There are some days that I wanted nothing more than to leave the world behind and just run far away. To feel the wind in my hair. The morning dew on my lips. The feeling of nature at its best. The sun blazing on my back.
There are days when the doorways to hope are darkened by with doom… times when no one else but you can see the shadows that chase you, and no one, not even yourself, can save you from them.
Every now and then, the sorrows of life, whether they’re yours or someone else’s, will find their way to you.
And someone once told me that when the pains of this life wear you down, and our hearts become weakened with worries of worldly woes… when our shoulders are leaden and burdened with responsibilities that we barely bear… there is this one powerful and magical expression that can transform, inspire and renew the conviction to hand it over to the Rabb Who pulled you through every other time.
No matter what was going on. No matter who was the problem. No matter how my heart was slowly losing hope either in this world or someone I really loved…
لاحول ولا قوت الله بالله
There is no might or no power, except with Allah.
Truly, there is nothing greater. Nothing mightier. Nothing that is a Guardian, watching out more for us, as our Ultimate Protector.
But the thing is, how do you even begin to explain this to someone who you adore so dearly, but seems to be drifting further and further away from this grounding truth..? How do you even salvage a situation that seems to be so far gone, that no words even seem to fix..?
The situation was something like this:
“You’ll need to come with me to return the Porsche,” Mohsina demanded as we sat side by side in Papa’s old Corolla, as she commanded me, the official family chauffeur. “Everyone’s making it like I’m breaking some kind of unwritten law by driving my boss’s car. I mean, it’s just a damn car. It doesn’t mean anything. Can you even believe them?!”
It wasn’t a surprise that news spread like wild fire on our locality and everyone had already heard the Mohsina had come home in a fancy Porsche. I wasn’t condoning anything but to me it looked like Mohsina was still acting like everyone owed her the respect that she hadn’t yet earned.
I pursed my lips together, not wanting to edge her on further. The whole Porsche saga had caused enough trouble as it was, and I instantly knew that Mohsina was in her whole defensive kind of vibe, obviously riding on the self-righteous train, thinking that nothing she did was ever really wrong.
Sometimes I wondered is her proverbial lantern had been put out, and the light that she was supposed to be seeing in every situation was dwindling further and further away into the shadows.
And at a time where darkness seemed to be flooding the likes of every persons world, whether it was through the television, internet or social media… a torch that shines through the darkness is a most welcoming and crucial weapon.
”I’ll come, but will you manage to drive it?” I asked Mohsina, glancing at her as she stretched her leg out, and winced slightly in pain. I was not prepared to drive her boss’s car. “How’s the leg? Any bruising?”
Mohsina had come pretty close to a broken ankle last night when she slipped on the hospital stairs. I supposed it was a good thing that I was with her to help her up.
Well, good in some ways and a little traumatizing in other ways. I was only hoping that today would be a bit calmer for my heart.
“They lucky if I don’t sue them,” she muttered, pulling down the mirror and re-applying her lipstick. Her hair was wrapped up in a traditionally styled hijab today, and it felt like the old Mohsina again. Almost. Except something was amiss.
”Hmmmm,” I said, concentrating on the road as she went on, and wondering how busy the coffee shop was right then.
It was the first Sunday I wasn’t helping Papa. Garden Getaway had hosted an amazing crowd on Sunday’s. I had bribed Muhammed Husayn to help out, knowing that if I promised him some incentive, he couldn’t refuse.
Mohsina obviously needed someone with her, and I was the only option.
“That place was so bloody dark,” she said, pushing up the mirror again. “Idiots. I can’t believe a private hospital doesn’t even have any proper lighting. That’s probably the reason why they have weird people hanging around unnoticed at all times of the night.”
”What d’you mean,” I asked, indicating to go into Layyanah and Liyaket’s road, a little confused. “Who did you see?”
”No-one,” she said off-handedly, looking away. “Just some vagrants hanging around.”
