Part 181

“Right, let’s get back to work. You can stop smiling now, fun time is over,” Sylvia said briskly when I rejoined her in the office, but her eyes were twinkling.

“Thank you so much, Sylvia. I really appreciate your support and your input,” I said once again.

“Don’t thank me so much. I had my own selfish reasons for wanting you to stay on. Couldn’t lose such a good worker now, could I?”

I laughed. “Whatever!”

“Ready for some work?” Sylvia started pulling out a blue file.

“Bring it on!” I said, sitting down in my chair, “I’m aalll for the work!”

“Don’t knock it till you’ve seen it. This is a tricky issue. It’s about Sandra.”

I sobered immediately at the mention of Sandra. I had had a few more sessions with her after my first one and each time I’d managed to chip away more of her defenses. The story was clear now. She was definitely going through trauma and abuse and we had to step on it. We needed to take action.

“What should we do about her?” I asked.

“Call CPU (child protection unit) at the police station first…”

We followed the plan Sylvia outlined. I was so angry with Sandra’s parents that I wanted to storm over there and give them a piece of my mind, then take Sandra away from that hellhole. Sylvia bluntly told me to trash that idea right away and clear my mind of any emotion.

“We don’t need emotions when dealing with delicate issues. It will mess everything up,” she told me, “and we definitely can’t approach her parents or family. That will mess things up even more. All we do is refer, Faz. The police and social workers will do the rest.”

I huffed, less than pleased by that, but grudgingly agreed. We first called the CPU who sent a team to assess the situation. Sandra cowered behind me when they arrived and flatly refused to go to the hospital for a medical assessment. The female officer spent around thirty minutes trying to convince her, to no avail. She wouldn’t even let the men come near her. Finally I had to step in.

“If you’ll can excuse me for a bit, I’d like to have a chat with Sandra.”

The woman looked at Sylvia who nodded at her. I took Sandra’s hand and led her to an empty classroom nearby.

“Sandra, darling, they just want the doctor to check you. That’s all. Then we’ll come back here.”

“I don’t want to go,” she whispered, drawing back.

“It’s just for a little while. Then you’ll come back, sweety.”

“No! I won’t go!” Sandra screamed suddenly. I dropped to my knees in front of her and grasped her shoulders gently.

“I’ll come with you. Okay?”

Sandra stared at me with fearful eyes but she was silent this time. Taking that as a positive I took her hand and led her back to the team.

“She’s agreed…providing I accompany her.”

The team exchanged glances with each other then agreed. Sandra clutched my hand tightly all the way there. She would not let go of me even when the doctor came out to take her in. She hid behind me, refusing to come out.

“Can I accompany her, doctor?” I asked, “it’s the only way she’ll come.”

The doctor looked at me curiously. “Who are you, Miss?”

“Sandra’s therapist,” I replied.

“Okay. You may come along.”

We followed him to a small private room. I stood next to her and held her hand while the doctor spoke to her. Luckily he had more success with her.

“I’m just going to check you, okay?” He said kindly, “I want to make sure you’re okay. If anything is hurting tell me and I will give you medicine for it. Okay?”

She nodded mutely.

The doctor started feeling his way gently around her body, starting with her arms, over her shoulders, and down her abdomen. When he reached her ribs she gasped and flinched.

“What is it, sweety? Is it hurting you?”

She gave a small nod.

“Can you show me where, please? I would like to see where it’s hurting.”

She pointed to her right side.

“Okay. Can I lift your dress so I can see it?”

Sandra looked at me, wide-eyed. I nodded reassuringly at her and she slowly stood up, lifted her dress to her waist then sat down again. Slowly she hitched up her dress and I bit my lip hard to stop the gasp that threatened to escape. A large bluish-purplish bruise marred her right side, just underneath the ribcage.

“What happened here, dear?” The doctor asked.

Sandra looked at me again and I nodded. “Tell us what happened, sweety.”

“M-my mum k-kicked me,” she whispered.

My eyes met the doctor’s, both pairs swirling with anger. I clenched my fists and willed myself to calm down.

The doctor checked the rest of her body but apart from a few scratches and knicks on her legs she was fine. The bruise was the worst of her injuries. The doctor fetched a balm and applied it on her bruise then led us out of there again. He held me back when we were walking out. “What happened?” He mouthed.

I couldn’t mouth back of course and I didn’t want Sandra to overhear me so I stepped back slightly so I was behind the doctor. “Abuse,” I murmured close to his ear.

A brief nod of his head indicated that he had heard me. I followed him back to the team where he handed over his report to them then we headed back to the school.

“Are you gonna pay a visit to her parents?” I asked the female officer.

“I think we may have to. The charges seem rather severe.”

“They definitely are!” I declared emphatically.

The police officers left after receiving their information and I spent the next hour with Sandra and Sylvia, congratulating her on cooperating so well. She was hating all this extra attention and I knew this wasn’t the end of it. We were still expecting a visit from the social workers.

The social worker, a middle aged woman named Rose arrived a couple of days later. We had the form ready to refer to her and I immediately went to fetch Sandra. As expected she eyed the visitor suspiciously then stuck to my side. Rose wanted to talk to her privately but she refused to let me leave the room so I sat with her while Rose questioned her gently. Rose was actually glad I was there by the end because so many times Sandra clamped up and refused to answer, only grudgingly replying when I coaxed her to.

“This is bad,” Rose murmured when she was done, “I definitely need to pay her parents a visit.”

“You definitely do,” I agreed. Her parents couldn’t get away with this kind of behaviour. I was only worried about Sandra. I hoped she didn’t get caught in it’s backlash. She didn’t deserve to suffer more than she already had.

We received updates both from the police station and Rose in the following weeks. To my intense relief things worked out really well for Sandra. Rose kept a close eye on Sandra and her family situation and when things didn’t improve she removed Sandra from that toxic household with the intention of placing her in foster care if no other family member was willing to take care of her. Despite being abused and traumatised Sandra didn’t want to leave her family, solely because that was the only place she had known her entire life, the only “home” to her. My heart broke when she cried to go home to her mummy again…even if her mummy was beating the hell out of her for opening her mouth and spilling the dirty family secrets to outsiders. I knew she couldn’t go back there…The problem was how to explain it to her.

“Keep praying, sweety. God will send you your guardian angel soon, very soon,” I kept telling her soothingly and prayed with all my heart that it would turn out to be true.

And it did. Two weeks later a middle aged woman walked through the school gates, demanding to see Sandra.

“I am her Aunt Madeleine,” she informed me primly, “her father’s sister. I would like to see her now, if you please.”

“She’s in class now, ma’am. Perhaps you can come back later?” I asked.

She shook her head emphatically. “Its urgent, Miss. Can I please see her now?”

“Okay,” I sighed, not sure if I was doing the right thing or if I should take her to Mr. Tobias first. She looked rather harried though so I decided to fetch Sandra and see if she knew her. “Please wait here a moment, ma’am, while I go fetch her,” I said politely.

“Sandra, do you know Aunt Madeleine?” I asked as I was walking back with her.

Sandra’s face lit up and she nodded. “She’s nice. She gives me ice cream and chocolates when I go to her house,” she said with a smile.

“That’s nice. She’s here to see you,” I said.

“Aunt Maddy is here? Where?” She ran off as soon as I pointed her in the right direction. I quickened my pace to catch up to her, only to halt abruptly as I caught sight of the scene before me; Madeleine had swung Sandra up into her arms and was hugging her tight, and Sandra was clinging to her just as tightly, her arms wound around her neck. Madeleine caught sight of me first and lowered Sandra back to the ground, though still holding onto her hand. Sandra had a wide smile on her face and I realised that this was the first time I had seen her smile, really smile, from deep inside her. Her eyes shone and her whole face was glowing. I knew then that this woman was someone special.

“Miss…?” I realised that Madeleine was talking to me. I switched my gaze to her face and stepped forward with a smile.

“Nice to meet you, Mrs…uhmmm…”

“Roberts,” she supplied, noticing my hesitation.

“Mrs. Roberts,” I shook her hand firmly.

“And you are, Miss…?”

“Fazila Bhayat. I’m her therapist.”

“She’s my friend,” Sandra put in, smiling at me shyly.

“Yes, I can see that,” Madeleine replied, looking from me to Sandra, “I’ve come to discuss some matters with you, Miss Bhayat. If we could speak in private?”

“No problem. Let me drop Sandra back to her class so she doesn’t miss out on anything, then I’ll call my superior. I’ll be right back.”

I dropped Sandra off with promises to fetch her as soon as class was over, then escorted Madeleine to Sylvia’s office. I offered her my chair and stood next to Sylvia on the opposite side.

“Miss Rousell. I have heard that you’ve removed Sandra from her family and are keeping her at another place…?” Madeleine paused and looked at us for clarification. We simply nodded and after a few moments she continued, “I am Sandra’s father’s sister. Naturally I am worried about her welfare. I would like to know what’s going on, please.”

“Miss Roberts, do you know what your niece has been through? I am just clarifying so I know where to start,” Sylvia replied.

“I have heard bits and pieces, from her parents of course. And they’re very angry, especially her mum so I don’t know how much to believe. Start from the beginning, please.”

So we did. We took turns explaining it all to her and by the end she was stunned into speechlessness.

“That’s…that’s…unbelievable!” She finally exclaimed, “I cannot believe it!”

“Unfortunately you have to believe it,” Sylvia replied, “Fazila here got the story directly from your niece. From the horse’s mouth so to speak. And even after the social worker started keeping an eye on them it did not decrease. Her mother just got more sneaky. We had a hard time getting Sandra to say anything after that, she had withdrawn so much into a shell. Luckily Fazila has won her trust and she got her to eventually confide in her again.”

“Do you want to know what her sweet mother did?” I butted in, “she wanted to punish Sandra for telling on her but didn’t want to leave marks on her. So she put hot chillies in her mouth and nose and forced her to swallow it…without giving her water or anything else to relieve the burn. Then she put her head underwater till Sandra felt like she was gonna drown. Then she would let her up again. She also locked her in the bathroom for twenty-four hours without food or water, and in the dark at night. Then she used the silent treatment on her and forced the rest of the family to do the same because she said she was a whore and therefore unfit for company. No one would sit by her, no one would talk to her…no one would even look at her. Mental torture…it almost broke her completely. Luckily we were able to get her out of that hellhole before she went beyond the point of no return. She told me she wanted to kill herself. Can you imagine, an eight year old actually entertaining thoughts of suicide???” I felt Sylvia’s hand squeeze my arm in a silent gesture and I took a deep, shuddering breath, willing back my tears. Madeleine seemed to be in a daze, her eyes wide in horror.

“My God!” She whispered after a while, “I had no idea…”

There was a few moments of silence as we all tried to compose ourselves. Then Madeleine surged to her feet.

