It’s strange how life works, isn’t it?
One day you’re the happiest person in the world, and the next, it feels like the worries of the entire world have settled on your tiny shoulders.
And as we drove back into it, the city air had been doing its thing with me, unsettling me and making me feel all sorts of uneasy, as I entered our old residence. As much as I tried to shove it away, the prickly feeling in my tummy didn’t yet ease.
It had been a few moments of relief, but the calming effects of the view of the contrasting bougainvillea bushes against the lush greenery of the small town we had just visited had already been lost, as we found ourselves entering the suburbs once again.
For a minute there, I found myself immersed in the vision of the intermittent splash of stunning jacaranda trees visible from the highway, abadoning myself to the feeling of winter in the city too.
Breathing in, letting the relatively denser air fill my lungs, the point was to dispel the less favourable emotions that were coming at me once again. It was owed to the fact that it had been, in my opinion, another fruitless month.
Along with the pulling of my legs and aching tummy as I felt the pain subside momentarily, it was no secret that there was not even a possibility of a positive pregnancy test this month.
And as I sighed and slid open my phone, playing the voice note from my sister, my mood worsened substantially.
“Let me know as soon as you guys are in Johannesburg,” Fareeha said bossily. “We’ll come see you.”
“We’ll come to you,” I typed to her quickly, before she made any plans to visit.
This time, I knew that Rabia was here with us and I didn’t want to risk any clashes. Knowing my sister, as soon as she clapped eyes on her, she would probably dive right into it. Perhaps she would even do a live introduction right there, and risk my entire two month mission of keeping them away from each other being sabotaged.
But I hadn’t yet let Fareeha know that I was in town yet and I had good reasoning for it. Never mind I was being slightly obsessive and unreasonable. I wasn’t going to budge because I knew that if I gave her even a little bit of an advantage, Fareeha was going to completely steal the show with her new and sole ambition in life.
I pulled the bunch of lilies I had bought out the boot, almost with a vengeance as I made my way through the interleading garage door after my mother-in-law, barely even reaching the glass table at the front before the wailing of a baby caught me completely off-guard.
And for a minute, I thought it was my warped mind playing tricks on me.
Or perhaps it was a cat. But there was no cat here. And if it wasn’t a cat… well… That noise could only mean one thing.
My heart lifted as I heard it, and as if the sombreness was immediately eliminated, it was as if my entire existence had suddenly found its purpose once again.
All I knew knew was that as my mother-in-law headed over to where Hamzah was sitting on the couch, it was like some magnetic force that was dragging me over as well.
The precious lilies were abandoned on the glass dining table, and I found myself almost tripping over a baby bag, racing before my mother-in-law to scoop the baby in question up, without even a second thought of who, how and why…
And okay, in retrospect, I knew it was just a little bit of a psychotic reflex but I really couldn’t help it. My heart was already endowed with love for any little human that I saw.
”Oh my, Masha Allah!” My mother-in-law said, glancing at him and smiling widely as I placed him onto my shoulder. “Hamzah, why didn’t you tell us Liyaket was leaving his baby?! We would have left our shopping for tomorrow! I can’t believe you!”
Neither could I.
”Mummy,” he said easily. “Can’t you see how capable I am? Just two hours with me and he’s literally on cloud number nine.”
The baby was already silent and sucking on his fingers.
”Yes, I can see that, but we would have loved to help,” she said easily. “You don’t have to act like superman.”
Or be so selfish, I wanted to add, but I didn’t. After all, it wasn’t quite his fault that I was baby-obsessed.
“Does he need a nappy change?” I asked, glancing at my brother-in-law while I felt the fullness of his diaper.
I could see Hamzah rummaging around in the nappy bag for something, and finally emerging with a nappy and two different wet wipe pouches.
One was some brand hygiene wipes and the other was Huggies sensitive baby wipes. I could see that he had no idea what the difference was so I grabbed the appropriate one, dug for the changing pad in the bag and made my way to the next room to lay the cutie out on the top of the bed and change him.
I would have never guessed that changing a wet diaper would have made me so ecstatic, but it did. It had been so many years since I had done this but it felt like it was just the other day. The years flew by so very fast…
“So how was shopping?” I could hear my brother-in-law asking my mother-in-law in the next room. “What did you buy for me?”