She cleared her throat but didn’t meet my eye as she looked in her bag to take out some hand lotion. It felt almost as if she was avoiding something, but as quick as the feeling came on, it was gone again.
”You should tell them at least,” I said pointedly, stifling a giggle as I thought of it. “A hospital can’t be having all these hazards. Imagine you come for some emergency, and end up with another!”
”If I don’t sue them, I’ll write them a nice, fat blog post to disrepute them,” she muttered, not even smiling as I watched her open her iPhone again. “That will serve them right.”
I knew what a nice, fat e-mail blog post meant. I’d seen influencers or food bloggers doing that with restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses to dishonour them.
The unsettling fact was that a little drama really does do it’s rounds and can potentially affect their business and income. Especially if it’s a small family owned thing, I’d hate it if someone had to do that to our little coffee shop and cause a stir on social media before even letting us know what their concerns were.
”Listen,” I said carefully, as I manoeuvred the car into Layyanah and Liyaket’s driveway. “Why don’t you just take it up with them directly. It’s not always the best idea to put things on social media. You know how damaging it can-“
“Can you see how damaged my leg is?!” She cut in, lifting her dress to show me the blue bruise on the side of her calf.
Ouch. It really did look sore.
But still, shame, they obviously didn’t mean for that tile to be loose and for her to catch a royal fall like she did. I had to hand it to her though. She had actually taken off work for two days, using the opportunity to stay in town to help Layyanah for a few days.
But also… Islamically, and ethically, the correct procedure wasn’t to just shame people and make everything a big hoo-haa. The problem is was that with Generation Z, people get their momentum from their followers. It makes me cringe when someone tries to advise people on social media and the advise-ee retaliates by screen-shotting and humiliating the person for all their 10k followers to see.
But sometimes… Well, sometimes we just have to stop, think, and just be kind. It wasn’t a difficult concept but many still didn’t get it.
The thing was… Mohsina was on a roll now, and when she was after someone, I knew that she would go all out for their blood. It’s just that not much was going right for her at the moment. In fact, it seemed like everything was going completely wrong.
“Take a deep breath,” I started, hoping she would calm down, as I wondered if maybe her approach was all wrong. “Read Laa Hawlaa wa Laa Quwwata illah Billah…”
Indeed, no matter how small the matter was, it was the antidote to many problems or ailments, even when sky seemed to be falling down on us…
As always, I tried to get her to simmer down, but recent events were definitely not helping her sate of mind. She was on fire today, and no-one could stand in her way.
And to be fair, amidst all the drama and excitement, sometimes it’s hard to notice when something sinister starts creeping in. I had barely noticed Mohsina slip into a little hole that was almost unreachable these few months, and after spending that while at the hospital with her, it was like if we had lost a whole chunk of her life and now there was a girl who I grew up with that I barely knew anything about anymore.
And then of course, was the drama with Hamzah seeing the car she was driving that might have been a further exacerbation of her current state of mind… because she was kind of out of control.
To put it lightly, it had to happen that the two of them would clash in the parking lot, and Hamzah was very evidently the only person in the entire province that wasn’t impressed with the Mohsina’s driving the office Porsche.
All I knew was that along with some hostility, a few words might have been exchanged, and because Liyaket’s mother couldn’t manage the low seat of Mohsina’s car, she was completely apologetic about the chaos she had caused by making Hamzah come to where Mohsina was and take her home instead.
And of course, the situation had become a little more than just awkward as question marks raised about what Mohsina was really up to, driving her boss’s car.
And Mohsina, being Mohsina, had nonchalantly implied that it was no-one’s business, but that, in my mind, was exactly the thing that got people all revved up and on a scandalous pursuit of whipping up more and more rumours.
My sisters unusual silence that evening, even as I knocked on her door later, was completely uncharacteristic and a little troublesome. She had come home to crash, staying at our family home after months, but it was almost as if she wasn’t even there. I felt like she was purposely shutting us out of her life.
