All posts by oceanus868

Part 173

Exams were fast approaching once again and we got caught up in the rush and buzz of it all. Once again I was so grateful that Han and I were in the same class. We spent countless late nights studying together. We paced the length of my room in opposite directions, reading aloud to each other. We had heated debates on the dinner table, on topics that only we understood. And we snapped at each other and anyone else who came in our way when the stress became too much for us. Mum and dad must have been counting down the days to our last exam as much as we were, just to have some peace back in the house.

At long last that day did come. I will never forget the exhilarating feeling of walking out of the hall after my last exam, knowing that I will never write another paper in my life! I joined my friends who had finished already and we threw open packets of crisps, chocolates and other sweets, then ate while laughing and chatting, feeling giddy with a sense of freedom.

“It’s over! We’re Done!”

“Finished, finally! Alhamdulillah!”

“I’m an apa now. You may kiss my hand,” Laila held out her hand with flourish.

“Eww, get out! Look who’s getting all high and mighty now!”

The euphoria lasted all through our jalsa preparations and only when the day itself arrived that it hit us all forcefully; we were actually leaving the madrassah…for good. That realisation almost doused our happiness and filled us with a sense of poignancy and sadness.

My khatam and jalsa…a.k.a graduating ceremony…was worlds apart from my university graduation four years ago. This was just so peaceful, filled with serenity and yet so joyful and touching. Our alwidaa (farewell) nasheed brought us to tears and when the apa who was the guest of honour read the last Hadith and started explaining the beautiful words, those tears slid down our faces unheeded. Never again would we sit in darsul Hadith (Hadith classes), never again would we read “Qaala Rasulullah S.A.W” in that blessed environment, never again would we hear our apa explain those beautiful words to us…Never again would we learn the tafsir of the Qur’an, hear the mysteries of the kalaam of Allah opened up…Never again would we sit in that blessed environment and simply soak up the teachings of Islam. Those days were gone and now a great responsibility was being put on our shoulders; that of being the true flagbearers of Islam, of spreading Islam to all four corners of the world. Now we were role models and we had to carry that title and fulfill its haqq to the best of our ability. It was a great responsibility and I felt the weight of it settle on me even as I longed for my carefree student days again.

After jalsa the head apa, Apa Shireen kept a dawat for all the students and asaatidha (teachers) at her house. Her house, though simple, boasted a large, well tended and spacious garden where we all gathered. She had chased her husband and sons away and there were no other men so we could move around freely without our niqaabs. It was a wonderful dawat, lovely food and even better company. Hafiza, Han, Laila, I and a few other girls sat in a circle on one side.

“Did you see the desserts??” Hafiza flopped down next to me, “so many and they look soo yummy! I wish I hadn’t stuffed myself with those ribs now.”

“Now you tell me!” I waved my own half-eaten rib at her, “when this is my second rib and I’m also feeling ready to burst!”

Hafiza laughed. “Not my fault. I only saw them now. But you can take a walk with me to digest your food a bit before attacking the desserts.” Her expression told me it wasn’t just an offhand suggestion. I nodded and wiped my plate and fingers clean before getting up.

“Come on, let’s go.”

We walked around the house to the front where there were less people. Before Hafiza could stop I did and turned to her.

“Spill.”

“That obvious, am I?” Hafiza smiled wryly. She opened her mouth, hesitated, then shut it again. “Forget it. Some other day.”

“What? Just tell me. I can see it’s something big.”

Hafiza shook her head. “I don’t wanna ruin your day by telling you.”

“Oh, come on! You’ve made me really curious now. Just say it.”

Hafiza signed loudly. “Okay, okay. Tariq got engaged.”

My eyes widened in surprise. “Wow…That was quick!” I hadn’t meant to say that. It just slipped out.

“Yeah. I thought I’ll tell you before you hear about it from other people who just want to see your reaction.”

“Yeah, I’m glad you told me. At least I’ll have time to digest this information before someone else mentions it…who is she?” I turned to look at her.

“Her name is Razia Essack. She’s from Durban.”

I nodded slowly, pursing my lips thoughtfully. “Never heard of her.”

“Are you sad?”

I shook my head quickly. “No ways! Why would I be sad over that idiot??” Then I sighed. “I’m such a lousy liar. The truth is, that small silly part of me is hurt that he moved on so fast and wondering if that girl is prettier than me, better than me. But the larger, saner part of me is feeling sorry for her and hoping he’s stopped with that side-chick of his completely and is serious about this marriage.”

“Yeah, that’s the main thing. I wonder if she even knows about his engagement to you and why it broke.”

I shrugged. “I’m sure they know about our broken engagement since it was the talk of the town for weeks. Not sure if she knows the reasons though. But that’s none of our business anyways. Come, let’s go have dessert now. I’m hungry again.”

Hafiza laughed. “It’s a wonder you don’t put on weight with the way you eat.”

I smirked at her. “Some of us are just lucky…Alhamdulillah.”

There was molten lava cake with vanilla ice cream, mint tart and various other desserts. I went straight for the molten lava cake, humming in appreciation as the chocolate flavour burst on my tongue.

“Mmmm. This is just tooo good. I wish I knew how to make it.”

Laila, one of my classmates looked up at this. “It’s quite easy to make, actually.”

“Really? Do you have a fool proof recipe?”

“Yeah, I make it all the time. I’ll send you inshaAllah.”

“Okay, cool!” I grinned at her around a mouthful of cake.

I enjoyed the rest of my day, putting Tariq and his issues out of my mind. And yet tendrils of doubt, uncertainty and guilt lingered at the back of my mind. I did not owe her any explanation. But…if I had been in her place wouldn’t I have liked to know the truth at least?

So, should I? Or was the risk too great?

Advertisements

Part 172

The news of mine and Tariq’s broken engagement exploded throughout PE and yet again I was caught in it’s backlash. However, this time I saw the other side of the coin; the face behind the mask; the refuse behind the glitter, so to speak. I saw the side of people that had not been exposed to me before.

People wanted to know why, of course. They all asked; some politely, their curiosity veiled behind a thin veneer of sophistication; some outright, not bothering to conceal their inquisitiveness. I answered them all honestly. To me it wasn’t about exposing someone’s sins. It was about exposing a bad habit to prevent other innocent girls from falling into the same trap I had. I expected shock, outrage, sadness, pity behind my confessions. I did not expect outright denial and open condescension. I also did not expect people to make me feel like I had committed a crime by actually turning the Kadwas down.

The Kadwas, of course, had a hand in it. They told their version of the story to anyone and everyone who was willing to listen, which was ninety-nine percent of the population. According to them I had misunderstood the whole thing. The girl had thrown herself at Tariq, not vice versa and Tariq had tried to move her away as soon as he could. He had also broken off all ties to the girl so they thought I was making a huge fuss out of nothing. Eighty percent of that ninety-nine percent, unfortunately, believed them and agreed with them.

It was a rude awakening for me. Until now I had been sheltered beneath my parents wings, untouched by any scandal, unaware of how the adult world actually thought and functioned. Now I had stepped out of that protection and was seeing the ugly cracks of society with my own eyes.

I had been so naive. So naive. I had actually thought people would feel sorry for me; that I would be the victim and Tariq the criminal. Well, guess what. I became the criminal…and sweet, innocent Tariq became the bleeding victim.

I still remembered some of the comments issued. They had been branded into my head like the letters of the alphabet and I was sure I wouldn’t be forgetting them anytime soon, if ever.

“You caught him kissing a girl?? Innalillah! That’s so shocking! I can’t even believe it. Such a nice boy he is…such a nice family…why would he do something like that?… but you know what, ma, you mustn’t let things like this bother you. Men will be men, you know. They always up to some nonsense. And if he told you he’s ended it with her then you should have believed him and married him…”

“Kissing, you say?? Allah, shame! That’s boys for you, huh. But tell me, what’s the problem now? He said he’s ended it with her, so then? I’m sorry, I don’t understand…”

“You actually broke the engagement over a small thing like that?? Didn’t your parents put some sense into you? Do you know how rich and famous the Kadwas are? If I were you I’d hold onto that man. I would not let him go over a small thing like this…”

“Tch, tch, you’re too young my girl. Your parents should have known better than to let you get your way here. You should know that men will be like that. Before marriage they do all sorts of things, after marriage they settle down so nicely. Why didn’t you take his word for it? Mustn’t be so stubborn, ma. Where you going to get such a nice proposal now?”

