Part 198

Pretoria.

The name leaped out at me from the pages of my small black pocket diary, written in bold red letters and circled several times for emphasis. I smacked the book against my forehead.

“Crap!” I said softly but clearly.

In the hustle and bustle of the past few weeks I had completely forgotten about my impending trip. If I hadn’t marked it down in my diary under June I would never have remembered…until it was too late. Just as well that I’d seen it now then.

How, though? Who would take me? I had mentioned it to dad once, in the beginning of the year. His response had been a distracted, “ya, we’ll see when the time comes.” And I had left it at that, thinking that it was still months away…nothing to worry about yet. Time, though, had a tendency to slip away like foggy breaths on cold winter mornings; the white cloud hovering before us, just out of our reach…gone before we can exhale the next puff of air to take the place of the one that’s disappeared…each overlapping the other, never repeating itself, never completely fading away. Like that the moments of our lives overlap each other, racing towards an unseen finishing line, till I now stood at one of the stopping points, facing the prospect of a journey I was least prepared for. And like that our finishing line will loom up out of the blue one day as our moments in life draw to a close, leaving us on the brink of facing a much larger journey. And will we stand there that day filled with panic, our minds replaying our lives like the reel of a movie, wondering when time had run out for us? Will we be prepared for that final journey…or will we dig our heels in, knowing that we did not prepare for our destination…that our final abode will not be as welcoming as we would like it to be. But we won’t have a choice that day, will we? There will be no going back…only moving forward, ill prepared or not.

I shook my head to bring myself out of my reverie and shut my diary, placing it on the dressing table. Dad and Adnaan were busy at the office, I knew. They were talking about it just the other night. I didn’t know if either of them would be able to take a week off for me. And with all these rukhsati preparations going on mum would be less than pleased by the interruption. I would also have to take a leave from the school and madrassah…so many things to worry about.…..

And Ahmed……

Ahmed!!!

He could take me! Providing he wasn’t too busy as well. But if he wasn’t then I could go with him. Spend some alone time with him since we hadn’t managed much of that over the past two weeks. A whole week alone with him…like a honeymoon before a honeymoon. A slow smile dawned on my face. The more I thought about it the more I liked it. On impulse I reached for my phone and dialled his number.

“Assalamu alaykum, princess.”

Would his voice ever stop giving me those fluttery butterflies in my stomach? Probably not. He had the kind of voice that could go right through you; deep and smooth yet with that slight rasp……

“Fadheelah?”

“Sorry, I was just lost in your voice,” I replied with a laugh.

Ahmed laughed as well. “Hmmm, compliments this early in the morning? Is there something you want from me?”

I snatched the phone from my ear and gaped at it in laughing indignation. “Excuse me! Are you implying I only compliment you when I want something??” I huffed, placing the phone to my ear again.

“No, of course not. I love your compliments,” he hastily assured me.

“Good, because I only compliment when it’s well deserved,” I grinned, placated, “but actually I do have a favour to ask you.”

“Can I please say, “I knew it!”?”

“No, you can’t! I still did not compliment you for that reason!”

Ahmed’s laughter rumbled in my ear. “Okay, what is it?”

“I need to go to Pretoria for a week. I haven’t asked my dad or bro yet if they can take me though they did mention a few days ago that they’re quite busy at the moment at work. I thought it would be better if you can take me instead. We can spend some time together, you know. Alone, away from everyone. But only if you can, of course. If you’re busy……”

“Whoa, wait a minute! Why do you need to go Pretoria in the first place?”

I laughed. “Sorry, I thought I mentioned that. It’s my masters. I’m doing it online but I need to go up two or three times a year for a week each, to attend lectures. I thought I’ll go in April and October but with the wedding and all I postponed it to June. But I can’t postpone it anymore. I have to go now.”

“I see……” Ahmed was quiet for a few moments, “let me check with dad then I’ll get back to you, okay? When you want to go?”

“As soon as possible. Next week Monday?”

“Okay. I’ll let you know, inshaAllah.”

“So sorry to hang up on you so fast but I need to rush. I’m gonna be late for school.” I checked the time on my watch and jumped up hastily.

“Okay, go. We’ll chat later. Love you.”

“Love you too, habibi,” I grinned, loving the sound of that.

That night I brought up the topic at supper. Swallowing the bit of chicken in my mouth I cleared my throat. “Uhmmm, I have to tell you’ll something. I need to go to Pretoria for a week.”

Five pairs of eyes stared at me. “Why?” Mum asked finally.

“To attend lectures for my masters. Remember I told you’ll that beginning of the year? I have to go up two or three times a year.”

“You can’t go now, Faz. You’re in the middle of your preps,” mum said.

“I know but I can’t delay it any longer, mum. I already postponed it from April.”

“Go afterwards. After your rukhsati. Not now, you don’t have time,” mum repeated, her mouth set in a thin line.

“I can’t. I’ve delayed it as long as I can,” I said as patiently as I could.

Mum jabbed at her chicken leg vehemently, sending a piece bouncing across her plate. “You and all your issues, Fazila! Look at Han. She chose to do alima only and now she’s set and teaching. You still running around doing hundred and one things when you have to get married and settle down now mos.”

My temper threatened to erupt. With difficulty I reigned it in and kept my face and voice calm. “I had also planned to do only one thing, mum. Psychology. It’s not my fault you told me to come back before I could do my masters and said it’s time I settle down and I can even do my masters afterwards. And if I don’t do my masters I won’t be fully qualifued. I don’t want to teach special needs kids whole day at school forever though that’s also a good thing to do. But the day I can’t do that I should be able to do something from home. And that won’t be possible unless I’m fully qualified!”

Dad cleared his throat and stepped in neatly. “You’ll are not going anywhere except round and round in circles. Faz has to go, she has no choice. Okay. When do you want to go, Faz?” He smiled at mum to take the sting out of his words. Ever the peacemaker, my dad. Mum huffed in response and tore apart her chicken viciously, shoving a large chunk in her mouth and grinding it to smithereens. I smiled at dad in relief.

“As soon as possible, dad. Next week Monday I was thinking. Oh and I’ve already asked Ahmed to take me. He’ll let me know if he can.”

“If he can’t let me know, I’ll take you. You’re still my baby, sweety. No need to go running to Ahmed for everything from now.”

I laughed and leaning over, hugged him briefly. He sounded so adorably like a jealous, protective father. “I know, dad. I only asked him because you mentioned you’re quite busy at work right now.”

“Excuses! She’s forgotten us already. Lets hope she doesn’t decide to just settle in Pretoria for good,” Adnaan smirked from next to me. I shoved him good naturedly and stole his muffin from his plate for good measure. “Hey, that was the last one! Give it back!”

“Too late, big bro! You tease, you lose!” I shoved the muffin in my mouth and grinned at him from around it. He shot me a “I’ll-get-you-back-for-this” look in return.

In the end Ahmed agreed to go with me so dad didn’t have to. Mum wasn’t too happy about it, because of the break in preparations and also because she worried about what people might say.

“Go with your dad instead. You can go with Ahmed everywhere after your rukhsati is done.”

“Mum, I’m married to the owe. Just because I’m not living with him doesn’t make me less married to him. There’s nothing wrong in us going somewhere together.”

In the end she capitulated though with less grace than I had hoped for. I took leave from the school and madrassah. I had been training Han on teaching special needs kids madrassah so she could take over whenever I couldn’t manage or take another class with me. She hadn’t started teaching them so far but I put her in my place for the week I would be gone, responding to her protests with firm rebuttals on how the experience would be good and beneficial for her.

Mum, in retaliation for what she thought was a grand rebellion on my side, refused to let me see Ahmed all weekend, dragging me to the shops and tailors instead. “You’ll be with him the whole week anyways. You need to make up for next weekend. Now come on.”

“Mum, I’ll shop there as well with Ahmed, okay? Now please let’s go home and get this much sorted so I can pack for tomorrow,” I pleaded on Sunday, my arms and legs aching from walking and lifting heavy bags for hours.

“Ya, good. You must shop with Ahmed so he can also choose what he likes,” mum nodded in satisfaction and thankfully led me back to the car. Ahmed phoned just as I got home.

“Assalamu alaykum habibti. Packed and ready for tomorrow?”

“Nah, not yet. What time we leaving?” It was a long drive so I knew we’d have to leave really early.

“I booked us plane tickets. I’ll come pick you up…”

“What??” I interrupted him loudly, “we’re flying there??”

“Yeah, princess, we are. You don’t expect me to drive all the way there, do you?”

“That’s what I thought,” I muttered.

Ahmed laughed. “Drive for eleven hours straight?? Not my piece of cake. Rather fly there, we’ll be there in less than two hours inshaAllah.”

“What use is money if you can’t spend it?” I murmured.

“What’s that?”

“Never mind,” I smiled, “So what time is our flight tomorrow?”

“Four-fifteen. I’ll come pick you up at one-fifteen. Be ready.”

“So early? The airport isn’t that far away, you know.”

“Rather be safe than sorry.” I could almost see his smile through the phone.

True to his word Ahmed was there at the dot of one-fifteen the next day while I was still running around, shoving things in my bag last minute then running to pray up my salah.

“See why he has to give you an earlier time. He knows you’ll never be ready on time,” Han laughed.

“Yeah, even Ahmed’s gotten to know our Faz now,” Sumi chimed in, chuckling. I stuck my tongue out at them and rushed to the musalla.

After greeting everyone we finally left for the airport. Our flight was on schedule and soon we were in the air.

“Where are we going to stay over there?” I asked Ahmed, settling back into my seat. He had told me he would sort something out so I had left it to him, only worrying about my own details like the location of the university and packing along my laptop and other accessories.

“My cousin has a flat he isn’t using at the moment. He told me to pick up the keys from his neighbour.”

“Oh, cool.” I had been thinking along the lines of renting something but this was obviously better.

Pretoria. A whole week of no family, no stress and frantic preparations…except my work but that wasn’t something that would take up my whole day. No teaching, no work for Ahmed though he had brought along his laptop. Best of all, no interruptions and time cut short. A whole week of uninterrupted bliss. I grinned under my niqaab and snuggled closer to Ahmed, resting my head on his shoulder.

For a trip that had seemed like a nuisance and unwanted burden this week already held the promise of so much more………

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Part 197

Assalamu alaykum!!!

Welcome back everyone! Hope you’ll had a wonderful ramadhan and eid. Who missed the blog? I definitely did!😉 so let’s dive in, shall we??


“Where you off to?”

I turned to look at mum, lipstick tube in hand. “Out with Ahmed. Why?”

“Out with Ahmed. Of course, what else?” Mum straightened from the doorway she was leaning against and walked into the room, “Monday to Friday you’re out teaching whole day and weekends you’re out and about with that young man of yours…” I giggled at her choice of words then stopped quickly when she shot me a look, “so when you going to prepare your trousseau?”

“Trousseau?” I repeated blankly, like it was a foreign word.

“Yes, the clothes you’ll wear after your rukhsati, you know. You won’t go with only the clothes on your back, neh? And you don’t have enough nice clothes to take with you.” As if to emphasise her point mum marched over to my half-open closet and threw the door open fully then pointed to the rows of shirts, sweatpants, palazzos and my old but comfy dresses hanging inside, “see? All your casual clothes…some old and faded. You can’t take these. You need to get new ones.”

“I did shop for my trousseau Tariq’s time……” I trailed off. The clothes I had bought Tariq’s time wouldn’t be appropriate this time around, mainly because I would be living with in-laws and the clothes I had bought were fitted and revealing ones, meant for my husband’s eyes only, especially since Tariq had specified that he wanted me dolled up like a supermodel. I mentally cringed at the thought.

“Those scraps won’t be suitable infront of your in-laws,” mum looked horrified at the thought. I laughed and patted her shoulder.

“Don’t worry, mum, I’m not planning on wearing them infront of my in-laws. You’re right, I will need new clothes.”

“Good. Now phone Ahmed and tell him you won’t be available today. We’ll go visit Nasima today, or maybe we should go material shopping first…” Mum started rattling off things to do, listing them on her fingers, switching to business mode in the blink of an eye.

“Wait a minute. I can’t just cancel on Ahmed last minute…” I protested.

“Fazila, you have to. You don’t have time. Have you thought about when to keep your rukhsati? Nilofar was asking me the other day but I said I’ll discuss with you first. Have you discussed it with Ahmed?”

