8. Intertwined Destinies

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From al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah (may Allaah be pleased with him): “I proposed marriage to a woman, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Have you seen her?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Look at her, because it is more fitting that love and compatibility be established between you.” According to another report: “So he did that, and he married her and mentioned that they got along.”

-Ibn Maajah; graded as Saheeh


* * *

The aroma of different delicacies wafted through the air, filling up all the nooks and crannies of the Moideen household. The smell was so divine, it could tempt anyone into gaffing all the scrumptious food that was laid on the table, ready to be served. The sight of it was so pleasing, it could fill so many stomachs by a mere glance over what was spread.

All famous Indian cuisines seemed to have made it to the table that day. There were pooris, dosas, butter naan, and chicken gravy. And oh, even aloos, idlis, samosas, and macroni. Vadas, chutney, and sambhar were added to the list too. Desserts had an entire litany of their own.

Eshaal’s mother had truly outdone herself.

She had been on a cooking spree since dawn, and none of the household members had been able to deter her.
The house had been washed, the carpets had been changed, and the windows had been dusted. When she checked and double checked to make sure the house was spick and span, she moved on to the kitchen, indulging all her culinary skills in making a scrumptious breakfast for the family who could potentially be her daughter’s in-laws.

There was a lot of hustle and bustle going on in Eshaal’s house with her mom running about, her brother ranting, and her father watching things unfold with amusement contrary to the climate outside their haven. It was already nine in the morning; but it being a Sunday, the whole city still seemed to be wrapped up in their blankets, snoring away delightfully. Even the sun was being lazy today and hesitant in gracing them with its presence. It kept peeking through the dense water-laden nimbus clouds and going back for its siesta.

Amidst the cloudy atmosphere and the chaos going on in her house, Eshaal sat in her dining room, her eyes glaring unseeingly at the food that beckoned her, enticing her into finishing it all off.

Her mind was in a haze. Her thoughts were all muddled. Her hands were clasped in confusion, and her brows drawn together in contempt. She was still in state of undress as she was desperately groping for reasons to postpone the meeting. Her mind searched for excuses. What could she say? She had a fever? A cold? But that would not entirely put off the process.

An upset stomach, perhaps? Or maybe she could feign faint? A low groan escaped her. This is leading nowhere!

She let out a sigh, running her fingers through her hair. The rational part of her brain knew that these excuses would not lead her anywhere. No good would come out of them. If anything, all the unpleasant processes would only be pushed to a different date. There would be no talk of applying full stops to them. No way would her people let her remain the way she was—single. Far from it actually. If her mother so much as got a little hint on the thoughts that were roaming in her head, she would, without a shadow of doubt, throw a fit and have her pleading for forgiveness.

Eshaal drew in her lips between her teeth. Her mind took a brief moment to weigh all possibilities. These excuses of hers, she decided, were just that—excuses. They were not the solutions she was seeking. In no way would they help bring her permanent relief. Her eyes settled on the ceiling. She sent a silent prayer heavenward, bared her heart, and told Him that she didn’t want to meet any suitors who would look her up and down.

Her brother yelled at someone from the neighbouring room. Crows cawed. She looked on ahead, slowly coming to a decision to face her fears once and for all. A ragged breath escaped her at that. She shut her eyes. Despite herself, she could not bring herself to expect any positive outcome of it all. Marriage in itself was not the issue for Eshaal; but she definitely was, to a great extent, apprehensive about the process that came before it all. She did not want any unpleasant meetings, she didn’t want any nosy aunt who would question her all the things she abhorred, she did not want to be rated on what she had and what she didn’t, and she most definitely did not want to face rejections citing all that she lacked.

Her heart desired to postpone this phase of her life, stall it indefinitely, and go back to sleep; but sleep—her favourite company of all time—had deserted her for the last two days. She had had restless nights on account of this meeting with quality sleep miles away.

Traitor!

Rida had volunteered to cover up for her at the center; and her friends gave her a hug to calm her nerves. Manha had told her to stay cool time and again and Eshaal held on to the advise, managing perfectly fine until a few minutes ago; but when the huge grandfather clock in her drawing room struck nine, that was all that had taken for her to lose her nerves again. Uneasiness had started to take root within her coupled with insecurity of the finest order.

They would be coming any moment now!

She was still in her house clothes. A thick top with its matching salwar and a dupatta lazily draped over her shoulders, she did not appear in the least inclined to dress up. In all honesty, Eshaal was actually suprised her mother hadn’t noticed her state of undress yet.

“Eshaal, will you be sitting there all day or will you even do something? Go get dressed!” her mother yelled from the kitchen.

