The Thorn in the Rose
Zaid’s battery of Sumayyah started on that fateful night, in her second month of pregnancy, and now a year later, Sumayyah was almost used to them. She called them The ‘episodes’ and or the life of her she could not imagine what had gotten into Zaid to make him change towards her so drastically. It was a miracle she hadn’t lost the pregnancy because with each passing day Zaid became more violent towards her. It seemed like a nut had come loose in his head or that first incident made him realise that he had the power to do her harm, Subhanallah.
He beat her at the slightest provocation and the worst part of it all was that he never apologized; she did always the apologizing afterwards. Sumayyah was always on edge at home and around him for she didn’t know what could anger him at any given time. It was like she was walking on eggshells.
The only time she felt like herself was when she was with her baby, Ramlah. She looked back at her baby, safely belted in her car seat and she smiled, her heart filled with so much love she thought it would burst. She was on her way to visit her mum at Surulere, it had been a while since they had seen each other.
She was now only a few houses away and her former neighbours waved at and greeted her as she drove past. In front of the gate now, she honked to alert Adamu the gatekeeper and he promptly opened it to let her in. Once inside, Adamu ran towards her and greeted her “Ah Assalamu alaykum Hajia Sumayyah how you dey? Longtime o”.
“Waalaykumsalam warahmatullah. I am fine Adamu. It’s been a long time indeed. How are you too?”.
“Toh, Alhamdulillah Hajia. I never see you since the naming ceremony o. How Ramlah now?”.
“She’s fine. Adamu here take this “ She handed him the black polythene bag she was carrying had filled with provisions.
“Ah nagode Hajia. Thank you plenty plenty. “ He beamed with smiles as he rummaged through the bag… “Mummy dey inside.”
Sumayyah smiled back. ‘Ok. No problem.’” She moved to unbuckle her daughter from the car seat, gave her a quick kiss as she lifted her into her arms and Ramlah cooed in response. She also retrieved her handbag and Ramlah’s baby bag. Sumayyah loved the car: a Ford Focus; because it had a roomy interior and trunk, but most of all she loved it because it had been a gift from Zaid soon after Ramlah’s birth.
He had thought she would do better with a car of her own to run errands instead of always tagging along with him whenever she needed to go out. It was these small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness from him that made her conviction that he would change, stronger. That and the fact that she was still hopelessly in love with him. She would continue to pray to Allah for her husband and her marriage and remain submissive as well. In time everything would return back to normal in shaa Allah.
Sumayyah opened the front door; her mum always left it unlocked; and stepped into the living room.
“Assalamu alaykum. Mummy, Khadeejah? “ she called. Khadeejah was her distant cousin who was staying with her mum to help out while also attending college. Khadeejah came out from the kitchen, welcomed her and informed her that her mum was in her bedroom. Sumayyah gave her the car keys, told her to go pick the provisions she got for them from the car and went down the passage into her mother’s room.
Her mum had just finished saying her zuhr solah and greeted her as she walked in taking Ramlah into her arms. “Assalamu alaykum Oko mi(my beloved). I heard you come in while I was praying. How are you? I can see my baby is doing just fine.” She smiled and tickled Ramlah.
“Waalaykumsalam mum. I am fine ma.” She sat on the bed.
Her mum took a look at her and knew that something was wrong with her daughter. She called out to Khadeejah and asked her to take Ramlah out and play with her. She wanted to speak with her daughter with no interruptions.
‘Amoke my dear you don’t look happy. Is anything the matter?”
“Mummy, I just walked in now. How can you tell?”
“I am a mother… I can always tell”
Sumayyah knew that she could not confide in her mum. Her mum who she knew was not a hundred percent in Zaid’s camp, would raise the roof if she ever found out what was going on. “Mum there’s nothing wrong ok? I am just a little stressed that’s all.”
Her mum sighed .”Are you sure ?”.
“Yes, I am sure”. Sumayyah changed the subject “Ramlah will be six months next week. Remember you told me you would give me some baby food recipes when I come here today”
“Yes I did and I will. But first, what would you like to eat?”.
And that had been the end of it. Sumayyah did not want her mum to have any inkling that there was trouble in paradise. She had hope that everything would work out fine.
Sumayyah finished her recitation and closed her Quran. She raised her hands and made dua to Allah that her plan be successful, among other things. She stayed on her prayer mat for a good number of minutes before she finished and got up. She picked up her phone and dialled Nancy’s number. It had been a while. Nancy took the call after the third ring:
“Hello Sumayyah, how are you doing?”
‘I am fine Nancy. How are you too?’
They talked about mundane stuff for a few minutes before Nancy asked ;
“So, how far about the drugs. I hope the side effects have ceased?”
No, but I think I am used to them by now.”
‘Okay. Just drop by at the hospital whenever you need a new dose.”
“Don’t worry, I will.”
“How is your husband, I hope everything is moving along smoothly?” Nancy inquired.
“He’s fine, everything is fine as well. It will take some time, but I will achieve my aim.”
“Alright. I wish you the best of luck. I have to run now; Ward Rounds. Remember I am just a call away if you need anything. Take care of yourself. Bye”.
“I won’t forget. Bye.”
They ended the call. It had been two months since the last incident and though the atmosphere in the house was tense and strained they had only had a few skirmishes. Sumayyah had always stood her ground though and Zaid had finally accepted that she meant business.
The contraceptive pills she had gotten from Nancy had caused her to feel nauseous, have migraines and sometimes irregular bleeding. She had to hide the pills from Zaid because he did not condone it and she could not risk getting pregnant for him anymore. Not after all she had been through and because it would complicate her well laid out plans if she did.
She had had enough of this sham they called a marriage and wanted out, for the sake of her sanity and for her life. Her plan was a simple one: she was going to get Zaid to divorce her once and for all.
“Who was that you just dropped off?” Zaid asked Sumayyah as she parked the car and got out. He had been standing by the gate watching her as she dropped off one of their neighbours. He had no problem with her helping out people, but this particular neighbour, he did not like.
‘”That was Mrs Badmus our neighbour. I met at the bus stop and decided to…
“ I know her as ‘Iya ile okan’ and I don’t care where you met her. Everyone in this neighbourhood knows she is a lonely old woman who never minds her own business. Always gossiping. I don’t want her influencing you so do not have anything to do with her again.”
“Zaid we have been married for 4years now, you should know that I can never engage in such. Besides, she’s a nice woman and I think people should just give her a chance.
“My decision stands, Sumayyah”
“I have heard you. Can we go inside now and stop giving the security man a spectacle?”
They went in and Zaid continued:
“I received a call from Doctor Musliudeen and he said you booked an appointment for us on the 19th, to attend Family Planning Clinic. Why?”
“I just thought we should give it a try. Zaid I have had two miscarriages and with the current ‘situation’ of things in this house, I felt it would be risky for me to …..”
“How dare you go behind my back? You always undermine me, Sumayyah and you will pay”. He would teach her a lesson she would never forget, he thought as he began to remove his belt while Sumayyah started to cry and beg. “For your information, I do not believe in Family Planning or whatever fancy name it is called, so it is a no-go area, do you understand me?”. Sumayyah nodded. “Now I am going to deal with you.”