“Yeah, once. He said as soon as possible. I said I’m not ready yet,” I shrugged.

“You’ll never become ready if you don’t put your mind to it. All this dressing up, going out and having fun is nice but men also get impatient you know. I’m sure he wants you with him now. So you have to start thinking of a date.”

“I mentioned after Ramadan but Ahmed didn’t seem to like the idea,” I winced at the memory of the horror on his face when I’d casually dropped the idea in his lap.

“After Ramadan? That’s too far away. One month is enough I think. We can have the rukhsati next month,” mum nodded decisively like the matter was settled.

“That’s too soon!” I exclaimed, suddenly panicked. I really wasn’t ready. It would have been different if it had just been moving in with Ahmed but moving in with a whole new family was daunting to say the least.

“It’s not, Faz. It’s enough time to prepare yourself. You’ve already had a month since nikah.”

“We’ll discuss this later,” I said as my phone rang on the dressing table, Ahmed’s name flashing on the screen. I stretched out my hand but mum got there first.

“Tell him not today. He can come tomorrow,” she said, dangling the phone before my eyes.

“Mum, I can’t! It’s too last minute!” I exclaimed, trying to grab the phone from her hand. She moved it away, out of my reach.

“You tell him or I do. What do you want?”

“Mum!” I yelled, frustrated, “we’ll start our plans from next weekend, okay? Let me enjoy this weekend without tension.”

Mum shook her head stubbornly. “You have one month left. You can’t afford to lose any time. Next weekend will be one week less. Think about it clearly.”

The phone had stopped ringing. Now it started up again. Mum looked at me expectantly, still holding the phone in her hand. With a growl of frustration I capitulated. I could never win a battle of wills with mum. She may be quiet and calm but she had the stubbornness of an ox!

“Fine! Let me tell him!”

With a smile mum handed the phone over. I swiped at it and jammed it to my ear.

“Assalamu alaykum!”

“Wa alaykum salaam…have I called at a wrong time?”

“No, you haven’t. Sorry, it’s my mum. She’s banned me from seeing you today,” I huffed.

“Banned? Why?”

“Because she said I need to prepare my trousseau so we need to go shopping.”

“Today? Can’t you do that tomorrow? Or next week?”

“That’s what I said but she won’t listen!” I shot mum a disgruntled look which she returned with a satisfied one.

“Tell him if he wants you by next month he needs to sacrifice some time with you now!” Mum yelled from next to me.

“Mum!” I exclaimed.

“Next month??” Ahmed repeated, excitement threading his voice.

“The date hasn’t been set yet. That’s mum’s idea,” I said quickly.

“Tell her it’s a brilliant idea. Makes it worth sacrificing my time with you now,” Ahmed replied.

“You’re supposed to be on my side here,” I huffed, “I’m not ready yet.”

“You keep saying that but I don’t know what you need to be ready about except your clothes. And you don’t even need so many clothes. Just buy few for now then you can buy more later if you need.”

Men could be so clueless at times! “Never mind,” I muttered. I made salaam to him and hung up after promising to be free for him tomorrow.

Mum and I hit the shops first because I said I wanted to see the readymade clothes first before sewing some. Sumi and Han also tagged along and Amira said she’d meet us there after phoning Han to ask what we were up to today. The five of us browsed through some shops that had clothes on sale, others that had decent long sleeved jersey dresses for winter and light, flowing dresses for summer that could be worn with boleros. We had lunch at Debonairs and dove right back in afterwards, coming home in the evening, arms laden with shopping bags. Mum had also bought suitcases for me so I could pack the clothes straight in them. Not bad for one day, I mused as I noted the amount of stuff I had bought. If I carried on like this I would be done in two or at the most three Saturdays. I could sacrifice that much time with Ahmed I guess.

However the very next weekend the topic of Pretoria came up, throwing all our plans in the loop…

My life is Ramadhan

THOUGHTS INTO WORDS

Ramadhan came through the door on a cool breeze
Blessings came with it and sins left through the same door
Musallas were laid out, long hours spent in sujood
Qur’ans were removed from the shelves, melodious voices ringing through the house in recitation
Lips moved silently in zikr, occupied in the remembrance of Allah
Hands were raised in dua, tears rolling down the cheeks in total subservience
Cloaks and hijabs were removed from closets, donned modestly over clothes
TVs were switched off, cloths thrown over them
iPods and mp3s were locked away in drawers, their music ruthlessly muted
Angels of mercy moved freely through the house, shayateen forcefully ejected

Ramadhan left through the door on a swift breeze
Blessings left with it, sins entering through the same door
Musallas were folded away, long hours spent in idle chitchat instead
Qur’ans were tucked away in top shelves, loud voices ringing through…

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Ramadan Kareem…

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

Hope everyone is well. The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us alhamdulillah. This is a month of mercy from Allah Ta’ala, a month in which Allah pours his mercy and forgiveness down on us. This month is such a great gift from Allah Ta’ala, as mentioned in the following hadith:

– Abu Hurairah R.A relates that Nabi SAW said, “My ummah has been given five special things that were not given to anyone before them:
• The smell from the mouth of a fasting muslim is sweeter to Allah than the fragrant smell of musk.
• The fish in the sea seek forgiveness on their behalf until they break their fast.
• Allah prepares and decorates his special jannah everyday and then says to it: ‘The time is near when my faithful servants shall cast aside the great trials of the world and come to you.’
• In this month the rebellious shayateen are chained, so as not to provoke those evils that they normally do during months other than Ramadan.
• On the last night of Ramadan the fasting muslims are forgiven.”

The sahabah thereupon inquired, “oh messenger of Allah, is that night Laylatul Qadr?”
Nabi SAW replied, “no. But it is only right that a servant should be given his reward on having completed his duty.”
(Ahmed)

There are a few points I would like to mention:

• Firstly, we must try not to waste time as much as possible. We should read the Holy Quran in our free time, try and make as many khatams as possible. And also read zikr in our free time. It comes in a hadith:

“In this month, you should try to perform four things in great number, two of which shall be to please your Lord, while the other two shall be those without which you cannot make do. Those which shall be to please your Lord, are that you should in great quantity recite kalima tayyibah (Laa Ilaha illallah) and make much istighfaar. And as for those two without which you cannot make do, you should beg Allah for entry into paradise and seek refuge with Him from the fire of jahannam.”
(Baihaqi)

The zikr which comprises all of the above is:

‘Laa ilaha illah, astaghfirullah, as’aluka jannatal firdaus, wa a’oothu bika minan naar.’

• Secondly, we must try and pray off all our qadha salahs, and if we don’t have any left, we must try and pray nafl salah as much as possible. It is mentioned in a hadith:

“Whosoever tries drawing nearer to Allah by performing any virtuous deed in this month, for him shall be such a reward as if he had performed a fardh in any other time of the year. And whoever performs a fardh, for him shall be the reward of seventy fardh in any other time of the year.”
(Baihaqi)

• Thirdly, we must try and engage in as much dua as possible, especially at the times of tahajjud and iftar, as mentioned in the following hadiths:

– Abu Saeed Khudri R.A relates that Nabi SAW said, “during each day and night of Ramadan, Allah sets free a great number of souls from jahannam (hellfire). And for every muslim, during each day and night, at least one prayer is certainly accepted.”
(Narrated by Bazzaar)

– Abu Hurairah R.A relates that Nabi SAW said, “there are three people whose dua isn’t rejected; the fasting person until he breaks the fast, the just ruler and the oppressed person, whose dua Allah lifts above the clouds and opens unto it the doors of Heaven, and Allah says, “I swear by my honour, verily I shall assist you, even though it may be after some time.”
(Tirmidhi)

– Ibn Mas’ood reports that on every night of Ramadan, a crier from the heavens calls out, “oh you seeker of good, come near. Oh seeker of evil,turn away (from evil) and open your eyes.” Thereafter that angel calls out, “is there any seeker of forgiveness, that he may be forgiven? Is there anyone with a prayer, that his prayer may be heard? Is there anyone wanting anything, so that his wish may be fulfilled?”

When Allah, the Kings of Kings Himself is asking if we want anything from his limitless treasures, if we don’t ask to our hearts’ content, who can be more unfortunate than us, dear sisters?

• Fourthly, we can do all of the above but if we don’t preserve our good deeds well, then simple, careless actions of ours can tear all our efforts into shreds. Amongst those actions are lying, backbiting, slandering others, or any other sins, as mentioned in the following hadiths:

– Abu Hurairah R.A relates that Nabi SAW said, “Many of those who fast obtain nothing through such fasting except hunger, and many a one performs salah by night but obtains nothing by it except the discomfort of staying awake.”
(Ibn Majah)

Ulama have mentioned different interpretations for this hadith: firstly, it may mean breaking one’s fast with haraam food, as that would make all our good deeds unacceptable. Secondly, it can mean those who fast but while fasting, engage in backbiting and slandering others. Thirdly, it may refer to the one who, while fasting, didn’t stay away from evil and sin.

– Abu Ubaidah R.A reports, “I have heard Nabi SAW saying, “fasting is a protective shield for man, as long as he does not tear up that protection.”
(Nasa’i and Ibn Majah)

Once somebody inquired from Nabi SAW, “What causes the fast to tear?” He replied, “telling lies and backbiting.”

• Fifthly, the last ten days of Ramadan are even more emphasised, especially the nights, because there is a possibility of Laylatul Qadr being amongst the odd nights from the last ten nights. It could be on any other night as well, but the last ten odd nights are more likely, as mentioned in various hadiths. So we should try and stay awake as much as possible during those nights, or sleep early and wake up earlier than usual for tahajjud salah. It is mentioned in the following hadiths:

– Anas R.A reports that Nabi SAW said, “on the night of power, Jibraeel A.S descends upon the earth with a group of angels, praying for blessings for every servant of Allah whom they see in worship, standing or sitting and engrossed in Allah’s praise. Then on the day of Eid, Allah boasts about them to the angels, that “oh my angels, what is the reward of that worker who has done his job very well?” They reply, “oh our Lord, his reward should be given to him in full.” To this Allah replies, “oh my angels, verily my servants, the males amongst them as well as females, have duly performed their obligatory duty, thereafter they set forth to the Eid prayer ground, raising their voices in prayer to me. I swear by my honour, by my grandeur, by my grace and by my exalted position, that I shall surely answer the prayers of these people.” Thereafter Allah addresses the people, “go forth, I have forgiven your sins, and have replaced your evil deeds with righteous ones.” These people then return from the Eid ground in such a condition that their sins stand forgiven.”
(Baihaqi)

– Aisha R.A reports that Nabi SAW said,seek Laylatul Qadr among the odd numbered nights of the last ten days of the month of Ramadan.”
(Mishkaat reports from Bukhari)

• Sixthly, eid night is a night of great celebration, both here in this world (we see how the aunties run into the kitchen upon sighting the moon, preparing pots of different kinds of food, because for us indians, food comes first!😜 And how the girls run to apply henna and try on their outfits etc) and in the heavens, because that night is the ‘prize giving night’ as mentioned in the hadith; but it is also a great night for making ibadah (worshipping Allah), as mentioned in the following hadiths:

– Nabi SAW said,”whoever stays awake for ibadah on the night preceding either eid, with the aim of gaining reward, his heart shall not die on that day when hearts shall wither.” (referring to the day of qiyamah)

– Nabi SAW is also reported to have said,”whoever stays awake for ibadah on the following nights shall enter jannah; Laylatul Tarwiyah (the night after the 7th Zul Hijjah), Laylatul Arafah (the night after the 8th Zul Hijjah), Laylatul Nahr (the night after the 9th Zul Hijjah), the night preceding eid ul fitr, and the night preceding 15th Sha’ban.”

Ramadaan is like a huge sale. Imagine if a yearly sale was occuring right at our doorstep with a bold sign proclaiming, “buy one get seventy free.” Who in their right mind would pass up an opportunity like that? We would be the first ones to rush there and inform all our near and dear ones as well so that no one would miss out. Well, this is exactly like that, only that the rewards are far greater than any worldly treasures yet hidden from sight. We need to become fully aware of these treasures within our reach and try our best to fill our treasure chests with as many valuables as we can, to ensure our success in the hereafter inshaAllah.

Hadhrat Mujaddid Alfe thaani Rahmatullah Alayh has written in his maktoobat,

“The one whose Ramadan passes un planned and doesn’t value it then his whole year will pass same way unplanned. and the one who values and spends his Ramadan in an organised manner his whole year too will pass in the same way.”

