3 months later
Once upon a time, in the age when history was still in the making, a man like no other existed, who won even the most obstinate people over by none other than his beautiful heart.
Sounds almost like a fairy tale, doesn’t it?
But it’s true. A perfected character was his gift to others.
There were no prizes for accepting this message, no drawn out contracts of recompense or deals that he made. He rejected wealth, he refuted any offers of leadership, nor did he have the capacity to offer any financial incentives in return for his mission.
All he did, was distribute the most sublime character.
Through one man, who disseminated the most extraordinary kind of light, even to his most avid enemies, he conquered so much more than just the Arabian empire. He conquered hearts that were as heart as rock. He lightened the darkened ways of idolatry, and brought them back onto the religion of Ibrahim (AS). His message moulded men who used to bury their beloved biological daughters alive, into believers who would weep at a mere verse of the Holy Quran.
Muhammed – Sallalahu Alaihi Wa Sallam – was a man who brought light and life to an almost soulless society…
And from this, learning about the life about the last and final Nabi of Allah (Sallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam), it was a beautiful lesson that even after a long period of darkness, its amazing how a little bit of light can instantly transform the most hopeless of situations. It just took one man, and life, as they knew it… was completely reformed.
As I gazed outside at the plot of land that had been home to me my entire life, the sunlight casting its glow over the semi-green terrain that boasted a variety of fascinating flowers… it was like daylight instantly cured the night’s niggling nuances. A little bit of light can bing about the most amazing change.
With the passage of time, when many changes seem to happen all at once… there were times when I felt like I drifted to sleep in one world and I was jolted awake in another.
Whether it was fear or it was hopelessness… I wasn’t quite certain. But I came to realise pretty early in life that everyone is scared of something.
For me… I’m terrified about things I don’t have control over. Feelings, fate, hurt and broken hearts. Words I didn’t say, goodbyes I never heard. Moments that pass me by, without me even realising how or when or why…
Most of all, though, I was scared of change. Changes that set me back or that made me uncomfortable. Changes that created spaces between us, and made us forget who we were… changes that hurt people or made people upset or distant.
Basically, changes that changed things… things that I knew so well and had grown to love over the years.
And well, also, I was scared of Nani. When she started screaming, the fear there was very much unmatched.
“Jameela!” She shouted from the bottom of the staircase. “We need to leave right now! What are you doing? Stop working so much. Boys don’t like girls who act so clever.”
I closed my book and sighed. Chauffeur duty called. Nani wanted a ride to my uncles house and it had become my duty to escort her without further questions whenever she required…
“Jameela!” Nani’s voice sounded from downstairs again. “You better not be getting all these study ideas like your sister… then you won’t want to get married and have children and than I have to explain what’s wrong with all my grandchildren.”
I cleared my throat to signal I had heard her, getting up and wanting to tell Nani that I was way too young to be thinking about kids. Like. Really.
“Chi,” she said, watching me as I plundered down the stairs that Saturday. “Go and put on some proper clothes. You can’t come looking like a jungalee. What if there are visitors?”
I looked down at my grey pants with the elasticated cuffs at the end, and my white longer length t-shirt. Nani was way too fussy about superficial aspects but I went up anyway and put on an abaya and scarf. It was my usual going out attire since two years back, but when I felt lazy I just didn’t have the energy for it. Plus it was only my uncles house, and I wasn’t even going in.
But then again, anything to keep Nani happy, right?
After all, she was trying her best to keep things together, even if it mostly benefitted her reputation at the end of the day.
In an effort to bring some light into our lives, I know that Nani had now taken it upon herself to attempt to fix our slightly dysfunctional family.
To add insult to injury, all her coaxing and commanding entailed compulsory grocery trips, chaperoned trips into town and Taaleem every week. It wasn’t that I minded it all… it’s just that I didn’t see the effect it was really having on me until I saw the effect that the lack of it was having on my sister.
Nani was re-draping her dupatta and I watched her as she pulled her bag from the hook and gestured for me to come.
I dropped her off, promising that I would be back in three and a half hours to fetch her and come in to greet everyone so I didn’t appear to be a real jungalee and full of myself.
That was the thing with changes. With social media and technology taking over, people no longer really felt a need to visit people anymore. All the old people in the family complained that khala khala-ing was no longer a thing and I had a feeling that they were bordering on depression because of it. It was a huge part of weekend life before.
“That’s the problem with Mohsina,” Nani said bitterly in gujarati, as I caught onto some tit-bits if her long rant before she left. “The worst mistake your father did was let her move away on her own. Now she thinks she’s too great with her big, big degree so she can’t even make time for family.”