It had been a while since I had met such a friendly baby, and his chuckles resounded through the room as I played a silly little game with his little toes, wiping him carefully and then sealing him up again, before re-buttoning his vest and romper. The smile he gave as he looked up at me felt like the sun had risen in the horizon of my heart.
Warmth oozed within me as I held him close, the feeling his heartbeat next to mine as his fingers gripped around my thumb, almost as if, in their rhythm, the two of us shared a little secret that no one else knew.
I wasn’t sure if anyone else could be as in love with babies as I was right then.
”We brought some food,” my mother-in-law was replying, and I could hear her go silent for a while as she unpacked the packets I had rudely left on the table.
Of course, I knew she wouldn’t mind. It was no secret to her that I would abandon anything for even a few moments with a little human being.
Also, there was inarguably another reason for her silence. Although it had been a highly sensitive topic before, things had kind of simmered down now… but I could tell that she was probably debating whether to tell him that we stopped over at Mohsina’s family’s new coffee shop. We weren’t quite sure how he would take to it.
And though it had been on the trending list for a few months, and I had heard about it a few times because my sister had been there at least half a dozen times and could not stop swooning about it… I figured that since we might be passing through the area, it may be worth a try.
And it just so happened that we were literally starving because we couldn’t find many Halaal places around where the factory shop we went to was, and this was slap-bang, in the middle of our detour. Not only was it conveniently located, but it was also a really aesthetically pleasing location that soothed my heart significantly, even if it was for a little while.
And as we drove up the gravel road leading to the familiar property, I had stepped off the car and breathed in the fresh air, taking in the stunning little rose garden in the front as I walked up the two steps that led to the entrance of the shop. Not only was I already in love with the scenery here, but being there felt almost like being completely out of the city, as I felt myself shedding all the worries that had consumed me earlier on, letting myself get absorbed in the beauty of the beautiful bougainvillea bushes in the distance.
I gazed intently at the carefree collusion of creamy whites that turned almost pearl, pretty pinks that transformed to blood reds … and pinky-peaches that somehow morphed into burnt orange. The contrast against the streaky skies made me stop in my tracks for a minute, as I digested the colours that were very much like the horizon that was spread before us, with its silky smooth skybursts of reds and yellows that found its way into the calmness of the latter afternoon.
When nature painted, with Allah as the artist, truly, no filter was needed…
“You think she will be here?” My mother-in-law had asked quietly as we entered, scanning the room as if she expected Mohsina to pop out from the woodwork.
I knew that she was secretly hoping she would see her but I did think that it was highly unlikely. Even though it was a weekend, with qualified professionals, I knew that there wasn’t always weekend time.
We walked in, immediately noticing that the place was simple and very cottage-inspired. There was nothing fancy about its decor or furniture, but it felt so amazingly homely and comfortable.
And as I took it in, I could see that it’s inspiration was a picture frame of a pretty meadow, and I couldn’t help but glance at if a few times, trying to figure out who had painted it, wondering if it was some coincidence that it looked so strikingly familiar to the farm back home …
A younger boy who stood behind the counter, upon seeing us, quickly went to the back, and in his place out came a girl who at first glance could have been Mohsina, but I already knew wasn’t.
It was her younger sister, and even though I had met her once before, her name had slipped my mind completely.
“Assalamualaikum,” she said kindly, her eyes meeting mine as she flashed one of the rarest smiles I’d seen in months. It was just so sincere and welcoming that it took me aback.
She had obviously not recognised us, I said to myself. If she did, she would have snubbed us completely. After all, Hamzah was the one who called off the Nikah.
The girls head was covered with a floral hijab that was tied tightly and her striking features were slightly sun kissed, as if she probably spent her glorious days out in the garden most times. The mesmerising rose garden in the front had to be the result of someone’s toil…
“How are you?”
My mother-in-law, seeing no males in the vicinity, and generally unconcerned about any dynamics that may have existed, unlike me, lifted her niqab and gave her a genuine smile.
And the thing was, even if you are in niqab, to reveal your identity was always the right thing to do, by whatever means. Personally, I was just a little worried about how she may take us being here after everything that had happened.
