All posts by Haadiya

Part 265

If Italy was gorgeous Greece was memerising in all its raw, unfiltered beauty. And by raw, unfiltered beauty I meant endless stretches of pristine white sands…deep blue waters…azure skies…

As much as I loved the sea and wouldn’t have minded spending all my time on the beach, when I visited a place I liked to get the authentic feel of it…the people, the food, the culture…so we visited towns and their sights as well.

We landed in Athens so we toured that first. From the famous ancient sites to the Monastiraki, a huge market place in the historic district of Athens. Almost everything was sold here, from antiques to souvenirs and even junk pieces. We had to be careful in buying authentic stuff only and not pay exorbitant prices for fake stuff.

We visited Plaka, a quaint village like an island within the city where we could experience authentic Greek culture. It was so pretty with ancient cafes, ancient trees, narrow stone walkways and green leaf canopies. Bright bunches of flowers hung from canopies, lending bold splashes of colour to the faded brick facade. It had small boutiques and cafes where we could chill and buy a few souvenirs to take back with us.

Then there was Mount Lycabettus, the highest point in Athens with panoramic views of Athens and the Aegean Sea. It was possible to hike to the top but we took the easier option of taking the funicular up. The views were gorgeous and we spent a good amount of time there, just soaking up the views.

We also went to Thessaloniki, a town north of Athens which had Ottoman buildings and influence. It was a lovely town and we toured the various places I had looked up online.

There was Nafplio, a historic town poised on the coast commanding sweeping ocean views as well as offering a wonderful glimpse into modern Greek village life with its quaint town squares and side walk cafes. It also had the gorgeous Karathona beach, a sheltered sandy beach with delightful views, so we could explore the town and relax on the beach on those days when we didn’t feel like moving about.

The waterfront was also lovely, we took strolls there in the evenings and even went on a boat ride one day.

And then of course there were the Greek islands, reputedly gorgeous, sunny, relaxing and did I mention gorgeous? For beach lovers like me they were the perfect paradise on earth and we spent a couple of weeks island hopping.

From Crete, the largest island in Greece, with old towns showcasing Venetian and Crete architecture, port towns, lagoons and beaches to Kos, with it’s long strips of clean white sand and rolling farmland rich in grapes, figs, olives and wheat…

From Paros, one of the most picturesque islands in the Cyclades with historic towns of cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses to Samos with its stunning pebble beaches and clear blue waters…

From Corfu, with charming old towns, beautiful beaches and scenic coastal resorts to Skiathos with its vast hills of lush pines and sandy beaches…

From Mykonos, a stunningly picturesque coastal town with a maze of tiny streets, whitewashed steps lanes and its very own Venice quarter…a section of Mykonos where the distance between sea and buildings is non existent and waves lap the sides of charming houses, cafes and restaurants that sit perched elegantly on the waters edge…to Santorini, famous for its dramatic views, stunning sunsets, whitewashed houses and it’s very own volcano…

Our days were spent jetting between islands on fast boats, relaxing on gorgeous, secluded beaches, swimming in the clear cold waters and admiring the stunning views. It was an idyllic two weeks and ones that flew by way too fast…

***

“Start packing. We’re off tomorrow,” Ahmed said, coming out onto the sea facing balcony where I stood. The cool breeze blew over my face, blowing my hair back. I inhaled deeply, relishing the moment then turned to Ahmed and smiled wryly.

“Do we really have to leave?”

“I thought you were so eager to see Turkey?” Ahmed raised his eyebrows at me.

“I am, of course. But this place is so gorgeous I’m sad to leave as well,” I sighed.

Ahmed smiled and moved to stand behind me. He placed his hands on either side of mine on the railing and leaned his chin on my head. We stood like that for a while, just drinking in the views.

“We’ll come back, inshaAllah,” he said finally.

I tilted my head up and smiled. “You say that with every place we leave. Thinking of another world tour, are you?” I asked teasingly.

“Hmmm, maybe. We should keep high hopes in life, right?” Ahmed grinned.

I laughed. “I love how your mind works so in tune with mine.” Turning into his arms I smiled up at him. “Have I told you how much I love you? And appreciate you?”

Ahmed pretended to think it over. “Hmmm…I’m sure you haven’t said it for a whole week!”

I laughed. “My bad. I’ll make sure I sing it in your ears every night from now on.” Then I sobered. “I love you, babe. You’re the best husband anyone could hope for. And I know I don’t say it much but I really do appreciate everything you do for me. You spoil me so much.” I hugged him tightly, feeling an overwhelming wave of gratitude well up in me. He did spoil me so much, fulfilling my every whim and desire without complaint. He went out of his way to make me happy and we were so in tune with each other that so many times he seemed to know what I wanted before I even voiced it. And he did it all without complaining or even bringing it up again.

Of course, he had his flaws. We both had our flaws but we learned to work through them. That was very important, to work through them openly…not bury them and move on because buried feeling lead to resentment.

Infact the only thing missing from our lives right now was children. But this world couldn’t be completely perfect, right? There were pros and cons everywhere, trials mixed with blessings, happiness tempered by distress. We got tests from Allah and we had to try our best to pass them and get to the other side.

But instead of focusing on the negatives, as we often tended to do, we had to look at the positives in our lives and make shukr for them. And my main positive was Ahmed. I didn’t know what I’d do without him.

“I love you too,” Ahmed replied quietly, hugging me closer.

“Ma-ma!” There was a sharp tug on each of our legs. We broke apart to see Numair clutching our legs and trying to stand, grinning up at us.

“Wrong timing, buddy! Don’t you know there are moments you can’t interrupt?” Ahmed joked as he bent to lift Numair.

Numair laughed and clapped his hands, looking pleased with himself.

“Attention seeker,” I muttered. Mussing his hair playfully I sighed.

“I suppose I better go pack then.”

***

We landed in Istanbul late at night and went straight to our hotel. Tired because I’d woken up early that day and hadn’t slept since, I freshened up and told Ahmed to just order a light snack so we could crash. Ahmed seemed to be edgy and sort of excited.

“Ya, just a minute,” he replied to my request, typing away on his phone.

“Who you chatting to?” I asked curiously.

“Uh…no one,” he flashed me a grin and continued typing.

“Uhuh. Talking to yourself via messages now, are we?” I asked sarcastically.

Ahmed laughed and was about to reply when there was a knock on the door. “Aha! I’ll get that,” he said, practically leaping for the door.

Okaayyy! Maybe he had ordered special food for me. I started to smile at that when I heard Ahmed say, “Assalamu alaykum. Come in.”

Come in??? I wasn’t even wearing a scarf! I leapt to my feet and was reaching hastily for my burkha when I heard a deep, familiar voice.

“Wa alaykum salaam.”

My head snapped up and my mouth fell open.

I have to be dreaming!

Greece

Athens
Mount Lycabettus
Thessaloniki 
Nafplio
Nafplio

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Part 264

For a girl who loved sunny days at the beach I’d definitely chosen the wrong time to travel. It was the heart of winter in Europe and I was so glad that Khadija and Asiyah had forced me to buy more warm, practical clothes and shoes because Switzerland seemed even colder than UK for some reason. Maybe it was all the open spaces, not crowded like UK, and the fact that we spent a lot of time outdoors…because no matter the weather Switzerland was gorgeous! A true winter wonderland. Infact maybe it wasn’t the wrong time to travel at all, because winter held it’s own appeal.

Snow covered mountains, rugged white against blue skies, gorgeous valleys and lakes, quaint, ancient towns with their lovely multi coloured buildings and narrow pedestrian walkways…our twenty-day stay was filled with adventure and adrenaline-filled fun.

When it came to skiing we were all hopeless, having never tried it before. Humi flat out refused to go but I still wanted to try it out and Ahmed, my ever accommodating, wonderful husband indulged me. Of course we slipped and stumbled and landed on our backsides more than a few times but we finally got the hang of the easier slopes and it was so worth it! We all took the gondola to the top of the mountain then Humi relaxed in the coffee shop with Numair and sipped hot coffee while Ahmed and I tried to ski.

The views on the way to and at the top were breathtaking! Panoramic views of snow covered Alps, valleys and lakes stretched out before us, a vast expanse of brilliant white hit by the sparkling rays of the sun. We simply stood there for a long time and soaked it all up.

We also tried toboganning which was easier than skiing and just as fun and did some hiking across snow filled slopes and paths. And I took Ahmed ice skating! Thanks to Asiyah I’d gone a few times in UK so I wasn’t so bad at it now. It felt good gliding about like a pro and laughing at someone else struggling to keep their balance and falling over. Then Ahmed came up with a better idea. We held hands and moved together, laughing as we sped along. It was more fun and quite romantic as well.

Romance was definitely in the crisp, cold air. There were activities that we did together as a family then there were times when Humi opted to stay behind and do her own thing with Numair, which gave Ahmed and I opportunities to do couple things. We went for long walks, admiring the scenery along the way and we went for a very romantic sleigh ride one fine day. Ahmed went to ask some dude at the hotel if he knew of any couple activities. The guy looked at us and smiled.

“Honeymoon? Ah, young love! I know just what you will like. Follow me.”

We didn’t correct him on the honeymoon part, especially when we saw what he wanted to show us. My mouth opened in a gasp of delight as my eyes fell on the large, sleek sleigh drawn by two magnificent horses. The man from the hotel spoke to another man who obviously was in charge of the sleigh then turned to us and smiled.

“You’re in luck. You have to make reservations but it’s free now. Hop in and enjoy!”

We thanked him and climbed in excitedly. The man in charge provided us with soft cushions and thick, soft, fluffy blankets then we were on our way! To say it was amazing would be an understatement; sitting in a cozy sleigh pulled by horses, snuggled up in Ahmeds arms under warm blankets, nothing but gorgeous scenery surrounding us; large, bare trees and mountain huts covered by a white dusting of snow…high slopes and gentle dips all covered in the same brilliant white…a calm stillness in the air, broken only by the soft gurgle of a stream flowing nearby or the soft tinkle of the sleigh bells. It felt like we were the only ones in the whole world. I smiled up at Ahmed and my hand rose to his cheek; he smiled back, his dimples flashing, his eyes twinkling in silent promise as he bent his head to mine. I sighed happily. Nothing like some privacy and raw nature to stir the blood. I really wouldn’t mind spending months secluded in a place like this…just me and Ahmed…

When we weren’t hitting the slopes or soaking up the snow and fresh air we visited other areas. I loved the towns with their quaint, multi coloured buildings. We strolled along the narrow walkways, did a bit of shopping and of course we had to try the delicious chocolate! I mean Switzerland and chocolate go hand in hand so chocolate was a must and the chocolate tasting experience was pure bliss!

The lakes, valleys and other scenic spots were also breathtaking natural wonders and we toured those as well though I had a feeling they would look better in summer, in their full greenery.

The train rides were something else! We took the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz which was famous for it’s slow, scenic, panoramic ride. Hours upon hours of blinding white scenery, in various shades of white and grey, it was definitely a mesmerising, unforgettable ride. I spent almost the entire time glued to my large window and still felt like I hadn’t seen enough by the end of the ride.

Our twenty days flew by so fast hopping from city to city and trying to cram in all the sights, they were over before we knew it. I felt slightly sad to leave this gorgeous place even though I knew I was off to gorgeous Italy and more adventure. Still, this was definitely a place I’d like to come back to again!

