Nikaah tomorrow! I’ve never even seen her… How did Papa even find someone so fast?
Taahir sat at his desk, trying in vain to do some work. He threw down a folder irritably, giving up on reclaiming his focus for the time being. The phone call he’d just received played back in his mind and he tore his fingers through his hair in frustration.
Taahir was an only child and his father was eager to see him married. Last week, the hinting and gentle coaxing to find someone, which had been commonplace since he was twenty-one, had suddenly turned into being sat down and asked if he was reluctant because he’d hidden a relationship!
Feeling hurt and betrayed by the questions, Taahir had let his frustrations get the best of him and had impulsively declared that he’d marry the first woman his father brought to him since it was of such importance to them.
Now, he’d come to regret his words. In less than a day, he would be meeting a woman he was honour-bound to marry.
You’re getting married tomorrow! Her mother’s words echoed in Faiza’s head. She smiled to herself quietly, hiding her face in a pillow. She would never have dreamed when she woke up this morning, that it would be to the news that her parents had received a proposal for her.
Faiza had long since told her parents that she trusted their judgement and they should feel welcome to accept a proposal on her behalf. Still, she was still quite young and had assumed any proposals would be at least a year off.
Allah knows best, she reminded herself. She had been reminding herself of this fact several times in the day – as her henna was applied, as she packed up her bedroom, as she and her mother hunted for a dress she could wear to meet her new husband.
Faiza had always wished for a quick nikaah, not wanting to drag things out – especially as she didn’t wish to have an extravagant celebration – but now that she’d gotten what she wanted, she realized that the short timeline was making her nerves increase.
She took a deep breath and reminded herself that, Alhmadulilah, she had spent the day productively and sorted out everything she needed to.
Her bags were packed and filled with everything her mother had been collecting for the day that she would leave – pretty clothes and toiletries, baking items, linens and towels and several other things she couldn’t even remember.
Faiza’s thoughts drifted to the man she was engaged to. She hadn’t been told much about him beyond that his name was Taahir and he was four years older than her. She wondered what he would be like – whether he was quiet or outgoing, whether he was charming or witty…
She’d been idly picturing her husband in her mind for years now, as is the way of young girls and she was eager to meet the reality. She knew that Taahir wouldn’t necessarily be the same as she’d imagined but she knew with the certainty that came from faith in Allah (SWT) that he would be good for her.
This final thought managed to calm her nerves enough to let her find sleep and she fell into sweet dreams of the future.
This is a mess. I never should have shot my mouth off like that. If only I’d kept my cool!
Taahir was so lost in his own regrets, he never heard the door open. He looked up to see his father standing in the doorway.
“Can I come in?” Mr. Mahomed asked.
Taahir nodded. “Do you really think I’ll say no, Papa?”
Mr. Mahomed sighed. “No. But I do know that you’re already upset with me and I don’t want to make it worse. Tomorrow is your wedding day, you shouldn’t go to sleep in a bad mood.” He sat down next to Taahir on the bed.
“I’m not-” Taahir tried to protest, but one look from his father and he gave up. “Okay, I am upset. I wasn’t expecting you to find someone so quickly, much less set the nikaah date for tomorrow. But I know you must have had a reason for it.”
“I do,” Mr. Mahomed said. “Faiza is perfect for you and I don’t want you to delay in beginning your life with her.”
“Did you already want her as a daughter-in-law when you started nagging me about finding someone for myself or is this a recent thing?” Taahir asked curiously.
“I nagged you because I want you to be happy, not because I met a girl I wanted in the family. But, yes, the drama last weekend was because I’d spoken to Faiza’s family and I wanted to introduce the two of you.”
“So, if I hadn’t snapped at you…” Taahir said slowly.
“I would have let you set the pace for everything. But I would have insisted on a nikaah in a few weeks time no matter what. It’s what Faiza’s parents and Faiza herself want as well.”
Taahir shook his head. “Marrying a stranger isn’t something I would have agreed to Papa and you know that. The only reason that it’s happening now is because I’ve already given you my word.”
“And Alhamdulilah for that!” Mr. Mahomed snapped. “You would wait for years if you had your own way!”
Taahir scowled. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be sure. But it’s too late for that now.”
“Taahir!” Mr. Mahomed shouted furiously. He opened his mouth, ready to lecture his son, before sighing and shaking his head. “Enough. Now isn’t the time to fight about this.” He stood up and left, closing the door behind him.
Taahir groaned, burying his head in his hands. He’d promised himself that he wouldn’t argue about the nikaah with his father anymore but he hadn’t been able to help himself. He was unhappy. Worse, he was scared. He didn’t like strangers and he felt uncomfortable with the thought of sharing a home with one.
He knew that he’d have to adjust but he had no idea how he was going to do it.
Faiza’s bedroom door sprung open with a great bang.
“Faiza! Do you know what time it is? You’re not even ready yet!” Saeedah shouted.
Saeedah was Faiza’s best friend. She was a bit of an excitable person. Saeedah and Faiza had been friends for less than a year but the two girls had become fast friends. This was helped by the fact that Saeedah lived a barely five minute walk away.
“Saeedah, it’s only 10 o’ clock! I only have to be ready at 2 o’ clock and it’s never going to take more than an hour.”
Saeedah’s eyes widened comically. “An hour? For everything? It’ll take at least that long to do your hair! And there’s so much else to do!”
Faiza held up a hand. “No way,” she protested. “You know I don’t like to be extravagant. I want a simple style.” She smiled teasingly. “But you’re going to take the next three hours, aren’t you? Have you picked an outfit to wear yet even?”
Saeedah groaned. “No! Don’t remind me! I have it narrowed down to three but I can’t decide. And my hair -. Hey! Don’t distract me!” She crossed her arms huffily. “Don’t you think you should do something a little more extravagant? At least today? Your husband’s going to be seeing you for the first time and you must want to make a good impression?”
“That’s exactly why I want something simple. I want to start as I mean to go on. And I don’t want his first impression of me to be something other than what I am.” Faiza explained.
“Well, you can’t blame me for trying,” Saeedah said jokingly. But then she grew serious. “That’s a beautiful sentiment Fae. Taahir’s a lucky man.”
Faiza blushed, quickly directing the conversation in a different direction. “Did you eat before you rushed over here? Or did you just run out of the house without breakfast like you usually do?”
“What do you think?” Saeedah asked.
“Well, come on then. I can’t let you starve. Pancakes or waffles?”
“Both,” Saeedah said decisively. “It’ll give you longer to distract yourself from your nerves.”
“Oh, is that why?” Faiza asked rolling her eyes. “I’m not nervous. I think it just hasn’t hit me yet, maybe?”
“Or maybe you’re just ready.” Saeedah said optimistically.
“In Shaa Allah,” Faiza said. “I hope so!”
Taahir walked down the stairs and stared around him in amazement. “What on Earth?” he asked quietly. His parents’ home had been transformed. There were vases of flowers and elaborate place settings on several different tables set up strategically in the dining room. He noticed absently that everything was in shades of blue – his favourite colour.
He wandered into the kitchen and immediately spotted his mother amongst the throng of female relatives in the room.
“Mamma, what’s all this? When did you even get the chance to set up?”
Muneerah smiled and patted his cheek. “It’s not every day my son gets married. It’s your nikaah day and I wanted to make sure it was everything you deserved.”
Taahir blushed. “You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble,” he scolded.
“It made me happy to. Now let me look at you properly.” She ran her arms down her son’s shoulders. “Masha Allah! You look so handsome! May Allah save you from nazar.”
The blush on Taahir’s cheeks deepened. “Mamma!” he complained, staring at his feet.
“Okay, okay, I’ll stop embarrassing you.”
“I need to get to the mosque. Papa is already there with everyone else and they’re waiting on me,” he said, kissing her on the cheek.
“Wait! Let everyone greet you first.” At this, Taahir was swarmed. Everyone in the room wanted to congratulate the young groom and make dua for his marriage. Ten minutes later, he finally got into the car and was on his way to the mosque.
His stomach turned over as he entered the mosque. I’m getting married. Ya Allah! He stopped in before he could enter the mosque and prayed quietly for a moment, asking Allah to help him find the best in the situation.
“Faiza, come here for a moment,” her mother requested, taking Faiza’s hand and sitting her down. “How are you feeling, baby?” she asked.