Also through narrations from Ahadith we learn that our timetable (ibadah) of Ramadanul Mubarak effects the whole year. The way one spends Ramadan similar will be the year, thus value every moment of Ramadan and spend it totally in our rectification, worry of Aakhirah, and connecting with Allah Ta’ala.

Please try and pass this on to as many people as possible, so we can all benefit from this inshaAllah…

Wishing you all a very blessed and special Ramadan and Eid! Remember me and my family in your special duas!

Ilal liqaa (till we meet again)
Ma’as salaamah! xxx

Part 196

I managed to shove my sorrow to the back of my mind while I taught my angels their letters and duas but after madrassah it was weighing on me again, dragging me down. Without conscious thought I pulled out my phone and dialled the one person whose voice I needed to hear right now.

“Assalamu alaykum,” his deep voice slid through me and I instantly felt like a weight was lifting from my chest.

“Wa alaykum salaam,” I replied.

“How you, princess?”

“I’m fine.” The words rolled off my tongue automatically. Then I sighed, “no, actually I’m not.”

“Why? What’s wrong?” He sounded instantly concerned.

“Nana and nani left today. It’s so hard to say bye to them every time. I don’t know when I’ll see them again…I just wish they didn’t have to go back,” I admitted, brushing away stray tears with one hand, the other on the steering wheel.

“I’m sorry, princess. It’s never easy to say bye to a loved one. It’s hard for me as well and he’s not even my nana…well, he is now but you know what I mean,” I smiled at that. “Are you driving?” He asked suddenly.

“Yeah. On my way home.”

“Don’t talk while driving,” he said immediately, “call me when you get home.”

“Relax, babe, I’ve put you on speaker. And I’m not driving so fast,” I said, grinning now.

“I don’t trust your definition of “not so fast”,” his sceptical voice came through and I laughed.

“I’m driving on eighty! Happy?”

“Wow serious? I think you’ve broken some kind of record today. Slowest Fadheelah driving ever,” he joked.

By the time I got home my spirits had greatly improved. I hung up after talking to Ahmed, prayed asr then sat down with my assignment. Ahmed’s message came as I was engrossed in it.

What’s up? Wanna meet up?

I smiled wistfully and called him.

“Assalamu alaykum. I wish, man!” I complained as soon as he picked up.

“Why? We can go somewhere for supper if you want.”

“It’s not that I don’t want. I can’t. I’m bogged down with work.”

“What work?” He sounded confused.

“Remember I told you I’m doing my masters from home? Yeah so that. I’m busy with an assignment right now.”

“Shoh, you really do work hard, man. How many things do you do in a day again?”

“Let’s see, I teach Riyaadh first thing in the morning…then go to school for the morning…then madrassah in the afternoons…then come home and study or work on my assignments,” I ticked off each thing on my fingers as I listed it.

“Do you have any free time at all?”

“Nope, none at all on weekdays. I don’t go anywhere on weekdays except work and home. And I’m busy on weekends as well sometimes. I’ve slacked off since getting married…not that I’m complaining,” I added hurriedly, “but the thing is, masters can take one year or two. I want to finish it in one year so I’m really pushing myself.”

“Why not in two years?” Ahmed asked curiously.

“Because this studying business is taking forever! I’m getting tired of it now…just want to get it over and done with. Besides, did you know I have to do community service after I finish? For one year.” I held my breath as I waited for his reply. Somehow we hadn’t gotten around to discussing any of this before.

“What does that mean?” Ahmed asked carefully.

“It means I have to work in a government hospital for one year. Full days. No part time or anything. Seven-thirty to four p.m.” I had found out all these details before deciding to do my masters. Not that it would have changed my decision. I had to do this if I wanted to be a fully qualified psychologist. I had no choice.

“Hmmmm…hectic,” was his response.

“Do you mind?”

“Well, it’s all very new to me. All this time I thought you’re done with your studies.”

“I did tell you I’m doing my masters when you came to see me.”

“Yeah, you did. I guess I didn’t realise what that meant at that time. But anyways, don’t worry about it now. We’ll deal with it when the time comes.”

“Sure,” I agreed instantly, exhaling in relief. The last thing I wanted was a battle on my hands so this reprieve was more than welcome.

“So that means no meeting up on weekdays?” I could almost see him pouting.

I smiled then sighed. “No, I can’t afford to. I’ll give you my entire weekends though, inshaAllah. I’m all yours over the weekend.”

“Good. I’ll make the most of it then,” Ahmed replied.

And he did. He was outside my gate at one-thirty p.m sharp on Saturday, texting me to hurry up. I opened the gate for him and went outside to call him in.

“I’m still eating. Come join us,” I said, placing a quick kiss on his cheek. It was so good to see him after so many days. His heavenly smell, itr and his own unique scent, washed over me and I inhaled deeply, drinking him in. He smelt so good…he looked even better.

“No, jazakallah. I’ve already eaten,” he said, brushing the backs of his fingers down my cheek, his intense gaze capturing mine, “I missed you,” he said softly.

“I missed you too,” I replied, smiling up at him.

I led him inside to the kitchen where everyone was.

“Ahmed, come, join us,” dad said with a warm smile, gesturing at the empty spot on his left. Han was luckily sitting with her back to him so she hunched over and carried on eating. Sumi, sitting opposite her covered her face with her scarf and turned away slightly. Ahmed kept his gaze trained on dad as he answered, “jazakallah but I’ve eaten already.”

“This isn’t good, Ahmed. You must come eat lunch with us tomorrow,” mum put in.

Ahmed looked at her and smiled, “okay, I will, inshaAllah.”

“Have some ice cream at least. Faz, get the ice cream for him,” mum added.

I winked at Ahmed and removed the tub of choc mint ice cream from the freezer then pulled out a bowl and spoon for him. I led him to the lounge because I knew he would be more comfortable there.

“Dig in. I’ll be right back.”

“Come eat with me,” Ahmed looked at me with puppy eyes. I grinned at him.

“Food before dessert, babe. I’m off to finish off my biryani now.”

“Come back quickly. I want to share this with you.”

“More like you’ll be sharing with my dad and bro,” I chuckled then left to go eat.

Ahmed did end up having ice cream with dad and Adnaan and talking to them, while I finished off my food and went to get ready. I packed my swimming costume this time incase we ended up going to the beach house again.

Ahmed stood up when I reappeared in the lounge, smiling at me. “Ready?”

“Yup!” I replied, smiling back.

“Don’t stay out till too late. It’s not safe,” dad cautioned.

“Jee, daddy, I’ll be back early inshaAllah. But I’ve taken the house keys just incase,” I replied.

“By early she means anytime before midnight,” Adnaan grinned. I stuck my tongue out at him even while I admitted to myself that that was exactly what I had meant.

“So where are we going?” I asked Ahmed when we were on the road.

“Guess,” he grinned, reaching over to clasp my hand in his. I loved this habit of his, of playing with my fingers while he drove.

“The beach house?”

“Yup! Clever girl!” He shot me a wide grin.

“Like there was any guessing involved in that!” I rolled my eyes playfully.

“I like you all to myself, habibti. What can I do?” He said and my heart jumped in my chest at the new endearment. When Ahmed spoke in English the words slid off his tongue like warm honey. When he spoke in Arabic the words sounded like a caress…seductive…sexy…and wasn’t I sounding so poetic right now? I thought with a chuckle.

“What? What did I say?” Ahmed looked at me quizzically.

“Nothing. I was just thinking how nice you sound when you speak Arabic,” I answered honestly.

“If I sound nice why did you laugh?” Ahmed arched his brows.

“Because…” damn, how should I answer this? “…because my mind ran away with me.”

“Where did it run? Take me where it is,” he was smiling now.

“You don’t wanna go there, believe me!” I answered emphatically and he burst out laughing.

The beach house was lovely as usual. I felt the same thrill when we entered through the lounge and I kicked off my shoes, abaya and hijab before making a beeline for the kitchen doors leading onto the deck, with the vast blue ocean spread out beyond it. Ahmed caught up to me before I reached them, snaking out an arm and pulling me against him. He had also removed his kurta, imaamah and shoes, I realised as I saw his muscular bare forearm wrapped around my waist, his bare feet alongside mine. My heart started thundering as he bent his head, his warm breath tickling the side of my neck.

“Hold on a minute, habibti. Let me see you first.” He turned me around gently to face him, holding me at arm’s length to look me over nicely. I was wearing a blue tank top and white skinny jeans today… my face burned as his gaze slid over me, feeling self conscious despite the fact that I’d worn a more revealing costume just the past weekend. His face broke into a smile.

“You look gorgeous,” he said softly.

I smiled and gave him the same once over. “You’re not too bad yourself, habibi.”

Ahmed grinned. “Arabic suits you as well….habibti.”

He led me onto the deck and we stood there, letting the salty breeze whip through our hair, watching the waves crash in the distance.

“What do you wanna do first?” Ahmed asked.

“Swim,” I immediately replied, bringing a smile to his face. We changed and dived in, enjoying ourselves thoroughly. Ahmed tired me out, racing me from end to end, chasing behind me to dunk me when I wasn’t looking and throwing me over and over into the air. I could never tire of that and I thrilled in having a husband strong enough to carry me and toss me up like a child. It had been a dream of mine for years that I should get a fit, strong and energetic husband. Definitely not a flabby couch potato who couldn’t even lift his sock to the laundry basket, never mind a fifty-something kilogram woman. I had even made dua for a fit husband and I was ecstatic that my dua had been accepted, thinking, “Alhamdulillah!” even as I shrieked at rocketing out of the water yet again.

After we had worn ourselves thoroughly in the pool we took a walk on the beach. The sun was lower in the sky now and it was cooler. We walked hand in hand, shoulders bumping, chatting about anything and everything. I was so grateful for that as well. Often I had thought of what married couples talked about all the time; what I would talk about with my husband when I got married. I had heard of newlywed couples spending hours on the phone. What on earth did they talk about everyday? I actually worried sometimes about going blank about an hour into the conversation then having to like fake a yawn just so I could get off the phone before I embarrassed myself with my silence and awkward stammerings. But not once had that occurred. We had pulled many all-nighters but never did we run out of topics Alhamdulillah. Even now the conversation flowed as we strolled along, engrossed in each other. Finally Ahmed sat down, pulling me infront of him so he could wrap his arms around me. I leaned back against him, tracing his arms with my fingertips, watching the waves crash and recede with their soothing rhythm.

“Any news from your nana?” Ahmed asked.

“Yeah, he phoned when they reached UK and again today in the morning. They were saying it’s so quiet there with just the two of them.” I sighed, missing them again. I wished I could transport myself there sometimes, to give them company, to help them with their chores, to just sit with them and listen to their stories. Ahmed and I really needed to visit soon………

“Anyways…about that qiraa’ah story…” I said, my mind going to that incident as I thought about UK and the memories it contained. I also remembered that we never had finished this conversation the other day…, “mind repeating it to me again?” I twisted in his arms to face him, flashing him a mischievous smile.

“What story?” Ahmed asked, looking at me innocently. He started tracing patterns up and down my arms, across my shoulders…distracting me with his featherlight touch which was no doubt his aim. I swatted his hands away and raised my eyebrows at him.

“Stop distracting me and start spilling!”

Ahmed shot me a wry look. “You won’t let go of it, will you?”

“Nope! Never!” I replied with a grin, “so go on. I want to hear it from you.”

“There’s nothing to tell. I came to your house to give your nana a kitab…and I heard you praying. I couldn’t help my reaction. It’s like I forgot your nana was there, I was so engrossed in listening to you. Till he called out my name. And stupid me told him how beautifully you were praying,” he cringed at the memory, “And he asked me if I want history to repeat itself. I was confused by what he meant so he told me how your dad fell for your mum the same way. Then he asked me again if I wanted history to repeat itself.”

“And? What did you say?” I asked, amused.

“Nothing. Damned if I said yes and damned if I said no. So I kept quiet.”

“You could have said yes. Saved us so many years of heartbreak,” I said softly. I hadn’t explicitly told him how much I’d liked him from back then, how his absence had affected me.

He looked at me then, his gaze intense. “Yes. I should have. And I wanted to, Fadheelah. I wanted to marry you so much, from that time,” his hand lifted, cupped my cheek, “but I couldn’t. Circumstances prevented me.”

