The door opened and I saw a flicker of pink in the shadows. That was odd. It was then that I saw her feet… limp and cold.
“Mamma!” I resorted to the name I used to call her when I first learnt to speak. Before I realised I would never take the place of the son she lost. “Mamma!” I called to her…as I climbed over the scattered boxes. There was a rope hanging from the roof.
My mother had tried to commit suicide.
I felt for a some signs of life,shaking her body, cradling her head against my chest as if she were the child. Crying I begged. “Mamma! Wake up please! Mamma! Just open your eyes please! Mamma! I… love you… Don’t die please!”
Despite my years of cold indifference from my mother, the thought of losing my other parent opened a vast crevice of fear in my heart.
“Ya Allah… please save my mother,please! I will do anything,Ya Kareem!”
I needed to get help but that meant leaving her alone. What do I do? I placed my ear against her chest and thought I felt a slight movement. I rushed up the steps,two at a time and grabbed a balm and blanket and ran down. I covered her and rubbed the balm against the red welts on her neck. I paused before dragging the bike up the steps. I knelt on one knee.
“Allahu laa ilaaha illah huwal Hayyul Qayyuum…” I read it with conviction and as I read each ayah, I felt a calmness infuse me. I thought of the day Ilyaas set up an obstacle course for me.
“Johi is a little soldier,she can do anything, we made her do the tiger crawl through the mud patch.” Ilyaas said laughingly to my father who didn’t look the least impressed.
“How can you make her do that Ilyaas? She’s a little girl, not a boy going for army training!”
I appeared from behind Ilyaas in my mud splattered clothes with a huge grin. “Dont worry Papa, I asked them to let me do some of the army drills. It’s not their fault.”
“Its the army’s loss that she won’t be a part of it,She’ll make a brilliant soldier.” Ilyaas said with a mock salute at me.
“Yes my little girl,has something special about her. Do remember Johi,that no military training is better than your connection to Allah. That is your strength. Otherwise we would have won the war a long time back… even the situation in Palestine wouldn’t be so bad but the amount of people who fight for our country and read salaah… can be counted on one hand.”
I blew on my mother after reading it and covered her. Tawakkaltu allallah. Then I dragged the bicycle up the steps and rode like the wind for help.
Why would my mother try to kill herself? Why would she commit such a major sin? Knowing that the punishment is to be tortured in the same way forever in jahannum? What triggered it?
I stopped by the cluster of the workers tiny homes. Out of breath. ” Koi hain,anyone here?” And a child came running out. The one that looked like me. Her mother,Aunty Hanafa followed her. “What’s wrong Johara?”
“My mother…quick… needs help…please” I huffed.
She quickly mobilised everyone and took charge of the situation. She fed me with sweet tea and rough bread and told me to nap while they rushed my mother to the hospital. I fell asleep gratefully. Whispering the verse of the Throne once more before darkness sweetly embraced me.
“I feel guilty.” I heard Hanafa’s voice sob.
“Why? You didnt do anything.” Another unknown voice answered. I shifted quietly so they wouldn’t know I had woken up.
“She came at fijr time..to speak to me. It was eating her mind badly. She wanted to know why my baby looked so much like…him.”
“What did you tell her Hanafa? Please tell me you didn’t tell her the truth.”
“I did. I told her that I was his second wife and we had married five years ago. And that inheritance was owed to me and Zuhairah. She has full haqq over this farm. She said she would never give me a cent and I’d remain a thrashy worker. She hoped Zuhairah and I both died just like he did… I think that she couldn’t handle it and that’s why she tried to kill herself”
I stuffed my duvet into my mouth to stifle the sound of my sobs as their voices faded away.
Ya Kareem… why am I being tested like this?
And I felt a little hand hold my face. Zuhairah. My sister. My father’s secret. She pinched my nose softly with her chubby fingers. I held it and then in a fit of rage,I bit her hand hard.