***

Italy. A dazzling mix of renaissance art and architecture and modern wonders. It was like being plunged back in time but with all the modern amenities still at hand. It was heady and wondrous and we made the most of every moment we spent here…

Milan with its glitz and glamour, its huge shopping malls and modern architecture. Even the mall we went to was a piece of art, with vaulted ceilings, mosaic floors and its towering central dome. All the famous brands were available here though Humi went more crazy over them than I did. Ahmed didn’t see the big deal in names like Armani and Versace. To him clothes were clothes whether they had a fancy label stuck to them or not. I privately agreed with him. I liked good quality clothes that lasted me for quite some time but I didn’t see the big deal with brands. Humi, however, knew all about the big names and she went crazy over them so we let her shop to her hearts content. I got some stuff for my mother inlaw as well since I knew she also liked these things. Armani or Gucci might be more successful in softening her heart towards me. It was definitely worth a try, right!

The Lake District with its gorgeous lakes and scenery. This was more my kind of place though the weather wasn’t the best for sightseeing. The worst of winter was over but we had come at a time between winter and spring so this far north we had more cold and rainy days than sunny ones. That didn’t stop us from going around, however. I’d read a saying, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” We took that to heart and dressed appropriately before diving right into the activities of the day.

There was Lake Garda, the largest lake which offered stunning scenery especially in it’s mountainous northern stretches…

The famous Lake Como with its mountain views, crisp air and blue waters. It was so picturesque and romantic, ideal for couples. I think Humi realised this as well because on some days she made herself scarce, doing her own things so Ahmed and I could explore on our own. And explore we did. March was a relatively quiet time to visit so we discovered lots of private spots where I could put up my niqaab and we could relax and enjoy each others company without interruptions.

Speaking of romantic, I was left speechless with wonder when I laid eyes on Venice. It was everything it claimed to be and more! Definitely not one of those overrated places with more hype than show. The city of canals, where cars were banned so our main forms of transportation were gondolas, water taxis and public vaporetti (water buses). I loved water, I loved historical sights and I loved boats so this was a true wonderland for me. We floated lazily on gondolas or explored the city on foot, getting lost in the narrow alleyways or crossing the bridges that spanned the canals, with their lovely views of the water. Unchanged in appearance for more than six hundred years or so it looked more like a picture out of a story book than real life. I loved it so much I convinced Ahmed to extend our stay here by a few days so we could explore properly. We went to the small stretch of sandy beach, visited the Rialto market where we bought delicious fresh fruit and produce and relaxed over coffee in the open air cafes of the Piazza San Marco, the public square of Venice.

After we’d had our fill of Venice…though I didn’t think I’d ever get tired of it even if I stayed for months here…we moved down south to Rome with its historical sights. This city might be more interesting for art lovers but for us two days were more than enough before we moved further south to the stunning town of Naples. This city wasn’t as modern as Milan but it was still stunning, mainly because it was built around the bay of Naples and I loved water of course.

We went to see a really old castle built right at the edge of the water. It was the oldest castle in Naples, dating back to the twelfth century. It was fascinating to see how people lived in those times. The views from the ramparts were breathtaking, looking out over the blue waters with the mountains in the distance. The museum was interesting with its olden artefacts.

There was also a volcanic mountain called Vesuvius, a perfect backdrop to the city. We could go up there and see the crater from where fumes and steam still rose. Intrigued since we’d never seen a live volcano before we took a bus up there where we could see the crater. The summit was also the best place to take pictures of Naples from, since the entire city was laid out in all its glory below us.

We also went to Capri one day, a stunning little island in the bay of Naples. We took a ferry there, admiring the gorgeous views from the deck. Luckily for us the weather was warmer this far south and today was warm and balmy with clear blue skies and calm waters so we could tour the island by boat and we were even able to enter the Blue Grotto; a cave of water in one of the mountains jutting out from the sea, accessible only by boat and via a narrow entrance. We had to switch over to row boats and lay back to pass under the narrow opening but once inside the view was totally worth it. The sun was shining today and the sunlight entered through the narrow opening and threw shafts of light onto the water, turning it into a stunning luminous turquoise. The man rowing the boat sang Italian songs which echoed off the massive rocky walls as our boat bobbed up and down in the water. After a while we were rowed out again, blinking in the bright sunlight that hit us again.

Naples also had some lovely beaches and after spending cold winter months with fog and snow for company we made the most of the sunny days in Naples by visiting the beaches. It was a perfect time to go there; the weather was warm and it wasn’t tourist season yet so the beaches were mostly empty and to my delight we even managed to find completely empty beaches so I could also change into my burkini and slip into the water. We had a blast that day, all of us in the water, including Numair. We swam, splashed each other and took turns holding Numair so he could splash his little legs vigorously in the water, laughing in excitement. Ahmed was his usual mischievous self in the water and when I wasn’t holding Numair he came after me, splashing me and pulling me under then dodging my hands laughingly. I finally managed to get him though and stood there with a smirk when it was his turn to sputter and flail around.

After I was done swimming I lay down on a blanket in the sand, relishing the warm sun on my face. Couple of days more then we’d be on the move again…

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Switzerland
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Tobogganing
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Sleigh Ride
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Swiss Chocolates
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Swiss chocolate
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Swiss Alps
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Glacier Express
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Milan
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Milan
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Lake District
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Lake Garda
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Lake Como
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Venice
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Venice

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Castle Dell’Ovo, Naples
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Crater of Vesuvius
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Naples
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Capri
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Capri Blue Grotto

Part 263

Negative.

All the tests. Every single one of them, mines and Ahmed’s.

The gynae had suggested getting Ahmed tested as well, which we initially hadn’t thought of. So we’d both had them done and waited in tense anticipation for the results…and then had been greatly relieved that nothing was wrong. Even the gynae had looked slightly baffled by that.

“Keep trying!” She’d finally told us with a wide smile, “and don’t stress. The less you stress and worry over it the faster you’ll get pregnant. And you have high chances of getting pregnant because both of you are young and very healthy. So cheer up and have fun trying,” she’d actually winked at us then and I’d burst out laughing, liking her immensely and feeling a hundred kgs lighter all of a sudden.

That was that. The gynae had given me other good suggestions as well and I followed them. I read up online about people who’d taken long to fall pregnant. Ahmed was right, three years was nothing. Some people took five years to fall pregnant, some ten, some even twenty! I read their stories and was surprised by how much I related to them. It made me feel less isolated in my pain, like I wasn’t the only one floundering around in this particular, seemingly bottomless pool. I also found support groups on Facebook, groups made specifically for people like me to share our stories and gain support from each other. I joined a couple of them and that also helped because for the first time I felt like I could talk to people who could really relate to my struggle. I couldn’t do that with anyone else because everyone else I was close to had kids; Khadija, Asiyah, Zee, Han…even Sumi! Much to my great joy Sumi and Adnaan had called us three weeks ago to tell us that Sumi was finally pregnant. I’d been over the moon for them and instead of feeling sad I’d actually felt more hopeful that I also had a chance. I could still talk to Sumi because she would understand the most and I did talk to her at times but I liked the support groups as well. I had the benefit of anonymity on them so I could confide my deepest thoughts and feelings without feeling exposed. It was a nice feeling. And again, when I heard other people’s stories I realised that my struggle was not even a fraction of theirs. Some of them had had years of infertility followed by various extensive treatments and operations before finally falling pregnant. Some of them couldn’t fall pregnant naturally at all and had to go through IVF or other fertility treatments before falling pregnant. And some didn’t end up falling pregnant at all. But their stories were still full of positivity and hope and all of them said the same thing; that moment when their child was placed in their arms made all their arduous struggles more than worth it. That gave me hope as well.

And I, particularly, knew how much emotions can affect our physical well being so I made sure I remained positive and didn’t overthink or worry much over it like the gynae said. I busied myself in other things to take my mind off this and only allowed myself to really think of it once a day, in tahajjud where I poured my heart out to Allah.

And there were plenty of other things to keep my mind occupied. I got together a lot with Khadija and Asiyah and we did lots of fun things together. I appreciated that they could put aside their families and busy schedules to make time for just us and we really made wonderful memories together. I also went out with Imaan and her kids or just took her kids out some days so she could relax and do her own thing. Then there were days where I spent time with Ahmed alone or with my family. Time was flying way too fast and before we knew it three months had passed in UK. I knew it was time to move on and I knew Ahmed and Humi felt the same way. So we were back to pouring over maps.

“Switzerland,” I said.

“Italy,” Humi said.

“Turkey,” Ahmed said.

“How about all three?” I laughed.

“Yeah, just looking for a chance to go everywhere, huh?” Ahmed joked, nudging me.

“Yeah but why not? We can hop around Europe for a bit,” Humi said, her eyes gleaming. I agreed whole heartedly with her.

“Uh uh. Don’t say Europe otherwise my wife here will make us go from country to country. Literally.”

I nudged him back. “So what’s wrong with that?”

“There’s too many countries!” Ahmed exclaimed, “choose a few. A few!”

In the end we decided on Switzerland first. Then Italy since it was right next door…and then we’d see where to go next.

Plans were made, flights, hotels and everything else booked over the next week. I was getting excited to be on the move again, the travel bug having bitten me again right where it stung the most…and yet, this time the excitement was tempered by sadness at leaving my nana and nani once more. These farewells never got easier with practice. Everytime I saw nana or nani trying to put on a happy face for us and hiding their sorrow it made me want to cry.

That last week I barely left the house without them, concentrating on making my last few days with them the happiest and most memorable ones. I rose early everyday and helped nani in the kitchen. I even made perfectly round rotis for her just to see her smile and comment that I’d finally gotten it right. We talked and laughed as we worked together in the kitchen. We went shopping and other places, just us ladies…and Numair of course. We sat in the lounge after meals, talking, laughing, nana reading from one of his many kitabs or imparting wise words of advice as usual. We even played board games or other games sometimes with nana and nani joining in and laughing at the silly mistakes they made. And I tried to help them as much as possible. I sat with nana in his study and helped him with his never ending work. I helped nani make extra rotis to freeze so it would be easier for her when we were gone. I tried to hold on to each day as tightly as I could but like sand slipping through my fingers moments turned to hours and hours to days and before we knew it the day had arrived.

“Fazzu, hurry up! We’re late!” I heard nana holler from the bottom of the stairs as I ran around like a headless chicken checking to see if I’d packed everything and cramming last minute stuff into my already full suitcase.

“Ahmed! Come sit on this bag so I can zip it shut!” I gasped as I pulled the lid down as far as I could.

“Some things never change,” Ahmed said drily as he sat on the suitcase, “you’ll give nana a heart attack one of these days. He’s already shouted at least ten times and I bet he’s getting ready to do it again. Let’s see…three…two…one…”

“Fazila, if you don’t get down now I’ll lock you up in here then you’ll definitely miss your plane!!!”

I glared up at Ahmed laughing away then yelled back, “you can’t, nana! Ahmed is here with me! And we’re coming now, relax! Ahmed, get off now, it’s closed. Come on, we’re late!”

“Now she realises,” Ahmed muttered, hefting the suitcase and pulling out the handle to roll it down the stairs. I followed him after taking a last look at my beloved room which held so many memories, old and new.

“Ilal liqaa,” I whispered before shutting the door behind me.

We were actually at the airport on time so we could relax a bit before checking in. I sat between nana and nani and clasped their hands in mine, resting them on my lap. I traced the veins that stood out starkly against their now thin, lightly wrinkled skin and swallowed the lump in my throat. How I hated leaving them each time! They were so far away that I was terrified of leaving them each time, terrified that I’d never get to see them again. I knew it was futile but I tried again.

“Nana, nani, come back to S.A. You’re too far away. Come back home, please!”

