One Warm Summer Night

21

An incident to to stir the hearts and wake the minds, shared by Anonymous.

It was a warm summer night. Sweat trickled down our backs as we climbed the stairs to the roof of the two story bungalow. It seemed barren.

The boundaries were antique with intricate carving; they were old but sturdy, a witness to all the conversations ever to have occurred in their vicinity. How many boys and girls must have played there, how many arguments must have surfaced, how many deaths grieved.

Who knew the secrets this ancient place withheld?

The trees were tall and mysterious that hung over and twined around the pillars. The leaves were dark, almost black, no fruit or flower in sight. The sky was encompassing, watching over with a few scanty stars. The moon sat on clouds of grey, a perfect semi-circle of yellow.

It was eerily quiet.

Somebody’s baby began to cry. As more women made it upstairs, the forlorn looking terrace began to fill up.

The apathy of the place was beginning to rub off on everybody. Older women elbowed each other to find seats and younger girls made no effort to help them out. Shoes were thrown carelessly near the entrance, blocking the way. Nobody lifted their clothes while crossing the burning coils scattered around the corners to keep the mosquitoes away. Everyone became restless. When was this painful session going to begin? We just wanted to get out of this forsaken place.

When all the seats were occupied, the remaining women moved towards the periphery. They found several rugs spread out on the dusty marbled floor which seemed to be the only vibrant existence there – a shade of blood red. Making faces at the humble arrangement, they went back to try their luck at the seats.

I stayed behind in hope of getting a breath of fresh air.

I walked towards the boundary and leaned against it. As I checked my watch again, my eyes caught a glimpse of white. Brilliant white. It was some fabric, periodically flowing. I looked around; the leaves were still and my clothes were still, so where in the world was that wind coming from and why was it not coming to where I was standing!

I edged closer to the red rugs. I saw a bundle of white on the rug. It was unmoving, except for the occasional flutters with the wind. If that is dirty laundry, why is it so clean? It seemed so out of place there. I decided to observe from a distance. This place was already giving me the shivers.

With bated breath and squinting eyes, I kept watching the white bundle. After a few minutes, it changed shape. Allahu Akbar! I gasped and looked left and right to see if anyone else had also witnessed this gymnastic ball of sheets. When I looked back again, I could make out the silhouette of a person’s back.

It was a person, not bed linen! Feeling very foolish, I moved closer. And then it hit me. It was a petite girl in layers of white who had been in sajdah for so long. My heart skipped a beat. And I quietly resumed observing her.

She was beautiful. Her head hung low and her hands were raised in du’aa. A silver ring glistened from her finger. Her legs were neatly folded beneath her; only the soles of her feet were visible. Her hair was perfectly tucked inside her huge khimaar, not a single peeping wisp or strand. Her eyebrows were soft and un-plucked. Her eyes were closed but her eyelashes were long, thick, and wet. Her cheeks were flushed; maybe from the heat, or maybe from the tears she was silently shedding.

She was moving her lips carefully, as if weighing each word before delivering it. Here words were inaudible, but she kept swaying gently in insistent pleading. She would occasionally sigh or sob. With each passing moment, she would crouch lower and lower, as if physically surrendering to her Lord. Then she went into sajdah again.

I could not take my eyes off her. I was intruding upon a very personal moment between a slave and her Lord; yet the intensity of the moment was too overwhelming to be broken away from. What was going on in her heart? What was she whispering in those wholesome sujoods of hers? Allahu Akbar. Why was Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala making me a witness to her secrets? Why was my body trembling and my eyes watering?  Why were her silent du’as becoming mine? Why was “Aameen” the only word coming to my head?

I do not know how long I stood there or how long she stayed there. But after a while when I re-emerged from that place and dragged myself back to the crowd, everyone was getting up to leave. The gathering had ended. And along with that, a piece of my broken heart had been mended.