When Nabila heard her younger brother cheering because their grandmother had visited, she knew the visit was not innocent. It was as if her mother had planned a duty rota of family members who would try to convince her for every single day of the week. And that day must have been her grandmother’s turn.
Nabila’s grandmother entered the room and locked the door behind her. She stood from her bed and kissed her grandmother’s hand. After the pleasantries and asking about the wellbeing of relatives, the room was silent for a while. The grandmother sat on the bed next to her granddaughter and stared at her.
“How beautiful you have grown to become my dear,” the grandmother began, putting her hand on Nabila’s lap. “Just like your grandmother.”
“O Allah, don’t tell me I look the way you do Grandma!” Nabila touched her face feigning shock.
Grandma hit Nabila’s hand playfully. “What is wrong with how I look? If you only saw me when I was younger, I was the most beautiful girl in town. You mannerless kids joke around with me as if I am your grandmother!”
“But you ARE our grandmother Grandma!”
They both laughed and joked around for a while until Nabila forgot what had brought her grandmother to the room. Grandma sat as straight as her arched back could allow and cleared her throat.
“What is this I am hearing about you refusing to get married?” Grandma asked.
“I am not refusing to get married. It’s just that the man who has proposed is eleven years my senior and he has been married twice before with one child.”
“And what is wrong with that my child?”
“I am not comfortable.” Nabila dreaded that she would have to defend her choice once again.
“Listen to me my daughter and listen well. What is important is for you to get married. Age is nothing but a number. In fact, an older man is even better because he will take good care of you and he’ll have more patience to overlook your shortcomings. Do you want to be like your elder sister? She kept on turning down proposals and now she is almost thirty and no more proposals are coming for her.”
Nabila did not like the way her elder sister was being talked about as if she was an expired product. She had only turned down one proposal and everyone knew it was for a good reason.
“But Grandma, if I accept him I might have to take care of his child. I don’t even have a child of my own yet how do I know how to raise someone else’s child?”
“The child will probably stay with his grandmother but even if you are to raise him, we will all help you. He should be around six years of age so it’s not like you are going to be carrying him around on your back all day long.”
“What if people say I mistreat him? Stepmothers can’t be trusted, they say.”
“Don’t worry about the child, everything will be fine,” Grandma assured her. “You look at your mother; can’t you see that she longs to marry her daughters off just like everyone else? Do you want to turn her into a laughing stock?”
“And what happened in his previous marriages?”
“The first wife died. The second one I am not sure why he divorced her but it must be something about her not being cultured and not knowing how to take care of a house.”
After a long lecture, Nabila found herself accepting the proposal. She doesn’t know how she did it but it must be Grandma’s skill in convincing people and making them think they had decided on their own.
Seif sat on the couch opposite his parents. He had asked to speak with them but at that moment he was finding it difficult to speak. All the words he had rehearsed for the past few days were lost from his memory. When the silence was too long, he decided to blurt out what was on his mind dismissing the long introduction he had formulated before.
“Mom, Dad, I think I am ready to get married.”
His parents looked at each other and smiled.
“Alhamdulillah!” his mother raised her hands in prayer. “I was starting to get worried that something was wrong with you.”
“Is there a girl already or do you want your mom to look for a sweet young lady for you?” his father asked.
Seif knew that that would be the hardest part and he felt a need to brace himself up for the reaction that would follow.
“There is one already…” Then after a short pause, he added, “It is Halima”
“Which Halima?” his mother asked with a frown.
“The Halima we all know. The daughter of our neighbor in the previous neighborhood we used to live in.”
“You are not serious, right? Why would you want to marry a divorced lady while you haven’t been married before yourself?” his mother asked.
“What is wrong with that? Just a few days ago I heard you praising her to your friends and saying how unfair she had been treated in her marriage and you were praying for her to get a good husband soon.”
“Yes, she is a good girl. In fact, an excellent girl, and I wish she got married again to a better husband. But I don’t want you to marry her.”
“Am I not good enough for her?”
“She is not good enough for you. Just give me two weeks and I will look for a beautiful, untouched girl for you.”
Seif looked at his father for some help but he avoided eye contact. His heart sank knowing he will have to fight alone in that matter.
“It is Halima I am interested in, and if you can’t let me marry her because she has been previously married then please don’t ask me when I am going to get married.”
Nabila sat in the room surrounded by her family and friends. The house was busy with activity and everyone seemed excited. She felt pretty in her custom-made dress and the makeup artist had worked her magic. Her young cousin kept on coming to the room now and then to stare at her and whisper in her ear how beautiful she looked.
Her mother was singing and dancing carefree and so was Grandma. Around her, people were hugging each other and talking animatedly and the room exuded a happy mood. Her heart swelled with pride knowing that she was the cause of the happiness.
They were all waiting for her father to call so that they could hear the nikah being performed at the masjid. Despite the smile on her face, deep down, she felt afraid. She knew in a few moments her life would take a new turn and she wasn’t sure what she would meet at the bend. She couldn’t find anyone to share her fear with, so she turned to her Lord and asked Him to make it easy. O, my Lord, You are to us the way we think of You, and I only think well of You. I know You would not put me in a bad situation, strengthen my faith in You, and keep my heart tranquil.
Her mother’s phone rang and the room fell silent. Everyone gathered around the phone to listen to the nikah.
Seif was getting dressed for the nikah. It felt weird just standing still and letting someone else fix his attire. After all the resistance he had faced, he could not believe that it was finally happening. He kept on saying Alhamdulillah, knowing that it was only by Allah’s power that her mother’s heart changed. Now that he had his parents’ blessings it did not bother him that some of his relatives were still not pleased with the marriage.
He knew that on his side, the criticism he had endured for the past few months would now reduce but he felt worried for his wife because this would just be the start of many hurtful words. He especially feared what damage his paternal aunt would cause his wife.
“Why did you agree to pay such a huge amount for her mahr? You should have asked them to reduce it given their daughter’s situation.” His aunt had asked trying to sound concerned.
“I agreed because I could afford it.” Seif tried to be as polite as possible. “Didn’t your son pay triple the amount when he got married? I didn’t hear you ask for it to be reduced.”
“You have started losing your manners even before you marry her I wonder what rude remarks we will get after you are married!”
Then the other day he almost lost his mind when his married cousin’s sister complained that he had unnecessarily furnished his house with expensive pieces.
“Was the washing machine necessary; doesn’t she know how to hand wash clothes? Such a high maintenance bride!” she remarked.
“I grew up having a washing machine in our house and I think it is important to have it in my own house too. And I would appreciate it if you keep your comments to yourself next time!”
He wondered why only the ladies were against this marriage and why all the men were silent spectators to the drama.
He hoped he had made the right decision and no one would tell him in the near future ‘didn’t I warn you?’ He looked up and sought help from his Master; O Lord bless our marriage, guide us to what pleases you and protect us from people’s interference.
The two nikahs took place on the same day in two different masjids that were a few minutes’ walk from each other. If you stood halfway between the two masjids you could hear the speakers from both places. The same day, same neighborhood, same time, but how different the two situations were from each other.