to Layyanah.

“How do you know her name?” I asked, putting my phone down again without opening the message.

I think was too risky to reply right then. What was she even messaging me for?

Layyanah rolled her eyes.

“Found her on LinkedIn,” she said blandly. She was frowning and there was obviously a reason why. “Female Muslim CA in London. Huge Instagram following. A little self-centred if you ask me, but hey, if you like that kind of thing…”

She trailed off and I looked away. I wondered what people thought of my instagram page. I loved Maahira’s page, @londongirlfromjozie. Her feed was so… vibey and boisterous. The influencers who followed her were absolutely goals. It was one of my favourite until. Well, until she ratted me out to whoever she ratted me out to.

I was soon going to find out.

“So she and Hashim met via networking,” she said. “There was a huge influencer meet in London and he was trying to see how he could use them for his business. They obviously had a thing going on after. His wife had mentioned that there was some London girl she had caught him chatting to. And after you told me it also meant that I could threaten him so he doesn’t interfere with my wedding plans…”

She had a smirk on her face, while I was still reeling in shock. Like people had extra-marital relationships, and no-one even batted an eyelid? And my friend… well, my EX- friend, but someone who I knew as one of my day ones… she was the one involved? I could not even.

“What do you influencers think of yourself anyway?” She said, but she wasn’t being insulting. I was half listening. “Thinking they can do as they please. Treat people like they want. Like, what exactly do influencers even do? Help you decide what colour lipstick to use?!”

She had a point there but I wasn’t really listening. Even if I said so myself, the influencer thing was kind of gone out of control, but that was a topic for another day.

I mean, I knew that I was guilty too, but Maahira… She had told Haashim because she was obviously involved with him and committing Zinaa… the one that was so detested and betrayed someone else… I just … no, it couldn’t be true.

“Just hold up,” I said shaking my head, needing to clarify. “Maahira and your brother Haashim?”

Layyanah nodded, looking at her phone now, and while she scrolled through hastily.

“You want proof?”

Of course I wanted proof.

She faced her screen to me, showing me a picture of the Eiffel tower. It was all lit up and beautiful against the night sky, and I knew I had seen that picture before before she tapped again, and showed me the exact same picture, on a different profile. On Maahira’s.

The caption itself was a little cliched.

The City of Love  ❤️ 

But that was expected, wasn’t it?

I knew Maahira took a trip to Paris not very long back and had a host of amazing pictures to vouch for it. I mean, of course she would. It would be so lame if she didn’t.

“See the hashtags?” she pressed, handing me the phone.

It was the usual. #travel #traveldiaries #paris #travelparis #beauty #cityoflove #instalove #instalike #likeforlike … it went on and on.

“What?” I said, squinting at the screen in confusion.

“The last one!” Layyanah said bossily.

Sheesh, the girl was feisty

My eyes skipped the million hashtags, and focused on the last one. I probably would have missed it if she didn’t point it out.


“Maashim,” I said aloud. I was confused.

“Maahira + Haashim” she said, as if it was so obvious.

Oh. My. Word.

It was so obvious. And not obvious. The two of them were involved… sometime in June. I wanted to puke.

Oh hell, and now she was messaging me. I would have to deal with her later. Let her hang for a bit. There was no way that I was going to act like I’m in need of her friendship. She must have known that he was married. What’s the use of dressing all modest and stuff when you can’t even control yourself with it came to a married man? It was disgusting.

But now I was judging her. I knew I didn’t want to backbite either. What was said was said… but to nitpick it would be more damage.

I would have to think twice about her. But what if she was reaching out? What she was doing was bad… if she was still involved, but maybe that why I needed to chat to her? Help her?

Maybe I would later. Besides, I had Layy now, and she was way better. She was not only a better friend, but she was also helping me to be better too.

I had to divert to what we were talking about before Maahira’s message interrupted us. I had to focus.

The meeting with Faadil that nearly sent me into cardiac arrest.

Yes, the meeting that had scared the crap out of me, but once it was over, it was like breathing out the hugest sigh of relief.

Faadil hadn’t heard any office rumours about us. Even Lesley seemed pretty cool and subdued after her whole drunken incident and I was kind of enjoying the office peace. Lesley was actually being a pretty decent human being nowadays. I had just told Layyanah that it was like she genuinely changed since that day at the farm.

And now that work was in discussion, what Faadil did mention was another story altogether, and that Layynah and I were in the middle of discussing just before Maahira’s message came.

And of course I was all worried and anxious about it. And then on top of that, being in professional proximity to Hamzah meant that I had to be more aware to lower my gaze, to halt my senses, to not smell the scent of aftershave that had become so familiar…

And that’s exactly how it hit me that Zinaa is actually punishing yourself twice. First, it’s the actual sin, and then again, it’s the punishment that comes with remembering the sin and the regret that came after. And in Maahira’s case… maybe even more than that. The Hayaa factor that Nani was going on about once upon a time, it wasn’t only about dress. It honestly made me wonder if maybe this whole male-dominated workplace was really just one huge problem that I refused to face up to yet.