“Nervous,” Faiza admitted. “I wasn’t nervous all day but I think it’s just hitting me now. I’m worried about making mistakes, Mummy.” Her eyes involuntarily filled with tears.
“You will make mistakes, Fae. That’s natural. The only important thing is that you do your best and you accept responsibility for your mistakes. Do your best to fix them and try to not make the same mistakes twice. Most importantly, ask Allah (SWT) for help.”
Faiza nodded, unable to speak through the lump in her throat.
Mrs. Amir put a deliberate smile on her face then. “It’s time to go now, Fae. Are you ready?”
“Where’s Daddy?” she asked.
“He’s waiting in the car,” Mrs. Amir said. Mr. Amir had stayed in the car after he’d returned from the mosque, not wanting to show Faiza his sadness. By the time the ladies had gotten to the car, he had managed to get control of his emotions and he smiled down at her.
“Mubarak on your nikaah Faiza. May Allah (SWT) grant you everything of the best and may he fill yours and Taahir’s hearts with love and understanding for one another.”
“Ameen,” Faiza said. At her father’s heartfelt dua, her tears fell. “Jazakallah khair, Daddy.”
Butterflies swirled in her stomach and her thoughts turned toward Taahir, wondering… She was apprehensive but there was an equally strong part of her that couldn’t wait to meet her groom and finally satisfy her curiosity about what he looked like.
They reached the Mahomed home and Faiza’s new mother in law greeted her warmly, escorting her to the guest bedroom Taahir used while there and assuring her that she would be sending him in to meet her immediately.
Faiza looked around the room curiously. It was neat but there were signs of a person’s presence. Her eyes went immediately towards the bookshelf and in her eagerness, she completely forgot to remove her niqaab.
She was pulled out of her inspection by the door opening and she whirled around.
Under her niqaab, her cheeks burst into flame.
He’s so tall! was her first thought. Taahir was close to six feet in height, much larger than her own 5’4. He was also very handsome with high cheekbones, fair skin and thick, jet black hair.
She realized suddenly that she’d been staring at him and immediately jerked her eyes to the floor.
“As Salaam u Alaikum,” she said quietly when it became clear that he wasn’t going to say anything.
“Wa Alaikum Salaam,” Taahir replied automatically. He stared at the woman in front of him.
She wears niqaab? What was Papa thinking?
“Jee, I do,” Faiza replied quietly. “I assume your parents didn’t mention it?”
“No. They didn’t.” And with good reason too. If Taahir had known Faiza wore niqaab, he would never have agreed to the wedding. He knew himself and his level of deen and he had always wanted a wife who would be on that same level. A woman who was so diligent as to cover her face was definitely not on the same level as he.
He watched as Faiza lifted her hands to draw back her niqaab, strangely transfixed. He blinked rapidly as he saw her face for the first time, unable to think of something to say.
She was bright. That was the only way to describe it. He tried frantically to get his thoughts in order enough to express something to that effect – he could see that she was waiting for his opinion – but before he could, the door opened and his mother entered, calling them to come join everyone else outside.
Faiza felt… numb. She walked mechanically out of the room after Muneerah, unable to believe what had just happened. Had Taahir really reacted that way to her niqaab?
Sadly, Faiza was no stranger to bad reactions towards her niqaab. From members of the family to complete strangers, she had heard so-called well-meaning advice to take it off. She’d been told that men wouldn’t like it but she’d always had faith in Allah (SWT) that her husband would be different. Hearing Taahir’s horrified question had hurt more deeply than she wanted to admit, even to herself.
Now what? she asked herself. I’m not going to remove my niqaab because he doesn’t like it. He needs to know that. But… Should I tell him now or wait?
She couldn’t decide. She longed for her cell phone, to send a message to Saeedah or her mother asking for advice, but it, along with everything else she owned, had been packed away neatly and was waiting for her at Taahir’s home.
After several moments of debating with herself, during which she completely ignored the wonderful food that had been set in front of them at the small table in the middle of the room, she turned to Taahir and spoke: “Taahir,” she said. “I’d just like to make one thing clear before anything else – I don’t plan to remove my niqaab.”
Taahir’s expression went from confused interest to fury in the blink of an eye.
Before Faiza could say anything further, he spoke in a harsh whisper. “I am not so horrible a person as to ask that of you.” With that, he stood up and left.
One of Taahir’s cousins dropped into the chair he’s just vacated, innocently commenting “He sure left fast, didn’t he?”
Faiza tried to inject humour into her voice as she agreed, completely horrified. As terrible as her imagination had been when she was imagining worst-case scenarios, this was far beyond anything that had occurred to her. They had barely been married an hour!
Tears pricked her eyes and she tried desperately to fight them. She excused herself quickly from Taahir’s cousin, asking for a bathroom.
Once the door was shut and locked behind her, she took a deep breath before sinking down to sit on the floor.
I want to go home! This is horrible! But she couldn’t work up the courage to go back outside, find her parents and explain the situation.
Slowly, she calmed down and began to re-examine what had happened.
I offended him… she thought to herself. And then he got angry and left. I suppose I could have brought the whole thing up in a better way…
But what had Taahir expected, she thought irritably to herself. He’d been incredibly rude!
She sighed. Now was not the time to justify her actions. She needed to decide what to do next.
He did say that he wouldn’t ask me to remove my niqaab. So, am I willing to forgive him for reacting so badly to it?
Yes, she finally concluded, standing up and dusting herself off. She reached out to open the door and took a startled step back when she noticed Taahir standing right in front of it, hand poised as if to knock.
“Oh!” she exclaimed in surprise.
Taahir stood reluctantly in front of the door, trying to get up the nerve to knock. He’d come back from trying to cool his temper to find his new wife had disappeared. Questioning Zaynab had resulted in him standing where he was now.
The door opened and he saw that Faiza had been crying. A pang of guilt went through him. Not even married for a few hours and already, he was making her cry. This was why he hadn’t wanted to marry a stranger. She had no idea what his moods were like and it seemed like his quick temper had scared her.
It’s too late for regrets now, he thought. What’s done is done. We need to make peace and find a way to live together.
With that in mind, he spoke honestly: “Faiza,” he said. “I’m sorry about earlier. I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did.”
“Apology accepted,” she said sweetly. “I could have spoken in a better way as well. We should go back down.”
Taahir nodded, moving aside to let her walk in front of him.
“Our parents are probably looking for us,” he said. “And there’ll be a lot of people who want to greet us before we leave.”
Faiza’s steps faltered at this reminder. She had almost forgotten that Taahir would be taking her to his apartment once their little informal walimah ended.
Faiza’s thoughts were consumed by the prospect of being alone with Taahir, so much so that she barely barely managed to pay attention as they were greeted by all of the guests.
She peeked at Taahir from the corner of her eye, trying to find a hint of nerves in him as well but there was none to be found. He looked completely at ease.
Contrary to Faiza’s belief, however, Taahir was just as nervous as she. He was simply better at keeping his emotions from showing on his face.
Taahir was an incredibly private person and the thought of sharing his sanctuary was not a very comforting one. He had managed to avoid thinking about it up until now but worry over it consumed him as he sat.
‘What if she doesn’t like it,’ he thought to himself worriedly. ‘I don’t want her to be uncomfortable there but… changing things now will be hard. I’m so used to home, it will be hard to get used to changes.’ He sighed softly, once again regretting the hotheadedness which had led to his nikaah.
Faiza heard Taahir’s sigh and turned to him, “Tired already?” she asked lightly.
“Jee, a bit,” Taahir admitted. “It’s been a hectic day.”
“It will be over soon,” Faiza said. “Almost everyone has left.”
She was distracted from Taahir’s reply by the approach of a well-dressed and made up woman who immediately reached out to hug her. Taahir found himself smiling at her exuberance when speaking with her friend. She was bubblier in those few minutes than he’d ever seen her. He found that he liked it.
Faiza turned to him after a few moments, “Maaf, I didn’t even introduce you,” she said guiltily. “This is Saeedah, she’s one of my best friends.”
“Only one of?” Saeedah asked, feigning offence. “I’m just teasing,” she added quickly.
“It’s nice to meet you, Taahir. Take care of my friend, she’s precious and delicate.” Saeedah fixed Taahir with a serious look.
Taahir had the uncomfortable feeling that Saeedah somehow knew Faiza had been upset earlier. Clearly, the two women were very close.
“I will,” he promised, startled to realize how much he meant it. He did want to take care of Faiza. He wanted to make sure that she was happy living with him.
