A silly smile brushed up Toohir’s cheeks, “wow! That should be one of your new neighbours. Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” He said as he scrambled to the door before Sulaiman could object.
Thinking it would be one of the girls, he sank into himself expecting Toohir’s reaction to the big discovery.
“Please, I want to speak to Alfa.” Said the girl standing by the door.
Sulaiman discerning the voice wasn’t for any of the expected girls moved closer to the door before he was informed and it turned out to be the girl he met on his way from market, Mar’yam. What did she want?
“I’m very sorry for disturbing you but please hope you haven’t fetched water into your new buckets? I need to show it to someone. I’ll return it as soon as possible.”
As she talked, Toohir gazed at her while Sulaiman was already sick of her sight. He returned into the room briskly and brought out one of the buckets for her but she couldn’t leave immediately because Toohir had engaged her in a dialogue.
“You’re pretty, do you know that?” He smiled and winked at her.
She beamed, “I hear that often. Thanks!”
“What’s the name?…”
“I’m sorry please!” Sulaiman interrupted and dragged his friend in, closing the door.
“You can’t come into my compound and flirt with my neighbours. Show me your friend and I’ll tell you who you are, they say! I’ve earned my respect my being a gentle boy. That’s why I’m called Alfa by everyone, you can’t just come and ruin that for me.”
“Chill, man! Chill! That’s why everyone has a name and an identity. Whatever I do would be attributed to me and not you. After all, I was only being nice. It’s a normal thing for a man to appreciate a lady’s beauty.”
“Under the circumstance, you’re meeting is me. I own this apartment and you’re here to visit me so I would also be attributed to whatever the outcome is. People would even think we’re the same because birds of the same feather flock together. As a friend and a brother in faith, it’s my duty to discourage you from the bad deed. So whenever you’re here in my compound, no flirting with girls else you won’t be welcomed next time.”
“I surrender! I won’t do that again. I’ll hold my mouth from talking to anyone in here, but I can still try my luck outside here…”
Toohir smirked… A knock sounded on the door again and Sulaiman answered it this time without much expectation. It was still the same girl but had her eyes filled with tears ready to roll down her bruised cheek as she returned the bucket to him.
Puzzled and worried, “what happened to…” He tried to ask but she dashed off.
He stepped out completely and watched her entering room 3. He caught a glimpse at a guy watching him from the window of the room. Though not sure of who he was, he felt caught with his pants down and was about to retreat into his room when he heard a cough.
“Lower your gaze akhy!” Said Maymunah in an intermediate voice while Mutmainah laughed softly.
Looking up, seeing the girls and perceiving the misconception they’ve had about his action, he felt ashamed and tried to explain but they didn’t stop walking until they got to their apartment, opened the door and entered. Feeling his heart shrinking away from his chest, he cringed in.
“You look like you just lost a fight.” Said Toohir who was devouring a loaf of bread he just discovered from the kitchen.
“I don’t even know how to put the words together to make a sentence.” He said as he sat on his chair, perplexed.
“Try and say it. I’m a good listener.”
“Do you know who my new neighbours are? They’re the two hijabis in electrical ND1…”
Toohir’s mouth agape, he pushed the content in his mouth out with his tongue and dropped the piece of bread he was holding – trying to exaggerate his astonishment.
“Stop making a mess on my bed. This is a new bedsheet!” He warned with lowered voice, trying not to engage his neighbours’ ears.
“Isn’t this how they act in movies when they’re totally flabbergasted?” He said, then drooped his head.
“I’m not joking. And the girl that came here just now, Mar’yam, looked like she was beaten. I was… I mean unknowingly… I mean instinctively… I was… I was just staring as she left, to understand what was going on with her…” He stuttered, not sure of the word to explain his action. “I mean where she was going and they caught me doing that!”
“Gengen…gengengengengegen…gen…gen…!” Toohir exclaimed jestfully, imitating Nigerian movie’s tone of suspense.
“Stop shouting. They might hear us.”
Not minding his caution, Toohir continued and he was further thrown into discombobulation. Heaving a big sigh, he recoiled in his seat and started thinking of a way out of the mess he just put himself – the man he saw glaring at him from the window resembled none of the neighbours he knew, although he knew not all. Did the girl, Mar’yam live with him or was she a visitor? The bruise on her face looked like she was assaulted, who did that to her? – Allah and His Messenger emphasized severally on treating women kindly, so he thought of why a sane man would treat any woman otherwise? – Subhanallah! Astagfirullah! He had always tried to lower his gaze in any circumstances, why was he caught only when he stared out of curiosity and perturbation. How would he explain to Maymunah and Mutmainah that he wasn’t really staring at the girl, especially not with awful desire?
