Islamic Fiction Contest Winner - 2011
IWA Member Category
By: Zeneefa Zaneer
"What do you know about love? You never loved Dad...I have never heard you speak about him." Those were the last words I spoke with my mother. For a second I thought her eyes shone, I thought she would cry and say that I was wrong. But she just smiled instead. Was it a mocking smile? I don't know. All I could remember was that I stared back at her furiously and slammed the door on her face. I hated her and wished I never saw her again. My wish has come true. I never did see her again. That night I packed my clothes and walked away. That place was never meant to be my home.
I got married to the love I admired. Wafiq was kind and generous, filling my world with love. Wazeem was blessed as a result of that love and we were a happy family, watching our little son grow. I kept thinking that I might have never gone through this joy. My mother was a strict woman. She wanted everything to be in order. I never felt comfortable in that house. It was more like a museum than a home. Keep your room tidy, wash yourself, and brush your teeth, no water in between my meals. She was a jailer and I her prisoner. My husband insisted I visit my mother, but I didn't want to. She deserved to be alone. Once in a while she wrote to me. I didn't want to listen to her orders and commands. Waste bin was the right place for her writings and one by one her letters joined the rest of the rubbish.
One day instead of her letter I received a telegram. I was curious to know what it contained. My fingers trembled. After all one day everyone meets their destiny, my thoughts whispered guessing what was probably written inside. And I was right. She was gone for some good reason.
It took us quite a long time to fly back to that house where ghostly spirits might have accompanied her in her death bead. Hikma, you are wicked, my mind accused. She was wicked too, she deserved it. I wouldn’t be surprised if no one attended her funeral, she wasn't good to anyone. Nobody visited us and I wasn't allowed to visit anyone either. I was isolated and all she said was to be patient. When I was seven she sent me to a boarding school, so that she could do whatever she wanted and only visit me once a month.
To my satisfaction she was gone, buried before we arrived. But I was quite surprised to see the number of people gathered in her house, correction my house. Everyone stared at me as if I had committed a crime. Alright now even after you're gone you left mud to throw on me, I gritted my teeth with anger. "Poor Sajida, died as if she had nobody left," I heard an old woman. I ignored her and walked in. Everyone looked at me and my little son who was hugging my neck, afraid of all the people around us.
"May Allah accept them to Jannah!” I heard another woman whisper. Who else is dead? I shook my head trying to brush away the whispers. Jannah is for good people. My mother is not a good person. She didn't love me or my dad, how could she love anyone else?
We waited until everyone left. I wanted a good sleep. I had other things on my mind. I wasn’t going to live in this house with her ghost. The thought gave me a shiver. The next day we met the lawyer and discussed her will. She had left me everything except one third of her property to an Islamic school as charity. Whoa! At last she thought of doing something good. When she sensed her soul will be ripped out she must have been frightened. The thought made me laugh. That evening I thought of arranging the house. As always it was too neat and tidy and I didn't like it that way. It reminded me of my unfortunate childhood with her.
That was the last place I wanted to be in, her room. It was too neat, everything was in order and all of a sudden it was too quiet. My heart felt heavy. What was there to clean and arrange anyway? Why should I waste my time and energy? I turned to go back, but something stopped me. A paper lay crumpled under the bed, out of place. I took a few steps towards the bed to pick it up. It didn't look like it was carelessly crumpled. I unfolded it. My fingers moved quickly.
As’salamu alaikum my dear Sajida,
It was a letter titled to my mother. I frowned and looked at the date, three weeks prior to my mother’s death. I knew it was wrong but I wanted to read further. The tiny blue letters were crooked, as if the writer was in a hurry. I read it again from the beginning.
As’salamu alaikum dear Sajida,
Hope you are fine with the mercy of Allah. How is our little angel Hikma? Has she begun to crawl?
‘What? Even my son has begun to run!’
I turned the parchment to read the name at the end but I couldn’t make out the signature. So the only way to know the writer was to continue reading.
“Or is she schooling now? How bad my memory is. When is her wedding? Being apart from you both is torture. I can’t spend a day not thinking of you. I’d love to feel Hikma’s tiny fingers running over my face. Sajida, you know not how much I miss you both. It’s terrible living here. Every day is a pain. Every night I wish I never wake up the next day. But it seems like Allah wants me to live. It doesn’t look like I am going to be released from both the prisons…life and this cruel place. I cry when I bow down to my lord, at the injustice of being caged for no reason. There are plenty like me here. You will never believe how life can be a hell. The cruelty I experience cannot be explained. And I don’t intend to make you cry. I’m sorry sweetheart; I’ve left you with so many responsibilities. Please bring up our child without letting her know of these miseries.”
My eyes ran through the word ‘child’ again and again until I felt the tears welling. A letter from my father! But until now I thought he was not with us. I knew he left my mother. I thought the reason was obvious, who on earth would live with a heartless woman? But…
“I’m sure you’ll face troubles. But be patient for the sake of Allah. He’ll help us to bring her up without all these miseries. Sajida, I feel sorry to leave you honey. You were always a wonderful wife. You made our days beautiful. You sacrificed your happiness to keep us happy. JazakAllah for sending your precious journal. I loved reading it. You are a beautiful mother; my Hikma is the luckiest child to have you around.
The words released the tears dancing in my eyes. I fell onto my mother’s bed. There seemed to be more for me to learn about the woman I hated.