“Ay, that’s reality, my dear. If I were you I would have turned a blind eye. At least I would be settled and living in luxury. Can’t be too fussy these days. Men are all the same. You won’t get a saint, you know…”

Mum got the same amount of condescending comments, all along the same lines. There were positive comments as well, of course, sympathy and support offered even by people I didn’t know so well but it was the bad ones which tended to stick. Initially I was shocked at their shallowness and stupidity. Then I became angry with them, and then slowly, my anger turned to sadness and bone-deep weariness. I did not want to go out anymore. I did not want to socialise. I thought if I heard one more snide comment I would lose control and start screaming. I did not want to meet anyone. And most of all, I did not want to hear anything on the topic of marriage. I had infact forbidden my parents to mention the word marriage to me and to turn away all further proposals without informing me about them, till I was ready to take that step again. This time not even mum disagreed. They all knew I needed time to get over this…

For now I turned to my Quran for solace. Nana and nani were still here for another month and everyday after fajr I went downstairs and recited my portion of quran to nana. Then nana would read the quran while I sat and let his deep, melodious voice wash over me, soothing away the hurt, bathing me in contentment. Sometimes we would both recite together, our voices melding into each other, creating a hypnotic melody. Sometimes mum and Han would join in, for we all had been blessed with the gift of reciting alhamdulillah. Those times after fajr were my favourite time of the day.

I also constantly recited the following duas as their benefits were enormous;

Umm Salamah, the wife of the Messenger of Allah S.A.W reported Allah’s Messenger S.A.W as saying, “If any servant (of Allah) who suffers a calamity says:

إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ اللَّهُمَّ أْجُرْنِي فِي مُصِيبَتِي وَأَخْلِفْ لِي خَيْرًا مِنْهَا

Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’oon. Allahumma’jurni fee museebati wakhluf lee khairan minha

“We belong to Allah and to Him shall we return; O Allah, reward me for my affliction and give me something better than it in exchange for it.”

Allah will give him the reward for affliction, and will give him something better than it in exchange. Umm Salamah R.A. said, “When Abu Salamah R.A. passed away I uttered these very words as I was commanded to do by the Messenger of Allah. So Allah gave me better in exchange of him i.e. I was taken as the wife of the Messenger of Allah S.A.W.”

When Musa A.S. escaped from Misr (Egypt) and came to Madyan he had no food, water or shelter. In distress he prayed to Allah;

رَبِّ إِنِّي لِمَا أَنْزَلْتَ إِلَيَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ

Rabbi innee lima anzalta ilayya min khairin faqeer

“My Lord, indeed I am, for whatever good You would send down to me, in need.”

In response Allah gave him shelter and work at the hands of Shu’aib A.S. and a wife, the daughter of Shu’aib A.S.

I had also heard that it was a good dua for receiving a wonderful proposal so I kept reciting that as well.

Apart from that there was my madrassah which alhamdulillah kept me busy and friends and family who offered their complete understanding and support. I kept myself busy, not allowing myself to dwell on the turn of fate I had been dealt, and knew that time would heal all wounds…

Part 171

Tariq. I recognised him as he turned my way and immediately pressed back into the shadows to avoid notice. What on earth is he doing here, in an alleyway on the poorer side of town and at this time???

And then I saw his companion. She stepped up behind him and he immediately turned to face her again. My heart started thundering in my ears as a premonition of doom built up in me. In slow motion I saw him turn slightly to lean against the wall and pull her up against him. His arms wrapped around her and he bent his head to hers…

I swallowed hard, repeatedly, trying to force down the bile that threatened to rise up and choke me. I watched them in some form of stunned paralysis; I could not move, could not look away from them. The carton of milk slipping from my hand and falling to the ground with a thud made me start. I glanced down briefly, noticing that the carton had cracked open and milk was seeping out of it. The cat was bent over it, trying to lap it up as fast as possible. Amazingly it was the mundane normality of that scene that roused me from my stupor. Anger filled me rapidly, coursing through my veins, replacing the shock, fortifying me. Without a second thought I marched over to them. I was wearing soft soled shoes which muffled my approach, which gave me the advantage of walking up to them unnoticed but also gave me a ringside view of their lewd embrace. I was so disgusted and so angry that I swung my purse at his head unthinkingly, where it connected with a satisfying thunk. He yelped and jumped back, clutching his head. The woman also cried out but all my attention was on him. He rounded on me furiously.

“What the hell are you doing?? Who the hell are you??”

“I think I’m supposed to be asking you that, Tariq Kadwa. What the hell are you doing, embracing a strange woman the day before your nikah?? Or have you forgotten that you’re getting married tomorrow??”

“Fazila???” He breathed, backing up, “wh-what are you doing here???”

“Watching my fiancé make out with a whore, what else??”

The woman gasped. “I’m not a whore, you b**ch!! I am the woman he loves and you’re just the poor little sidekick! Did he tell you…”

“Sarah! That’s enough!” Tariq grabbed her arm, “leave us. Fazila and I need to talk.”

“But babe…”

“I said leave us!!”

Sarah shot me a malicious look tinged with triumph before stomping away.

“Fazila…it’s not how it looks…”

“Oh, please, spare me the crap!” I cried out angrily, “I caught you red-handed kissing that woman, Tariq. What do you mean, it’s not how it looks???”

“It will not happen again! I swear! This was the last time I was meeting her. It was goodbye.”

“Goodbye!! What kind of goodbye was that??? Who the hell is she anyways???”

“She…we were in a relationship but my mum refused me to marry her because she’s a coloured. So I told her I had to end it with her. That’s why I was meeting her today, to tell her that. It’s over, Fazila, I swear!”

“So you were giving her a nice goodbye kiss before sending her on her way?? And not just a peck but a nice long smooch??” My voice broke in disgust, “I don’t know what kind of fool you take me for! I’m glad I even caught you so I know how you really are! And to think I almost married you!!!”

“What do you mean, almost??” Tariq looked alarmed, “we’re getting married tomorrow!”

I laughed humourlessly. “You’re joking, right?? You think I’ll marry you after what I’ve just seen?? You think I’m stupid?? Or do you think I’m the sort of woman who will eat your money and look the other way at your infidelities??”

“I told you it’s over!”

“Oh, just shut up!” I lashed out furiously, heartily sick of this nauseating charade, “you two didn’t look like over to me and I will not become “just a poor little sidekick”! You two are welcome to each other! I’m out of here!!” I spun on my heel, intending to stalk off.

“You’re a fool,” Tariq hissed behind me, “do you know what I’m offering you?? Do you know who I am?? I am a Kadwa and the Kadwas are the richest shots in PE. You’ll have enough money that you won’t have to work a day in your life. You’ll live like a queen if you marry me but you’re refusing because of one silly little thing?? Think carefully because if you say no now I won’t come after you. I won’t beg you to stay with me. And later on you’ll regret your mistake!”

That did it! I spun back around so fast that he took a step back. I leaned forward, hurling each word into his face. “You think I’m a fool for turning you down??? Well, let me tell you something, Tariq Kadwa! I would be the biggest fool on earth if I married a lying, cheating idiot like you! Money makes a cold bed partner, don’t you think???” I saw his face darkening in anger and I raised my voice, “and for your information there is no amount of money on earth large enough to make a scum like you worth marrying!!!” I spun around again and stalked off.

“Fu**ing b**ch!” I heard him swear viciously behind me. I carried on walking till I reached my car. Now that I had spent my anger I felt deflated…numb. I opened the car, slid in and drove home. I walked into the house which was buzzing with cheerful voices and bursts of laughter. The sounds were so discordant and alien in my current mood that I felt like I was floating in space; neither here or there. I walked past the lounge, past the dining room into the kitchen where mum, dad, nana and nani were standing around and talking. Good. I can tell them all one time.

“Faz? You’re late! Where’s the mendhi cones??” Mum exclaimed on seeing me.

I glanced down at my empty hands. “They’re gone. I must have dropped them,” I said blankly.

“Dropped them?? Where??”

Dad took a step forward, his eyes searching my face intently. “Faz? What’s wrong?”

I raised vacant eyes to him. “I don’t know where the mendhi cones are. It doesn’t matter. There won’t be a nikah tomorrow so no need to put mendhi now…”

A chorus of exclamations cut me off.

“What do you mean?”

“Why no nikah?”

“What’s going on, Faz?”

“Wait!” That was nana, in his authoritative voice, “let her explain. Fazila, beti, what’s wrong?”

I looked at him then down again. “I caught Tariq kissing a girl. He said he was in a relationship with her but they’ve ended it now. He said it was the last time he was seeing her and it’s over now but why was he kissing her if it was over? It didn’t look like over to me and I told him that. We…argued. I told him I can’t marry him now. He acted like I was depriving myself of a great honour by refusing to marry him!” I lifted my gaze again, saw the incredulous expressions surrounding me.

Everything was a blur after that. I saw more people come into the kitchen, wondering what was going on. I saw dad bellowing for Adnaan, saw Sumi running off to phone him. I saw the kitchen filling up, voices raised over each other, everyone’s anger and opinions tumbling over each other, clashing in a cacophony of voices. And all the while I stood on one side, feeling like an outsider, like I was not part of the debate going on before my eyes.

Nana put an end to it as usual. He held up his hand. “Silence!” He barely raised his voice but the noise died down as everyone automatically turned to listen to him. “I think it’s a foregone fact that there won’t be a wedding taking place tomorrow. Isn’t that right, Fazila?” His gaze cut to me and I nodded numbly. “Right then, I don’t know if the boy’s side knows what’s going on. Tariq might have told them his side of the story or he might not have said anything at all, hoping Fazila comes to her senses and goes ahead with the wedding. In either case we need to go there and make ourselves clear. I also want to know if they know anything about this or not. I’ll go with Hafsa, Rabia and Faruk. The rest of you can stay here or go back to your houses, it’s up to you. We will let you know what happens, of course.

