Can you imagine a world where everyone just got along? Where peace reigned… where politics were non-existent… where no leader was corrupt?
Imagine a world free from war… famine… from the atrocities that are a part of day-to-day life.
And speaking of atrocities, let me just enlighten you. I’m not really a political kind of guy, but just so you can educate yourself, hear me out.
Basically, a few years ago in Tunisia, the rural town of Sidi Bouzid, a 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, was preparing his stall of fruit and vegetables. He was the sole bread winner of his family.
Struggling to make ends meet and lead a regular life, Bouazizi was caught off guard when the police requested a permit for his business. He was then asked to hand over his wooden cart, and upon his refusal, a policewoman allegedly slapped him.
Long story short, the heart wrenching tale goes on to where Mohamed set himself on fire outside the governor’s office, despondent at being unable to earn money and provide for his family. And yes, it was heartbreaking. For everyone.
And we often wonder where all this turmoil began, where all the heartbreak and uprising started. At this advent, came the initiation of what we now know as the ‘Arab spring’. A despondent tale of an innocent man who, when tried to plead his case thereafter, felt let down by the system… then positioned himself in front of a government building… and set himself alight.
His act of desperation resonated immediately with others in the town, and shortly, throughout the Arab world. Protests began that day in Sidi Bouzid, captured by cellphone cameras and shared on the Internet. Within days, campaigns started popping up across the country and the entire Middle East.
The momentum in Tunisia set off uprisings across the Middle East… and of course, as I stepped out into Cairo that night, I couldn’t help but see it’s effects all over.
You see, this tale broke my heart, because in my perfect world, everyone deserves a chance. A fair shot. No one should have to wonder where their next meal will come from or wonder where they will end up sleeping each night. Everyone should have a home to go to… even if it’s a place with people just like them. They should have people who care for them and a space to call their own. Everyone should have a chance to be the best they can be and to reach their fullest potential.
That kind of world… well, although it sounds like the most amazing thing… it simply can’t exist. Because we don’t live in Utopia. We have to do our own patching up, because we don’t live in a perfect world.
And we have to understand this. The fact is that this striving… struggle… this toil… that is part of our existence is not really our life. It is merely our worldly existence. Beyond this world… beyond here… believe it or not, there is a perfect world. One that we have to work towards. Beyond our pain and tests and trials, there is a blissful, beautiful and peaceful world that awaits. It is and everlasting abode and it’s what we are placed in this world to prepare for. Sometimes we need to understand this, before we give in to the pressures that this life brings for us. Sometimes we need to stop and just wonder if we always are doing the right thing.
And yes, sometimes the world scares me. When I went to Egypt, I was a little shaken by the dynamics that existed there. Seeing Khalid there made it all the more real for me, because he was living with in it. I wanted to get to know more.
“Ahmed, it’s great to see you,” he had said as I stepped back, giving him a once over to assess how different he looked.
He had grown up. He was slightly taller and broader than me. He was rough around the edges, but I could see beyond that. He still possessed that childish charm that I had known back then… as if he was always up to some amazing adventure, and of course, I could tell that he hadn’t stopped when he came here.
I could see a few guys coming up to him and asking him things… almost as if they relied on him for everything.
“Listen,” he said, after introducing himself easily to Molvi and chatting a bit to us about the general happenings there. “We have somewhere we have to be now, but will you guys join us later?”
He had directed the question at Molvi as well, telling them that one of his family members had a restaurant in central Cairo and they would be honoured for us to join them later. Molvi assessed the situation for a few minutes, and because he seemed to take to Khalid, he agreed to meet for a late supper, so we could rest first.
And of course, everything about that night was awesome. The food was amazing, the hospitality was superb, and they were so thrilled that a Jamaat had come to their humble restaurant. We could hear the chatter of Arabic to and fro as Khalid kept calling for more and more exquisite dishes. I can’t even describe how delicious it was. I felt like my stomach was bursting, but Khalid was still calling for the famous Egyptian desserts, despite our protests. Molvi had taken a liking to Khalid and the two of them chatted for a while while we sat inside. Khalid was thrilled to see me after all these years, making small talk about the family and everything that he missed about South Africa. Molvi and Imraan had called it a night by around 10, but I stuck around for a bit… wanting to be a little adventurous.
I took a pull of the pipe as I sat opposite him just outside the shop, letting the tobacco settle in my throat for a few minutes before I let it out. I already loved this place.
I loved the boisterous atmosphere outside. For now, it was safe and everything was calm. Now I could see why Khalid was here. The night life was amazing.
“How’s the family?”
I looked at him for a second, knowing that he wasn’t asking just for small talk. He genuinely wanted to know, and I knew who in particular he was asking about. He was just too modest to say it.
”They’re good,” I said, meeting his eye. “Khawlah’s happy. You know she’s married?”
And that’s when I saw it. That look in his eyes, like I had punched him. He kind of just froze, as I said it.
“Really?” He finally said, still looking shocked, but attempting to recover. “Wow, that’s great. I thought … She’s still in school right?”