Saeedah left quickly, after exchanging a few more words with Faiza. And then, it was time for the last farewell.
Faiza’s parents had waited to be the last to greet her, wanting to say goodbye with a little bit of privacy.
As they hugged and kissed her, she found that she did not want to let go. She was afraid, she realized distantly. That irritated her. She hated being afraid of anything.
Have faith in Allah (SWT) she reminded herself. Allah (SWT) had chosen for her to marry Taahir. She had allowed her doubts to creep in and shake her faith and confidence that everything happened for the best, but no more.
She let go of her mother and smiled, speaking: “I love you, Mummy. Jazakallah khair for taking care of me and teaching me. I love you, Daddy. Jazakallah khair for protecting me and sheltering me.” With that, she stepped back, allowing her parents to leave, having found the comfort and peace of mind from remembering that Allah (SWT) was always with her and would take care of her.
Taahir had stepped back to let Faiza and her parents have a moment. He’d felt uncomfortable as she clung to her parents but looked at her admiringly when she calmed herself down and made sure her parents’ last sight of her was a happy one.
The greeting they gave his parents was far shorter and there were no tears to speak of. He hadn’t lived with them for four years now and so the separation was less painful.
He noticed his mother taking Faiza aside curiously but was distracted by his father before he could pay it too much attention.
“So, are you still unhappy?” Mr. Mahomed asked.
Taahir hesitated. Was he?
He did regret the way the nikaah had happened. But did he regret the nikaah itself? Did he regret Faiza?
“No, Papa. I’m not. I still wish that things could have happened differently but I’m not unhappy anymore.”
Mr. Mahomed smiled in relief. “Alhamdulilah.”
“I was shocked when I saw Faiza. I’d never assumed you would pick me a wife who wore niqaab.”
“Oh? And why not?” Mr. Mahomed asked.
“Papa… I’m not like that. I’m not a holy person. I would have thought you’d pick out someone who was more similar to me. You always say that spouses need to have things in common.”
“But I do think you and Faiza have things in common,” Mr. Mahomed replied. “Far more than you may realize. Taahir, remember not to judge a book by its cover. Faiza is more than simply the way she dresses. Do not reduce her to this one aspect of herself and assume that there’s nothing more to her.”
Taahir nodded. “I’ll try, Papa.”
“Oh, and remember your Mum wants you and Faiza to come here for lunch tomorrow.”
“Jee, we’ll be here.”
Faiza and Muneerah re-entered the room and Muneerah immediately caught him in a hug. “Mubarak, my son.” she said. “You’ve been blessed with a lovely wife.”
Taahir grinned and returned the hug happily. It pleased him to know that his mother liked Faiza.
They left, getting into Taahir’s BMW. Faiza found that her hanbag had been placed on the passenger seat and smiled at the thoughtful gesture.
They drove in silence for a while, neither one knowing how to begin a conversation. Finally, Faiza broke the silence.
“Everything was decorated beautifully today,” she said.
“Jee,” Taahir agreed.
“All in blue, was there a reason for that?”
“It’s my favourite colour.”
“Oh,” Faiza said. “Mine is grey,” she volunteered.
Taahir nodded silently.
There was no more chance for small talk for they had arrived at Taahir’s apartment. Faiza gazed up at the tall building in delight. “It’s so high!” she said happily.
“We’re on the top floor,” Taahir told her. “I love heights.”
“So do I. The view must be beautiful! I can’t wait to see it.”
True to her word, Faiza rushed to a window as soon as they got into the apartment. It really was a beautiful view – a clear, cloudless sky.
“Oh!” she gasped, suddenly realizing how late it was. “I haven’t read Asr yet.”
Taahir showed her the musallah that was in his bedroom and left her to pray in peace.
She sat quietly once she was done, enjoying the tranquil feeling that came with salaah.
Then, she got up and went in search of her new husband.
“Taahir?” Faiza called, walking through the apartment. As she wandered, she noticed little details that she hadn’t paid attention to when she’d rushed to appreciate the view.
The apartment was large and airy and the clean, cool lines of the furniture immediately appealed to her. The kitchen was her favorite room by far. There was a huge amount of both counter and cupboard space and the windows looked out towards the sea.
She smiled happily, immediately imagining spending an afternoon indulging in baking all of her favorite recipes.
A noise behind her made her jump and she whirled around.
Taahir stood there, looking at her apologetically. “Maaf, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said.
Faiza smiled, shaking her head. “It’s my own fault, I was lost in a dream,” she smiled. “It’s a bad habit of mine,” she confided.
Taahir tilted his head curiously. “What kind of dream,” he asked.
“Nothing too extravagant. I love the kitchen and I was just imagining using it to bake.”
Taahir grinned. It relieved him to hear that Faiza was liking the apartment. And her simple dream appealed to him as being strangely cute. It was so simple but she was still so happy at the thought of it.
“I’m glad to hear you like the kitchen. I don’t use it much. I know how to cook but Mamma insists on dropping off enough food for three people at least once a week and I don’t like to let it go to a waste. I suppose now, it’ll get a bit more use.”
“A lot more use,” Faiza corrected. “I bake almost every day.”
“How do you get the time in between work?”
“Um, I’m not working,” Faiza said softly.
Taahir blinked in confusion. Not working?
“Then, what do you do all day?”
“I’m studying at the moment,” Faiza said, smiling uncomfortably.
“Oh. Are you going to need me to drop you off in the mornings for classes?”
Faiza shook her head. “No, I’m studying online. Through UNISA. The only time I attend anything is exams.”
“Oh. So you’ve got a lot of free time every day then.”
“I… suppose.” Faiza felt incredibly awkward. She didn’t actually have a huge amount of free time every day compared to someone who attended physical classes – she worked fairly hard to try and earn the best marks and always made sure to dedicate a significant portion of her day to studying. Compared to someone who was working, however, her day was light.
“I see,” Taahir said. ‘She doesn’t seem like a lazy person… But according to what she’s saying, she doesn’t do much of anything all day? Maybe she does other things…’
He quickly redirected the conversation, asking Faiza whether she liked to read and showing her the small library he’d started in one of the rooms.
But the awkwardness remained.
When Faiza started yawning, he quickly offered to sleep in the guest room for the next few weeks until they were more comfortable with one another and, before Faiza could say anything to either agree or disagree, he retreated to the guest room.
Faiza woke for Fajr feeling disoriented and irritable. She’d spent the night tossing and turning, unable to find proper sleep in a new, unfamiliar place.
She finished her salaah and it occurred to her to check on Taahir. She hadn’t heard him wake up. Standing up, she crept into the guest room, finding him sound asleep. She paused to look at him for a moment. He really was very attractive.
Faiza reached out and shook his shoulder lightly. “Taahir… Taahir, wake up, it’s Fajr time.” she called.
Taahir woke to a strange sight. There was a woman standing over him, shaking him.
What on Earth? he thought, before remembering. He was married and the woman standing over him could only be Faiza.
“What is it?” he asked her sleepily.
“Fajr time,” Faiza said sweetly. “Hurry, you only have twenty minutes.”
“Jazakallah khair,” he said, getting up quickly.
It was sweet of her to wake me, Taahir thought to himself. Usually, being woken up by someone would have irritated him – he was the opposite of a morning person and often struggled with waking up for Fajr. But somehow, being woken by Faiza had been different.
Taahir slept in after Fajr but he finally awoke at ten o’ clock to an amazing smell. His stomach growled and he immediately went in search of the source. He found Faiza in the kitchen, flitting between the stove and the kitchen table which was already laden with food.
She spotted him and greeted him happily. “I was wondering when you’d get up. I don’t know what you usually like for breakfast so I just decided to make pancakes. There’s some fruit as well and I made coffee. But if you don’t like that, I can make you something savoury… Or even waffles or something?”
Taahir shook his head. “This is wonderful,” he said. “Jazakallah khair.” He took a seat at the table and waited for Faiza to join him.
He could see that she was nervous – she hadn’t even taken a bite of her own breakfast and was staring at his plate. He took a bite quickly, already waiting to compliment her even if the food wasn’t to his liking.
“This is great, Faiza,” Taahir said, immediately going for a second bite.
Faiza slumped into her chair, relaxing finally. “Jazakallah khair,” she said.