Nana and nani both smiled down at me, blinking back tears. “Fazzu, bachu, this is our home,” nana said gently, “we don’t have blood family here but we have other family. They need us more than you do.”

I gripped their hands tightly, fighting back the urge to wail, “it’s not fair!” like a child. I knew nana was needed here. Because of him a whole practicing muslim community had flourished in Manchester. He couldn’t just abandon years of work to come back home, to his true home. Like he always said, “ye kaam marte dam tak karna hai. Karte karte marna hai aur marte marte karna hai (this work has to be done till our last breath. We have to do it until we die).” I understood. That was work of deen, it had to take priority over all else. And there was no retiring from it. I looked at nana and forced a tremulous smile on my face.

“Fine, I’ll make this sacrifice and make dua I also get a portion of your reward for my sacrifice.”

Nana laughed and hugged me tightly. “That’s my baby!”

Nana gave us the same advice as we sat there at the airport. “Make deen your priority,” he said, looking from Ahmed to me, “it’s nice to travel and enjoy also but do work of deen also. That has to come first.”

We nodded and talked of other things…and then it was time to go.

I hugged nana and nani and cried unashamedly despite promising myself earlier on that I’d stay strong for their sake. They cried with me and Humi also joined in when she hugged nani, having grown very close to her during our stay. It was so difficult to leave them and I was wiping tears even as I followed Ahmed inside.

“I feel like I just lost my mother,” Humi whispered beside me, also wiping her tears.

“Yeah, me too,” I replied, sniffing.

Ahmed came and hugged both of us, telling us laughingly not to flood the airport with our tears. That at least made us laugh…a bit.

Part 262

His hand was warm and familiar in mine, warmer than his expression which was still shuttered. I didn’t know what he was thinking but I plunged into it anyways.

“I’m sorry. For screaming at you and blaming you…”

One thing I’d always noticed was that “sorry” was a unique word. Extremely easy to pronounce, extremely difficult to actually say it and extremely effective in diffusing even the most tense situation. And now was no exception. Before I could say any more Ahmed’s face softened and a sigh escaped his lips.

“It’s okay, Fadheelah. But tell me why you screamed like that.”

I winced. I could still see his hurt at that. Words cut deeper than any wounds and took much longer to heal. If only we thought before speaking we could avoid so much of trouble and heartbreak.

“I’m sorry,” I repeated, tightening my fingers around his own, “it was my anger and grief talking. I didn’t want to go by the doctor at all, I didn’t want to be excited and get my hopes up but you were so obviously excited that it made me excited as well…so the blow was much harder and…and I blamed you for that.”

“Of course I was excited…and I felt the blow as well…” I looked up at that, into his eyes, and saw it there, deep within their depths; a reflection of my own grief and sorrow. My mouth opened silently. “You are not the only one who’s feeling all this, Fadheelah. I also feel what you do. The hopes and disappointment every month, the struggle to keep my hopes up, everything. I just don’t show it because I want to be strong for you.”

I pulled my hand from his and smacked him lightly with that. “You don’t need to be strong for me! I’d rather you cried along with me. At least I wouldn’t have felt so alone then!”

“You felt alone?” He looked surprised by that.

I nodded. “I felt like I was the only one going through all that…that no one, including you, understood what it was like…”

Ahmed made a sound, part exasperation, part regret, and pulled me into his arms. “It’s about my baby as well! How can you be alone?”

“I thought you don’t understand what it feels like. You’re always so damn calm,” I muttered against his chest.

“Fine, next time I’ll also scream and throw things like you, okay?”

“I did not throw anything around!” I leaned away from him and scowled up at him. He grinned back at me and the sight of his familiar dimpled smile melted my indignation. I rolled my eyes and muttered something about him being too charming for his own good as I snuggled up against his chest again, feeling it rumble against my cheek with laughter.

“Okay, so…we establish a few rules now, okay?” I spoke up again after a few minutes. Shifting slightly to face him I began ticking the items off on my fingers. “Number one, no getting excited prematurely. Number two, no doctor visits until we’re hundred percent sure that I am pregnant. Number three, no pregnancy tests or getting our hopes up or counting the days of my delayed period or anything that will disappoint us again. I’d rather think it’s nothing and then be pleasantly surprised if it is something, than think it’s something then get disappointed when it’s nothing. Okay?” Ahmed nodded silently, “and you also have to accept the fact that I might not…” the words stuck in my throat. I cleared my throat and forced them out, “…that I might never fall pregnant.” I looked down at my hands, blinking back my tears. Ahmed’s hand came under my chin, forcing my head up.

“We haven’t even been married for three years, princess. Why are you losing hope so fast? Maybe now is not the right time for us. Think of it like a degree. Would you give it to a small child who hasn’t even reached high school yet? How can he earn a university degree at that stage? You’ll let him mature and learn first, isn’t, before giving him that. So maybe we’re not cut out to have kids yet. Maybe we think we’re ready but Allah knows we’re not so He’s making us wait but He’ll definitely give us when He thinks we’re ready. But don’t lose hope in the power and mercy of Allah. Just look at the stories of Ibrahim A.S and Zakariyyah A.S. They were ambiya and could have had their duas accepted at any time but Allah also made them wait. But they didn’t lose hope. Zakariyyah A.S made dua for children in his old age and at that age Allah gave him Yahya A.S. Ibrahim A.S got both Ismaeel and Ishaq A.S in his old age. Allah made his wife Sarah, who was barren, pregnant after decades of no children. So how can we lose hope so fast?” He smiled down at me, “so long as we have life we must have hope. And you still so young and so preettty ma, I’m sure you can have twenty children also with this nice young mashallah body of yours,” he affected a proper aunty accent at the end, making me jerk away with a laugh.

“Twenty, your head! Your granny is going to come out of her grave to help me look after twenty children, huh?”

We were laughing hilariously when nani came knocking on the door. “You children made up? So nice, now have you seen the time? Go sleep and continue your ha ha ha tomorrow.” The door shut smartly behind her.

“Your…ha ha ha!” I gasped between bouts of more laughter.

“Nani had to have the last word!” Ahmed laughed, slapping his hand on his thigh.

We settled down finally, curled up against each other contentedly. I hugged Ahmed close and wondered why I’d thought I was alone in this. With a few wise words he’d put me more at ease than I’d been in a long time. Why hadn’t I seen that he was also hurting, that we were in this together? I was again struck by how important communication was…open, honest communication. So many times we didn’t say what was on our minds and expected our spouses to read our minds and know what’s wrong with us. Why couldn’t we come out and just say it? Being an open book to our spouses is so important in marriage. Put all the problems on the table and talk about them. Work through them as a team. That would reduce our problems a great deal.

I was almost asleep when Ahmed spoke again. “Fadheelah?”

“Hmmmm?” I was instantly wide awake. He never called me by my name unless it was something serious.

“Can you do me a favour?”

“What is it?”

“Let’s go by a good doctor and get a proper checkup done…”

“No!” I said instantly, sitting up.

He reached for my hand and tugged me back to him. “Just hear me out, okay?”

Reluctantly I nodded.

“We’ll just explain the situation to the doctor and let her run some tests. Just to see if there’s something stopping you from getting pregnant. If all is clear, alhamdulillah. At least we’ll know we can rule out any medical complications.”

I didn’t want to do it at all, yet I knew I had to if I wanted to move forward. What if there was something stopping me from getting pregnant? Living in denial wasn’t going to help so I nodded and agreed at what Ahmed was saying. And the look of relief in his eyes convinced me that it was a good idea.

“I’ll find out which gynae Khadija and Asiyah go by so we can make an appointment,” I said with a yawn as I settled down against Ahmed again. I felt him smile against my hair before he pressed a kiss on it.

“I love you,” I heard him whisper as I drifted off to sleep.

Part 261

Ahmed and I avoided each other for the next couple of days. The atmosphere in the house was tense, almost crackling with unspoken tension because obviously the whole house knew what had happened since we hadn’t exactly been quiet to begin with. Or rather, I hadn’t been. Now that I was calm and able to think rationally again I cringed everytime I thought of how I’d screamed at Ahmed. He had been wise to just walk away because if he’d screamed back it would have escalated beyond control. I’d heard that anger rules our senses so we mustn’t talk when we’re angry because we’d end up saying things we’d regret but I’d never had an opportunity to truly experience it till now…never felt that all-consuming, white-hot fury which had clouded all my senses till all I’d been thinking about was lashing out; pouring it on someone like vitriol. And the victim had been Ahmed.

I felt regret over that, especially when I thought of the hurt in his eyes but I was also still angry and hurting myself so I didn’t approach him to bridge the gap between us; and Ahmed was also keeping his distance, only speaking to me in curt tones when it was absolutely necessary.

Numair was the only one babbling away, blissfully unaware of the tension hanging in the air. Humi eyed us both warily and spoke to us in careful terms, nana was frowning and disapproving but hadn’t said anything yet and nani was also surprisingly quiet.

We went to Heaton Park two days after that disastrous day. We’d planned it last week but I was especially glad that it happened to be today of all the days; it at least gave me a chance to be out of the house and in different company.

There were eighteen of us altogether; my whole family, Asiyah, Zul and Sa’ad, Khadija, Yusuf and Abbas, and Imaan and her kids.

We packed a picnic basket to take with. Nani and I made aloo parathas, samoosas and nani’s yummy hot masala tea. The rest would bring sandwiches and other snacks so we were set.

We’d all planned on meeting up at the park at ten so by eight nani came to wake me up to quickly get ready and help her in the kitchen. I yawned and wrapped myself in my fluffy gown before quietly stepping from the room and shutting the door behind me so as not to wake Ahmed up. We had slept on opposite sides of the mattress last night and the night before. The nights were the worst because we usually cuddled together and slept, especially now when the nights were long and cold. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d slept like this and I’d felt unexpectedly bereft.

After much impatience and rushing us from nani’s side we left the house at nine thirty. Much to my relief we were the first ones there so nani didn’t have a chance to lecture us again. The others arrived soon after that and we automatically formed two groups; women one side, men the other side, the kids running around and weaving in and out of both groups.

Heaton Park was lovely even on this cold, cloudy day. Endless stretches of rolling green grass interspersed with tall trees, curving stone paths and scattered buildings. There was a lake on one side which was used in summer for boating. Luckily for us the fog had lifted and it was neither raining nor snowing, a true blessing in this country and especially in winter.

The playground was on one side and the kids obviously wanted to go there first so we all went there. We sat on the grass while the kids ran to the rides. Imaan took Umar on the swing and Khadija took Abbas since they were too small to go on their own. I nudged Humi who was laying back on the grass, Numair lying next to her and kicking his arms and legs vigorously in the air.

“Take him on the swing as well.”

Humi squinted up at me. “He’s too small for that. He can’t even sit by himself yet.”

“So? You can sit with him.”

Humi snorted with laughter. “Me? I’ll probably break the swing. It’s for kids in case you haven’t noticed.”

I rolled my eyes and got to my feet, swinging Numair up in my arms. “Fine, I’ll take him.”

Humi waggled her fingers at me. “Ya, take him. Maybe I’ll take a nap,” she yawned, “that kid kept me up half the night wanting to play!”

I laughed and cooed at Numair as I walked towards the swings. He gave me a toothless grin and kicked me in my chest in return. I winced. “Woah, dude. You pack quite a punch with those little legs, don’t you?”

I chose the sturdiest looking swing and sat down with Numair on my lap. He loved it and laughed in delight as I swung us fast and high. The other kids also found it hilarious.

“Look, Aunt Faz is also swinging!” Sa’ad exclaimed.