And he did.
The Thorn in the Rose
After the confrontation with his mum, all those weeks ago, Zaid had avoided her like the plague because he just was not ready to speak to anyone about the issue. He always ensured that he was absent whenever she visited his home and his sisters kept bombarding him with calls as well but he either ignored their calls or refused to speak about it. It was not until Mama Sho had sent him a concise message, the text of which read:
“Assalamu alaykum. If you don’t come over to the house this Sunday, ma pe ero le e lori.”(I will make this public).
So here he was, driving down Egbeda road, stuck in a traffic jam, on his way to his mum’s. She knew that he hated being made a spectacle of, and would never sit with being the object of discussion in a family meeting. He sighed, he had no idea what to tell his mum and sisters. He did not even know how to explain that Sumayyah had changed completely; at least towards him. They lived like acquaintances now, only speaking to each other whenever necessary. Gone was the old Sumayyah, replaced by one that could be likened to a robot. A robot that performed all her wifely duties; cooking, cleaning, taking care of her husband and kids. Surprisingly, she never denied him his conjugal rights whenever he had need of it; which was infrequent now since he felt it had become more of a chore for her and he never enjoyed it.
A car horn and a loud voice shouting; “Move this car, my friend, se ti sun lo ni” (are you asleep) broke into his thoughts. The long line of cars in front of his vehicle had begun moving. He promptly obeyed and he was at his mother’s almost an hour later. His mum and sister, Zainab (who had flown in to conduct some business ) were already in the living room when he went inside the house.
“Assalamu alaykum, Zaid. Kaabo” (Welcome) Mama Sho greeted him.
“Waalaykumsalam warahmatullahi, Mama Sho. Thanks, ma.” He turned to his sister. “Egbon mi ti won bi mi le, boo ni nkan (my immediate elder sibling, How are you)” He jokingly greeted Zainab. She acknowledged him with a half smile and a nod. Zaid knew that she was not pleased with him , what with the calls he had ignored and all. He had only attempted to defuse the tension that was palpable in the room. He sat in his favourite settee and waited for the ‘cross-examination’ to begin.
“Now that you are here, I will check if your sister has come online. She will be joining us via video call on Skype”. Mama Sho informed him. For a 61-year-old, she was technology savvy and even had accounts on social media like Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook. She used the accounts mainly for her business but also to keep in touch with her family especially Faatimah and Zainab; who both lived far from her .
“Good, she’s online.” Declared Mama Sho as she placed the call through to her daughter. Faatimah had been intimated already about the meeting so she was ready and took the call almost immediately.
Here goes. Zaid forced a smile as his sister’s face popped up on his mother’s computer screen. After the pleasantries were over, she turned to him with a stern look on her face and asked “Zaid, what is this I am hearing about you? Please tell me it is not true?”.
You’ve caught me. He heaved a heavy sigh: “It’s true, Ummu Abdillah . Everything you have been told is…”.
“Can you tell us why / what happened to make you do what you did?” Zainab interjected. It was obvious she was already losing her patience with him. I feel like knocking his teeth out.
Mama Sho cut in as well: “Ebami bi o, mi mo ibi ti oti ri tie.(Help me ask him, I don’t know how he turned out this way). Your father was gentle as a dove.” She finished eyeing him.
“ Mama Sho, please calm down. And you too, Zainab. Let me handle this.” Faatimah said before turning to Zaid “ Oya, I am listening, and your explanation had better be good.” She warned.
Look at my life outside. He had been laid bare like an eight-day-old baby and he realized that all was lost, he could not hide anything from them even if he wanted to. He searched his mind and heart and he could find no tangible explanation for the horrible things he had done to his wife. Sumayyah had always been good, from the very beginning, and even when he had battered her body and broken her spirit she had remained loyal. He suddenly felt pangs of regret in his heart and his eyes misted over. “I have nothing to say.” He pronounced. “I guess … I just misused my power.”
Mama Sho and her daughters had not expected Zaid to admit his guilt, and they were surprised. Some of the anger that they felt disappeared and was replaced by pity; at the end of it all, he was their flesh and blood. A long silence pervaded the room and Faatimah broke it. She cleared her throat. “Mama Sho, Zainab could you excuse us for a while. I would like to speak with my brother alone.”
Mama Sho and Zainab left the living room and Zaid and his sister proceeded to have a long and heartfelt conversation. She explained to him that no matter whatever offence he felt his wife committed, violence and battery were not the solutions. How would he feel if either Zainab’s or her own husband had battered them as well? He would not like it at all. Besides the prophet had not set such an example for Muslims to follow.
She tried to appeal to his sense of justice and made him realise that nobody deserved to be treated that way, least of all his wife. She finished by imploring him to seek forgiveness from Allah and his wife.
Zaid listened to all his sister had to say, acknowledged he had made mistakes and promised to turn a new leaf. In fact, I will start now. He informed her that he wanted to go home and surprise his family.
Faatimah was pleased to hear this. “Inu mi dun ( I am happy). Thank you for honouring me and I hope you get a second chance. Please inform mum and Zainab that we are through I still have a few things to discuss with them.
Zaid obliged her and bid them goodbye, after apologizing to them both for his behaviour and promising them he would change. He opened the door, and stepped out, with conviction, into the cool evening. He looked up and felt the breeze caress his face. Astaghfirullah, ya Allah. Please come to my aid. He had realized his mistake. He intended to woo his wife all over again and win back her heart.
Sumayyah decided she had had enough, and it was time to take some action. Four years of physical and emotional torture was not child’s play. She was going to visit the Imaam of their local mosque to talk to him and seek his help. She was unhappy as well as desperate. She waited till Zaid left for work before she exited the house immediately, dropping Ramlah off at school, then making her way back to the mosque.
The mosque was called Al- Bayyinah and was situated just down the street and around the corner from their home so she took no time getting there. She knew from her past visits that the Imaam would still be at the mosque at this time, doing his tilaawah (recitation from the Quran) and she wanted to catch up with him before he left. She and Zaid had visited frequently before Ramlah had come along when the going was still good. While her own visits had reduced to the barest minimum after Ramlah’s birth, Zaid’s continued, as he had to pray his solah in congregation compulsorily.
At the mosque, she could hear the Imaam’s voice reciting from the men’s musallah upstairs because the mosque was empty and she was glad she hadn’t missed him. She waited outside for him and soon he descended the stairs. “Assalamu alaykum yaa Imaam”. She smiled.
”Waalaykumslam warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu ummu Ramlah “ Imaam Zakariyyah responded. He was an elderly man who had retired from public service some years back. He was wise, had a kind heart and was God-fearing. ,”How are you and Ramlah?”. I already saw your husband at solah not long ago.”
“We are both fine sir and Ramlah is at school. Please, sir , I was hoping I could have a word with you?”.
‘”Why not? I am at your service. Let me get us some seats so we can stay and talk out here”.
He did and Sumayyah bared her heart out to him. She told him of the battery, the emotional torture she had been experiencing at the hands of her husband. Imaam Zakariyyah listened to her without interrupting and when she finished, he said to her: “hmm, really sad story. I have heard all that you have said. Now I want to ask: what is it you would like for me to do for you?”.
