To start off with I’d like to state that, what I will say right now is going to be straight out offensive but please bear with me through the first paragraph. I grew up in a middle class family and I am the only child .Hence, I have been pampered as a child. My parents sent me to an English medium school known for embedding religious values. And instead of listening to Hansel and Gretel in nursery I grew up listening to Adam and Eve, Noah and Abraham (Ibrahim). I remember seeing awe in the faces of my classmates but me; I had doubts. To me, it was what dad told me since I could speak. “Don’t believe everything you hear and I didn’t bother to believe what I is being fed in school.” I used to tell these stories to my parents and cousins and remember seeing the exact same awe. I enjoyed being a story teller at one point. It also got out that I had learned how to pray and word got out that I was ‘religious’. In reality, I would just follow the instructions of the soft-voiced bearded man at school and go through the motions. To me it was just a means of being known as a self-righteous little brat. And I enjoyed the attention.
When I was 13, I would tell my dad I prayed five times a day, when in reality I barely prayed thrice. It was 2009 the holy month of Ramadan and as usual I would fast, pray and brag about it! It was the fourteenth of Ramadan when I developed a cold. An awful one! I was hospitalized and for the first day had an awful cough, a high fever and asthma. What made it worse was that my family had a trip planned to Copenhagen, Denmark and I feared I would miss it. But by the sixteenth, my mother became infected as well and we had to cancel our trip. It felt awful, simply awful! Worse, I had to see my father fearful for both of us. That night when the attendant injected me with a fluid, my dad blurted the entire story about the trip. All he got in return was a sorrow look from the attendant and ‘whatever God does, he does it for the best’.
FOR THE BEST?!?! Are you kidding me woman? If he existed I would be at Zia International Airport with my passport and Visa! My faith in the whole ‘concept’ of God was practically gone. But I would soon find out the attendant was right.
The next day I woke only to find that the curtains in my cabin weren’t drawn and that the sky was a beautiful blue. I should’ve have been over Europe by now! I spent the rest of the day moping around. I could barely walk and my mother’s asthma had worsened. There was an attendant in and out every ten or so minutes tending to her. If not her, I needed an attendant to walk me over to the bathroom door. My feet were NEVER as weak as it was then. It was horrible. However, by evening my dad returned from his job and we enjoyed his company. I was flipping through the channels when my father received a call from my aunt. He told me it was something about my grandmother. He rushed out and once more it was me, my mother and an attendant- the same one who spoke of god.
It was just about eleven when an elderly doctor entered our cabin and asked for my mother. When my mother faced the doctor, she lost the colour to her face.
‘Madam, your husband called. I’m sorry to say that your mother-in-law has passed away. My deepest condolences.’
I yelled, ‘I won’t be able to see her on Eid?’ I was beyond shocked; my grandmother meant the world to me. I had working parents. Hence, I was at home alone after school except I wasn’t. My grandmother, a deeply religious woman looked after me till I was 9. She developed a series of health problems and had to live with my uncle and aunt. I cried like I never had before. She was completely healthy just last week. It was beyond my imagination. My mother shed tears shortly after the doctor left. When I finally regained some composure, I felt my hand in something… something soft, warm and familiar. The attendant was pressing her hands against mine.
‘Don’t worry dear. She’s in a better place.’
I paused. I took a deep breath. I didn’t speak until my father returned at around 2 am. He sat on my bed next to me. I looked at his face in the dim glow of the hall lights outside. It was puffed. He cried! I never knew my father to be like that. He was strong, kind but not emotional. Yet there he was his swollen eyes and drooping forehead. I don’t remember much of that night but I know I fell asleep. The next morning I was able to walk and we were discharged. We went to our house where my grandmother would be brought so that we could see her one last time.
My uncle, aunt, cousins, they were there. All with very little colour on their faces- much like me and mom. Grandmother’s body was brought to our house at around noon. Our house was filled with people who wanted to pay their respects. I remember. I remember the white cloak she was wrapped in. I remember the wails of her mourners as they revealed her face. Most of all I remember two things.
First- the wonderful yellow glow to her dark forehead. She had a dark complexion but it was now a light yellow. Her eyes closed and cotton in her nose. She was at peace. Resting and healthy, she looked younger, it was the same women I remember holding my hands when I was 5, not the woman who hugged me last week. And I will never ever forget what my aunt told me.
‘She wanted to talk to you before you left for Copenhagen.’ I sat down, I broke, I cried till my eyes were red and dry. I was her favourite grandchild, I know I was.
That afternoon after her burial and funeral prayer- which I didn’t attend- everyone left. I stood in what was her old room. The room she once lived in. I looked up at the metal plate with the ayatul-kursi on it hanging from the wall- the Arabic glowing in the condensation on its cool surface. I saw the first word- Allahu- written in Arabic and I knew what had to be done.
That night, when everyone slept I got up. Painfully, I did my wudu. The water stung; I still had a fever. I laid the prayer mat on the ground. And with all sincerity I prayed. My body ached with every movement but worse still was my throat. I was on the verge of crying every time. Then when I laid my forehead to the ground in sajdah. I felt a great weight on me.
‘She was told not to fast because of her age but still did that day…’
‘She wanted to see you…’
‘She was telling old jokes while I combed her hair…’
‘It happened so fast, your uncle tried mouth to mouth resuscitation…’
‘It was painless…’
‘She was a good person.’
Yes she was. I know she was! All of this raced through my head like horses. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to move. That night I felt it… I felt Him. I felt eyes staring at me. I knew God exists. And yes, if I was healthy I wouldn’t be able to see my wonderful grandmother one last time. I would never forgive myself. Yet He kept me here- in my country.
I know He’s there! The most Beneficent the most Kind! He exists! Master of the Universe! And he served me a way I never expected. I felt the weight of my insincerity and false pride that moment, in that position.
I haven’t missed a prayer since that day and praise be to the Lord I firmly believe in Him. I have no doubt in his existence. My grandmother died in Ramadan, she fasted on her last day, she died after taraweeh, and it was the 17th of Ramadan- the day of the battle of Badr. She was buried in Azimpur, in my grandfather’s grave. She lived pious and she died in belief I hope Allah accepts her.