“That bit*h!” She yelled, slamming her fist down on the table top, making us jump, “sorry for my language but I’m just so angry! Beatrice, Sandra’s mother is a spiteful old witch! She really wanted a boy after two girls and so did my brother, John. So when Sandra was born they were very disappointed. John said some cruel things to her. Told her she was a failure…that her body was too weak, not strong enough to carry a boy. He disappeared for weeks somewhere…refused to name the baby when he came back. All nonsense but his disappointment ran deep. And that made Beatrice bitter and she took it out on Sandra. It was Emily, Sandra’s oldest sister who named her. Beatrice used to address her as “the curse”…or “bit*h”. Eventually John did come around but Beatrice never got over it. Even when she got a boy three years later, then two more boys after that. Sandra just got pushed into the background then. Or used as a punching bag by her mother who was too used to taking out her anger on her. John tried to stop her after a while, realising that it wasn’t the child’s fault, but she wouldn’t listen. She would blame him and it would turn into a screaming match so eventually he gave up…” Madeleine paused for breath. “I told him, you know. I told John to let me adopt her. I don’t have kids of my own and I’d do anything to have a child. And here they had such a wonderful girl and they treated her like rubbish. But that witch wouldn’t listen. She refused to let anyone take HER child away. John told me to leave it but I tried to call her over whenever I could. I had a soft spot for her. She’s always been my favourite…” Madeleine sighed, “but by God, if I’d known that it was this bad I would have kidnapped her myself! But I had no idea…” she whispered the last part, looking anguished.

“Sorry to ask, Mrs. Roberts, but if she was so close to you how come she didn’t tell you what was going on?” I asked.

Madeleine held up her hands. “Call me Maddy, please. And the answer is, I don’t know. I did try to ask her a few times but she shrugged it off. Smiled at me sweetly and told me everything was fine. So I left it. I thought it wasn’t so bad otherwise she would have said something…”

I nodded. I knew how reserved Sandra was. She wouldn’t willingly open up to anyone.

“That’s why I’m so happy she had you, Fazila,” Madeleine looked at me, “I’m so glad you made her open up. At least now she’s out of there. And I can take her home finally.”

“You want to take her to your house?” Sylvia finally spoke up.

“Yes, of course. I’m her next of kin and she belongs with me. What time does her school end?”

Sylvia checked her watch. “In around two hours. Let’s complete the formalities so you can take her with you today. I’m sure she won’t object to that.”

“She definitely won’t!” Madeleine was beaming now.

We completed the necessary paperwork then watched an ecstatic Sandra leave with her aunt.

“Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah!” I whispered fervently.

One saved…hundreds more to go…

One step at a time…


Part 180

“Wanna tell me what’s on your mind?” Sylvia asked me out of the blue one day.

“Huh?” I looked at her innocently. I knew exactly what she was on about, of course. I had been mentally preoccupied for almost two weeks now, frantically trying to find a solution to my dilemma but I hadn’t found one yet.

“Don’t give me that look, missy. You’ve been distracted all week…and last week as well, come to think of it. We can’t have distracted staff on board; those are ones that mess up the most. You gotta give your all while you’re here and I know you haven’t been doing that since the past two weeks. So what’s wrong?”

I sighed. There was no getting out of it. “I got accepted at madrassah.”

“That’s good news,” Sylvia said slowly, eyeing me curiously.

“Yes, it is. But they have conditions as well, since they’ve added me to their staff. Timings for one. Their hours are from two p.m to four-thirty p.m. Which means I have to be there by two.” I saw understanding dawn on her face, followed swiftly by a frown.

“That won’t work with your timings here, will it? You can’t leave here till three at the earliest.”

“Yeah. That’s what’s been occupying my mind all this time. I don’t know what to do.”

“Can’t you ask them to change your timings for you? Surely they can make some concessions.”

I shook my head. “Even if they did, by the time I leave here and reach madrassah it would be, say, three-thirty. How much can I teach them in one hour? And I can’t stretch their classes to later than four-thirty because then it would end too late. I have to stick with the madrassah timings.”

“So what’s your plan now?”

I hesitated, drumming my fingers on the desk. “Do you think Mr. Tobias would agree to give me some concessions? To allow me to leave earlier than usual?”

“But how early? You would need to leave here at one-thirty to make it there by two, am I right?”

I nodded.

“I don’t think he’ll agree, Fazila. Mr. Tobias is a stickler for routine and timings.”

“I can at least try to speak to him. Can you come with me, please?” I looked pleadingly at her.

She sighed. “Okay, I will. As soon as we finish this work.”

“Brace yourself,” Sylvia whispered as we knocked on Mr. Tobias’s door later that day, “I don’t have a good feeling about this.”

I squeezed her hand then opened the door in response to the brisk, “enter!” that came from inside.

“Well, well,” Mr. Tobias, “to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” Mr. Tobias liked to talk fancy, that was for sure, I thought, amused.

“Fazila has a request to make to you, sir,” Sylvia replied, nudging me in the ribs. My amusement immediately vanished, replaced by nerves that coiled in the pit of my stomach.

“Uhmmm…sir…” I took a deep breath, “I would like to put a request to you…”

“Yes, yes, go on,” Mr. Tobias interrupted impatiently.

“You see, sir, there’s Muslim kids at this school and probably other special needs schools. There is no one qualified in teaching Islamic studies plus qualified as a therapist who can teach them about Islam. I have both degrees, sir, and a request has been put to me to teach them Islamic studies. It’s a request I cannot deny because it’s my obligation as a Muslim to teach them, plus there’s no one else to do it, like I said…however,” I paused for breath, “I can only teach them at an Islamic institution and they have given me timings to follow…I have to teach them from two p.m till four-thirty, which makes sense because these kids need that number of hours to learn. The only problem is, I would have to leave from here by one-thirty to reach there on time,” I held my breath and cast a glance at Mr. Tobias’s face.

“I see. And what time do you normally knock off?”

“Three p.m.”

“So you want us to cut ninety minutes of your time to allow you to pursue this other profession. Am I right?”

“It’s not really a profession, sir. It’ll be voluntary work.”

“Teaching is a profession, Miss Bhayat, whether you take a wage for it or not.”

“Yes, of course,” I mumbled.

“What do you do in those ninety minutes?” Mr. Tobias asked.

“Write down reports, help Sylvia with assessments…uhmmm, mark the children’s work…all that.”

“So if you leave early when would you do all this?”

“I would have go squeeze it in at other times. I could take some work home as well if I haven’t completed it.”

“Do you get other times during school hours in which to do all this?”

“Not so much,” I admitted, “but I would have to make time.”

Mr. Tobias tapped his fingers on the desk, his eyes never leaving my covered face. I kept my gaze fixed on his paper weight; a gleaming onyx lion, it’s head thrown back, mouth wide open in a roar. It’s eyes were two tiny gold crystals which glowed in the sunlight slanting through the window. Whoever had carved this was really talented, I decided, noticing the minute features that had been added on to give it a more realistic look.

“Miss Bhayat. I don’t think it will be possible for us to make these exceptions for you. You’re not the only staff member around here and if I make concessions for you the rest might want the same. And this school cannot run like that. You say now that you will find time to do this extra work but I don’t think you’ll be able to fit ninety minutes of each day in other times. You would be overloaded and overworked and such people never make good professionals. You wouldn’t be able to give us your best because you would be too stressed and too overworked,” he leaned forward slightly, “I admire your intentions to make a difference wherever you can but you’re only human after all…and there’s only one of you. You can’t be everywhere at once. I’m afraid you’ll have to choose where you would like to be more.”

This was exactly what I had been afraid of. Being made to choose. I didn’t want to choose. I wanted both but I myself didn’t know how it would work so I couldn’t even argue with him. And even as I thought that the words were tumbling from my mouth. “Let me try, sir. Give me a chance to prove myself. If I can’t manage then I’ll choose one over the other but at least let me see if it can work.”

Mr. Tobias was shaking his head before I had even finished. “I can’t allow concessions for one staff member without allowing for the others,” he repeated, “if I say yes now I’ll be in a tight spot in the future. I don’t want that. I’m sorry, Miss Bhayat. I’m afraid you’ll have to make your choice now.”

I felt my chest tighten. Dragging a shattered breath through the constriction I bowed my head and whispered. “I’ll leave the school.”

“What? No!” Sylvia burst out. “A moment, sir, if you please!” She grabbed my hand and dragged me out of there. “Are you mad??” She hissed as soon as the door closed behind us, “you need this practice for your degree and you know it! You can’t just throw it away for some voluntary work! How will you become a psychologist like that??”

“Sylvia, I don’t have a choice,” I whispered back vehemently, “there’s no one else to teach madrassah! I can’t just leave them like that!”

“And how will you teach them madressah if you don’t gain the experience here first? You may think you know a lot now but you’ve only been here for a few months, remember that. You still have a long way to go. And until you don’t learn everything about this field you cannot provide those kids with a good level of teaching. So learn the ropes here first then worry about your madrassah. What’s the rush, anyways?”

My rush was that for deen you did not delay. In deen we always had to be a step ahead. Dunya can wait; deen cannot.

“You’ve seen my reports. I have managed to teach the kids in different ways. You told me madrassah will be just like school and I already know how to teach school. I’ll be okay, Sylvia.”

“You won’t! You’ll be a half-baked teacher, running off on this wild scheme of yours!” She snapped. That hurt but I held my head up and met her eyes squarely.

“I’ve made my decision, Sylvia. Please support me on this.” I whispered, blinking back my tears.

Sylvia simply shook her head. “Silly girl. You don’t know what you’re throwing away here.”

But that was the thing. I knew. I knew only too well and the knowing was tearing me apart.

“Will you tell Mr. Tobias my decision? I think I’ll be on my way now,” I said.

Sylvia shook her head. “Come tell him yourself.”

I walked back in there slowly. “Sir, I’ve made my decision. I’ll leave the school.”

“Are you sure about this? Once you’re gone your name will be removed from the register here. If you want to come back you’ll have to reapply.”

“She won’t be able to come back with those timings of hers,” Sylvia put in.

“I’m sure, sir,” I said.”

“Okay, then. Best of luck in your new venture,” Mr. Tobias replied formally.

“Thank you, sir. Goodbye.” I heard Sylvia huff beside me, and quickly walked out of there. I walked to my car, unlocked the door and slid inside, shutting the door after me. I lifted my niqaab over my head and leaned my forehead on the steering wheel, finally allowing the tears to flow. My heart felt like it was shattering into a million pieces. This school had become like a second home to me. The kids had carved their niches into my heart, becoming like family to me. Each child held a special place in my heart. I could not believe I would never see them again. I couldn’t believe I would never see my team again…never walk into a classroom again…never do therapy with wounded souls again…my tears flowed faster, drenching my hijab. Never had I felt the price of choosing the right thing so keenly.

A series of knocks on my window brought me out of my reverie. I looked up to find Sylvia peering in at me, a concerned expression on her face. I realised that my niqaab was up and was grateful that it was only Sylvia. I swiped my hands over my face, wiping away my tears hastily, then fumbled with my keys, trying to switch on the ignition so I could open the window. After a few failed attempts, courtesy of my shaking hands and blurred vision I gave up and threw the door open instead.

“Do you want something?” I asked Sylvia.

“I’ve come to get you. Mr. Tobias wants to see you again,” she said.

“Again? Why?”

“Maybe he could hear your sobs from his office” Sylvia replied drolly.

I rolled my eyes in response and got out of the car, fixing my niqaab again.

