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A Cave for Each

It is a beautiful summer morning in Aara, a dreamy village in the middle of a mighty mountain range that fences it from a dense forest on one side and a gushing river on the other. Two teenage girls are seen crossing the valley by the river, carrying water to their homes for their day’s chores. The center of the valley has a high ground from where one can look in a specific direction i.e. the three elements of nature – the silver mountains, the jade forests, and a glimpse of the blue river –can be witnessed all at once. It is here, that one of the two young girls makes a dead stop, her tall and lean silhouette darkened by the rising sun shadowing behind her. Surely, the breath-taking view has captivated her. The other girl, upon realizing that her companion has made an abrupt halt, turns around and reaches out for her arm.
The Other Girl: (grumbles) Mama warned us not to stand anywhere for too long, Imān. Get going!
Imān: Shams, take a look here! How can you not be amazed by the beauty of this sight?
Shams: (annoyed) We cross this place everyday! You can’t do this every time, Imān. Besides, what is there to be amazed about? These dreadful mountains, this banal valley or that haunted cave up there?
Imān narrows her eyes at her cousin. She certainly does not have any appreciation for the magnificence of Allah’s creations.
Imān: Dreadful? Banal? No…I do not see it that way at all. I see these mountains as a sturdy guardian, shielding our homes from foreign dangers. I see this valley as a passage that allows us to reach the river, but it does not allow the river to reach us. And that cave there? I would say it can fetch Uncle Faris a good deal if he buys and rents this place. Anybody who lives in this cave gets to witness that glorious sight every morning. Who wouldn’t want that?
Shams: I wouldn’t. Do you know why? Because I would not want to stay away from my people. (begins walking) When it comes to this valley, all I care about is how fast my feet can cross it. You should, too.
Imān: Hmm…So, Allah shows His signs to us, but we should make sure we overlook them as quickly as possible, huh?
Shams glares at her cousin.
Shams: If Mama hears you talking like that, you know what she will say.
Imān smiles to herself. Indeed, she knows what Aunt Sughra would say. There’s not a single day that goes by where Imān would say something that wouldn’t trigger one of Aunt Sughra’s constants: “It’s not proper for us to concern ourselves with matters that are beyond us.”, “You shouldn’t indulge in matters outside of the household.”, “Our job is to obey our men. You do not need to bother yourself with those problems. Leave the task of thinking to them.”, “Safiya, I’m telling you. If your daughter continues to do this any longer, then it will be very difficult for you to find a suitable husband for her!”, “No man wants a wife who has a mind of her own. Every man wants a submissive wife, who obeys him and does not interfere in his decisions.”
Imān wonders which one Aunt Sughra would pick if she heard her talking just then.
Shams: (reading her cousin’s mind) She doesn’t say anything wrong, you know. Sometimes, I too agree with her. You do talk like grown men, while you aren’t one. Why do you bother yourself with so many things, when all you need to bother yourself with is to pray that you get a good (hesitates) husband?
Imān remains quiet for some time. She is reminded of her talks with her parents. Three years ago when she had turned fifteen, the village’s deputy head’s son had asked for her hand from her father. Instead of accepting the proposal right then as was the norm, her father had unconventionally sought to discuss it with her first, before making any commitments. It was during that discussion that she had uttered the words ‘marriage’ and ‘husband’ for the first time and had overcome the same hesitation that her cousin felt just then. Her father had asked her many questions , trying to gauge whether it would  be a compatible match. At the end of that discussion, her father had concluded that it wouldn’t be suitable, and had conveyed that to the suitor,  much to the displeasure of his entire family, especially his sister, Aunt Sughra. She couldn’t decide which deed deserved her utmost fury: her brother rejecting such a splendid offer, or him doing that because of his consultation with his daughter.
Imān: (quietly) Shams, do you think I wouldn’t be a good wife if I have a mind of my own? Don’t you think there will be someone out there who would want a companion in his wife, a woman with her own mind to complement his?
Shams: Why, it’s obvious, isn’t it? “Men do not like the meddlesome; to men is much and to wives is some.” Isn’t it a common saying among our people?
Imān: (sighs) It sure is a common saying in our village, but Baba always teaches Ma and me that commonness is no indicator of the truth.
Shams: (gasps) So, are you saying that you reject obedience to husbands?
Imān: No, not at all! It is a command of Allah and there are no two ways about it. But if I cannot resist something, then that does not mean I cannot find ways to work along with it and draw it closer to my own comfort.
Shams gathers her brows together and appears to be in deep thought.
Imān: (continuing) I do not understand marriage to be a one-man show. I do not understand it as such because it isn’t so. If it was, then it wouldn’t be called a marriage.
Shams: But our people do say we have a part in marriage. In fact, they have defined our roles very well for us.
Imān: Certainly! And I do not disagree with their perception of our roles, Shams. What I do disagree with is their limitations. If I can do much more, much easily, what is there to prevent me?
The turmoil inside of Shams is now clearly visible on her face. Imān can understand what Shams must be going through right then. Being raised to be pliant and meek, she never in her wildest of dreams could think about having a personality of her own; she could never think of longing to have a cave all by herself, simply to appreciate a treasured view, even if it was at the cost of none.
As they near their homes, Imān realizes there is something that Shams must understand before they separate.
Imān: Shams, all my life, Baba has taught me to stand on my own two feet, as much as I can. But there’s something more than that which he has taught me: Being able to stand on your own two feet should only free up your arms so as to support others.
A kind twinkle sparkles in Shams’ eyes before she bids her goodbye and goes on her way. Imān smiles to herself and utters a prayer before entering the house.
***
It is yet another beautiful dawn at Aara, and Imān is getting ready to fetch water for the day. She is picking up her face-veil in her courtyard when she feels her mother’s gentle pat on her back.
There is an air of excitement around her.
Safiya: There is a proposal for you, Imān. Bilal met your father after the Fajr congregation today and has asked for your hand! Your Baba hadn’t told me about it until right now.
Imān: Bilal? You mean the village chief’s son? Why would he want to marry me?
Safiya: Ooh, don’t take his name just yet, Imān! Your father and I are very pleased with this proposal. We both see it culminating into marriage. As for why he is seeking you, he did give a strange reason. Said he overheard you conversing with Shams near the valley yesterday…
Iman’s heart skips a beat. Her morning meal churns in her stomach uncomfortably.
Safiya: (curiously) What was your conversation about? What were you saying to her?
Imān feels her face becoming hot. She is suddenly washed with nervousness to the point that she cannot lift her eyes to meet her mother’s – something quite unusual for her.
Safiya: (teasingly) Oh oh it’s alright if it’s making you blush so much. We will talk about it later. (whispers) But for now, I will take your silence to mean a ‘yes’, you understand that?
Much to Imān’s surprise, she finds herself grinning. Delighted, Safiya gently places a kiss on her daughter’s forehead, and swiftly walks to her husband to convey the good news.
Imān looks up at the sky and quietly utters ‘Alhamdulillah!’ (All praise and thanks be to Allah!)
Her prayers have been answered.
***
Written by: Aniqa Akrami
Edited by: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog

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0 thoughts on “A Cave for Each

  1. I honestly love it.. Beautifully written by sis Aniqa. Baarak Allahu Feeki dear sis and great work by team IR.
    Keep going you guys! May Allah bless u all, Aameen.

  2. Masha Allah. Loved it to the core… You certainly are a great writer sis Aniqa. Barakallahu feeki..

  3. Loved this! 💕 BarakAllahu feeki! Looking forward to more stories from you sis Aniqa!

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