On Tuesday I walked out of my madrassah classroom to find a gorgeous hunk leaning against my black Polo. He was looking down at his phone when I walked up to him to ask him what on earth he was doing here…gorgeous or not he couldn’t just come and lean on my car like this. Then he looked up and his face softened in a heart-stopping smile…and all coherent thought flew out of my mind.
“Princess,” he straightened till he towered over me, “or should I call you apa?” He smirked.
“Haha very funny,” I replied, rolling my eyes, “what are you doing here, Muftisaab?”
“That’s not any better than apa,” he warned, giving me a look. I grinned in response.
“So what you doing here? Not that I’m complaining. Just curious,” I added.
“I came to fetch you,” he gestured to his Mercedes parked next to my car which I hadn’t noticed in my preoccupation.
“Uhmmm, I have my own car right here,” I pointed to the car behind him.
“I know. I’ll follow you to your house.”
“You want to pay a visit to your new family?” I smirked, crinkling my eyes for emphasis since he couldn’t see my facial expressions.
“Yeah. I’ve won you over, now I need to win them over,” he grinned, “just kidding. I need to meet Qaarisaab. He’s leaving tomorrow, right?”
My smile faded. “Yeah, they are.” It never got easier, saying goodbye to them.
“Yeah, they. Need to meet your nani as well, now that I can.”
“I’m sure she’ll be so happy at that. She’s always loved you,” I smiled.
“Yeah, I know. I was like a son to them till a certain someone came along and took my place,” he scowled at me playfully.
“Not my fault a certain someone started swooning on hearing my qiraa’ah,” I shot back, “you do realise that nana saw that and became more protective over me after that?” I watched in amazement as a red blush stained his cheeks, suffusing his face with colour, “is the Ahmed Cassim actually blushing? Oh…my…word!!” I giggled, unable to help myself.
” We’re in a public place, we need to go,” Ahmed mumbled in response. He moved quickly, pressing the button on his key to open his car and opening the door, all the while not looking at me. I grinned and moved till I was standing in front of him again.
“You do realise I’m not gonna let this go? It’s the first time I’ve actually seen you speechless. I’m so gonna make the most of it!”
“Hopefully you’ll forget it by the time we reach home,” he replied. I laughed and touched his cheek briefly before moving to my car. I led the way to my house, driving at my usual speed. Few minutes later I happened to look into the rear view mirror…to see Ahmed flashing his lights at me from behind. I frowned, confused. I didn’t see anything out of ordinary ahead of me or behind me so why was he flashing me? A moment later my phone buzzed. I placed it on my thigh and pressed the home button, lighting up the screen. One message, from hubby dearest.
Slow down!!! You wanna get yourself killed???
I burst out laughing. That was his concern? Grinning I stepped on it even more, flying down the roads till I reached my house. I pressed the remote and the gate slid open. Parking on my usual spot I got out and saw Ahmed get out of his own car parked behind mine. He reached me in two steps, breathing hard like he’d run a marathon.
“Are you crazy??” He burst out, looking frazzled, “driving like that! Like a…a maniac. You almost gave me a heart attack!”
I whipped off my niqaab, letting it dangle between my fingers as I eyed my husband…red in the face now for a completely different reason. I laughed, shaking my head at his irrational fear.
“Relax, Ahmed. I wasn’t even driving that fast.”
“You don’t call that fast? I wouldn’t want to see what you call fast then,” he muttered, “do you always drive like that?”
“Yup! It feels so good! You should try it,” I grinned. Ahmed wasn’t a slow driver but he wasn’t crazy fast as well. And he was cautious, I had noticed that about him. I, on the other hand, was addicted to the rush that came with flying down roads at a breakneck speed. I wasn’t reckless though, so I didn’t see why Ahmed had gotten so worried.
“I’m surprised your parents let you drive,” he muttered, “I’ll lock you up once you come live with me. Won’t let you out of my sight. And definitely not on the roads.”
I gaped at him laughingly. “Don’t you dare!”
“I should. You’re too precious to me,” he looked into my eyes and I melted at the intense look in his eyes, “don’t give me another panic attack like that. Drive safely and slowly.”
