“Baba!” Ayyan called out to Baba as he tore into the house. “Do you see Imran?” he asked. “Baba please talk to him! He wouldn’t even let me say Salaam to anyone after Salah. He kept bugging me to leave and come home.” He continued, without even waiting for a response, “Baba tell him that there’s barakah in greeting people after Salah before you leave the masjid and. . .”
“Egghead! Do you not see? Baba is asleep. You just scream anyhow. Please let him sleep.” Imran trailed behind, interrupting Ayyan. I’d just come out of the bathroom after a hot long shower, and then I heard Ayyan start his usual complaints. Imran was as always was the cause. I smiled while mentally laughing at them. Baba had prayed at home, because he couldn’t make it to the masjid. I thought to tell them to let it be but, there was no point of coming in between them, my brothers were always at it. I figured it was a waste of time, so I shrugged it off and went on about my business. Thinking how funny it was that Ayyan had not even noticed Baba asleep, he had just rushed in and started his ranting, this made me laugh
After I had dressed up, in baggy pajama pants and a tank top, I slipped on a hijab and dashed down our coral green-carpeted spiral staircase. I made my way straight to the kitchen where I bumped into my mum, who had just finished making a delectable looking fruit salad for my father. I put down my phones, took the salad from her and put it on the little blue tray. After placing a fork beside it alone with some flowers, I made my way to Baba’s living room. I placed the tray carrying the bowl of diced and cubed fruits on the marble table in the centre of the room and looked up at Baba, my jaws dropped. I could not believe my eyes. Falling to my knees, I wanted to scream but my voice was not cooperating and my tears were nowhere to be found. I crouched on the floor before him and took his hand in mine; they felt cold and looked pale against mine. I almost screamed in pain. I glanced at his face, innocent. This man right before me was and will always be my hero. Looking at his face right now, I reflected back to the shadows my past. My ungrateful past. I only remembered one thing which was probably the most important day of my life. He’d had this same innocent, calm look on that day of November 2015.
Exactly three weeks before that very fortunate day, the 12th of November 2015, I sat with Amna, my cousin’s daughter in their home. I’d gone over for the winter break. Amna was much younger than I was since I was only two years younger than her mother was. Anyways, I noticed she was playing Surah An-Nur. The recitation was extremely beautiful, I felt it in my soul as I listened to it. It was captivating. Being the inquisitive person I was, I asked her who the reciter was and she told me, “Sheikh Maher Al-Muaiqly”. “Maher…” I repeated the name. I’d heard it somewhere before I just couldn’t remember where.
Even though that was the first time I’d heard of him, I felt drawn to his Qira’a. It was exceptional. Considering I hadn’t opened or touched the Qur’an since two Ramadan’s ago, approximately 2 years ago, I felt some form of guilt. So I immediately asked her to forward the audio to me which she did so. I played it from the start of the surah. Although my Arabic wasn’t well-founded, I understood the lot of what he was reciting since I took Arabic classes during my college years in addition to which Baba and I would converse in Arabic occasionally, though I would usually stumble upon words and mix them up which made him laugh at me all the time. So it happened that after listening to the first three to four verses, I could make out that the verses were referring to the adulterers and fornicators.
Two weeks went by and not a single day passed without me listening to that surah. On some days, I listened to it over ten times. I fell so in love with the Surah that I was beyond attached to it. When I woke up in the mornings, playing it was the first thing I did. While working during the day, I played it. At night, I played it repeatedly to sleep. I didn’t understand why I was so attached to that surah until one Friday. I believe, on that day my life took a beautiful turn. As usual, I sat on the brown wooden armchair in the orchard outside my fathers house, listening the surah. That was when I decided I’d read its tafsir (commentary). So I quickly scrolled to the Qur’an app on my phone and began reading. I read the commentary of first verse, the second, the third and then the fourth, then realization dawned on me. I finally understood why I was so attached to the Surah. Those first four verses defined the adulterers, those who committed zina. I burst into tears, SubhanAllah! I was one of them.
I COMMITTED ZINA! No, I didn’t commit it not physically per say, but I committed with my eyes! I looked at & watched inappropriate stuff. I knew it was not good, that it was a sin, but that didn’t stop me from watching. I watched it more than three times in any given day. There was a time I had stopped but then I continued once again, stopping something like that was hard. Especially for someone like me who was already addicted. You know how habits are, whenever you become accustomed to one, stopping is difficult and takes a lot of time and effort. Moreover, even when I said I would stop, my own desires kept pushing me back toward it. I know it is only human to feel such lust and desire but to go to the extent of watching people do it was a total different thing.
My guilt increased when I remembered that Allah had been watching me all this while, sinning, and then He Would pull me back to him. I had cried so hard, my head began hurting. I let that guilt consume me, all of me. Just then, Baba walked by, he saw me sitting on the wooden chair sniveling. I looked at him from the side of my eye albeit he was unaware. I noticed that he looked baffled. Even as a child, I was not one to cry often, so he knew if I was crying, something definitely had to be wrong. Thankfully, He had simply picked a pair of slippers that was left out to dry and walked back inside the house. I knew that was what had brought him and I was glad that he did just that and left me by myself. I was glad he didn’t ask me any questions about why I was crying. I thanked my God and continued weeping.