I pushed the thoughts about drama away, soaking up the sunshine as I stepped out the car and glimpsed the beautiful potted plants on Layyanah’s patio.
Where other people turned to social media or more frivolous entertainment, the variety of colours that are err displayed before me was enough to calm my soul. I let my gaze fall on the array of exquisite flowers that were now in full bloom, almost as if they were summoning us, letting their happiness fill my insides with delight.
Mohsina though, as she trudged ahead of me with the basket of goodies for Layy, was completely oblivious to it all.
And as early as we were, at around 11.30 when Layyanah was discharged, a stream of visitors were already slowly filling the driveway, and I could hear Mohsina muttering about how they better not be crowding the baby, else she was going to let them have it.
And it was cute, her protectiveness. At least it gave her something to channel her energy into for now, instead of the big, fat blog post.
That was the thing with Mohsina. When she was there, she gave us her all, physically. Emotionally though, i wasn’t quite sure. Some moments, it felt like we had lost her permanently… and when she wasn’t here in body, it was like she lived in a different world.
And as we made our way into the room, my soul feeling a little more rested as I saw Mohsina simmer down and greet Layyanah from afar for now… our attention now turned to the hefty lady with a maroon scarf who was leaning over the cot.
“Masha Allah, laa hawlaa wa laa quwwata illah billah!” she exclaimed, staring at the baby, her expression one of bewilderment.
And there it was again.
A phrase, a word, an expression of awe… of humility… of absolute dependence and surrendering to the might and power of our Lord. An understanding that this new bundle of life was nothing but a sign of the mercy that Allah had sent to show us His magnificent power.
And I came to know pretty soon after that the expression had come from Liyaket’s late fathers sister, who had shamelessly opened the net of the sleeping baby and literally jolting the baby out of slumber as she tossed him from side, scrutinizing him for the fifth time that hour.
“Such a long nose he got,” the Aunty said, sounding almost unhappy about it. “And soooo fat and red his cheeks are.”
To me, all babies looked the same. Her face was, to my great surprise, slightly resentful as she looked at him, though. And as she spoke next, I got why. It was probably out of loyalty to her late brother.
“Doesn’t look like the Khans,” she murmured, shaking her head and glancing at Layyanah. “He looks just like you.”
I could see Layyanah giving a small smile as she watched, obviously used to the reaction by now.
Our little cutie let out a tiny whimper and closed his eyes again, almost to say that his precious sleep was far better than any relatives interruptions, no matter who they were. Layyanah was the calmest new mother, not even flinching as the aunty rolled her baby from side to side, trying to provoke some reaction.
Mohsina, on the other hand, was physically wincing.
And as I gazed as the sweet little pea, as Mohsina quickly concocted a story to maroon-scarved aunty about Layyanah’s feeding routine to get her out of the room, I couldn’t help but notice that from the fingers to the nose, little Zaid/Zakariyya/Hanzalah really did seem to very much resemble his mother. Mohsina had said that she could see a little of Liyaket in there, but for now… Layyanah was winning the trophies.
”Sorry, but I had to chase her away,” Mohsina said as she picked the woken baby up and carefully soothed him to sleep. “She was treating my child like a rag doll.”
Layyanah shrugged, obviously feeling the same way.
Several of Liyaket’s family had apparently expected a little Liyaket. It was almost as if, even after doing all that hard work, the baby had no right to even resemble his mother.
Liyaket, on the other hand, could not have been more thrilled or indifferent to who the baby resembled. According to Layyanah, he could not stop swooning over and carrying the baby, which annoyed her endlessly because she really didn’t want him getting spoilt.
How you could spoil a baby so cute and small was beyond me…
And waiting for the seventh day, while the parents were deciding on a name, we were enjoying the little bundle and really quite in awe of every little move or murmur he made.
And of course; despite the aesthetics, Liyaket’s family, all the way from his crazy aunty to his deranged third cousin (the same one that I had gotten freaked out by at the wedding) had come to visit and it felt as if this was some sort of royal child.