“It’s okay. At least we’re together now,” I replied, leaning into his touch, “was I praying Surah Ar-Rahmaan, by the way?”

“No. Surah Noor,” he replied, smiling.

“Oh…then it wasn’t an exact case of history repeating itself,” I said, “my dad heard my mum praying Ar-Rahmaan and went gaga. Fell so hard he still hasn’t recovered,” I giggled.

“Actually history did repeat itself in a way,” Ahmed said slowly, “it was Surah Ar-Rahmaan that made me fall for you as well. And I still haven’t recovered. Don’t even want to,” he grinned.

“Ar-Rahmaan? When?” I frowned.

“One day by the lake. In England. I was walking when I heard the most beautiful qiraa’ah ever. It was you. I was completely captivated. Lost my heart to you that day.”

I scrunched my forehead, trying to remember. By the lake? I had a vague memory of being upset…going by the water to calm myself as usual…praying Qur’an to calm myself, also as usual. He was there that day?

“You heard me??” I asked, looking at him wide-eyed. He nodded, his eyes soft with remembrance, “wow. I had no clue.”

“So history did repeat itself,” he said.

“Yeah. Imagine!” I smiled.

“It’s been a dream of mine since that day…to hear you recite it again, this time for me. To lay my head in your lap and just listen to you praying,” Ahmed grasped my hands in his warm ones, pressed them to his chest…watching me expectantly…waiting… and for the first time ever I felt nervous butterflies flutter in my stomach. I’d prayed to audiences before but none of it was like this moment. It felt like time had slowed down, centred on this moment. I nodded slowly, turning around to face the ocean again. I sat cross legged and watched Ahmed turn and lay his head in my lap, brown hair shining against white denim. He smiled up at me and I smiled back, laying my hand lightly on his cheek. Taking a deep breath I looked out at the endless expanse of blue water and began to pray…………

AHMED:

Her voice was magic. It wound around me, casting me in it’s spell again. I had never heard a voice like hers before. Soft, feminine, yet powerful, gripping. It dipped and soared effortlessly, switching between high and low tones seamlessly. She had a rare gift and I was the luckiest man alive to be handed the gift in the palm of my hand. I closed my eyes and let her voice wash over me, bathing me in it’s sweetness, in the sweetness of the kalaam of Allah.

فَبِأَيِّ آلَاءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ

Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both deny………

When she prayed the last ayah there was a moment of profound silence. I opened my eyes and stared up at her, grappling with the right words. Everything seemed so paltry, so lukewarm. I usually had the right words for every occasion, knowing exactly what to say, how to express myself, but this time words failed me. And mere words were not enough to convey the depth of my feeling at that moment so I went with action instead. Lifting my hand I glided my fingers up her cheek, brushing her hair back. I stared deeply into her eyes, watching her own eyes darken, her cheeks turn pink. Sliding my hand into her hair I gripped the back of her head and brought her lips down to mine, conveying in that single kiss how deeply she had affected me…pouring my heart out without words… because this beautiful girl in my arms had rocked my world…had in this short space of time become my entire world………………


Aaand there we have it! Our last post before ramadhan… next post will be up on 18th June inshaAllah…

Love and duas xxx

Part 195

I rushed home at lunch time the next day to catch nana and nani before they left for the airport. I caught them on time, seeing Adnaan and dad hefting suitcases into the boot of dad’s car as I pulled up into the yard. Nana appeared in the doorway just as I reached the front steps and I ran up them, stopping in front of him breathlessly.

“Are you leaving right now?”

“Yes, though we still have a bit of time left. You came from school?”

“Yeah, I’ve finished. I’m supposed to go madrassah in a bit,” I replied.

Nana’s face softened. “You work too hard beti. Come, let me talk to you little while. All these days I thought I’ll sit down with you but there was just no time…and you kept running away with that young man of yours.” I chuckled at his choice of words, following him into the front room. Nana sat down on the sofa and I sat next to him, half turning my body to face him. Nana leaned back into the sofa, his long legs stretched out in front of him. He turned his head to look at me, the serious expression on his face belying his relaxed posture. His words confirmed the seriousness, delivered in a calm tone but carrying the impact of a storm.

“Beti…life is about compromises,” were his first words, “it’s about choices, good and bad. And marriage is the first of those choices. You, Alhamdulillah, made a very good choice there. You could not have found a better husband. And right now things are rosy. No living together, no compromises. These will be the best days of your life, believe me,” his smile flashed, “but when you move in with him, the real test will start. Ahmed told me you’ll be living with his parents,” I nodded, keeping my face straight, “I’ve met his father. I’ve heard him talk of his family, mostly out of frustration because they don’t understand him. They don’t understand where he comes from, his way of thinking. If he came to me for advice I’d tell him to rather live separately. Keeps the muhabbat and unity better that way…”

“Then why don’t you?” I burst out. Everyone was thinking the same way as me and it just made my misgivings grow stronger by the day, “why don’t you talk to him? He’ll listen to you!”

Nana shook his head. “I can’t. He hasn’t come to ask me. If he did I’d tell him otherwise I won’t get involved. So I would advise you to rather adapt to the idea. I can see that you’re against it. Don’t go into their house with this mentality. If you do you’ll fail from the beginning. Go with a clean heart, an open heart. Give them a chance. You’ll have to make compromises. Your way and their way won’t be the same. There will be give and take involved. Don’t be too stubborn, beti,” nana leaned forward, tapped me on my forehead, “your whole life you’ve been stubborn. And short tempered. It’s worked for you till now. But there things will be different. Those qualities can cause problems if they’re not tempered by love and wisdom. Remember that ayah?

ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُمْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ

[Surah An-Nahl 125]

Invite to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better.

“We are ahlul ilm. All our interactions are da’wah to the awaam. So think of this as da’wah as well. Use lots of love, lots of wisdom. And whenever you disagree with anything they do, do it very nicely and tactfully. And choose your battles wisely, beti. With your husband also and your in-laws also. Not everything is worth making an issue about. Some things you can let go of. Also, don’t keep making your husband choose between yourself and his family. Sometimes you can call him to mediate but if you can solve problems yourself amicably then do that so he doesn’t have extra tension on his head.”

“I’m not that difficult to get along with!” I protested laughingly.

Nana smiled fondly. “With your kind, no. You’re a lioness amongst lions. We’ll take your temper and fire with a pinch of salt. But these are hyenas. A lion’s roar won’t please them. You have to play a different game with them.”

I burst out laughing. I knew why nana was such a good teacher. He really knew how to put things into perspective. Leaning forward I leaned my head on nana’s shoulder, feeling like a little girl again…wishing I could just be that little girl again for a while, with no care in the world. No tests and huge changes coming up, no loss and separation from loved ones…abruptly the tears started. I turned my head and wept in nana’s chest, wishing he didn’t have to go. Nana wrapped his arms around me, rocking me gently, murmuring soothing words in my ear.

“Why do you have to go?” I mumbled, my face pressed into his shoulder, “don’t go. Stay here.”

Nana moved me back slightly, smiling down at me. “I have to go, beti. I’ll be back again soon inshaAllah.”

“No, you don’t have to go back!” I burst out. Nani and mum came into the room and I turned to look at nani, swiping my hands over my eyes to wipe my tears, “you don’t have to go back, nani. There’s no one there. You two are alone and you’re not getting any younger. Why not move back? All of us are here.”

“I have my teaching there, Fazzu,” nana said, “and my imaamat. I can’t leave it all and move back. The maahol (environment) there is not as good. I have to make mehnat (effort) wherever I can.”

I knew he was the main alim there. The rock, the foundation of Manchester. It still didn’t make it easier for me to let go of him…again. But I put on my brave face, nodding and smiling at him shakily. It was harder for me to say bye to them than it was for my siblings because they were like parents to me. The years I had spent with them had strengthened our bond so much it was like an almost physical pain to be separated from them each time.

Nani came to me, pulling me from nana, making me stand in front of her. Then she imparted her own wise advice.

“I heard what nana said to you, beti. He is right. Live nicely with khushi (happiness) and muhabbat. Don’t fight with them. You must always make peace. Even if they shout at you and tell you all nonsense things you must listen and say jee. But don’t start fighting about who is right because that is where the problem starts…”

“Now, Hafsa, don’t teach the girl to become a doormat,” nana interrupted, “if they are wrong and she is right she must say it but say it nicely. If she keeps her mouth shut all the time they’ll walk all over her. We don’t want that also.”

“But if she answers back it can cause problems,” nani argued.

“If she answers back nicely and they don’t want to accept their mistakes that’s their own problem. Choose your battles wisely beti but if they cross the line you must speak up. But do it nicely. Bas.”

“What do men know?” Nani said crossly, “just now you’ll create problems where there’s none!”

“Mummy, papa is right,” mum said gently, “if she becomes a doormat they’ll walk all over her. Then she’ll be miserable. You wouldn’t want her to sacrifice her happiness for theirs, would you?”

“No, of course not,” nani replied, “but your papa is too soft where Fazzu is concerned. And he thinks he’s always right,” she huffed.

“Jaanu, with us it’s you whose always right. That’s why you’ve kept me so happy all these years,” nana smiled broadly at her and she melted like putty before our eyes, smiling back at him. I silently awwwwwhed at them. Relationship goals! Hopefully Ahmed and I would be like this fifty years from now as well inshaAllah!

Nana and nani left then with mum and dad and I drove to madrassah with a heavy heart…

Part 194

On Tuesday I walked out of my madrassah classroom to find a gorgeous hunk leaning against my black Polo. He was looking down at his phone when I walked up to him to ask him what on earth he was doing here…gorgeous or not he couldn’t just come and lean on my car like this. Then he looked up and his face softened in a heart-stopping smile…and all coherent thought flew out of my mind.

“Princess,” he straightened till he towered over me, “or should I call you apa?” He smirked.

“Haha very funny,” I replied, rolling my eyes, “what are you doing here, Muftisaab?”

“That’s not any better than apa,” he warned, giving me a look. I grinned in response.

“So what you doing here? Not that I’m complaining. Just curious,” I added.

“I came to fetch you,” he gestured to his Mercedes parked next to my car which I hadn’t noticed in my preoccupation.

“Uhmmm, I have my own car right here,” I pointed to the car behind him.

“I know. I’ll follow you to your house.”

“You want to pay a visit to your new family?” I smirked, crinkling my eyes for emphasis since he couldn’t see my facial expressions.

“Yeah. I’ve won you over, now I need to win them over,” he grinned, “just kidding. I need to meet Qaarisaab. He’s leaving tomorrow, right?”

My smile faded. “Yeah, they are.” It never got easier, saying goodbye to them.

“Yeah, they. Need to meet your nani as well, now that I can.”

“I’m sure she’ll be so happy at that. She’s always loved you,” I smiled.

“Yeah, I know. I was like a son to them till a certain someone came along and took my place,” he scowled at me playfully.

“Not my fault a certain someone started swooning on hearing my qiraa’ah,” I shot back, “you do realise that nana saw that and became more protective over me after that?” I watched in amazement as a red blush stained his cheeks, suffusing his face with colour, “is the Ahmed Cassim actually blushing? Oh…my…word!!” I giggled, unable to help myself.

” We’re in a public place, we need to go,” Ahmed mumbled in response. He moved quickly, pressing the button on his key to open his car and opening the door, all the while not looking at me. I grinned and moved till I was standing in front of him again.

“You do realise I’m not gonna let this go? It’s the first time I’ve actually seen you speechless. I’m so gonna make the most of it!”

“Hopefully you’ll forget it by the time we reach home,” he replied. I laughed and touched his cheek briefly before moving to my car. I led the way to my house, driving at my usual speed. Few minutes later I happened to look into the rear view mirror…to see Ahmed flashing his lights at me from behind. I frowned, confused. I didn’t see anything out of ordinary ahead of me or behind me so why was he flashing me? A moment later my phone buzzed. I placed it on my thigh and pressed the home button, lighting up the screen. One message, from hubby dearest.

Slow down!!! You wanna get yourself killed???

I burst out laughing. That was his concern? Grinning I stepped on it even more, flying down the roads till I reached my house. I pressed the remote and the gate slid open. Parking on my usual spot I got out and saw Ahmed get out of his own car parked behind mine. He reached me in two steps, breathing hard like he’d run a marathon.

