By Mumtaz Moosa-Saley
Farouk pitched up bright and early. I was busy reciting the Qur’an and trying to memorise the parts I had forgotten. I looked up and smiled as he sat, patiently waiting for me to finish.
As soon as I closed my Qur’an, I noticed that he had a worried look on his face. We have been friends for years; when I was younger, he would always fetch me for salah; on the days I was lazy to pray at the masjid, he would lecture me into going. Farouk has become a true friend – one I would like to see in Jannah with me.
I asked him what was bothering him, and I saw him cry for the first time in my life. He sobbed like a baby. I was worried about my friend, so I inquired what his troubles were. “Bhai, as a father, I did my best; I raised children who would grow up to be something but most importantly be Islamically conscious. Bhai, I have failed.” I was still confused by what was happening. Was he sick?
Farouk continued, “Bhai, my children said they might not visit me for Eid this year as they are busy, and if I am lonely, I must hire a Malawian male nurse to look after me and keep me company, or I must go into a nursing home. All I asked them was for a short visit on Eid day.” Allah hears me, and I am not a burden. I don’t even ask them for money; I have my own, algamdoelillah. All I want is for them to spend Eid with me, so I can feel like a human again, like I matter. I have not seen my grandchildren in so many months. The children are always busy, and you know they can’t bond with us, but I tell them that they need me as I see you with your grandchildren and how they have so much fun with you. My son said he is busy, my daughter said she has to go to her mother-in-law, and I must understand that they all have lives. Tell me, Bhai, how does one know? Am I not their father who worked, so they could enjoy the lives they have today? Did I not understand when I attended all their sports days and school events even though I had to close shop for the day?”
I was at a loss for words. Farouk was the best father a person could ask for. He grew his son up in the masjid, his daughter was the apple of his eye, and she was given attention like no other. He was hurt. I have seen parents make excuses that the grandchildren can’t visit as they are busy; I have heard them say they have nothing in common with us old people. As kids, we all hated visiting, but we were forced to sit for hours to teach the importance of family bonds.
I didn’t know how to comfort my friend. I suggested that I would speak to them on his behalf, but he just shook his head and asked if Fatima would mind if he spent Eid with us. I could not deny him this, Ramadhan alone is difficult, but spending Eid alone is pure torture. How do we as parents go from having children who adore them to having children that treat us as strangers?
I tried to comfort Farouk, but I knew that it wouldn’t make a difference no matter what I said. I looked at him, smiled, and leaned forward to hug him. I told him that when we plan, Allah plans and maybe there is a reason for all this. His eyes lost their spark today, and he just thanked me and left. My heart was shattered as I felt my friend’s pain. Maybe I should let him live with Luqmaan for a week for him to understand that living alone may be a blessing.
Ya Allah, I love that firecracker. Even though he drives me insane, I am thankful that I have this opportunity to test my blood pressure twice a day with his damaal.
Narrated by Abu Huraira Ad-Dausi (radiallaahu anhu): Once, the Prophet (sallallaahu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) went out during the day. Neither did he talk to me nor I to him till he reached the market of Bani Qainuqa. Then he sat in the compound of Fatima’s (radiallaahu`anhaa’s) house and asked about the small boy (his grandson Al-Hasan (radiallaahu`anhu)), but Fatima (radiallaahu`anhaa) kept the boy in for a while. I thought she was either changing his clothes or bathing the boy. After a time, the boy came out running, and the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) embraced and kissed him and then said, ‘O Allah! Love him, and love whoever loves him.’
Ahmed sipped his tea so loud at suhoor, there was something wrong with this man. Usually, I will put a fuss, and my Nusaybah will back me up, but my heart is still sore from what had transpired with Farouk. I didn’t know how to ask Fatima if I could have a guest for Eid; I really didn’t want to add to her burdens.
Nusaybah nudged me and gave me this look; I knew what she meant. I didn’t know how to bring up the incident regarding Farouk, and so I sat there playing with my porridge as I could not think about eating. Here I was sitting with my family, and Farouk was all alone.
“Dad, are you in love or something? Why are you playing with your porridge? Gosh, some days, I think that you and Nusaybah are the same age; maybe that’s why you get along so well with her. You know, I look at her, and it is war.”
Can a mother look at her child wrongly? Ayesha is almost yelling; I have to remind myself a few more days, and she will be back to the loving child that I know.
I mustered up the courage and blurted out my request to have a guest over for Eid. Ahmed spat out his tea all over Luqmaan, and the little firecracker looked as if he was going to die. “Oh, the germs”, he yelled!
“Dad! Have you met someone? How can you sit here all day moaning you have nothing to do, you and that child of mine roll your eyes at me every time I ask you both to go out with me? Are you losing it?” Ayesha was amused and curious.
“No, behti, it’s not that,” I told her about Farouk and Ayesha was shocked as she explained that his daughter was having a big do at their house for Eid. Fatima looked at Ahmed, silently asking his permission. He nodded at her, and Fatima gave me the go-ahead. “Papa, you know you don’t have to ask me things, this is your home too, and your friend is always welcome here.”
“Ahmed, my son, you treat me better than my own children, I appreciate you. I was the king of my own home, and now my stress is over. You can take my stress, as I’m 16 and going on 60 with no stress. Ahmed laughed and shook his head.
The truth is I could never overstep and at my age who has the sabr to even want to be an alpha male, I rather just be me and live stress-free for the rest of my days. This reminded me of my wife when she spoke about family ties, she always said when it comes to the people our children marry allow them to be the rulers of their own home, and don’t interfere. Keep the bond of the family, as there is nothing else more important. Allah tells us that He is merciful unto anyone who keeps family ties. With those wise words, I have learned that it’s not my house to rule, but it’s my home to enjoy.
“And worship Allah and do not assign partners with Him, and be favourable unto parents and family members and the orphans and the destitute and the near neighbour and the distant neighbour and the traveller and your slaves. And Allah does not love one who is haughty and proud.” (Surah Nisaa)
The great number of Ahadith that instruct family kinship emphasises the matter even further. “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship.” (Bukhari)