“That didn’t look like you made the right choice” Sylvia went on, jabbing her thumb at the car.

“I know I made the right decision. That doesn’t mean it was an easy decision to make,” I snapped. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout. I’m just upset,” I said in the next breath.

Sylvia simply nodded and led the way back to Mr. Tobias’s office. I followed her, wondering why he wanted to see me now.

“Miss Bhayat. You’ve been crying,” he stated immediately, looking at my red and puffy eyes.

I sighed. “Yes, sir.”

“Can I assume you don’t really want to leave this place?”

I bit back an irritated retort. “I didn’t want to leave in the first place. I had no choice.”

“Miss Bhayat. The demands you have made on this school are ones no one else before you has made. Your covering your face and refusing to teach boys older than twelve for one. And now about your timings…”

I was confused. I thought this discussion was over.

“However, Sylvia was telling me about your talents and dedication. She said you have the golden touch with the kids. She also said you are very dedicated and give it your all everyday. You don’t regard it so much a job as a passion. And I know from experience that such teachers and therapists usually are the most successful.”

I glanced at him then back down, unsure of how to respond.

“She has requested that you be given a chance and given these concessions and she has given me her assurance that you will still manage and give it your all. If you agree to push your limits further and make this work I’m willing to give you a chance to prove yourself.”

I stared at him, unable to believe what I was hearing.

“Do you agree, Miss Bhayat?”

“Yes!” I squealed, “definitely!” I wanted to jump up and down in excitement. I wanted to hug Mr. Tobias which I couldn’t do of course so I did what I could do. I threw my arms around Sylvia and squeezed the life out of her.

“Thank you!” I whispered fervently in her ear, “I love you so much!”

“Uggh! Let me go,” she gasped in response. I let go of her and laughed, my eyes shining.

“Well,” Mr. Tobias cleared his throat, “now that the celebration is over, let us discuss details. What time will you need to leave school, Miss Bhayat?”

“One-thirty,” I promptly replied, “I’ll work all the way till then, sir.”

“Hmmm…and when will you have lunch then?” Our lunch break was usually from one to two.

“After that,” I replied.

“You have to pray as well,” Sylvia reminded me.

“Yeah, I’ll quickly pray then grab a bite. I’ll squeeze it all in, I guess,” I replied.

Mr. Tobias huffed. “You young girls think you can survive on fresh air. You’ll become like a skeleton if you don’t eat well, especially with your added work load. So you can knock off anytime between one-fifteen and one-thirty. Just make sure you make time to have a proper lunch.”

I bit back a smile at his fatherly tone. “Yes, sir.”

“Alright, that’s settled. You can leave now. Sylvia, make sure she gets her work done.”

“Yes, sir.”

We both left the office in high spirits. I felt like skipping all the way to our office. I excused myself before reaching the office and made a detour to the bathroom to wash my face and freshen up. Staring at my reflection in the mirror, my mind played over the events of the day. I now realised that all this was a test from Allah. Allah had put me in this situation to see if I would choose deen or dunya. I remembered an ayah we had done in madrassah,

مَنْ كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الْآخِرَةِ نَزِدْ لَهُ فِي حَرْثِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الدُّنْيَا نُؤْتِهِ مِنْهَا وَمَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنْ نَصِيبٍ

Whoever intends (to have) the harvest of the Hereafter, We will increase in his harvest; and whoever intends (to have) the harvest of the world (only), We will give him thereof, while in the Hereafter he will have no share.

[Surah Ash-Shura 20]

I also remembered a Hadith with similar words,

“The heart of a Muslim whose object is the hereafter does not care for the worldly pleasures, yet the world is brought to his feet. On the other hand, whoever goes after the world is overpowered by miseries and calamities, yet he cannot receive more than his allotted portion.”

Basically it meant that if we chose the world alone we wouldn’t get more than our share and wouldn’t get the hereafter as well, whereas if we chose the hereafter we would get both the world and the hereafter.

What happened today was a prime example of this. If I had chosen the school I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to teach madrassah at all, but when I chose madrassah I got not only that but the school as well. Mr. Tobias had actually made concessions for me when, by his own admission, he hadn’t done so for anyone else before. This was all through the hukm of Allah. It was a test to see what I gave priority to and the prize of passing the test was a thousand times sweeter. Alhamdulillah!

Part 179

I stared at Layla. “A madrassah,” I repeated.

“Yeah. There’s no real madrassah for special needs kids right now. They used to come to our madrassah and we did try to accommodate them but they used to fall quite far behind and we didn’t really know how to deal with them. Which methods to use, all that. And we couldn’t give them one on one attention because there was a class full of kids also needing our attention. So they didn’t learn much and then the madrassah told the parents to rather place them in a special needs madrassah where people qualified in teaching them could teach them. That way they would learn much better. But I don’t think anyone’s started doing that yet. I haven’t heard of anyone starting such classes. But you could do it, Faz. You’re an alima and a psychologist. You’re working with special needs kids right now. Who better to start this than you?”

“Hmmm…” I tapped my fingers on the trolley, the wheels in my head starting to turn. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I was teaching Muslim kids at school, why didn’t I make fikr for their madrassah? What kind of alima was I?? “I’m so glad you told me this, Layla. I should have thought of it myself. You’re right, I’ll have to do something, inshaAllah.”

“Yes!” Layla squealed then caught me in a hug, “I knew you’d do it Faz. I’m so happy for you and this. You have no idea what a difference you’ll make!”

“Woah, hold on!” I laughed, “I haven’t started anything yet. I have no idea how to go about it as well. This is just an idea for now.”

“You’ll do it, inshaAllah. I’ll give you the number of the principal’s wife. Maybe you can speak to her or your dad can speak to the principal himself. See if they can accommodate you, give you a classroom to hold your classes. I’m sure they won’t mind.”

I held up my hand. “Hold on for now. You can give me the number but please keep this to yourself for now. Let me speak to my mentor first. She might be able to give me a clearer idea on this because I’m still not so experienced in this field.”

“No problem. Let me know how it goes.”

“Sure. And jazakallah again.” I made salaam to her then went to pay for my groceries.

I decided to talk to Sylvia about it even though she wasn’t a Muslim. She could still give me tips on how to go about teaching the Arabic alphabet and how to teach them to read.

“Madrassah,” Sylvia repeated when I explained my plan to her, “you want to teach them about Islam?”

“Yeah. There’s no one else who’s qualified enough to teach them. Meaning qualified as an Islamic teacher and psych. So I don’t think they’re learning anything religious at the moment,” I replied.

“I see. Well, I’m sure it would work. Learning Arabic can’t be harder for them than learning English. They have to learn both from scratch. I’m sure you can use the same methods that you’re using here. Lots of visuals, know, big letters, written in bright, different colours. And go slow. Just the way you’re teaching them here, I should think.”

“Yeah. I also thought so. Let me see if the madrassah agrees to take us on, though.”

I spoke to dad about it that night. My whole family was for the idea. Han was the most excited of them all.

“That’s awesome! You can combine both your degrees to deliver a level of teaching that hardly anyone can do, Faz! This is truly a great blessing from Allah!”

“Yeah, it is,” I agreed, getting caught up in her enthusiasm.

“Let me speak to Maulana Iqbal, the principal, tonight or tomorrow. We’ll see what he says,” dad said.

I nodded happily, thinking I’d receive my answer in a few days.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“What’s up?” Sylvia asked as I walked into our office one day, “have you started teaching at the madressah?”

“Not yet,” I let out a long sigh. Over a month had passed and no news from the principal as yet. He had said he needed to put the matter to the committee for them to decide but surely it couldn’t take them this long??? “They haven’t given us any answer yet.”

Sylvia looked at me with understanding and sympathy. “I guess madressahs are like schools then. Mainstream schools usually don’t like special needs classes held on their premises as well. They prefer us to build our own thing like this school. Only for these kids.”

“But it’s not like I’ll be mixing these kids with the other ones in one class!” I burst out, “all I need is an empty classroom! Or two!”

“Unfortunately they don’t think like us. I always say, let them come and see us work for one month. It would open those pea-sized eyes and brains of theirs!” Sylvia rolled her eyes and I started laughing.

“Thanks for that. At least I’m not alone in my frustrations.”

“You’re only just beginning to see, my dear! You’ll see much worse in the future. I can assure you of that!” Sylvia gave me a grim smile then checked her watch. “You got a class now, right?”

“Yeah, the tiny tots. They’re so adorable to start off with. Then they show their true colours and wham! I find myself in the middle of a dozen tiny bulldozers!” Sylvia’s laughter followed me out of the office.

I walked into the classroom to find the usual chaos. Some of the kids were jumping up and down on the tables. Others were running around. One was crawling on all fours, making loud guttural sounds like a car or truck. Another one was in the corner, flapping his hands repeatedly. In another corner a girl was holding her hands over her ears and looking close to screaming. Another girl was sitting in a chair staring into space…seemingly oblivious to the noise and chaos around her. They were diverse, each with their own sensitivities and quirks. And that made mine…and other teachers…jobs ten times harder. We couldn’t just clap our hands and yell, “Quiet! Order!” It didn’t work here. We had to relate to each kid and know what would work with them. Of course, I still started off the same way. After standing, ignored, for about a minute I clapped my hands loudly.

“Silence now! Sit down in your seats, everyone!”

Half of them scrambled for their chairs and threw themselves in them. The other half carried on doing their own thing. I walked slowly to the girl with ASD who had her hands over her ears. I gently pried her hands away.

“Come now, Kayla. Let’s sit down, shall we?” I said with a smile. I led her to her chair and sat her down in it. Then I moved around the classroom, settling the more unsettled kids. Finally, after around ten minutes peace reigned. Making the most of it before it disintegrated again, I smiled at them.

“How are you today?”

“Fine, thank you, and how are you, Miss?” They chorused.

“I am fine, thank you. Now, what are we going to learn today?” I pointed to the visual schedule stuck on the wall. The one I pointed at had an array of colours on the sticker. “Colours!” I announced when no one spoke up. I turned back to my table where I had placed a basket of fruit and vegetables next to a pile of small charts. I had drawn different things on the charts.

I picked up one chart which had a big sun drawn on it. “What colour is this?”

There was a beat of silence then a boy sitting at the front spoke up. “Yellow.”

“Yes! This is yellow!” I pointed to the sun and repeated again slowly. “Yellow.” Then I picked a banana from the basket and held it out. “See? This banana is yellow. Yellow!” Then I removed a lemon. “Look. Lemon. This lemon is yellow. Yellow.”

I did that with the many different colours, using the charts, fruits and vegetables, making sure I spoke slowly so that everyone understood me. I also had to make sure all the kids were looking at me and paying attention because their attention span was not so long.

“Kayla, what colour is this?” I held up a strawberry,” what colour?” She continued to look out of the window, “Kayla!” When she looked at me I repeated my question then held her gaze. She stared for a few moments then finally mumbled, “red.”

“Yes! Well done!” I flashed her a wide smile and was rewarded with a small smile in return.

After I had finished the colours session I removed the colours sticker from the visual schedule and dropped it in the pile of activities already done. Then I pointed to the next activity.

“What are we going to do now?”