“Are you crazy??” He burst out, looking frazzled, “driving like that! Like a…a maniac. You almost gave me a heart attack!”

I whipped off my niqaab, letting it dangle between my fingers as I eyed my husband…red in the face now for a completely different reason. I laughed, shaking my head at his irrational fear.

“Relax, Ahmed. I wasn’t even driving that fast.”

“You don’t call that fast? I wouldn’t want to see what you call fast then,” he muttered, “do you always drive like that?”

“Yup! It feels so good! You should try it,” I grinned. Ahmed wasn’t a slow driver but he wasn’t crazy fast as well. And he was cautious, I had noticed that about him. I, on the other hand, was addicted to the rush that came with flying down roads at a breakneck speed. I wasn’t reckless though, so I didn’t see why Ahmed had gotten so worried.

“I’m surprised your parents let you drive,” he muttered, “I’ll lock you up once you come live with me. Won’t let you out of my sight. And definitely not on the roads.”

I gaped at him laughingly. “Don’t you dare!”

“I should. You’re too precious to me,” he looked into my eyes and I melted at the intense look in his eyes, “don’t give me another panic attack like that. Drive safely and slowly.”

“I do drive safely, babe.” It was the first time I had called him by an endearment. I saw him soften, calming down and pecked him on the lips for added reinforcement. He jerked away like he’d been shot.

“We’re outside!” He whispered, looking scandalised.

“Yeah, so?” I smirked at him.

“No public displays of affection. It’s against haya,” he said seriously. Then he grinned mischievously, “but you can repeat that in your bedroom. With extra details.”

I laughed and took hold of his hand. “We’ll see about that!”

I heard voices coming from the lounge as I entered the house, Ahmed behind me. I closed the door, noticed his somber look and squeezed his hand. “Relax. My family isn’t a pack of wolves,” I whispered, grinning.

“Glad to hear it. I felt like a sheep for a moment,” he replied, making me laugh. I led the way to the lounge, stopping in the doorway. Dad, Adnaan, nana and nani were sitting and talking. They stopped abruptly on seeing us.

“Fazzu! Finally you bring this young man to meet us!” Nani was the first one to break the silence. She stood up and crossed to us swiftly. Moving me aside she beamed at Ahmed. “How are you, beta? I’m so glad I can finally talk to you!” She stood on tiptoes and hugged him, her head barely brushing his chin. He looked startled then hugged her back tentatively.

“I’m glad to meet you too…errmmm, nani,” he said awkwardly. He looked so cute, all embarrassed and shy and awkward. Nana nudged me, looking at me with a knowing smile when I looked at him. I grinned at him.

“Ahmed. Nice to see you inside the house finally,” nana said, clasping Ahmed’s hands in salaam, “all these days you zoomed away with my granddaughter without even making salaam to the rest of us.” Nana loved putting Ahmed on the spot, it seemed. Ahmed, however, had recovered his equilibrium. He smiled back at nana.

“Maaf, Qaarisaab. Your granddaughter is always in a rush. She doesn’t let me come inside also.”

I gasped. “That’s great! Spill it all on me!”

Ahmed grinned at me in response.

“Come, come sit,” nana said, gesturing towards the lounge. Dad was behind him and greeted Ahmed cordially as well while Adnaan nodded at him from the lounge. Then mum came out of the kitchen and Ahmed got all awkward again.

“Welcome to the family, Ahmed. This is your second home now so keep coming around. Don’t be shy.” She smiled then hesitated, probably wondering how best to greet him. I nudged her from the side.

“Go on, mum. Hug him, he’s your son now.”

Mum shot me a wry look then hugged Ahmed briefly. He put his arms around her awkwardly and I stifled my impulse to laugh.

And then Han appeared. Sumi had made herself scarce since I had entered the house so I hadn’t seen her at all and probably wouldn’t see her till Ahmed was gone. She had told me on Sunday that she found Ahmed really intimidating. I had stared at her in astonishment.

“Intimidating?? From which angle?” Ahmed might be serious around other people but intimidating?? Definitely not!

“He is!” She’d argued, “all tall and stern with the imaamah and everything. After your nana he’s the most intimidating man I’ve ever seen.”

I burst out laughing. What was it with the imaamah? Khads had said the same thing to me. And nana also wore one so maybe people associated that with being intimidating. I wouldn’t know since I’d never found Ahmed intimidating from the time I’d first seen him. “He might be serious but definitely not intimidating,” I’d said.

“To you he’s obviously not but maybe he is to other people,” Adnaan had said in his wife’s defense. I had shrugged, not understanding but letting go of the topic.

So Sumi was understandably absent but Han had other ideas. She had started wearing niqaab since last year but she wasn’t as strict as I was. She didn’t always wear it with our cousins and had said once that Ahmed would be like a brother to her though he wouldn’t be her mahram…an oxymoron if I’d ever heard one…and he would be in and out of the house so she wouldn’t be able to make purdah from him. I didn’t know Ahmed’s view on that but the next few moments made the answer to that very clear.

Ahmed was about to enter the lounge when Han appeared before him, standing at a slight distance from him.

“Assalamu alaykum,” she said shyly.

Ahmed glanced up, froze, then dropped his gaze immediately. “Wa alaykum salaam,” he replied quietly. There was a moment of awkward silence, with Han looking at me frantically. I shrugged helplessly. This wasn’t like mum’s situation. They had to work through this themselves.

“Uhmm, how are you?” Han tried again.

“I’m good…Alhamdulillah,” he replied. His gaze remained fixed on the floor, “and you?” He added as an afterthought.

“I’m well Alhamdulillah,” she replied. Her gaze darted between him and me, clearly at a loss of what to do next. Ahmed was also shifting on his feet. I was sure that he wanted to run away but didn’t want to appear rude and abrupt. I shook my head slightly at Han then inclined it slightly towards the stairs. Picking up on my wordless message she mumbled salaam again and turned on her heel, disappearing from sight faster than I’d ever seen her. I could swear I heard Ahmed sigh in relief. I prodded him from the back.

“Go sit. I need to go pray asr.”

He nodded at me before entering the lounge. I prayed asr then went to sit by them till maghrib. Ahmed was at ease now at least and was talking easily, even to mum and nani. Nani kept beaming fondly at him and I realised the depths of her fondness for him then. Nana hadn’t been kidding when he said they took him like a son. I liked the rapport between nana and Ahmed as well. There was the respect and authority present in a student-teacher relationship but there was ease and familiarity as well, and affection. It warmed my heart to see Ahmed interact with all of them and I kept smiling at him happily whenever our eyes met.

When maghrib time came the men stood up to go to the masjid. Ahmed came by nani to greet her since he would be going straight to his house from the masjid so he wouldn’t be seeing her again. Nani pinched his cheeks, told him to be good and look after me and visit England with me soon. Ahmed nodded, his eyes meeting mine over her head. I nodded emphatically and grinned in response. Ahmed greeted mum as well then came briefly by me, squeezing my hand and leaning down to whisper in my ear.

“See you soon, princess. Stay safe.”

I smiled back at him before he left, then went to my room to pray maghrib. Han came in as I finished.

“Phew! I don’t think I’ve ever had a more awkward encounter in my life!” She exclaimed.

I smiled sympathetically. “Yeah, it was awkward man. I could literally feel it from both of you.”

“It’s his fault!” Han said indignantly, “he barely replied to me and didn’t look at me even once! He was so rude!”

“He wasn’t rude. That’s how he is with every female who’s not his mahram. He’s been this way from UK.”

“I’m sure he wasn’t like that with you! Otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten to know him and you definitely wouldn’t have started liking him!”

“I could have started liking him just by looking at him,” I grinned. Then I sighed. “He was like that with me as well. Initially. Then somehow our paths kept crossing and he opened up a bit. But that was only with me. He said it was different with me and he ended up slacking. With everyone else he was still like that. And even with me he had periods of guilt where he would go back to barely talking to me and not looking at me. Then he would weaken and start again. It was a battle with his nafs the whole time. But if you think of it the times he looked down and barely talked to me were the times he was correct. He’s actually doing nothing wrong by being like that. You’re not his mahram so you’re technically a stranger to him. He can’t look at you or talk to you, Han. We have to let go of what our culture has taught us, that brothers in-law are like brothers, and start looking at what our deen is teaching us. Brother inlaw is death. It comes in the Hadith. Remember? Look at that. And I personally think you should wear niqaab in front of him. That’s the correct thing to do and I think it would make him more comfortable. The poor guy didn’t know where to look today.”

“Poor me didn’t know what to do today,” Han muttered in response, “but you’re right. He’s only doing the right thing. I should respect him for that.”

“That’s the spirit,” I grinned at her.

“Fazila! Haneefa! Come eat!” Mum yelled from downstairs.

“Go on. I just need to run to the bathroom,” I said, moving past her out of the room.

“See, I told you he’s so intimidating,” I heard Sumi tell Han when I came downstairs, “I’m glad I didn’t go meet him at all.”

“Yeah, he is man. He barely talked to me and didn’t look at me the whole time. I wonder how he is with Faz.”

“You only have to look at the roses and card he sent her to know how he is with her,” Sumi replied dryly. I burst out laughing.

“Don’t worry, Han, when you get your own alim you’ll realise how they are underneath the mask,” I winked at her and sauntered away to the kitchen.

Part 193

I walked into school on Monday morning with a spring in my step. Sylvia was already in the office when I entered it. I removed my niqaab and dumped my bag on my chair, giving her a wide smile as I did so. She smiled in return, eyeing me with raised brows.

“Wedding vibes still buzzing! Have you landed yet?”

“Nope, I’m still flying,” I replied, laughing.

“It’s good you turned up today. I thought I won’t see you for another few days at least. But now that you’re here, let’s dig in!”

We dug in, Sylvia filling me in on the reports she’d done while I wasn’t there. My phone buzzed regularly while I worked but I tamped down my mounting curiosity and ignored it. I knew it could only be one person…but he would have to wait. As much as I loved him I could not risk losing my job over him.

I could not help my mind straying away though………

I had woken up late yesterday, having stayed up till late again. By the time I went down it was eleven and mum was busy pulling pies and cheese croissants out of the oven while nani was at her favourite task…rolling rotis. She was like a machine, I thought admiringly, watching her roll a perfectly round roti on one side while flipping two rotis on two tavis on the stove. She alternated between the three rotis with military precision, the pile of perfectly round, perfectly brown, speckled rotis on her side growing rapidly. As fast as mum was she couldn’t hold a candle to nani. And me…I would probably roll one roti to nani’s twenty. Whenever nani came over she would make at least fifty rotis a day and stack them in the freezer. It made things easier for mum and I mentally celebrated because it meant I wouldn’t be called to make rotis anytime soon as well.

We ended up having brunch since everyone had woken up late. After eating nana and dad went somewhere while mum and nani left to make their visiting rounds. I was relaxing in the lounge when Ahmed’s call came.

“Princess,” he sounded like he’d just gotten out of bed…deep and husky, “are you awake? Did I wake you up?”

“Nah, you didn’t. I’ve been awake for a while now. How about you? You sound like you just woke up now.”

“Yeah, I did,” he laughed, “I needed my morning fix before I go down.”

“And that is? Coffee?” I knew people who couldn’t function without their morning coffee or tea.

“No, it’s hearing the sexiest voice in the world.”

“Oh.” I blushed a deep crimson, feeling the familiar tingle in my stomach. He could say the sweetest things to me. It was heady, potent…I loved it.

“Did I render you speechless?” His teasing voice came down the line.

“Nope, that will be the day,” I replied smartly.

“It definitely will. I’ve never known a person who talks so much.”

“Oi! You totally ruined the moment there!” I exclaimed indignantly.

His deep laugh rumbled in my ear. “Sorry, babe. I’d rather hear your sexy voice than have you speechless so I don’t mind.”

I smiled. “Nice cover-up, Mr. Cassim. So what you doing right now?”

“Thinking about you. Wondering where to take you. Any ideas?”

“Hmmm…for lunch?” I couldn’t eat another bite after that huge brunch but if he wanted I’d go along…for the view.

“Nah, mum’s already cooked I think. How about after?”

“Sure but where?”

“It’s up to you…”

“Hmmm…” I gazed absently at the sunlight slanting through the window, “how about Blue Waters?” I’d been to the cafe a few times and it was really nice…the coffee and the view. Plus it was by the pier so we could take a walk afterwards…

“That’s the one on the boardwalk right?”