She turned her attention to her own breakfast, silently thanking Allah that nothing had gone wrong in the kitchen that morning. Cooking was something she prided herself on and she really did want to make a good impression on Taahir. It was the first meal she’d cooked for him and she wanted it to be special.
For his part, Taahir was simply enjoying the good food. He didn’t actually really enjoy pancakes but Faiza really was talented enough in the kitchen for him to truly enjoy the food.
Eating breakfast had reminded him of his mother’s invitation and he quickly took the opportunity to tell Faiza about the invitation.
She agreed enthusiastically that it would be nice to spend some time with his parents and Taahir smiled happily at her enthusiasm.
They agreed to leave at one o’ clock and Taahir took the next hour to get some work done while Faiza got ready.
Time goes so fast… Faiza thought to herself. She had been married for a month already now and at times she still felt like she was living in a dream.
It went without saying, however, that her married life was nothing like what she’d dreamed it would be. Her childhood imaginings didn’t come close to the reality of the situation.
She and Taahir were as different as chalk and cheese! They had opposing viewpoints on so many different issues that sometimes it made her head spin. The one issue which had caused the most difficulty was Faiza’s preference for staying at home rather than going out to work while she studied. Taahir hadn’t directly opposed it but he’d made it clear that he would have preferred her working.
That had been the greatest issue but it had by no means been the only one. Taahir still slept in the guest room and she hadn’t been able to bring herself to bring up the issue. But it upset her nonetheless. She felt uncomfortable knowing that she was the reason he had been forced to give up his bedroom.
He didn’t even let me say anything before he ran in there, she thought irritably to herself.
But despite the issues that were there, Faiza found that she had no regrets. There were things that she wished to change about her marriage but the thought had never even crossed her mind to wish she had married another man.
She had found herself growing to care for Taahir and she looked forward to him returning from work every day. He worked late hours, often only returning at seven or eight in the evening but Faiza made sure to wait for him before she ate supper. It always delighted her to watch Taahir eating – he made no secret of the fact that he enjoyed her food.
Food was the one arena where Faiza had confidence. It was her passion and she was good at it. She’d often dreamed about releasing her own cookbook one day and she had a stack of personal recipes kept away safely for the day that she finally took the plunge.
For now, though, cooking and baking were her hobbies while she studied. Faiza was in her third year of a Psychology degree which she’d pursued more out of a need to fulfil the obligation of getting a degree than anything else. She didn’t dislike the degree but she felt little emotion over it and her studies had slowly become a chore to complete every day.
She sighed to herself, wishing she could confide in someone about her worries but reluctant to admit she had wasted three years studying something that didn’t appeal to her in the end.
Only a few more months to go, she comforted herself.
Taahir sat at his desk, once again trying and failing to do some work. His thoughts were once again consumed by his wife. He’d found himself thinking about her at work more than once over the past month. He looked at the clock on the wall and groaned. It was barely four in the afternoon, there was no way he could justify leaving work for at least another two hours. His concentration was shot, however.
Taahir knew that something was bothering Faiza. He’d seen her sigh or frown to herself when she thought no one was paying attention and he knew that the fault was partially his own. They’d disagreed more than once over things in the last month and he knew that he’d hurt her with some of the things he’d said.
He’d wanted to take back his harsh words as soon as they left his mouth but he didn’t know how. He’d ended up just ignoring the problem, hoping it would go away if he acted like nothing had happened and Faiza obliged him.
In the back of his head, his conscience pricked him, though, knowing it wasn’t fair of him to expect her to forgive and forget when he didn’t even apologize for what he’d said.
Papa’s been telling me for years that I’d regret not working on my temper more. Well, he’s right. I do regret it. I hate seeing Faiza draw into herself the way she does sometimes. But how? Whenever I think something, it comes out before I can even think that it might hurt her to hear me say it. Ugh. This is so complicated!
Taahir pulled his hands through his hair in frustration, knowing that he needed help. He was ashamed to ask for it though, ashamed to admit that he couldn’t fix the problem by himself. The desire to continue ignoring the problem warred with the knowledge that he was hurting his wife and, eventually, he picked up the phone.
He dialled a familiar number and waited.
“Papa, I need help.”
Mr. Mahomed sat back with a smile on his face. He had just gotten off the phone with Taahir – a Taahir who seemed vastly changed from what he had been even a month ago. Before he had gotten married, Taahir had never paid attention to the way his words could harm others but now, barely a month into marriage, his son was willingly seeking advice to fix his flaws. Mr. Mahomed could not have been happier.
He thanked Allah (SWT) happily for the positive change in his son and smiled in satisfaction to himself. The guilt he had been feeling for strong-arming Taahir and taking advantage of his son’s hot head was evaporating due to the positive effects the marriage was yielding.
Faiza stared at the closed guest room door, biting her lip in worry. Taahir had arrived home late and had immediately headed for the bedroom, barely pausing to greet her. That had been more than fifteen minutes ago and she was still waiting for him to come out and eat supper.
She got up from the kitchen table and walked purposefully towards the closed door, losing her nerve halfway there and returning to her seat.
He probably wants privacy… she thought to herself. I shouldn’t disturb him.
A moment later, she shook her head and got to her feet again. He needs to eat. And he looked horrible when he walked in.
Nerves made her stomach turn somersaults – she’d never disturbed Taahir in his unofficial bedroom before, having neither the desire nor the bravery to intrude on his private space. But now, the discomfort had been overwhelmed with concern. She was worried about him. He’d been ashen and shaky when he walked in and the desire to help filled her.
Faiza had never been one to stand by when she saw anyone in distress and this time was no different.
She knocked quickly on the door, before she could stress herself into sitting back down and leaving Taahir to his solitude.
There was no answer. She knocked again insistently, getting more worried by the minute. “Taahir?” she called worriedly. “Taahir, are you alright?”
Faiza reached for the doorknob but it refused to turn. He’d locked the door. Frustration made her ball her hands into fists. She knocked harder. “Taahir, open the door! Taahir!”
Eventually, Faiza gave up, accepting that Taahir wanted to be left alone. She cleaned up the kitchen, packing away their uneaten meal into the fridge and went to change into her pyjamas.
She caught sight of her face in the bathroom mirror and raised a hand to her cheek. There were tear stains on her cheeks. She hadn’t even realized that she’d been crying.
Hopelessness filled her. She was so worried about Taahir and he wouldn’t even talk to her! Wild visions of him hurt filled her mind. She wouldn’t even be able to do anything if he were hurt – the door was locked and she didn’t have a key.
She grabbed her cellphone eagerly, searching for a distraction. A message from Saeedah caught her eye and before she could stop herself, Faiza had messaged her best friend, seeking comfort and advice. She hid the specifics of what had happened but what she did say held enough information for Saeedah to become concerned.
The two women talked for a long time, Saeedah doing her best to calm and distract Faiza until she eventually fell asleep in the middle of typing a message. Saeedah understood Faiza’s lack of response as her friend having finally succumbed to sleep and breathed a sigh of relief. Faiza had sounded horrible on the phone and she had felt awful for her friend. Knowing that there was only one thing she could do to help, Saeedah sat and prayed softly that Allah (SWT) would ease Faiza’s difficulties. “Ya Allah, allow them to understand one another and confide in one another,” Saeedah begged, her heart aching for her poor friend.
The guest room was in a shambles. Book and magazines were strewn about carelessly, the bed was rumpled and the cupboards stood wide open. Taahir sat in the middle of the chaos, hugging his knees.
The conversation with his father had been painful. Taahir had been forced to hear several things he didn’t like about himself and he was still reeling. He could feel the anger trying to rise up again, just thinking about it.
He’d left without even speaking to his mother, barely able to still be civil towards his father and come home to barricade himself in. He was afraid of seeing Faiza, afraid of speaking to her and losing his temper, of saying something else that would hurt her.
He’d heard her knocking at the door, heard her calling him and crying and he’d hated the weakness that had led him to lock himself away. He hated the loss of control – he’d always prized himself on being logical and unruled by emotion but he’d been lying to himself. He had no control over his anger and it was destroying him.
Deep in despair and self-hatred, he felt a spike of resentment towards Faiza. Before he’d married her. he’d been perfectly happy with himself and anyone who’d suffered from his temper had been deemed too sensitive in his mind. Now, however, he had to confront the truth – that he’d hurt people with his carelessness, that he was in the wrong.
It was hard. It would be so much easier to deny any wrongdoing and go back to the way things were. But he couldn’t. He just couldn’t keep hurting Faiza the way he had been.