“I also want to come!” Adnaan declared hotly.

Nana shook his head. “No, only us seniors are going. You stay here with Sumaya and Haneefa and keep an eye on Fazila, Adnaan. She needs you here.”

I did not need anyone at that moment but I said nothing. Nana and them left soon after that and the rest made themselves comfortable, having no intention to go back to their houses just yet. They approached me to offer words of consolation but at that moment I just wanted to be alone. I excused myself, shook my head at Amira, Aliyah and Han when they tried to follow me and went up to my room. As soon as the door was shut behind me I slumped to the floor, burying my head in my hands, too weary now to keep up the pretense of being strong. The truth was that I was not strong. I was not coping marvellously as people thought; I was actually almost at the end of my tether. The numbness that had fortified me till now was starting to disintegrate and my mind was roaring to life with a vengeance, insisting on replaying the scene in my mind over and over again. And with it came a multitude of emotions.

Anger was first. Anger and an acute sense of betrayal that fisted into me, leaving me winded, feeling like the air had been knocked from me. How dare he propose to me, come to see me, agree to marry me if he already had someone on the side?? Even if his parents had refused him to marry her why couldn’t he either remain single till he got over his attachment to her or marry her against his parents wishes?? Why involve me, an innocent bystander in this? Why play out the farce of a willing husband and spoil an innocent girl’s life like this??? Were they so selfish that they only thought of themselves???

I knew why he had done this, of course. I had heard of cases like these countless times, where well known families refused to let their sons marry anyone who was not of their class or social level because they did not want a breath of scandal to touch them. Where they forced their sons to marry pure, decent girls from good families and buried their skeletons firmly in their closets. Where the sons then went along with their families plans just to save their own hides and married those nice girls just for names sake, then carried on with their liaisons behind their wives backs. The families and boys only thought of their selfish desires to keep themselves free of gossip and scandal, not caring in the least about the innocent girls they entrapped in faithless marriages as a result. I had always heard of these stories; I had just never imagined it happening to me.

I should be grateful, I thought with a burst of hysterical laughter. At least I had caught him before marrying him. Imagine if I’d only found out after marrying him or worse, after having kids with him. Then I’d be a divorcee with kids because I knew that there was no way I could turn a blind eye to my husband’s unfaithfulness. Not even to live like a queen. I should be grateful…and happy…

Abruptly my laughter turned to sobs. I was not happy. I was shattered. In a flash I saw all my dreams, my hopes come crashing down around me, and the pain of the jagged edges cutting into me was worse than a thousand knives.

Nana and them returned after a couple of hours, angry, helpless, frustrated and furious beyond words. I was still in my room when they came to find me and their silent sympathy and impotent fury threatened to crumble the last vestiges of my self control.

“What happened?” I whispered.

They took turns telling me what had happened, deliberately giving the story a light edge to lift my mood.

Tariq’s family had no idea about what had happened. Tariq had come home and retreated to his room without mentioning anything. Apparently he had hoped I would come to my senses and carry on with the wedding. So his parents got a rude shock when nana and them had stormed into their house in anger.

“They had no idea,” mum said, “they were shocked when we told them why we had come. Then they went into denial.”

Nani snorted. “That Naseema knew all about her son’s affair. Did you see the guilty look on her face? She just didn’t want to give him away. She defended him instead,” she snorted again in disgust.

Tariq’s parents had defended him staunchly, saying even if such a thing had happened…implying that I might have made up or exaggerated the whole incident…Tariq wouldn’t do anything like that after he got married. He would definitely be faithful, he wasn’t the straying kind, etc etc…

Then nana had stood up. “Call the boy. Call your son here,” he repeated when Tariq’s parents simply stared at him, “I want to know his side of the story as well.”

Almost reluctantly Aunt Naseema had gone to call him. He had come then, looking nonchalant and casual, though his eyes had darted around nervously. Nana wasted no time in apprising him of the situation.

“Tell us your side of the story, please,” he instructed quietly.

Tariq flushed. “Yes, she saw me kissing the girl but it wasn’t like she thought. Sarah and I have known each other for a long time. She had hopes that I would marry her, even though I told her it wasn’t possible. I simply told her to meet me today to clarify to her that whatever was between us was over because I was getting married. She became upset and threw herself at me. It was an instinctive reaction on my part,” he said defensively, “it wasn’t intentional.”

Nana regarded him in silence for a long time till he started fidgeting uncomfortably. “Can you give me this girl’s name and number? I think I would like to have a word with her.”

Tariq laughed shortly. “An imaam talking to a girl? Isn’t that haraam, maulana?”

“What is haraam for me is equally haraam for you, my boy,” nana returned calmly, “however, Rabia can talk to her. Find out her thoughts on your…ermm…relationship.”

“There’s no need to do all that now,” Tariq said hastily, just as his mum also intervened.

“Yes, Tariq is right. It’s over, no need to go into all that now. She’s his past. Fazila is his future. Can’t you’ll understand that?” She looked beseechingly at mum.

“What I understand, Mr. and Mrs. Kadwa, is that you’ll have been very selfish and deceiving,” nana stated, his voice taking on a steely edge. He had everyone’s attention now, “you knew that your son was involved with this girl. You knew he wanted to marry her but you refused because she’s a coloured and people would talk if he did that. So to save your family’s name and status you proposed to a girl from a nice family with an impeccable reputation. An alima to boot. Why, because people would approve and praise your choice. And your son went along with it because he doesn’t have the spine to defy you and because he doesn’t want to be cut off from all the benefits of wealth and luxuries you are providing him with. You only thought of yourselves. You did not spare a thought for my granddaughter who was a pawn in your dirty game. You would have condemned her to a lifetime of misery, trapped in a faithless marriage simply to save your face. Or maybe you thought your money would keep her happy. I know your son definitely thought like that. But for us, money doesn’t equal happiness. We gave our trust to you and we expected the same of you. I am extremely disappointed that you did not hold us in the same regard. We were going to give you our amaanah and you were going to trample on it. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Each of his words slashed through the tense atmosphere like stinging lashes of whips, raining down ceaselessly on his opponents.

The Kadwas immediately took offense to his words and tone. “How dare you??” Yunus Kadwa thundered, surging to his feet, “how dare you walk into my house and insult us like this??? Those are all baseless accusations! Baseless, I tell you!! Has your granddaughter married my son to know what her marriage will turn out like?? Do you know if he will be faithful or not to her?? No, you don’t know anything! You are just assuming the worst then coming here and telling us what you think we are like! Well, if we are so evil in your eyes then leave!! My son will find someone a thousand times better than your granddaughter. This will be your loss, not ours, because you can only think the worst of us!”

“You’re wrong,” nana returned, implacably, the steel in his voice more pronounced, “this is your loss because you’ve just lost a gem of a girl. And let me ask you something, Yunus. Do you have a daughter?”

“Of course I have. What does that have to do with anything??”

“Allah forbid but tomorrow if your daughter gets engaged to a man and finds him kissing someone else the day before her nikah please try and be as objective as you are now. Defend his honour, accept his promises that he won’t be unfaithful after his marriage and marry your daughter to him anyways. When you do that I shall applaud your open mindedness, because then I’ll know that your words today were sincere,” he paused for several moment, his eyes boring into the other man’s, “things look very different when the shoe is on the other foot. Think about that then see if I’m being unreasonable or if I’m just protecting my own.” With that he walked out, leaving a deafening silence behind.

I laughed out loud when I heard that. “Go, nana!” I cheered, feeling much better now, “you gave them the truth right between the teeth.”

“People don’t think like that, that’s the problem,” nani put in, “if everyone thought from the other person’s perspective there wouldn’t be this many problems in this world.”

We agreed wholeheartedly with that.

“Never mind, Fazzu,” nana sat down next to me, giving me a hug, “when the shock of this wears off you’ll realise how much better off you are without this marriage. I realised today what a selfish, monetary lot they really are. Believe me, Allah has definitely done what is khair for you. This is actually a fadhl of Allah, alhamdulillah.”

I nodded, smiling tremulously, “jee, nana. Allah always does what’s khair for us.”

I kept reminding myself of that everytime I felt the sorrow begin to overtake me. This too shall pass, Fazila. This too shall pass…

Part 170

The wedding week was more jam-packed and hectic than the regular bride-to-be would have because I was no regular bride-to-be. I was a student as well so I had to juggle full days of madrassah with whatever I had planned for the day.

On Monday I went to the tailor after madrassah and got the final fittings done for my wedding and walima dresses. The lady sewed so well that I had preferred to have my gowns sewn by her rather than buying them. That way I could have them made to my exact requirements; decent, with full sleeves and matching hijabs, but breathtakingly elegant as well. That done, I brought them home in their dress-bags and hung them up in my closet, to be removed on the day of my wedding.