”Wa alaykum Salaam,” Mummy said, looking slightly hesitant as the girls expression changed. “I’m not sure if you remember us, Jameela?”
Ah yes. Jameela. That’s what her name was.
I could tell that she did, but she looked down shyly, almost self-consciously and nodded. So far, so good. I mean, she didn’t chase us out, so that was great.
Instead, she passed us a simple menu and then said:
”I’ll be with you in a minute. My mother would love to see you.”
And with that, I was kind of taken aback. For me, the situation was a little awkward but it seemed as if they were surprisingly elated at our being here, and it took a while for me to wrap my head around it because I really didn’t expect it. What I did expect was an acknowledgement and maybe mere politeness, but I really didn’t think it would go further than that.
And that’s when I realised that maybe there was some hope in this world where everything else seemed to be a dead loss.
And that wasn’t the end of it. And as her mother emerged and a surprisingly pleasant reunion took place, Jameela recommended to us the popular specials they had, served us the best coffee I ever tasted, and packed us off with four extra sandwiches to take home.
Homemade and absolutely delicious, might I add.
And after feeling all satisfied and at peace in my new surroundings, as I soaked up the sun in the outdoor area where the view was nothing short of spectacular, when I went up to the counter, Jameela merely shook her head at me.
“My parents say I can’t charge you ladies,” she said with a sweet smile. “Next time, I promise. Then I know you’ll will come back.”
”That’s not right, Jameela,” I insisted, taking out my purse nonetheless.
I never know what to do in situations like this. And this was awkward. The whole situation was.
“We ordered so much. Let me pay for something at least.”
She shook her head again.
“My Papa will lock me up in the barn if I don’t listen,” she half-whispered, but I could tell she was joking. “You came to our home and after everything that happened… well, it’s the least we could do. It’s Hadiyyah.”
When she put it that way I couldn’t refuse. And they were kind of blowing me away, with all this niceness, even when we barely deserved it.
There was nothing more I could do or say, except thank her appreciately, as I looked around me, taking the place in.
Now that I was here again, I understood again that Mohsina had come from a simple home, and that they had probably just made ends meet every month, without that much ‘extra’. It made me think about life so differently… because when I thought of it, this is what got me, all the time, and what Allah Ta’ala revealed about those who prefer others above themselves:
“They prefer others above themselves, even though poverty become their lot (Holy Qurān, Surah Baqarah.)”
I just couldn’t get it, and although I had a deep desire to be, I wasn’t like that.
How is it that people that have so much, find it so hard to part with that which they own… yet people who don’t, take in so much in their stride? Was it because they have little and are content with it… so giving even of that little doesn’t make a difference? Or was it because they just possessed an immensely amazing gift that allows them to open their heart so unreservedly, that no matter what they lose in the pursuit of winning over someone’s heart, barely makes a difference…
What I didn’t yet realize is that the money earned by a person, if it is not blessed, will never be enough. The more one earns, the more are his needs. Its like continuing to eat without becoming satisfied.
And as I exited, my heart engulfed all sorts of strange emotions, my eyes fell on a selection of potted flowers for sale on a little stand there, and next to it were a few buckets of lilies that took my breath away. So instead, I looked through the selection of pretty lilies in a bucket in the bucket, who Jameela said she was selling for someone else, and bought two unusually coloured bunches.
“Such a lovely girl,” my mother-in-law was murmuring as we made our way out. “Next time we need to bring something for them. If I had another son I would have already sent a proposal for her.”
She chuckled light-heartedly but there was a hint of sadness in her voice, probably for the would have been daughter-in-law she had missed out on all those months back.
I kept silent, thinking what everyone would think in situations like this. Whatever happened. However Hamzah may have messed it up. Whatever Mohsina might have done.
Allah knows best.
“But it is what it is,” she said, almost to herself as we got in the car. “No use thinking about it. And three is a good number, though, right? Lucky my second pregnancy had turned out to be twins.”
Three is an amazing number. Although I’d be happy with two.
Oh, but I’m happy with one too. Am I?
Of course, I’m grateful, but just one more….