“Fruits again?” A girl asked, looking at the banana and carrot drawn on the sticker.

“Yes! We are going to play shop!”

That perked them up. Nothing to get these kids going like some fun and games. And they would learn important things at the same time.

I was the shopkeeper and I was selling fruits and vegetables. I stood behind my desk and lined up all the fruits and vegetables on the desk. Fruits on one side, vegetables on the other side. The I went around and lined the kids up.

“All of you are going to buy one fruit and one vegetable. Okay? Now stand in line. Wait for your turn. Don’t fight and push, okay? You can choose anything you want. Tell me the name of what you will buy so I know what to give you. Okay? Come, let’s begin!” For more authenticity I had brought an apron from home which I now tied around my waist. I handed each child paper money and coins which they excitedly clutched in their small hands. Then I went around the desk again.

“Okay. Moses. What would you like to buy?”

Moses jabbed a finger at an apple.

“You have to tell me the name, sweety. What is this?”

“Apple,” he replied.

“Yes, good!” I held up the Apple so everyone could see, “this is an apple. Moses is going to buy an apple! And which vegetable would you like, Moses?” I pointed to the line of vegetables. Moses scrunched up his face.

“I don’t like vegetables.”

“It’s okay, just buy one. Then you can give it to your mummy if you don’t like it.”

Moses regarded the vegetables for a long moment then said, “carrot.”

“Which one is the carrot?” When he had pointed it out I nodded then held up the carrot, “this is a carrot! A carrot! Give me your money, Moses.” I collected his money then handed him the apple and carrot and told him to go sit in his place. I did the same with all the kids till everyone had a fruit and vegetable in their hands. They happily chomped up their purchases, leaving the ones they didn’t like for their mummies. When my period was over I placed the sticker with the banana and carrot drawn on it on the pile of activities and picked up my bag and empty basket.

“See you all tomorrow! Be good!” I waved at them and walked out, hearing the noise levels shoot up as soon as I was out of the classroom. I smiled and walked to the office to write up my report.

“Daddy!” I called out that evening. I had heard his car arrive and went downstairs to meet him, “any news about the madrassah?”

“You have the instincts of a bloodhound,” dad joked.

“Meaning? Tell me!” I leaned forward eagerly.

“They’ve accepted. They’ll give you one classroom for now and another if and when you have need for it…”

“Yayyy! Alhamdulillah!” I threw my arms around dad in excitement.

“Uff! Wait for the rest of the news first,” dad gasped, trying to extricate himself from my stranglehold. He stepped back, eyeing me warily. “They have conditions.”

“Bring them on,” I said with a sigh. I knew the ‘but’ was in there somewhere.

“You’ll be a part of their madrassah so you have to follow the same rules the other ustadhs do. They wanted to know if you want a wage…”

I shook my head. “I have no need for one. This will be voluntary.”

“Okay, then they’ll be more lax with you,” dad grinned, “but you’ll still have some rules to follow. Your timings for one. And your teaching days. You’ll have to teach whenever madrassah is open and you’ll have hols when they do. And your timings will be the same as madrassah timings. Will you manage that?”

I was stumped at that. “I’m not sure.” I usually got to school at around eight and though the kids knocked off at one I stayed till three or sometimes even four if I had more work to do. Madrassah, on the other hand, started sharp at two. That meant I had to be there at two, which meant I had to leave school at one-thirty at the latest. Would they agree to let me go?

I was in a real fix for almost two weeks. I didn’t know what to do. What if the school refused to let me leave that early; would I have to choose between school and madrassah? Which one would I choose?

But when the axe finally fell and I was forced to make a decision…even though I felt like I had been severed in half, I uttered the final, damning words…

“I will leave the school.”

Part 178

“Go on. Tell me what you see.”

I scanned the area slowly, my eyes flitting from one child to the next. I focused on the ones I had an idea about first. There was a boy by himself in one corner, spinning round and round.

“That kid spinning around by himself…ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)?”

She followed my gaze and smiled. “Yes.”

Another was turning cartwheels and somersaults at an extraordinarily fast pace. “ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder)?”

“No. Look carefully at him. See how he keeps to himself in one corner? See his repetitive behaviour and movements? What does that tell you?”

“ASD again?”

“Yes. Kids with ADHD are also hyperactive but their movements are not repetitive and they’re everywhere at once. You have to look at the small details sometimes…”

I nodded in agreement.

“Anything else?”

I pursed my lips and sifted through the kids again.

“That one’s got Down Syndrome,” I pointed to a little girl with the noticeable features.

“Yes, that’s obvious,” Sylvia laughed, “what else can you tell me about Down Syndrome kids?”

“Uhmmm…” I rifled through my mental file, “it’s a chromosomal disorder…most easily identified because of the facial features presented at birth. They have speech and language delay, intellectual impairment, low muscle tone which affects their motor development, which in turn affects their reading, writing and spelling skills…and, yes. That’s it, basically.”

“Good girl. You’ve been learning your work,” Sylvia flashed me a grin. “Anything else?” she waved at the playground again.

I saw a boy away from the other kids, his hands over his ears, a frustrated expression on his face. I stared at him, trying to figure it out. Then I got it!

“That boy over there…ASD?”

“Yup. How did you figure it out?”

“He’s obviously hyper (hyper-sensitive). Can’t take the noise and crowds around him.”

“Yes, you got it.”

“Does that kid have ADHD?” I pointed to a boy who was running around, jumping up and down, pulling a girl’s ponytail then giggling and running away, and basically just all over the place.

“Depends. He could be just hyperactive. For him to be diagnosed with ADHD he needs to have inattention, high activity and impulsivity. All three symptoms.”

“I see,” I nodded thoughtfully.

We did this once in a while. Sylvia would bring me to the playground then we would sit on one of the benches and she would quiz me on the different types of children playing around. She always had different questions up her sleeve so I had to be jacked up. I knew she was pleased with my answers today. The first time she had brought me here I hadn’t been able to identify more than two symptoms.

Just then the bell rang.

“You got a class now, right?” Sylvia asked.

I nodded and got up. “Yup. It’s Sandra today. I’ll be doing a spot of play therapy with her.”

“Good. Bring me your assessment when you’re done,” Sylvia nodded at me with a smile then walked off in the opposite direction.

I walked into the classrom which was empty at the moment, and got to work. I removed the tin I had filled with poker chips from the cupboard and placed it on the table then removed a notebook and carefully cut out eight six-inch pieces of paper. I piled them up neatly next to the tin, placed a marker on top of them then wiped my hands on my abaya. I had just taken a seat behind the desk when the door opened and an eight-year old girl sidled in, her eyes darting around nervously. I smiled warmly at her and stood up again.

“Hello, Sandra. Come in,” I said, keeping my voice soft and soothing. Sandra hesitated then walked forward slowly, her eyes on her shoes. I walked forward as well to meet her halfway then dropped to my knees in front of her. Her eyes shot to mine, startled.

“How are you doing today?” I asked.

“Fine,” she mumbled.

“Would you like to tell me what you did today?”

She shrugged. “Nothing much.”

“Did you colour anything? Draw any pictures?” I knew she liked drawing pictures and colouring them.

A small smile flitted across her face. “Yes. I drew a bird…and coloured it blue.”

“That’s nice! Blue is my favourite colour!” I exclaimed. She looked at me again, startled, and I wondered if I’d sounded too enthusiastic.

“Mine too,” she mumbled after a while.

“That’s nice. Do you know what we’re going to do here today?”

She shook her head, looking apprehensive again. Her eyes darted around and she licked her lips nervously. My heart went out to her.

Sandra had started school a couple of months ago. She’d never been to school before so she was placed in the low-functioning class. However we had noticed that her behaviour was rather unusual and disturbing. She was very withdrawn, hardly interacting with anyone. She had a nervous disposition and got startled quite easily. She had underlying anxiety and depression which was visible from time to time. Sylvia had told me her behaviour screamed of abuse and neglect…she had dealt with such cases before since government schools unfortunately had quite a few cases of abuse and neglect…but so far we hadn’t managed to get anything out of her. The moment we asked her anything she clamped up and retreated behind a mental wall. I was doing this session today in the hopes of drawing her out. I had told Sylvia to do it since she had way more experience than me but she had pushed me to do it, saying I had a golden touch with kids (her words, not mine) and I would be able to handle it. So here I was, frantically wondering how best to approach this and praying that I wouldn’t inadvertently make things worse.

We’re going to play a game!” I exclaimed, clapping my hands excitedly.

Her eyes shot to mine and widened. “A game???”

“Yes. Come, sit with me and let me explain how to play it.”

I saw her relax and she moved forward more easily. I sat down on the carpet and patted the space in front of me. She sat down across me, watching as I placed the tin with the chips between us then placed the papers and marker next to it.

“We are going to play a game called, “The Feeling Word Game”. Now, I want you to tell me some of the feelings that a girl who is eight years old has. I will write them down on these pieces of paper.” I picked up the marker and tapped the pile of papers then picked them up and looked at her expectantly.

“Feelings? Like happy, sad?”

“Yes, exactly! So we have happy,” I wrote down Happy on the first piece of paper, “sad,” I wrote down Sad on the second piece, “anything other feelings you know?”

Sandra scrunched up her forehead. “Angry?”

“Yes,” I scribbled Angry on the third piece then looked at her again.


“Yes, definitely,” I said, surprised that she would know such a word. I wrote down Depressed on the fourth piece.


“Yes, good,” I wrote down Crying on the fifth piece.

“Uhmmm…I don’t know.”

“How about hurt?”

“Meaning?” Sandra looked at me blankly.

“Meaning when your heart hurts when something bad happens to you,” I replied.

“Oh…ya, that’s okay.”

I wrote down Hurt on the sixth piece.

“Anything else you feel everyday, sweety?”

“Afraid,” the word was a mere whisper.

“You are right. That’s very important,” I smiled at her encouragingly, forcing myself not to react at the flash of fear in her eyes. I wrote down Afraid on the seventh piece.

“And the last one?” I looked at her but she shook her head.

“How about surprise?”

“Yes,” she smiled slightly.

I wrote down Surprise on the last piece of paper then lined them in front of her. “See, here are all of the feeling words. Now this,” I tapped the tin then stopped at the look on her face. She was looking at the words but her face was blank…without a hint of comprehension. With a jolt I realised that she couldn’t read. Of course! I should have known that!

“Oh no! I forgot to add the faces!” I exclaimed, snatching up the pieces of paper again, “they look so boring without the faces, don’t they?” I swiftly drew faces with different expressions under the words. Smiling face under Happy, sad face under Sad, angry face under Angry and so on. I made the depressed face’s pout bigger than the Sad one and drew wide saucer eyes for Afraid. “See here? This one is Depressed. It’s worse than Sad. And this one is Afraid, okay?” Angry was a red face. Hurt had a broken heart below the word. Surprise was a face with it’s mouth wide open. Thank goodness for WhatsApp emojis! At least they gave me ideas.

Once I was done I lined them up again infront of her. “Now here I have a tin of feelings,” I tapped the tin in front of me, “first I’m gonna tell you a story, then I will put down the feelings from the story on these words. Okay?”

Sandra nodded, looking at the tin curiously.