Changes again. That was it. Seemed like I wasn’t the only one averse to it.
She got out the car in a huff, shaking her head to herself, and I couldn’t help but think that maybe Nani did have a point there.
I didn’t want to go in right then because my heart just wasn’t feeling into it. There were way too many emotions and opinions and I wasn’t quite sure I could handle them all.
To tell the truth, I wasn’t in the zone for all the snickering and assumptions that family people concocted behind our backs.
Besides, the last time I had gone into my uncle’s place, everyone asked where Mohsina but still didn’t believe me when I answered.
”She’s at work,” I had replied steadily.
And with judgemental family people, a simple answer is never enough to pacify them as they continued to mumble behind me.
And of course, as always, I would end up irritated, but because I wasn’t the type to lash out, it would just brew inside. My cousins were like the mean girls who weren’t even popular.
One time though, the mumbling was competing with my sanity and getting the better of me so I couldn’t help but narrow my eyes at them.
“Is something wrong?” I asked, trying to keep my face as neutral as possible as I spun around and looked at them.
They looked shocked that I asked.
“Not really,” Nasreen, the younger one said, almost as if she was covering something up. “Just.. you know… we were wondering about your sister… like after the broken engagement … is she really okay?”
Something told me that she wasn’t exactly concerned about her well-being.
“Like, I can’t imagine how it must feel to be in her place,” the other sister said. “Two times over… you can’t help but feel that there’s something wrong with her.. you know?!”
Her tone was questioning but the look in her eyes was just evil.
What did she even know about my sister?
She was insinuating things that she had no proof about… talking about the past and judging Mohsina as if she knew more than she really did.
I desperately wanted to ask her how come she wasn’t married yet but I didn’t have that much of an evil streak in me. Plus, I had to keep reminding myself. Getting back at people wasn’t the point. Character, right? That was the only thing that we could hold onto, when everything else seemed amiss.
Peace. Kindness. Love. Breathe in, and let it go.
And everything else aside, but it always amazed me how people who were less than worthy sat on high horses and judged everyone else. Nasreen and her sister appeared to be the perfect Muslim girls, but the reality was far from that and not many knew it.
I didn’t want to get into an argument right then so I let the comment slide. I did suppose that rumours were doing its rounds in the family…. Everyone had their own theories.
Luckily today, I actually had a good excuse for not going in, and for extra effect, I planned on convincing Mohsina to join me at my uncles house later on so everyone will see just how amazingly well my sister was really coping.
All she had to do was turn up at home first. On time.
And yes, Mohsina had promised to be home by lunch time that day and the afternoon rush at the coffee shop but I already knew that she was going to be late. It was a given with my sister.
It was a weekend so I didn’t understand what the delay was, but I knew that since scoring that position at Hammond’s, it seemed like her popularity was soaring limitlessly. Every time I asked her what her deal was; she always had some commitment, feature or something of that sort. Technically, Mohsina was the backbone of an entire division and being a Muslim female there was obviously a huge amount of scrutiny and pressure for her to perform at top level. Of course, her work had to be impeccable… but the question I couldn’t help but ask was: at what cost was it all coming?
I glanced outside as I stood at the doorway, seeing Layyanah’s Hyundai making it’s way up our plot as she skilfully parked alongside the driveway. I smiled as she emerged from the car, her tummy almost the size of a beach ball now, as she hobbled along the footpath.
“Assalamualaikum,” I called, grinning at her slightly clumsy movements. “You’re looking so cute. You need a hand?”
Even though she was wearing an abaya, she was looking like a super sweet pregnant lady as she made her way towards me.
She had a container of something she was carrying, and since Layyanah was now a frequent here, she was almost like another member of the family.
Also, it had just been a few months… but with the start off the new year, our coffee shop and garden had quickly become a regular destination for many around the province. We didn’t expect it, but since Mohsina was doing the page for our Garden Getaway page and the coverage she gave it was quite extensive, the coffee shop and chill spot was really exceeding expectation. It was really one of the more popular coffee shops that offered Halaal entertainment, outdoor seating as well as full catering that Mummy had trained people to help her with, and Papa was really beginning to enjoy managing this new project.
I hated to say I told them so, and of course it was great news, but we needed extra help. That’s when Mohsina suggested we ask Layyanah to assist, because she was nearby and had lots of experience in administration and operations when she was at Hammond’s.
”I think I’m okay,” she said with a slight huff, but I knew Layyanah. She was getting knackered really fast and it was a warm day today. “It’s just an effort to keep moving at times.”
She grinned at me as she waddled forward. She was honestly looking quite huge, but the fact that she wasn’t one of those gracefully pregnant women made her really self conscious.