“Protect my child sweetheart. I love you and this may be the last time I’m writing to you. They’ve decided the day I’ll be executed. Don’t worry. You are a strong woman. You can live without me.
Wish and pray this would be the last time an innocent Muslim is being accused of being a terrorist. I’m not sad honey, I’m happy to be rid of this prison. This life is a prison, we never know until we realize it one day. But it hurts to think of my child. How society would blame her. Although I never lifted a weapon not at least my pen supporting terrorism, I was caught and titled as a terrorist. The only sin, if that was a sin according to their law, was working for them, serving them and voicing against them when I saw their injustice. The only thing I did was being a Muslim and bearing the name Muhammad.
Gone is gone. May Allah accept our good deeds and forgive our sins. La ilaha il Allah Muhammad ar rasoolillah! There’s surely no god but Allah and Prophet Muhammad is His last messenger.
Love you both,
I couldn’t control my tears. How didn’t I know he was alive until now? He had been imprisoned for more than twenty years and my mother hid this from me. Why? Only to protect me from insults and humiliation. And what did I give in return? My fingers ran over the mattress trying to grasp my mother’s hand. My fingers knocked on a hard surface under the pillow. I quickly pulled it out, a book. Could this be the journal my father wrote about, which had filled his lonely days with happiness? I opened the book with trembling fingers.
“Mmm…just a thought to write my feelings about you. Sweet little life growing in me…I love you…waiting for the man I love to come home to tell him the good news. Can’t imagine how happy he would be…” Was this my mother? The woman I knew? I turned to another page.
“A bad day, I call it. You naughty little pie…you’ve learned to strike now…refusing everything what I eat. The whole day seems to be morning for I have morning sickness throughout the day, funny hah?” My lips curved.
“I’m so tired and nervous. Our first scanning. No matter what I bear, a girl or a boy, it is my child. SubhanAllah! That was one of the best days in my life. I saw you in me; I heard your heart beat. You were moving your legs like you were peddling a bicycle. Your father enjoyed watching you honey. How Great Allah is? SubhanAllah! No words to thank HIM!”
“Sorry sweetheart I couldn’t write anything in this passage of time. It is difficult to keep doing whatever you do when time is approaching to give birth to your own child. I’m preparing to welcome you home inshaAllah. I’ve got a huge belly and I feel your kicks. That is a great satisfaction mashaAllah!”
The words sank deep into my heart. ‘It is a great satisfaction to feel your kicks’, what else had I done except kick her out of my life? My throat ached with regret.
“SubhanAllah! You are soft as cotton. I carried my bundle of joy for the very first time. It was a pleasure to hold you tight sweetheart. You cried being annoyed for I didn’t know how to carry you. Will I hurt you…? That was the only question I had in my mind. Alhamdulillah! This is called motherhood. I thanked Allah and I thanked my mother too for bearing me, protecting me and tolerating me.”
Regrets, regrets…piling in my heart for I never thanked my mother when I carried my buddle of joy.
“You look delicious, your smell helps me feel good and your cry makes my day. I love you sweetheart. I love watching your dad playing with you. You resemble him mashaAllah. That was my wish when I bore you. To give me a child like the man I love, a man who loved and honored his wife. As I watch you grow up I fall in love with him over and over again.” I remembered the last words I spat on my mother’s face. It renewed my tears.
“It is nice to be a mother. I cry when you cry and laugh when you laugh. You add color to my life.”
The journal was filled with her thoughts of a dearest wife and a loving mother. One by one the pages were added to the left portion of the book. Every page was decorated with her endless love. In every word I discovered a new woman, generous, thoughtful and caring. What a great woman I’d neglected! She had sacrificed her entire life to keep me happy. She had walked away from the place she was brought up after my father was imprisoned.
My father worked for an American company and within few months he was arrested, suspected of being a terrorist. Living apart from the family and isolated in an unknown country he had less opportunity to prove his innocence. He was sentenced to death for no reason. They said he was a terrorist. Why? The only thing he did was voicing against the injustice of his higher authorities. Bearing a Muslim name was sufficient for them to arrest him and make his life a hell.
Bearing every pain, my mother never let me know her miseries. She gave me a good education. She sent me to a boarding school not because she wanted to get rid of me, but to keep me away from the society waiting to humiliate me. She feared growing with her will cause trouble in my life. She feared when I wanted to go to school from home. And to keep me going to back to the boarding school she tried to become strict so that I’d hate living with her.
She was against the idea of my marriage to Wafiq because I requested for a grand function. She didn’t want me to get in touch with known folks who might humiliate me or reveal her secret. SubhanAllah! How hard it must have been for her. I didn’t know. I turned to the last page.
“I miss you and I will miss her. It won’t please her to go back to school. But I don’t want her to be around me. I can’t spoil her life. No one treats me with a smile. They think you are a terrorist. I don’t mind it but I worry about her. How will she tolerate it? I don’t want to see her suffering. Maybe this is the wrong decision but let it be. I will watch her grow distantly. Forgive me if I’m wrong. I want her days to be filled with happiness and I don’t want to pour my sorrows into her life. Let our miseries end with our lives.” The tears continued to flow. Finally I saw my dad’s handwriting at the bottom of the page.
“You are the best mother Hikma could have and the best wife a man can wish for. I love you for every struggle you went through. May Allah be pleased with you honey.”
What else was left? I hugged the book trying to hug her love. How unfortunate I am to hate this beautiful woman? Forgive me, please! I whispered through my tears. Everything you left was love and love alone…you are the best mother a child could have.