‘Thank you for listening to me and for asking that question, sir. I want you to help me, sir. I want to get a divorce sir,… I mean begin the Khul’u process. I know there are Shariah courts around and that you can connect me with one sir.” She pleaded.
The Imaam nodded slowly and started by reciting to her a verse from the Noble Quran:
“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” Suratul Hujuraat verse six.
He continued after his recitation “Ummu Ramlah once again I have heard all that you have said and I am so sorry for all you have been through. But as you know, there are two sides to a story and I would want to speak with your husband to listen to his own side. If after then you still insist on taking this course, then I will help you.”
“I’ve heard you, sir . Jazzakumullahu khayran. Thank you for your time.”
As Sumayyah got up to leave, she was filled with hope. She had a feeling that it would all be alright soon.
The Thorn in the Rose
Sumayyah sat at the kitchen table and sipped her tea. It was a Monday morning, and with Zaid gone to work and the kids at school, she was alone in the house. There was a chill in the air, so she placed her palms around the mug in an attempt to warm herself. She had a lot on her mind, foremost of which was getting Zaid to pronounce the divorce. Zaid’s gradually evolving behaviour came in at a close second.
She had noticed that there was a change in his conduct towards her these past few days. It had been obvious from the time he had arrived home on that fateful Sunday when he had attended the meeting with his mum and sisters. He had returned home in the evening excited, wanting to take them all out to dinner someplace nice.
“It’s very kind of you to ask, Zaid but sorry I can’t come. You know I registered for an online catering course and I have a live interactive session this evening. You can go with the kids, I am sure you will all have fun.” She had replied him, and her expression broached no argument. She had seen the disappointed look on his face but he had left with the kids anyway.
That incident had taken place a week ago, and Zaid continued to act nice and sweet but Sumayyah was past caring. Even Mama Sho and her sisters-in-law had all called her, informing her that they had spoken with Zaid and that he had promised to change for the better. Mama Sho had even requested a meeting with everyone concerned in attendance: herself, Zaid and family members from both sides, but she had declined. As far as she was concerned, if Zaid’s new attitude was intended to win her back, it would fail because it was already too late. She had been miserable for more than half of the ten years that they had been married and a few days of niceties from Zaid was not going to erase all that pain. Sumayyah was not going to let anything deter her from her course of action.
Zaid drove onto the premises of his uncle, Mr Babatunde Ibraheem Erinosho’s company. It was an I.T company called Babtech Consults Ltd, situated in the heart of Ikoyi. Mama Sho had intended for him to be present at that fateful meeting last week, but he had been out of town and so could not make it. Uncle Babs, as he fondly called him, gave Zaid a call when he returned and asked to meet at his office so they could talk. Zaid parked and locked his car, glancing upwards as he heard the clap of thunder.
It was threatening to rain, and a strong wind bent the tree branches and blew dust into his face. Even the water spraying out of the fountain obeyed the wind, going in all directions, instead of back onto it.
Zaid walked briskly into the building housing the office complex. In the lush lobby, he greeted the receptionist, who knew him well so didn’t deny him passage. He continued on to the elevator, filled with trepidation (for his uncle was a strict and religious man who followed the Sunnah to the letter), got in and punched the 4th-floor button where his uncle’s office was loćated. The elevator pinged & slid open when it stopped on the 4th floor and he stepped out, walked down the corridor to his uncle’s office and greeted the secretary, Abdullah. Uncle Bab’s wife had insisted he hired a male for the job.
“Assalamu alaykum, Abdullah. Good morning. How is work and how are you.?”
“Walaykumsalam warahmatullah. Ah, Mr Zaid I am fine. Long time. How is your family as well?”.
“They are fine, thank you.” He nodded at the closed office door, ”I hope he doesn’t have a visitor, he is expecting me.”
Abdullah chuckled and replied: “No he has no visitors. Have a seat while I inform him that you are here.” He picked up the phone and informed his boss that his nephew was there to see him.
“Oh ok send him right in”. Uncle Babs said over the phone.
“You may go in, Mr Zaid” Abdullah said.
“Thank you” Zaid replied as he walked up to the office door and knocked. He got permission to enter and stepped inside his uncle’s plush office, his shoes sinking into the thick rug. It was a large room, equipped with state of the art gadgets, typical of the I.T guru that sat behind the large, mahogany desk in the centre. ‘Assalamu alaykum sir.’” Zaid greeted his uncle.
Uncle Babs looked up from the newspaper he had been reading and replied his nephew’s teslim. He folded it and placed it on the desk as he motioned with his arm for him to take a seat. Zaid sat on the leather couch and declined his uncle’s offer for refreshments. His uncle began: “Zaid, I will go straight to the point because I know we both are busy men and have tons of work to get done. What your mum told me about you, is it true? Uncle Babs asked sternly.
Zaid looked down at his shoes, mortified. “Yes, sir”. He could not look him in the eye.
‘Well then, I must say I am disappointed in you. I know that your father raised you to respect women before he died. And do not get me started on the numerous ahadeeth of the prophet and aayat in the Quran pointing to the fact that you TREAT women with DIGNITY and HONOUR. Because I know you are aware of them.
He paused for effect and continued in a gentler tone: “Zaid, I will not ask you to give me an explanation because I know you may not give me a tangible answer. I know Sumayyah, she doesn’t seem like someone who would frustrate you enough to beat her. She’s very mild mannered. Even if she had, you do not have to prove your manhood by using your fists…..”
Zaid hung his head in embarrassment as he listened to his uncle lecture him. Every word Uncle Babs spoke rang true and pierced his heart. He was utterly ashamed of himself; he had been a coward and a liar and had messed up his relationship with his wife. He vowed once again to make things right between Sumayyah and himself.
It was a Friday and Al-Bayyinah mosque was deserted as usual, except that there were a few cleaners, tidying up the place in preparation for Jumu’ah prayers. Sumayyah was at the mosque at the behest of Imaam Zakariyyah and she hoped and prayed that he had good news for her.
“Assalamu alaykum, Ummu Ramlah” the Imaam greeted.
Sumayyah turned as she heard his voice. She had been standing at the entrance to the women’s musallah and as such was backing the main entrance, where he was approaching from. She replied his teslim and soon after, they both sat outside on chairs brought to them by one of the helpers.
“Jazaakillahu khayran, Ruqayyah.” Imam Zakariyyah thanked the young girl who brought the chairs.
”Bismillah.” He started “Ummu Ramlah I spoke to your husband after Subh Solah this morning…and he denied everything. He did not seem to have any idea of what I was talking about.”
No wonder Zaid kept glancing at her with a strange look on his face this morning after he returned from the mosque and was getting ready for work. “Wallahi, yaa Imaam. Everything I told you was the unadulterated truth. I came to you because I am tired of all the lies and I want out.” Sumayyah replied.
Imaam Zakariyyah sighed and asked ‘How long did you say you have been married?’
“We have been married for five years sir.”
“Hmm. You mentioned that he was not violent towards you in the beginning. Don’t you think he may yet realise his mistakes and change for the better? No one is perfect you know”.
