I planned this piece a bit earlier in the month but it seems more appropriate to post it now that Ramadaan is ending. I don’t feel like this one needs background; it should be quite clear what it’s about. That being said, I have a feeling that this one is going to be a bit on the controversial side. I apologize in advance if anyone is offended by the piece, my only intention is to stimulate thought on the matter. Happy reading.
Yusuf stood on the steps with his friends. He was hugging his arms close to his chest to keep out the morning chill. Around him, the constant drip of students arriving at the bottom of the stairs and then making their way up told him that campus was starting. Only 7:30AM and already the place was buzzing. Yusuf didn’t start till 9:00AM. Since he was awake from around 6 every day, he came in early to spend time with his friends. It was nearing the end of the first week of the Fast and already the sombre spiritual atmosphere of Ramadaan had settled over his Muslim brothers. There was just something different about this month, a certain Godly feeling seemed to be ever-present.
Present over all but some. There were still those who rejected the bounties of this month; who still continued with their idle and fruitless past-times, not embracing the month of Ramadaan for the gift that it was. One such person was Ali. That morning there was something of a heated discussion taking place amongst the group of friends. Rashid had seen Ali in Cavendish Square over the weekend. He’d gone to see Man of Steel in the Fast.
“I just don’t see what the big deal is,” Ali defended himself annoyed, “Most of you went to see it last weekend.”
“Exactly,” Rashid replied, “Last weekend. Now it’s the Fast.”
“There’s no prohibition about seeing movies in the Fast,” Ali scoffed.
“Dude, it’s the Fast,” Salman chipped in, “It’s just wrong.”
“It isn’t wrong,” Ali defended, “There’s no verse or Hadith anywhere that says that seeing a movie in the Fast is any different to seeing it another time. It’s not like I’m neglecting my other duties. I’m still making the most I can of this month.”
“It’s disrespectful to the month of Ramadaan,” Yusuf spoke calmly, “Don’t try and defend your actions. If you really wanted to see it you should have gone last week.”
“I was busy last week,” said Ali, “My cousin got married and I had an assignment. I really didn’t have the time.”
“Then you should have accepted it and missed the movie,” Salman chipped in again.
“He’s right,” Luqmaan added, “You can go see movies any time during the year. You can’t say it’s too much to give it up for month.”
“You know what?” Ali replied in annoyance, “I don’t judge you guys whenever you catch up to nonsense, but now you’re all ganging up on me. I didn’t go around bragging that I saw Superman. If Rashid hadn’t seen me, I would have kept it to myself. And besides, I really don’t think what I did is wrong. I don’t think Allah is going to throw someone in Hell because he saw a movie a few days later then someone else.”
Rashid, with a look of outrage on his face, was about to reply but Yusuf raised a hand to stop him.
“Let’s not argue guys,” Yusuf said, “It’s the month of Ramadaan. Ali just accept you made a mistake and then let’s move on from this.”
Ali scrunched up his face. It was tinged with a tiny bit of red, he seemed flustered somewhat. Ali had not enjoyed being attacked by four of his friends over something he considered so trivial. He made a glance at his watch.
“You know what guys,” Ali said, “I actually just realized that I have to go hand in my assignment. I’ll catch you guys later.”
“Sure,” Yusuf nodded.
“Salaams,” the group greeted. And then Ali was off.
“I don’t see why it’s so difficult for him to give up his fruitless worldly activities during this month,” Luqmaan commented.
“Ali has always been a stubborn ass,” Salman shook his head.
“I hear he’s not even going every night to Trawi,” Rashid added. Salman and Luqmaan returned a shocked look.
“It’s the month of Ramadaan,” Yusuf interjected, “We should not backbite. We have done what we can for him, now we should leave it. Oh, and for the record, it’s not ‘Trawi’, it’s ‘Taraweeh’. The correct Arabic pronunciation is important.”
Rashid hung his head with shame. There was a short moment of silence after Yusuf’s statement.
“By the way,” Salman brought up, “Did you guys get Rashid’s birthday invite yet?”
“I did,” Luqmaan replied, “It looks like it’s going to be sick.”
“I didn’t,” Yusuf answered, “I’ve deactivated Facebook for the month.”
Salman and Luqmaan looked at Yusuf with admiration.
“My birthday is next week but the party is going to be after the fast,” said Rashid, “I invited your sister as well.”
“That’s good,” Yusuf smiled, “I’ll be there. I’m sure she’ll come as well.”
Luqmaan smiled too. He had been dating Yusuf’s sister, Sakina, for over a year.
“Oh and I see you’re still on Twitter though,” Rashid mentioned.
“I am,” Yusuf replied, “I use it to share Hadeeth and Quranic Verses.”
“I saw the one you shared this morning,” said Salman, “Something about faults?”
“’If you wish to mention the faults of your friend, mention your own faults first’,” Yusuf quoted, “Said by Ibn ‘Abbas in Bukhari’s Book of Manners.”
“Truly inspiring,” Luqmaan said.
“Indeed,” Salman nodded, “We should all spend more time studying the Ahadeeth.”
The rest of the month passed swiftly for Yusuf, as Ramadaan usually did. The days were endured in hunger, restraint and study and the nights were spent in prayer. There seemed to be spiritual presence in his home; even his sister was dressed fully covered and wearing a scarf. As he felt the month slip by day by day, Yusuf clung to every moment, trying to extract the maximum possible benefit from it; his everyday activities he replaced with things that brought him closer to his Creator. Instead of listening to 2Chainz and Lil’ Wayne, Yusuf was now listening to the recitation of the Qur’an from the great Qaris. Instead of watching Pretty Little Liars, he was now watching lectures from the great Imams. Instead of wasting the evenings on BBM and Whatsapp, Yusuf spent them in the mosque bowing to the Lord Almighty. Every night on the way home, he’d tweet ‘Subhanallah at the beautiful recitation’ and the next morning he would share to his friends the lessons he had learned from the lectures and smile as they listened on, enraptured.