“Ya, ’cause she’s a big kid herself,” Khadija laughed. I shot her a look and swung even faster till nani yelled at me to stop before I landed on my head and cracked it open like an egg!

After the kids had played to their fill on the playground we took them to the animal centre where there were a variety of animals. The rabbits were so cute and fluffy and the sight of a peacock screeching before it shook open its majestic feathers entranced all the kids and adults alike.

“I think there’s donkey rides for the kids if you’ll wanna take them,” I said to Imaan, Khads and Asiyah, “I read something like that online.”

“No, thanks,” all three of them promptly replied. I rolled my eyes at them because by this point they were more interested in finding a good place to pray zuhr and eat than making their kids ride on the backs of donkeys.

We found a nice spot close to the bathrooms then we all took turns making wudhu and praying Salah. The men prayed in jama’ah with nana leading them. Then we laid out our goodies on the ground and dug in! Nani’s aloo paratha with hot, sweet tea went down especially well and her samoosas were obviously a hit with everyone. She had fried so many that morning, I’d joked that they were enough to feed an army but by the time we were done with lunch they were all polished.

“Aunt Hafsa, I’m coming to learn how to make this stuff from you,” Asiyah joked as she munched on a samoosa.

“Brilliant idea, babe! Aunt Hafsa, teach her everything!” Zul called out from where the men were sitting.

Asiyah groaned. “Why is it that when you don’t need to hear something your ears become like satellites?”

We all burst out laughing.

“Because this stuff is tops, man! Can’t beat it,” Zul replied, sounding as though he also had his mouth full, “and you said you want to learn. I was only agreeing with you.”

Asiyah huffed. “I was only joking!”

Asiyah seemed curiously excited as we finished lunch and packed our things away. The men took everything to the car again while we walked around the gardens, trying to ease our stuffed bellies.

“Digest your food quickly…then we’ll go to the highlight of the day,” Asiyah said as we were strolling along.

“What? You look like you’re hiding a big secret,” I looked at her curiously.

Asiyah grinned. “Wait and see.”

The ‘secret’ turned out to be a huge obstacle course, a little past the animal centre. We all stared at it with our mouths open, rendered speechless in collective shock. Nani was the first one to break the silence.

“Asiyah, do you want to become shaheed already???”

We all laughed loudly at that!

“No, aunty,” Asiyah replied, still laughing, “it’s so much fun.”

“What is so fun about jumping around in trees like monkeys?”

“Your nani is right, Fazila. It’s too dangerous,” nana said in a firm voice.

“But nana!” I protested. Despite my initial shock I was now excited and more than ready for the adventure, “we’ll be all strapped up! Even if we do slip we won’t fall down!”

“Still. It’s too dangerous. Not nice to play with your lives like that,” nana shook his head.

“We’re not. This is perfectly safe, I’m telling you. I’ve done this before!” I was getting frustrated by nana’s stubbornness and worried that none of us might be able to go on this…which would be a pity since I didn’t know if I’d have a chance to come back before we left England!

“Ask Ahmed,” nana tilted his head in Ahmed’s direction, “he’s the one you’re supposed to be asking anyways.”

I shot him a look. I knew exactly what he was doing! I just hadn’t expected him to go about it so publicly.

I had to give Ahmed credit though. He didn’t act out of turn at all. When I turned to him and asked him in a subdued voice if I could go he looked doubtful at first. “I don’t know…it does look dangerous.”

“I assure you, sirs, it’s not dangerous at all. The harnesses we strap you into have been tested as completely safe,” the guy who worked there spoke up. I shot Ahmed and nana a triumphant look.

“Okay, fine,” Ahmed sounded resigned, “who else is going?”

“Me, Khads, Asiyah…Imaan?” I turned to her.

“No thanks! I’ll watch,” Imaan replied promptly.

“Just us three then,” I said.

“And us,” Yusuf, Khadija’s husband, spoke up.

“Yeah we can,” Ahmed replied, “Zul?”

“No ways man. I’ll watch you from here.”

“Come on, babe. It will be fun!” Asiyah said.

“Yeah, I’m not going without you. You’re coming,” Ahmed said, suddenly determined to go himself, and dragged Zul along. Asiyah chuckled and nudged me.

“At least your hubby is as adventurous as you are. Makes it more fun, innit?”

“Yeah, it does,” I admitted.

“Zul’s the complete opposite. I wanna go everywhere and do everything and he would rather sit infront of the fire with his feet up and a newspaper on his lap.” She said it jokingly but I caught a hint of frustration in her voice.

“Everyone’s got their pros and cons I guess,” I murmured, not wanting to get into the husband topic right now.

“Hmmm. Anyways, let’s go see about the tickets. There’s Treetop Nets for the kids if they wanna go on that. It’s less scary.”

In the end it was decided that the kids would go on treetop nets, another obstacle course but one that was fully netted, supervised by Imaan and nani. Asiyah booked us on the treetop trek, a really high and scary looking obstacle course. I was glad nani and nana hadn’t seen all of it as I saw more of it up close, otherwise they would have freaked out even more.

It was a two hour course filled with adrenaline pumping courses and zip lines. We had an instructor named Luke who guided us through it all. He went first followed by the men then us bringing up the rear. We maneuvered our way through it all, screaming and sliding awkwardly through the first zip lines but by the end of it we were almost pros. Luke even convinced us to jump off backwards on the zip lines and we managed it.

“That was awesome!!!” I said breathlessly when we’d whizzed down the last zip line.

“Told you so!” Asiyah smirked at me then turned to look for Zul, “how was it, babe?”

Zul groaned and rubbed his stomach. “My organs feel like they’re all upside down,” he sank down on the grass.

“But…?” Asiyah prodded.

“It was nice, I guess,” Zul finally admitted.

“More than nice. It was fantastic. Admit it, bru,” Ahmed said, slapping him on the back. I grinned at him through my niqab, forgetting our problems for a moment. He caught my look and almost smiled back before he probably remembered those same problems. His face turned grave and he turned away from me.

It hit me like a physical blow, even though I knew I probably deserved it. Clearing my throat I turned to Asiyah and Khadija and declared with forced cheerfulness that it was time for coffee!

“How you can eat anything after that, I don’t know. My stomach also feels upside down,” Khadija groaned, also rubbing her stomach.

“It makes me more hungry,” I grinned.

It was asr by that time so we had coffee at a nearby coffee shop and prayed asr then started going towards our cars.

“This was so nice,” Imaan said as we walked along, “we should get together like this again before you go.”

“Yeah, we should. The kids also loved it,” I indicated to the twins being chased by the younger kids, their laughter ringing in the air.

“Yeah, especially the twins. They’re at that age, you know. The park is too boring for them unless they go with their friends to play football, shopping is way too boring for them…we do go on family outings but it’s more difficult to please them now. This is the first time after a long time that they really enjoyed themselves. And they said they wanna come back with Nasri.”

“That’s nice. One more place on your list now,” I grinned.

We promised to meet up again then went our separate ways. Supper that night was light, toast and tea since none of us were really hungry and we were all worn out.

I showered and changed into my pjs then sat on the single bed in my room, combing my hair. Ahmed came in, glanced at me briefly, got his own clothes and went to bath. He came back freshly showered and sat on the mattress, scrolling through his phone. Despite myself I watched him as he looked at his phone. His mouth was set in a tight line, his shoulders slightly slumped. As I looked at him I was suddenly overpowered by the urge to wrap my arms around him…to snuggle up in his warm embrace, to laugh and joke with him once more. I hated this wide chasm between us and I knew that since I was the one to create it I’d have to be the one to bridge it. I remembered a hadith I’d come across in madrassah;

“Your women, who are among the residents of Paradise are Al-Wadood (loving and caring), Al-Walood (one who bears a lot of children) and Al-‘Aood to her husband; the one who, if he (her husband) gets angry, she comes to him and puts her hand in his hand, saying, ‘I will not taste sleep until you are pleased (with me).’” [Ad-Daraqutni].

Well, time to put that into practice! Taking a deep breath I slid from the bed and sat down infront of Ahmed. He looked up, startled, and looked at me with carefully blank eyes. Mustering up all my courage I reached for his hand, clasped it in my own and gave him a small smile.

“Can we talk?”


I stayed up after fajr in this freezing weather just to finish this post for you’ll. Are you lucky or are you lucky?😜

Enjoy!

Haadiya xxx

Part 260

I leaned against the bathroom wall weakly, my stomach still heaving after emptying its contents into the toilet a few minutes earlier. My head felt sore, my stomach felt sore…my whole body felt weak and drained, something very unusual since I hardly ever fell sick. And this was not the first time I’d puked. It had been happening on and off for the past week; I’d only succeeded in hiding it till now. Add that to my periods being two weeks late now, and I was almost certain…almost…

“Princess?” Ahmed rapped on the bathroom, worry evident in his voice, “you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I called, even as my voice betrayed the fact that I was not.

“Open the door.”

I sighed and pushed away from the wall. “Two minutes.” I quickly brushed my teeth and washed my face, eyeing myself critically in the mirror. Not perfect but it would have to do.

“Hey, handsome. What’s cookin’?” I curved my lips in a wide smile as I threw open the door.

He wasn’t fooled. “What’s wrong? You rushed out of there like your tail was on fire.”

“Ya, it’s probably some bug in my stomach,” I shrugged, “you’ll done eating?”

“Long time. You were in there for almost twenty minutes. Were you vomiting?”

“Yeah, just a bit. Must be food poisoning or something,” I shrugged again.

“We all ate the same food and nothings wrong with us,” Ahmed raised his eyebrows, his eyes probing every inch of my face. I hoped he wasn’t seeing anything there, “I think we should go to the doctor…”

“No!” I interrupted forcefully.

“…just in case. This is not the first time you’ve vomited. It’s been happening since last week, neh?”

My eyes shot to his in shock. How did he know that?? I thought I’d been so discreet! He gave me a you-can’t-fool-me look.

“No doctors…yet. I’ll be fine. It’s probably just a bug.”

“When did you last get your periods?”

I mentally groaned. Did nothing get past this dude??

“When, princess?” He had that knowing gleam in his eyes now. I wanted to smack him one over the head.

“Twenty-fourth,” I mumbled.

“Uhuh. And it’s the tenth now. More than two weeks overdue…”

“It can’t be. Just leave it for now. Maybe I’ll take the test in one or two weeks if I still haven’t gotten.”

“You know you can’t hide this for another week or two. Everyone’s worried. Nana also said I must take you to the doctors. Let’s just go today, then we’ll at least know one way or the other.” He actually patted my stomach like a mini Cassim really was residing in there. I swatted his hand away.

“Just leave it, man. And don’t get your hopes up. It’s probably nothing.”

I was not speaking lightly. This was not the first time I had gotten my hopes up, only to have them dashed to pieces. And each time it happened it felt like someone had ripped away a small piece of my heart. It had gotten to a point where I said I was going to be like the women of olden times who had no way of proving their pregnancy till they got proper, authentic signs, some not knowing till the baby actually started moving in their bellies. That was better. Safer.

However, my word was unfortunately not the last one and I soon found my opinions overshadowed by other impatient, excited ones. No one else wanted to wait, least of all Ahmed, so the next day saw me sitting in the doctors office most reluctantly, scowling and grumbling to myself the entire time we waited. Ahmed, on the other hand, was looking like a boy who had been deprived of candy for too long and was now set loose in a candy shop to stuff himself as much as he wanted. At least he was wise enough to keep his mouth shut.