And when it came to the following year, I knew it was expected, but since Faadil had called us to his office earlier that week, I was kind of having nightmares about what the work load may be if I had to earn that promotion.

You see, as far as I understood, getting married didn’t mean that I’d have to give up my career. And I know what you’re thinking. I know. Muslim girls are supposed to be home, to cook, to take care of their husband and their home but knowing that Hamzah knew where I was coming from, I didn’t expect him to actually want that. I mean, Hamzah, of all people, wanted a traditional wife?

And of course, before then, he was just another guy who was threatened by my career. But now that my career was beginning to threaten my own peace of mind, I kind of had an idea of shelving the entire thing and just sitting in my own happy bubble next year. I just wasn’t brave enough to say it aloud in case anyone held me to it.

The thing was, I wasn’t crazy about my job but the money was a huge draw card. I mean, I knew that Hamzah had a fat lot to say about Faadil, but who would turn down an instant cash offer of 250k?

And I knew that I probably might have not chased it because after doing some soul searching, I did kind of realise that an office job was not really my true calling after all.

What Layyanah was trying to do right now was try and convince me that I really didn’t need the stress of a day job and she was already winning.

“I know it’s not clear cut,” she said. “But why do you even want to push so hard and work with that nut? Faadil is a slave driver. Hamzah will earn enough for the both of you and you’re having so much of fun with this little pattiserie thing you got going. Plus, you’re your own boss.”

That, was another story altogether. Last week, as I was making a batch of red velvet cheesecakes for another client, when I (half) jokingly told my father that I was considering becoming a pastry chef, I could literally see his eyes bulging out of his head.

“MOHSINA!” he boomed. He said my name with extra pronunciation, like MUH-SEEEN-AAA and it always made me skrik. “What on earth is a pastry chef? You make pastries whole day? How much do you earn?”

“Well, actually Papa,” I said, trying to sound like I knew my stuff. “Profit margins on food are really considerate . If I do a few orders a week, I can actually make a decent living.”

He looked interested for a bit and then he narrowed his eyes.

”You couldn’t have studied so long to become a pastry chef,” he said, and my mothers face fell.

The truth was, my mother was hoping that through my business I would meet some prospective clients son who would be blown away by my mini cheesecakes and come home to propose immediately.

Parents were difficult to please, especially when they both wanted different things for you. Even with working, Ma always made sure that my priorities were in check. I knew that she had compromised a lot of her values and idealism by letting me go into a male-dominated workplace. She never wanted that for me. My father was adamant that it was my calling. The thing was, till now, he thought that I sat in a corner with screens around me. He knew I interacted with people, but he didn’t know how savage it could be at times.

Anyway, according to my father, pastry chef-ing wasn’t an option. But once I’m married, well…

”Listen babe,” Layyanah said. “Even though I’m feeling like kak, I’m living the life. Honestly, Liy is so self-sufficient. He sorts out his lunch, and sometimes even helps with supper and the dishes. I feel so bad that he has to make his own breakfast if I’m in the bathroom puking my guts out or if I’m feeling too nauseas to even get out of bed, but imagine if I had to be at work by a certain time?! I would have literally died. And got fired too. Don’t burden yourself if you don’t need to. Why do you want to fight for it? If the guy is telling you to chill, just chill, neh?”

The idea was becoming more and more appealing. I mean, it wasn’t too long ago that I was beginning to feel a bit stifled in office life, annoyed by influencer life, and feeling that maybe I needed a change. I mean, the feeling was there, but whether I can would actually take the step….

Layyanah was actually so on point and I had no idea. Islam came at a time when women had been degraded to such a commodity that they had no rights at all. It just so happens that the 21st century idealism has once again placed woman in such a position that not only do they have to prove themselves in the workplace, they are now under double pressure as the duties of family life do not ease. I mean, let’s face it. No man has the ability to nurture a child like a woman does. A man lacks the emotional ability, the feminine sensitivity and general understanding that a woman has with a child. They’re simply not capable of doing it the way we do, and that’s a fact.

Placing a woman in that position is oppression in the name of liberation.. For no real reason, I was intent on pushing myself, proving myself, just because I was a female who wanted to make her father happy and prove something to the world. The thing is, as a woman, the world tells you that you are supposed to be aspirational. You’re supposed to want the corporate life, with it’s tight hours and stringent laws, fame game and slavery. You’re supposed to go against everything Allah intended for the woman, which makes so much of sense, because you can’t just be that useless and traditional house wife that sits at home and procreates.

Decisions. It seemed so clear cut but I hated making them.

”I don’t know, woman,” I said, half-defeated. “I hate relying on a man. It’s going to be a big adjustment.”

Layyanah smiled at me sympathetically.

“No rush, doll,” she said. ”By the way, Liy just messaged. He says that Hamzah is asking if they can come tomorrow? His mother will call later?”

Tomorrow? What?