I smiled and shook my head to myself, thinking about how my mother-in-law had once mentioned that she never thought she would have any more kids after Imraan. And then bam… along came two at once, almost ten years later.
And I never did ask her more about it. I always assumed that she had fallen pregnant with twins naturally and there were no treatment options at that time. But now as she said it, the desire the ask her was overwhelming.
“Was it a shock?” I said carefully, putting the car into reverse and glancing at her as we left.
”It could have been one, two or three,” she said with a smile, and left it at that.
”Ah,” I said, as if I wasn’t quite sure.
But of course I understood what that meant. It was the option that Imraan didn’t want to consider as yet, but the one I was trying hard for him to at least think about. IVF, under stipulated conditions, was allowed, but to get Imraan to accept it as a viable option was another task altogether.
I sighed as I picked baby Zaid up now, holding him close as I took in that unique newborn scent, and headed back to the sitting room.
I wasn’t sure if my mother-in-law had told him where we’d been but as I heard more voices in the vicinity, I realised that Zaids parents were already back.
With a slightly heavy heart, I dragged myself to the kitchen, seeing Liyaket’s wife perched on a chair there, looking as calm as ever, as I held her baby in my arms.
“Ah there he is,” she said, smiling as she saw her son. “I really hope he didn’t trouble you.”
And if she wasn’t so lovely I might have resented her for having the cutest baby in the world, but of course I couldn’t.
“Not at all,” I smiled, passing him over to her. He was so sweet-natured, as he literally drifted into lala land again with his dummy in his mouth. “You should have left him longer. We hardly had any time with him. Hamzah was keeping him all to himself.”
Layyanah smiled, shaking her head.
”To tell the truth, I didn’t think he would!” she laughed, genuinely humoured. “Liy and I thought he’d phone after an hour with multiple complaints about how difficult babies are, but when he didn’t, we got even more worried!”
She was giggling as she said it and I smiled.
I too, could barely believe that my otherwise spoilt brother-in-law who could not even make a cup of coffee by himself was actually so handy when it came to babies.
”I hope you guys did what you needed to do?” I asked politely, as I switched the kettle on. “Can I offer you tea or coffee?
“I’m fine with tea,” she said gratefully. “But only if you’re making for yourself. It’s been a pretty hectic morning. The queues at the bank were crazy and I had to urgently sort out a problem with my account. Liyaket keeps telling me not to stress but I can’t help it. I worry, and yet he’s the accountant. Financial security… For Zaid, more than me. He keeps saying that it’s all Duniyaa, but you know..”
She trailed off and I smiled, because I knew. The worry was real and although we were supposed to have Tawakkul, we were so weak. Besides, with our kids, does it ever stop?
”We all worry,” I said knowingly. “We are weak, even though Allah tells us over and over to hand it over to Him…”
And because I knew of Layyanah’s family, who I had recently come to find out was one of the wealthiest families in Johannesburg, it was no secret that I had already had it in my mind that she was pretty materialistic so it didn’t surprise me that she was talking about money.
Liyaket, on the other hand, was a simple guy who had worked exceptionally hard while he was studying, even doing all-nighters to keep up with work and studies, because for them, nothing ever came easy. The two of them had completely contrasting backgrounds.
And although I had formed my assumptions, the next thing she said caught me completely off guard.
“I suppose at some point, we just have to hand it over, don’t we?” She said quietly. “When we look at the type of life the Sahaaba lived, how can we ever say we are of the same Ummah? Like for example.. the other day I was just reading about Hadhrat Faathima (RA), in a book I found in Liy’s mother bookshelf. How simple her life was, how she worked so hard and how her husband adored her because of it… where are we and where were they? Do you ever wonder?”
She shook her head shamefully while I looked at her in awe, barely believing that this was the same girl I had heard about, who was so spoilt that she had never even had to dish out her own food.
And now, as I tried to process how Allah’s plan works, I was listening to her tell me more about the simplicity of Deen..
This girl was making me review my own intentions in life. It was like I had been missing the point all along.
”Sometimes,” I said, feeling overwhelmed for a minute. “It’s amazing how they endured so much, huh?”
Perhaps it was all the hormonal emotions that were taking it’s toll, but her entire demeanour and beautiful outlook was having such an immense effect on me that I literally just wanted to crumple up and sob my heart out.