Why do I care so much? Taahir demanded of himself viciously. Why do I care about her feelings?
A stray thought struck him and he denied it immediately. No! No way! It cannot be that! It just can’t.
But it was. Quite without his knowledge, Faiza had found a place in Taahir’s heart. He loved her.
Faiza woke up the next morning with a raging headache. She had prayed Fajr in a daze and had climbed straight back into bed. She had been too tired to even think of trying to speak with Taahir again.
She looked at the time on her phone and sighed. It was the first time that she hadn’t woken up to make Taahir breakfast before he left for work and the change in routine made her feel sad. She made a quiet prayer to Allah (SWT) for help and headed to the kitchen to try and bake away her worries. In the back of her mind, she worried over Taahir, hoping that he was alright and resolving to speak to him as soon as he got home.
Taahir had felt ridiculous leaving the apartment that morning. He’d spent a sleepless night calling himself ten kinds of fool and trying in vain to deny his feelings for Faiza. By morning though, he’d given up trying to kid himself.
He loved her.
He was in so much trouble.
He hadn’t been able to face going to work and pretending everything was normal. Instead, he’d driven on autopilot until he finally stopped at the beach.
Taahir had always loved the beach. The waves calmed him. When he was little, he’d used to cry when it was time to go home and try to clutch onto the waves with his chubby fists.
He stared at the beautiful sight in front of him. The ocean was rough today and it felt like the perfect counterpart to his jumbled thoughts.
Eventually, he lost himself in memories of a time long past – a time when falling in love had been something that he’d grinned over in private and bashfully admitted… a time when he’d been innocent and gullible.
Faiza’s eyes strayed towards the clock for what must have been the thousandth time that day. It wasn’t even midday yet but she was already impatient for Taahir to come home. She felt an almost physical need to see him with her own eyes and make sure he was alright. Alas, he wouldn’t be home for several hours yet.
Faiza cast her eyes around, trying in vain to find something else to clean. She’d scrubbed the apartment from top to bottom, in between baking enough for a family of five. She had originally planned to lose herself in studying but she couldn’t focus enough to take in any of the information and had tossed the thick textbooks away in disgust.
Faiza had just made up her mind to strip the curtains when the phone rang. Distractedly, she hurried towards it, answering with a salaam.
“Wa alaikum salaam,” came the reply. “How are you, Faiza?” It was Muneerah on the phone which brought a smile to Faiza’s face. She had immediately taken to her mother-in-law and Muneerah had made a habit of calling every day or so to chat with Faiza – both about Taahir and about many other things.
It was instinctive for Faiza to simply reply with Alhamdulilah and redirect the conversation. She prepared to do so but then, all of a sudden, the feelings of helplessness and fear rose up within her and she admitted the truth.
“Not so well, Ma,” Faiza said shakily. “Ma, I’m worried about Taahir.”
Muneerah sighed into the phone. “Did he tell you what happened last night, Faiza?” she asked, half guessing the answer already.
“No, Ma, he just ignored me. I haven’t even seen him since yesterday morning!” Faiza choked out.
“What?!” Muneerah gasped. She had been worrying about Taahir herself since the previous evening but had comforted herself in the knowledge that Taahir would have Faiza to turn to. Hearing that he had locked himself away from Faiza was horribly upsetting.
Gaining control over herself, she attempted to reassure Faiza but the younger woman wouldn’t have it.
“What happened, Ma?” she asked insistently, refusing to be placated. “Why was Taahir so upset in the first place?”
But no matter how much she pushed, Taahir’s mother refused to explain what had happened, simply saying that it wasn’t her place to say and Faiza needed to speak to Taahir.
Faiza hung up the phone feeling worse than when she’d picked it up. Her imagination was running wild, conjuring up scenes of drama and heartache to explain Taahir’s behaviour the previous evening.
She shook her head hard, trying to clear it. Her eyes fell on a musallah that she’d been airing out and she smiled in relief.
‘Of course! The cure for all of this turmoil was staring me in the face all day!’
She rushed into the bedroom and made her wudhu before sitting down on her musallah. She spent an hour in quiet prayer, rising only when she no longer felt an overwhelming amount of nerves or anxiety and finally managed to complete some urgent assignments and essays thereafter.
Faiza’s nerves were still there in the back of her mind, however and as the day wore on, her impatience managed to taunt her again.
The Mahomed house was filled with tension. Muneerah had been furious since her phone call with Faiza and now, Taahir not returning her calls had made that fury brim over.
She walked quickly into the lounge, in search of her husband. When she found him there, blissfully unaware of the turmoil the rest of his family was experiencing, she snapped.
“Do you know what you did last night?” she demanded.
Mr. Mahomed stared up at his wife in surprise. He dropped the TV remote in his hand, focusing his full attention on her.
Her anger was not unexpected – Muneerah had been protective of Taahir since the day he had been born, a month and a half premature and so tiny he had seemed like a little doll. But she had never before let her fury show in her behaviour, usually clinging to civility and calm.
“Muneerah…” he said slowly. “I know that you must be upset. But you need to understand – Taahir’s behaviour was unacceptable. I’ve been trying to make him see reason for years now but he’s never understood that his words hurt others. Now that he has come to that realization, the worst thing to do would be to mollycoddle him and hide the problem. He needed to hear what I told him. In the long run, it will benefit him.”
“He hasn’t spoken to Faiza since yesterday! He’s not answering my calls and he didn’t even go into work today! What if he did something? What if he’s hurt somewhere?”
Muneerah dissolved into sobs.
Mr. Mahomed gathered his wife into his arms. “Taahir’s probably at the beach,” he comforted. “I’m sure that he’s just left his phone in his car and he’ll phone you just now when he checks it.”
Secretly, he worried over his son’s whereabouts. Even as he pacified Muneerah, he prayed silently for Taahir’s safety.
Taskiya Mansoor had been stylish and sophisticated, one of the most popular girls around. She was beautiful, with long hair and grey contact lenses which she wore religiously. Taskiya was always poised and perfectly put together.
Taahir adored her. He’d met Taskiya at a party one day and had promptly fallen head over heels for her.
Taskiya hadn’t paid him much attention at the beginning, but as time went by, she’d become nicer, smiling at him and greeting him when they saw one another in classes.
Taahir’s infatuation grew with every day that passed. Soon, he found himself looking for Taskiya during classes and watching her instead of paying attention to his lecturers.
When he finally got up the courage to speak to her about his feelings, she’d smiled at him and confessed that she’d been waiting for him to admit his feelings.
Taahir had tried hard to do things decently and begged Taskiya more than once to let him speak to their parents but she refused every time. She insisted that she wasn’t ready and she needed more time. When that excuse stopped working, she resorted to threatening to leave Taahir whenever he brought it up.
He’d reluctantly let it go, unable to tolerate not being with her. The secrecy took its toll on him, and he reacted by withdrawing into himself and not confiding in anyone because he knew what he was doing was wrong.
The day he’d finally had enough and issued Taskiya an ultimatum – be with him openly and announce an engagement or end their relationship, she laughed in his face and mocked his gullibility.
“I was never going to marry you!” she shouted in his face. “You were nothing more than a bit of fun! God, Taahir, how stupid can you be?”
What had hurt even more than hearing Taskiya admit the truth was seeing her with another man barely a week after they’d had their final fight.
Taahir had been shattered by the whole situation. He’d thrown himself into his studies and, after telling his parents the whole sordid tale, refused to even think about Taskiya again. His only comfort was the fact that he’d refused to touch Taskiya, despite her attempts to convince him.
He’d vowed after Taskiya to never let himself get trapped that way again – to always be careful and never let his emotions get the best of him.
He’d failed royally.
His feelings for Faiza were far deeper than the infatuation he’d felt for Taskiya.
The carefully cared-for armour he’d built around himself for the past six years had been useless against Faiza. His plans to simply treat her like a friend were in shreds.
He badly needed to get back control but he had no idea how. Hurting her by being careless with the way he spoke had become unacceptable – he couldn’t imagine trying to distance himself from her.
Ya Allah, what do I do? Someone tell me how to fix this mess!
Faiza heard the front door opening and ran to meet Taahir. She stopped short at the sight of him. He looked terrible. His clothes were rumpled and he was slouched against the doorframe. His expression tugged at her heart. He looked so lost.
