To Mom (r.a) & Dad Indeed in their stories, there is a lesson for men of understanding. It (the Quran)is not forged statement but a confirmation of Allah’s existing Book ( the Torah, theGospel and other Scriptures of Allah) and a detailed explanation of everything and aguide and a Mercy for the people who believe. (Chapter Yusuf: Verse 111)
Special ThanksSpecial Thanks and love to my family, my father, brothers and sisters.Special Thanks to Dr. Fadhilah Mahmud (M.D.) for her comments on the medicalterminology and issues about AIDS.Special Thanks to my English-teacher friends, Zuraida Zakaria and her husband, Amir(Bill) Abdullah for editing the language and style.Special Thanks to Brother Musa Rabba for reading and commenting on Timeless Gift.Special Thanks to Ustazah Najihah Abdul Wahid and Ustaz Anas Mohd Yunus for theircomments on the Islamic terminology.Special Thanks to Ustazah Nur Azan Mohd Rouyan for her comments on the Islamicterminology.A Very Special Thanks to my dear friend and author, Linda Delgado. Foreword Bismillah Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most MercifulAll praise be to Allah, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful, for helping me tocomplete this second Islamic fiction. When I started the story, I realized the task wouldnot be easy. There was so much to research on AIDS.The experience while doing the research was unforgettable. My heart went out to thefamilies of the person with AIDS (PWA) as I watched their interviews sharing their lives,fears and hopes living with the PWA. On the other hand, the experience of carrying outthe research was something else. Being a Muslim, I received my fair share of stares andwondering looks every time I checked out books, journals and videos about AIDS fromthe library. Still, I braved myself and pursued the journey of delivering the story to theend.Fear of the unknown can only be relieved through learning about what you do not know.For indeed knowledge brings one out from the darkness. Islam promotes love,
compassion and peace. Casting aside all prejudices, my hope is for the readers to learnsomething about AIDS while enjoying Timeless Gift. Keep me in your heart so that every heartbeat reminds you that someone is there for you …always! Part One (Year 2001) AND ALLAH (S.W.T.) GIVES US LIFE…
Chapter 1 “Ummi, where’s my mujaahid’s beret?” Affif finally asked his mother aftersearching everywhere for Ashraff’s beret. He called it a mujaahid’s beret afterwatching a mujaahid wearing it in a documentary program about the tragedy ofthe Bosnians. It was big for him but he liked to wear his father’s beret wheneverthey wanted to eat together. He told his mother that it made him “a big man” likeone of those mujaahideen. “Didn’t you leave it on the bookshelf last night, honey?” Shafikah saw herson entering his room to look for it at the place she had just mentioned. Shafikah waited but her son still did not show up in the kitchen. “Affif, haveyou found it? Dinner’s getting cold now.” “In a minute, Ummi.” “What’s keeping him now?” Shafikah murmured to herself. She decided tofind out what was going on. There he was on his bed holding Ashraff’s photo. Their eyes met whenshe reached his bed. “Today’s the day, right, Ummi?” Shafikah looked sadly into her son’s eyes. She nodded and whispered,“Yes.” The day was April 10th 2001. “You were in my room today, Ummi?” His voice was soft.
Shafikah was there earlier and she was looking at the photo herself, butshe forgot to put it back on the night table near Affif’s bed. Instead, she hadmisplaced it on the bookshelf, next to his father’s beret. “Do you miss Daddy, Ummi?” Affif inquired when Shafikah did not answerhis previous question. Sitting on his bed, she looked at her son lovingly. “I have you, honey.” Hereyes glistened with tears. “But do you, Ummi? Do you miss Daddy?” Affif’s face was sad. “I do and you know that, sweetie.” Affif placed the photo back on the tableand hugged his mother. Shafikah wiped away a silent tear. Pulling himself apart from the warmth of her embrace, Affif sat cross-legged on the bed facing his mother. “Today’s Daddy’s birthday…” He paused. His voice was soft. “…and hisdeath day.” He remembered this date very well. As young as he was, he wasvery attentive to people’s feelings and what happened around him, especiallyanything having to do with the two of them. They looked into each other’s eyes trying to soothe the sad feeling thatsuddenly engulfed them. Noticing the calmness in his mother’s face, Affif said,“We must not be unhappy, right, Ummi? Daddy was a good man and he waslucky because Allah Ta’ala loved him. He chose to meet Daddy before meetingus.” With a heavy sigh, Shafikah spoke, “Oh…Affif! Allah Ta’ala gave Ummiand Daddy a special gift when He gave us you. Alhamdulillah!” Small beads oftears rolled down her cheeks. Affif wiped away the tears and smiled to cheer her up. Shafikah took hissmall hands, kissed them and gently placed them on his lap. She held his face inher hands, kissed his forehead and the tip of his nose. “I love you, Ummi! Dinner’s getting cold now!” Affif told her with a smileand got off the bed. Affif headed for the door. “I love you too Muhammad Affif bin Muhammad Ashraff.”
