Part 41 Mohsina
Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget that we don’t always need to be busy, to be rushing to the next thing or to keep on checking our phones or e-mails. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that it’s okay to slow down, to pause, to take a break and to take notice of the little things that aren’t so little.
Sometimes we don’t realize someone’s prayer that saved us from falling deeper. Or a smile that came through for us when we needed it most. Or a a simple kind word that made a difference to someone’s difficult day.
The simple things, sometimes, can take us a long way.
And yes, for me, there was a time in life when I stopped worrying about the simple things, and stopped caring what people think. When I shifted my focus, when I got detached from people, and built that wall that kept me an arms length away… at any given time.
Watching my father being held, at gun point when I was 18 years old, when nothing we had was good enough to invoke any mercy, had shifted something within me.
It was from that point on that I decided that I would be fearless. Unyielding. Unattached. I supposed that was my coping mechanism.
When it came to suitors, to family, friendships, and to Hamzah too… I never risked digging my hopes in so deep that coming out would prove to be any sorts of painful.
I always knew that people could leave. Come and go as they pleased. Leave each other, and never return. It was something I’d realised from listening to friends talking about relationships or being a little too cautious for my own liking.
And so, instead of focusing on the One who never leaves, that’s when I shifted my focus to things. Shoes, handbags and accessories were easiest to deal with. People, to me, were the problem.
So when the blues got to me, as I sat in my room, one day in Ramadhaan, it took me a little by surprise.
And maybe it was a combination of my mind finally attuning to reality, and also being the time of the month and the emotions that came with it… all I knew was that it felt like she had left me and the light had followed her. Simply put, whichever way I saw it, there was a gnawing ache in my body which translated to me missing Layyanah immensely.
Suddenly, the world was filled with so much of darkness that it was almost impossible for me to see at all. And as I trudged along, a flickering torch lighting much less of a path than I’d hoped, there were moments when my heart gave in completely.
How much my heart yearned for her advice, her laugh and just her general two cents, I wasn’t even able to fully comprehend, but being so busy with Zaid had filtered it for me, so it wasn’t so obvious.
But then there were the moments. Moments at night when I couldn’t seem to drift off to sleep, where I would stare at the ceiling and wonder how she could leave me like this. At such a dead loss, completely clueless as to how to even sort out and live my own life, nevermind her little boy’s…
It was the day after Maahira had messaged, when Zaid was still with Hamzah and family, when I had gone down to see if there was anything to munch on (it was that time of the month and I was feeling a little spiritually low, and Maahira was also coming to visit after iftaar so I could explain the whole marriage saga), so I grabbed a packet of cookies just as Nani walked into the kitchen, and gave me one of her eye-balling looks.
I was being my usual unbothered self, as I strutted around the then empty kitchen, looking for something to munch on and to do whilst I heard her voice from behind me that made me jump.
“No roza?” She said with a frown, looking at me, almost accusingly. Nani was looking at me accusingly as I hid the stash behind my back.
I pulled my face slightly because next, I already had a plan to head straight to the shelf near the stove, due to the fact that for some reason, someone had left a huge slab of Cadbury Bubbly chocolate (that everyone knew was my ultimate favourite ), right in proximity of my wandering eyes.
But with Nani’s eyes now fixed on me, I slunk back to the bar stool, determined to leave my chocolate-cravings for later.
“No, Nani,” I said with a small smirk. “I’m not fasting.”
”Oh,” she said, obviously peeved that I would have the guts to even admit it.
And I got the old traditional thinking but after explaining to my brother that women take a break from certain forms of worship once a month, he now obediently turned the other way if he ever saw us sneaking a treat to our rooms. Nani obviously, thought it was appalling that he knew, but I thought it was important that he knew that we weren’t cheating.
“You missing Zaid?”
It was Nani again and I knew that was her way of asking why I was still sitting there, because it was the first time I had set foot on the kitchen after ages.
And to tell the truth, though the short break definitely had helped with my sleep deprivation, I was actually missing him so much that I pottered around my room trying to deal with myself in the best way possible. As much as I wanted to call every minute and see how he was doing, all I did was message Saaliha (maybe a bit too many times) to ask how he was… but despite her being polite, her answers were always brief and to the point.