Despite myself I too was getting excited. Hope was unfurling its petals within me and this time I let it…let it batter the defenses I’d erected over time, let it squeeze around my heart and breathe life into it. By the time the doctor called us in my heart was thundering in my chest. I squeezed Ahmed’s hand, met his eager eyes with my own excited ones and let him lead me in.

Doctor Maya was a middle aged woman with a kind smile. She went through the usual questions about my symptoms then steepled her fingers under her chin and asked the main question.

“When did you get your last menstruation?”

“Twenty-fourth,” I answered, my voice trembling just a bit.

“Hmmmm,” she consulted the calendar on her desk then looked up again, “that’s forty-eight days. Have you taken a test?”

I shook my head.

“Let’s take one now then, shall we?” Her smile was reassuring, meant to put me at ease.

I had never felt more nervous in my life.

I did my blood n urine tests…and then came the excruciating wait. By the time the doctor called me in again I was a bundle of nerves. The first thing I noticed was her smile. Still there, still kind and reassuring…but there was something else there now. Something I couldn’t define.

“Mrs. Cassim, Mr. Cassim, have a seat…”

We automatically obeyed.

She seemed to be choosing her words with care. “The results have come back…” she tapped the sheet on her desk, “it seems to be a viral infection…”

I knew then…I just knew, and my heart plummeted to the bottom of my shoes. And still Ahmed to ask, “err, so the pregnancy test…?”

“Is negative,” the doctor replied gently, “but there’s no cause to worry. She’s still young and very healthy…”

I barely heard the rest. I just knew I had to get out of there. Stumbling to my feet I mumbled an, “excuse me,” and fled from the room before I lost control and made a fool of myself.

“Fadheelah! Fadheelah, wait!” It was some minutes before Ahmed caught up to me, probably because he had to settle stuff at the doctor’s office, “I’m sorry, princess. Please don’t cry…”

“Let go of me! Let go of me, dammit!” I screamed and struggled against his hold. People around us turned to look and that made Ahmed release me and step back.

The drive home was tense, the silence hanging thick between us, shattered only by my broken sobs. As soon as we reached I jumped out and rushed into the house, making a beeline for my room. I prayed Ahmed wouldn’t come after me but no such luck. Before I had even yanked off my hijab he was there.

“Fadheelah…”

“Get out! I don’t want to see your face, just go!” I screamed, backing away from him. Ahmed stopped dead, shock crossing his face.

“Fadheelah, it’s okay…”

“No, it’s not! I told you I’m not pregnant but you wouldn’t listen! I told you I don’t want to go by the doctors but did you listen? Noo, the mighty Ahmed always has to know better, neh?? Now see what happened! This is all your fault!” I lashed out at him and saw his face whiten.

“How is it my fault?”

“By getting all excited and making me get my hopes up! By acting like I’m pregnant and like you know it all! Well, you’re wrong! I’m not pregnant and I’ll never be so get that into your thick head before you start dreaming of babies again!”

“Didn’t you hear what the doctor said? You’re still young…”

“Please, Ahmed, I don’t wanna hear another word! This is all your fault, now just go and leave me alone! I don’t want to see your face again!” I screamed.

I saw the emotions play on his face…shock, hurt, sorrow…before his face settled into a hard mask of anger. Spinning on his heel he stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him with a loud bang.


Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

Welcome back…with a bang! Like literally😂

Hope you’ll had a lovely ramadhan and eid. I enjoyed mine so much I couldn’t get into the vibe of writing again 😉 but hopefully I’ll be able to be regular now InshaAllah…

Enjoy and drop me your feedbacks!

Haadiya xxx

Ramadan Kareem

Can you’ll believe this is the fourth Ramadan of Being Muslim!😊 it’s been quite a journey but one thing that hasn’t changed through the years is this post. I know I post this every year but it’s so comprehensive it covers everything so for my reminder and yours I’ll post it again.

وَذَكِّرۡ فَإِنَّ ٱلذِّكۡرَىٰ تَنفَعُ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِینَ

And remind, for verily the reminder benefits the believers.

[Surah Adh-Dhariyat, Ayah 55]


Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

Hope everyone is well. The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us alhamdulillah. This is a month of mercy from Allah Ta’ala, a month in which Allah pours his mercy and forgiveness down on us. This month is such a great gift from Allah Ta’ala, as mentioned in the following hadith:

– Abu Hurairah R.A relates that Nabi SAW said, “My ummah has been given five special things that were not given to anyone before them:

• The smell from the mouth of a fasting muslim is sweeter to Allah than the fragrant smell of musk.
• The fish in the sea seek forgiveness on their behalf until they break their fast.
• Allah prepares and decorates his special jannah everyday and then says to it: ‘The time is near when my faithful servants shall cast aside the great trials of the world and come to you.’
• In this month the rebellious shayateen are chained, so as not to provoke those evils that they normally do during months other than Ramadan.
• On the last night of Ramadan the fasting muslims are forgiven.”
The sahabah thereupon inquired, “oh messenger of Allah, is that night Laylatul Qadr?”
Nabi SAW replied, “no. But it is only right that a servant should be given his reward on having completed his duty.”
(Ahmed)

There are a few points I would like to mention:

Firstly, we must try not to waste time as much as possible. We should read the Holy Quran in our free time, try and make as many khatams as possible. And also read zikr in our free time. It comes in a hadith:

“In this month, you should try to perform four things in great number, two of which shall be to please your Lord, while the other two shall be those without which you cannot make do. Those which shall be to please your Lord, are that you should in great quantity recite kalima tayyibah (Laa Ilaha illallah) and make much istighfaar. And as for those two without which you cannot make do, you should beg Allah for entry into paradise and seek refuge with Him from the fire of jahannam.”
(Baihaqi)

The zikr which comprises all of the above is:

‘Laa ilaha illah, astaghfirullah, as’aluka jannatal firdaus, wa a’oothu bika minan naar.’

Secondly, we must try and pray off all our qadha salahs, and if we don’t have any left, we must try and pray nafl salah as much as possible. It is mentioned in a hadith:

“Whosoever tries drawing nearer to Allah by performing any virtuous deed in this month, for him shall be such a reward as if he had performed a fardh in any other time of the year. And whoever performs a fardh, for him shall be the reward of seventy fardh in any other time of the year.”
(Baihaqi)

Thirdly, we must try and engage in as much dua as possible, especially at the times of tahajjud and iftar, as mentioned in the following hadiths:

– Abu Saeed Khudri R.A relates that Nabi SAW said, “during each day and night of Ramadan, Allah sets free a great number of souls from jahannam (hellfire). And for every muslim, during each day and night, at least one prayer is certainly accepted.”
(Narrated by Bazzaar)

– Abu Hurairah R.A relates that Nabi SAW said, “there are three people whose dua isn’t rejected; the fasting person until he breaks the fast, the just ruler and the oppressed person, whose dua Allah lifts above the clouds and opens unto it the doors of Heaven, and Allah says, “I swear by my honour, verily I shall assist you, even though it may be after some time.”
(Tirmidhi)

– Ibn Mas’ood reports that on every night of Ramadan, a crier from the heavens calls out, “oh you seeker of good, come near. Oh seeker of evil,turn away (from evil) and open your eyes.” Thereafter that angel calls out, “is there any seeker of forgiveness, that he may be forgiven? Is there anyone with a prayer, that his prayer may be heard? Is there anyone wanting anything, so that his wish may be fulfilled?”

When Allah, the Kings of Kings Himself is asking if we want anything from his limitless treasures, if we don’t ask to our hearts’ content, who can be more unfortunate than us, dear sisters?

Fourthly, we can do all of the above but if we don’t preserve our good deeds well, then simple, careless actions of ours can tear all our efforts into shreds. Amongst those actions are lying, backbiting, slandering others, or any other sins, as mentioned in the following hadiths:

– Abu Hurairah R.A relates that Nabi SAW said, “Many of those who fast obtain nothing through such fasting except hunger, and many a one performs salah by night but obtains nothing by it except the discomfort of staying awake.”
(Ibn Majah)

Ulama have mentioned different interpretations for this hadith: firstly, it may mean breaking one’s fast with haraam food, as that would make all our good deeds unacceptable. Secondly, it can mean those who fast but while fasting, engage in backbiting and slandering others. Thirdly, it may refer to the one who, while fasting, didn’t stay away from evil and sin.

– Abu Ubaidah R.A reports, “I have heard Nabi SAW saying, “fasting is a protective shield for man, as long as he does not tear up that protection.”
(Nasa’i and Ibn Majah)

Once somebody inquired from Nabi SAW, “What causes the fast to tear?” He replied, “telling lies and backbiting.”

Fifthly, the last ten days of Ramadan are even more emphasised, especially the nights, because there is a possibility of Laylatul Qadr being amongst the odd nights from the last ten nights. It could be on any other night as well, but the last ten odd nights are more likely, as mentioned in various hadiths. So we should try and stay awake as much as possible during those nights, or sleep early and wake up earlier than usual for tahajjud salah. It is mentioned in the following hadiths:

– Anas R.A reports that Nabi SAW said, “on the night of power, Jibraeel A.S descends upon the earth with a group of angels, praying for blessings for every servant of Allah whom they see in worship, standing or sitting and engrossed in Allah’s praise. Then on the day of Eid, Allah boasts about them to the angels, that “oh my angels, what is the reward of that worker who has done his job very well?” They reply, “oh our Lord, his reward should be given to him in full.” To this Allah replies, “oh my angels, verily my servants, the males amongst them as well as females, have duly performed their obligatory duty, thereafter they set forth to the Eid prayer ground, raising their voices in prayer to me. I swear by my honour, by my grandeur, by my grace and by my exalted position, that I shall surely answer the prayers of these people.” Thereafter Allah addresses the people, “go forth, I have forgiven your sins, and have replaced your evil deeds with righteous ones.” These people then return from the Eid ground in such a condition that their sins stand forgiven.”
(Baihaqi)

– Aisha R.A reports that Nabi SAW said,seek Laylatul Qadr among the odd numbered nights of the last ten days of the month of Ramadan.”
(Mishkaat reports from Bukhari)

Sixthly, eid night is a night of great celebration, both here in this world (we see how the aunties run into the kitchen upon sighting the moon, preparing pots of different kinds of food, because for us indians, food comes first!😜 And how the girls run to apply henna and try on their outfits etc) and in the heavens, because that night is the ‘prize giving night’ as mentioned in the hadith; but it is also a great night for making ibadah (worshipping Allah), as mentioned in the following hadiths:

– Nabi SAW said,”whoever stays awake for ibadah on the night preceding either eid, with the aim of gaining reward, his heart shall not die on that day when hearts shall wither.” (referring to the day of qiyamah)

– Nabi SAW is also reported to have said,”whoever stays awake for ibadah on the following nights shall enter jannah; Laylatul Tarwiyah (the night after the 7th Zul Hijjah), Laylatul Arafah (the night after the 8th Zul Hijjah), Laylatul Nahr (the night after the 9th Zul Hijjah), the night preceding eid ul fitr, and the night preceding 15th Sha’ban.”

Ramadaan is like a huge sale. Imagine if a yearly sale was occuring right at our doorstep with a bold sign proclaiming, “buy one get seventy free.” Who in their right mind would pass up an opportunity like that? We would be the first ones to rush there and inform all our near and dear ones as well so that no one would miss out. Well, this is exactly like that, only that the rewards are far greater than any worldly treasures yet hidden from sight. We need to become fully aware of these treasures within our reach and try our best to fill our treasure chests with as many valuables as we can, to ensure our success in the hereafter inshaAllah.

