|Posted by ustazwahid on July 14, 2012 at 11:55 AM|
Ummi, where’s my mujaahid’s beret?” Affif finally asked his mother after searching everywhere for Ashraff’s beret. He called it a mujaahid’s beret after watching a mujaahid wearing it in a documentary program about the tragedy of the Bosnians. It was big for him but he liked to wear his father’s beret whenever they wanted to eat together. He told his mother that it made him “a big man” like one of those mujaahideen. “Didn’t you leave it on the bookshelf last night, honey?” Shafikah saw her son entering his room to look for it at the place she had just mentioned.
Shafikah waited but her son still did not show up in the kitchen. “Affif, have you found it? Dinner’s getting cold now.”
“In a minute, Ummi.”
“What’s keeping him now?” Shafikah murmured to herself. She decided to find out what was going on.
There he was on his bed holding Ashraff’s photo. Their eyes met when she reached his bed.
“Today’s the day, right, Ummi?”
Shafikah looked sadly into her son’s eyes. She nodded and whispered, “Yes.” The day was April 10th 2001.
“You were in my room today, Ummi?” His voice was soft.
Shafikah was there earlier and she was looking at the photo herself, but she forgot to put it back on the night table near Affif’s bed. Instead, she had misplaced it on the bookshelf, next to his father’s beret.
“Do you miss Daddy, Ummi?” Affif inquired when Shafikah did not answer his previous question.
Sitting on his bed, she looked at her son lovingly. “I have you, honey.” Her eyes glistened with tears.
“But do you, Ummi? Do you miss Daddy?” Affif’s face was sad.
“I do and you know that, sweetie.” Affif placed the photo back on the table and hugged his mother. Shafikah wiped away a silent tear.
Pulling himself apart from the warmth of her embrace, Affif sat cross-legged on the bed facing his mother.
“Today’s Daddy’s birthday…” He paused. His voice was soft. “…and his death day.” He remembered this date very well. As young as he was, he was very attentive to people’s feelings and what happened around him, especially anything having to do with the two of them.
They looked into each other’s eyes trying to soothe the sad feeling that suddenly engulfed them. Noticing the calmness in his mother’s face, Affif said, “We must not be unhappy, right, Ummi? Daddy was a good man and he was lucky because Allah Ta’ala loved him. He chose to meet Daddy before meeting us.”
With a heavy sigh, Shafikah spoke, “Oh…Affif! Allah Ta’ala gave Ummi and Daddy a special gift when He gave us you. Alhamdulillah!” Small beads of tears rolled down her cheeks.
Affif wiped away the tears and smiled to cheer her up. Shafikah took his small hands, kissed them and gently placed them on his lap. She held his face in her hands, kissed his forehead and the tip of his nose.
“I love you, Ummi! Dinner’s getting cold now!” Affif told her with a smile and got off the bed.
Affif headed for the door.
“I love you too Muhammad Affif bin Muhammad Ashraff.”
Affif turned around and smiled widely. It was Ashraff’s smile on his small face.
Ashraff had wanted to name their son Muhammad Qutb after the name of a great Muslim thinker, Sayyid Qutb, whom he admired so much. However, Shafikah thought it was too classical for a boy in the nineties. They finally agreed to name him Muhammad Affif. It was the name of a brother whom Ashraff had adored and respected just like his real brother. He was an Imam who died a few months before Affif was born.
They had been reading the story of Caliph Umar and Affif drifted off to sleep when the story ended. He was now fast asleep on the couch with his head on his mother’s lap. Shafikah smiled at her sleeping son. How small and young he was, yet how alike the two of them were. Masha Allah! Seeing him in her life was like having him back all over again. Subhan Allah! He was right in saying that she would never feel alone in her life without him. Because she never had been alone ever since he left her and their son. A three-year-old Affif was sleeping next to Ashraff when he finally left them forever. Today would be exactly six years that he was no longer in her life.
Shafikah was gently pulling Affif into her arms to settle him in his bed when the phone rang. She looked at the clock. It was ten o’clock. Only one person would be calling her this late on this special day. She picked up the phone and greeted the caller.
“Assalamualaikum, Abang Yusuff.”
“Waalaikumussalam. How did you know it was me, Sis?” He was a little surprised.
Not wanting to tell him that she had guessed why her brother had called, Shafikah replied, “I just knew.”
Shafikah’s older brother, Yusuff, had been her sole protector since she came to Bloomingdale about twelve years ago to pursue her degree in Journalism. They had been very close since they were small. She was the only daughter in the family. Their eldest and youngest brothers nicknamed them “the twins”. Yusuff resided in the city after completing his business studies at Southern Illinois University. He now owned a wellknown food store in Bloomingdale, the only kind that supplied a variety of Asian and other halal food products. Yusuff’s wife, Fatima, was a graduate in Education. She had been a teacher at Bloomingdale Islamic School since its establishment the previous year – Fall 2000. Before that she had homeschooled her two children after quitting her teaching job at the Islamic Center in Bloomingdale.
Yusuff sensed a little sadness in his sister’s voice. He had called for the reason that Shafikah might have guessed. He wanted to see if she was all right. He felt bad for not calling sooner, but he was out of town for the last two days. Nevertheless, he did not forget what the day was.
“My little mujaahid is fast asleep?” Yusuff made an effort to sound cheery.
“Miles away in a sweet dream, insha Allah.” Shafikah laughed a little. However, there was a crack in her voice when she continued,”He remembered today too…as young as he is.”
“And you, my dear one?” Yusuff’s voice was gentle. “How are you?” He realized he did not have to bring up the subject. His sister had just brought it up. He knew his sister was a strong person emotionally, but even he himself was missing his late brother-in-law, especially on this day.
“Alhamdulillah, I think I’m fine…I have to keep it all together for Afiff,
insha Allah. Kak Fatima called and we talked.”
“I know. She told me.”
“Papa and Mama called too this morning. They sent their salams to you, Abang Yusuff.”
Shafikah knew her brother wanted to know if she was feeling fine. He had been the one accompanying her to the cemetery for the last five years.
“You went to visit him today?”
“Tomorrow, insha Allah. Kak Fatima will take care of my morning class.”
“Want me to come?”
“It’s okay. I need to see him alone. You are not hurt that I turned down your offer, are you?” A flicker of a smile appeared on Shafikah’s face.
“I understand. Just give me a call tomorrow if you changed your mind.”
“Okay, insha Allah. Sorry I didn’t ask about your trip. How was it?”
“The trip was slow. Still snowing up north, but all went great, alhamdulillah.”
So much had happened during the last six years of Shafikah’s life with her son. After ‘losing’ Ashraff, she kept herself occupied with working and raising Affif, as well as learning more about Islam. She wanted to make sure she had deep Islamic knowledge to fulfill Ashraff’s wish for their son to be a well-brought up Muslim. She also never stopped writing and was an active freelance writer. It was something she loved and would always do in her life. Journalism was the catalyst that had brought her and Ashraff together. Then, more than a year ago, she completed her second degree in Islamic studies through a distance learning education program. It took her about three years to complete it. She had to do it - for herself, Ashraff, Affif and the Muslims in Bloomingdale.
Shafikah felt blessed to have this family by her side through the years. They had been a great support in her life, especially after Ashraff was gone.
He may not be in her life anymore, physically, but a big part of who she was now, was in fact Ashraff. Although the time they spent together was short, her life with him had taught her much about this life and eventually the journey to the next life. She knew that it was something that all Muslims would have to endure to prepare them for the precious and invaluable reward – a meeting with Allah (s.w.t.) in Jannah!
Categories: NOVEL ISLAM