“Muniba? What has happened? What is the matter? Why are you crying?” My father’s worried voice came. I hadn’t even realized when he had returned and sat beside me! I was probably too deep in thought. I looked up and saw a box of tissues in his hand. Hmm! So, Father had gone to get me a tissue. I thought to myself, mentally smiling.
“Muniba habibti, talk to me.” He asked once more.
I looked at him then I cried some more for I did not know what to tell him. At that point, my body had gone numb, my feet cold, my mouth frozen, I was at a loss for words. How could I ever bring myself to tell him that? What would I say? Where would I begin? What frightened me most was what he would think of me. Baba was a devout Muslim. Occasionally he would give sermons at the Masjid down the street, mostly on Fridays though. More often, he would lead Fajr (pre-dawn prayer) and sometimes Dhuhr Salah (afternoon prayer) even. He never missed going to the Masjid. When he heard the call to prayer, he would always say, “Allah is calling me I have to answer the call, else, Allah would be unhappy with me”. And here I was, his daughter, a fornicator. I cried increasingly which made him pull me to his chest hugging me so I hugged him right back. I sobbed so hard I could feel my head throbbing and in so much pain. As I rested my head on his chest, I realized that though my fathers’ chest was hardened; within that chest was the softest heart I had ever known.
After a while, He stood up and pulled me up by my shoulders. Looking me straight in the eyes he tapped my shoulders and said, “Habibti, if you do not want to talk about it then please stop with the tears and let it be. Please, I beg of you. I’m afraid you may fall ill.” I digested his words while thinking what did I do to deserve such an understanding and loving father? I looked at him, his eyes ever welcoming and forgiving and I thought how could I have done this? To myself? To Baba? And, worst of all, to Allah? Why am I an ingrate? I felt my soul shatter even more wishing I could clear it all. What have I done?
After twenty minutes of sitting with Baba under the sweltering sun, he put his arm around my shoulders & guided me up to his room. Sitting me on his bed, he handed me another fresh box of tissues. I’d exhausted the first one. I was glad my mother and brothers were away that day. It was just my father and I. Before I realized, I found myself narrating it all to Baba. My words rolled off my tongue so fluently as if I had practiced this moment endlessly. While speaking, I had been looking down the entire time. I could not bring myself to look him in the face. When I did finally look up, I could swear I saw tears in his eyes. Once again, I was struck numb. What a horrible daughter I was! I had made my father cry. SubhanAllah.
I knelt before him, “Baba. . . please forgive me. . . I swear I do not know what. . .” I trailed off, sobbing in between my words.
He knelt alongside me, placing a hand over my lips, a sign for me to keep quiet. I could not believe my eyes. “Please Baba. Get up.” I begged him.
“No, Muniba let me be.” He held my hands in his. Mine cold, pale and shaky. His, warm, soft and comforting.
“Now come here.” He motioned for me to sit beside him against the wall on the soft-carpeted floor of his room. When I did, he once again took my hands in his this time interlocking them. I leaned on his shoulders and resumed telling him, with every inch of regret, how remorseful I was and how much I regretted what I had done. I also asked whether Allah would ever forgive me or not. As much as Baba was a good talker, he also was a good listener. He listened to me patiently, not interrupting even once. He waited until I was done. Then he started to stroke my hair and began talking.
“I would’ve been disappointed in you, but who am I but a weak human? I am only human and can’t be disappointed with your actions. I just need you to know something. Go back to Allah. Go back to Allah Habibti. Go kneel before Him. Only He can help you.” He sobbed. It was heart wrenching for me to see my father cry because of me. My sinful, ungrateful soul.
“You see Habibti, Allah Azza Wa Jal Has Created us, humans with the ability to sin. So also, He Has Created Tawbah (repentance). Remember Habibti that He Has Told us, repeatedly, that He is Al-Ghafoor-ur-Raheem right?”
I nodded affirmatively.
“Good. How about I tell you something! I sin too. We all sin. That’s it! The truth is every single person is bound to sin. It is inevitable. However, what action we take after sinning is what matters the most. Whenever you sin, you should sit and ask yourself “is this the life I used to kick my mother’s womb for?” Ask yourself “is it worth it? Sinning and facing Allah’s wrath?” Would you love to see your parents efforts go in vain? Your mothers pain of nine months. Think about it. Is it worth it? Is that the kind of life you want to live? Piling sins on top of sins? You need to ponder upon this. Whatever it is you have done, no matter how much or how bad. Always, always remember that as long as you are alive, it’s never too late. Remember Allah Ar-Raheem has told us that:
“كل بني آدم خطاء و خير الخطائين التوابين.”
“All sons of Adam are sinners and the best of sinners are those who repent.” He continued by saying, “Allah, in His Infinite Mercy, Does not only accept our repentance, He Loves to forgive. And He Loves even more those who repent and work more righteously.” He paused, look at me and gave me a wry smile.