“Okay, this story is about myself. One day I was going shopping. On my way to the shops I saw a stray cat meowing away pitifully…”

“What is pitifully?” Sandra interrupted.

“In a very sad way,” I replied, “I felt sorry for it so I went near it. When I drew closer to it it got scared and ran away. I saw that it was very hungry because it looked really thin so I bought a carton of milk and went after it. I saw it sitting in a corner looking so sad. I knew it would be scared of me so I went near it slowly and held out the carton of milk. The cat thought I wanted to harm it so it got very angry and scratched me. That made me angry but because it was hungry I didn’t go away. I opened the carton and allowed the milk to spill out of it. When the cat saw it it got happy and started drinking the milk up fast. It drank till it was full then sat down, satisfied, and started washing it’s face. When I saw it happy I also got happy. I stayed for a while, watching it, then turned to go away. The cat followed me but when I reached the road it suddenly ran ahead of me. I saw a car coming it’s way in speed and I screamed but it was too late. The car ran over the cat and it died. Seeing this I got so sad. I went by it, picked up it’s body then put it in an empty place so no one else can squash it. Then I went to do my shopping but I was still very sad that the cat had died.” I paused and looked at Sandra. She had tears in her eyes which she hastily wiped away. I leaned forward and impulsively wiped away her stray tears, surprising a stunned look out of her. I stroked her cheek then sat back again, smiling at her softly though my chest ached at the wide-eyed look on her face. Was affection that scarce in her life that a simple touch could shock her?

“Okay, now let’s put my feelings on these words. What happened first?”

“You went shopping,” Sandra said dutifully.

“Yes, and that made me happy,” I replied. I removed two chips from the tin and placed them on Happy. “Then I saw the cat and felt sad for it,” I removed one chip and placed it on Sad, “then when I went after it and it scratched me it made me angry,” I removed two chips and placed them on Angry, “then when it drank the milk and got happy it made me happy,” I removed three chips and placed them on Happy, “and then when it got ran over by the car it made me very sad,” I removed five chips and placed them on Sad, “do you see now? See how many feelings I had in one story? Happy, sad, angry, then happy again then sad again. And see how many chips are on each feeling? Some have more chips, some have less. That shows that we can have more than one feeling at the same time and some feelings can be more than others. Do you understand, sweety?”

Sandra nodded, looking at me then at the chips. “Now I’ll tell you a story about yourself,” I said.

Instantly she looked fearful. “What story?”

“A story like mine. Do you want a happy ending?”

“My stories don’t have happy endings,” she mumbled.

“This story will have if you want it,” I said firmly.

She looked at me then nodded.

“Okay. Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl named Sandra…”

Sandra giggled. “I’m not beautiful.”

“Of course you are,” I replied.

“My mum always calls me a fat bitch.” Then she gasped and her hands flew to her mouth, her eyes staring at me in horror. I fought down the anger that rose in me at her heartless mother and leaned forward, gently prying her hands away from her face.

“You’re not fat, Sandra, and you’re definitely not a bitch. That’s an ugly, rude word and it has no space in your life. You are beautiful and smart. Remember that. Okay?”

“Okay,” Sandra repeated but she didn’t look convinced.

“Now, where were we? Oh yes…there was a beautiful girl called Sandra who loved ice cream and loved to go to the park. So one nice, sunny day her mummy and daddy took her to the park to play. First she went on the slide. She slid down with a “wheeeee!” She loved the slide! Then she went on the monkey bar. She climbed all the way till the top then sat there where she felt like she could see the whole world! She looked at everyone for a little while then she climbed down again. Then she went on the swing. She loved to swing high so she swung faster and faster till she was going very fast and high. She was enjoying herself very much. But suddenly a big boy came from behind and gave the swing a big push. She screamed and fell to the ground. She scraped her knee and got hurt. She started crying a lot because it hurt and because she was hurt that the boy had been so mean to her. She hadn’t done anything to the boy so why did he do that?? Her mummy and daddy came running up to her. They shouted at the boy then picked her up and carried her to the bench. Her mummy put a nice medicine on her knees and she started feeling better. Then they heard the ice cream bus so her mummy and daddy took her to buy a big strawberry ice cream. Her favourite flavour! She got so happy and ate it all up before it could melt. Then she felt better so she wanted to go play again. When she was going towards the slide she saw the big mean boy coming towards her again. She got afraid and turned to look at her daddy. He smiled and gave her a thumbs up, then glared at the boy. He got scared of her daddy and ran away. So she was able to play nicely on the slide and no one disturbed her again.”

Sandra’s face was a mixture of emotions when I finished. Her mouth was curved in a wistful smile; pain lent a glassy sheen to her eyes. I had to force myself to ignore the tell-tale signs and concentrate on our task.

“Right, so,” I continued briskly, “what emotions would you put on this story?”

“Uhmmm,” Sandra looked at the words in front of her intently, “she…I mean I…went to the park, right?”


“So that would make me happy.”

“How happy?”

Very happy,” Sandra emphasised.

“Okay, so how many chips do you wanna put on Happy?”

“Uhmmm, five?”

“Sure, go ahead,” I grinned at her and removed five chips,holding them out in my palm. She took them and placed them on Happy.

“Then I went on the slide. That would also make me happy.”

“Mhmmm. How happy?”

“Three,” she declared and placed three more chips on Happy.

“Then I went on the monkey bar. That would be one. I’m scared of heights,” she confessed, looking at me anxiously.

“Okay, you can change the story. Put a chip on Afraid if you want.”

Sandra nodded and placed a chip on Afraid. “Then I went on the swing. That would make me very happy. So four,” she smiled and placed four more chips on Happy. “Then that silly billy came and pushed me off. That would make me angry…and hurt…and made me cry,” she put five chips on Angry, five on Hurt and five more on Crying. “Then my mummy and daddy bought me ice cream. That would make me very happy again…and what’s this?” She pointed to Surprise.

Surprise,” I said.

“Yeah, it would make me surprised as well,” she placed two chips on Surprise.

“Then that boy came by me again so I got scared again,” she placed three chips on Afraid, “and then my daddy shouted at him and he ran away so I got happy,” she placed three more chips on Happy. By the end of it Happy had a wobbling tower of chips, with varying amounts on Afraid, Angry, Hurt and Surprise.

“What does this show you?” I asked.

“That we can have more than one feeling at the same time,” she replied automatically.

“Uhuh, and?”

“And they can be different amounts.”

“Good!” I flashed her a wide smile, “now it’s your turn to tell me a story.”

She immediately turned fearful again. “I don’t know any story.”

“Sure you do. It can be about anything. Anything that happened to you or anything that you saw…or you could just make up a story. It doesn’t have to be fancy, Sandra.”

“Do I have to tell a story about myself or you?” She asked.

“About yourself. Then I’ll put the feelings on your story,” I replied.

Sandra remained silent for a long while. “Okay…there was once a girl named Sandra. She was eight years old,” she began in a slow, halting voice, “she had five brothers and sisters. Two sisters were older than her and three brothers were younger than her. Her oldest sister was pretty. So pretty. Everyone told her that. The other sister was very clever. Her daddy said she will become a doctor one day. My brothers are nice. They are naughty sometimes. They like crying and asking for attention, especially my baby brother. But mummy and daddy don’t mind. They say boys will be boys. I also don’t mind. I like looking after them…bathing them, feeding them. My baby brother bit me once and it hurt me a lot but I know he didn’t mean it. He also splashes water on my clothes when I bath him and makes them all wet but I just laugh. Once he pulled my hair hard. It hurt me a lot and I hit him back. When mummy saw what I did she…she hit me and said I must never hit him again,” she stopped and looked at me fearfully.

“It’s just a story, Sandra. You can say anything you want because it’s just a story,” I said with a reassuring smile.

Sandra nodded and looked down again, fiddling with her fingers. “One day my sisters and brothers were sitting at the table with mummy and daddy, reading books and playing games. There was no space for me to sit so I sat behind them on the floor. Mummy shouted at me and told me to wash the dishes and not be a lazy bi…girl. I got up and washed all the dishes then swept the floor and cleaned the kitchen. I told my sisters to help but they laughed and said they were not maids. After I cleaned the kitchen mummy told me to take my brothers for their bath and put them to sleep. I took them and bathed them, then played a small game with them. Now I was also playing games just like my sisters and that made me happy. I put my brothers to sleep then went back to the kitchen. Mummy came out and hit me because the kitchen wasn’t cleaned properly. I ran away to my room and started crying. Suddenly an angel came and asked me why I was crying. I told him everything and he hugged me and told me to pack my bag and he would take me far away from here. I got very happy when I heard that and quickly packed my bag. The angel told me to meet him outside and flew out through the window. I quietly went downstairs. Daddy was drunk again and hitting mummy and she was crying. I didn’t want them to see me so I quickly slipped out and ran to my angel. He carried me on his back and flew away with me to a far away land where we lived happily ever after.” Sandra raised her eyes and smiled, then frowned when she saw the tears on my face.

“Miss? Why are you crying?”

“Because your angel seems so kind and strong. I wish I also had an angel of my own,” I quickly replied, wiping away my tears.

“You can get your own,” Sandra leaned forward conspiratorially, “you must stand at your window when the moon is full and wish with all your heart for an angel. That’s what I did and I got mine. Oh and I was also crying. He told me he could smell my tears so he came for me.”

I almost believed her, so convincing was she. My heart ached for this brave little girl sitting in front of me. In one story she had painted the picture of her life; middle child syndrome; neglected; abused; overworked. The angel part was her own fairytale but I did not doubt that the rest of it was true. I had seen the emotions playing across her face as she talked; I had seen the clenching of her hands repeatedly. She had only said this much under the guise of a story, otherwise, I had no doubt that she would never have revealed as much. It was imperative that I played along with her and attached no importance to her revelations. A story it was and a story it would remain until I exited this room.

“I’ll definitely look out for my angel from tonight, Sandra,” I smiled at her, “now, can I start putting the feelings to your story?”

I stayed with her for two hours, unwilling to leave her until I had a clearer picture of her situation. We exchanged more stories. I told her stories about my life so she could do the same. She didn’t divulge many details but as time went by the brick wall surrounding her was chipped away, piece by piece, revealing the framework of her life encased within. Sylvia popped in once, raising her eyebrows when she saw me still mid-session, tapping her watch impatiently. I waved her away with a brief shake of my head. Luckily she deduced the importance of my delay and left quietly once more. When I finally felt that we had done enough for today I wrapped up the session.

“Well, that was interesting!” I exclaimed, packing away the chips and stacking up the pieces of paper, “I enjoyed this game. How about you, Sandra?”

“I loved it!” She admitted softly, her eyes shining.

“Good. We should do this again!” Impulsively I gave her a hug. She stiffened in shock then melted against me. I held her tightly then pulled away.

“See you again, beautiful princess,” I smiled at her. She was staring at me with awestruck eyes.

“I like you,” she whispered then ran out of there.

“I like you too, princess” I whispered to her retreating back. I made my way to Sylvia’s office.

“This better be good,” Sylvia said as soon as she saw me.

“More than good! Wait till you read my report!” I beamed, flopping down into my chair.