“I do drive safely, babe.” It was the first time I had called him by an endearment. I saw him soften, calming down and pecked him on the lips for added reinforcement. He jerked away like he’d been shot.
“We’re outside!” He whispered, looking scandalised.
“Yeah, so?” I smirked at him.
“No public displays of affection. It’s against haya,” he said seriously. Then he grinned mischievously, “but you can repeat that in your bedroom. With extra details.”
I laughed and took hold of his hand. “We’ll see about that!”
I heard voices coming from the lounge as I entered the house, Ahmed behind me. I closed the door, noticed his somber look and squeezed his hand. “Relax. My family isn’t a pack of wolves,” I whispered, grinning.
“Glad to hear it. I felt like a sheep for a moment,” he replied, making me laugh. I led the way to the lounge, stopping in the doorway. Dad, Adnaan, nana and nani were sitting and talking. They stopped abruptly on seeing us.
“Fazzu! Finally you bring this young man to meet us!” Nani was the first one to break the silence. She stood up and crossed to us swiftly. Moving me aside she beamed at Ahmed. “How are you, beta? I’m so glad I can finally talk to you!” She stood on tiptoes and hugged him, her head barely brushing his chin. He looked startled then hugged her back tentatively.
“I’m glad to meet you too…errmmm, nani,” he said awkwardly. He looked so cute, all embarrassed and shy and awkward. Nana nudged me, looking at me with a knowing smile when I looked at him. I grinned at him.
“Ahmed. Nice to see you inside the house finally,” nana said, clasping Ahmed’s hands in salaam, “all these days you zoomed away with my granddaughter without even making salaam to the rest of us.” Nana loved putting Ahmed on the spot, it seemed. Ahmed, however, had recovered his equilibrium. He smiled back at nana.
“Maaf, Qaarisaab. Your granddaughter is always in a rush. She doesn’t let me come inside also.”
I gasped. “That’s great! Spill it all on me!”
Ahmed grinned at me in response.
“Come, come sit,” nana said, gesturing towards the lounge. Dad was behind him and greeted Ahmed cordially as well while Adnaan nodded at him from the lounge. Then mum came out of the kitchen and Ahmed got all awkward again.
“Welcome to the family, Ahmed. This is your second home now so keep coming around. Don’t be shy.” She smiled then hesitated, probably wondering how best to greet him. I nudged her from the side.
“Go on, mum. Hug him, he’s your son now.”
Mum shot me a wry look then hugged Ahmed briefly. He put his arms around her awkwardly and I stifled my impulse to laugh.
And then Han appeared. Sumi had made herself scarce since I had entered the house so I hadn’t seen her at all and probably wouldn’t see her till Ahmed was gone. She had told me on Sunday that she found Ahmed really intimidating. I had stared at her in astonishment.
“Intimidating?? From which angle?” Ahmed might be serious around other people but intimidating?? Definitely not!
“He is!” She’d argued, “all tall and stern with the imaamah and everything. After your nana he’s the most intimidating man I’ve ever seen.”
I burst out laughing. What was it with the imaamah? Khads had said the same thing to me. And nana also wore one so maybe people associated that with being intimidating. I wouldn’t know since I’d never found Ahmed intimidating from the time I’d first seen him. “He might be serious but definitely not intimidating,” I’d said.
“To you he’s obviously not but maybe he is to other people,” Adnaan had said in his wife’s defense. I had shrugged, not understanding but letting go of the topic.
So Sumi was understandably absent but Han had other ideas. She had started wearing niqaab since last year but she wasn’t as strict as I was. She didn’t always wear it with our cousins and had said once that Ahmed would be like a brother to her though he wouldn’t be her mahram…an oxymoron if I’d ever heard one…and he would be in and out of the house so she wouldn’t be able to make purdah from him. I didn’t know Ahmed’s view on that but the next few moments made the answer to that very clear.
Ahmed was about to enter the lounge when Han appeared before him, standing at a slight distance from him.
“Assalamu alaykum,” she said shyly.
Ahmed glanced up, froze, then dropped his gaze immediately. “Wa alaykum salaam,” he replied quietly. There was a moment of awkward silence, with Han looking at me frantically. I shrugged helplessly. This wasn’t like mum’s situation. They had to work through this themselves.