“Yeah. We could grab a coffee…go for a walk afterwards…”

“Sounds lekker. I’ll pick you up at three, okay?”

“No problem.”

We chatted for a while before hanging up. I checked the time. Twelve o’clock. It would be eleven in UK. Not too early to call Khads and Asiyah then.

“Assalamu alaykum!” Khadija’s bright, cheery face popped up onto my laptop screen and I grinned, “how are you, Miss newlywed? Or should I even be asking that? Look at that glow!”

I laughed. “You know exactly how it feels. Now I know why you’ll kept pushing me to get married!”

A moment later Asiyah’s face filled the other half of the screen. “Mrs. Cassim! What’s up! Still flying high I see!”

“Yup! Not coming down anytime soon!” I laughed.

“Enjoy these days! They’re the best!” Asiyah said, “how I wish I could reverse time sometimes…though I wouldn’t trade Sa’ad for anything of course.”

“You can’t have both then. But yeah, I’m loving these days. I’m still at my house so no responsibilities but I can go out with Ahmed without guilt or sin. It’s awesome!”

“Your halaal boyfriend,” Khads said laughingly.

“Yup!” I said, popping the ‘p’.

“So tell us all the deets! Your nikah day, the walima yesterday. We wanted to get updated bit by bit but someone was too busy to think about us,” Asiyah said, giving me the look.

I laughed and cringed. “Sorryyy! I really was too busy to call anyone. On Friday I was busy getting ready in the morning then was the nikah then Ahmed came to see me…” my voice turned dreamy as I thought of those magical moments again. I narrated it all to them, the first meeting, the date at the beach house later on…skipping the intimate details of course. They oohed and aahed their way through it, their faces reflecting my excitement.

“Wow! Just wow!” Asiyah breathed when I paused for breath at last, “can you imagine? Ahmed Cassim such a romantic? Who would have thought that, looking at his big beard and that black turban and stern face?”

“And here I was praying that he wouldn’t turn out to be some dry potato and you wouldn’t get bored of him!” Khads laughed.

“Is that Faz? I can hear Ahmed’s name there!” Zul called out suddenly. A moment later Sa’ad bounded into the room and jumped onto the bed, causing the entire bed to shake and the screen to go out of focus for a few seconds.

“Yes, it is! Wait till you hear what your friend did for her! You’re so buying me a beach house in South Africa now!” Asiyah yelled back.

“Oh no! I’m telling that dude to go back to single life. I can’t deal with his mushiness anymore! You should hear him when he calls me. He sounds like he’s high on crack or something. What have you done to him, Faz?”

I grinned. “Tell him I only did to Ahmed what you did to him!”

“Oh, I wish! Maybe I should tell Zul to become an alim. Seems like they’re more romantic!” Asiyah laughed.

“I should also tell Yusuf huh. He never did the whole roses and candles thing with me as well!” Khads pouted playfully.

“Uh oh. Ahmed’s so gonna get it now!” I laughed. “Saadooooo! How are you my babyyy?” I crooned at Asiyah’s toddler who was alternately jumping around and staring at my face in fascination. He grinned and brought his face close to the screen.

“Fath. I want thoclate,” he said with his adorable lisp.

“Chocolate? Where?” I looked around me and saw the toblerone bar lying next to me, “Oh no, Sa’ad, if only I could send this to you! Come here with your mummy, I’ll give you.”

Sa’ad turned to look at his mum. “I want to go by Fath. Let’th go.” He began tugging on her hand.

“If only it was that easy!” Asiyah laughed, “go tell baba to book our tickets.”

Sa’ad jumped off the bed and ran out of the room.

“He’s a bundle of energy,” I commented. I’d never seen him move or do anything calmly.

“Tell me about it! Never a moment of peace with him,” Asiyah sighed loudly.

“So when do you start living with Ahmed?” Khadija asked.

“I don’t know yet,” I shrugged, “I need to work out my work details after living with him. I won’t be able to work at this pace then. And I’ll be living with his family.” I grimaced. I really was not looking forward to that and didn’t see the need to stay with them at all. If his parents were invalids with no one to take care of them I wouldn’t mind staying with them but both were still young and fit and his mum could manage the house perfectly well. Plus she had Humaira and Dalia to help her…what was the need to add me to their mix? I had a bad premonition that it would just cause problems…but how could I tell Ahmed?

“Why? I thought his family was so different compared to him,” Khadija frowned.

“Exactly, they are!” I exclaimed, “their ideas and ours are worlds apart. And she’s still young with unmarried daughters. I don’t know why she wants me to live with them.”

“Asian logic,” Asiyah made a face, “bugs me like hell sometimes. I’m so glad I live separately because I would definitely have had issues with Zul’s mum as well. As it is she’s not happy that he married a nasaara girl,” she rolled her eyes.

I gasped. “Did she actually say that?”

“I overheard her saying it to one of her sisters one day. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t like me. So I keep my distance but I’m polite and courteous for Zul’s sake.”

“Ya Allah!” I shook my head incredulously. This mentality of any outsider being not good enough for us Asians was ridiculous and ignorant but still practiced unfortunately.

“Maybe you should tell Ahmed you’d prefer to go separate,” Asiyah said, “Your situation isn’t exactly like mine but similar because you and them are very different people. It can only cause problems so why not try and avoid it from now? Explain this to Ahmed, I’m sure he would understand.”

“I don’t know,” I sighed, rubbing my forehead, “Ahmed told me we would live with his parents when he came to see me. I agreed to it then so how can I change now? I don’t want to cause problems between us.”

“It will cause more problems between you two if it doesn’t work out and he has to keep trying to keep the peace between his wife and mother…and sister, based on what you’ve told us about her. Zul is so glad we don’t live with his parents. Those few hours of tension when we go over is more than enough for him. He said he couldn’t live with it full time. Should I tell him to speak to Ahmed?”

“Uhmmm…” I hesitated, torn between wanting to do the noble thing which is agree to stay with his family no matter what, and wanting to do the right thing for myself, “maybe tell him to mention his situation to Ahmed and advise him on the benefits of living separately. But tell him not to mention my name at all, please. He shouldn’t know that I suggested this.”

“You didn’t suggest anything, I did,” Asiyah grinned, “don’t worry, I’ll tell him to make it sound like his own idea.”

“Jazakallah,” I smiled gratefully.

We chatted for a while more before hanging up. I went to pray zuhr and get ready for Ahmed. I wore an abaya and a red hijab today, knowing we wouldn’t be completely alone. I applied kohl and lip balm and I was done.

Ahmed was there at the stroke of three. He smiled when I slipped into the car, his dimples flashing. “Assalamu alaykum.”

“Wa alaykum salaam,” I replied, smiling back at him. I buckled up my seat belt and settled back, pressing the remote to close the gate behind us, “how you?”

“Good good…Alhamdulillah and you?”

“I’m good Alhamdulillah. What did you have for lunch?”

“Mutton akhni with paapar. You?”

“Brunch. We all woke up late so just had brunch one time. Masala eggs with fresh roti, cheese croissants, steak pies, sausages, baked beans, toast…and masala tea, proper indian style,” I grinned.

He shot me a surprised look. “Did you have all of that?”

“Yup! A bit of everything.”

“I wonder where you put it all,” he shook his head wonderingly.

I laughed. “I also wonder about that at times. I guess I burn it off fast.”

“Lucky you. I have to burn off the extra fat everytime I over-binge,” he replied.

“No! Please don’t tell me you’re one of those health freaks that eat oats for breakfast, carrot sticks for lunch and crackers for supper!” I shuddered in horror.

Ahmed burst out laughing. “Will you leave me if I say yes?”

“Oh, definitely! If that’s you then we don’t suit at all. We have nothing between us. Zilch. Nada. There’s the exit. Close the door on your way out,” I pointed randomly in front of me then grabbed the steering wheel when the car swerved suddenly. Ahmed was laughing so hard he was hunched forward on the steering wheel, his broad shoulders shaking. “Dude, laugh all you want at this life-and-death topic but watch the road while you do it. I’m not ready to die yet,” I joked, still holding onto the steering wheel, steering the car from where I sat.

“You’re a riot!” Ahmed said, finally calming down, “I don’t know when I last laughed so hard.”

I grinned, inordinately pleased at his words. His hand came to rest on mine, squeezing gently. He removed it from the wheel and placed our joined hands on his thigh, his thumb lightly rubbing my knuckles back and forth. My hand tingled and I was immediately hyper-aware of him again. I looked at the road in front of me but for the rest of the way all I could concentrate on was the light caress on my hand.

Blue Waters Cafe was fairly packed, being a Sunday afternoon. We took a table on the balcony at the back, away from the main crowd, overlooking the boardwalk and pier and further on, the beach and the ocean. The afternoon sun shone down on the water, dazzling the eyes. I ordered a cafe latte and a slice of cake while Ahmed ordered cappuccino for himself. We sat next to each other as usual, facing our backs to the other people so that I could lift my niqaab, sharing the slice of cake. We chatted about anything and everything, the warm familiarity growing between us. After we had finished we took a walk down the boardwalk and pier, walking hand in hand till the end where there was no one. We leaned against the railing and I lifted my niqaab again, letting the cool, salty breeze wash over my face.

“I’ve never seen anyone look at the sea the way you do,” Ahmed commented next to me. I turned my head to find him staring at me, his eyes narrowed slightly against the sun. I blushed at his intense look.

“It’s the love of my life,” I grinned, but what held my gaze right now was the handsome, compelling man in front of me.

“I’ll wait for the day you look at me like that,” he smiled at me slowly, causing my heart beat to triple.

“I already am,” I replied softly.

His gaze softened and heated, causing my cheeks to burn more, drawing me into their depths. He darted a quick glance behind us, then, holding my niqaab out on the side of my face like a shield, leaned forward and pecked me on my lips.

“I prefer the beach house,” he complained when he drew back, “at least there I don’t have to worry about people being everywhere.”

I laughed. “We can’t keep going there all the time.”

“Why not?”

“There should be some variety. Otherwise our dates will become routine…same thing over and over again.”

He raised his brows at me. “I don’t think so. You, me, the sea…what else do we need?”

“Food!” I laughed when he rolled his eyes and bumped my shoulder with his, looking out at the vast expanse of blue water again…………

And then today…I had woken up to the intoxicating fragrance of roses, their perfume heady in the closed room. I lifted my head groggily then bolted upright in bed, my mouth dropping open at the lavish bouquet of deep red roses gracing my dressing table. A card was propped in front of it and I jumped out of bed in a flurry of limbs, eager to read what he had written.

In memory of a red nikah dress, of red lips, of red roses on a moonlit beach, of a red hijab on a coffee shop date and of rosy cheeks… forever and always, your loving husband❤

The poignant words were written in scrawling red letters, a red heart drawn at the end of it. I read and re-read them, my heart close to bursting, then grabbed my phone.

“Assalamu alaykum.”

“I love them! They’re sooooo gorgeous! I’m so blown away…jazakallah so much. You’re the best husband ever!” I gushed, overwhelmed by his incredibly touching gesture. He was just so…I had no words…

Ahmed laughed. “I’m glad you love them. They’re so you, you know. I saw them and they reminded me of you.”

“If you say any more I’ll melt into a puddle right here,” I said jokingly, my voice wobbling slightly.

His voice lowered. “Then let me be there to catch you, princess.”

I opened my mouth but nothing came out. Once again he had rendered me speechless. “Always,” I said finally, lamely. He caught my meaning though…he always did.

“How did you manage to get roses so early in the morning?” I asked, “and how did they get here?”

“Got them yesterday. I saw them after dropping you off and bought them then took them home with me. I thought I’ll drop them off later on but dad had some work for me so I didn’t get the chance. So I gave them to Adnaan in fajr to drop them off before you left for madrassah.”

“What a lovely thing to wake up to. Jazakallah once again.”

“Wa iyyakum. Anytime, princess.”

“I have to go,” I said reluctantly, “or else I’ll be late for madrassah. I’ll talk to you later, right?”

“No problem. Assalamu alaykum.”

“You’ve been staring at that report for over fifteen minutes and you haven’t turned the page yet,” Sylvia’s voice broke me out of my reverie. I snapped my head up with a sheepish look then checked the time on my phone. The screen lit up, red roses against a white background, my screensaver as of this morning, and I saw the time. Crap! She was right!