“There is one Yorùbá proverb that says ‘the matter kept from father would eventually be settled by father!’ So I have nowhere to put you but to help you.” He said as he swallowed the last munch in his mouth, “any drinking water? Cos I’ve searched and seen none.”
“You can get one for yourself at a convenience store outside the gate.”
“If I’ve heard of no hadith in my life, I definitely know the Prophet emphasized on being generous to one’s guest, else I take the right of guest from you. Look…” Showing him the bread’s nylon, “I’ve started already, by getting myself something to eat…”
He interrupted, “but you got that from my kitchen!…”
His voice lost, realizing how wrong he really was. Where had he kept his adab (manners)? “Okay! You get me. I’ll get it for you.”
He wore his slippers and dragged himself out to get things they would need while Toohir smiled with triumph as he looked around the room. Returning from the errands, he was informed by one of his neighbours named Ṣẹgun that the well would soon be opened to fetch water for the evening which made him remember the new items he just bought for his neighbours. He stared at the two apartments filling him with apprehension and there seems no sign of activity in any. His head hanged down as he got into his apartment saying tasleem.
After drinking two sachets of water, Toohir felt satisfied and grinned. “Now, tell me the full hadith about being generous to the guest so I can memorize it. It seems to be working on Muslims pretty well.”
“There are so many hadiths on that but the one I can remember now is that of Abu Huraira who narrated that Allah’s Apostle, salallahu alaehi wasalaam, said, ‘anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should not harm his neighbour, and anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously and anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet.’ That is, abstain from all kinds of evil and dirty talk. So whatever you want to say and suggest to this matter I put before you should be what’s good else I do not need your advice.”
“What if my neighbour harms me? Anyway, I only need the middle statement. ‘anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously.’ Therefore, what I’m craving to eat tonight is firm eba with concocted okro soup which has undergone nikkah with locust beans and smoked fish.”
“You only pick the ones that suit your whims and dump the others, which is an act of hypocrisy. The case of a true believer should always be sami’naa wa-ata’naa which means we hear and we obey!.”
“My bad! Not yours!” He shrugged then raised his hands after a second thought, “O Allah! Make me a true believer.”
“Maa’sha’Allah!” He smiled, “ever since I’ve known you, this is the first time I’ll hear you utter one of the most beautiful dua (supplication). Tabaarokallah! In’sha’Allah I’ll make sure you eat your desired meal… We should start preparing it before maghrib adhan is called… We will need to go to the market. Oh! There’s no water…”
“Stop being hyperactive and start your narration again but this time, in details. I want to know your involvement with each other so far.”
Then explicitly, he started explaining to him all that happened ever since he found out Maymunah and Mutmainah were his new neighbours. Toohir laughed every now and again but undiscouraged, Sulaiman narrated the whole scene without leaving any out.
“That’s good bro! Give me a handshake.” He extended his hand to him.
He refused, “there’s nothing to take a handshake for in all I’ve explained.”
“Your bad, man! Leave aside the Mar’yam girl matter. The guy might be her boyfriend and they might be living together, something we call campus couples. Many young girls get beaten by their boyfriends often and they choose not to opt-out of such a relationship. It’s her choice, don’t get worked up…”
“He was glaring at me!”
“Forget! You did nothing wrong, did you?”
“I think I stared at her. Astagfirullah!”
Toohir chuckled, “man, you’re just too holy! She purposely dressed like that to be stared at… Let’s talk on the better issue, please. The Maymunah, do you really want her?”
His lips curved up to smile, “I think I do”
“You aren’t a woman bro! And I’m not proposing to you.” Toohir laughed, “give me a definite answer, I want her, I want to marry her.”
“Yes, I want to marry her but I don’t know if she’s ready for marriage or if she will marry me.”
