I had some serious apologising to do, I reflected as I went downstairs again. I couldn’t believe I had spoken to mum that way. I winced as I recalled the way I had yelled at her and the hurt look that had flashed across her face. How could I have forgotten myself so much? The ayah whose tafseer we had done in madrassah flashed across my mind;
وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِنْدَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُلْ لَهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُلْ لَهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا. وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُلْ رَبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا
[Surah Al-Isra’ 23-24]
And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.”
In this ayah Allah Ta’ala has mentioned obedience to parents in the same sentence as worshipping Him alone, meaning just as worshipping Allah alone is wajib, so is respecting and obeying our parents. This also proves that after the obligation of worshipping Allah Ta’ala, obeying our parents is the most important thing. The phrase “do not say uff to them” shows that we cannot address them with even the slightest bit of disrespect. Nabi S.A.W has been reported to have said, “if there had been a lesser form of hurting than sayin uff to them then that too would have been mentioned.” Additionally it has been mentioned that we should speak to them softly, with respect and humility and that should be done out of compassion for them. Lastly it has been mentioned that we should do as much as possible to make them comfortable then, additionally, we should also keep praying that Allah shows them mercy by prayin this dua for them;
رَبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا
Rabbir-hamhuma kamaa rabbayaani sagheera.
This dua is so extensive that we can keep praying it for our parents even after they pass away, and through it we can continue serving our parents.
(Extracted from Ma’ariful Quran, Volume 5)
This ayah, combined with the many ahadeeth we had learnt in madrassah about the importance of respecting and obeying parents flashed through my mind, making me feel even more guilty. We sometimes forget the teachings of our beautiful religion in trying to emulate the ways of the west and getting brainwashed by them. I needed to get off my high horse and apologise now.
“Mummykins?” I called as I entered the kitchen.
I heard a muffled reply then mum emerged from the pantry, her arms laden with trays and the flour tin balancing precariously on top. I eyed it all with raised eyebrows.
“What’s all this for?”
“I thought I’ll make choc chip cookies. Cheer our moods up with some treats,” she looked at me with an uncertain smile and that made me feel even more guilty.
“Faz…” mum began but I didn’t let her finish. Going over to her I lifted the trays from her arms and deposited them on the countertop behind me, then wrapped my arms around her.
“I’m sorry, mummy. I shouldn’t have yelled like that and said all those silly things. Forgive me?” I made a puppy face and mum smiled.
“Of course, sweety. It’s fine…” she hesitated and I wondered if it was really fine, “did you mean what you said? Do you really think I’m trying to marry you off as soon as possible?”
“No, of course not! I know you’re not the sort of mother to force her children into marriages they don’t want,” I replied and mum heaved a sigh of relief. “However, you do get too tense with these proposals. You should relax, take each one as they come. And if I don’t like any of them then it’s fine. No need to worry, mum, because I’ll only get whoever is in my naseeb anyways.”
“I know, but I worry that you’ll turn down all the nice ones then be left with the kachra (rubbish) ones.”
I burst out laughing. “I will get my Mr. Right, don’t worry. That day will come,” I flashed her a reassuring grin then started laying out the pans and spraying them, “come, let’s make those cookies now!”
Despite the good note on which we ended, the topic of proposals became a sensitive one so I was really glad when weeks passed with no sign of any more of them. I came home from madrassah each day worried that another one would have come, another one I would maybe say no to. I was tired of those now. Now all I wanted was only one more proposal to come my way, the one I would say yes to. Whether that took months or years or mere weeks, I didn’t care. I just did not want any more failed samoosa runs.
It took three months for that proposal to come. Three months in which I had finally begun to relax enough that I did not keep wondering about the next proposal and how much added strain it would place on my family. Three months in which I could devote myself wholeheartedly to madrassah, for the final year was no joke. When it did come, that proposal, it was on a day so calm and ordinary, it seemed that not even the leaves were whispering in the wind.
I was the one who answered that phone call. I made salaam to the unknown aunt, politely replied to her “how are you”, introduced myself when she asked, then handed over the phone to mum when she told me to. That’s it. I did not think about it again till mum brought up the topic at the dinner table.
“Fazila, that was a proposal for you,” she said without preamble.
“Which one?” I looked blankly at her.
“The phone call you answered earlier.”
“Oh, that explains why she was so sugary sweet although I’d never spoken to her before,” I replied thoughtfully. Beside me Han snorted in amusement.
“Her name is Naseema Kadwa. Do you know her? They’re the Kadwas who live by Swaleha and Abdul’s house,” she said, referring to our cousins.
I shook my head. “Never heard of them.”
“There’s a Kadwa in the first year at madrassah,” Han put in, “Sameera Kadwa. Wonder if she’s the same Kadwa.”