She threw herself at him, folding her arms around his waist. It was the first time she’d had so much contact with him and she absent-mindedly noted that he was in very good shape even as she worried over his state.
Faiza snuck a look up at Taahir, trying to gauge his reaction. He hadn’t reacted to her impulsive hug and she began to pull away in embarrassment when he tightened his own arms around her.
She startled and then lay her head on his shoulder with a smile.
After a few minutes of the two of them standing together in the door, Taahir’s stomach growled loudly, ending the moment.
Faiza giggled. “Time for supper?” she asked.
Taahir nodded sheepishly and she dashed into the kitchen, ordering him to just sit and wait and the food would be ready in just a minute.
They were halfway through their meal before Taahir spoke for the first time. “Faiza…” he started. “I need to tell you some things. They’re not – they’re not nice things. I don’t even know where to start with everything…” he trailed off.
Faiza reached out and took hold of his hand. “Taahir, I know whatever it is, it’s serious. If not, you wouldn’t have reacted like this. I can’t promise that everything will be fine after today. But I promise that I won’t judge you for sharing and for being brave enough to not hide this from me.”
“I – I don’t know what to say to that…” he admitted. “The stuff that I did… I wouldn’t blame you if you were disgusted with me. It -”
Seeing an opportunity to reassure her husband, Faiza grabbed it. “I can promise you that I won’t be disgusted with you. I might hate what you have done but I can see that you regret what you did and I have faith that whatever it is, you won’t do it again. And I can promise you that I won’t ask for a divorce.”
Taahir gaped at Faiza. The thought of her asking for a divorce hadn’t even crossed his mind. But why wouldn’t she? He’d done something terrible, after all.
But… she’d said she wouldn’t. Could he trust that?
Looking into Faiza’s eyes, Taahir decided that yes, he could trust her.
He opened his mouth and poured out everything. He told Faiza about Taskiya in far more detail than he’d gone into with his parents. He couldn’t seem to stop speaking once he’d started and everything just poured out – the guilt that he’d felt lying, the hurt and rage that had come when she told him the truth, the shame that he’d carried since then.
When he was done, he looked at her anxiously, waiting for her judgement. She looked furious. He watched as she got up from the table, his heart in his mouth. This was going to be bad, he knew.
Taahir blinked confusedly.
What just happened? he thought bewilderedly. He’d braced himself for shouting or even for Faiza to walk away in disgust.
Instead, she’d hugged him again and started cooing at him. He wondered vaguely if he was still dreaming and reached out discreetly to pinch himself. It hurt.
That meant that he couldn’t be dreaming. But… He had to be. There was no shouting. Why was there no shouting?
Taahir looked up at Faiza, who still had her arms around him. She was crying!
“You’re crying.” he said.
Faiza lifted her head from his shoulder. “What?” she asked.
“You’re crying,” Taahir repeated. “Why are you crying?”
“Because, Taahir, I’m upset.”
“I – I thought you’d be shouting. But… you’re crying. And you hugged me?”
“Yes…” Faiza said slowly, a blush coming to her cheeks. “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable but I feel so bad for you that I couldn’t help it.”
“Bad for me? But why?”
“Taskiya took advantage of you, Taahir. She was awful to you!”
“But, that was my own fault. I shouldn’t have agreed to a haraam relationship.” Taahir protested.
Faiza nodded. “Yes, Taahir, that was wrong. I’m not saying that you were blameless but you weren’t the only one to blame either. Taskiya shares the responsibility with you and the way she treated you makes me angry for you. No one deserves to be used like that and cast aside.”
Taahir stared at her, trying to reconcile what she was saying with the guilt he carried. He couldn’t. He’d always placed the blame squarely on his own shoulders and thought of the painful ending to the whole situation as his punishment for his actions.
But Faiza wasn’t telling him that the harsh treatment was nothing less than what he deserved. She hadn’t pardoned him – but she’d told him that it wasn’t all his fault. Was she right? No, she couldn’t be. She was being kind.
Taahir shook his head. “I deserved it,” he told Faiza. “If she hadn’t done that… I don’t know what I would have let her convince me to do.”
Faiza’s heart went out to Taahir. He looked so miserable. She felt sure that he would have gotten the courage to end his haraam relationship on his own – he’d even issued Taskiya with an ultimatum to that effect but because of how things had ended between the two, he didn’t believe that he had any strength of will. She didn’t know how to make him feel better, how to convince him that he would have turned away from sinning.
Instead, she redirected the conversation. “Taahir, why did you choose to tell me this now?” she asked.
“I – I talked to my father last night…” Taahir said. “I know that I speak without thinking sometimes and… I wanted his help to try and stop. He told me that I say things I don’t mean because I want to push people away, because Taskiya had scared me into holding people at arms length. I – I didn’t want to hear it at first. I refused to believe that little comments could do so much damage. But then, when I thought about it, it made sense. I’ve been doing it to you as well. I wanted you to know why, I guess.”
Faiza winced. She hadn’t realized that Taahir could read her so easily. He’d been right to tell her, though. Now, with the knowledge she had about his past, Taahir’s behaviour was much easier to both understand and forgive.
“Jazakallah khair for sharing it with me. Oh! Did you speak to your mother today?”
“No, why? Is something wrong?” Taahir asked worriedly.
“She phoned me earlier,” Faiza explained. “And… I was worried so…”
“You told her about what happened yesterday,” Taahir completed in an understanding tone. “It’s alright, Faiza, I’m not upset. I was in horrible shape last night, I don’t blame you for wanting to talk to someone about it.”
Faiza smiled. “Just call her and show her that everything’s alright now. She must be worried about you.”
Taahir excused himself to the bedroom and Faiza took the opportunity to clear up their supper dishes. She laughed out loud as she entered the kitchen. She’d been too worried earlier in the day to appreciate the ridiculous sight it made, with the counters fairly covered in various baked goods.
She bit her lip in thought, trying to figure out what they were going to do with all the extra food. Even though both she and Taahir enjoyed good food, they couldn’t possibly eat everything that she’d made before it began to go stale and spoil.
An idea struck her and she fetched her cellphone to snap a quick picture of the kitchen. A few clicks later and she’d sent it to both Saeedah and her mother with an accompanying caption inviting them to come over the next day to take whatever they wanted.
Faiza knew that both women would stay for a while and she looked forward to the upcoming visits. She’d missed her mother and her friend and she knew that Saeedah was probably worried about her, after the breakdown she’d had on the phone the previous night.
Taahir plugged his phone into the wall charger and waited impatiently for it to go on. He didn’t want to use the landline for this conversation – it was installed in the lounge and if he used it, Faiza would be able to hear the entire conversation. He wanted some advice from his mother and, as it was his wife he planned to ask her advice about, he wanted a bit of privacy for it.
He dialled the number quickly and waited impatiently for the call to connect.
“Taahir! Oh, Alhamdulilah. Are you alright, baby? I’ve been so worried about you! What happened to you? You didn’t even go into work today, are you sick? Taahir, answer my questions!”
Taahir laughed. “Give me a chance, Mamma,” he said gently. “I’m alright. I’m sorry I missed your calls – I was at the beach.”
Muneerah sighed in exasperation at this well-used excuse. “Taahir!” she scolded. “That’s not good enough!”
“Well, never mind now. You’re sure you’re alright?”
“What? What’s wrong?” Muneerah cut in immediately.
“Nothing, Mamma,” Taahir said soothingly. “I just… I wanted your advice.”
Taahir hesitated for a few seconds.
“Taahir? Of course I’ll help in whatever way I can. What is it?”
“Mamma… I’m in love with my wife. How do I tell her?”
Faiza clung to her mother, sniffling. “I missed you so much,” she cried.
Mrs. Amir squeezed her daughter tight. “Don’t lie,” she said teasingly. “I know you love running your own house.”
Faiza turned to her mother, ready with a quick denial but paused when she saw the twinkle in Mrs. Amir’s eyes.
“You’re right, Mummy,” she admitted. “I do love running this little ‘house’. It feels… different.”
Mrs. Amir smiled. Her daughter was experiencing a happiness gifted solely to newly-weds a happiness that she herself had experienced some twenty-odd years ago.
“Mubarak, my darling. Treasure this time,” Mrs. Amir instructed. “There’s something special about this time as newly-weds. You are never so merciful towards your spouse as during these early days.”
“Jee, Mummy,” Faiza said.