For all I know, she had probably been given instructions by Hamzah not to over indulge me and I got that. Well, a little, except for the fact that I still thought that he was behaving like a selfish brat.
I sighed audibly, unable to contain my annoyance.
“You okay?” Nani asked bossily, and turned back to mixing the batter she had put in the metal bowl in front of her.
“Just tired,” I said half-heartedly. I still had piles of work to do and I just couldn’t seem to get around to it. Faadil had messaged me about six times this morning for follow ups on budgets but I just wasn’t feeling like getting into it. I knew that my job was on the line too, but for some reason, it didn’t even faze me.
Sure, I missed some aspects of my apartment but sitting like a lump and getting spoilt rotten had been absolute bliss.
Besides, Nani was in a particularly good mood because she hadn’t once even commented on my laziness. Maybe she was feeling sorry for me or just wanted to be nice, but when Nani actually missed an opportunity to hound me about learning to cook, I knew that the odds were in my favour.
And as she turned to look at me, a slight frown on her forehead, I couldn’t help but notice how different she appeared. It had been so long that I had really taken her in, that I didn’t quite realise how much she had aged.
Although she was still highly capable for everything that she had carried out over the years, her back was now slightly hunched and her movements were a little slower than before.
There it was. Another reminder that time was running away with me and if I didn’t say anything it would forever be lost…
And I suppose that’s why, although it was probably the best time for me to head back upstairs and either do the work Faadil had mailed me this morning, or just some general adhkaar and Ibaadat (worship) that I’d kind of made a habit of to ground me, I knew I shouldn’t.
It was just that, somehow, after the general cleansing and lightening and purifying of my heart over the weeks had taken effect, there was nothing else that I really wanted to do than bear my heart and soul and that was exactly why I sat there for another five minutes and wondered how exactly to approach the topic that I’d been avoiding with Nani for over a year.
”Nani,” I said finally, watching my grandmother whisking her mixture vigorously while the extractor hummed above her, ready to fry her mixture.
“Nani, I’m sorry,” I blurted out, already feeling embarrassed about how emotional I was already getting.
Nani glanced at me and frowned, her face slightly perplexed as she probably tried to figure out if I was just making a joke or what.
She said nothing, but as she looked at the sincerity on my face, I could see her expression ease, while she chopped carefully on the chopping board, before she finally broke into a small smile.
“What are you sorry for?” She said roughly in Guji, looking at me enquiringly.
“For everything,” I said quietly. “For not listening. For disappointing you. For causing problems. For making the wrong choices. For telling you that you have favourites…”
Yes, I had. I had accused Nani of having favourites. And I made it clear that she never treated me as one of hers.
I understood now that Nani was coming from a place where she was worried. Immensely worried and concerned that I wasn’t going all out to settle down and make a life for myself. And not get married, but that was beside the point.
Nani looked like she was shocked. But now that I was into it, I might as well go all out.
”Also, I’m sorry that things with Nadeema got so bad. Nani, I didn’t want it to be that way, but she was doing something that I couldn’t tolerate.”
There. I said it. I didn’t tell Nani what she did but I gave her an idea. I didn’t tell her that she had been speaking to the guy I was proposed to, and was even meeting him. I didn’t want to bring it all up now. It was the unmentionable things that we never mentioned.
But now I had just mentioned it.
“It’s okay,” Nani said in Gujarati. “Khair. He wasn’t right for you anyway.”
I narrowed my eyes slightly at Nani, wondering howcome she suddenly changed her opinion. She had been so furious when I called it off.
Convinced that I would never find anyone better.
My entire adult life had been spent hearing about how I can’t be so fussy and picky and no-one likes educated girls, and now she was saying that he wasn’t right for me in the first place.
I wondered if the change of heart was the current situation I had found myself in. Maybe Nani had finally realised that I didn’t really need a man to have a baby. Ah. The relief. At least it will save me from more soppy, spineless Sameers.
“Really?” I asked, curious, wondering if she was for real.
She shrugged, glancing at me as she dropped spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil.
The smell of freshly fried bajias was making my mouth water. Now let me tell you, my Nani didn’t just make a simple bajia.