The two last visitors had left the room after Mohsina insisted that it was time for the baby to have a nappy change; and to my surprise, and true to her word, she gently placed the baby on the feeding mat, and through my mother’s guidance on video call, successfully executed the mission that Layyanah had been dreading.
And I was blown away, to tell the truth. I actually had no idea that she even had it in her.
I sat back and watched as she swooned over him, obviously in love with him already, and wondering if it was real. The thing was, even when he was screaming his head off… There was just something about her nature and touch that had the right amount of gentleness and calm that soothed him almost immediately.
I, on the other hand, was a complete wimp with babies, feeling that he was just way too tiny for me to even attempt to carry him, I slunk back, watching from afar.
Layyanah smiled as she shifted, sitting herself up in bed. Despite everything with her family and their indifference to her new bundle… with Mohsina here, to the rescue, I was so glad that she could still look like a really blissful, new mummy.
”I can’t believe you changed a poo, Mos,” she laughed as she stifled a yawn, later on as everyone left. “Like, I would have waited for Liyaket to come back. The nurses were trying to show me but I was so damn tired. Can you imagine, they brought the baby to me last night and left him there till five. You would think that they would let you sleep after pushing out a 3.5 kilogram baby, but they had no pity ‘cause I said I’m breastfeeding. Pardon the pun, but that really sucks, neh?”
Mohsina chuckled, but again, it felt almost as if it was all just a hollow expression with no real feeling.
And perhaps it was to do with the fact that we could hear some voices in the vicinity that she wanted to escape, because I could see her gathering her bag and draping her scarf again, ready to leave.
From what I heard, Hamzah had been in and out intermittently. Obviously avoiding Mohsina purposely, so staying as far away as possible for now… but he couldn’t stay away forever, could he?!
Somehow, in record time, we greeted Layyanah and managed the escape back home without much more drama to fetch the Porsche, while she went up to fetch some stuff from her room to take back to the apartment.
And as I plopped myself in the couch for a quick breather, overwhelmed by serving visitors at Layyanah’s place most of the afternoon, it was 5pm on a Sunday evening, and our kitchen was buzzing with frivolous activity . Mummy was busy frying up some sandwiches, Nani was sitting on the chair with her famous pansurah for all her morning and evening Duaas while I, in all my exhausted glory, was laying in the couch, watching them all with my legs up in the air.
Serving people was exhausting. Between the coffee shop in the morning and Layyanah’s house, I was absolutely knackered. I didn’t blame Mohsina for escaping to her room, after spotting Nani on the couch, because we all knew what was coming.
Nani, as always, was never one to miss out on the latest saga. Somehow, nothing escaped her knowledge and spotting the Porsche in the driveway when she came back to our house that day was a sure giveaway.
”Everyone is talking,” Nani muttered, her eyes glancing outwards again, almost as if there was some kind of thief in the yard. I had briefly explained that it wasn’t her car, and Nani already figured the rest. “How many times I told her not to ask for favors with all the office mens. Only one thing they want from girls. I’m telling you, Bhengori, I have a bad feeling about this.”
My mother looked at her but said nothing. I mean what could she say?
Mohsina was a law unto herself lately.
The whole Porsche thing was a bit of a sinister event and I just had some niggly feeling that there was some ominous intention behind it.
But then again, I was a bit of a sceptic at the worst of times and Nani may have just been letting off all her steam, but I was lapping it up.
“I think it’s time she meets that boy now,” she was saying to my mother. “Get all these office boys out of the picture. Remember that nice poiro I was telling you about?”
Mhm. A boy. Yes, maybe that will help her. If Nani had someone in mind, at least it may be someone who was pre-approved. Pre-approved boys were usually the safest options because there was always someone you could complain to about them when their husband tendencies got overwhelming.
I looked at Mohsina as she re-entered, a slightly anxious look on her face, scarf tied at the back of her head, white blouse and beige culottes that sat above her ankle.