On Tuesday I went to have my arms and legs…till my knees…waxed at the salon then came home and spent the next hour gritting my teeth and waxing the hair on my thighs. I’d never done this before and it took so long and hurt so much that I spent the time alternately cursing and making fervent duas that Tariq liked my legs just the way they were and did not mind if I didn’t wax ever again in my life!

On Wednesday I went for a facial, manicure and pedicure at the same salon. This time Han, Amira and Aliyah accompanied me.

“What you’ll whispering about over there?” I asked suspiciously in the middle of the facial, raising my head and peering at them with half-open eyes. Han had seemed unusually jumpy and excited today and she refused to tell my why.

“Nothing!” All three of them chorused, matching wide grins on their faces.

I raised my caked eyebrows and lay back down. When I was getting my manicure and pedicure done I saw Amira wink at Han and mouth something to her, tipping her head in my direction. She saw me looking and quickly looked away again but the smile on her face lingered. As a result my curiosity was at its peak by the time we went back to the car.

“Alright, you’ll, spill!” I ordered, “why are you’ll being so secretive? What’s going on?”

“You’ll get to know sooooon, big sis,” Han smirked.

“Is it a surprise?” I asked.

“Yup. A big one.”

“Oooh!” Most of my annoyance at being left out evaporated, “give me a hint at least. Let’s see if I can guess.”

Han shook her head. “Any hints would make it too obvious. Wait till we reach home.”

I wondered if she was maybe planning a surprise party but it was already so late that it couldn’t be that. I thought of a few other things, rejected them then decided to just wait till we got home. We dropped off Amira and Aliyah then carried on home. As we approached Han grew so excited that she started bouncing on her seat.

“Can you sit still? You’re distracting me,” I said with an exasperated smile.

“No, I can’t! Drive faster!”

By the time we got home I was imagining many different scenarios. The house looked the same as usual. Han let me precede her so I opened the door and stepped inside the quiet house.

“Assalamu alaykum,” I called loudly as I entered. I heard a slight shuffle as I bent down to remove my muddy shoes and place them by the door. A movement on my left caught my attention and I straightened just in time to see nana step out of the lounge, nani just behind him. I blinked…stared…blinked again, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t imagining things…then let out a piercing shriek and leaped forward into nana’s outstretched arms.

“Nana! Ya Allah, nana! You’re here! You are actually here!” I was laughing and crying and hugging him fiercely, unable to believe that they were really here.

“It’s so nice to see you, beti,” nana’s voice was gruff with emotion, his eyes suspiciously bright as he leaned back to look at me nicely, “you look well, mashaAllah.”

“Now that you’re here, of course,” I laughed, slipping out of his arms and into nani’s, who was crying openly.

“My baby. My bachu, I’m so happy to see you.” We clung to each other until the storm of emotions had passed.

“Come eat now, you’ll,” mum put in. We followed her into the kitchen where we sat down to eat together amidst talks and laughter. I kept looking at nana and nani throughout the meal, smiling fondly at them, noticing the extra lines that now marred their faces. I had missed them so much and was only now realising just how much I had missed being around them. I noticed them looking at me as well, our shared memories parading through each of our minds.

Towards the end of the meal nana leaned back at fixed his eyes on me. With a bland yet challenging smile he recited in his deep voice;

He paused halfway and looked at me expectantly. I returned his smile with one of my own and promptly rattled off the next three lines, watching the smile grow on his face.

“You remember!” He exclaimed in pleasure.

“Of course. I’ve never forgotten it.”

Nana taught Alfiyah Ibn Malik in his madrassah and made all his students memorise the matn (text) since it comprised of most of the rules of the arabic language in poetry form and would help them greatly if they had all the rules on their fingertips. I had overheard one of his students reciting his lines to nana in his study one night and had been fascinated by the eloquence of the words. Later I had asked nana what it was and he had explained it to me. On an impulse I had told him to also make me memorise it. His answer had been to laugh and inform me that it would be too difficult for me, especially since I did not understand the arabic language. That had only made me more determined to learn and I had challenged him to teach me.

“How long did it take your fastest student to learn the whole kitab?” I’d asked him.

“Eleven months,” he’d replied.

“I’ll learn it in ten inshaAllah if you’re willing to teach me,” I had proclaimed. Impressed by my eagerness to learn if not my confidence in my own ability he had started teaching me that very night. And like all the things I took an interest in I had given it my all until I had managed to commit the whole kitab to memory in just four days short of eleven months. I still remembered nana’s pleasure and pride in me that day. After that it had become a sort of sport to us to recite random lines to each other every night. That made me revise my lines as well and nana’s random tests sharpened my memory and placed the kitab on my fingertips as well.

That particular memory brought to mind another; the day I was talking to Ahmed and Zul at campus. I couldn’t recall the exact topic we were discussing but in the middle of it Ahmed recited a couple of lines of arabic poetry that probably applied to whatever he was saying. With a lofty, superior look in my direction he had then proceeded to explain, “that was from a kitab called Alfiyah Ibn Malik. It’s arabic grammar written in poetry form. Your nana makes us all memorise the entire kitab in our fourth year.”

“How impressive,” I had murmured, then, without missing a beat I had rattled off the next three lines. The look on his face had been priceless!

“How do you know the kitab?” He had demanded to know, looking dazed.

I’d given him a smug smile. “He’s my nana, you know.”

“You mean you’ve memorised the entire kitab??”

“Yup! In ten months.”

“TEN!!!” He’d exclaimed and by now both Zul and I were both laughing.

“Yup. Now tell me again, which kitab did you quote from?” I’d smirked at him.

Ahmed had shaken his head, a slow, admiring smile dawning on his face. “Wow, mashaAllah. You have an amazing memory…especially since you don’t even understand arabic…ten months…wow!”

“Jazakallah,” I’d murmured, basking in the warmth of his admiration.

I gave my head a firm shake, banishing all thoughts of Ahmed and the lingering sense of nostalgia that went with it. Unfortunately for me, seeing nana again was bringing back memories of Manchester and the people I’d been surrounded by over there…most especially Ahmed, which would not do at all! I needed to move forward, not backwards…

“How are you finding your arabic now that you’ve memorised the rules?” Nana was asking.

“Much easier. It’s made a huge difference, alhamdulillah,” I replied, “infact Han also memorised the kitab after seeing how much it benefitted me.”

“That’s nice, mashaAllah,” nana turned his warm smile in Han’s direction and she blushed.

“I hope your rotis are coming out nice and round these days,” nani said to me after a while.

“I’ve given up on rotis, nani. With Sumi and mum around who’s bothered to make rotis?” I grinned at her, winking at Sumi.

“You’re not making at all!” Nani leaned forward with a dark scowl on her face, “Ya Allah, Fazila! You’re getting married in two days! Then what will you give your husband for dinner, buns and tea??”

I burst out laughing. Getting up I went over to sit beside nani and gave her a side-hug. “I’ve missed you, nani.”

“We’ve missed you as well, Fazzu. The house was too quiet without you around,” nana replied.

“Fazzu?” Adnaan, Sumi and Han asked simultaneously and I groaned. “Nana! That nickname was one I didn’t miss at all!”

“Aah, you’re my fazzu bear and everyone knows it,” nana replied and everyone started laughing.

“Fazzu,” Adnaan and Han dutifully repeated, sly smirks on their faces. I glared at them which only made them smirk even more.

We sat up till almost midnight, talking and reminiscing over old memories, then finally retired to our rooms, yawning widely. Nana and nani were sleeping in Adnaan’s old room and I went there before going off to sleep.

“I just came to make salaam to you…and to tell you both that I’ve missed you’ll so much and I’m so happy you came all the way for my wedding!” I said in a rush, feeling emotional all of a sudden.

Nana and nani smiled at me affectionately. “We wouldn’t have missed your wedding for anything, Fazzu,” nani said, “we had to come.”

“I had to perform your nikah, neh?” Nana added with a grin.

“Of course! That’s been my wish for so long!” I beamed.

Finally, tired but feeling exhilarated I went off to sleep.

The next day was my mendhi which I’d decided to keep extremely small and intimate, with just my immediate family and Hafiza and Zee around. I had come home, dumped my madrassah bag in my room and freshened up before I realised that I had completely forgotten to pick up the mendhi cones on the way home. I groaned and went downstairs to tell mum.

“Fazila! You see, that’s why I always tell you not to leave things for the last minute! Now everyone’s here and waiting and we don’t even have the cones. And it will be maghrib soon!” Mum grumbled.

“Does no one else have any cones?” I asked.

“Swaleha came with two of hers, I think. And Aunt Shamim has one.”

“Perfect! Tell them to start putting on other people while I quickly pop out and get the ones we ordered. It won’t take me long, inshaAllah.”

“You’re the bride. You need to put first. Let Amy or someone else go instead and you go start putting your mendhi,” mum said.

I shook my head. “This is my fault and I don’t think Amy and them know where this lady stays. I won’t be long, don’t worry.” I grabbed my phone and car keys and dashed out again.