He really had no idea what my family was like. I still needed to talk to Nani and tell her that she needed to behave herself and not act like I was a horrible granddaughter  in front of my future in laws. Oh gosh, dealing with Nani was going to be a whole other issue that I wasn’t yet ready for. I just knew she was going to ask me all these awkward and uncomfortable questions and I really wasn’t looking forward to it.

“Tell him give me one more week,” I pleaded with Layy. “Tell him I said please.”

I knew that Liyaket and Hamzah were together – which meant that Layyanah could get an answer immediately.

She tapped on her phone and then looked up at me.

“He said Sunday is the latest. His parents are pushing for it, and he can’t keep putting them off.

I sighed, and rolled my eyes. I kept on putting this off and I knew Hamzah was getting annoyed. What choice did I have? Being Friday evening, Nani was due to come anytime now. It had been a tiring week at work and everyone knew how scary Nani could be.

“He also says that he can’t wait to spend the rest of his life with you and your mini pastries.”

She grinned as I scowled.

The problem with Layyanah and Liyaket being an intermediary communication tool was that I never knew when either of them were making up things. And very probably, all the soppy comments were probably completely fabricated.

“By the way, before I go, did I tell you how proud I am of you?” She said sweetly, as she grabbed her bag from the top of the chair. “Of both of you. I regret so much when I think of how I could have changed the way I had gotten to know Liyaket. I’m so happy that you guys are staying away, I mean… I didn’t know any better. But Mos, you’ll are like goals. Being so strong, not even talking and waiting for the halaal way… you won’t regret this.”

I swallowed hard. Okay, so maybe we weren’t talking right now and our intentions were pure but there was a stage when I knew that we were being reckless and disregarding the laws of Allah.

I gave a small smile, not really wanting to be praised when I knew I wasn’t as good as she was making out. I knew it was wrong, but right now I had other things on my mind.

And I was going to tell Layyanah to stop false-praising, but Nani’s voice in the hallway was enough to make my heartbeat escalate. Okay, I knew that I was over-reacting, but I was already at wits end trying to figure out exactly how to tell my parents that I had actually found someone myself. Nani was another story altogether.

Last week she was upset because I said that the Briyani was too spicy.. I mean, she didn’t even make it. But it was like the sky came falling down when I made the comment. I had a feeling it had to do with me saying no to some doctor she wanted to come home to see me. Honestly, it’s like she just waits for me to say one thing wrong and then all her frustration is coming out on me.

“What too spicy?” She said, her eyes widening at me. “You want to complain but can’t cook. You don’t even know how to make simple curry.”

I was offended. I could make a curry. A simple kebab curry, with my mothers pre-cooked tomato chutney and pre-rolled kebabs. Haai. Why she be judging me like that?

“Young people,” she muttered. “Want to complain about everything, because too spoilt. Mothers fault. Don’t worry about cooking. Only about Insagram and Tokkie Tok, and all these shaytaan, but can’t even pick up spoon.”

Tokkie Tok? Oh. Kay. She switched to Gujarati for extra effect.

“Then when getting married want to complain why the parents are involved,” she continued. “Then they only know one thing- divorce. When I went to my married home, my father told me my mauth (death) must leave here. No matter who said what. No matter what your Nana did. Never once I ran to them to complain.”

She raised a finger at my mother, and Ma merely pursed her lips. I mean, what do you say to that?

I rolled my eyes. Like, do they even understand the trials that we go through in this generation? Okay, fine, they had to worry about putting food on the table and society stigma and stuff, but us- we had other worries. Like, global warming, climate change, overpopulation… how were we going to compete with an application that may replace our positions at the workplace. And what about crime? immigration? People coming in from all corners of the world, and leaving their lives here to go to other corners.

I mean, cooking was one thing, but these were real problems that gave me full on anxiety.

But Nani, well, she wouldn’t understand. I mean, we came from different centuries.

Either way, I knew that I’d have to tell her tonight, and with a proposal coming home in literally two days, I know both my parents were probably going to kill me for such short notice.

It was crunch time, and I just hoped I would live to tell the tale.

Mission Sunnah Revival: Sunnah of Lowering/Guarding the Gaze 

It is in this instance and era, surrounded by half-naked people, that we must have the courage to follow the command of Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (Sallalahu alaihi wa Sallam) and lower our gazes.

Despite what anyone may say, looking upon that which one is not supposed to is going near adultery, for an illicit affair begins with a lustful glance.

Allah wishes for us not to commit this ugly sin, and thus He commands us to lower our gazes:

Tell the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.

And tell the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…” (Quran 24:30-31).

The Sunnah of lowering the gaze even on social media is also important and detrimental to our imaan if not done, a stepping stone to greater sins.






  1. FB/Instagram: @thejourneyingmuslimah

6 thoughts on “When it’s Crunch Time

  1. Nooo plz plz you can’t leave us like this!!! I’m dying for the next one!!
    Mos is in for a shock if she thinks hamzas going to be like liyaket and make his own breakfast 😁

    Liked by 3 people

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