“If it’s the Kadwas of the K&H firm, I know them,” dad said, “well known family and the bhallie’s heavily into tableegh as well. From what I’ve heard they’re a nice family.”
I shrugged, putting that aside for now. “What did she say, mum?”
“Her son Tariq is looking for a girl and someone mentioned you to her. So she’s sent in a proposal.”
“And here we go again!” I sighed resignedly.
Dad proved to be correct there. The Kadwas were a rich and well known family. The whole of PE seemed to know them and everyone had only good things to say about them. Apparently this Tariq was quite The Bachelor of the Year. He was tall, dark and handsome, he was stinking rich, he was also religious and had started going out in jamaat and he was such a nice, decent guy. He was also quite a catch and many girls had their hopes pinned on him. All this I found out from my friends of course. Mum and dad definitely wouldn’t describe him in quite these terms! I had mentioned him off handedly to some of my friends out of curiosity, to know if he really was so famous and if he was how come I’d never heard of him before. The gushing compliments made me doubtful of this working out. I did not want a tall, dark and handsome ladies’ man. I wanted a simple, down to earth, decent, religious guy and if he wasn’t famous then all the better. However, because mum and dad hadn’t found anything wrong with him I had to give him a chance.
The day came and I got ready efficiently, able to zoom my way around samoosa runs blindfolded by now. I wore a dress I hadn’t worn before that I found at the back of my closet, a simple beige top and maroon skirt, the only embellishment being a belt of gold links that hung on my hips and jingled softly as I walked. I slipped a gold bracelet on my wrist, gold wedge-heeled sandals on my feet and wrapped a shimmering maroon scarf around my head. A touch of eyeliner and lip gloss, a spritz of perfume and I was ready to jol!
Except that I wasn’t so ready after all. My nervousness kicked in late and sent me running to the loo where I spent ten feverish minutes. By the time I came out Sumi had come up to call me. I took a deep breath and walked down the stairs behind her, trying to calm myself down. I had no idea why I was suddenly so nervous…or why I had this sudden unshakeable feeling that this samoosa run would be memorable in ways I couldn’t name.
I walked into the lounge to find mum sitting with a small, smiling woman who rose to greet me warmly.
“Nice to meet you, Fazila. I’ve heard so many good things about you,” she beamed.
I smiled and replied courteously. We settled in and spoke about general things, with Aunt Naseema trying to draw me into the conversation as well. She seemed like such a lovely person that I took an instant liking to her. So much so that my old suspicions kicked in. She’ll change just now, watch. She’ll soon start cross-questioning you and trying to interview you on behalf of her beloved son. She’ll soon start watching you through an imaginary microscope and seeing if you measure up to her beloved son or not.
When she did none of these things and continued chatting pleasantly as though she had simply come over for a tea-party my fevered imagination switched to her son. The mother is very nice so the son must be a real monster. Or maybe he’ll just be a jerk. Or since he’s supposedly tall, dark and handsome he’ll be a conceited, arrogant pain in the ass. Another Javed maybe. I shuddered at the memory.
“Are you feeling unwell, sweety?” Aunt Naseema was watching me, an anxious frown on her face. I snapped out of my thoughts and quickly shook my head, flushing slightly.
“I’m okay, jazakallah,” I murmured.
By the time dad finally called me to the dining room I was too agitated to sit still. I shot up and out of the room, uncaring of how I would look to the women behind me, and walked hastily into the adjoining dining room. Then I halted, my mouth dropping open, because the man before my eyes was so different to what I had expected that for a moment I had a feeling of being in the wrong place. He was tall, dark and handsome all right, but where I had expected a dude clad in jeans and top, with maybe a fashionable stubble gracing his chin, I found a man in a white kurta and topi who had a full, sunnah beard and whose hair fell till below his ears. Then I realised that he was watching me stare at him like an idiot, a teasing smile on his face.
“Are you as shocked to see me as I am to see you?”
I flushed and dropped my gaze quickly in mortification. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare,” I mumbled. Then his question registered in my mind and I looked up at him again in puzzlement. Shocked? Why would either of us be shocked to see the other?? I was looking at him, puzzling over that when I realised that he looked familiar. I had seen him before…but where? I frowned and looked closer when it suddenly hit me.
“Brick wall!” I exclaimed before I could stop myself.
It was his turn to stare. “Brick wall?”
I flushed again then giggled. “Sorry. I kept thinking of you that way because of the way I bumped into you. Oh, now I know why you said that about being shocked. You recognised me?”
“Yup. Three blind mice,” he replied promptly, his smile widening.
“Three blind mice???”
“Yeah. Sorry I kept thinking of you that way because of the way you bumped into me,” he parroted in a perfect imitation of me. We looked at each other then burst out laughing.