“That was what I thought too. But I was mistaken. Imaam, I am miserable and my life is at stake. I have had three miscarriages due to his battery, as well as numerous injuries. I want to leave sir.”
The Imaam was nodding and shaking his head at the same time as he digested this information and Sumayyah thought he felt sorry for her.
“I can see that you have your mind made up about this. But there is still one small matter: You are pregnant presently, you know the court will only rule after you have been delivered?”.
“Yes, I am aware of that sir. Please, sir, I just want to set the wheels in motion now so the process won’t take too long after my baby arrives, in shaa Allah” ‘Sumayyah pleaded desperately.
“InshaaAllah, I will link you up with a brother who will be of help. His name is AbdulHakeem Ajao and he is a lawyer.”
“Oh, Jazaakumullahu khayran sir. I am indeed grateful.“ Sumayyah was filled with hope. She was one step closer to being free.
The Thorn in The Rose
Zaid listened to one of the guest speakers at the conference on Bio-Oil he was attending. He had been tasked at the office to attend and issue a report. He nodded and took notes occasionally so much so that anyone watching would have thought he was genuinely interested. He was not. The topic was a good and stimulating one, but the speaker only made it boring with the manner he was handling it. He stifled a yawn and was glad that he was not seated at the front row. His mind wandered and he thought about Sumayyah.
Subhanallah, she had a nerve!. Reporting him to Imaam Zakariyyah like that. Alhamdulillah that he had had the presence of mind to evade the truth when they had spoken. He should have punished her for going behind his back and making him tell lies but he thought against it. He had wanted to see where it would all end and he had got his response just yesterday; A summons from the Sharia Court downtown. He was surprised: he hadn’t realised that Sumayyah had the guts to initiate a divorce process and he smiled to himself. He had been asked to appear in court in a few months time.
Zaid knew that he had to step up his game now and try to control his temper. Alhamdulillah, he would be going on an overseas trip in a week and would not be back in two months time so his interaction with his wife would be minimal. He would answer the court summons, and he was sure that everything would work in his favour. He shook his head and scoffed. Sumayyah was going to lose because there was one thing that she did not know: he was not ready to let her go.
Sumayyah paced up and down one of the court’s corridors in anxiety, waiting to be called into the office by the Qaadi (Judge). They were in As-Sunnah Masjid which had a building extension serving as the sharia court where the Qadi presided. Her two-month-old baby, Yusuf was asleep in his stroller, and she had Khadeejah watching over him. She was a nervous wreck and all she wanted was to get the proceedings over with. Zaid was in there now with the judge, as it was a private hearing, and she could only wonder what he was telling the judge because he had been in there for a long time.
She desperately wished her mother was around to support her, but she had died during her sixth month of pregnancy. The news of her mother’s death had shattered her already fragile state of mind and she soon became frustrated with severe mood swings and persistent feelings of despair and irritability. She looked a mess because she did not bother to take care of herself and was not getting enough sleep either.
In truth, she just wanted to be free of Zaid, which was why she had informed lawyer AbdulHakeem that she would still go ahead with the divorce proceedings when he had suggested that they wait a little longer due to her fragile state. The sooner she got it over with, the better for her, she had thought. The door to the office down the corridor opened and Zaid stepped out, looking triumphant. Sumayyah stopped pacing and watched him as he sauntered toward her, grinning. He walked past her, over to the stroller and stroked his baby’s cheeks.
“Sis Sumayyah you may come in now” The judge, Sheikh Umar Abdulwahab called out to her.
‘”I will be back soon ok?” Sumayyah assured Khadeejah and she walked to the office
The Qaadi’s office was large and simple: shelves filled with volumes and volumes of books lined the walls. There was a long desk made of polished wood in the centre or the room and the Qaadi sat behind it in his rotating chair.
“Assalamu alaykum sis Sumayyah. Please do have a seat” Sheikh Umar told her.
“Waalaykumsalam warahmatullahi. Thank you, sir.” Sumayyah seated herself opposite him at the desk. She noticed he was an elderly man, probably in his early sixties and although he had a kind demeanour, Sumayyah couldn’t help but feel terrified. Her shaking hands rattled on the desk, the sound piercing the silence in the room. She held her hands together to keep them from shaking and placed them in her lap. She took deep breaths to calm herself and regain her composure.
Sheikh Umar started by giving the Sermon of need and afterwards informed her that he needed to ask her a few questions. He began:
“State your business here”.
She told him. ”I would like my marriage to my husband to be nullified”.
“On what grounds?”.
“Physical and emotional abuse”.
“Can you provide proof of this physical abuse you have claimed?”.
She cleared her throat and said in a voice that shook, “I-i I have lost babies, I have scars…”
“Scars our female officers have looked at and determined could have been caused by something other than what you claim. I need weightier proof sister: medical reports and the likes”.
Sumayyah did not have those. Zaid had always taken her to unknown hospitals so she had never had the opportunity to get medical reports.
“I don’t have any of that but I swear to you that I am telling the truth.” Sheikh Umar nodded and took some notes.
“You say your marriage is entering its sixth year?”. Sumayyah nodded. “Has your husband always been violent toward you?”.
“No, sir. He started a year after we got married”.
“Does your husband provide for you; I mean your basic needs: food, clothing, shelter?”.
“Yes he does”
“Does he deny you your conjugal rights”
“No, he does not”. Sheikh Umar nodded again and took more notes. Finally, he looked up and said:
“Sister Sumayyah, in this court our main objective is to uphold and preserve the family unit. Only In cases where it has been proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the continued union of both parties will be detrimental, do we dissolve marriages. That being said, I have spoken with your husband. And he swore that he has no idea about all the allegations you levelled against him. He also swore that he loves you and would do anything not to lose you. Mind you, prior to your appearance in court, we also conducted our own thorough investigations, based on the information you both provided initially. We spoke to members of your families, members of your local community, even your friends. The information they all provided pointed to one thing: that your husband, Zaid Erinosho is a good and caring religious man who loves his family and had given them no reason to believe otherwise.”
Sumayyah opened her mouth to protest but he held his palm out and said ‘please sister allow me finish.”
He rummaged through his file and held out a piece of paper. “What I have in my hand is a medical report from your family physician, doctor Musliudeen. It states here that you were diagnosed with postpartum depression while you were pregnant. It says and I quote: ‘depressive disorder with peripartum onset occurring during the 7th month of pregnancy and continuing on after delivery. The patient is characterized by diminished ability to make decisions and think clearly…” Sheikh Umar looked up from the paper at her ‘”That is just some of the symptoms listed here. Is this correct?”.
“Yes sir ” Sumayyah was becoming more desperate.
Sheikh Umar put the report back in his file, cleared his throat and continued firmly but with pity in his voice. “Based on the evidence before this court, and after meticulous deliberation, the court has unanimously decided that your nikah remains valid and will not be nullified. It is clear that you made this decision due to the illness you are still clearly suffering from. Go home and I urge you to get the help you need for your sake and that of your family’s. You will see that everything will be alright in insha’Allah. I wish you well sister.