“Forget the report. I want to hear everything now!”

I chuckled. “So impatient…”

Sylvia gave me a mock-glare and tapped her foot impatiently. “I’m waiting, missy.”

I sighed then related everything to her. Her eyes got wider and wider as I went through my narrative.

“I knew it!” She exclaimed, thumping her fist on the table, “I knew it was abuse and neglect. I could smell it a mile away. But I didn’t expect you to get results so fast. Well done, Faz. I told you you have the golden touch with kids.”

“Oh, pshhttt, anyone could do that. It wasn’t rocket science,” I waved my hand.

Sylvia raised her eyebrows at me. “I’ve been in this field long enough to know a thing or two about it, missy. Hardly anyone gets their charges to open up so fast. It would take quite a few sessions to dig up what you told me today so don’t you “psshhtt” me, okay!”

I laughed. “Yes, ma’am,” I said, throwing her a mock-salute.

I practically danced out of school that day. I had gotten Sandra to open up and my mentor had said I have the golden touch. I felt like dancing on the rooftop! Yeah, that would make headlines for sure! Only instead of the headline being, “The Girl with the Golden Touch,” it would be, “wacko niqaabo doing the Macarena on the school roof!”

My phone rang as soon as I got in the car.

“Assalamu alaykum. Jee, mum.” I answered, looking in my rear view mirror as I reversed out of the parking lot.

“Fazila, where are you?”

“Just leaving school now. Sorry, I got delayed today and didn’t get the chance to message you.”

“You should let me know when you’re going to be late so I don’t worry about you!”

I sighed. “Jee mum.”

“Anyways, can you pass by the supermarket and get me bread and milk? Oh, and we’ve also run out of carrots and mushrooms.”

“Okay, I’ll get them on my way. Salaams.” I cut the call and threw my phone in my bag.

I was walking towards the cashier after loading everything into the trolley when someone tapped me on my shoulder.


I turned around. “Assalamu alaykum, Layla! Nice to see you after so long!” I exclaimed, hugging her. Layla had been my madrassah classmate but I hadn’t seen her since we’d graduated.

“Yeah, man, haven’t seen you around. You teach or anything?”

“Yeah, I teach Riyaadh at mads. How about you?”

“I’m teaching at the maktab madrassah. For the small kids.”

“Oh, that’s nice!” I exclaimed, “which grade?”

“Grade fours,” she replied.

“Nice, mashaAllah,” I smiled.

“You only teaching the one kitab?” Layla asked, “what do you do the rest of the day?”

“Oh, I’m doing my masters part time and teaching at a special needs school,” I said enthusiastically, “you know I’ve studied psychology?” I added when she looked at me blankly.

“No, I didn’t know. When?”

“Before I started my alima course. I didn’t do my masters though, so I’m doing it now. And in the meantime I do therapy with special needs kids under a qualified psychologist.”

“Wow, nice. I didn’t know you’re a psychologist, Faz,” she teased.

I laughed. “Yeah, so I have to juggle both, I guess. My madrassah degree and my psych degree.”

Layla’s gaze suddenly sharpened. “Do you have muslim kids at the school you teach?”

“Yeah, some. Why?”

Her mouth slowly curved into a smile. “Why don’t you start madrassah for them?”

4000+ words! Longest post ever lol. By the time I reached the ending I felt like I had forgotten the beginning😂

P.S. Jazakallah khair for the outpouring of support yesterday and today. It warmed my heart,truly. Uhibbukunna fillah (love you’ll for the pleasure of Allah)❤❤❤


Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

I would like to make some things clear for you’ll. I said I’ll post twice a week and I fully planned on following it through. And for a long while I did. I gave you’ll posts on time, something very few blogs do. But life is unpredictable. Things happen. Things we didn’t foresee. When that does happen, we need to take steps to solve those issues. And when that happens then writing schedules can go haywire. I can assure you’ll that I’m not relaxing under the stars and deliberately delaying my posts. Today my son was vomiting constantly. Everything that went in came out again. I had my hands full with him. Yesterday I was writing my post but kept getting disturbed by hubby and kids. I could not manage to get enough alone time to pen the whole post. Today I again tried but the above circumstances intruded and I simply could not complete. I was not going to write this at all but getting comments like “I’m getting so put off with this blog” and “this is so disappointing” is upsetting. Because I do try. So please, all I’m asking for is patience and understanding. Empathy. I do not put my life story out there all the time but know that delays are caused by valid circumstances and be patient. It’s not like I even delay my posts by as much as a week. Maybe one or two days. Is that enough to make a hoo-haa about? So send some duas my way while you’re waiting. Those will help me more than your comments will…


Duas xxx

Part 177

Mr. Tobias, a portly, middle aged man, steepled his fingers and stared at me over the rims of his spectacles.

“So, Miss Bhayat. You say you’ve never worked in a school before?”

“No, sir, I haven’t,” I replied quietly, my hands folded in my lap.

“You’ve never worked with children before?”

“I have.” His eyebrows raised almost imperceptibly at that, “I taught children at an orphanage in England.”

“Interesting,” he nodded thoughtfully, “however, they were not special needs children, were they?”

“No, they were not. It’s my first time dealing with special needs kids and I want to learn as much as possible.”

“Yes, of course,” he murmured, his fingers lightly tapping the file which contained my certificates and degree, “however…” his gaze sharpened as it looked over me, “pardon me for asking but I don’t know how they will react to being taught by someone whose face they can’t see…?” He trailed off, looking at me expectantly.

Here we go.

“I don’t think that will be a problem, sir, since I don’t need to cover my face in front of children. They will be able to see my face just like any other woman.” I smirked at his look of surprise, knowing he couldn’t see it.

“I see. So who exactly do you have to cover up from?”

“Men and boys over the age of twelve. Which brings me to my next request, sir,” I drew in a breath and exhaled in a rush of words, “would it be possible for me to deal with only boys under the age of twelve? I can take girls of any age but for boys…since you mentioned that it would be difficult for them to learn if they can’t see my face and I myself won’t be able to talk to them freely due to religious stipulations, can they be taken by any other therapist instead?” I held my breath as I saw a frown form on his face.

“A most unusual request, Miss Bhayat…”

“Yes, sir. I only want to learn while following my religion at the same time. I don’t want to sacrifice one for the other,” I said in a rush.

Mr. Tobias nodded again, his lips pursed thoughtfully. “We will consider it. Anything else you would like to know?”

“No, sir. This school is lovely, truly. The children are so adorable, so enthusiastic! I could be around them the whole day…” I trailed off, slightly embarrassed by my show of emotion. I’m sure he saw it reflected in my eyes because I saw the unguarded look of surprise flit across his face again. He stood up and I followed suit.

“We will review your application and let you know our answer in a few days. Good to meet you, Miss Bhayat,” he held out his hand formally. I stared at it, startled.

“Errr, I’m sorry, sir…we don’t shake hands with men in my religion,” I shot him a look of apology then lowered my gaze again.

“Hmmph,” abruptly the hand disappeared from my line of vision, “quite an opinionated young woman you are, it seems.”

I swallowed the giggle that rose in my throat and inclined my head demurely instead. I took my leave then, praying that I would be accepted. I knew, I just knew that this was the place for me.

Three days later i received my answer; positive! I squealed and ran into the kitchen, throwing my arms around mum.

“I got accepted! I got accepted!”

“Alhamdulillah!” Mum laughed and hugged me back, “I’m happy for you, sweety.”

I was ecstatic! I had to start the following week Monday and I couldn’t help the anticipation building up in me even as a bundle of nerves coiled in my stomach.

On Monday I woke up super early to get ready. I went to madrassah to teach my early morning period then came back and switched my burqa for a pale blue chiffon hijab. First impressions mattered, even in just a hijab and abaya. I tied my niqaab, grabbed my bag and phone and raced down the stairs, making salaam loudly to mum as I passed the kitchen. I drove to the school, parked in a convenient spot then got out, scanning the area slowly. It was relatively quiet, which meant I was either quite early or quite late. I couldn’t be late though, I thought as I walked to Mr. Tobias’s office. I was sure he had said eight-thirty and it was still eight-twenty now.

“Miss Bhayat,” Mr. Tobias looked up and smiled slightly when I entered his office, “nice to see you again.” His manner was more cordial than before and some of the tension went out of me.

“Mr. Tobias,” I replied, “nice to be here again.”

“Good, good. Let me call Sylvia. She’ll take over from here.” He punched in a series of numbers rapidly on his iPhone and spoke into it quietly, “Sylvia, I need you to come now. The new recruit is here. Yes, come along so you can get started.” He hung up.

New recruit? Okay then!

Five minutes later a tall, attractive woman walked briskly through the door. She looked to be in her mid-thirties. Her eyes landed on me, widened slightly then moved on to Mr. Tobias. “Hello, sir.”

“Yes, Sylvia. You may take her, show her around. She’s all yours,” he flashed her a smile.

Sylvia turned back to me and her face softened slightly with a smile. “Hello. My name is Sylvia Roussell. I’m the psychologist here…and your new mentor.” There was a hint of foreign accent under her South African accent.

“Fazila Bhayat,” I moved forward and held out my hand with a warm smile, though she couldn’t see my smile. She shook it firmly then led me out of the office and through the winding paths and hallways. She stopped outside an office and pushed it open, walking in. I followed her, seeing three other women seated in chairs around a small table. They all looked up as we entered. My eyes zeroed in on an arab woman in hijab and I relaxed almost imperceptibly. The woman on her left had chocolate skin and dark eyes which appraised me curiously. On her right was a small, Chinese woman with bright, intelligent eyes.

“Fazila, this is Lian. She’s our Speech Therapist,” Sylvia gestured to the Chinese woman, “this is Hayat, our OT,” she gestured to the Arab woman, “and this is Brenda, our physiotherapist,” she indicated to the woman at the end. I removed my niqaab and flashed them my warmest smile.

“Nice to meet you’ll. I’m Fazila Bhayat.”

“And nice to meet you too!” Brenda exclaimed, “and to see your face, of course. At least now I know who I’m talking to,” she chuckled. I simply smiled in response.

“Are you an Arab as well, ukhti?” Hayat asked.

“No, pure Indian I’m afraid,” I chuckled.

“Interesting. Just what we needed to complete our five-some,” Lian exclaimed laughingly.

“I know. Quite the rainbow nation we are, aren’t we?” Brenda looked at all of us and laughed again. We all started laughing as well, though the main reason for my laughter was relief that they were all women. Alhamdulillah! I thought. At least I wouldn’t have to keep wearing niqaab around them.

“So, Fazila, as I mentioned you’ll be under me. These lot will do their own thing. Once a week we will gather here to review our cases. Okay?”

“No problem,” I replied. I greeted the other women again then followed Sylvia out of there and into a smaller office which was hers exclusively and now mine as well.

The rest of the day passed smoothly while I slowly learned the ropes under Sylvia. My knowledge of this field was pitifully little, though I had gone through some of the books that I’d studied at campus. It had been so long ago…four years to be precise. Four years in which I had shoved all this aside and filled my head with Islamic knowledge. I had to relearn most of it but luckily Sylvia was a patient and thorough teacher and I quickly grew comfortable around her. I observed her as she did the diagnostic tests for new admissions into the school and as she moved through different processes of diagnosing different children and typed up the assessments of each. I volunteered to type up her notes for her and that also gave me a better understanding of the process. Writing down things seemed to get in my head better than simply listening to them.