The lady I had ordered the mendhi cones from lived ten minutes away, in a flat above their shop. The shop was already closed by the time I got there so I pulled out my phone and called her, praying that she would answer and fast. Luckily she answered on the third ring and said she’d be right there. Five minutes later, cones in hand I turned to go back to the car…and almost tripped over a furry bundle that twined itself around my legs.

“Aaaah!” I cried out, flailing my arms wildly to regain my balance. Once I had righted myself I looked down and saw a scrawny grey cat purring softly and rubbing against my legs.

“What are you doing here? You almost made me trip! I do not want to be lame on my wedding day, thank you!” I scolded it. In response it looked up at me with large green eyes and purred louder. I noticed the bones sticking out at its sides and crouched down beside it.

“Awww, look at you. You’re half starved!” I exclaimed sympathetically. I looked around quickly to see if any other shop was open so I could buy a carton of milk for this poor homeless cat. I didn’t have time though. I needed to hurry. I saw a shop open two doors down and hurried there, buying the milk and exiting in record time. The cat was still there and promptly wrapped itself around my legs again.

“Move, tabby. I can’t give you milk if I can’t walk, can I? And I don’t have time so we need to rush.” I looked around me again. I was on the pavement and in the way. I couldn’t give the cat its milk here. I needed to go to a quieter spot. Round the corner, maybe…

I rounded the corner of the mendhi lady’s shop and found myself in a narrow side street. I walked into it with some trepidation. It was getting dark and I needed to be going. I quickly walked ahead till I came to the corner of the side street which opened out into the narrow alleyway that ran behind the shops. Bins lined the wall on one side and on top of one of the bins was…a rusted tin bowl. I gave a triumphant cry and took a step forward when movement out of the corner of my eye made me halt warily. I looked that way, noting the figures that moved in the deepening dusk, almost obscured by the tall shadows thrown by the line of shops. My first instint was to move back into the shadows myself to avoid notice. My second instinct was to freeze as one of the figures moved out of the shadows and turned my way, sharp features thrown into relief in the weak light of the fading day. In slow motion I watched the scene play out before me in all its lurid details, and not once, not even once did I think of moving away…not even when the sick feeling in my stomach grew till I felt like I would puke out all my churning, roiling insides until there was nothing left in me except a hollow, empty shell…

Part 169

TWO posts in ONE day!!!!!! This calls for a celebration…what y’all say? I realise I should have added this post onto the last one…made it longer and just one post. But these words only flowed after I had published the last post so here we have it…all those requests for bonus posts fulfilled😉

Enjoy and drop me your feedbacks xxx


“Let’s see,” mum consulted her diary, her forehead scrunched, “we have a dawat to attend tomorrow, then the dress fitting to go for after that, another dawat on Friday and a braai dawat on Saturday. Oh and Naseema wants to take us to Knysna on Sunday because her brother and his wife have given us lunch dawat.”

“Why so many dawats already?” I asked, frowning, “I thought dawats are supposed to be AFTER the wedding, not before. Do we prepare for the wedding now or keep going for dawats?”

“Ey, I don’t know!” Mum sighed, “I tried to explain to Naseema but she said everyone is so eager to meet you and make your acquaintance that she couldn’t say no. But I told her that next week is the wedding week so we won’t be accepting any dawats.”

“Yeah, good. Next week will be too hectic anyways, even without going for dawats.”

With nine days to go before the wedding I felt like my nerves were stretched to breaking point. Madrassah had started this week so I didn’t get much time to do anything else. I wished mum would just cancel all the dawats but she couldn’t do that without creating issues, I guess. What made things more stressful were that, no matter how simple Tariq might be…and I didn’t know for sure how simple he also was…his family wasn’t as simple. I hadn’t realised till now just how well known and well connected the Kadwas were. Everywhere I went I was sure to bump into someone who would congratulate us and tell us how lucky we were to have bagged such a wonderful proposal.

“You got the man everyone was holding out for, ma. Count yourself very lucky,” one aunt told me. I had smiled politely and agreed with her but inwardly I cringed at all the extra, unwanted attention that was being heaped on me. I could only hope things died down after the wedding.

Because of all that and seeing how well dressed Aunt Naseema, Sameera and Tariq’s aunts always were, it put an additional pressure on me to meet their standards. I wasn’t a hobo but compared to them I felt very outdated and simple. I had casually asked Sameera if Tariq was simple or would he like his wife to dress up and all. His reply, through her, was that in the house he wanted me to be a supermodel. My eyes widened before I could control my reaction then I composed myself and thanked a giggling Sameera. So that meant additional shopping…and more advice from my married cousins.

“What does being a supermodel entail?” I asked Raeesa, one of my married cousins. I told her what Sameera had told me and she burst out laughing.

“That means he wants you to be a bomb in the house. You’ll need to buy those kind of clothes,” she winked at me.

“Do you mind accompanying me to the mall one of these days?” I asked, my cheeks burning. I wasn’t clueless of course. I knew what kind of clothes we were talking about but I had always worn decent clothes because of always being around dad and Adnaan. And Adnaan was so simple that Sumaya didn’t really dress up that much. Her clothes were more casual and comfy. Raeesa, on the other hand, was a fashionista so she would be able to help me out more.

That Saturday Raeesa came to pick me up nice and early. Amira and Aliyah were with her, already giggling away in the backseat.

“You’ll didn’t have to come along,” I told them, “Rae was more than enough for me.”

“We wouldn’t miss this trip for anything!” Amira declared and they started laughing again. I rolled my eyes and put on my seatbelt.

That trip opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of shopping. Raeesa chose outfits for me that would have made me blush and run in the opposite direction before. I stared at myself slack-jawed in the dressing room mirror, already blushing at the revealing clothes. Miniskirts, halter tops, short, sleeveless dresses…… But he was going to be my husband and if he liked me to dress this way then I would do it for him. And it wasn’t like there would be anyone else staying with us so I’d be able to be free.

Outwardly, I firmly intended, I’d still be simple. Half of Tariq’s huge family didn’t wear abayas and the other half who wore them wore the flashy, bling ones. I preferred simpler ones, because the whole purpose of wearing abaya and niqab was to detract attention from oneself. Tariq’s mum and sister were in full purdah at least so I didn’t feel out of place, just a simpleton but I didn’t want to change myself for them so the new abayas I bought were the style I liked and preferred.

The other dawats we were invited to were small compared to the braai dawat on Saturday. It seemed like the whole of their connections in PE and surrounding areas had turned out for it. There were easily over a hundred people in the mansion owned by Tariq’s chacha. Luckily I had Han by my side and we spotted Sameera among the crowd so we made our way over to sit by her.

“You’d think this is the walima, with so many people around,” I whispered to Sameera.

She laughed. “This is nothing. My family loves these gatherings, we have them almost every month infact. This isn’t even quarter of the people invited for the walima.”

My mind reeled at this piece of information. It looked like I would be doing quite a bit of entertaining after marriage.

“Does everyone take turns at hosting these dawats?” I asked her.

“Yeah, kind of. Everyone just gives as they feel like, I guess. But don’t worry, only the seniors host at their houses,” she added, probably seeing my expression, “you will probably only have to bring one dish at each dawat.”

“I see,” I smiled at her.

The braai was a lavish affair with many different kinds of savouries and starters, followed by different kinds of meats as the main meal and ending with at least five types of desserts. I was stuffed by the end of it all. I sat with Sameera and Han for a while before Aunt Naseema came to take me away and introduce me to the ladies present. I stood by her side making salaam to each woman as I was introduced to her, the many family relations and connections flying over my head. Aunt Naseema must have noticed because as she drew me away again she smiled at me kindly.

“Don’t worry, ma, you’ll soon get to know everyone around. Right now it must be a bit much for you.”

“Yes, all the names and faces are jumbled up in my head,” I admitted and she laughed.

“They all know you now and they like you. We’re lucky to have you joining us soon, Fazila,” she smiled at me and I impulsively gave this lovely woman a hug. I just knew that we were going to get along famously even after marriage.

The next day Aunt Naseema and Uncle Yunus took us to Knysna where we met another branch of the family, the Ravats this time. Aunt Naseema’s brother and family. This dawat was a small affair and I found myself chatting amiably to the women present, making new acquaintances and enjoying the delicious food they had prepared. Nonetheless I was happy to be back home and know that the dawats were over for now.

Now onto the wedding week…

Part 168

The news of mine and Tariq’s engagement exploded throughout PE and I was caught in it’s backlash. Dozens of congratulatory messages flooded my phone, from people I knew and people I had never met before. Our house phone didn’t stop ringing off its hook, from well wishers as far as Durban and Cape Town. Invitations to dawats started arriving by the dozen, from family and friends of the Kadwas. And all this was on top of the frenetic weddings preparations that were already under way.