Hers was the type with all the best stuff in it. The type that made you do metaphoric circles around trees in your mind as you bit into their crunchy texture. The type that made you salivate embarrassingly, just by smelling them.
The type I knew I had to learn to make, when I eventually decided to get married.
She was silent for a while, while the oil spluttered and simmered, and then turned and looked at me.
“His mother didn’t like my Samoosas,” she said with a serious face, and I couldn’t help but chuckle.
Nani’s samoosas were legend. There clearly was something wrong with his mother.
“And he wasn’t right,” she continued. “Not your type. Too ‘small-build’ for you.”
“What?” I said, widening my eyes.
Was Nani saying I was too fat for him? Okay, I know he was on the smaller side but it wasn’t like I was that huge.
Oh great. I couldn’t believe her.
She had turned back to the bajias, almost as if she hadn’t just called me fat.
It was at that point when Jameela entered the kitchen, and I knew I should have just let it go, but I was quite offended, so I couldn’t just be silent.
And fine, maybe Nani had forgiven me for my past mistakes but saying I was fat wasn’t exactly a good way to end the conversation.
“Jameela,” I whined, as my sister started taking out a jug for the milkshake. “Nani said I’m fat.”
Jameela had forgiven me for my outburst about her teenage-inspired-badboy-crush but she hadn’t mentioned it since. She still blushed awkwardly if anyone mentioned him or we saw him going past.
“I didn’t say she’s fat,” Nani said, not in the least bothered. “I said that boy was too small for her. Not right for her size.”
I looked at Jameela pointedly, while she grinned.
”I told her the truth,” Nani said pointedly. “I didn’t say she was fat. She mustn’t become like your Choti kala. Weight goes up and down like yo-yo. How will she find a boy when he won’t know who she is the next time he sees her?”
I spluttered as she glanced at me, wondering what Choti Kala would say about this. I knew Nani was just messing with me but it was fun to have something else to worry about.
Besides, I knew there was a stage when I was a little on the chubbier side, but being a lot more conscious of my weight now had brought me down pretty well. I knew that this Ramadhaan, unlike others, I had actually lost some weight. I was looking better than before. I also knew that I had been through so much recently that maybe I needed to just go with the light humor for now.
And as Nani went on about “makko” men (she probably meant macho), I couldn’t help but think of what Nani would think of Faadil. Despite the fact that he was ‘office men’s’ with big, big business, he had a good build. Plus he was super handsome and charming, that he could even charm the socks of me, in the most challenging of situations.
But then again, no-one quite knew about all his other antics that he got up to when he thought he had covered his tracks so well.
Okay, trash the thought. That was my utopian mind taking over. Nani would probably have a heart attack if she got wind of who he was.
Jameela was snickering silently to herself, and I stuck my tongue out at her.
Muhammed Husayn, evidently, had also smelt the famous bajias and had just sauntered into the kitchen to investigate.
I already knew what was coming. Great. A family affair at my expense.
He sat silently and listened, while Nani explained her very intense whole theory about how sizes matter and opposites that attract. About how size determines the type of selection available and how girls who are thinner have a better selection of the opposite gender to go with. The theory went something like: The larger you are, the less selection is available for attraction.
It was like magnetic fields all over again in high school physics, which thankfully, I had dropped in grade 10. No regrets.
”For Mohsina,” she said, matter if fact. “She can’t have one skinny small mens. She needs one with… what you call this thing?”
She tapped her upper arm and gestured at Muhammed Husayn while he smirked.
“Muscles, Nani,” he said blandly. “Muscles.”
”Yes,” she said, thrusting her spoon in the air. “He needs muscles. Can’t marry one bichaaro boy who can’t even pull you out the car seat.”
Great. Now she was suggesting that I get stuck in car seats. I loved my grandmother to bits.
My mouth was still hanging open, but as I watched my siblings grinning at me, I just shook my head at them and rolled my eyes.
The laughter was much needed, even though I wouldn’t admit it. I stayed silent though, as they went off to get ready to break fast, and I sauntered off to the lounge, knowing that my slight disconnection was probably due to the fact that I hadn’t been immersing myself in Ibaadat as much as I wanted to.