As days turned to weeks I fell into a routine. In the beginning it was all so mind boggling but as time went by I learnt more, I adapted well and the kids became my source of joy each day. Each day was different, bringing with it it’s own challenges…each day I discovered something I’d never known before…there were hurdles, many of them…times when my patience was tested to it’s limits…but at the end of each day I left with a sense of accomplishment and profound pride, in myself and in my kids. We were all growing together every day…

Part 176

So sorry to keep you’ll waiting…and hoping…and worrying…But we’re back on track now inshaAllah.

A huge shout out and Jazakillah Khair to the author of finding my way, without whom this post would not have been possible. You are truly a lifesaver ukhti😘❤

Enjoy and drop me your feedbacks xxx

Every person has a calling in life. Every person has that one talent that can make a difference, if not to the entire world then to the space of earth he or she occupies. Sometimes it could be more than one talent. Some people have so much to give but even those that feel they don’t have much to give still have that one thing…that one quality that can make a world of difference to someone. However, for some that calling is right before them. They’ve had it in the palm of their hand their entire lives and they know just how to utilise it. But for others…they don’t know…they don’t know that they’re capable of reaching the stars…if they only reach out for them…

Every person has to reach within themselves, to tap that quality and bring it forth, to hold it in the palm of their hand and let it light up the world…

Who would have known…who would have imagined that the steps I took through life would reach here one day. Who would have thought that I would carve out a niche for myself in the one corner of the world that I would never have imagined myself stepping into. But that day, as I stood at the top of the driveway, looking down at this beautiful, safe haven, seeing all those innocent angels running around, I knew that I had found my calling in life…

It didn’t come to me immediately. After lazing around the whole of December I knew I had to do something. I had already applied at the same madrassah I had graduated from and had started teaching there early in the mornings. But then I was free for the rest of the day and I definitely didn’t want to turn into a housewife already!

Then my thoughts turned to my psychology degree. I had to do something about that. I couldn’t let years of studying go to waste. Only when I started asking questions I realised that I needed to do my masters to go any further. More studying! I groaned internally then got cracking. I found out that I could do my masters part time online so I immediately applied at the University of Pretoria. That basically meant I could study from home and would only have to go up three or four times a year for a week each. And in the meantime I could work part-time as a therapist in a special needs school.

Special needs…it was not a field I had ever imagined myself in. I had imagined myself as the typical psychologist, sitting in a stuffy office, seeing case after case of the usual traumatised people. But this was different. And after the nerves had worn off I found myself intrigued.

My first thought of a government school was a dark, dreary, run down place. I could not have been more wrong. My apprehension melted under a smile of surprise and pleasure that formed on my face and grew as I looked down at the scene before me. Facebrick buildings spread out before me, connected by covered walkways. Two huge playgrounds graced each side, one with play equipment and another with football nets. It was a beautiful haven…

The kids were all playing outside, each with their own difficulties and quirks, but there was no judgement between them. Sounds of their laughter, of their happy, excited shouts filled the air.

I stood for a while and watched them, the individuals and the ones in small groups. I could see something out of the ordinary about them from where I stood. Some of the kids were in different corners of the playground by themselves. One was spinning around, another one was lying on the ground and yet another one was turning cartwheels and somersaults rapidly without seeming to get tired. Some of the kids had physical disabilities yet they were still walking around, carrying their bags, totally unconcerned about their obvious impairments. And the other kids also didn’t stare or point or even take notice because over here, everyone was considered normal. Seeing them laughing, playing and having a good time caused a warmth to spread in my chest till I was smiling at them unconsciously.

Suddenly I felt a tug on my hand. I looked down to see two boys and a girl standing before me. One of the boys was trying to pull my car keys out of my hand. His facial features immediately told me that he had Down Syndrome. He peeked at me with a shy smile before tugging on the keys again. The girl was touching my pink hijab, rubbing the material between her fingers curiously. The other boy touched my niqaab then looked at me, a small frown on his face. I smiled and chucked my keys in my handbag before they got lost and removed a small bar of chocolate instead. Immediately three pairs of eyes lit up. I broke it into three pieces and handed them one piece each which they promptly devoured before beaming at me with chocolate covered mouths. I could tell that they had some kind of intellectual impairment but could not figure out more than that.

Just then the bell rang and the children started walking in one direction. I followed them to an assembly area where they all lined up on cue. I noticed that all the children did not come. Some distance away a boy hung around one of the teachers, his hands over his ears. I assumed he must be hyper-sensitive to noise and crowds and wanted to avoid the crowded lines. Another boy stomped around, obviously in a bad mood while his teacher tried to coax him to comply and come along. I figured that he must have a behaviour disorder of sorts. They all said their morning prayers then headed off to their classes.

I spent a few hours on a tour of the school and the classrooms. The facilities were amazing. Their curriculum focused on functional maths, writing and life skills. For the younger ones and the lower functioning kids, it was simple things like taking care of themselves independently…toilet training, eating, washing their hands and face, getting dressed… and for the seniors, they focused on skills training…gardening, woodwork, masonry, sewing, basketry, cooking and baking. Each skill had their own workshop with equipment.

A few hours later I knew that this was the place for me. This was the first school I had come to see. I hadn’t even seen the private schools yet, but I couldn’t ignore the tug I felt towards these kids, towards this institution. It opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of this world. I had studied all this of course but words on paper can never do justice to seeing the reality with ones own eyes. This trip made me realise how much we had to be grateful for. We took things like our functional limbs, easy speech, mental and physical capabilities for granted. We did not know the struggles that these kids faced on a day to day basis. We had so much to make shukr for, yet we complained about petty things. But when I looked at these kids, they never complained! They took everything in stride and did not feel in the least sorry for themselves. And I knew that these were the true warriors. We…we couldn’t even come close…

I headed off for my interview soon after that, my mind made up. I just hoped I was accepted now…

Part 175

Okay so I was gonna join the next part to this post since this post is quite short but that part is on a completely different topic and that’s the part requiring extra work which I’m still not done with so I thought I’ll post this much at least to keep you’ll occupied till the next post 🙂 and no it doesn’t have anything to do with any guy so get those romantic notions out of your heads😜

P.S. I don’t know when the next post will be up so till then, toodles😘

We sat up till late that night. Zee put Laaibah to sleep then came to my room, arms laden with crisp packets, chocolate bars, jelly beans packets and a large jug of ice-cold iced coffee. My eyes lit up, instantly remembering our sleepovers of past where we used to stay up and talk while chowing just like this, into the wee hours of the night. It seemed like Zee’s thoughts were running in the same direction tonight. We sat cross legged, facing each other in our pjs, talking, playing games, laughing and slowly munching our way through the pile on the bed. It was three in the morning before our eyes started closing against our will.

“We really need to go sleep now,” Zee said with a yawn.

“Yeah. Can’t keep my eyes open anymore,” I replied, “let’s pray tahajjud since we are awake then go sleep.”

Zee agreed and we prayed two rakahs of tahajjud before jumping into bed. Laaibah slept through the night now but Zee still went to her room to sleep while I slept in the guest room. I fell asleep instantly, waking up to pray fajr when my alarm rang then going back to sleep. It was almost ten when Laaibah came bouncing into the room whose door had been left ajar.

“Wakey wakey Faz!” She climbed onto my bed and started jumping up and down on me, “wakey wakey Faz!”

I laughed and groaned sleepily. “You’re lucky that you’re my baby, poppet! I wouldn’t allow anyone else to wake me up like this.”

“You definitely wouldn’t,” Zee chuckled, watching us from the doorway, “remember I tried to wake you up by jumping on your bed once. You jumped up so suddenly, you sent us both toppling from the bed, then you started threatening me with all kinds of beatings and almost punched me in the face as well! Lucky I managed to catch your hand before it connected with my face.”

I sat up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and laughed too. “Yeah, I remember that. I was seriously considering murdering you that day!”

Zee walked in and scooped Laaibah into her arms. “Come, Laibu, let’s go eat porridge! Faz, come eat as well, then you can go bath afterwards.”

I shook my head. “I’m used to bathing first. I won’t be long. Start feeding Laaibah in the meantime.”

We had a nice breakfast of tea, scones and biscuits then we decided to spend the day out. We went shopping first, buying whatever we needed and some extra things on the spur of the moment as well. Laaibah abandoned her mum as soon as we got into the shops and dragged me around, pointing out different toys excitedly. I was not immune to her wide, innocent eyes and gorgeous smile and ended up buying her several toys and a poufy princess dress with a tiara to match. Zee clucked her tongue and shook her head at me.

“You spoil her too much,” she said but her smile was indulgent.

“That’s what khalas are for. To take advantage of,” I laughed.

We ate at Nando’s then took Laaibah to the park to play. Zee was the mother so she was more sedate. She took Laaibah on the swings and slides but in her calm way. I, on the other hand, became like a kid myself. I was not married or a mother so that gave me the excuse to let go, I justified to myself. I sat on the swing with Laaibah on my lap and swung fast, making her squeal. I was right behind her on the slide, both of us going, “wheeeee!” as we zoomed down. I sat on the see-saw with her and pushed her up and down. After all that she would obviously prefer me to her mother so Zee sat on a bench and watched us, alternately laughing and yelling at me to be careful, while Laaibah and I had a blast. I saw a few people staring at me like I’d gone mad……a niqaabi fooling around like a child? Unheard of!……other people laughing at me but I couldn’t care less. Laaibah and I enjoyed ourselves to the max and that was all that mattered.

“I need to bring you with me every time I take Laaibah to the park,” Zee commented as we walked back to the car, “when Bashir and I bring her we push her on the swings and take her on the slides but we don’t run around with her. She enjoyed herself so much today.”

She definitely had and I had certainly worn her out. By the time we reached home she was fast asleep in her car-seat. Zee lifted her out carefully and deposited her in her cot then came to my room where I was throwing everything into my bag.

“This weekend passed so fast!” She commented.

“Yeah, it was awesome! We need to do this again,” I replied, grinning at her.

“Oh, definitely! Sure you don’t wanna stay tonight as well?”

“Nah, Bashir will be back early tomorrow and I wanna be out before he comes back. Wouldn’t want to be the third wheel around here,” I winked.

“Oh, pshhttt! You know that won’t happen!”

“You’ll be all over each other and I don’t wanna see that! I’m too innocent for those kinds of things, thank you!” I laughed and ducked as she swatted me on my head. She walked me out to my car and I hugged her then climbed in, waving at her before reversing out of the yard…

Delays, delays…

Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

Hope everyone is okay…

People have been asking for the next post so I thought I’ll put this up as an official notice, kinda 🙂 the post I’m working on is something new for me so it’s requiring a bit of extra work…I was also quite busy today so didn’t get a chance to sit down and work on the post. So,the post might be out tomorrow or Wednesday (hopefully by tomorrow inshaAllah) depending on when I get it done…

Apologies for the delay…

Duas xxx

Part 174

Apologies for the super late post…some days are so yay and some are so meh, if you know what I mean. The past few days have been meh…with regards to writing, so I only finished the post today. Neymat Raboobee, I think you need to lend me your writing vibes. I seriously don’t know how you do it…mashaAllah. You guys need to check her blog out, it’s awesome! And she’s ten times more regular with her posts than I am so definitely worth the read

Anyways, sit back and enjoy the post now xxx

“So what do you think?” I leaned back, resting my head on the back of the sofa, “should I tell her? Or just ignore and bury the whole thing?”