“I’m forgetting my manners. Come, sit, sit,” he pulled out a chair for me opposite his. I sat down still breathless with laughter and watched as he sat down opposite me, keeping a careful distance between us. He linked his hands loosely over his knees and looked at me.
“Your name’s Fazila, right?”
“That will take some getting used to,” I joked and watched his smile flash again. He had a nice smile…and nice eyes which crinkled when he smiled. I found myself staring again and dropped my gaze, feeling flustered. I hadn’t felt this way in years.
“What do you do?” Tariq asked.
“I’m in the final year of my alima course. I’ll graduate in December, inshaAllah,” I replied.
“Oh, nice!” He exclaimed, his face lighting up, “I don’t tell many people this but there was a time when I really wanted to become an alim.”
“So why didn’t you?” I asked.
“My parents were against it. They weren’t so religious at that time and my father wanted me to become an accountant so that I could go into the family business. And I’m the only son so I went along with it in the end,” he shrugged and smiled slightly, “but I still find it fascinating, islamic knowledge. It’s so vast, so interesting. I’d love to learn more even now,” he smiled at me.
“It is really nice. I’m enjoying every minute of it,” I smiled back.
“What will you do after you finish?”
“Teach, I guess. It’s the only way to keep my knowledge fresh.”
“Yes, true. In every field you have to do work practice so this must be the same.”
“Does that mean you don’t mind if I teach after marriage?”
“No, not at all. I’d encourage you, infact. It’s a good thing to do.”
“Will we be staying with your parents or separately?”
“Separately. They’ve already bought a house for me. It’s a beach house. I’m crazy about the beach so I wanted something right on it.”
“Wow, cool! I also love the beach!”
“I love jogging every morning after fajr on the beach. It’s so refreshing.”
“Wow, me too! I try and jog down every day after fajr in the holidays!” Oh my gosh, we both sound so cliché! We looked at each other then started laughing again.
The conversation flowed and continued till dad actually poked his head in. “Sorry to disturb you’ll but it’s been an hour already. We were wondering if everything is okay,” he joked.
“One hour! I didn’t realise!” I said, jumping up.
Dad laughed. “Carry on, don’t let me stop you,” he said and retreated.
“Time definitely flies with the right person,” Tariq commented, winking at me. I smiled and blushed in response.
“Well, Fazila, it was so nice meeting you. I’ll see you then…err, if everything works out that is…I’ll let you know, right? Salaams.”
“Wa alaykum salaam,” I replied, feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. I had a good feeling about this one. A very good feeling indeed!
“Well?” Mum, Dad and Han exclaimed as soon as the door shut behind our guests.
I grinned at them. “First let’s see if it’s a yes from his side.”
Han was staring at me. “You’re glowing! Oh-my-word! The mighty Faz has finally fallen!!!”
“Oh, shush!” I said, waving away her comments, “I’m the same as usual.”
I wasn’t, though. This time I actually found myself waiting with bated breath for the answer. When it finally came, two days later, I bounded into mum’s room to hear what she was saying. Her face split into a wide smile, she winked at me then said, “that’s lovely, Naseema. I will tell Faz then let you know, inshaAllah.” She hung up and turned to me. “Its a yes!”
Now that the time had finally come, I felt inexplicably nervous and agitated. I composed my face, however, and nodded at mum. “Okay, let me make istikhara and then I’ll let you know what my answer is.”
I dreamt of Ahmed that night. I was walking in a field, the sun slanting over rows of corn, their stalks waving gently in the breeze. The wind tugged at my hair and blew my dress around. Then suddenly it started getting darker. The shadows started lengthening and dusk fell rapidly. I started walking faster when I passed by an oak tree. There, deep in the shadows of the old oak stood the form of a man. I started when I saw him but he held out a hand to me and smiled. I could see his smile even through the darkness enshrouding him.
“Ahmed.” I knew it was him, was more certain than I had been in my life.
“Fadheelah,” he took a step closer, “I came to wish you well on your journey.”
“What journey?” I whispered.
“The one you’re about to embark on. Go safely…and don’t look back.”
“Ahmed.” I took a step closer to him, suddenly needing to be close to him. He stepped back, already melding into the shadows.
“Go.” It was a faint whisper, carried on the wind. Then he was gone.
I woke up, my face wet with tears. “Ahmed,” I whispered achingly. I felt like my heart was breaking because I knew what that dream was about. He was letting go. Letting me move forward. And I knew that even if I tried I could not look back. The only way now was forward.
I got up, prayed my istikhara salah and dua again then went to sleep.
It took me three days to get my answer. The first two days there was nothing. On the third day I woke up with a clear answer. I quickly brushed my teeth and washed my face then raced down the stairs, needing to get this out in the open.
“Mum, dad,” I said breathlessly as I burst in. Three faces looked back at me expectantly as I paused to catch my breath. I smiled at them.
“My answer is yes.”