“Good! Forget about those doubts, most ladies are ready when they find a compatible prospect… You’ve started well by doing things awesome although stupid, for them. It’s something I can’t do. I can be very generous but not at the expense of my own convenience. Sometimes, gratitude infuses love in the mind…”
“Subhanallah!” He slapped his own tigh, “I wish I had allowed you to answer the second knock. They won’t have seen me… I’m thinking, should I go to them and explain… You know… Just tell them…”
“No, you owe them no explanation. It was just a misconception and they will surely come around. All you need to do is to continue being the good boy. Keep instilling your love in both of them because friends do encourage each other to goodness. Make her also like you at least, so that when the proposal comes to her, she finds different reasons within herself to accept it… Those new items are for them, right? Let’s give them.”
About to erect themselves, a knock was heard on the door and Sulaiman attended to it thinking he was being called to fetch water but here was Mutmainah standing by the door with his belongings which he had borrowed them.
“Thank you very much akhy. Jazaakallahu khairan. Our aunt visited us on the campus and gave us some cash so we’ve bought all we would need including buckets and brooms.”
His jaw dropped, he fumbled for words to say, “you can still have them… I mean you can keep them…”
Toohir cut in, bringing out the new buckets. “Oh, sister! My friend just bought new ones for you. He even bought a very fat broom.”
She smiled, “Thank you very much for your kindness, we really appreciate it. But we have no need to collect those from you since we now have ours. I’m very sorry.”
Interrupted by Toohir, “it’s okay sister. Since we’re now neighbours, you can always count on us anytime you need help.”
Toohir collected the objects from her smiling and she smiled shyly in response, lowering her gaze as she left.
“There’s no us Toohir because you aren’t living here with me and I don’t like the way you fixed your gaze on her.” He said as he retreated into his room, feeling defeated.
“Did I? I didn’t… but maybe I did. I was only ensuring mutual communication and making sure she felt the assurance so my eyes had to focus on her. It’s just like sending signals through electromagnetic field whereby there should be an interaction between electric and magnetic forces of the charged bodies…”
“Just like you did to Mar’yam which made her boyfriend think I was the one flirting with her. I wish you could see the way he glared at me. You’ve caused me enough trouble for today. Let’s go to the masjid, we shall get some water when we return and start cooking. Don’t think of coming here tomorrow please.”
Toohir giggled, “are you just transferring your aggression or do you mean it?” Then he jerked, as if inspired, “it just occurred to me you could be a superhero tonight. Have you checked the pumping machine and the control box? There is a greater possibility you can repair it.”
His demeanour changed. Really, he hadn’t thought about it. As it remained a few minutes to maghrib solat, he agreed to check on it immediately. After brief troubleshooting, he discovered the fault lay on the capacitor which supposed to give the circuit its starting current. Fortunately, he could find a condemned control box in the store which still had a good capacitor. Then he replaced and fixed the problem. The water started to pump again, everyone was relieved and he was thanked.
The second day, he had woken up to a text message from one of his client. He had to travel down to his home town when the dawn break, so he told his friend who insisted on following him, giving him reasons why he would need a companion but he was only going to present a quotation so he needed no companion. They were about to leave for the masjid when he thought of waking his neighbours. He knocked on their door and informed them about the arrival of fajr. Then they heard Mar’yam saying tasleem to them from behind, they turned to her and responded but briskly walked away before she could add another word – the morning breeze was dense and cold and the iqamah would soon be called.
On their way back from the masjid, they engaged in chatter when a statement that needed immediate elucidation was stated by Toohir. Despite their body shivering in the cold, they decrease their pace while engaged in talks.
“Islam encourages us to strengthen the bond of kinship and never to sever it. Even in hadith, the prophet, salallahu alaehi wasalaam, said the person who severs the bond of kinship will not enter paradise. So whether your relative is a Muslim or non-muslim, you have certain obligations towards them but when it comes to religion aspect, you have to draw a line. Christmas is not our festival, why must you celebrate it with your Christian uncle?”
“I think you don’t understand. Christmas and New year are just like our family festival. It’s always hosted by my Christian uncle every year, whereby all my grandmother’s children and grandchildren will converge and celebrate. Whenever it’s ileya (Eidl Adha) festival, my father would also be the host, we all converge and celebrate. It has become our family tradition which strengthens our ties of kinship.”