Hadhrat Mujaddid Alfe thaani Rahmatullah Alayh has written in his maktoobat,

“The one whose Ramadan passes un planned and doesn’t value it then his whole year will pass same way unplanned. and the one who values and spends his Ramadan in an organised manner his whole year too will pass in the same way.”

Also through narrations from Ahadith we learn that our timetable (ibadah) of Ramadanul Mubarak effects the whole year. The way one spends Ramadan similar will be the year, thus value every moment of Ramadan and spend it totally in our rectification, worry of Aakhirah, and connecting with Allah Ta’ala.

Please try and pass this on to as many people as possible, so we can all benefit from this inshaAllah…

Wishing you all a very blessed and special Ramadan and Eid! Remember me and my family in your special duas!

Ilal liqaa (till we meet again)

Ma’as salaamah!

Haadiya xxx

Part 259

Asma foi was a tall, plump woman who greeted us with a big smile of welcome then set about making us comfortable and bringing us refreshments even though we protested that we didn’t want anything because we had come straight after breakfast. I looked at her bustling around and shot Ahmed an amused smile.

“That’s daddy to the T.”

Humi and Ahmed both laughed. Asma foi resembled her brother in looks as well. I could tell they were family by looking at them. When she finally came and sat with us, after placing a tray of refreshments on the low coffee table between us, she smiled around at us.

“How you all? Imtiaz told me you’ll are here but you never showed up till now.” Her arched brows demanded an explanation.

“Sorry foi, we kept meaning to come but things kept coming up,” Ahmed said. Humi and I nodded in agreement.

“Well, never mind that now. How you’ll been? You looking well, Ahmed. I must say marriage agrees with you.” We laughed then she turned to Humi.

“And you, Humaira? How you been, ma? I heard what happened with you and that haraami rubbish husband of yours. It’s why I always say we must stick to our own jaath (kind). Can’t trust these lot, you know. What what they can do to us, ey. Not worth spoiling our lives over them.” From the corner of my eyes I saw Humi’s face set in mutinous lines. Asma foi must have seen it as well because she hurried to add, “oh well, all that’s in the past now. Nothing we can do to change it. But you’re still such a pretty young girl, Humaira. You’ll easily find another husband. Infact there must be some right here in Manchester, Ahmed might even know some of them…”

“I am not interested in getting married again,” Humi said flatly.

“Ya, no need to jump into it, of course. Whenever you’re ready, ma.”

Humi simply nodded briefly and turned her attention to Numair. Ahmed and I picked up the thread of conversation and talked to her about different things. She was a nice person, even carried Numair and cooed over him and said he was such a handsome little boy. Humi was quieter after their exchange but she did relax a bit when she saw Asma foi playing so nicely with Numair.

After a while we left, promising to come back again before we left. Asma foi insisted on giving us dawat though, so we agreed to eat dinner at her house on Sunday.

“She’s a nice person,” I commented as we left.

“Yeah, she’s okay,” Humi replied abstractedly. I glanced at her to find her looking out of the car window, lost in thought. She was quiet all the way home and disappeared into her room as soon as we got there, only coming out at lunch time.

Since it was jumuah I took a nice bath and wore a nice dress, applied perfume and prayed Surah Kahf and a bit of my daily portion before lunch. Jumuah lunch was the best. Nana was home and nani usually went all out, making her delicious dhall and rice with potato fry, paapar, kachumar and achaar..all the typical side things to go with. Dessert was caramel pudding which we loved, including Numair who slurped some up with relish. Humi was quieter than usual all through lunch as well and afterwards when Ahmed and I asked her if she wanted to come with us she declined and disappeared into her room again. I looked at Ahmed worriedly.

“Maybe I should find out what’s bothering her.”

Ahmed shook his head. “Give her her space for now. If she’s still like this at night then you can go talk to her.”

I agreed and left it at that.

Ahmed and I spent the afternoon out, touring some other places in Manchester, doing a spot of shopping and stopping for coffee at a lovely little cafe when we were done. We came home in time to pray asr and a little while later the men left for maghrib. I looked at Humi’s closed door and debated whether to go in or not. There wasn’t much time till supper… then I heard a crash and a couple of loud oaths that had me knocking on the door worriedly.

“Come in!”

“You okay??” I asked, popping my head in warily.

“Ya, I’m fine…no, actually I’m not and this Numair doesn’t wanna sit still! Can you take him for a while please?”

“Sure…come, Numi bear!” I cooed, picking up the baby fussing on the carpet and giving him a smacking kiss.

“Numi? No thanks! Humi is enough!” I heard Humi grumbling as I shut the door behind me. I chuckled and took Numair to my room where I handed him my tasseled handbag to distract him while I prayed maghrib, then sat and played with him till Ahmed came.

“Look at you two,” he said, raising his eyebrows at the comical sight we made, Numair pulling at tufts of my hair till they stuck out in all directions then shoving some in his mouth. I laughed and disentangled myself from him then plopped him in his mama’s arms while I shook my hair back and tied it back again neatly.

“Where’s his mum?”

“Still moping in her room. I’m not kidding,” I added when I saw his look, “she even got annoyed with Numair so I took him away. Or she asked me to take him away, rather. There’s definitely something bugging her and I’m finding out what after supper.”

“Uh oh,” Ahmed muttered, seeing the determined glint in my eyes, “here comes the freight train.”

“What do you mean by that…?”

“Nothing!” Ahmed grinned and slipped out of the room with Numair.

Humi was so quiet and preoccupied at dinner that even nani noticed and kept flicking worried glances at her. She opened her mouth a couple of times to say something then shut it again.

“What’s wrong with her?” She asked as soon as Humi had disappeared again.

“I have no idea but I’m gonna get to the bottom of it,” I replied, quickly clearing and washing up so I could go to her.

While Ahmed entertained Numair I knocked on Humi’s door. I heard a muted, “come in, Faz,” and slipped inside, closing the door behind me.

“How did you know it was me?”

Humi rolled her eyes. “Who else would come knocking to interrogate me?”

“I didn’t come to…okay, fine, I did,” I sighed, “so what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Really, Humi???”

“Ugh, I don’t know! I don’t know how to explain it!”

“Your mood soured after visiting your foi. Was it what she said?”

“That too, yeah. Everything. I guess it’s been building up for a long while now.”

“What’s been building up?”

“I envy you,” Humi said suddenly. I started, not expecting to hear that, “and I envy this large, happy family you have. Look at your parents, your family life. So stable and happy. Your nana and nani. So happy and clearly in love even after all these years…decades! Your cousins and family back home…Aliyah and them. You’re all so close…one big, happy family. I don’t have that,” her voice had lowered to a whisper, “I’m just a messed up girl coming from a dysfunctional family…a dad who’s too busy making money to see what’s happening at home. A mother who belittles and controls us all. You wouldn’t understand how it feels to be brought up in that…that mess! Or maybe you would. Six months in that house and you ran for your life. I spent my whole life there! Is it any wonder that I turned out so messed up then!”

“You didn’t,” I protested, “you’re alright, Humi. One mistake doesn’t make you messed up. It happens. Everyone makes mistakes.”

“It’s not only about Mickey. It’s me! Look at you and look at me. You’re so happy and bubbly and confident and no wonder, because you’ve had such a wonderful, stable family and life. No wonder Ahmed fell for you. You’re everything he needed after running from that mess. You know he didn’t come back even once after he left for his studies? He only came back after completing all his studies, over here then in Pakistan. And then a short while later he married you. I don’t blame him for running away. I would have run too if I’d had the chance,” Humi sighed long and deep, looking so small and lost that I just wanted to hug her and tell her it will all be okay in the end. “You’re so lucky to have such a wonderful family. The amount of love I’ve gotten from your nani I haven’t gotten in my life. If I could stay here permanently I would,” she smiled a bit, “so yeah. Guess I was just feeling sorry for myself today. I’m all alone, you know. It’s just me and Numair. How will I bring him up on my own, I don’t know. Without a father and a messed up mum. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be as messed up as me.”

I went and sat next to her, pulling her into a hug this time. “You’re not alone. You have your brother and you have me, your sister. And now you have nani and you have Numair. And most of all, you have yourself and this life that Allah has given you. Don’t waste it moping over the past, Humi. Bury the past and look towards the future. You can build up your own future and be as happy as any of us. You just have to have the determination to rise above it all and come out stronger. I know you can do it,” I smiled encouragingly at her and was rewarded with an answering smile and a glimmer of hope in her eyes.

The conversation with Humi made me realise how much we took for granted. Parents. Family. Relatives. The safe haven they provided for us throughout our lives. We didn’t realise how important it really was, how all the small things added up to be great, significant things…how it was the fabric of family woven tightly around us that made us who we were…that if even one thread had to unravel we wouldn’t be who we are today. Ask a person who doesn’t have family and loved ones how it really feels to be alone. But we don’t realise and we spoil this beautiful blessing by petty quarrels and fights, allowing shaytaan to sow the seeds of disunity amongst us. Family ties are so important to maintain that its importance has come in several ahadeeth;

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever would like his rizq (provision) to be increased and his life to be extended, should uphold the ties of kinship.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 5986 and Muslim, 2557).

The Messenger of Allah S.A.W also said, “The one who maintains a relationship with his relatives only because they maintain a relationship with him is not truly upholding the ties of kinship. The one who truly upholds those ties is the one who does so even if they break off the relationship.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 5645).

A man said to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), “I have relatives with whom I try to keep in touch, but they cut me off. I treat them well, but they abuse me. I am patient and kind towards them, but they insult me.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “If you are as you say, then it is as if you are putting hot dust in their mouths. Allaah will continue to support you as long as you continue to do that.” (Reported by Muslim with commentary by al-Nawawi, 16/115).

And finally, the warnings for breaking those ties had also appeared in ahadeeth;

Jubair b. Mut’im reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: The severer would not enter Paradise. Ibn Umar said that Sufyan (explained it as): One who severs the tie of kinship would not enter Paradise.

I planned to call my family that night and let them know how much they meant to me, then went down and hugged nani tightly.

“Uff! What’s wrong that you squashing me like this?”

“Nothing. I just love you, nani,” I grinned and kissed her on her cheek. She beamed happily at this impulsive gesture and I smiled back, feeling light and buoyant.

Alhamdulillah for all the small blessings in our lives that turned out to be such great blessings…


Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…

Last post before ramadhan so I touched on one very important topic…maintaining family ties. Let’s forgive, let go of grudges and enter this beloved month with clean hearts. Keeping grudges is not worth it when we dont know if every moment will be our last. Rather forgive for the pleasure of Allah and earn jannah in return InshaAllah…

See you’ll after ramadhan inshaAllah. Remember me in your duas and forgive me for any shortcomings❤

Much love,

Haadiya xxx

Part 258

“Mum insists that you all should have a meal with us one day so which day is most convenient for you?”

“Tell your mum not to trouble herself, Khads. I’ll just pop in one day for tea.”

“Don’t be silly. If I tell her that she’ll come smack you one over your head. Now discuss with your family and let me know which day best suits you all, yeah?”

I agreed to let her know then hung up and went to look for nani.

In the end we decided to go for dinner on Thursday, which was two days from now, to give Aunt Safiyyah time to prepare. I told Khads and she said her mum was very pleased that we’d accepted the dawat and they were looking forward to seeing us and no, I absolutely should not make anything as they had more than enough hands to make everything. I laughed and told her I’d see her on Thursday then!

***

“What kind of people are they?” Humi asked nervously as we drove to Aunt Safiyyah’s house.

I smiled reassuringly at her. “Very friendly and welcoming. They’re arabs, Humi, and I haven’t seen anyone more welcoming than arabs, as I’m sure you’ve also seen in Egypt and Morocco.”