Tariq’s family wanted a huge bash as they said their circle of family and friends was very large. I, on the other hand, wanted a small and simple wedding, without all the frills and fuss. We had many discussions on the topic because the Kadwas wanted to bring their large entourage even to the nikah dawat and I refused to have a big wedding. I put my foot down and said they could bring a maximum of seventy guests to our dawat. Then if they wanted to invite a thousand people to the walima that was their business. Mum and dad took my side on that alhamdulillah so that was settled, albeit a few grumbles from the boy’s side.

The other issue that arose was the wedding date. The Kadwas wanted a minimum of six months to prepare though I didn’t know what they had to prepare for since I was the bride here. I wanted the nikah in a month’s time because of the hadith I had done in madrsssah;

“It is narrated on the authority of Ali R A. that the Prophet (SAW) said to him, “O Ali! Do not postpone three things: prayer when it is time for it, funeral when it is ready and the marriage of an unmarried woman when a suitable match is found. [Ahmed 828, Ibn e Majah 1486]

At least Tariq took my side in this matter and convinced his mum to compromise and have it in six weeks instead. And so the date was set and the preparations began in earnest.

Luckily for me the August holidays rolled around at that time so I could prepare without madrassah stress getting in the way. Mum and dad took me to Jo’burg for a few days to shop for the main things and we gave a lovely woman who lived down my street and sewed like a wonder to prepare the rest of my trousseau. I made lists upon lists so I did not forget anything. Amira and Aliyah, and Zee whenever she got the chance, jumped in to help me out and willingly allowed themselves to be dragged from shop to shop in search of various things that a bride needs. My older, married cousins pitched in with a variety of advices on what else a married woman needs, some of which made me blush crimson and sent my cousins into gales of laughter. It was crazy, it was hectic and yet I enjoyed myself most of the time because it gave us cousins chance to spend ample time together and do crazy things.

Tariq messaged me two days after we got engaged, just a light, friendly message.

“Hey, salaams. Hope you’re well. Busy busy already?😉”

I stared at the message, my mind whirling. I knew this was wrong and from the beginning I was totally against communicating before marriage because it saps all the barakah from the marriage. But how to tell him that without hurting his feelings? I read his message again and again, sifting through my mind for the correct words; forming a reply, casting it aside as too blunt or too rude, forming another reply. Finally I took a deep breath. Polite but firm, Faz. Let him get the message but not feel bad about it.

“Wslm. I’m well alhamdulillah and hope you’re well too. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to come across as mean or prudish but I would prefer to begin our interactions after nikah, as that’s where the most blessings lie and I want our marriage to begin on the right foot and flourish inshaAllah❤”

I probably sound like a big apa, I thought, cringing, but I pressed send anyway. A few minutes later his reply came and I opened it with bated breath.

“No problem, I totally understand. If you do have any questions feel free to ask me or you can get in touch with my sister, Sameera. Au Revoir❤❤”

I let out the breath I’d been holding in a rush. At least he understood and didn’t make a fuss alhamdulillah! I didn’t have Sameera’s number but I would get it somehow if the need of it ever arose.

So far the need hadn’t arose. I didn’t have anything to ask him that couldn’t be asked after nikah. I would get to know him later, I mused with a smile. Leave the mystery and intrigue for now. Smiling to myself I skipped down the stairs to ask mum what else she needed to get done.

Part 167

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?”

I nodded.

“I’m Tariq.”

“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.”

Part 166

I took a deep, deep breath till my lungs were filled to their capacity…then let it out slowly, slowly, prolonging the inevitable…till finally I had exhaled all the air and knew my next exhalation would be on that word; that dreaded word.

Spit it out, Faz. It’s not gonna get easier with time. “My answer is no.”

Mum’s jaw dropped. Han’s jaw dropped. Even dad’s jaw dropped.

“Why???” Mum asked, her face blank with astonishment.

Why? That was a good question. It had not always been a no. In fact, as I had watched Yaseen’s retreating back that day a yes had seemed quite likely. I had considered it for a good part of that day, but later on other thoughts had started crowding in; other doubts had reared their heads and little details that I had overlooked at first were clamouring for attention now.

We would be living in Jo’burg. That was so far from here. What would I do over there? Yaseen would work twelve-hour shifts initially, including Sundays. I would barely get any time with him. I’d be all alone. How was I going to spend my time? I could teach of course. Yaseen hadn’t minded that but I would teach a few hours at most. Then what would I do with the rest of my time, all alone in a strange town? And every month when Yaseen went out for jamaat where would I go? Zee’s husband, Bashir went out in jamaat every month but she came over to her mum’s house on those weekends. I wouldn’t be able to do that so I’d be all alone for whole weekends. And we wouldn’t go anywhere together as a family because all Yaseen’s free time would go in jamaat. I didn’t have a problem with jamaat, was quite inclined towards it and wouldn’t even mind joining him once in a while but the lack of family time bothered me. That and the love and attachment he had for his job and for money. From the little he’d said I’d gathered that having money and living in style had been his aim. I also liked being comfortable of course but I would not like to revolve my life around money. And what use was that money if we couldn’t travel and enjoy it? For me enjoying money meant travelling, seeing new places more than acquiring designer bags and shoes. These thoughts plagued me almost as much as thinking about my family’s reaction to my answer.

I tried to explain all this to them now, holding my hand up to thwart interruptions until I was done.

“I don’t want such a marriage, mum. I want us to spend time together, to get to know each other and bond…and I won’t get that in this marriage because he’s too much into his work.”

“Fazila,” mum began in a deathly quiet voice, “you don’t know how your marriage will be. No one can tell that through only one meeting. You have to look at the most important things; is he a nice guy? Yes! Is he on deen? Yes! Will he mistreat you? No, from what we’ve seen. Is he decent and earning his income in an honest way? Yes! Now tell me what’s there not to like about him??”

I fidgeted uncomfortably. Everything she said made sense…and yet there was this sense of foreboding in me that would not go away. I just knew he was not the one for me, but how to explain that to them?

“It’s this feeling that I got from talking to him,” I tried again, “he was so passionate about his job, he could go on and on about it. But when I asked him about other things, like where we would stay and what he likes to do in his free time he became vague. I don’t want that. I want him to have time for his family. I want us to have interests together, to go places together. Over here I’d barely see him! Only at nights when he comes to crash.”

“Fazila,” dad interrupted, “that won’t be for forever. Only till he gets his promotion, then his hours will cut down. We all worked hard to get where we are today. If I hadn’t put in those hours in my time we would not be as comfortable as we are today.”

“He doesn’t know if and when he’ll get a promotion. And even after he gets a promotion all his free time will go in jamaat. We won’t even have family holidays.”

“You have to compromise then,” Han spoke up, “sometimes you have to compromise for deen. It’s for deen, you know, not business trips or leisure trips with friends.”

Great! This time all three are against me. Can it get worse than this???

“I am not for it. My istikhara wasn’t positive so I won’t go ahead with this. I’m sorry for disappointing you’ll,” I added as I pushed my chair back and got up. I intended to beat a hasty retreat to my room but mum’s voice halted me in my tracks.

“That’s it!!!” She slammed the pot of rice on the granite top with a thud that made us all jump, “Fazila, I give up on you!! What is wrong with you?? Is this your way of telling us you’re not interested in marriage right now??? By throwing all the proposals out of the window?? If that’s the way it is then why are you wasting our bloody time?? All of us are investing time and effort into these samoosa runs of yours! Not only us but all those families are also taking out time to come and see you! If you’re not interested in marriage why can’t you say so instead of making us go through all this and then saying no??? You think this is a game???” She yelled, her face red with anger. My own face had gone red, with mortification.

“I did tell you I wasn’t interested in marriage right now but you made a condition that I had to start considering proposals after two years so what choice did I have? Yes, I would prefer to finish off my madrassah before thinking of marriage but I’m not throwing away all the proposals because of that! I am considering them but if I just don’t like them what should I do? Do you want me to say yes just to make you happy?? If that’s your wish then bring whichever guy you want me to marry and command me to marry him! Then you can wash your hands off me and go back to your nice peaceful life!!!” I was breathing heavily, my fists clenched by my sides. I saw hurt flash across mum’s face; saw disappointment and anger on dad’s face and I whirled around and ran up the stairs to my room, sobs already erupting from my chest. I slammed my room door shut and collapsed on my bed, weeping over my dissatisfaction with every guy I met; over my weakness for a guy I hadn’t seen in years. I wept for a love that was unrequited, a love whose embers still burned in the depths of my heart. I wept for hope whose tentacles were still wrapped around my heart, which refused to loosen even with the passing of time. I wept for my lack of strength, for being unable to move on, to close the door of the past and start looking ahead. For I knew within my heart that this was the true reason I was not interested in marriage to anyone else. And I knew that until I had one foot in the past I would not be able to move on. I would have to cut the fragile strings that still bound me to him. A clean cut. Clean and swift. It would heal faster that way…

And even as I thought of it my heart cried out against it…

I sat up and shoved my hair off my forehead, impatient suddenly with my self-pitying attitude. What use was there mooning over a guy whom I hadn’t seen in years and about whom I hadn’t the slightest clue of what he was thinking or what he wanted out of life? The last time I had seen him he had been giving me the dua that I would find myself a nice husband. Whatever feelings he had harboured for me, if any, was irrelevant because too much time had passed. He might not feel anything for me anymore. Besides, he had never mentioned marriage even at that time; what made me think he would think of marrying me now or as soon as he returned home? The only way to know for sure was to go propose to him myself!