He continued, “Habibti reflect on this verse in Surah Al-furqan where He says;
إِلَّا مَنْ تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا فَأُولَٰئِكَ يُبَدِّلُ اللَّهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ حَسَنَاتٍ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُغَفُورًا رَحِيمًا
“As for those who repent, believe and do good deeds, they are the ones whose evil deeds Allah will change into good deeds. For Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
He Himself is calling upon us to repent so He will forgive us. Allah even gives us an added bonus by changing our evil deeds into good deeds. Isn’t that beautiful? SubhanAllah.” He shed a lone tear smiling. I registered in all of his words.
“And you know what Habibti?” He paused for a while. “Ha?” I muttered.
“I think the most amazing attribute of Allah is that He is an Endless, Merciful forgiver. He is always merciful to us whenever we falter. Patiently waiting for us to return to Him, to repent, to seek forgiveness so He will Graciously forgive us. In addition, the best part about the repentance is whenever we do it our hearts feel at ease because Allah is pleased with our return to Him. He grants us mercy so that we will be better servants.
Even though most of the time we don’t return to Him and even if we do, we continue to sin farther, He, in His infinite mercy still forgives, Graciously.”
Taking a deep breath, he said, “He’s waiting for you, Habibti. He has been waiting for you all along. He is the One who has guided you to that Surah, so you would realize your mistake and change. That is Allah. This is His preordained Qadr for you. So, run to him. Remove this veil between you and Allah, and go back to Him. Seek him. You hear me?” He asked as if rhetorically. Nevertheless, I heard myself answer him anyways.
“I hear you, Baba. I hear you.” I replied weeping hard. I gave him a tight side hug, and he hugged me even tighter. I was grateful, truly, for the first time ever in my life.
He sat me up and cupped my cheeks, “Now wipe those tears princess. Wipe them. Allah has understood.”
“I don’t know how I would have pulled this off without you Baba. I love you.”
He gave me a reassuring smile saying, “Now let me tell you something; let this be a secret between only you, me and Allah. Not even your mother should know about it okay?”
I was over the moon. So grateful that he had just said that. Because I didn’t think I would ever be able to face Mama in this life ever again if she heard what I’d done. She did not deserve any of this. I pictured the disappointed, sad look that would overcome her face, how she’d weep for days or how she’d blame herself and keep insisting that it was because she hadn’t raised me well enough. If anything, Mama was the best mother Wallah. I possibly could not have been raised any better. Sometimes I guess we simply stray from the right path no matter how hard our parents have toiled for us. I was a -perfect example. If Mama ever found out, then truly, I would never forgive myself.
Today, here I was, 3 years after, crouched before my Baba’s corpse, the man who had helped me transform, reminiscing about that day in my head. Then finally, the tears started to fall. I do not know if it’s at all right to hug a corpse, but I did it anyways. I hugged my father’s stiff, pale, corpse. When I let go of him after a few minutes, I felt a gaze upon me, looking up I saw my mother. Mama was watching me with a smile of defeat on her face. She wasn’t crying. She just smiled at me. A strong smile that said, “It’s going to be fine, Muniba”. I looked from her to him and wept some more. It was then I noticed how much he’d aged in the past month. His beard had more gray hair & his forehead had more wrinkles. His eyes had dug deeper into their sockets and there were big, black bags beneath them. I noticed how parched his lips had become and how unkempt his beard & moustache looked. I wonder how I hadn’t noticed all of that before now. Of course! I was quite busy with school and projects. It was my final year after all but still. Now who’ll look at me with the same proud eyes & smile Baba used to and tell me how proud I’ve made them when I finally get that LLB degree I’ve always dreamt of? Had known he was dying? If I had known, I would have spent my days and nights of every single day, with him. But then, that’s the thing about death, no matter how much time I might had spent with him, I’d still miss him the moment his soul left. I thought hard about how I would never get to see him again. He was gone forever, until eternity. I thought of how I would never run home from school, jump on him, giving him the biggest bear hug, and tell him about my day. Í thought of how he would stroke my hair and tell me stories of his childhood or how he’d give me a retelling for the umpteenth time of how he’d met Mama. Of how he would stand in for me whenever Mama wanted to scold me or how he would make Ayyan, Imran and I recite the Qur’an together with him every morning and how he would force me to go on a walk with him in the evenings and I would refuse saying I was tired from schoolwork. Now all of that is gone. Gone for good. And the smile I had only for him, the King of my heart? Would I ever put it on again? I would never hear that deep sweet voice calling on ‘Muniba Habibti’. Thinking of these made me I weep even harder. I wished I could hear him call my name, just one last time. I wished I could bring him back to life, even for a second. Just to say, “Thank you” for that day, the 12th of November 2015. For every single day before and since. Every single day, Baba. Every Single Day, I whispered in my head. I never got to thank him properly for anything. How could I ever repay him? This generous human. Words cannot say how grateful I am Baba. Really, they can’t. Never. I wished I had said goodbye. Anyways, it was too late for that now. Rest in peace. I kissed his hand. In this dunya, that was it, for Baba. My hero.