Humi nodded. That she knew. “Don’t worry, you’ll be okay,” I added, “and you won’t be alone. Nani and I will be right there.”

Humi raised her eyebrows at me. “Nani yes but you? With the way you keep chattering to your friends? You’ll even forget I’m there.”

I laughed. “I know I talk a lot but come on. You’ve met Asiyah and Khadija, you know how friendly they are. They’ll make you feel at home.”

Humi was feeling strange and sometimes uncomfortable since we’d come to UK. I could understand and sympathise with her. It couldn’t be easy stuck in a strange country with only your brother and sister inlaw, both of who knew the place and people. It was different in the other countries we visited since we all were tourists there and explored and discovered things together. Here she felt like the only stranger. I was surprised she hadn’t gone to stay at her foi’s house since she did have that family here but she’d refused to go there.

“I barely know them. I must have last met them like ten years ago when they came to S.A. and even then I didn’t have much to talk about with them. I’d rather stay here. Your nani is more like family to me than my own family. I’ll go meet Asma foi, of course, but I’d rather stay here.”

She wasn’t the only one who still had to go meet Asma Foi. Ahmed and I had to go meet her as well, something I should have thought of as soon as we arrived. I made a mental note to mention it to Ahmed as soon as we got home.

Aunt Safiyyah welcomed us warmly, her round face wreathed in a wide smile as always. She greeted nani, got introduced to Humi then turned to me.

“Fazila, habibti! So nice to see you! Couldn’t even come meet me, huh, till I invited you over!”

I laughed and winced guiltily. “So sorry, khalto. I’ve been meaning to come but you invited me over before I could. How are you? I’ve missed you so much!”

“I’ve missed you too, habibti. Manchester has been very quiet since you left,” she laughed.

Khadija and another young woman were standing behind her. I greeted Khads and she grinned then turned to the woman next to her. “This is Hannah, Yusha’s wife. Hannah, this is Fazila. ‘Nuff said!”

I was puzzled till Hannah laughed and came forward to hug me. “Oh yes, the famous Fazila. I’ve heard so much about you I feel like I’ve known you forever.”

“Good things, I hope,” I joked.

Hannah was very pretty with a fair complexion and lovely green eyes, and so petite that the top of her head only came till my nose. I remember Khads telling me when Yusha got married that he had married an English girl, a revert. She had joked that she was half the size of Yusha but she had straightened him out proper. Maybe half was an exaggeration though, because Yusha was tall but not that tall. I wondered how she’d straightened out Yusha because she was so soft spoken and sweet and nice that I couldn’t imagine her straightening anyone out. She was also very friendly and she and I were talking like old friends in no time. Asiyah also arrived with Sa’ad and we all sat in the lounge nearer to the kitchen while the men sat in the front room. Humi also relaxed and joined in the conversation despite her reservations earlier on. I was glad about that. Numair was kept occupied by the other kids; Sa’ad, Abbas and Hannah’s daughter Ahlaam.

“That’s a beautiful name, Ahlaam,” I said, smiling at the gorgeous little girl. With her light blond hair and hazel eyes she was a perfect mixture of Hannah and Yusha.

Talking of Yusha…I did a double take when I saw him. I didn’t even recognise him at first. I was still picturing the old Yusha in my head; tall and lanky without an ounce of fat on his body. So when I saw him and his slightly familiar face finally registered in my head my mouth dropped open under my niqaab. He had almost tripled in girth and his once long, narrow face was now round…with a double chin to boot! Not that I was checking him out, mind you! He had suddenly appeared in the kitchen where Khads and I were helping her mum dish out food. I had glanced up, glanced back down, registered who it was in my mind, snapped my head up again, done a double take, realised I was staring and jerked my gaze away hastily. I nudged Khadija who was standing next to me.

“Is that Yusha???” I whispered.

She looked up and laughed. “Yup! Can’t believe it, can you?”

“My word, he’s gone huge!” I blurted out without thinking. I had also forgotten to lower my voice unfortunately. Yusha, who was talking to Aunt Safiyyah, heard me and whirled around.

“Faz??? Is that you???”

Crap! How do I get myself out of this one? I nudged Khadija again, hard. Luckily she got the message.

“Yeah, Yusha, it’s her. You can’t see her face anyways so stop staring and scat!”

“So I can’t look at her but she can look at me??” Yusha demanded, coming closer instead of leaving, “I heard your comment, Faz. You were checking me out, huh?”

“No, of course not,” I mumbled, keeping my gaze averted, “I only happened to notice it’s you. Almost didn’t recognise you.”

“Even I wouldn’t recognise him if I were you,” Khadija interjected, “his sweet tooth finally clapped back at him. It’s Hannah and I who’ve given birth but it’s Yusha who looks pregnant,” she chortled.

Yusha glared at his sister. “Shut up, twat!”

“Well, I’m right, innit? Hannah is quarter your size. You better watch your weight before you start looking like her father instead of her husband!”

That was true. Now I realised why Khadija had told me when they got married that Hannah was half his size. Hannah was so tiny she probably got swallowed up by his now bulky frame. I felt sorry for him though, especially when I saw his hands clench tightly at his sides, the veins popping out, a sure sign of anger. I nudged Khadija again but this time it was to save him, not myself.

“Leave him alone now,” I whispered.

The good part was that Yusha’s anger made him beat a hasty retreat from the kitchen, which saved me from more awkward encounters. Aunt Safiyyah bent a reproving look at Khadija.

“Don’t keep picking on him, he doesn’t like it.”

“Someone has to tell him like it is before he blows up even more,” Khadija retorted. Aunt Safiyyah left it then and I changed the topic to a more pleasant one.

***

Dinner was simply delicious, a mixture of Arab and English cuisine. There was maraq for starters, a delicious lamb broth soup served with slices of lemon, Khadija’s delicious roast chicken with potato wedges, a delicately spiced and fragrant rice topped with tender lamb meat called haneeth, ogda which was some kind of stew and was served with khobz (flatbread) and cottage pie which was made by Hannah.

“How do you find the food, Hannah?” I asked her between mouthfuls, “not too spicy for you?”

“It’s different,” Hannah replied, smiling, “but I’ve gotten used to it I guess. Now I find English food bland!”

“Next you should try Indian food. A step up in the spicy scale,” I said with a wink.

“Yeah, remember that rice dish Aunt Hafsa made all those years ago? Which one was it? It looked kind of like this,” Asiyah indicated to the haneeth, “but the chicken and rice was all mixed up. It was so spicy but so tasty I ate it for three consecutive days!” Asiyah licked her lips at the memory.

“Biryani?” I asked.

“Yeah, I think so. Can’t remember the name clearly now. Tastiest rice dish I’ve ever had though,” Asiyah smiled at nani who beamed at her in return.

Dessert was basbousa…I beamed at Aunt Safiyyah when she said she’d made it especially for me because she knew how I much I loved it…and pavlova, sweet and decadent with softly whipped cream and an abundance of sweet fruits and tart berries. It was all so delicious that we ate till we were ready to burst at the seams…well, I ate that much anyways. I actually groaned and rubbed my stomach when I stood up to leave some time later. It had been a wonderful dawat and we’d all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I hugged Aunt Safiyyah and Hannah and thanked them profusely for everything. Little Ahlaam, who had just started walking, toddled up to me and I swept her up in my arms and gave her a big hug and kiss as well. She pulled my nose in return and laughed at me.

“She likes you,” Hannah said with a surprised smile, “usually she never goes by anyone and cries if anyone picks her up.”

“What can I say, no one can resist my charms,” I said with a wink.

“Not no one, just babies,” Asiyah grinned, “you have a special talent with them MashaAllah.”

I laughed then reluctantly handed over Ahlaam to her mum and we left.

Ahmed pulled me aside as I was about to climb into the car. “How about taking a walk instead?” He inclined his head, his teeth flashing white in the semi-darkness.

“Uhmm, sure.” I told nani and them to carry on without us then turned back to Ahmed. We started walking at a leisurely pace. It was cold, especially at night and I shivered, pulling my coat tighter around me. Luckily it wasn’t raining tonight. I’d been hoping to see some snow while I was here but the snow hadn’t made an appearance yet. Since the street was pretty much deserted Ahmed wrapped his arm around me and pulled me close to his side which immediately made me feel warmer. We talked about general things for a few minutes then Ahmed suddenly changed the topic.

“Did you see Yusha?”

I shot him a look from the corner of my eye. “Yeah. Almost didn’t recognise him though!”

“Yeah, I also didn’t till he spoke to me. Shooh, that’s some transformation. Wonder how that happened.”

“The usual way…eating too much and too often,” I grinned, “I didn’t expect him to get so big though. He always had a sweet tooth but he never seemed to put on any weight while I was here so this was quite a shock.”

“Did you talk to him?”

I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Noo, Ahmeeeed,” I said in a long-suffering tone.

Ahmed laughed and squeezed me slightly. “Just asking.”

“Uhuh. And what if I said yes?”

“Then I would have started my lecture again,” Ahmed’s teeth flashed again in a grin.

“Oh no! Now I’m doubly happy I barely talked to him…”

“Barely? You said you didn’t talk to him at all.”

“I said a few words to him since he appeared in the kitchen and addressed me directly. Do you want to know exactly what I said? Let me recall it for you word for word…”

“Okay, okay, I get the point,” Ahmed muttered. Now it was my turn to laugh at his disgruntled tone.

“What are the plans for tomorrow?” Ahmed asked in another abrupt change of topic. Not that I minded this one.

“We need to go meet Asma foi. You haven’t even reminded me so far. And Humi said she’ll go but she also hasn’t been. We’ll have to go tomorrow otherwise she’ll feel so bad.”

“Yeah, I was gonna tell you but it kept slipping my mind. Okay, then. Tomorrow first thing in the morning.”

“Which means after ten,” I caught his raised eyebrows and repeated myself for emphasis, “after ten, Ahmed, so don’t even think of waking me up earlier than that.”

“It’s your nana and nani who send me to wake you up. They said you’ll get old fast with the way you sleep.”

I rolled my eyes. “Then you sleep in with me. If you’re also sleeping they can’t send you to wake me up. Problem solved.”

“But I can’t always sleep for so long.”

“Try it, Ahmed, and see how good you feel afterwards,” I grinned.

“But…”

I placed a gloved hand against his lips. “No buts.”

“The things we do to please our wives!” Ahmed sighed dramatically from behind my hand.

I laughed and hummed cheerfully all the way home.

 

Haneeth
Ogda
Basbousa
Pavlova

Part 257

Khadija arrived to pick me up promptly at eleven. Luckily I was ready this time, even after whipping up a few batches of cookies for the kids at the orphanage. I didn’t know how many kids there were now or their ages or gender so I’d ended up making roughly fifty small goodie bags for them, filling them with assorted candy and some cookies. Couldn’t go wrong with sweets, could I!

“Something smells good!” Khadija said, sniffing appreciatively as I dumped the large bag in her back seat, “what’s that?”

“Some goodie bags I made for the kids,” I replied. I caught sight of the adorable baby staring wide eyed at me from his car seat and my “awwwww!” was probably heard all the way down the street, “look at him! He’s gone so big, MashaAllah! Can I carry him?” I was already rounding the car to get to him when Khadija yelled, “not now, man! We’re already late! You can smother him all you want when we get there but for now get in!”

I grumbled a bit but climbed in the front seat, buckling myself in. I couldn’t resist twisting around and cooing at Abbas, though he was looking at me in confusion, probably because he couldn’t see my face at all.