“Sorry, Sylvia. My mind wandered off.”

Sylvia shook her head. “You should have gotten married properly and gone away for a honeymoon. At least then when you would have come back your head would be screwed on again more firmly. Not on cloud nine like now.”

I laughed. “No more daydreaming inshaAllah. I’m getting right back to work!” To prove my point I turned the page and began typing as fast as I could, pushing away all thoughts of Ahmed till later…

Part 192

I groaned when Han burst into the room to wake me up, burrowing deeper into the covers.

“For heaven’s sake, Faz, it’s eight-thirty already! Amy called and said you have a nine-thirty appointment by Maseeha so get your butt out of that bed now!”

“Go away,” I mumbled in response, keeping my eyes squeezed shut. A moment later the covers were ripped away from me.

“You don’t have time to sleep in. It’s your walima day incase you’ve forgotten,” Han peered at me, “what time did you get home last night?”

I grumbled under my breath but swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat up, rubbing my gritty eyes. My eyes burned, feeling dry and scratchy. I felt like I hadn’t slept all night. Which was true since I hadn’t.

“Just past twelve,” I replied.

“No wonder you’re so tired! Couldn’t you come home early knowing that it was your walima the next day?”

“That was early,” I said in response. And it had been. Early enough to give me at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep…if I’d gone to sleep immediately afterwards. But I had seen that text of Ahmed’s and just could not ignore it. So I had replied to it and he had replied in return…and before we knew it those five hours had flown by and the sky had started lightening as dawn crept in. We’d only stopped talking to go pray fajr. Ahmed rushed to go to the masjid and I rushed to the bathroom to make wudhu. By the time I had finally gone to sleep it was just before six. No wonder I felt like I could barely open my eyes now!

I dragged myself to the bathroom to change then came down to eat. A cup of hot tea revived me, the accompanying hot buttery toast melting on my tongue, making me feel more ready to face my day. Which was good since Amira and Aliyah came over at the dot of nine, ready to drag me off for some more dressing up. I would be glad when today was over and I could go back to my good old sweats!

I grabbed my walima dress on my way out, the one I’d had sewn Tariq’s time. It was a lovely dress and would suit whatever lavish affair Ahmed’s mum had whipped up. I cringed, just thinking about it. I had asked Ahmed how big it would be but he hadn’t known anything except that it was at Running Waters…which I already knew…, it would probably be large since his mother liked to go all out…and it would be completely separate because he had put his foot down about that.

“I told her that if I saw even a bit of mixing I would turn around and walk out again,” he’d said, “so don’t worry about that. My mum will make sure it’s separate.”

Amira and Aliyah took me to Maseeha’s house again which I was glad about since I’d experienced first hand how good she was. She took a look at my dress and whistled.

“Hotness! You’ll rock this dress, babe!”

Looking at the dress she wanted to go for a smokey eyed look this time and I agreed. As the day before she kept the rest of my makeup light and natural, my lips painted nude with a slight gloss to them. It made my eyes stand out more and knowing how much Ahmed loved my eyes I knew he would appreciate this look. My hair was twisted up into an up-do again then Maseeha stood and held out the dress to me. I slipped into it and zipped it up then slipped into silver, rhinestone-encrusted stilletos which wrapped around my feet, hugging my ankles securely, then stood up again.

“Where’s your jewellery?” Maseeha asked.

“I brought it along but I don’t think I’ll need it. I want to wear a full scarf this time because the walima will be in a hall. So there’s no point.”

“Nonsense!” Maseeha declared, “I’m sure your husband will see you later on. Wear them for him.”

“Okay,” I smiled, “but no necklace. I’ve got enough bling on my dress.”

Maseeha agreed about that. I wore dangling silver earrings and slipped on a matching bracelet above the fitted sleeve on my right hand. I wore a narrow white-gold ring on my right hand, leaving just the wedding rings on my left. Maseeha and the rest wow-ed in appreciation then Maseeha turned me to face the mirror. A satisfied smile curved my mouth as I took in the woman staring back at me.

Ice-blue chiffon over satin hugged my form, flowing down to sweep the ground lightly. The bodice was heavily encrusted in silver beadwork and different sized sequins, encasing full sleeves and ending in deep points below my hips. A satin sash of the same material encircled my waist with a small bow in front. My nikah gown had been fire…this one was ice. That one had made me look bold, impetuous, fiery…this one made me look cool, regal, aloof. Fire and ice make a good combo… My smile widened. I’d had this dress sewn with Tariq in mind but it had been made for Ahmed. And it was just the type of gown I needed to tackle this walima…

“Perfect,” I proclaimed, turning back to the others, “only the scarf is left now.”

Following my instructions Maseeha wrapped the scarf securely around my head, covering my head and neck.

“Wait a minute. Aunt Nasima, the woman who sewed this dress also made a headpiece for me,” I dug into my jewellery box and removed a long, sequined headpiece made from the same sequins as the dress, “It’s supposed to be clipped onto my scarf.”

Maseeha nodded but her attention was caught by the last piece of material remaining on the hanger. She pulled it out and unfolded it. It was another scarf, this one long and rectangular and sheer, made of the same chiffon material as the gown.

“How about this?” She asked.

“Aunt Nasima also sewed that so I’d have a choice of which one to wear. She said I could also wear both,” I replied, shrugging.

Maseeha frowned thoughtfully, tapping her cheek lightly with her finger, then her eyes lit up. “I’ve got it!” She draped the long scarf halfway on my head, over the one I was already wearing then clipped the sequined headpiece over it, securing it in place, the ends fluttering down my back. Like my nikah scarf except that this time I was wearing another scarf underneath it. It gave the gown an elegant touch…

“Jazakillah so much!” I hugged Maseeha tightly as we were leaving, “I’ll definitely recommend you to any bride-to-be inshaAllah. You’re too talented mashaAllah.”

Maseeha laughed and hugged me back. “It was a pleasure working with you, Faz. I hope to see you again soon.”

We left at close to noon, me in my ice-blue gown, Han in a baby pink gown, Amira in emerald green and Aliyah in dark-grey. Maajidah and Madeeha wore matching gowns in cream and gold. The rest of the family was waiting for us as we drew up outside my house and then it was rush-rush again. We had our wudhus so we prayed zuhr then relaxed, waiting for the men to come back from the masjid so we could leave. My phone buzzed as I sat chatting to my cousins.

Ready, my gorgeous bride?

I smiled. As ready as I could be. And you? What you wearing today?

I’m supposed to be asking you that. So…

So…???

What you wearing?

That’s for me to know and you to find out…

Not fair! I have to come now then or curiosity will kill this cat.

I grinned. So who’s stopping you? Come see me right now *wink*

“Look at that cheesy grin!” Amira groaned, “I’m feeling sick!” She made gagging sounds and I reached over and punched her on her arm.

“You think this is bad? Come live with her then see how she is. Can’t take her face out of her phone!” Han grumbled next to her. I stuck my tongue out at her and turned my attention back to my phone. Ahmed had already gone offline so I put my phone back in my clutch.

Seven cars turned up to take us to the hall…plus one, which I was unaware of. I was discussing with Amira and Aliyah that we would go together when Adnaan cleared his throat from the doorway.

“Mrs. Cassim. Your ride is here.”

“My ride?” I looked at him blankly.

“Your husband,” he grinned.

“Here we go again!” Amira groaned, “tell him to scoot. We were here before him!”

“Yeah right. Like she’ll ever tell him that!” Aliyah chortled.

“Go on, Faz. Tell him. Sisters before misters,” Amira said.

I smiled at her apologetically and held my hands up in surrender. Her gaze narrowed at me in a glare. Blowing her a kiss I backed out of there, bumping into mum on the way.

“You’re going with Ahmed?” She asked. I nodded and she smiled. “Go on then. We’ll meet you at the hall.”

“InshaAllah. Salaams mum,” I kissed her swiftly on the cheek before tying on my niqaab and pulling my jilbaab over it. It felt so weird to go separately from the rest of the family. Marriage changed things so fast…not that I was complaining, I thought, my cheesy smile breaking out again as I caught sight of Ahmed. With a white imaamah wrapped around his head, his broad shoulders and chest visible above the dashboard, clad in a black kurta he looked hot! He caught sight of me approaching, broke off whatever he was saying to Immy and broke into a similar wide smile.

“Gawwwdd, look at the love-birds,” Immy drawled, “I’ll be off now. Not that anyone cares,” he added as he winked at me and walked away. I shook my head at him and turned my attention back to Ahmed.

“Assalamu alaykum, princess,” Ahmed said, his voice pitched low and intimate. He flashed me his million watt smile and I melted. Literally.

“Wa alaykum salaam,” I squeaked in response. Gosh! Why did I have to sound like Daffy Duck when he was sounding like Shaykh Mahir???

“How you doing? Your eyes are popping, mashaAllah. So gorgeous. I think they should be covered as well,” he frowned a little, “don’t want anyone looking at them and falling for you.”

I laughed. “Then how will I see?”

“I’ll hold your hand and guide you. And you’re only allowed to “fall” for me so don’t worry if that happens,” he winked.

I laughed out loud. “Here goes Mr. Cheesy again!”

Ahmed grinned and hummed tunelessly in response.

We got to the hall too fast. My jaw dropped as we swept through the massive gates, winding down the endless driveway with lush greenery on both sides. Ahead of us a huge building loomed, it’s stucco grey walls curving in a wide semi-circle. Wide, shallow steps led up to a tiled terrace which spanned several feet in length. On the other end of the terrace several more steps led to floor to ceiling glass doors which were wide open, revealing glimpses of the lavish interior. Rows upon rows of cars lined the terrace, offloading crowds of elegantly dressed women, their multi-coloured gowns sparkling like jewels. Ahead of them more cars were rounding the curved driveway, disappearing from sight around the building.

“Ya Allah!” I whispered. All the nerves that had been sitting dormant in me reared up en masse, setting off a wild fluttering in my stomach. I felt a large, warm hand come to rest on my cold, clammy one, squeezing comfortingly.

“Don’t worry. It will be over soon.”

I looked into his eyes, warm with understanding and empathy and nodded, feeling my nerves slowly settle. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been to lavish affairs before. I had but not as the bride where all eyes would be on me. And not in a crowd of mostly unfamiliar people. I was suddenly fervently grateful for my family right behind me; more so when I stepped out of the car, causing heads to turn my way. I was immediately flanked by my crew; Zee to my right, Amira to my left. Aliyah and Han stepped into place behind me, offering me their silent support. I lifted my head and walked up the steps.

Aunt Nilofar was standing at the entrance, looking stunning in a plum, off-the-shoulder beaded gown. Her hair was done up in an elaborate up-do and diamonds glittered at her throat, ears and wrists. She welcomed me warmly, hugging me then sending Humaira with me to show me the bathroom so I could remove my jilbaab. Humaira, who was wearing a mauve gown, was friendlier today. She talked a little while escorting us to the bathroom. Her and Aliyah got along well and Aliyah was with me so maybe that was the ice-breaker. In any case I was happy and answered her back in more than friendly terms.

True to Ahmed’s word the walima was completely separate, though it was huge and lavish as he’d warned. There must easily be over five hundred women in here, I thought in awe, making me wonder how many men there were and how many people the Cassims had invited altogether. I hadn’t seen much on my way to the bathroom, occupied in talking to Humaira but now I stood in the doorway at the back and took it all in.

White billowing drapes covered the entire ceiling, large crystal chandeliers glittering with multi-hued fire at intervals. The large expanse of gleaming hardwood floor was liberally sprinkled with round tables and chairs. All of them were draped in white cloth which touched the floor, gleaming plates and cutlery set before each chair. In the centre of each table were tall, crystal showpieces, the light of the chandeliers bouncing off them. The entire place screamed of hushed elegance and muted wealth. Way out of my depth here…

Amira poked me in my back. “Go on. What are you waiting for?”

“For you. Don’t let me walk in there alone,” I pleaded.

Zee laughed and poked me in turn. “We all have your back. Start walking now.”

I turned and pulled her hand, making her stand next to me. “You’ll walk in with me. Maybe Laaibah will divert the attention away from me.” I pinched Laaibah’s cheek lightly, smiling fondly at her.

The moment we walked in conversations slowed, a hush falling over the room. I walked with a smile pasted to my face, my gown swishing around my feet, my heels clicking rhythmically on the polished wood, my eyes scanning the hall for my family.