“You look like you are ready to pop!” I said with delight as I reached her, going forward to help her with her bag. She balanced the Tupperware on her tummy as we walked through the front door.
”Mohsina here yet?” She asked, her eyes looking bright as she said it. Mohsina’s visit today was an event that was rare and she made certain she wouldn’t miss. It had been almost a month since she had come.
“Not yet,” I continued as I watched her, hoping that Mohsina wasn’t going to make us wait too long. “You okay?”
She was shifting uncomfortably as I watched her trudging forward.
Having a highly pregnant woman in my midst got me a bit anxious. She nodded convincingly and I relaxed slightly.
“Mohsina is apparently going crazy, shopping for the cutest outfits ever,” I said, her huffing away as she made her way down the passage. “Do you need anything else for the baby, by the way?”
Liyaket didn’t want the whole occasion thing before the baby arrived and preferred to have it after, so we had shelved the idea for later that month and put some money together to buy Layyanah some cute baby attire. After all, she just had 3 weeks to go before the baby was due.
“All I want right now is to get this baby out!” she moaned emphatically, clearly exhausted. “The only person who is more tired than I am is Liy, shame, man… He is honestly my ease through the most difficult pregnancy, Alhumdulillah. I’m soo grateful…”
I smiled. The two of them were so in love and it was just so cute.
”You left him at home?” I asked casually as we walked into the kitchen.
She shook her head as she placed the container down.
“He took his mother for her meds and a new script,” she said easily, collapsing on the two-seater couch as I put the kettle on for coffee. “The hospital she used to go to from them days is an hour away. He told her to go to the private one here, but she’s so stubborn, shame. These old people, neh? She says she doesn’t want him to waste money on her, especially since his family will be growing… she says he’ll need to save it all.”
That was really considerate. But the government hospitals were no joke.
“The least he could do is drive her there,” she continued. “He said he’ll try and convince her for next time. She used to take the bus and it took her the whole day in the past. Shame, she’s really in a lot of pain.”
I smiled sympathetically, remembering her mentioning that his mother had chronic back pain as well as diabetes, and also touched by how much of love she had for her son. It was like one of those stories you heard in folk tales. Only more soppy.
”He’s a good son, Layy,” I said quietly. “Are your parents excited about the baby?”
Layyanah’s eyes narrowed.
“Didn’t Mohsina tell you?” She said, her expression instantly changing to one of upset. “My parents don’t want to have anything to do with my child because of its surname. My father is still hung up on the shallow guy who he missed out a major business opportunity with.. the one I was supposed to marry, because of all the money that he would have made out of that partnership. It’s all about money, money and more money for him.
People from my circles are highly superficial.”
It was really sad, what Layyanah was saying. I had no idea that people still behaved like Bollywood antagonists in this day and age. It was a brutal lesson about wealth and status… and how greed and the need for more and more consumed people. What happened to blood being thicker than water? What happened to love triumphs all?
I sighed and looked at my watch, realizing that Mohsina was already late and she hadn’t even called. The words Layyanah had said still rung in my ears.
People from my circles are highly superficial.
People from my circles too, I wanted to add, but I kept silent. Some things were better left unsaid.
She looked away, but I didn’t miss the escaped tear from her eye that she hastily brushed away.
My heart ached for my sisters friend, who seemed seemed so fragile right now. Layyanah had really turned over a new leaf, so much so that she had become a really serious influence on me to be a better person too. I wasn’t even sure how she broke away from that kind of lifestyle she had grown up in. There were so many changes that her heart had undergone… changes that were so deep and obvious, changes that had transformed her and reformed her and most of all, changes that had brought about a beautiful character that I knew would eventually win even the most unassuming people over. At least, I hoped so.
Change was hard. It was harder when things happened that were so irreversible that it was quite certain that nothing would be the same again.
There was a moment of silence as two of us sat around the kitchen table, sipping on our Cappucinos while we waited for my notoriously late sister to turn up. Sunlight was streaming into the kitchen and the morning glow should have cheered me up, but it just made me more grumpy that day.
Layyanah, who reeked positivity, barely noticed my annoyance as she stretched out her long legs, holding her breath for a while and then breathing out slowly, as if she was bracing herself for something. I wasn’t sure if she needed help with anything but she gently rubbed her tummy, and then looked slightly uncomfortable for a moment as she sat back and looked at me with a strange expression.
“I think I need to go to the bathroom,” she muttered, still slighly perplexed as she got up. “Again.”
She’d only already been 3 times, but she had just downed a whole cup of cappucino and I supposed with a little human pressing on her bladder, the constant trips were kind of expected.