I had pulled out my phone from the shelf I had placed it on early, looking at another reminder from Faadil, and decided to ignore it for now, opening my Instagram after what seemed like days. A host of direct messages stared at me as I closed the app again, not yet ready to go into the mundanities of that kind of life yet.
Make up tutorials. Daily care routines. Trending memes that would cause a bit of a stir and create some much needed humour…
It all seemed so far away from me.
While I was searching everywhere for peace, I didn’t know that it was right in front of me, within this glorious message that was sent from above.
There are certain things that come only from the magic of His closeness, that you are privileged to seek. I had taken pride in the wrong things. I had taken pride in my fake life, that I was trying to make greater than it really was.
Because if there was one thing that I had learnt in Ramadhaan, it was that time was something I wouldn’t get back. I knew that if i didn’t make the most of this time, I would certainly be stupid. This was the time when I had to invest. The time I had to beg, steal, borrow and make sure I take advantage of, no matter what.
And for that time, I sought refuge in Allah, battling to find that place where I could connect with my Creator m once again. I sought refuge in Allah, in His mercy, and on the hope that He may see something within me to forever make me His bosom friend.
And as I had been waking up in the wee hours of the morning to seek Him, I found myself once again. I had tasted the sweetness of Quran. Of salaah. Of Duaa.
I sought refuge in it, even though I didn’t always have the words. In conversing with my Lord, even when I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I bore my heart and soul, so much so, that my parents and siblings had actually begun to get worried.
Our beloved Nabi, salla Allahu ‘alaihi wasallam, is reported to have said:
“There are three characteristics, whoever they are found in him, will experience the sweetness ofIman; that he loves Allah and His Prophet, more than he loves anyone else, and that he loves another person, not for anything, but for the sake of Allah, and that he hates to return to infidelity, like he dislikes to be thrown into fire.”
And it was that sweetness, a bliss that had consumed me, that I couldn’t seem to get enough of.
And I didn’t know it yet, but there was something quite noteworthy that it was all leading to.
Ever heard that saying, sometimes what you’re looking for comes when you’re not looking at all?
It just so happens that there’s nothing that rings truer than that, for that particular day.
And having my family around me that day was all part and parcel of what was to be revealed. It lightened the mood. Made things simpler. Lifted my hopes.
I knew they were just poking me. Getting me to lighten up. Maybe even make me laugh. And I almost had. Nani was in good spirits, and still at it as we made our way to the iftaar table after salaah. I had been diligently frying the samoosas, without even grabbing any testers, while Papa and the rest took a seat and made usual small talk.
Nani was going on about teaching Jameela how to make round rotis, and that’s precisely when I spotted Muhammed Husayn making his way to the kitchen shelf and grabbing the alluring Bubbly chocolate that I had set my sights on earlier.
And I know it a simple chocolate, but for a chocolatarian like me, it was the worst thing that could happen if Muhammed Husayn had just grabbed it at 6.30PM when all other chocolate stocks were low and even the slots on the Checkers app were fully booked. With my brother, any edible would be devoured in 3 seconds, flat. For me, this was disaster.
I mean, chocolate was the answer to all my problems, especially when I was in fragile states like today.
And I really didn’t mean to stare him down so accusingly, but he must have noticed because he suddenly looked at me, and then said, almost apologetically:
And I couldn’t lie. It wasn’t really mine. But Jameela had noticed my annoyed expression and frowned at him, always quick to pick on my brother who had a bottomless pit as a stomach. Especially when it came to the finer things in life.
”Hey greedy, you had yours earlier this week,” she said accusingly. “That was Mosee’s.”
And of course, I was annoyed with him, but what else could I say besides the usual:
”Shame, no, it’s okayyy! Let him have it.”
But Jameela was like the our personal Haraam house police, and wasn’t going to have any of it.
“No,” she said, turning to look at me. “It’s really yours. Like, it’s legit haraam for him to take it without asking you. When you didn’t come down since Zaid left, I forgot to tell you. He brought one for each of us.”
”Who, Papa?” I asked, thinking of how sweet my father was. He knew just what my favourite chocolate was.