“And one other thing… build habits now that will last for your entire marriage. Be romantic and playful with one another and don’t allow that to stop as time goes by. This kind of behaviour is very important to keep you in love with one another.”
Faiza nodded, smiling. “Jazakallah khair for the advice,” she said.
The mother and daughter sat down to tea, industriously putting a dent into Faiza’s baking frenzy.
They chatted about nothing of consequence for a while, simply catching up on the small news that hadn’t been shared over the phone.
Eventually, Mrs. Amir couldn’t resist teasing her daughter a little and she asked about Taahir.
Faiza blushed immediately and avoided the question.
Mrs. Amir frowned lightly, her suspicions aroused. “Faiza? Is something wrong? You know I’ve always been frank with you… Has Taahir… been demanding?”
Faiza was blushing so hard she felt like her face was on fire. “No, Mummy!” she denied immediately. “He’s been the opposite of demanding! In fact -.” At this, she faltered and shoved a biscuit into her mouth.
“In fact? Faiza… where does Taahir sleep?”
“In the guest room,” Faiza mumbled, staring at the floor.
Mrs. Amir gaped in shock. “Faiza!” she scolded. “How could you make him do that? And for over a month now!”
“I didn’t make him do anything, Mummy,” Faiza defended. “The first night, he just told me he was going to sleep in the guest room and then he left before I could say anything. I didn’t even want him – I mean –”
Faiza felt like she was going to faint. Had she really just said that? And to her mother, too!
It was true, though. As shy as she’d felt on her wedding night, she hadn’t wanted Taahir to sleep in the guest room. Such a thing hadn’t even crossed her mind until he’d announced it.
Mrs. Amir began to laugh at this. “Oh, no. Oh dear. What are you going to do, sweetheart?”
“Well, actually,” Faiza said slowly…
Muneerah Mahomed hummed to herself as she worked, a big grin on her face. She was making baklava, something she usually hated to do but which was a favourite of Taahir’s. She’d felt in the mood to celebrate when she went into the kitchen that morning and since Taahir was the source of her good mood, she’d decided to spoil her darling son.
‘I need to make a note of what kind of sweets Faiza likes,’ she thought to herself absent-mindedly.
Muneerah had always shown love through food – this was the main reason Taahir even had a sweet tooth.
She thought back to her conversation with Taahir the previous night with a smile. She hadn’t spoken to him for long on the phone, had just advised him to be attentive and thoughtful to Faiza and had ordered him to bring her to visit that weekend. It was now Thursday and she was already impatient for the weekend to come so that she could get her son in her clutches.
She’d been ecstatic to hear that he’d fallen in love with Faiza and had smiled smugly to see that she’d chosen correctly when she’d taken a liking to the young girl.
‘Just wait until this weekend… I’ll give Taahir all the advice he needs to make sure Faiza knows exactly how much he cares for her.’
Faiza had barely cleared away the dishes and other detritus from Mrs. Amir’s visit when Saeedah arrived.
She looked at the unset table, the slightly messy kitchen and her own self and shrugged. If her friends couldn’t see her looking like a mess, who could?
She opened the door and jumped back with a squeak.
Saeedah stood on the threshold, hand raised to knock.
“Saeedah!” she gasped. “How did you get up here?”
“I charmed the security guard,” Saeedah explained.
Faiza giggled and shook her head. Only Saeedah could charm complete strangers into bending the rules for her.
“The house is filthy,” she warned.
Saeedah shrugged. “Your house is always filthy,” she said. “I’m used to it.”
“Saeedah!” Faiza glared. “My house is not always filthy!”
“Yeah, okay,” Saeedah conceded. “Only half the time.”
The two women dissolved into giggles.
Saeedah paused in the passageway. “Can I go exploring or is it rude?” she asked.
Faiza shook her head, immediately waving the other woman away. “Go,” she said. “I’ll clean up the kitchen while you snoop.”
Five minutes later, Saeedah came running back into the kitchen.
“Faiza!” she shrieked. “Why is your husband living in the guest room?”
Faiza groaned to herself. Of course Saeedah had wandered into the guest room. Faiza had even given her permission to snoop.
Well, at least now I don’t have to think of a way to bring it up. And I wanted Sae’s advice anyway.
“It was his idea,” she said immediately. “And now… I don’t know how to tell him to stop…”
Saeedah began to giggle.
Faiza huffed and crossed her arms, turning away from Saeedah. “Don’t laugh at me!”
She turned around again. “Help me!”
“Well… I don’t know, Fae. You always get yourself into such interesting problems,” Saeedah said slowly.
“Mummy gave me some advice,” Faiza admitted. “But I need more.”
“How about you just talk to him?” Saeedah suggested.
“I can’t do that! Next.”
“Maybe you could…”
Faiza and Taahir had both been making plans, quite unaware that each was plotting how to woo the other.
Taahir, mindful of Muneerah’s advice, had taken to messaging Faiza when his thoughts drifted towards her at work.
Their conversations, though admittedly stilted, were growing longer as the couple began to get familiar with one another.
They’d progressed from playing the generic twenty questions to discussing current events and debating over favourite books.
Taahir had been delighted to discover just how intelligent Faiza was and he’d felt a pang of guilt at the superior attitude he’d had previously.
He’d also realized that Faiza was far from lazy – on the contrary, his wife was always on the go! She put him to shame with her endless amounts of energy.
Faiza, on the other hand, had discovered Taahir’s sense of humor. He’d always been fairly reserved and serious around her, though he wasn’t stern, but as they began to relax around one another more, he’d stood less on ceremony around her and his natural good humour began to shine through.
Taahir still slept in the guest room though, much to Faiza’s chagrin. She hadn’t been able to bring herself to talk to him about the issue as Saeedah had suggested. And her mother’s suggestion to be extra sweet and caring had yielded no results either.
Her cheeks turned crimson remembering Mrs. Amir’s other suggestion – that she, Faiza, should join Taahir in the guest room one night after cooking him a romantic dinner and ‘let nature take its course.’
Faiza had shrieked when she’d first heard this idea and clapped her hands over her ears, trying to un-hear what had been said. But it was too late.
And… her thoughts sometimes drifted, imagining actually going through with the crazy plan. She’d always come back down to Earth fairly quickly though.
Saeedah’s other suggestion appealed – to wait for Taahir to make the first move.
But he seemed content to leave things as they were and not push the issue.
Sometimes, she wondered if he simply didn’t desire her, if he just didn’t want to be intimate with her. When she’d suggested this to Saeedah, her loyal friend had been quick to assure her that that couldn’t be the case.
But she still wondered…
Faiza was under no illusions about herself. She knew that she was average-looking. This didn’t usually bother her – she was quite happy in her own skin and knew that she had other appealing qualities.
But, next to Taahir, she did sometimes feel a little inadequate.
It felt like they didn’t fit next to each other. He was handsome and she… she was plain.
She went to the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror, assessing herself critically. Saeedah had tried countless times to give her a makeover – but Faiza had always resisted, not seeing the point.
Perhaps it was time to reconsider…
Faiza sat with a mug of tea, trying to pretend nonchalance. She was, dare she say it, excited.
Saeedah was very talented when it came to fashion and beauty and, after the two of them had spent close to an hour discussing everything the previous day, Faiza was eager to see the final result they had planned for.
There was a knock at the door and Faiza spilled tea all over herself in her haste to get up and answer it.
She opened the door still dripping and Saeedah immediately burst out laughing.
“I can see we have a lot to do!” she joked.
Faiza giggled. “I’m going to change,” she said. “Go set up in the lounge.”
When Faiza got back, she stared in amazement. “Saeedah, how many women are you making up today exactly?”
Saeedah rolled her eyes. “Don’t start,” she said. “There’s only two suitcases here.”
“Why is there even one suitcase? How much stuff are you going to use, exactly?”
Saeedah huffed in irritation. “Faiza, this is not even a lot, trust me. I have so much more at home. Remember, not all of this is what you’d think of as make up. There’s products here for your hair, for your skin, for your hands and, of course, there’s also a ton of traditional make up.”
Catching the overwhelmed look on Faiza’s face, she hurried to add, “Don’t worry, it’s simple once you get the hang of it. And the only reason it’s going to take a lot of time and effort today is because you haven’t done any of it before. Most of this stuff needs to be done once every few weeks or months only.”
“Oh. Good.” Faiza said, feeling relieved.