And as the month went on, Yusuf began to find himself growing closer to his Creator. God was in the rumbling of stomach when it was disturbed by the pangs of hunger. God was in the date that Yusuf bit through when he broke his fast. When he stood in the front row at the Taraweeh and he heard the Imam say those words ‘Allahu Akbar’, ‘God is great’, it nearly brought tears to his eyes. He would stand there and simply drink in the beautiful verses of the Holy Qur’an as the Imam recited them. ‘I wonder what they mean?’ he would ask himself. But stood in the mosque in the dark hours of the night, he felt at peace. As the words washed over him, he felt his sins being washed away. And in their place grew devotion and enlightenment. What was once empty was now full. He thanked his Creator for making a Muslim, for helping him to see the self-evident truth that so many others foolishly rejected. When he saw some of his friends continue with their lives as normal, wasting the precious blessings of the holy month, he felt disdain for them. As he walked from class to class at campus, taking note of all those who walked by, all those lost souls, he felt chosen, special.
And so when Ramadaan was nearing its end, Yusuf began to grow sad. On the day of Eid, he celebrated like the others; but he missed the month that had passed and all the blessings it had brought. But eventually, he came to terms with it. ‘All things must pass’, he told himself, and so his life returned to normal.
A week later, Yusuf was in his room getting ready for Rashid’s party. He was having trouble deciding between the grey shirt from G-Star and the pink one from Hugo Boss. He was still deliberating over the two when his sister entered the room.
“Salman is here to pick us up, so you’d better hurry,” his sister told him, “He told me to give you this flash drive.”
His sister was wearing a white halterneck top and a dressy black knee-length skirt with matching high heels. The scarf was gone, replaced by a gold-coloured pendant hanging from her neck and resting beneath her collar bone. Yusuf took the flash drive.
“He said it’s all the episodes of Vampire Diaries that we missed,” his sister continued, “And ‘something extra’. What’s that supposed to mean?”
Yusuf pocketed the device, “Nothing you need to worry about,” he replied with a sly smile, “Hey Sakina, tell me. Which shirt looks better? The grey one or the pink one?”
His sister looked at him with deliberation. Her finger brushing her painted red lips, “Hold them against your chest?” Yusuf did so. His sister scrutinized him for a moment, “The pink one,” she replied, “The G-Star one just looks overdone. Now hurry up and get ready, Salman is waiting.”
An hour later, Yusuf and his friends were at the party. They were laughing and joking together in the cigar lounge at Cubaña. Yusuf was really enjoying the vibe of the place. He’d missed the loud booming beats. He took a long drag on his cigar and then breathed out, adding to the heavy smog that had already filled the room.
“This is the life hey, Yusuf?” Luqmaan called across on the other side of the room. Yusuf’s sister was sitting close under Luqmaan’s arm, her hand resting on his chest. His sister propped a kiss playfully on Luqmaan’s neck.
“This is one hell of a party,” Yusuf replied.
Rashid was sitting on the left-side couch, his arms resting on the shoulders of two scantily clad women. Rashid had called in a number of his old school friends, some pretty girls as well. Yusuf snapped a picture of the smiling Rashid with his two girls and uploaded it to Facebook. #goodtimes.
“Rashid, you are the man,” Yusuf complimented him.
“The best is yet to come my friends,” Rashid smirked, “The best is yet to come.”
Yusuf stood up and placed his cigar in the ashtray in front of him, “I’m going to get some water. You guys want anything?”
“Passion Fruit Lemonade,” Salman asked from the right, “If it’s not too much trouble.”
“Sure,” Yusuf nodded leaving the room. He made his way through the dingy low-ceilinged room towards the bar counter at the front. He took a seat at one of the open stools.
“Glass of water and a Passion Fruit Lemonade,” he called to the bartender, “Rashid’s tab.”
“Coming right up,” was the reply.
A young blonde woman sitting on his left was eyeing him speculatively.
“That all you having?” she asked.
Yusuf turned to examine her. She was a pretty little thing, with golden hair cascading down her bare shoulders. She was wearing a low-cut red cocktail dress that hugged her curvaceous form rather snugly. She had blue eyes and one of those brimming wide smiles that Yusuf always fell for.
“I don’t drink,” Yusuf replied, “But I wouldn’t mind getting you something?”
“I wouldn’t mind if you did.”
“Bartender,” Yusuf called, “Add in a shot of Tequila.”
The three glasses came sliding across the counter. The woman took the glass of pale golden liquid and lifted it up.
“You’re really missing out you know,” the woman told him.
“How does it taste?” Yusuf asked.
“Why don’t you try some? Come on, what’s one little sip?”
Yusuf deliberated for a moment, “Ok,” he smiled cheekily, “Just one sip.”
Yusuf’s hand brushed against the blonde woman’s fingers as he took the shot glass. He barely tasted the few drops that trickled down his throat. He coughed and spluttered for a second afterwards, but almost immediately he felt a kick; and suddenly he was starting to feel more awake.
“I can see you’re a first-timer,” the woman teased.
Yusuf smiled wryly. The woman flashed him a smile right back. A gorgeous smile. The kind that got Yusuf’s heart pumping every time. At that moment he felt giddy and excited. Such a contrast to three months later when, to his horror, he found out that that very same woman, the one in the red dress, had become pregnant.