I shrugged, taking another pull of the pipe. Khalid had halted the smoking on his side. Actually, I wasn’t even sure if he had taken a pull. He was probably sick of this thing by now… they probably did this every night. There wasn’t much else to do if you’re staying out of trouble. It was great, though.
“They made Nikah,” I said, looking around me at the night life here. “She’ll stay with Adam after her finals.”
I wasn’t big on details and I could tell it left Khalid a little puzzled. I was too taken in by the atmosphere here to care.
And I suppose it was just as well that a guy suddenly came up to our table and stuck out his hand. I shook it, a little surprised at the hospitality, and Khalids infectious smile returned as he got up and embraced him, introducing me to his cousin. The guy chatted a while in Arabic to Khalid, and then an older woman came and hugged him. I assumed it was his aunty.
“This your brother-in-law?”
Khalid said something in Arabic and the woman nodded and looked at me, before giving me a wave and then going away.
“Sorry, that was weird,” he said, looking apologetic. “When I came here all my aunties wanted to do was marry me to their daughters. I told them I already had a girl back home… of course, I was joking…”
Ah. That explained the brother-in-law thing.
“Whenever I mention someone from SA, well… you can see what happens. They think my in-laws are here.”
”You didn’t know about Khawlah?” I asked, wondering why his mother wouldn’t tell him. “From your ma?”
“She didn’t say anything,” Khalid said, and looked away. “I’m happy for her.”
The topic was closed and we spoke about a few other things that he was pursuing at the moment. Although he was normal and went into great detail about his ambitions and what he planned to do here, I could see that something was on his mind after I mentioned Khawlah’s marriage.
And it wasn’t exactly me to sit and dwell over these things so I let it go. I kind of got the picture, in my mind. I had a feeling that Khalid had meant more than he had let on that night. What I didn’t know was that I had still gotten the picture wrong. There were some things that Khalid’s mother had hidden from Khawlah for a reason, and it was a little too late before I found out. Some things that no-one was supposed to know.
And of course, coming back home after that with a skewed train of thought, I couldn’t help but assume that Khawlah had been in touch with Khalid. That something had gone on and she had left him in the lurch. I didn’t try and find out the truth. Shortly after, the news about Khalid’s death came… and it was a shock to my system. It was no use trying to figure the truth at that point anyway. I felt like I had just seen the guy, with so many promises and in all his glory… and now he was gone.
But such was life. Khalid was so young and alive and free… even when I had seen him.. but one thing I remembered about him was what a remarkable and thoughtful human being he was. So responsible. He had grown up into an ambitious guy too. He was crazy about politics and about keeping close to Deen, but only because he was so protective over his family. He had spoken about getting out there and doing the right thing. About showing the people how to live, despite their conditions. He saw a better life, beyond war and famine and everything else that existed. All that was cut short, because of an idiot who didn’t like his optimistic ideas… but he had already inspired me. He had done good.
And that time of the year was a bit rough for me, as I dealt with emotions, work and admissions for the course I was doing… along with my fathers pressure on what to do with my life. Sometimes I really felt that my father needed to get married again, so he could get off my back… but then I remembered the last time he did it and I agreed that we were better off.
It was just that whenever someone close to me passed away, it was like I felt it a million times more than the last time.
And it was around that time of the year when a lady had called me one night, saying she got my number from someone who said I could help her. I didn’t know who she was at first, but we soon figured it out. It was barely rocket science.
Now, as I drove back home, roughly three months from that night, I couldn’t help but curse the day that she had called.
I pulled my phone out from my side console as I unlocked it, keeping my eye on the road as I searched her number. It had been a while since I dialed it, and I was glad. Now that the situation had come to this… I knew that I had to do it one last time. I had to sort this out.
And yes, the voices in my head were screaming at me not to press that little symbol to initiate the call, but against my better judgement, the ringing tone sounded and there was already no going back. I knew I had to do this one last time.
It was her. She had answered.
“Salaam,” I said, as steadily as I could. I didn’t say anymore.
“How are you?” It was her who asked first. She sounded worried and out of breath. Like she had been rushing to get the phone. Or maybe she was rushing around behind her four kids. Four kids. That’s a lot.
“I’m fine. I need to-“
”Sorry, these kids are making a din,” she cut me off, and I could hear shutting a few doors as she spoke again.
”Sorry,” she said again. “What were you saying?”
I had to cut to the chase. No small talk.
“Ruby, what’s going on?” I said stiffly, hating the uncertainty that speaking to her brought. Not speaking to her was worse. I was confused. “Can I get some clarity here?”
She was silent.
“Rubeena, can you answer me?” I said, raising my voice slightly. “Everyone is on my case and I’ve had convince your brother and mother that it’s not what they think. My sisters are breathing down my back. What the hell is going on?”
I knew it wasn’t fair to put this all on her, but I couldn’t help but think that she had caused this. To me, I did nothing wrong. All I did was speak to her. Feelings were by the way.
“I don’t know!” She said softly, and I could tell that she was crying.
