I rushed home at lunch time the next day to catch nana and nani before they left for the airport. I caught them on time, seeing Adnaan and dad hefting suitcases into the boot of dad’s car as I pulled up into the yard. Nana appeared in the doorway just as I reached the front steps and I ran up them, stopping in front of him breathlessly.
“Are you leaving right now?”
“Yes, though we still have a bit of time left. You came from school?”
“Yeah, I’ve finished. I’m supposed to go madrassah in a bit,” I replied.
Nana’s face softened. “You work too hard beti. Come, let me talk to you little while. All these days I thought I’ll sit down with you but there was just no time…and you kept running away with that young man of yours.” I chuckled at his choice of words, following him into the front room. Nana sat down on the sofa and I sat next to him, half turning my body to face him. Nana leaned back into the sofa, his long legs stretched out in front of him. He turned his head to look at me, the serious expression on his face belying his relaxed posture. His words confirmed the seriousness, delivered in a calm tone but carrying the impact of a storm.
“Beti…life is about compromises,” were his first words, “it’s about choices, good and bad. And marriage is the first of those choices. You, Alhamdulillah, made a very good choice there. You could not have found a better husband. And right now things are rosy. No living together, no compromises. These will be the best days of your life, believe me,” his smile flashed, “but when you move in with him, the real test will start. Ahmed told me you’ll be living with his parents,” I nodded, keeping my face straight, “I’ve met his father. I’ve heard him talk of his family, mostly out of frustration because they don’t understand him. They don’t understand where he comes from, his way of thinking. If he came to me for advice I’d tell him to rather live separately. Keeps the muhabbat and unity better that way…”
“Then why don’t you?” I burst out. Everyone was thinking the same way as me and it just made my misgivings grow stronger by the day, “why don’t you talk to him? He’ll listen to you!”
Nana shook his head. “I can’t. He hasn’t come to ask me. If he did I’d tell him otherwise I won’t get involved. So I would advise you to rather adapt to the idea. I can see that you’re against it. Don’t go into their house with this mentality. If you do you’ll fail from the beginning. Go with a clean heart, an open heart. Give them a chance. You’ll have to make compromises. Your way and their way won’t be the same. There will be give and take involved. Don’t be too stubborn, beti,” nana leaned forward, tapped me on my forehead, “your whole life you’ve been stubborn. And short tempered. It’s worked for you till now. But there things will be different. Those qualities can cause problems if they’re not tempered by love and wisdom. Remember that ayah?
ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُمْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ
[Surah An-Nahl 125]
Invite to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better.
“We are ahlul ilm. All our interactions are da’wah to the awaam. So think of this as da’wah as well. Use lots of love, lots of wisdom. And whenever you disagree with anything they do, do it very nicely and tactfully. And choose your battles wisely, beti. With your husband also and your in-laws also. Not everything is worth making an issue about. Some things you can let go of. Also, don’t keep making your husband choose between yourself and his family. Sometimes you can call him to mediate but if you can solve problems yourself amicably then do that so he doesn’t have extra tension on his head.”
“I’m not that difficult to get along with!” I protested laughingly.
Nana smiled fondly. “With your kind, no. You’re a lioness amongst lions. We’ll take your temper and fire with a pinch of salt. But these are hyenas. A lion’s roar won’t please them. You have to play a different game with them.”
I burst out laughing. I knew why nana was such a good teacher. He really knew how to put things into perspective. Leaning forward I leaned my head on nana’s shoulder, feeling like a little girl again…wishing I could just be that little girl again for a while, with no care in the world. No tests and huge changes coming up, no loss and separation from loved ones…abruptly the tears started. I turned my head and wept in nana’s chest, wishing he didn’t have to go. Nana wrapped his arms around me, rocking me gently, murmuring soothing words in my ear.
“Why do you have to go?” I mumbled, my face pressed into his shoulder, “don’t go. Stay here.”
Nana moved me back slightly, smiling down at me. “I have to go, beti. I’ll be back again soon inshaAllah.”
“No, you don’t have to go back!” I burst out. Nani and mum came into the room and I turned to look at nani, swiping my hands over my eyes to wipe my tears, “you don’t have to go back, nani. There’s no one there. You two are alone and you’re not getting any younger. Why not move back? All of us are here.”
“I have my teaching there, Fazzu,” nana said, “and my imaamat. I can’t leave it all and move back. The maahol (environment) there is not as good. I have to make mehnat (effort) wherever I can.”
I knew he was the main alim there. The rock, the foundation of Manchester. It still didn’t make it easier for me to let go of him…again. But I put on my brave face, nodding and smiling at him shakily. It was harder for me to say bye to them than it was for my siblings because they were like parents to me. The years I had spent with them had strengthened our bond so much it was like an almost physical pain to be separated from them each time.
Nani came to me, pulling me from nana, making me stand in front of her. Then she imparted her own wise advice.
“I heard what nana said to you, beti. He is right. Live nicely with khushi (happiness) and muhabbat. Don’t fight with them. You must always make peace. Even if they shout at you and tell you all nonsense things you must listen and say jee. But don’t start fighting about who is right because that is where the problem starts…”
“Now, Hafsa, don’t teach the girl to become a doormat,” nana interrupted, “if they are wrong and she is right she must say it but say it nicely. If she keeps her mouth shut all the time they’ll walk all over her. We don’t want that also.”
“But if she answers back it can cause problems,” nani argued.
“If she answers back nicely and they don’t want to accept their mistakes that’s their own problem. Choose your battles wisely beti but if they cross the line you must speak up. But do it nicely. Bas.”
“What do men know?” Nani said crossly, “just now you’ll create problems where there’s none!”
“Mummy, papa is right,” mum said gently, “if she becomes a doormat they’ll walk all over her. Then she’ll be miserable. You wouldn’t want her to sacrifice her happiness for theirs, would you?”
“No, of course not,” nani replied, “but your papa is too soft where Fazzu is concerned. And he thinks he’s always right,” she huffed.
“Jaanu, with us it’s you whose always right. That’s why you’ve kept me so happy all these years,” nana smiled broadly at her and she melted like putty before our eyes, smiling back at him. I silently awwwwwhed at them. Relationship goals! Hopefully Ahmed and I would be like this fifty years from now as well inshaAllah!
Nana and nani left then with mum and dad and I drove to madrassah with a heavy heart…