“There. Right by the stage,” Zee said, pointing.

A long table had been placed right in front of the stage…not on the stage at least, Alhamdulillah…with seven chairs placed behind it. Round tables scattered in front of it had Reserved signs on them, showing that they were for my family. They were already sitting there when I walked by, turning to look at me with smiles on their faces. I took a seat in the middle of the long table. Zee sat on my right, Laaibah next to her with Aliyah at the far end. Han was on my left, Amira next to her and Swaleha on the last chair. Maajidah, Madeeha and the rest of my cousins grouped on the table right infront of us, taking the opportunity to tease me whenever they could.

Women started coming in streams to congratulate me, bearing gifts and well wishes. I replied to all of them cordially, thanking them and murmuring “ameen” over and over again. The food, which came next, was delicious! Mutton biryani, hot melted barfee, roast chicken with potato wedges, pepper and mushroom steak with sauce dribbled over it, and chips… Aunt Nilofar went all out with the food as well and in that aspect I had no complaints. Our table was served first so we didn’t have to get up to get food from the buffet table. Dishes with tantalising smells wafting out kept being placed in front of us and I kept digging in, wanting to try out everything. I didn’t want to have any regrets afterwards…

“Only you can pig out even on your wedding day,” Han whispered next to me. The food on her plate looked paltry next to mine.

“I told you, my love affair with food comes first. Now stop disturbing me, I want this foodgasm so badly…ummmmmmmmm,” I moaned as the hot barfee melted on my tongue in a burst of sweetness.

“My God, Faz, do you have to be so loud! I’m sure the entire hall can hear you!” Amira hissed, leaning forward to look at me. I grinned at her wickedly.

“What? I’m not doing anything wrong, am I. I can teach people a thing or two about savouring their food…biting into it, sucking on it, licking off the sweetness…”

Zee cracked up next to me, causing quite a few heads to turn our way. Han had this shocked look on her face while Amira scrunched up her nose.

“Ewwwww! You dirty minded perv!”

Swaleha started laughing next to her while Aliyah demanded to know what was going on from her end of the table. I shrugged demurely and bent my head to my food again…

The desserts were next, choc-mint mousse in small cups, mini Oreo cheesecakes, molten lava cake with ice cream and tiny rose-shaped milktarts. I wanted to taste everything but my stuffed stomach was already protesting so I ate a cheesecake and molten lava cake and swiped bites of the mousse and milktart from Zee’s plate to taste them, grinning when she didn’t even bat an eyelid at my antics. She was too used to me and my ways…

After the food was over I was sitting back and chatting to Zee and them when my phone buzzed.

Ready to go?

I smiled. Depends on where you’re taking me.

Depends on where you want to go, princess.

My smile widened. The beach house, I wrote impulsively, I want to see it again in the daytime.

Sure, no problem. I’m bringing the car around…

“She’s smiling like that again,” Amira commented, “what’s Mufti Ahmed saying now?”

“He’s bringing the car around. I have to go.” I stood up and my cousins groaned.

“Already? Can’t he spare you for another hour at least?”

“Nope,” I grinned.

“She herself doesn’t want to be spared,” Zee grinned, “go on, Faz. Enjoy yourself and be good,” she winked.

“Of course. Good is my middle name,” I winked back at her and made my way to my mum and aunts to greet them. They all had these smiles on their faces as they nodded their heads and greeted me back. I made my way to Aunt Nilofar next. She smiled and rose to greet me.

“Going already?”

“Yeah,” I murmured, “jazakallah for everything. It was out of this world, especially the food.”

“I’m glad you liked it. We’ll see you soon, InshaAllah.”

I nodded and made salaam to her before going to the bathroom to wear my jilbaab and niqaab again. I followed the ladies who were leaving out of the hall then paused on the steps, scanning the area for Ahmed’s silver Mercedes. I saw it parked off to one side and walked carefully over to it, opening the door and slipping inside.

“How was it?” Ahmed turned his head to look at me as he reversed the car.

“It wasn’t bad Alhamdulillah. Over the top like you said but still pleasant and nice. And the food was just wow!” I grinned, remembering my previous comments about the food.

“The way to your heart is through your stomach. Got it!” Ahmed grinned.

I laughed. “And yours?”

“I’m chilled. I’ll eat anything like I told you.”

“But you must have favourite foods, right?” I pressed.

“Ermmm, pizza, I guess. And dry chicken.… stuff like that,” Ahmed shrugged.

“How about biryani? Akhni? Curry kitchri?”

“If it’s there I’ll eat it. If it’s not it’s cool,” Ahmed shot me a smile.

“No foods that you liss for…like you just have to have it right then or you’ll die?” I knew I was being dramatic but I really felt like that at times.

Ahmed laughed. “I’ll leave that for you to do. I’ve never felt like that before.”

“Wow. Lucky me I guess. I won’t have to run around catering to your stomach’s demands,” I joked.

“Yeah, you’ll just have to do that for yourself,” Ahmed joked back and I rolled my eyes at him.

We pulled up at the beach house thirty minutes later and Ahmed parked off then came to open my door for me. I let him, enjoying the pampering. We walked in and I admired the house again before kicking off my shoes and running out the kitchen door. My jilbaab and scarf were already disposed of in Ahmed’s room. I inhaled the crisp, salty air, relishing the breeze washing over my face, whipping my loosened hair about. Behind me Ahmed called out my name then followed my trail to the open kitchen door. I turned to face him, feeling the flutter in my stomach at seeing him in three-quarters and shirt again, his hair blowing around his face in the breeze. I loved seeing him like this, knowing I was the only one who saw this side of him… His eyes widened as they raked over me, seeing my dress for the first time. An appreciative smile curved his mouth.

“Just when I thought you couldn’t get any more beautiful you do,” he said softly, closing the distance between us, “I’m a lucky man.” His fingers trailed down my cheek and I shivered under his touch, his intense gaze. I realised that I had never complimented him before, only admired him silently and cleared my throat.

“You’re not bad yourself, Mr. Cassim. I’m a lucky woman.” Imitating his movement I lifted my hand and softly brushed his hair back from his face, loving the feel of the soft, silky strands against my skin. Ahmed’s eyes glowed as he captured my hand, pressing a kiss in the palm. Our surroundings faded as we stared into each other’s eyes, lost in each other. After an endless moment I cleared my throat, breaking the spell.

“Is the beach empty today as well?”

“Always,” Ahmed smiled, “the other cottages are all empty right now. They were here for the first two weeks of April but now they’ve all gone back.”

“I wish I’d brought my swimming costume with!” I groaned. What an ideal time to swim, both in the pool and the ocean and I had nothing to wear!

“Humi has quite a few suits here. Let me ask her,” Ahmed dialled her number before I could protest. I hoped she wouldn’t mind. He spoke briefly into it then hung up. “Go ahead. Humi said it’s not a problem.”

“Okay,” I smiled, hoping she really didn’t mind. I headed to her room and rummaged through her closet. Luckily for me Humi and I were around the same size. Her swimming costumes were not as decent as mine though. I pulled out a bright blue one, the top sleeveless and fitted, the bottom reaching my knees. I pulled off my dress and wore the costume, looking at myself self consciously in the mirror. This showed way more skin than I was used to. He’s your husband, Faz. Get used to it. I pulled my hair into a bun then walked out of the room and out onto the deck. Ahmed was already there, dressed in his swimming shorts which reached his knees…and nothing else. I sucked in my breath sharply, my senses reeling dizzily. His body was all sculpted lines and muscle. Too much… I was not prepared for this… He looked up and saw me, going still. Straightening he walked slowly towards me. My cheeks flooded with colour and I struggled not to squirm under his intense gaze.

“Beautiful,” he whispered. He tipped my chin up and bent his head to kiss me, betraying the depth of his emotion. When he finally straightened he smiled and held out his hand to me. “Where should we go first? The pool or beach?”

I blinked, coming out of my daze slowly. “Pool,” I replied. I hadn’t swum in so long, I was craving to feel the cold water against my skin. “I suppose you’re a good swimmer?” I asked him, testing the water with my toe. Cold, just as I’d thought.

“Good enough,” he shrugged, “you first or me?” He indicated at the water.

“Me!” I dived in with one smooth swoop, gasping silently as the cold water closed over me. I swam to the other end with powerful strokes, the water rejuvenating me. I loved swimming, had learned it at a young age…but hadn’t had the opportunity to do it much, due to purdah reasons. Having a pool to myself like this was heavenly!

Ahmed’s face popped up next to mine, streaming with water, his hair slicked back. I hadn’t seen him enter, occupied in my own swim. “Did you dive in?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yeah. You’re good, mashaAllah. Where did you learn to swim?”

“By some lady when I was young. Dad used to take us every weekend to learn by her. I’ve always loved swimming but haven’t had a chance to do it often,” I replied.

“You can make the most of this then. Like I will,” he grinned. Before I could ask him what he meant he disappeared. I turned around to look for him…then yelped as my feet were pulled from underneath me and I was abruptly submerged in water. Spluttering I came up, seeing Ahmed laughing from the other end of the pool. Oh, he wanted to play, did he? Fine…game on!

I dove under the water again, swimming rapidly underneath, looking for Ahmed. He had caught on to my intent and was circling me in turn, darting away when I got too close, trying to catch me from behind when I wasn’t looking. We circled each other till our breaths ran out then popped our heads above the water, gasping for breath. Then dove under to try again. After a little while I saw Ahmed’s head disappear above the water and pounced. Before he could catch his breath properly I had tackled his legs, giving a strong pull on them to pull him under. With satisfaction I saw his face abruptly appear under the water, eyes wide as he glared at me. Shooting to the other end of the pool I came up for air, gasping and laughing. Checkmate!

Ahmed came up and laughed with me. “Fine, you got me. Now it’s my turn to attack.”

“Don’t you dare,” I gasped as he disappeared again. I swam quickly to avoid the dark form pursuing me but he was too quick. His hands closed around my calves and I squealed, holding my breath in preparation of being dunked. In the next instant I found myself flying, my body shooting out of the water as Ahmed flipped me into the air. I came back down with a huge splash and went under. Propelling myself to the surface with my feet my head broke the surface and I gaped at my unpredictable husband laughingly, exhilaration coursing through my veins. “What was that?”

Ahmed grinned at me. “Like it?”

“Like it?? I love it! Do it again!”

After swimming for over an hour we got out and dried ourselves then walked hand in hand to the beach. We walked along the shore, soaking in the sun and salty spray. Walking on the beach without an abaya or even a scarf…being able to wear whatever I wanted…letting the breeze play with my hair, the sun hit my face…without worrying about anyone seeing me…and hand in hand with my gorgeous husband…this was my piece of heaven.

“What are you thinking?” Ahmed asked softly.

“This…it’s like a dream come true,” I replied just as softly, “jannah on this earth.”

Ahmed’s hand tightened in mine. “We create our little pieces of jannah on this earth and get so blown away by them. Imagine how the real jannah will be. So huge, not little pieces hidden away like this. So beautiful that this is nothing in comparison. And for all time. Makes all our sacrifices so worth it…because we sacrifice so little and get so much in return.”

“Yes,” I murmured, letting his words wash over me.

We prayed our asr awwal waqt then stayed on the beach till sunset, splashing each other in the waves, lounging on towels in the sand. We sat on the beach, me between his legs, leaning against his chest, his arms wrapped around me, and watched the sun descend into the ocean, setting the water on fire, the clouds fiery streaks above the orange globe.

We ordered takeaway again and ate on the deck outside, chatting about different things. We were in our own little cocoon, cut off from reality…just us two and the sea…I loved it, loved these moments, never wanting them to end… as Ahmed turned to me, feeding me a piece of sweet pineapple I silently said, “Alhamdulillah”, feeling the warm surge of love and gratitude flow through me again…


Assalamu alaykum…

I’m not sure if I’ll manage to get another post up this week so if I can’t the next post will be up on Monday inshaAllah… but hey, look at it this way… other authors write posts of 1000 words each. This post is around 5000 words long so if you’ll break it up you can make it last till Monday😉

Enjoy xxx

Apologies…

Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

I know you’ll are waiting for the next post but it’s not finished yet due to time constraints. It will be up today or tomorrow. So sorry for the delay and Shukran for your patience❤

Duas xxx

Living life cloaked in modesty and islamic principles…