Sumayyah was shaking from head to toe and was sweating profusely. How come everyone was blind to Zaid’s true nature? She realized then and there that she had been complicit. Perhaps if she had spoken out before now things wouldn’t have ended this way. She had to make the qaadi see, so she pulled her chair back and reached out across the desk to grab his arm.
“Please sir I beseech you, do not make me go back to that house .. back to him. Please I – I can show you, you’ll see I am not lying…” She was shouting hysterically now. “Please help me…!”
Sheikh Umar tried to extricate his arm from her punishing grip. He succeeded and called out to the guard outside the door to get her out. The female guard came in and gently pried her away from the office.
Sumayyah struggled and screamed as the guard half –carried her out of the office. She looked through her tears down the corridor and saw Zaid with a satisfied smile on his lips. He walked up to them and told the guard ‘Jazaakillahu khayran, I will take it from here.”. He lifted her into his arms and called to Khadeejah. ”Let’s go home”.
He had won. Sumayyah succumbed to the darkness that was sucking her in and soon she was unconscious in his arms.
It was weekend and Zaid was home, enjoying the cool evening breeze on the veranda outside. The house was quiet because it was holiday season and the kids had travelled to Abuja to spend it with his sister, Zainab and her family, so he was home alone with Sumayyah. The days had rolled into weeks and the weeks into months, but all that time had not gotten him closer to achieving his aim of winning her back. He had tried to spend time with her, engage her in conversation, even tried to do her favourite things with her but she had always found an excuse not to. If she wasn’t doing her catering classes, she was either tired or wasn’t in the mood.
She was shutting him out and he had not found a way back in. Zaid’s work at the office was suffering too due to his lack of concentration and he even looked a little gaunt because he wasn’t eating well. He prayed for complete absolution from Allah every waking moment, at every solah and, during his tahajjud. He also knew in his heart of hearts that he needed to seek Sumayyah’s forgiveness as well but he was afraid that she would reject and scorn him. This way of life could not go on, they had to face their issues once and for all. Zaid let out a heavy sigh and summoned up courage: he stood up from the chair he had been sitting on and went in to find Sumayyah. She was in their room lying on the bed, reading a book. He cleared his throat. “Su-Sumayyah please I would like to have a word with you. “
What now. Sumayyah closed the book she had been reading, sat up in bed and replied in an emotionless voice: “Okay. What’s on your mind?”.
‘”I want us to discuss our marriage” .. he hesitated and sat beside her on the bed “I mean we live like strangers now. We don’t do things together, we hardly speak to each other… “ he sighed and continued “The situation is making me unhappy and…”
This man is delusional. All of the emotions she had suppressed came bubbling to the surface, anger on the top of the list. Sumayyah got up breathing heavily, trying to control it.
“Subhanallah, Zaid you come in here and speak to me about you being unhappy? How DARE you? Do you know what it feels like to be unhappy? To be constantly mistreated by your spouse and not knowing what you had done to deserve it? You took six miscarriages from me Zaid, five of which ended in D&C. FIVE!”. She spread her palm in emphasis. “Do you know what multiple D&Cs do to a woman’s womb? Hmm, answer me“ She got no reply. “It gradually DESTROYS it.”
She was close to tears now and her voice was rising ‘ I loved you Zaid, I would have done anything for you. ..but you chose to hurt me. Why?” Zaid could only shake his head, he had no answer for her. She continued: “You battered my body and broke my spirit. Do you know how it felt to have family and friends think you were gradually loosing your mind? You can’t give me an answer, can you? Because you have no idea.”
“You perpetrated all this evil and you never, not even for once apologised for your actions. So I put it to you Zaid, that you have no right to come in here and tell me you are unhappy, because you cannot even begin to imagine how it REALLY FEELS LIKE!” She turned away from him in disgust and moved towards the door.
Forgive me Sumayyah. Zaid had been on his feet as well all through her outburst, with tears streaming down his cheeks. “Wait Sumayyah don’t leave, please. I am truly sorry for everything I put you through. How can I make it right? I want to see the smile on your face again. Tell me please.”
Sumayyah was almost out of the room with her hand on the doorknob. She turned to him: “You want to make things right, make me happy?” Zaid nodded and she continued in a cold voice “Then divorce me Zaid. I will be the happiest woman on earth if you do.” She closed the door and walked away.
I don’t want to lose you. Zaid fell to his knees on the floor and cried his heart out.
The Thorn in The Rose
The following day, Zaid requested an audience with Imaam Zakariyyah at the masjid immediately after Subh solah. They proceeded to have a rather long chat beginning with him apologizing to the Imaam for what he had done and afterwards informing him of the events that had taken place at home the previous day. Imaam Zakariyyah listened patiently and replied Zaid when he finished speaking.
“Hmm, Brother Zaid first of all, to be clear, I hold nothing against you. I gave you excuses a long time ago and I have forgotten about the matter. I urge you to do the same. Secondly, regarding the matter you have just disclosed to me, I can only say that the ball is in your court. You can either divorce Sumayyah and allow her to find happiness elsewhere and with someone else, while you will continue to make your peace with Allah and pick back the pieces of your life. Alternately, you may decide not to divorce her, try to right all the wrongs you committed and strive to make her happy once again, just like in the beginning.” He paused.
If my daughter’s husband ever treated her the way you did your wife he would be in serious trouble. The Imaam kept these thoughts to himself. He was the spiritual leader of the community after all, and he owed them good and sincere advice whenever they sought it from him. Hence he could not make statements that would escalate the situation or sway Zaid’s mind in any way: whatever decision he made had to his alone. He could see that Zaid had realized his mistake and was sorry. To Zaid he continued, saying “Such a decision cannot be rushed into. Go home, observe your istikhaara, bare your heart out to Allah and think very deeply. May Allah guide you to decide what is best for your family.” He finished.
“Jazaakumullahu khayran yaa Imaam. Thank you for being there and for sparing your time; I am indeed grateful. I will think about what you said in shaa Allah.” Zaid replied. They parted and he returned home. It was Sunday, so he did not have to prepare to go to the office. He sought Sumayyah out and found her in the kitchen, cleaning and preparing to start breakfast. “Assalamu alaykum Sumayyah.”
“Waalaykumsalam warahmatullahi. Good morning. Do you need something? She asked in her usual aloof manner.
Zaid sighed. He did not want to go on living this way, he preferred the old Sumayyah; not this cold and distant one. Though he loved her, he would not settle for this new version of her. He realized then, what he had to do: “No I don’t need anything. I just came in here to inform you that I would be going on a trip today in shaa Allah. I need to get away from here so I can think without distractions.”
“May I ask where and for how long?” Sumayyah inquired.
Hmm, she still cares enough to ask. Perhaps I still have a chance. “It’s not an official trip, so I can’t say where yet.” He thought for a while. “Maybe I’ll go to PortHarcourt and stay at one of the company’s lodges. I need to think and make a decision about …’ he cleared his throat. ‘..our discussion yesterday. I’ll try to get back next Sunday InshaaAllah.”
“Alright then. Have a safe trip” Sumayyah continued with her chores.
“Thank you. I’ll go get ready.”