And then of course, without even expecting it, I felt terrible. I couldn’t even deal with my sisters crying, which they hardly did. Now I had to deal with this.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said, sounding a bit steadier. “My mother phoned. She said you came to talk to her. You know she likes you more than she likes me? She said everything is my fault and I caused problems for everyone. For you too. She said I must get back together with Shabeer and it will all be okay. She said his problems are just a small things… that women go through so much worse.”
”You know it’s not like that,” I said, getting angry. I wasn’t sure at who. I didn’t even know why.
Meeting Aadam and Rubeena’s mother was an event that I couldn’t forget. She was so loud. Loud and extremely nerve-wrecking. But it went off better than expected. She actually made me sit for tea. It was a little awkward. She was so enthusiastic. Zuleikha was a little shocked at her behaviour, but I knew how women like her were. They loved attention and needed buttering up. Although I didn’t have the time and energy for that, I had to come out with a clean slate.
And it was at that point, as I awaited Rubeena’s answer, that I remembered Zuleikha’s words. What if there was some guy, talking to my sister? Ruby was someone’s sister and daughter too. Someone’s mother. I couldn’t carry on like this. I needed to stop this. Right now. I was panicking. What did I even call her for?
Rubeena sighed, and I waited a few more seconds, knowing where this was headed. I now knew that whatever she said, I had to do the right thing.
“Shabeer is threatening to fight for custody,” she said, sounding exhausted. “I know we never spoke about it but we both knew what thoughts crossed our minds. I shouldn’t have phoned you to complain about him. I shouldn’t have dragged you into all my problems. I shouldn’t have told you half the things I did. Now look what it’s caused. I did it all and I know it’s too late and we can’t take it back… but this is it. If he hears anything else about you… I’m in for it. I’ll be roasted, Ahmed. He knows what will break me. He’ll turn everyone against me. He’ll hire the best lawyers and he’ll finish me. I can’t deal with this. I don’t have the energy and I can’t lose my kids. I’m sorry. Let’s just forget we spoke and go on with our lives. I’m sorry for everything this had caused for you. I’m so sorry, Ahmed. I have to go.”
The phone line cut just as I opened my mouth. That was it. What was there to even say? Maybe it was better this way? There was no use even venturing down that lane. I didn’t even know what to feel. Feelings were just by the way. I just needed to know where to focus now, and right now, it was more clear than ever.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have thought anything could happen. I had to repent for those feelings. I had to. I hastily deleted her number from my phone, annoyed that I was upset. I had to move past this and there was just one way.
There was about 10 minutes in peak traffic till I got home. It was just enough time to make that one more call and sort it all out. The more I thought about it, the more it just made sense. This was the only way to get past all this. This was the only way that I was going to ever get this all behind me and move on.
The ring tone was sounding again, and this time, I was all ready for what I needed to say.
“Ahmed! Assalamualaikum Wa Rahmatullah! How are you keeping, Bhai?” He said, sounding ecstatic at my call. “I’ve been waiting for you to give me the go ahead… are you ready for another trip?! We’re forming a Jamaat for Europe.”
I actually missed him a lot. I really needed to see him. He was just so far away. I wished he stayed closer.
“Jhee, always, Maulana,” I said, the thought of going away already sounding exciting. Just what I needed. “But that isn’t why I called.”
”Jhee, Jhee,” Molvi said, obviously knowing that I had another reason. “What can I do for you, my brother?”
”I remembered that Maulana once asked about marriage,” I said steadily. “That there were a few girls who were available. I wanted to check if the offer still… stands.”
”Jhee, of course,” Molvi said, sounding elated. “There are always girls looking for good guys like you. You coming down to Durban. Want me to organise it?”
“Please,” I said, knowing that I had to move past all this. Good guys like me? Despite feeling like I was being crushed by a ton of bricks, I knew that this had to be the only way. I had to take responsibility and patch things up for everyone.
“I’m ready to make Nikah.”
Authors note: Disclaimer: With regard to what happens in this post, it is crossing the boundaries of what’s allowed but I have briefly gone into the problems it caused to stress on its’s abstinence. In many of our dealings, whether it be at home or work, our Ulema have constantly stressed on the importance of maintaining a respectful relationship with non-Mahrams, if we have to converse with them. The ideal is to let a male or someone else represent oneself, if there is a need. Whether it be the guy who is working for you or a distant family member, chatting about our lives and problems and getting into detail in conversation is completely forbidden and always leads to problems. Our voice should also be altered so we don’t sound attractive. Hijaab and Pardah is of great importance. May Allah guide us all.
I’m sure many readers may not think Ahmed is doing the right thing.. Any thoughts?
Sunnah of maintaining ties:
Beloved Nabi (SAW) has said:
“The person who perfectly maintains the ties of kinship is not the one who does it because he gets recompensed by his relatives (for being kind and good to them), but the one who truly maintains the bonds of kinship is the one who persists in doing so even though the latter has severed the ties of kinship with him“. [Al-Bukhari].
May Allah Ta’ala enable us to rekindle any ties of kingship that may have been severed. It is truly a great reward and Sunnah.
FB: The Journeying Muslimah