“Anyway,” she said, barely noticing, shifting around and moving baby Zaid onto her other arm as she finished feeding him and grabbed two more biscuits. I hastily went up to take him, eager for a little more time. “I’m not sure what time Liy is planning on leaving but I’m just going to carry on eating because this feeding makes us so feel like we’re starved, neh?”
I smiled. I remember how I used to eat about seventeen times a day when I was breastfeeding.
The kettle was already halfway boiled as we chatted easily about babies and their erratic feeding schedules, when I could hear Imraan calling me from the other room.
And since he had just probably arrived, I excused myself to see him, and see to Uthman as well. They were probably a little hungry, since Imraan had gone out to meet a client for the day and Uthman had gone for some additional school tutoring.
“Assalamualaikum,” I said with a smile, peeping out the kitchen door. “How are you? Can I send something for you to eat?”
”Sawls,” Imraan said causally. “I’m fine. Where’s your phone? Fareeha is trying to get hold of you.”
When was the last time I had used it? I had gotten so busy with the baby that I had even forgotten
“It’s in the car,” I said, smacking my hand on my forehead. “Let me go and fetch it.”
”Don’t stress, love,” he said casually. “Maulana Aadil called to say that they were on the road, so I told them to come here.”
”What?!” I said, widening my eyes at him. “No!”
“Why?” He asked innocently. “Don’t you want to see your sister before we go home? Is everything okay?”
He wouldn’t understand. He was also looking at me like I’d lost my marbles.
“It’s just,” I said slowly, carefully retracting. “I thought we would visit them for a change. I didn’t think you’d go and invite them over without telling me first. It’s so sudden. And I really just wanted to go there and chill while Fareeha did all the tea-making..”
I loved entertaining people, and Imraan knew it. I supposed that’s precisely what made him more suspicious.
”Listen,” Imraan said, his phone and the buzzer going off at the same time, and his voice softened as he said the next sentence, and moved to the corner of the lounge where no-one could see us. “You’re acting crazy and completely unlike yourself. Don’t get offended… but it’s not just now, it’s been for a few weeks now. Do you want to tell me what’s going on?”
I closed my eyes momentarily as Imraan spun around, pressed the button for the top gate, and then turned around again to face me.
”You rather go out and greet them,” I said meekly, as he looked at me and narrowed his eyes.
I could hear my mother-in-law and Layyanah chatting in the next room, feeling like I was missing out on precious moments with the baby.
“They can wait,” he said stubbornly. “You know you can tell me anything. I’m not going until you spill it.”
Breathe, Saaliha, I told myself. Just breathe
It was no big deal. Maybe the two of them wouldn’t clash at all. Perhaps Rabia would be out for a while longer, and Fareeha would be long gone before she even made an appearance.
Imraan only called me by my full name when he was in a no-nonsense mood.
“I can’t,” I finally mumbled. “It’s a secret.”
How would I ever explain this craziness?
That, I can never mention.
“We never keep secrets,” he said softly, sounding as if I’d knocked the wind out of him, with the words I’d just uttered.
Seconds felt like minutes, as I heard car doors slamming and Fareeha’s voice screaming at her kids as time was running out.
Imraan was inching closer to me, his expression even more disturbed than before.
I swallowed, looking at him, but determined not to breathe a word of my concerns out loud.
“Are you sure absolutely sure?” He said, looking resigned already, as he stepped back, his expression now one of undeniable hurt.
I nodded. I wasn’t thinking further than right then.
“Right,” he said abruptly, turning to leave, and for some reason, there was no other time I remembered that I’d felt more down in the dumps than I did right then.
It didn’t matter though. All I knew was that, come what may, this secret was one that I could never expose…
Sunnah of Giving and Receiving gifts.
In an attempt to create love, especially if they may be rifts or some kind of problem… the Sunnah of giving gifts is always a perfect remedy ❤️
Rasullulah (Sallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said: “If anyone receives something from his Muslim brother, without asking for it, he should not reject it but he should accept it is his sustenance (rizq) which has been sent by Allah Taála.”
(Fadhaail e Sadaqah)
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.”