I could almost hear the ‘chi’ on the tip of Nani’s tongue, but she considerately kept it to herself. Instead, she gave Mohsina the most eyeballing once over, and then said:
“You think everything is fashion show,” she murmured. “Looks like your clothes gone small.. what will aunty Khairoon say if she sees you like this? As it is she is complaining how all the girls nowadays are so modern. She wanted to meet you. How will I explain my own granddaughter is so nangi. This is why my hair is gone grey. See.”
She was pointing at her grey parts that she’d had for the past eighteen years, as far as I could remember.
Old people and their reputations were quite tiring to keep up with. And I thought we had problems.
“Now you want to go out at Maghrib time, and you wonder why afterwards you are sitting with problems!”
Eish. Nani and her guilting .
“Don’t worry Nani, I can’t get possessed twice,” Mohsina smirked, almost snidely, but that had already set Nani off on another tangent in Gujarati about how she can’t say things like that and doesn’t care what kind of impression she’s making and when she’s older she will see how she will be sitting all old and lonely and regret.
I sighed, slipping on my shoes. It was all the usual things but I was so over it all because it was getting late and we still needed to make it back to return the car. Plus, I was exhausted.
The two of them were still bickering as I tied my shoe laces and zipped up my abaya, when the sudden and piercing ringing of the buzzer startled me.
While they went on, almost oblivious, I hastily made my way to the door, looking first in the camera that we had installed since the shop opened. The front driveway was often open, but no one ever came up to the main house, and we definitely weren’t expecting visitors.
I peeped through a small gap in the door, not really processing the two figures who were out there, or what they might be there for. They were probably just lost and needed some directions.
I glanced in the mirror and adjusted my scarf to cover my hair, pulling open the door with my other hand and greeting them like a good host should.
And okay, I wasn’t over-friendly but I had to retract my hospitality before they got the wrong idea. What I didn’t expect was a handsome young stranger to be standing there, and I immediately looked away as he offered a small smile.
”The shop is in front,” I said, wondering how they had missed it, and hoping he would leave soon.
“We didn’t come for the shop,” the young man said, and I immediately looked up. “Is your father here?”
This was really fast work. Was this maybe Nani’s proposal? Leave alone efficient, on top of that, the candidate here wasn’t as bad as I thought. Actually, not bad at all!
”He’s still busy with work,” I said. “I think if you go, you can meet-“
”No, that’s very good,” the guy said, and I caught a wiff of some intense scent as the wind blew. “We see your sister has a new car. Just need to have a word with her. Me and my friend here. Can you call her?”
Another man, middle-aged, came up from behind, and I immediately put my guard up as I saw him. All rosy thoughts about the handsome young stranger flying out the window.
I swallowed, not knowing what was going on, but already weary of this new man who looked a little more intimidating with every second that ticked by.
”And your name?” I said, almost in a squeak. Fear overcame me, as the man’s expression hardened in a way that made me shudder.
“Just call her!,” he demanded, and I immediately stepped away as I got that intense prickly sensation at the back of my neck. It sent a few shock waves through my body as I realised that the instinct to scream was overwhelming.
And though I so badly wanted to, I wasn’t sure what was going on but my body was frozen with fear.
My voice was clogging in my throat as I tried to call for my sister, thoughts of what could happen if I didn’t or couldn’t, clouding all judgement.
I didn’t ever think that the likes of these people would ever darken our doorway, but what I didn’t know that the same nightmares that haunted my sister every night were the very ones that were right in my midst…
Mission Sunnah Revival
Du’aa for Rajab
اَللّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِى رَجَبَ وَ شَعْبَانَ وَ بَلِّغْنَا رَمَضَان
Allaahumma Baa’rik La’naa Fee Rajab(a), Wa Sha’baan(a), Wa Bal’ligh’naa Ramadhaan.
“O Allaah! Make the months of Rajab and Sha’baan blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadhaan.”