I smiled as I picked up the mugs that were on the tabel, feeling happy for Layyanah and trying to shove the thoughts about my sister and her alleged shenanigans out of my head.
I grabbed my phone and opened Instagram almost automatically, pausing for a minute as the first post from @mostlymohsina came up on my feed, and that’s when I saw red.
Now this is what really bugged me. It was a snap of my dear sister with two girl friends from work, striking a pose outside the latest trending ice-cream shop at Melrose Arch, dressed to the nines, just this morning. There were a few foodie snaps on her story and then one of her in a car, and it took me a minute or two to realize that it wasn’t her car that she was in.
Perhaps one of her friends? But a Porsche… a Porsche… who was it again that had a Porsche? I recalled her mentioning it once but the memory was clouded by my emotions.
Anger was brewing inside me as I realized that she had clearly shelved our brunch date for all of this, and I knew that this time when I saw her, this wouldn’t go unmentioned.
She was, undeniably, immersed in a world that we weren’t worthy of. She was constantly vying for attention of everyone else, and it confused me because there was nothing lacking in her life.
Maybe at one stage, things weren’t amazing, but now… she had everything. She was beautiful, she was successful and she was popular. Which was why I was so confused as to what she was getting at. All these posts and going out of her way to make a name for herself… wasn’t it only about arrogance and show? All this worldly pursuit, was it really all that it seemed? Wasn’t it a direct trade-off with your happiness, when you are persistent in disobeying Allah’s laws as you led your life..?
There is no obedience the creation if there is disobedience to the Creator…
A Hadith says:
“The heart of a Muslim whose object is the life Here- after does not care for the worldly pleasures, yet the world is brought to his feet; on the other hand, who- ever goes after the world, he is overpowered by mise- ries and calamities, yet he cannot receive more than his allotted portion.” (Fadhaail e Amaal)’
All this chasing… Was it not just an attention seeking play, vying for likes, pleasing people and looking for approval from creation… when in fact, our approval should only be sought from the Creator?
I looked up to see Layyanah standing in front of me, a worried look on her face. I put my phone down instantly, the anger slightly dissolving.
“I think I need to go to the hospital,” she said quietly. “Like now.”
My eyes widened as I looked at her. Did that mean she wanted me to take her?
I wasn’t the most amazing driver but I could make my way around. I only wished that Mohsina could hurry up so she could take over and do all the calming down and stuff. Layyanah was sounding like she was hyperventilating and I had no idea how to even start to make her chill.
She got up and I eyed her tummy, which was looking slightly lower now, and made me panic all the more.
“Whats happened?” I almost whispered. Somehow, I couldn’t find my voice.
“It’s my waters,” she said, sounding a little hysterical. “I think my waters broke.”
I let out a deep breath, that I wasn’t even aware that I was holding. Waters. Water. The water breaks, when the baby was ready to come. That was a normal thing, right?
Right. It wasn’t rocket science.
I picked up my phone as I grabbed Layyanah’s keys, knowing that I’d have to get her to the hospital as soon as I could. I was already dialling Mohsina’s number, now boiling with rage as I realised just how selfish she was. Her best friend was having a baby and she couldn’t even pick up her damn phone. This was just the lowest she had ever gone, well, in my eyes.
I was never going to let her hear the end of this.
This was going to be one helluva change, and I wasn’t even sure how we were going to make it through.
I wasn’t sure how I even got Layyanah to the hospital but as we pulled up, the call from Mohsina finally came. What on earth was she so busy doing that she couldn’t even answer my fifty million calls?
”Hey, I’m so sorry, I completely got caught up-“
“Don’t even try apologizing,” I snapped, picking up the phone as she called me back, almost 15 minutes later as I drove to the hospital parking lot. “Just get to the hospital right now. Liyaket isn’t in town and Layyanahs having the baby!”
“I’m on my way,” she said after a few seconds, sounding like she had gone into shock. “Tell Layyanah to hold on. Please. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Tell Layyanah to hold on? Was she even for real?
She was really something else. I knew that this day would be one that I wouldn’t forget, but what I didn’t know was that the event that was happening… this whole change that was going to make their world an entirely different one to what they had known all along … this event that was going to bring about something nothing short of miraculous. Changes, huh?
Maybe… just maybe… some changes weren’t so bad after all…
Mission Sunnah Revival
Sunnah of good manners/Akhlaaq
Rasulullah Sallalahu Alaihi Wa Sallam said: ‘There is no gift that a father gives his child more virtuous than good manners.’ (Tirmidhi)
N.B. Some translators of Hadeeth have translated the Hadeeth as, ‘A father gives his child nothing better than a good Islamic education.’