I jumped off the bed and headed down the stairs, filled with determination. I walked in on mum, dad and Han, their heads bent close in discussion. They jumped and eyed me warily when they saw me.

“There is one guy I would agree to marry,” I said without preamble, “but he himself might not think of proposing so I want you to propose on behalf of me,” I looked straight at dad.

Their mouths dropped open. “You have someone already?? That’s why you’re not interested in anyone else??” Mum exclaimed first, frowning.

“No, I don’t “have” him. I knew him in UK while I was studying there…I didn’t go out with him or anything,” I cut in when mum’s and dad’s frownd deepened, “It was a passing acquaintance, though I did start liking him. But we never did anything about it. Nana also knows him and he’ll tell you what a nice guy he is…” I took a deep breath, “he’s the son of Imtiaz and Nilofar Cassim. You’ll know them? They’re from around here.”

Mum’s eyes widened. “Yeah, I know Nilofar. You mean her son Ahmed?”

“That’s the one!” I said, pleased, “can you please phone her and ask her if he’ll be interested? He’s in Pakistan but if he agrees then we can have the wedding when we both finish our courses.”

“Wedding before you’ve even proposed??” Han raised her eyebrows at me. She looked shocked. They all looked shocked.

I blushed. “Okay, one step at a time. Mum, please phone.”

Mum agreed and whipped out her phone right away. Luckily she even had Aunt Nilofar’s number saved so she could ring her up. She spoke in the phone for a while then hung up and turned to me.

“Okay, it’s arranged! She said Ahmed had mentioned proposing to you as well so she’s sure he’ll agree to this. She’ll talk to him then let us know but I have a feeling this will work out, Faz. Finally!!!”

“Yayyy!!!” I cheered, already celebrating and planning my wedding in my mind.

I blinked and returned to the present again. I shook my head to banish my fanciful thoughts. If only things would work out that way. However this was reality and reality was that Ahmed was thousands of miles away and probably not interested in marriage right now. And even after he returned he might never propose to me. He might get married to someone else. I could not base my future on “what-ifs” because if I turned down nice proposals in waiting for Ahmed and he didn’t propose I would be left either way. I still didn’t believe in agreeing to marry someone I didn’t like just to get married fast but I would have to be more serious from now on. And I’d have to stop comparing every single one of them to Ahmed because deep down I knew that’s what I had been doing, as much as I had refused to accept the fact till today. Every time someone came to see me the spectre of Ahmed had been right there. And every time I had compared the guy to Ahmed and every single time he had been lacking. Perfection was a rare commodity it seems…

Get over it! I rebuked myself. If you are meant to be with him you will be with him no matter what. If you’re not meant to be with him you won’t. It’s as simple as that. But in the meantime I had to consider other guys. I had to. And if my heart mourned the loss of Ahmed as keenly as it did that first day I ignored it. I did not give in to it because I knew that if I did I would fall back into that chasm and never climb out again…

Part 165

It was a sunny day in the April holidays when mum received a phone call. We were all sitting in the lounge when her phone rang. She studied the number curiously for a few seconds then answered.

“Hello?”

…………

“I’m fine alhamdulillah and yourself?”

…………

“Sorry to ask but who’s this? I don’t have your number saved.”

And then her whole tone changed.

“Oh, Swaleha?? Swaleha Bhamjee? Long time man! It’s so nice to hear from you!…..”

She went on with the trivialities for a few minutes while we carried on with what we were doing…in my case it was looking up the recipe for molten lava cake. I’d had one at a tea party and had fallen in love with it. The way the chocolate oozed out when I dug in! I had been in chocolate heaven! Unfortunately I didn’t know who had made it and neither did anyone whom I had thought to ask so here I was, googling up different recipes. I had just found one that sounded quite delicious when, out of the part of my mind that was listening to mum’s conversation, I noted that her tone had changed yet again…this time to a hushed, excited note that people used when there was a particularly juicy secret to share.

“Oh, is it? How nice. What is he doing? Oh, he’s an engineer. So clever, mashaAllah. My, how kids grow up, neh. Just yesterday they were all playing in the garden and today they all looking to get settled…”

I glanced up to find mum’s eyes on me, an excited gleam in them, and groaned, burying my head in a cushion.

“Please tell me she’s not talking about what I think she’s talking about,” I muttered to Han.

She laughed. “Of course she is. I’m sure it’s Yaseen she’s on about. Oooooh…Fazila and Yaseen, sitting on a tree…k-i-s….mmmmph,” she ended as I shoved the cushion in her face.

My suspicions proved to be true when mum hung up. She turned to us and the words left her mouth in a flood of excited babble.

“Can you’ll believe it?? That was Aunt Swaleha. Her son Yaseen is looking for a girl and she thought of you, Faz. Isn’t that nice? Such a lovely family they are and we know them so it won’t even be strange for you. It’s been many years since we last saw them but Yaseen was always such a sweet boy. You’ll like him, I’m sure. So when can they come…this Saturday?” She paused and looked at us expectantly.

I opened my mouth to speak but dad beat me to it. “Woah, calm down, Rabia. The family is not gonna run away anywhere. We still have to make background checks and all, remember?”

“Not with this family. They’re a nice family, you know that,” mum replied.

“It doesn’t matter, mum. Even the biggest buzruk can have skeletons in his closet. We have to make background checks. I’ve heard of so many people who look at the family’s prestige and reputation and say yes without further thought. Then after marriage the hidden things come out and slaps them in the face. We don’t want that to happen, do we?”

“But this is the Bhamjees we’re talking about!” Mum emphasised. Then seeing two unrelenting faces turned her way she sighed and gave in. “Okay, fine. We’ll make the necessary checks then you can make istikhara and then only they can come, okay?”

I smiled brilliantly at her. “No problem, mummykins!”

I wasn’t smiling as much when the checks and my istikhara both turned out positive. As the day of my sixth samoosa run dawned I felt a nervousness that surpassed even the first samoosa run. The Bhamjees were a prominent tableeghi family, originally of PE but who had moved to Cape Town some twelve years back. They had been quite well off here and from what I’d heard, their business in CT was also flourishing. Yaseen had become an engineer and was working in a top notch company. He was not an alim but he was a hafiz and he went out in jamaat regularly. I knew them all because before they’d moved to CT we’d been family friends and used to get together quite often. Yaseen was three years older than me, followed by Hamza who was one year younger than me, then Liyaanah who was Han’s age. We had all played together as kids and though I hadn’t seen them in years the foundation of a friendship was still there. Which was why I almost didn’t want to go downstairs and meet him because I knew, I just knew that if I said no to this proposal the crap would hit the fan…literally. That’s what made me so nervous. The high expectations placed on this proposal and on me.

“Please Allah, if I don’t like him make him say no to me before I can say no to him,” I prayed as I waited upstairs.

Before long they came. Peeking from mum’s room which faced the front yard I saw a black mercedes pull up and a familiar middle aged couple emerge, followed by a teenage girl and two guys. I barely glanced at the stubbled, spiky-haired owe. That was probably Hamza and therefore not the centre of my attention. My eyes landed on the other guy and I caught a glimpse of a black beard offsetting fair cheeks, and a flash of sunlight reflecting off black shades before I stepped back, not wanting to be caught out. They looked so different. Well, of couse they would, silly. It’s been so long since you last saw them! I took a deep breath, composed myself and pasted a smile on my face as I walked down the stairs and into the front room. The smile became genuine and grew when Aunt Swaleha looked up at me and her face lit up.

“Fazila, sweety, how are you? You’ve grown up so much, ma. A young lady you are now.” She enthused, catching me up in a tight hug.

Liyaanah got up as well and nudged her mum. “Of course she’s grown up, mum, otherwise we would not be here with a marriage proposal, would we?” She winked at me with a cheeky grin and hugged me in turn.

I burst out laughing. “Nice to see that you haven’t changed, Lee, though you look so different now. Another young lady soon to be married,” I winked back at her.

“Oh, pshhttt, you elders first. We’re still too young, aren’t we, Han?”

This meeting became a long overdue reunion and we caught up with each other, reminiscing over the past, telling each other our latest tidbits, amidst cups of hot tea and piping hot, crispy samoosas. I got so caught up in the conversation that I jumped, spilling a bit of my tea when dad called me. Lee and Han grabbed the opportunity to snicker and tease me about being nervous. I shot them a quelling look, gulped down my tea and stood up hastily, brushing off crumbs from my dress. I quickly walked off, hearing Lee whisper behind me.

“Faz and Yaseen. Who would have thought, huh?”

I rolled my eyes at her comment and entered the dining room. Yaseen got to his feet, a warm smile on his face.