Eshaal looked up, bewildered. Do you have telepathic abilities, Ma?

“Eshaaal! Don’t make me lose my temper!”

“I’m going, I’m going!” she yelled before hastily dashing to her room.


* * *

She looked into the mirror once she was done changing, not wanting to overdo it. The guy was still her na mehram, and it wouldn’t be good to go in front of him all dolled up. Not only would it mean going against her principles, but it would also be disappointing if someone wanted her just for her looks and not for who she truly was. She was more than what was visible of her. If someone did not want her for her mind and her soul, preferring her body over it all, it was their loss anyway. 

Eshaal took in her reflection in the mirror. She was dressed in a modest dark green and white kali with her scarf draped in a careful way so as to not reveal her form or shape. She appeared elegant and modest. She sighed, satisfied with what met her eyes.

Hijab, a scarf or head scarf as it was commonly interpreted by the masses, was often mistakenly perceived by them in regard to what it truly meant. Despite the most popular belief, the blessed ones upon the right path understood it for what it actually was. Those of whom who were truly looking for guidance, by the grace of the One above, found it in their lives regardless of the adulterations that had been added to the religion over the years. The truth lay in its glaring clarity for anyone who wanted to learn—Islaam always laid emphasis on the true form of a hijab: modesty in all segments of life.

Hijab was, in truth, much more than what most people considered it to be. It wasn’t just a piece of cloth covering Muslim women’s head. It was a form of modesty—a form of exhibiting their faith. Its beauty lay in not wearing clothes that revealed their body shapes to those it was not supposed to be revealed to—it lay in their behaviour, in their speech, in their actions, and in them choosing not to interact with people of the opposite gender unnecessarily.

There was no doubt with regard to the fact that excessive widening of people’s mind over the years had brought along with it certain things that had tarnished the true essence of man’s fitrah. He had accepted things that were morally wrong. He had given the green signal to things that were, in his true conscience, incorrect. Trying to fit in the “cool” image of what the media assured to be right, everyone had accepted things they didn’t want to do—started doing things they didn’t even like.

Gradually, the madness had spread to the later generations too. It had led the successive generations to believe all what they saw was right.

Among the innumerable aspects of life that had lost their value over the years was the part about scarves that were largely misconceived. Some scarves that some Muslim women wrapped around their heads, thinking of it to be a hijab while completely neglecting their tight clothing and wild behaviour, was in reality anything but.

Eshaal didn’t judge them for the choices they made in life. She knew very well that she had no right do so. What she couldn’t help, however, was the twinge of sadness that reared its head whenever she saw them with their muddled perception of the life Allaah had granted them. Beauty of Muslimahs, she strongly believed, were reserved for only certain special people. It was not for all Tom, Dick, and Harry.

The next few minutes were spent by Eshaal at the window side, trying to curb her nervousness. She had decided to not think of anything or anyone in a negative light. She was going to start a new chapter of her life; and it would be best if she might as well dove in with faith in Allaah. Whatever had been decided, had been decided by Him in His infinite wisdom, and whatever came later would be looked after.

How would he look? Would he be serious or would he be laid back? Would he be coming here voluntarily or would he have been forced?

Thoughts of the guy filled her mind. Her brother had something along the lines of them being their family friends, someone who had known their family for a long time. She wondered then if she would have crossed his mind—if he had been aware of her existence.

Her hands went to her cheeks in nervousness. It was the first time she was meeting someone for marriage—a prospective spouse. Up until that very moment, she had never looked at a guy all her life. Well, Eshaal bit her lip at the thought, that wasn’t entirely true. She had been the tomboy of her locality until she turned twelve, and when she did, her haya had automatically come knocking at her door. She had let it in willingly, automatically acceding to mend her ways, preferring to put an end to a few habits of hers. After all, wasn’t she brought up in a Muslim household with a clear sense of distinction between what was right and what was wrong?

Men and women in Islaam were expected to respect the ones belonging to the opposite gender, to lower their gaze, and not interact with them until it was necessary. They were not restricted in living their life though, not like how the media portrayed. They were given freedom to choose, to exercise their rights, but certain rules were applicable to people of both categories to ensure the smooth and problem-free running of the society. Among the many rules of Islaam that Eshaal respected a lot was the rule that restricted unnecessary interaction with people of the opposite gender. She had tried her best to put it in practice and always managed to steer clear from their path. However, that wasn’t the same with the little Eshaal who challenged the boys head on. The one time a guy had called Eshaal as his friend’s lover, her fist had come in contact with his jaw.

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