“He’s looking at me like I’m an alien,” I chuckled, “I’ll have to play with him when he can see my face.”

“Won’t make much of a difference,” Khadija commented then yelped when I smacked her smartly on the back of her head, “do you want me to crash this car??”

“You brought it on yourself with your wise-ass remarks,” I replied, grinning, “where’s Asiyah? I thought we’ll go together.”

“Uhmm, nah, she had some work to do so she said she’ll meet us there.”

Ten minutes later I was looking at the old brick facade of the orphanage with a huge smile on my face. Khadija laughed at my excitement then led me in. The place was unusually quiet and deserted.

“Where’s everyone?”

“Must be out back. Let’s see.” Khadija continued to lead me forward while I looked around me with nostalgic eyes, memories playing in my head. I barely noticed where she was leading me as well till she reached the common room. She rapped twice on the door then waited, grinning at me. I raised my eyebrows at her and was about to ask her why we were knocking and waiting here when the door flew open. My eyes widened as Khadija swiftly stepped behind me and pushed me in to a chorus of, “Welcome back, Miss Fazila!”

The large room was done up in colourful ribbons and balloons, with a sign in the middle proclaiming, “Welcome back, Miss Fazila. We missed you!” also in bold, colourful letters. Gathered around it were all the children, looking at us with wide smiles on their faces. Behind them stood the adults; Dora, Asiyah, Mishka, Soraya, Sarah and a couple of other ladies whom I didn’t recognise. All wearing matching smiles of welcome. My hands flew to my mouth and tears sprang to my eyes as I took in the touching scene before me.

“You guys…I don’t know what to say…” I was laughing through my tears and suddenly I found myself crushed in warm embraces as everyone pushed forward to hug me.

“Wow, you’re wearing niqaab now. Remove it, we also wanna see your face!” Mishka demanded.

I glanced around first to see if there were any men around…and that’s when I spotted him. Steve, looking the same as ever as he stood up and came forward, smiling.

“Fazila, how nice to see you again! Well, not that I can see you now but yeah, nice to meet you. How have you been?”

And now came the difficult part. Chatterbox me, who used to chat by the dozen with everyone before now had to draw back and treat them like the strangers they rightly were.

Keeping my gaze carefully averted I softly replied, “I’m well alhamdulillah and yourself?”

He got the message, alhamdulillah. With a brief, “good good, can’t complain, alhamdulillah. Enjoy your visit, right. I’ll see you around,” he was gone. I breathed a sigh of relief and untied my niqaab, smiling around at everyone.

“If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d never have believed it!” Soraya said, coming forward to peer at me, “chatty, talkative Fazila now so quiet and reserved! How did this happen??”

I laughed. “I’m still the same old me, silly. I’m just trying to follow Islam as best as I can, as difficult as it is sometimes. But alhamdulillah Steve…sorry, Solly understood. Now, how have you all been? I can’t believe you did all this for me! Jazakillah, all of you. Dora, thank you so much!” I beamed at the older lady who was beaming back at me fondly, “and introduce me to your new teachers, please. I haven’t met you two,” I said, smiling at the two new faces.

“This is Ammarah. She started teaching here a couple of years back,” Soraya indicated to a pretty girl in hijab, “and this is Raeesah. My sister…and Sulaiman’s wife!” She dropped the bombshell casually but she was grinning at me as she did so.

“Wait…what???” I stared at the girl standing next to Soraya, who resembled her slightly, “our Solly?? I mean, not our Solly,” I blushed slightly, “but this Solly? Steve???”

“Yes, Fazila, Steve, Sulaiman, our very own orphanage Solly,” Soraya replied, laughing. They were all laughing at my obvious shock.

“When did this happen? None of you even told me anything!” I especially glared at Khadija and Asiyah as the main offenders.

“Chill, Faz. They got engaged at around the same time you got married. Infact you were busy honeymooning in…where was it? Puerto Rico?”

“Costa Rica.”

“Yeah, Costa Rica, when they got engaged…and married. It was such a whirlwind engagement as well. They got married within a week of being engaged, so we thought we’ll tell you everything after you come back to earth,” Asiyah grinned, “and then it somehow just slipped our minds. Sorry.”

I humphed. “Such an important event and no one even bothered to inform me,” then I grinned, “congratulations, Raeesah. You got yourself a wonderful husband, alhamdulillah. Remember, Soraya, how I kept telling him to get married but he kept refusing. Then he told us that story about himself…” I stopped abruptly and shot a quick look at Reesah, wondering whether she knew about it or not.

“His previous marriage? Yeah, Rae knows all about it, don’t worry. He kept saying he’ll never marry again, remember? But he changed his mind pretty quick when he saw Rae,” Soraya chuckled, “I convinced Rae to teach here and she finally agreed. I took her over to meet Sulaiman and that’s it. Love at first sight, man! I’ve never seen Sulaiman so tongue tied. He barely said anything the whole time, kept staring at Rae. And she was no better,” she nudged Rae, “till I started feeling like a third wheel there so I got up and said, “when you two are done discussing marriage and the number of babies you’re gonna have, you can discuss your teaching and work something out. I’m done here, bye!” and I walked out.

We all burst out laughing. Soraya was so outspoken she even put me to shame at times!

“We did discuss marriage,” Raeesa put in then, grinning, “though it wasn’t easy once my parents found out. My parents blew a fuse of course,” she rolled her eyes, “here I was, almost thirty and unmarried because they said I was just too fussy and turned down all the good proposals. Then I come home with a goro (white man) and say I want to marry him. And my parents are traditional Indians. They were not happy at all. Soraya’s big mouth actually came in handy that day,” she chuckled.

“Yeah, I told them to stop being so narrow minded and look at the bigger picture. Their daughter was happy and she was marrying a good, kindhearted muslim, not some drug dealer off the street. Wasn’t that more important than caste or race or whatever? It got them thinking at least. And Rae had to be all dramatic here and threaten to elope with him…but they came around in the end. And here she is, two years later, happy as a lark and with a baby on the way,” she patted her sister’s stomach affectionately. That piece of news was apparently a surprise to everyone because there was a round of congratulations and hugs again. Finally Dora cleared her throat.

“If you guys are done yapping these kids are also waiting for your attention.”

“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry,” I exclaimed, turning to the kids guiltily, “how are you all? I’ve missed you all so much!” I hugged them and kissed them then handed out the goodie bags to them, seeing their faces light up with joy. There were some old faces, though they’d changed and grown with time of course; some new faces whom I’d never seen before; and some old faces were missing, having moved on from the orphanage and made their own way through life. Omar and AbdurRaheem, my two favourite hifz students had been sponsored to study at Darul Uloom Bury and were becoming alims, much to my happiness and joy.

“And Brianna? Where is she?”

“Here,” a voice said shyly from behind me. I whirled around and my eyes widened when they landed on a beautiful girl of around sixteen or seventeen, her vibrant red hair hidden under a floral hijab, her deep blue eyes still as gorgeous as ever. She had grown into a beautiful young girl and the smile stretched on my face as I looked at her, feeling something like maternal pride in my heart.

“My word, Bri. Look at you, so beautiful and all grown up now! Come here to mummy Fazila!” We laughed and hugged each other tightly. I noticed that she wasn’t limping and dragging her leg behind her anymore like she used to do but was infact walking normally like the rest of us. I touched her leg and looked at her questioningly. In response she smiled and lifted her pants to expose a metal prosthetic leg underneath.

“You had your leg amputated?”

She nodded. “It started giving me problems so I had to. This is better though, in a way. Less painful,” she smiled.

She was such a positive, happy girl that I was left in awe of her. Gone was the small, insecure, painfully shy girl. In it’s place was a confident, self assured teenager who made me laugh as she narrated stories of the kids at the orphanage. I learnt that she was teaching them now, having finished her own schooling till matric or O’levels as they had here. She had finished much sooner than other kids due to her intelligence. She had actually received a scholarship to the University of Manchester and was now studying to become a teacher and teaching the kids here in her free time.

“She is such an asset to this place,” Dora confided to me later on, “she’s like my own daughter now and helps me so much with the kids. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

I had a wonderful time with the kids. We laughed and talked and ate all the party snacks that everyone had brought. Sa’ad was also there, playing with the kids and Abbas was crawling around trying to keep up with them. He was such a gorgeous child and I enjoyed playing with him as well. It was also lovely catching up with the adults. Mishka and Soraya were the same and we had a blast reminiscing about our previous days here. Soraya still had the videos of those days, including the one where the kids made us their captives and had us performing the silliest tasks for them. We watched it again and laughed till our sides hurt.

“You two tied to each other and running laps is the funniest,” I laughed, wiping tears of mirth from my eyes as I watched them trying to hobble-run and ending up rolling on the ground more than once. Then the scene changed, to me laughing and dropping my head on the table, only to land with a splat! in a bowl full of cereal and milk. Then it was their turn to laugh at me while I feigned indignance and tried not to laugh as well.

Sarah, Mus’ab’s wife, was much friendlier than before and even apologised to me about her rude behaviour all those years back.

“Jealousy makes us do the stupidest things,” she said wryly, shaking her head, “I still cringe when I think about how I behaved with you that time. Musa also told me off and told me it’s not on, you know. I really am sorry about that.”

“Don’t worry, if that was Ahmed in Mus’ab’s place my green dragon would also have reared it’s head,” I laughed.

“I’m glad you understand. You really are a lovely person,” she said, leaning forward to give me a quick hug.

Raeesa echoed that sentiment when I spoke to her as well a while later. “I’m glad Solly found you,” I said, smiling at her, “I had no idea he’d lost his family, you know, and I kept teasing him about finding a wife. Then one day he told us everything. I felt so terrible! He looked so lost and lonely, you know. He couldn’t imagine moving past such a huge tragedy but I kept making dua he finds such happiness that he heals from his losses. And he found that in you. I can’t tell you how happy I am for both of you. He looks so happy and contented now alhamdulillah.”

“That’s so sweet of you, Fazila. Sulaiman has spoken of you before and he always says you’re such a lovely person in and out. And now that I’ve met you I understand why he speaks so highly of you. You are a lovely person. It’s a pity you live so far away otherwise we could have been such good friends!”

“I know, right!” I sighed with a smile, “I do miss this place a lot. It’s like my second home.”

“Just one question…Solly???”

I burst out laughing. “Only I call him that, I know. I always laugh that it’s an Indian thing, shortening every Sulaiman’s name to Solly or Suli.”

“I’m an Indian but I’ve never heard of that before. Well, not that I’ve known a Sulaiman before this one so…” she smiled and shrugged, “I must try and call him that though. Solly…I like it!”

Now I knew why Khadija had told me to keep my afternoon free. With all the talking and laughing and catching up, by the time we got ready to leave it was already asr time. Zul and Ahmed had also come by briefly. I showed Ahmed around while Zul was with Asiyah and Sa’ad.

“Missing the place, are we?” Ahmed teased as I took him around while relaying old memories of the place as well.

“Of course, man. So many memories of this place.”

“Yeah, here’s where you sang that nasheed, ‘Allah made everything’,” Ahmed grinned as he pushed open a door, “you must sing it again for me now.”

I shoved him. “You were laughing at me that day. Don’t pretend you enjoyed my singing!”

“I did actually. All the hand-flapping and dancing around the room. Best show of my life!” Ahmed laughed then dodged the punch I aimed at him.

We finally left after promising to come back and visit them again, InshaAllah…


Shooh! I’ve probably written more in the past week than I have in months!😨🤣 enjoy it while this writing bug is on me😉 and drop me your feedbacks like always!

Much love,

Haadiya xxx