“You don’t even know her,” Zee pointed out, “she’s a complete stranger to you. How will you call her? How will you even get her number?”

“Sumi kinda knows her. I can ask her for the number.”

“Then what? You’ll call her and tell her what exactly? “Oh, hey! I’m Fazila, ex-fiancee of your fiance. I just want to tell you that your fiance probably has a side-chick tucked up somewhere so you better find out before going ahead with this marriage! Right then, salaams!” ”

I sat up straight, pinning Zee with an unamused look. “Obviously I won’t say it like that! I’ll use more tact.”

Zee sighed. “It won’t matter if you tell her in the sweetest way possible. You are the jilted fiancee according to everyone and she’ll think you’re just jealous and trying to stir up trouble. You’ll become the villain here and your name will be blackened even more. Just leave it. I’m sure they’ve done their checks and they either know and don’t care or he’s over and done with it for real and has moved on. Either way it’s none of our business!”

“My parents made all the checks possible and not a single person told us about this! Even the ones who knew said nothing. Do you know some people I know actually came up to my mum when all this happened and told her they knew all along that he and Sarah were in a relationship? They knew and yet when mum asked one or two of them before I gave my answer they didn’t say a word! That’s how people are Zee! They’ll gossip about you behind your back but they’ll never tell you to your face. Imagine if I hadn’t caught Tariq in that alley. I would have married him blindly and only Allah knows if I’d ever found out or when. This girl deserves to know. Then what she does with that information is her own choice.”

“But you don’t know if he’s still involved with her or not. You have no proof and he’ll simply deny it even if it’s true. Then what?”

“Ammi sokket! Ammi see sokket!” Laaibah ran in and tugged at her mother’s sleeve excitedly. Zee turned to smile at her then her eyes widened.

“Laaibah! Where did you get that??” She frowned at her daughter who was shoving a large chunk of chocolate in her mouth. “Give me that.”

“Sokket! Want sokket!” Laaibah cried out then ran to me to escape her mother’s clutches. Her pudgy hands and mouth were smeared with chocolate and I started laughing, looking at the adorable sight before me.

Zee sighed. “I won’t take it from you. Come wash hands. Come on,” she lifted Laaibah from behind and carried her off despite her loud protests.

I stared at their retreating backs, grinning, then my smile was slowly replaced by a thoughtful frown. Zee was right. Without proof I could not make claims and being the injured party I could never phone Razia directly. I didn’t know if Sumi would agree to phone on my behalf. She didn’t know her properly…and she was part of my family so it wouldn’t work…

“Maajidah!” I exclaimed as Zee returned, Laaibah in tow, “let me ask her if she knows Razia.”

“Who’s Maajidah?”

“My cousin in Durban.”

“Oh, right. Maajidah and Madeeha.”

“Yeah, them.” I called her number and she picked up after several rings.

“Salaams, Faz! What’s up!”

“Wa alaykum salaam. Nothing, Maaj, how you doing?”

“Good, good and you?”

“Good Alhamdulillah…listen I need to ask you something.”

“Okay, what?”

“Do you know Razia Essack?”

“The one who’s engaged to that jerk Tariq?”

I laughed. My cousins had started referring to him as jerk-Tariq since the entire fiasco. “Yeah, the same.”

“Yeah, I know her. We used to be in the same class at school. Didn’t I tell you that?”

My face lit up. “No, you didn’t but that’s great news! Can you do me a favour, please?”

“If it’s to shoot Tariq, sure. Give me a shotgun. If it’s to kidnap Razia to save her from that jerk, definitely! Just book us a ticket to China!”

I laughed again. Maaj had an awesome sense of humour! “Nothing so drastic, Maaj, but you’ve got the general idea. I want you to phone her and tell her about his relationship with Sarah incase no one has told her yet. At least she’ll be aware of it.”

“Uhmmmm…that could be tricky. Do you have proof?”

“No, I don’t!” I sighed loudly.

“Then how will she believe us? Do you know if he’s still with her or not?”


“Then it could be baseless claims for all we know. And it could land us in trouble.”

“Not us, Maaj, only you. Does she know we’re related?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned you to her before. We’re not chummy, you know. Only former classmates.”

“Okay, then we’ll assume she doesn’t know. You can’t tell her that you know me. And you won’t be telling her as a fact. Simply drop the story to her as a by the way thing…say you’ve heard this story but you don’t know if it’s true or not and can she please find out ’cause it got you worried. Khalaas! The rest will be up to her.”

Maaj sighed. “Are you sure you want me to do this? You don’t want to let sleeping dogs lie?”

“That’s what everyone did with me and look what happened! If I hadn’t caught Tariq in that alley I wonder if I’d ever have found out! At least we can give this girl a clue if it’s still true and she’s unaware of it. Would you like to be kept in the dark if your fiance was up to nonsense?”

“No. Okay, relax. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Perfect! Let me know how it goes!” I hung up and beamed at Zee. “Sorted!”

“Sotted!” Laaibah ran to me, giving me a wide smile, “sotted!”

I laughed and swung her up in my arms. “Yes, honeybear, it’s ‘sotted’!” I flipped her in my arms so that I was clutching her legs, her head hanging over my knees. She squealed excitedly.

“She’ll bring up her milk if you continue doing that,” Zee said.

I sighed and turned Laaibah around again to face me. “Why do mothers have to be such spoilsports?”

Laaibah reached out and pulled my nose, hard. “Ouch, Laibu, that hurts!” I grabbed her hand and forced it away from my stinging nose.

“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” She chanted happily then reached for my nose again.

“Oh no, you don’t! Once is enough, madam!” I pushed her hand down then leaned forward, rubbing my nose with hers affectionately. She was such an adorable doll mashaAllah. And becoming too clever by the day. We had to be careful what we said around her because she gleefully repeated everything in her own way.

“Maajidah will talk to Razia?”

“Yeah,” I replied, looking up at Zee, “she said she’ll try.”

“Good. Now put it out of your head and let’s go eat.”

Bashir had gone for three days jamaat. Usually Zee went to stay at her mum’s house but this time she had called me over instead. I had jumped at the offer since it had been years since our last sleepover. A weekend with my bestie was just what I needed. Today was Saturday and Zee and I had whipped up Chicken manchurian with stir-fried rice for lunch and pasta for supper.

Zee set Laaibah down in her high chair and set a plastic plate filled with rice and chicken in front of her. I watched Laaibah eating while I ate my own meal. She shoved fistfuls of rice and chicken into her mouth, dropping all over herself and her chair in the process. I tried to mask my horrified reaction before looking at Zee but one look at her knowing smile told me she knew exactly what I was thinking.

“Go on. Say it,” she said, grinning.

“Errr…don’t you think it will be easier if you just feed her?”

Zee nodded. “Easier and less messy. That’s what you’re thinking, right?”

“Yeah,” I answered with a guilty smile.

“I could,” Zee shrugged, “but though this way is messy and takes long now it will teach her to feed herself faster in the long run.”

“I see,” I nodded.

Zee laughed. “You’ll know when you become a mother,” she winked.

“Yeah, I guess.”

After lunch Zee put Laaibah down for her afternoon nap then we relaxed in the lounge.

“So what you wanna do?” Zee asked.

“Don’t know. You got any games?”

“Yeah. Scrabble, Cluedo, Monopoly…and cards.”

“Cool. Bring the cards. Let’s see how good you still are,” I replied, grinning.

Zee promptly produced a pack of cards and we spent the next hour playing a few different games that we used to play as teens and laughing like loons every time the other lost. We were so engrossed that we didn’t even hear Laaibah wake up and cry till she appeared in the doorway, whimpering and clutching her bottle to her chest.

“Awww, my baby, sorry ammi didn’t hear you!” Zee exclaimed when she saw her. She jumped up and rushed over to pick up her daughter.

“Yeah, mummy was too busy trying to figure out how to win to hear you,” I smirked and Zee shot me a look.

“I won more times than you did!”

“No, you didn’t! You probably won like two times and that also by fluke.”

“Oh, please! I did not win just by a fluke and you know it!”

“You knowwit!” Laaibah repeated dutifully. We both looked at her then at each other and burst out laughing.

“Look at us. Wife and mother and still arguing like kids,” Zee said laughingly.

“Not me. I’m neither a wife nor a mother so I’m excused. You’re not!” I smirked at her and she rolled her eyes in response.

That night after supper we were sitting in the lounge after Laaibah had gone to sleep when my phone rang. It was Maajidah and I grabbed the phone in anticipation.

“What’s up? Did you speak to her?” I asked without preamble.

Maaj laughed. “Calm your socks, Faz. Yes, I spoke to her…”

“And…?” I asked impatiently when she paused.

“I told her like you said. That I’d heard something like that but could she please confirm because I wasn’t a hundred percent sure…”

“Then what did she say?” I asked, my impatience mounting when she stopped again.

I could hear her drawn out sigh through the phone. “She said she heard about his engagement breaking and she knew why it had happened. She said it wasn’t his fault that the girl had been such a…a…”

“A what??”

“A frikkin’ prude and frigid ice queen! Her words, not mine!”

I stared at the phone for a few seconds, speechless. Next to me Zee was staring at me in shock, having heard everything from where she sat. Then I burst out laughing.

“Oh my God. She called me a prude? And ice queen?? Gosh
..that’s hilarious!” I laughed.

“Errrr…are you sure you’re okay, Faz? That girl just insulted you,” Maaj said, baffled.

“I’m totally okay. Why did she say that, do you know?”

“She said he told her that he’d cut off all ties with that girl before the day of the nikah but she…you… couldn’t accept the fact that he’d ever had someone before you so you refused to marry him. He also told her that he’s a virgin…” a muffled snort escaped my mouth at this, “and he swore to her that nothing had happened between them and nothing will ever happen again. She believed him obviously and thinks you’re a prude now.”

I laughed even more.

“Aren’t you feeling bad that she insulted you?” I could almost see Maajidah’s incredulous expression.

“No, I’m not. Don’t you see Maaj? This absolves my responsibility completely. Now I have a clear conscience that I’ve done my part. Who cares what she thinks of me?”

“You’re quite forgiving then. I’d be angry if someone spoke of me like that!”

“I’m happy, trust me. Jazakallah so much for doing me this favour, Maaj. Mwa!” I made a kissing sound.

She laughed. “Come thank me in person. About time you visit Durbs again, babe!”

“Yeah, I’ll try to convince the bhalli inshaAllah. Right, salaams! And pass my salaams to your mum as well!”

“Will do…wa alaykum salaam.”

I cut the call and high-fived Zee.

“Mission accomplished!”

Living life cloaked in modesty and islamic principles…