A few hours later Zaid was on his way in an Uber cab to the domestic wing of Murtala Muhammad Airport. He intended to be without any form of distractions in the following week so he called Mama Sho and informed her of his trip and that his phones would be switched off for the duration. He told her everything that had transpired between Sumayyah and himself but made her swear not to tell any other member of their family. He also informed his boss at the office that he had some pressing family issues that had to be resolved ASAP and that he would be absent for a week. He meant to find himself again and he prayed that Allah would guide him to make the right decision.
Sumayyah awakened to Zaid calling her name. She was so tired and she wanted nothing more than to continue sleeping, She stirred and pulled the covers higher over her head.
“Sumayyah wake up. You need to take something and Yusuf needs you.” Zaid said.
At the mention of her baby’s name, her foggy mind slowly began to clear and she started to open her eyes “My baby..?”
“He is fine. Khadeejah has been feeding him Milk Formula but he has been crying all day. I took Ramlah to Mama Sho’s when she kept asking to see you.”
She sat up in bed feeling groggy. “How long have I been out?” The last thing she remembered was being in Zaid’s arms at the Shariah court. The memories came flooding back and her misery, plus a feeling of dread slowly returned. She had failed and he had won.
“You have been unconscious for a whole day. Doctor Musliudeen came home and gave you some injections. He said you’ll be fine.” Zaid replied and sat in the armchair by the bed. He continued ‘Sumayyah, what were you thinking?”.
She knew what he was referring to, but she could not give him an answer.
“You ought to have known that you could not win. Besides, I still love you and I am not ready to let you go. It’s just that I have to discipline you now and again when you err. Why can’t you understand that? I AM THE MAN OF THE HOUSE after all.”
She really doubted that he loved her. Maybe he did once but not anymore. “So was it love that made you lie to everyone? You know I don’t deserve the way you treat me Zaid. Besides, any man who acts like you do is not fit to be called ‘man of the house’ but a COWARD”. She didn’t care about the consequences of her words, he had to know.
Zaid raised his arm instinctively to strike her but he checked himself. He clenched his fist while lowering his arm and said through clenched teeth. “You are very fortunate: you just regained consciousness and Khadeejah is in the house. I would have taught you not to speak to your husband in that manner.” He got up to leave and said: “I will instruct Khadeejah to prepare something for you to eat. In the meantime, you can go take a bath or something. I will bring Yusuf to you when you are through.” He walked towards the door of the room.
Sumayyah called to his retreating back: “Zaid, what happened to you? You were not like this before. What brought about the change?”. She was desperate to know.
Zaid stopped in his tracks and shook his head. He remained standing in silence for a while, but he did not give her an answer. “Freshen yourself up” he muttered gruffly over his shoulder and left the room.
Sumayyah slumped back in bed and wept. Her life was a mess. She was stuck in a marriage with a man who maltreated her and whom she was beginning to despise. The future looked bleak, but she would endure for her children’s sake. Only for her children.
The house was eerily silent, with the kids and Zaid absent Sumayyah was all alone. She had just finished praying and making du’a to Allah for guidance and strength to face whatever the future may bring. Zaid was due back in a few hours time; he had called to inform her of his itinerary. From the airport, he would stop over at Mama Sho’s before continuing on home. This reminded her of the conversation she had with Mama Sho the Monday past. Mama Sho had paid her an impromptu visit the next day that Zaid had left for Port Harcourt. She informed her that Zaid had told her everything and implored her to rethink her request for a divorce.
“Amoke, iyawo mi (my wife). Don’t do this I beg you. He has changed for the better truly, just give him a chance.”
“Mama Sho, though it pains me to do this, I have to. It is for the best. My feelings for Zaid are no longer what they used to be. It’s been that way for a long time now.”
“But what about your children. Think of them, please. Ma kunle fun e ( I will go on my knees).” She began to bend her knees.
Sumayyah had hastily pulled her back up. “Ah Subhanallah ma, don’t do that, please. E joko pada(Sit back down). Mama Sho did and Sumayyah continued:
“Ma, I have thought and prayed about this long and hard and in shaa Allah I know it is the best thing for me. I have been severely hurt by your son; both physically and emotionally; and I need time to heal. Sadly I can not do that here …with him, in this house. There are too many bad memories here. Believe it or not ma, I am well on the way to forgiving him but it will take time.”
She paused, sighed and then continued: “You say I should stay for the kids, but they have their own lives to live. If I had lost mine, then theirs and Zaid’s would have gone on, and no one would have been to blame but me. Because I refused to speak out.” Sumayyah waited to hear what Mama Sho’s response would be.
“Once again I’m so sorry for what you have been through, but still my dear, reconsider him, for all our sakes.” Mama Sho had pleaded.
Sumayyah decided to try another tactic: “Mama Sho, let me ask you a question ma. Let’s say you found out that sister Zainab’s husband battered her often, to the extent that she lost not one or two but five pregnancies. What would you have done? I know ma, that you won’t take it lying down at all…..”
Mama Sho nodded her head as Sumayyah continued to try to convince her.
That was almost a week ago and Sumayyah’s resolve had not wavered. She prayed that Zaid would give her the news that she so badly wanted to hear. Soon enough she heard him come into the compound and greet S.O. He is back. Her heartbeat increased in anticipation and her palms were sweaty. This is it, she thought
Zaid stepped into the living room and greeted Sumayyah. “Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu. How are you?” Subhanallah, she looks even more beautiful than when I left.
“Waalaykumsalam warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu, Zaid. Welcome. I hope your trip was fruitful?” she asked anxiously.
Oh, my dear Sumayyah. “Thank you. And yes my trip was fruitful. He looked at her with sad eyes: “I have thought about your request and I have come to a conclusion.”
Sumayyah’s heart almost beat out of her chest, she had to know what he was determined to do. ‘”What have you decided?” she asked shakily.
“I -… he was interrupted by his phone ringing. It was his boss. “Sorry, Sumayyah I have to take this. I’ll be right back.” He moved towards the dining area to discuss with him.
Sumayyah sat down on the nearest settee and waited. Although she tried to, she could not bring herself to relax. That call cannot be over soon enough for me.
“And if you fear dissension between the two, send an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people. If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause it between them. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Acquainted [with all things].”
Q 4 vs 35.
Episode Twelve (FINALE)
The call took longer than expected because they had a lot to discuss, but at last, thirty minutes later Zaid ended the call and came back into the living room. He spotted Sumayyah on the settee and he apologised: “I am sorry about that. My boss needed me to clarify some things; you know I was absent for a while.”
“No problem. I made lunch. Maybe you should eat before …” Sumayyah let her voice trail off.
Before we discuss our fate right?. “Oh, jazaakillahu khayran but no, thanks. I already had lunch at Mama Sho’s. I will take it for dinner in shaa Allah.”
Zaid sat beside her on the couch and took her hands in his. He looked deep into her eyes, sighed and began to speak:
“Sumayyah, I did a lot of soul searching this past week. I regret every single thing that I have done to you and I can only pray for forgiveness from Allah while hoping that you will find it in your heart to forgive me. I know absolutely nothing can justify all I did but my time alone made me realise that perhaps the reason why I behaved in such an ungodly manner was that I just needed to lord it over someone weaker than I was.