“Fazila. Nice to see you, though in unexpected circumstances. I admit I did not expect to meet you under these conditions.”

“You still talk like a walking dictionary, huh. Some things never change,” I commented as I sat down opposite him. Yaseen had always been a nerd as a boy, always had his head stuck in a book.

He laughed. “Well, you’ve definitely changed. Where was all this beauty hiding the last time we met? I remember you in your purple braces back then.”

I laughed as well. “So you’ve learnt how to charm now, huh. And you look really different as well now. All that facial hair, you know. I don’t even know what you look like underneath.”

We continued our light banter for a while before turning to serious topics. Yaseen wanted to move to Jo’burg in a couple of months time. That was quite a surprise to me.

“Leave the ocean where you’ve spent your entire life? What’s worth giving up the ocean?”

Yaseen smiled. “The job offer I’ve gotten. The job itself will be a challenge to me and I want a challenge after being stuck in this same job for two years now. Plus the pay is double what I’m getting now. It’s worth it, Fazila. I don’t like to do the same old thing day in and day out. I like new challenges, to broaden my scope, learn new things. I thrive on challenges,” he grinned at me.

I smiled back. “Sounds like you love your job.”

“Oh, I do. I love it and I’m sure I’ll love it even more in Jo’burg. I can’t wait to get there!”

“What will your working hours be over there?” I asked.

“Initially a lot but I’m hoping it’ll cut down over time. But I need to work my way up first.”

“Then how do you manage to go out for jamaat?”

“Oh, that’s the only condition I place before working somewhere. That I need three days off every month and forty days off at the end of the year. They accepted that alhamdulillah.”

“So do they give you any more holidays apart from that?” I asked.

He shook his head. “They’re already doing me a favour by giving me so much time off. They won’t give me more than that.”

I nodded thoughtfully. We talked for a while on various topics. Yaseen loved his food and was particular about his timings and cleanliness. That I already knew. Even as a boy his room used to be meticulously clean, not a thing out of place. I on the other hand was not so particular…but I’d have to learn if things worked out and it was a good habit anyways.

Finally Yaseen got up to leave. “Well, Fazila, I’ll just be straight up with you. I like you and my answer is yes. So now I’ll wait for your answer, right? Don’t make me wait too long,” he winked at me and walked out, leaving me speechless for once.

Crap! He’d already said yes so that part of my wish hadn’t been accepted. Now my answer had better be yes otherwise I didn’t like to think of the consequences. Though, come to think of it a yes was likely in this case. The guy was nice, the family was nice…what more did I need?

Part 164

December slipped into January and then into February. Holidays were over and we settled into our final year of madrassah. Final year. I still couldn’t believe I had reached this stage. It seemed like only yesterday that I was entering the madrassah for the first time, a nervous kid. I was still a kid of course…I refused to think of myself as an adult!…but older and wiser.

Dad was on the mend and didn’t really need his crutches anymore. He went back to work, we went back to madrassah and life resumed it’s normal routine.

In these past three months I had received two proposals but each time something or other came up in the background checks and they went no further. I was told about them but I shrugged them off, only too glad that they hadn’t reached the samoosa run stage.

Until Sahal came along…soon-to-be-maulana Sahal. He was studying in Azaadville, in his final year. He was from Jo’burg but had a foi in P.E who had told him about me. So along came his proposal and nothing untoward turned up in all the checks mum and dad made. So, after making istikhara I gave the go-ahead and set myself up for yet another samoosa run.

Sahal and his mother flew down on a Saturday morning, went to refresh themselves at his foi’s house then promptly landed up on my doorstep. I was kind of excited for this one because he was an alim…well, an almost-alim…and part of me had always wanted to get married to an alim, especially after I myself had started becoming an alima. I came downstairs with my heart beating faster yet telling myself not to count my chickens before they hatched.

My elation deflated slightly upon meeting his mother. She was a tall, well built woman with piercing eyes and a way of looking at you like she was trying to peer right into your mind and determine what you were thinking. She talked a bit to mum then turned to me and started firing questions at me. Was I becoming an alima? How much longer left? What did I plan on doing after I finished? Would I be those types that taught for whole mornings and barely spent time in the house? Was I going to cook or did I believe that it wasn’t the wives’ right to cook? “You know these alimas of today, they learn all these new new things then say, we don’t have to do this and we don’t have to do that. They expect to live like queens after marriage! You know, Fatima R.A. is Queen of Jannah but she did so much hard work! She could do but we think we too big for that! Eyh, I tell you!” The only saving factor was the fact that she let slip that her son would be living separately after marriage.

Well, at least she’s tall and strappy and she’s got nice light eyes so maybe her son will also be tall and handsome, I consoled myself as I made my way to the dining room after a while. Boy, was I wrong! The man…or should I say boy, because the male who rose to meet me was exactly at eye-level with me and he barely had the beginnings of a beard forming on his face. His voice was also high and thin. My first impression of him, combined with my meeting with his indomitable mother almost made me walk out of there with the excuse that I suddenly had a blinding headache and couldn’t think straight. I didn’t do that of course and after a while I was glad because when we got down to it he wasn’t so bad. I told him straight out what his mother had told me and asked him if he shared her views or not. He laughed awkwardly.

“Sorry about ma. She’s too outspoken, with her own set ideas. I personally don’t mind if you teach and we won’t be living with her so she won’t have a say in what we do.”

That was comforting and I relaxed more after that. After about thirty minutes we wrapped up our discussion and then they left. Now istikhara time again.

“Well?” Mum asked me a few days later at lunch time. Dad was there, Han was there and we had just finished eating. She had cornered me at the perfect time and she knew it.

I took a deep, fortifying breath. “My answer is no.”

“Why not?” Mum asked calmly. Too calmly. That was the first sign of danger.

“Did you see his mother, mum?? She looked so terrifying, I’m sure they don’t even need guard dogs!” I widened my eyes dramatically in an attempt to lighten the mood.

Mum didn’t smile. “You’d be marrying him, not his mother so I don’t see where the problem is.” She narrowed her eyes at me. That was the second sign.

“Yeah but mum, she’s more like a “he” and he’s more like a “she”. He must be half her size and her voice is actually deeper than his! And she was so meddlesome when I hadn’t even seen her son yet, never mind said yes or anything. How would she be like as a mother inlaw??”

“Fazila, you said he wasn’t so bad when they walked out of here. So why have you changed your mind?” Mum started drumming her fingers on the table. That was the third sign.

“I said he wasn’t so bad. But he wasn’t so good either. I realised that on introspect.”

“What introspect?” Mum yelled. Her control had finally snapped. Dad placed a hand on her shoulder but she shrugged it off angrily, her eyes locked on mine.

“Let me spell it out for you’ll,” I said, fighting to keep my own voice level, “firstly, he’s from Jo’burg and that’s too far away. I’d like to be closer to you’ll, to settle down right here in PE if it’s possible. Secondly, his mother is too tough and he’s too soft. We would be living right next door to his parents with a gate in between so that means his mum can pop in anytime she wants and based on what I’ve seen of her I wouldn’t put it past her to do exactly that. And I can’t live with a nosey, interfering mother inlaw even next door. Thirdly, he himself is just not my type. He’s too…boyish, I suppose. I don’t see myself with him, I really don’t.”

“And what about the part that he’s becoming an alim and you’ve always wanted that? What about him being nice and understanding, not minding you finishing your madrassah and teaching after that also? Does that not count, Fazila? Is he not a nice boy overall?”

“He’s not bad. But he’s not the right one for me. I know it and I won’t commit myself to marriage knowing this, mum. I’m sorry.”

Mum rolled her eyes skywards. “Allah alone knows who would be good enough for you!”

“Mum, were you not even a little bit attracted to dad when he came to see you? Did you not like his looks at all?”

“Faz…” Dad was struggling not to laugh.

“Of course I liked him!” Mum frowned.

“What if he was short and skinny, and pimply and…whatever you didn’t find attractive in a man. Would you still have gone ahead and said yes?”

“If everything else was nice about him, maybe…” mum trailed off, a hint of uncertainty in her voice now. And like a cat who has found the trail of a juicy mouse I pounced.

“Uhuh. Maybe. Not yes, right? Would you spend your life with a man you don’t find attractive?”

“Enough, Fazila!” Mum stood up abruptly and went to the sink to wash her hands. I smiled and winked at dad then began clearing the table silently. We moved around each other silently though I couldn’t help glancing at mum once or twice. She was emptying out the food into little tins, a small frown on her face. Before she left the kitchen she turned to me.

“Fine, you have a point. I would not have married someone I did not find at least appealing…although I didn’t think Sahal was bad at all!” And with that she walked out of the kitchen. I laughed and turned to dad.

“At least she admitted that I have a point.”

Dad nodded. He was looking at me thoughtfully but he didn’t say anything.

“What?” I asked him.

“Nothing,” he replied. But the thoughtful look didn’t leave his face even when he left the kitchen to go to the lounge. I wondered what he was thinking about then I shrugged it off and went to complete my madrassah work…