“Uhmm, how are you?” Han tried again.
“I’m good…Alhamdulillah,” he replied. His gaze remained fixed on the floor, “and you?” He added as an afterthought.
“I’m well Alhamdulillah,” she replied. Her gaze darted between him and me, clearly at a loss of what to do next. Ahmed was also shifting on his feet. I was sure that he wanted to run away but didn’t want to appear rude and abrupt. I shook my head slightly at Han then inclined it slightly towards the stairs. Picking up on my wordless message she mumbled salaam again and turned on her heel, disappearing from sight faster than I’d ever seen her. I could swear I heard Ahmed sigh in relief. I prodded him from the back.
“Go sit. I need to go pray asr.”
He nodded at me before entering the lounge. I prayed asr then went to sit by them till maghrib. Ahmed was at ease now at least and was talking easily, even to mum and nani. Nani kept beaming fondly at him and I realised the depths of her fondness for him then. Nana hadn’t been kidding when he said they took him like a son. I liked the rapport between nana and Ahmed as well. There was the respect and authority present in a student-teacher relationship but there was ease and familiarity as well, and affection. It warmed my heart to see Ahmed interact with all of them and I kept smiling at him happily whenever our eyes met.
When maghrib time came the men stood up to go to the masjid. Ahmed came by nani to greet her since he would be going straight to his house from the masjid so he wouldn’t be seeing her again. Nani pinched his cheeks, told him to be good and look after me and visit England with me soon. Ahmed nodded, his eyes meeting mine over her head. I nodded emphatically and grinned in response. Ahmed greeted mum as well then came briefly by me, squeezing my hand and leaning down to whisper in my ear.
“See you soon, princess. Stay safe.”
I smiled back at him before he left, then went to my room to pray maghrib. Han came in as I finished.
“Phew! I don’t think I’ve ever had a more awkward encounter in my life!” She exclaimed.
I smiled sympathetically. “Yeah, it was awkward man. I could literally feel it from both of you.”
“It’s his fault!” Han said indignantly, “he barely replied to me and didn’t look at me even once! He was so rude!”
“He wasn’t rude. That’s how he is with every female who’s not his mahram. He’s been this way from UK.”
“I’m sure he wasn’t like that with you! Otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten to know him and you definitely wouldn’t have started liking him!”
“I could have started liking him just by looking at him,” I grinned. Then I sighed. “He was like that with me as well. Initially. Then somehow our paths kept crossing and he opened up a bit. But that was only with me. He said it was different with me and he ended up slacking. With everyone else he was still like that. And even with me he had periods of guilt where he would go back to barely talking to me and not looking at me. Then he would weaken and start again. It was a battle with his nafs the whole time. But if you think of it the times he looked down and barely talked to me were the times he was correct. He’s actually doing nothing wrong by being like that. You’re not his mahram so you’re technically a stranger to him. He can’t look at you or talk to you, Han. We have to let go of what our culture has taught us, that brothers in-law are like brothers, and start looking at what our deen is teaching us. Brother inlaw is death. It comes in the Hadith. Remember? Look at that. And I personally think you should wear niqaab in front of him. That’s the correct thing to do and I think it would make him more comfortable. The poor guy didn’t know where to look today.”
“Poor me didn’t know what to do today,” Han muttered in response, “but you’re right. He’s only doing the right thing. I should respect him for that.”
“That’s the spirit,” I grinned at her.
“Fazila! Haneefa! Come eat!” Mum yelled from downstairs.
“Go on. I just need to run to the bathroom,” I said, moving past her out of the room.
“See, I told you he’s so intimidating,” I heard Sumi tell Han when I came downstairs, “I’m glad I didn’t go meet him at all.”
“Yeah, he is man. He barely talked to me and didn’t look at me the whole time. I wonder how he is with Faz.”
“You only have to look at the roses and card he sent her to know how he is with her,” Sumi replied dryly. I burst out laughing.
“Don’t worry, Han, when you get your own alim you’ll realise how they are underneath the mask,” I winked at her and sauntered away to the kitchen.