As you well know, I am the last child and the only son of my parents , and I have always had someone bossing me around, telling me what to do. First it was my dad before his death, after that it was my mum and sisters. I was never fully in control. Then I married you. I loved you… in my own way but I just got overwhelmed by the authority that I had and I misused it. I knew in my heart and soul that it was bad; the prophet (Saw) did not lay down such an example, but I couldn’t bring myself to stop. I am so sorry Sumayyah, can you forgive me please?” He pleaded with tears in his eyes.
Oh, Zaid. Despite all that he had done to her, Sumayyah felt sorry for him. She nodded her head.
Alhamdulillah. Zaid heaved a sigh of relief and felt his spirit rise. “Please say the words, I want to hear you say them”.
“I forgive you Zaid.” Sumayyah said softly with a small smile and she meant every word.
Zaid smiled back and continued. “I do not expect this to change anything. I realise that my actions caused a scar in your heart and you no longer feel for me, what you used to before. Subhanallah, if any man ever mistreated Ramlah, I would never stand for it. I guess all those years I never thought of it that way.” Zaid finished sadly.
That was your mistake Zaid. “You are correct, Zaid. I don’t love you like I used to. For a long time, I have only seen you as the father of my children and nothing more. I spoke out and requested divorce because I want to be happy once again but I know that my happiness no longer lies with you. You do understand that don’t you?” Sumayyah inquired gently.
I do now. Zaid replied her “Of course. And thank you for speaking out, you saved us both. I would have continued oppressing you. Alhamdulillah, now I am on the road to being a better man in shaa Allah.”
He sighed. “I don’t want to live with just a shell of you Sumayyah; I mean the emotionless and distant you. If we remain together, I know that you will only continue to despise me and I don’t want that. I want good memories to erase the bad ones of me you have, which is why I have decided to oblige your request. I will divorce you Sumayyah because although I will always love you, I want you to heal and be happy. Even if it is not with me.” He finished with a sad smile.
Subhanallah.Alhamdulillah.Allahu Akbar. Her duas had been granted. Sumayyah was overcome with emotion. Tears sprang to her eyes. “I-I don’t know what to say. Thank you”. She was shedding tears of joy now.
I made her happy one last time. Zaid watched her with tears in his eyes too and he was glad that he had not been selfish but had manned up and made the right decision. He had one final request though. “Sumayyah I am glad we are parting on such cordial terms. I want you to do me one last favour.”
“Anything”. she whispered through her tears.
Let me hold you one last time. “Can I get a hug?”.
“Of course,” Sumayyah said and laughed amid her tears.
They hugged each other, both weeping; one out of joy and the other out of loss. But neither of them cried out of regret. They both knew that their journey together
had been destined by Allah for reasons best known to Him. Perhaps he wanted them to learn some things about themselves they would not have otherwise found out if they hadn’t been together, Wallahul’alam. They would never know for sure. What they were positive about was that Allah would set right their affairs when they parted ways.
Zaid pulled out of the hug and said to her: “I want to this properly and by the book. So I will go out and call in Mikaeel and Imaam Zakariyyah. I picked them both on my way home to act as witnesses inshaa Allah.” Sumayyah hadn’t realised that he had arrived at the house with visitors. He stepped outside and promptly returned with them both in tow.
As soon as the pleasantries were over, Imaam Zakariyyah said Alhamdulillah, I believe we all know why we are gathered here….” and he proceeded to give a short sermon. He began by reciting from the Noble Qur’an, the first six verses of Suuratul Talaq, which reads:
“O Prophet, when you [Muslims] divorce women, divorce them for [the commencement of] their waiting period and keep count of the waiting period, and fear Allah, your Lord. Do not turn them out of their [husbands’] houses, nor should they [themselves] leave [during that period] unless they are committing a clear immorality. And those are the limits [set by] Allah. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah has certainly wronged himself. You know not; perhaps Allah will bring about after that a [different] matter.” (One).
“And when they have [nearly] fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or part with them according to acceptable terms. And bring to witness two just men from among you and establish the testimony for [the acceptance of] Allah. That is instructed to whoever should believe in Allah and the Last day. And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out” (Two).
“And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” (Three)
“And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women – if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated. And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him of his matter ease.” (Four).
“That is the command of Allah, which He has sent down to you; and whoever fears Allah – He will remove for him his misdeeds and make great for him his reward.” (Five).
“Lodge them [in a section] of where you dwell out of your means and do not harm them in order to oppress them. And if they should be pregnant, then spend on them until they give birth. And if they breastfeed for you, then give them their payment and confer among yourselves in the acceptable way; but if you are in discord, then there may breastfeed for the father another woman.” (Six).
Afterwards, he gave them Naseeha (advice) about how to deal with the children and each other afterwards and concluded by telling them he was pleased that they were separating on good terms. He looked to Zaid when he was through, giving him the go-ahead to commence.
Zaid pronounced the words of the divorce thrice; “Anti Taaliq”; and it sounded like music to Sumayyah’s ears. “Go and be happy Sumayyah. You deserve to be.” He said.
“Jazaakumullahu khayran, Zaid. I wish you all the happiness in the world too.” Sumayyah knew she had three months for her Iddah. She would make necessary preparations during the period. For now, she would bask in the ambience of her newfound freedom. Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah…
THREE YEARS LATER
“Maryam, we will surely get home late if we don’t leave now. Say your goodbyes and let’s go.” Sabeel called out to his 9-year-old daughter from his car, where he was waiting for her. He had come to pick her from school so they could go home but Maryam had been standing at the school gate ‘gisting’ with her friend. Responding to her father’s request, Maryam hugged her friend a final time and skipped towards the car.
Sabeel watched his daughter skip towards him, with her purple school hijab flying in the wind, and he was reminded again how much like her mother she looked. He had lost his wife Rofeeah, two years past due to complications during childbirth and sadly they had lost the baby girl too. She would have been named Bushrah; a glad tiding from Allah crowning the hardship they had faced trying to conceive after they had Maryam. Rofeeah had suffered an ectopic pregnancy, and then fibroids. The journey hadn’t been an easy one and her subsequent death had been very painful for Sabeel and Maryam both but Alhamdulillah, Allah had seen them through it all.
‘’Assalamu alaykum Abu.” Maryam was breathing hard as she greeted her dad. She opened the passenger door and hopped into the seat, at the same time throwing her school bag in the back seat.
“Waalaykumsalam warahmatullah sweetie. How was school today? You kept me waiting.” He pouted playfully.
“Sorry daddy, I was telling Ramlah about the after party at the house on graduation day. You know she’s in the secondary school and I won’t be happy if my bff is not present.” Maryam explained.
“Ok. What is ‘bff’ by the way?” Sabeel asked curiously.
Maryam rolled her eyes; “Abu it means ‘best friend forever.’ I have told you zillion times.” She said, exasperatedly.
Sabeel loved teasing his daughter, he knew what ‘bff’ meant. “Zillion? That is a big word for a 9year old. How did you come by it?”.
Maryam threw her hands up in the air and said “I give up daddy. YOU taught me that word and I know you remember but you are just teasing me.”