“No,” Jameela said blankly, glancing nervously around the table, while Ma and Nani watched her. They both had that look on their faces and I wasn’t even sure why, until she spoke again.
“Hamzah’s mother sent it,” she said quietly. “When they fetched Zaid. She sent a few things. The last time she came to the shop I sent a few things and… Shame, she didn’t have to.”
Jameela flushed slightly as she said it, probably thinking I might be angry about her entertainment of my ex-in-laws. I wasn’t though. It just felt strange.
”So nice of her,” Nani said, missing the awkwardness completely. “To send for all of us. I thought maybe for a special occasion like the masjid sent last week.”
“They had sent for completion of Qur’aan,” Jameela was saying. “This she sent with sooo many other things. Plus, that mosque does two khatams in Ramadhaan. Most people are only finishing their Khatam next week.”
I was secretly a little happy that Hamzah’s mother had actually sent something for me. It made me feel all fuzzy inside.
I was losing interest in the conversation but I couldn’t believe how fast Ramadhaan was going. I was just glad that by next week I would be reading again and be able to make the most of my Qur’aan. It was the one thing I truly missed during these few days.
My heart was feeling a very palpable void.
”Hamzah will finish tomorrow,” Muhammed Husayn said, almost out of the blue.
And I must have had a confused look on my face because as Jameela looked at him too, I couldn’t help but wonder what my brother was on about.
“Finishing what?” I said, still slightly confused.
”He’s reading his last part for tonight. At the house behind the new Masjid in JHB North. I went there last week. He was also talking to Papa the other day when he came and he confirmed it.”
What? My heart literally skipped a beat as he said it.
Why, oh why, didn’t I come down when they came to fetch Zaid? I was being stupid and emotional because I didn’t want him to go. But now, I missed out on this whole conversation that had happened and I couldn’t believe I had acted so childish.
”He’s a Hafidh?” I said dumbly, and Muhammed Husayn looked at me like a I born on another planet.
It was Jameela’s turn to look at me in surprise. She probably didn’t know either. I mean, she would only know if I had told her.
And why on Earth was my heart beating so fast?
”Wait,” she said, looking at me again. “You telling me he’s a Hafidh and you didn’t know it?”
“We never discussed it,” I said quietly, as if that explained it, barely even believing it myself.
How could we have not even spoke about that?
How could we have never discussed that he was a protector of the most beautiful book? How could we have not spoken about what an amazing gift he had been blessed with? How did I not even see the value of that, before this…
I breathed in, not even seeing clearly anymore. For some odd reason, tears were blurring my vision, and I wasn’t even making an effort to stop them.
Of course, my brother was still giving me the kuku look, Jameela was just shaking her head at me and Nani and my mother were sitting there, with a shocked expression on their face, as if they couldn’t quite believe what had just been revealed and my odd reaction.
To tell the truth, neither could I.
This wasn’t just big. It was huge. And everything just seemed so clear now, depite my oscured vision, and it was like everything single thing that had happened till that very point was all leading to this. It was a huge discovery that was somehow so much more important in my life than it had ever been before.
Yes, this wasn’t anything unique. There were thousands of Huffaadh around here. A blessing that each of them had, to hold the Holy Qur’aan within their bosom. It was a seemingly simple task that took years of effort and practise and healed even the most obstinate of hearts, but till that day, I hadn’t realsie the true amazement of it.
There was a huge lump in my throat that seemed to be obstructing my breathing canal. I looked up at them, with blurry vision, taking in a deep breath, and knowing that this was no coincidence. Sometimes the simple things in life are really not so simple at all.
“Excuse me,” I almost whispered, swallowing as I pushed my chair back.
I didn’t need to tell them where I was going.
I think they all already knew.
Mission Sunnah Revival
The Sunnah of Duaa…
Whilst we grapple to keep that connection alive out of Ramadhaan, I think the Sunnah of Duaa is one that we need to keep with us… InshaAllah
The Prophet (Sallalahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said, ‘Du’a is worship itself’. Then the Prophet (Sallalahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) recited this verse, ‘Your Lord says: “Call upon Me and I will respond to you. Verily, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell in humiliation” [The Noble Qur’an, 40:60]’. [Tirmidhi]