“There’s something every Muslim has to understand; that Islam is the only religion accepted by Allah and perfected by Allah. So believing in any other religion, propagating or encouraging it is an act of life (disbelief). So when you celebrate with them or greet them, you’ve encouraged them, indirectly telling them they’re doing the right thing so they should keep on. Apart from this fact, let’s take a look at the festivals and their origin. Christian claim they follow the injunction of Jesus who was Prophet Isa, alaehi solatu wasalaam but was he ever reported to celebrate Christmas, new year and Easter? La (No)! December 25, believed to be the birthday of Jesus, who is also known as their god, was said to be winter period in Bethlehem, his birthplace. Mary was said to give birth to him under a palm tree, outside, in a remote area and got to eat a fresh ripe date. How could a pregnant woman survive such situation in winter and how could fresh ripe date be available then? Research made it known that Jesus was born during summer but why was it celebrated on December 25? It’s because December 25 used to be a day of the Roman feast of sun god which was always elaborately celebrated. After accepting Christianity, they fear to put the festival to oblivion so they invented the celebration of Jesus birthday and placed it on December 25! Therefore, Christmas is heathen and not even Christians! Also, the dead are gone! Why should we even be celebrating the birthday of a dead person? And you also want to participate in the celebration of god’s birthday with them? This makes me shake my head more in pity for those who imitate these non-believers and invented maolud nabiyy Muhammad (birthday of Prophet Muhammad). When these Messengers of Allah were alive, they had the opportunity to celebrate their own birthdays as such an act was in existence during their lifetime but they didn’t. Why celebrating the birthday of pious people who have gone?”
Toohir sighed as he tried to reasonably comprehend. He said, “ok, let’s say that I’m clear about Christmas. It’s a festival of the Pagans, infiltrated into Christianity. Also, Muslims shouldn’t encourage non-muslims in their festivals. Cleared! What about the new year? It is another year another opportunity of life, it should be a festival for all!”
“Before the Gregorian calendar was constructed, there had been the Jewish and Islamic calendar, each has different date and month name assigning to each day on earth. Why must January 1 be our new year? Why couldn’t February 1 or March 1 be chosen as our new year? Why should we celebrate on January 1? This also has a paganic origin! When people accept a new religion, they find it difficult to abandon their old tradition which is related to their old religion. This also happened during the time of the Prophet, he reproved someone celebrating a pre-Islamic festival and told him Allah has replaced those pre-Islamic festivals with better ones which are the two Eids. These people, after accepting Christianity couldn’t let go of the day they used to celebrate a two-faced god named Janus, so they made January 1st the beginning of the year to keep the tradition going! I’m sure you won’t want to be raised among the followers of Janus on the day of qiyaamah (resurrection).”
“I seek refuge in Allah from Shaitan the accursed. Thanks very much for this enlightenment. I have to find a way of escaping this year’s celebration even if I have to lie.”
“You do not need to tell a lie, my brother. Simply tell them the truth and enlighten your family too. Allah says in surah shu’arah verse 214 that we should warn our nearest relations so warn them with your admonition. I pray to Allah to make it easy for them to understand and accept. Rejecting their festival food or not celebrating with them doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be kind to them. In surah al-baqarah, Allah says ‘And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor the Christians until you follow their religion. Say: Surely Allah’s guidance, that is the (true) guidance. And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from Allah, nor any helper.’ Ponder on this verse and make your choice.”
“I’ve already made my choice. I’m spending my semester break in the school, I’m not going home…”
Interjected by the sudden appearance of a young man – having smoke coming from his nostrils and mouth – before them as they passed by a dark corner, they stopped and exchanged a bewildered look.
“Alfa, do you know me?”
Sulaiman raised his head and looked at him very well, but shook his head in negative affirmation.
“I know you won’t know me. I’m kaka. We’ve never crossed road before but it seems we will cross road often now. Just knowing you from afar, I’ve always respected you but it seems I’ll have to pocket that respect. Do you know Mar’yam? She’s my girlfriend. These days, she has been singing some songs into my ears that I used to wonder she got them from. Until I saw her coming to your apartment yesterday evening, she was even flirting with someone that I could see her smiling broadly. Was it you or your friend? Whoever it is, I don’t joke with my girlfriend. And whatever idea you’re planting in her heart, if you can cut it, stop it and do not water it. I won’t say more than that. Ire o (good luck)!”
Jayeoba Kafayat Modupeoluwa, mostly known as Ummu Abdillah is a Technologist in Electronics and Telecommunication engineering but presently only active as an Islamic writer – so do not bother to ask her about diodes and electromagnetic waves 🤗. Happily married and recently gifted a princess.
She is a lover of teenagers and marriage and does make it her occupation to study them.
Also, she’s a knowledge seeker who loves to learn new things every second and teaches them as well to whoever cares to learn.