They both laughed while Sabeel started the ignition and drove out of the school parking lot. They had moved to Lagos from Calabar, where he had been working with an Auditing firm, the year after Rofeeah’s death. He had been transferred and he was grateful that they would be leaving the city and those painful memories behind.
Maryam was enrolled into Primary five at Precious Springs Group of Schools and she had quickly befriended a senior student, Ramlah, when the latter had found out that they both shared the same Yoruba name; Morenikeji.
According to Maryam’s story about how they had met, Ramlah had come from the secondary section and entered their classroom; intending to say hello to her former class teacher. They had both hit it off since then and were inseparable.
He often wondered how a senior student in J.S.S.One could be best friends with a pupil in Pry Five, but alas their friendship was standing the test of time. Maryam was now in Pry six and would soon be graduating to join Ramlah in the secondary school. Her voice broke into his thoughts: “Abu I Hope you have not forgotten that we have to stop by at the caterers?”.
“No, I haven’t.” Maryam’s teacher had helped solve the dilemma of finding a professional caterer to handle the food for the graduation party they were planning. “I don’t have their complimentary card here but I will write down the office address and their number so you can give them a call. They are really good, Wallahi.” Maryam’s teacher had told him while handing him the sheet of paper she had scribbled the information on.
Sabeel had thanked her and he had called the office. The receptionist had fixed him an appointment for today for five pm. Driving through Lagos in the evening was hectic, with traffic jams here and there, but they made it just in time to the caterer’s offices and they went inside the building.
“Assalamu alaykum”. Sabeel said to the receptionist at the lobby. He had made teslim because he saw that she wore the hijab. The office was modest but lush and he nodded his head concluding that the owner had quite good taste.
‘”Walaykumsalam warahmatullahi sir. The receptionist smiled. “Welcome to Mayah’s Edibles. How may I help you?”.
“I have an appointment with your boss for five pm? I called last week”. he ventured.
“Alright, sir. If you would be kind enough to give me your name sir, so I can confirm..”
“Sure. Maryam Babalola.” He supplied. He had booked the appointment with his daughter’s name.
“Thank you. Give me a minute sir.” She typed the name into the desktop computer in front of her and stared at the screen. She soon nodded after a few seconds, smiled and looked up at him “You may go in sir. Just walk down the corridor and turn right.”
‘Thank you” Sabeel said and he and Maryam both followed the receptionist’s directions. They soon reached the office but the DO NOT DISTURB sign was up, so they had to sit down and wait on the couch by the door.
Just then, the door to another room which Sabeel assumed to be the restroom opened and Ramlah walked out of it. Maryam looked up and spotted her friend and shouted excitedly;
“Ramlah! What are you doing here?”.
“My mum owns this business and that is her office.” She pointed at the closed door. “What are YOU doing here?” She was as surprised as her friend.
“Wow, Subhanallah! Who would have thought? My dad and I are here to make reservations for the grad party I told you about. We hear your mum’s dishes are really good.” Maryam answered her friend.
“That they are. Don’t worry she is observing solah, she will call you in soon. Oops, Subhanallah” Ramlah covered her mouth with her palms. “I am sorry sir, I got carried away, I should have greeted you first. Assalamu alaykum sir.”
Sabeel only smiled, replied her teslim and told her not to worry about it. The girls soon began to chatter away and forgot he was there at all. They excused themselves a few minutes later when Ramlah offered to show Maryam around the establishment.
He was glad that his daughter had befriended someone as smart and respectful like Ramlah. He took out his phone and began to read through his pending WhatsApp messages to while away time. After a few minutes, the door to the office opened and a woman walked out. ‘’Assalamu alaykum. I am truly sorry to have kept you wait…. Subhanallah! Ameer?” She exclaimed when she set her eyes on him.
Sabeel looked up and saw who it was: He had never thought to see her again but here she was: Sumayyah, in flesh and blood. Looking more radiant than ever. “Subhanallah indeed. Walaykumasalam warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu. What a pleasant surprise! It is good to see you. How are you?”
‘”I am good and you?”. Fancy meeting you here and like this.” She said gesturing with her arms.
“I am fine Alhamdulillah. I can see you’ve done well for yourself”. Sabeel said motioning with his arms around the room. Baarakallahu fee”
“Aamen. Alhamdulillah, It puts food on the table and pays the bills.” Sumayyah laughed as she replied him. “I sorry I only allow female visitors into the office. I’m sure you understand”.
“Of course, it’s not a problem. We can talk out here right?” And they began to catch up on a whole lot of stuff.
Now, three days later Sabeel still smiled whenever he remembered their meeting. He had been shocked when Sumayyah had informed him that she and Zaid were divorced, although she hadn’t divulged much about the reason behind it. He had lost contact with a lot of people especially those from University which was why he hadn’t contacted any of his former colleagues who lived in Lagos.
They had concluded their business and had exchanged contacts with him even getting Zaid’s from her as well. He had contacted Zaid and their friendship was rekindled.
Sabeel could not shake the meeting with Sumayyah off as just a coincidence, he believed that Allah had given him a second chance. This time, he was determined not to miss it.
It was six months after the surprise meeting with Sabeel and Sumayyah had not been able to get him off her mind since then. She was seated in her office trying to get some work done but was finding it really hard concentrating. Sumayyah had been even more pleasantly surprised when she had learned that Ramlah’s best friend/school daughter, whom she always talked about was his daughter Maryam.
Their interactions with each other had increased a lot since then; they had met at Maryam’s graduation party, they met at school functions and they had even met at Zaid’s new baby’s aqeeqah the other day. Yes, Zaid had remarried the year before and now had a baby girl.
After the divorce, the kids, especially Ramlah had asked a lot of questions, and both Zaid and Sumayyah had tried to explain the situation to them in a manner that their young minds could comprehend. Alhamdulillah, Ramlah and Yusuf had transitioned fairly well and Zaid took his responsibilities towards them very seriously.
Although Sumayyah had custody of them both since they were still young and needed their mother, they still spent time with him at his home very often and even spent holidays with their grandma and his sisters. Sumayyah’s relationship with Mama Sho and her sisters-in-law remained cordial, with her getting referrals and business propositions from them.
Sumayyah had started the catering business not long after her Iddah (waiting period) and Alhamdulillah, it had grown into what it was today.
Her thoughts drifted back to Sabeel. It had not taken long for her to open up to Sabeel about her experiences with Zaid because apart from being a very handsome man and gentle man, he was a good listener and was wise as well. He had not pried at all; she had told him of her own accord. Perhaps that was why he was loved by all when he had been the Ameer back in school.
Sumayyah turned her swivel chair toward the window, sighed and looked out dreamily, pen in hand and with a small smile on her face. Sabeel had awakened in her, feelings that she had long since buried; a feat none of the few suitors she had had over the past three years had ever accomplished. She realized that these feelings she had developed for him were strong and she thought that he felt the same way about her. Which was why his marriage proposal to her a few days ago had come as no surprise to her.
All her instincts screamed for her to go for it. Ramlah and Yusuf loved both him and Maryam and even Sumayyah knew that they were hoping and praying that perhaps both she and Sabeel would get together and they would all be one big happy family. She felt that maybe her own happy ending was just about to begin.