Saeedah laughed. “Just relax,” she soothed. “And remember, this is supposed to be fun!”
Taahir came home that evening to a beautifully cooked meal and a very nervous wife.
For once, Faiza didn’t come out to greet him when he entered, staying in the kitchen.
He went into the kitchen to greet her and stopped short at the threshold.
Wow, he thought to himself. Faiza looked beautiful…
“What do you think?” she asked shyly.
“You look… nice,” Taahir said. Inwardly, he cursed himself.
Nice?! Of all the many adjectives in the English language, you go with nice?
Faiza’s face fell.
Nice. Well, it’s better than nothing.
Taahir hurried to fix his blunder. “You look fantastic, Faiza,” he said.
He could see that she was less than convinced.
“Really!” he insisted. “You just… surprised me. I didn’t know what to say.”
A slow smile made its way across Faiza’s face.
“Jazakallah khair,” she said. “I’m glad you like it.”
“I do,” Taahir agreed.
An awkward silence fell.
“The food’s ready,” Faiza said finally. “We should…”
“Right! We should eat.”
The couple sat down to their supper, eating mostly in silence.
Taahir was preoccupied staring at Faiza and the conversation suffered for it.
He couldn’t help it though. More than the slight make up and pretty clothes, it was the fact that Faiza had gone to so much effort that resulted in him being unable to take his eyes off her.
Recalling the smile she’d worn in the kitchen, he felt slightly ashamed at the realization that he’d never before complimented her and resolved to make more of an effort.
Suddenly, he felt the urge to tell Faiza his feelings, but he hesitated. His mother’s advice came back to him.
“Be romantic when you tell her, Taahir. Make sure that the way you do it is significant. Don’t just mumble it out one day on the way out the door.”
This is hardly romantic. But… I’m afraid if I don’t tell her now, I never will. I’ve been putting it off for weeks now!
He peeked at Faiza out of the corner of his eye. Would she be disappointed that he hadn’t done more to mark the occasion?
He wrestled with himself. Should I? No! But…
Faiza nibbled on her lower lip unhappily.
She felt awkward and slightly foolish – Taahir didn’t seem to be very impressed with her new look.
She was disappointed.
She hadn’t expected him to be bowled over – even though she would have liked it – but she had expected something more than what she’d got.
Sighing, she gave her attention over to her food.
All of a sudden, Faiza felt eyes on her. She looked up to find Taahir staring at her, seemingly lost in thought.
“Taahir, is everything alright?” she asked uncertainly.
“What? Yeah, everything… everything’s fine.”
Then he shook his head.
Faiza waited for Taahir to finish his sentence but he stayed silent.
Butterflies filled the pit of her stomach.
‘What is it?’ she thought to herself. ‘ He must have something awful to say if it’s taking this long to get it out!’
“Taahir, just tell me!” she said impatiently.
“I love you,” Taahir blurted out.
Faiza’s mind went blank.
“What did you just say?” She gasped.
Taahir grinned. “I love you,” he repeated. “I’m in love with you, Faiza.”
Faiza felt dizzy. Taahir was in love with her?
It felt like a dream.
She’d never in her wildest dreams imagined that she would hear him say such a thing to her.
The most she’d hoped for was that they could become good friends and care for one another.
But now, he was telling her that he loved her.
Faiza suddenly realized that her cheeks were starting to hurt from the broad smile on her face.
Taahir was looking uncertainly at her. She had to say something. But what? What did one say to a declaration of love. Her mind had gone blank.
Taahir stared anxiously at his wife. She was smiling – he’d never seen her smile so brightly – but she wasn’t saying anything.
Then, she spoke.
And promptly clapped her hand over her mouth in horror.
Taahir couldn’t help it – her expression was too funny for him to control himself. He burst out laughing.
She looked so adorably flustered.
“I – I didn’t mean… I mean, I did mean – but I didn’t mean like that. I -” She groaned in frustration.
“I do love you. I’m sorry it came out so… indelicately.”
Taahir shook his head. “It was perfect,” he assured her.
A week later, Saeedah came to visit. The second she clapped eyes on Faiza, she cackled, pushed past her friend and ran into the guest room.
A few seconds later, she popped out and tackled Faiza.
“It’s empty! You didn’t even tell me! Faiza!”
Faiza giggled. “Some things are meant to stay private,” she scolded.
Saeedah pouted. “You could have at least told me my makeover worked.”
“Your makeover more than worked! Sae… He told me he loves me.”
Saeedah squealed. “Seriously?!”
Faiza just nodded.
“Alhamdulilah! I’m so happy for you, Fae. Shukr to Allah.”
Then Saeedah paused. “He… He didn’t tell you that because of how stunning you looked, did he?”
Faiza shook her head immediately. “I was worried about the same thing at first,” she confided. “But when I spoke to Taahir about it, he said it wasn’t the way I looked that made him so happy, it was the fact that I went to do much effort for him.”
Saeedah cooed. “That’s sweet.”
“And… He told me that he’d been trying to find a way to tell me how he felt for weeks. Sae, he even asked his mother for advice on how to confess his feelings.”
Saeedah giggled at the image of tall, serious Taahir asking for romantic advice from his mother.
“So… when’s the baby coming?”
Faiza’s mouth fell open in shock.
“Saeedah!” She turned fire-engine red at the question.
“You know all the aunties are gonna start asking that soon – you have to be prepared.”
“The aunties will ask, that doesn’t mean you have to!” Faiza huffed. “And they’ll come when they come. There’s no need to rush.”
Saeedah nodded approvingly. “Very good,” she said. “Now, enough about husbands and babies. Let’s talk about the truly important stuff – food. You said you were trying a new recipe?”
The rest of Saeedah’s visit was filled with desserts and sweetmeats – Faiza had been experimenting on several new things.
By the time Saeedah had to leave, the two women were stuffed and both swore they’d never touch anything sweet again which, of course, was a lie.
Faiza packed away her leftovers with a smile. She’d thoroughly enjoyed trying out new recipes and she almost felt confident enough to even share them.
The old desire to write a cook book rose up again and this time, instead of ignoring it, she resolved to speak to Taahir about it and see what he thought.
Maybe. In Shaa Allah, she thought to herself.
Muneerah Mahomed was on cloud nine. Taahir had phoned her a few days previously thanking her for her advice and she’d had a feeling that the young couple had resolved whatever misunderstandings had been coming between them.
This was the first time she had seen them in a few weeks and the difference between her son and daughter-in-law was palpable.
For a start, the two were hovering around one another like they’d gotten married the day before. Every time Taahir’s eyes landed on Faiza, he smiled as though he couldn’t help doing otherwise.
The best part had been when Faiza had come up to her in the kitchen and thanked her happily for her help.
She thanked Allah (SWT) softly, thinking about the pleasant changes in her son since Faiza had come into his life. He was so much happier, so much more open. They had truly been blessed to find Faiza.
Faiza stared happily down at the book in her hands. She’d finally done it. She had finally published her very own cookbook.
Taahir had been instrumental in the book’s publication. He had been the one to soothe all her fears, to hold her hand through the whole process and to motivate her when she felt like giving up.
From the day that she had shyly confided in him about her dream to today, launch day, Taahir had been amazing.
It had been difficult at times for Faiza to juggle her final year of studies, her marriage and her book but with Allah’s grace, they had made it work. It had required understanding and flexibility from Taahir though and she was incredibly grateful to have him.
There had been times when Faiza was so sick of cooking that they went out to a restaurant or ate fast food but he hadn’t complained.
Now, it was done. The book had officially been published and Faiza had completed her degree.
She smiled to herself and thought of the future… Her future, with Taahir.
There was no way to know what trials and challenges would come in the future. But, she had faith that her marriage would endure, that her relationship with her husband would remain strong as long as they nurtured it and – most importantly – prayed.
Taahir came up to Faiza then and she greeted him happily.
“What’s gone and made you so quiet all of a sudden?” he asked.
“I’m just thinking,” Faiza replied. “Thinking about our future.”
Taahir laughed. “What a coincidence,” he said. “I was just thinking about the past. Did you ever think we’d end up here?”
Faiza shook her head immediately. “Not a chance,” she said. “But, Allah (SWT) is the best of planners.”
Taahir grinned. Faiza was right. The plans he had envisioned for his future came back to him and he laughed at his past self. He knew for certain that he would never have been as happy as he currently was if he’d remained on that path.
I need to thank Papa for tricking me!