Affif turned around and smiled widely. It was Ashraff’s smile on his smallface. Ashraff had wanted to name their son Muhammad Qutb after the name ofa great Muslim thinker, Sayyid Qutb, whom he admired so much. However,Shafikah thought it was too classical for a boy in the nineties. They finally agreedto name him Muhammad Affif. It was the name of a brother whom Ashraff hadadored and respected just like his real brother. He was an Imam who died a fewmonths before Affif was born. ~ They had been reading the story of Caliph Umar and Affif drifted off tosleep when the story ended. He was now fast asleep on the couch with his headon his mother’s lap. Shafikah smiled at her sleeping son. How small and younghe was, yet how alike the two of them were. Masha Allah! Seeing him in her lifewas like having him back all over again. Subhan Allah! He was right in sayingthat she would never feel alone in her life without him. Because she never hadbeen alone ever since he left her and their son. A three-year-old Affif wassleeping next to Ashraff when he finally left them forever. Today would beexactly six years that he was no longer in her life. Shafikah was gently pulling Affif into her arms to settle him in his bedwhen the phone rang. She looked at the clock. It was ten o’clock. Only oneperson would be calling her this late on this special day. She picked up thephone and greeted the caller. “Assalamualaikum, Abang Yusuff.” “Waalaikumussalam. How did you know it was me, Sis?” He was a littlesurprised. Not wanting to tell him that she had guessed why her brother had called,Shafikah replied, “I just knew.” Shafikah’s older brother, Yusuff, had been her sole protector since shecame to Bloomingdale about twelve years ago to pursue her degree inJournalism. They had been very close since they were small. She was the only
daughter in the family. Their eldest and youngest brothers nicknamed them “thetwins”. Yusuff resided in the city after completing his business studies atSouthern Illinois University. He now owned a wellknown food store inBloomingdale, the only kind that supplied a variety of Asian and other halal foodproducts. Yusuff’s wife, Fatima, was a graduate in Education. She had been ateacher at Bloomingdale Islamic School since its establishment the previous year– Fall 2000. Before that she had homeschooled her two children after quittingher teaching job at the Islamic Center in Bloomingdale. Yusuff sensed a little sadness in his sister’s voice. He had called for thereason that Shafikah might have guessed. He wanted to see if she was all right.He felt bad for not calling sooner, but he was out of town for the last two days.Nevertheless, he did not forget what the day was. “My little mujaahid is fast asleep?” Yusuff made an effort to sound cheery. “Miles away in a sweet dream, insha Allah.” Shafikah laughed a little.However, there was a crack in her voice when she continued,”He rememberedtoday too…as young as he is.” “And you, my dear one?” Yusuff’s voice was gentle. “How are you?” Herealized he did not have to bring up the subject. His sister had just brought it up.He knew his sister was a strong person emotionally, but even he himself wasmissing his late brother-in-law, especially on this day. “Alhamdulillah, I think I’m fine…I have to keep it all together for Afiff,insha Allah. Kak Fatima called and we talked.” “I know. She told me.” “Papa and Mama called too this morning. They sent their salams to you,Abang Yusuff.” “Waalaikumsalam.” Shafikah knew her brother wanted to know if she was feeling fine. He hadbeen the one accompanying her to the cemetery for the last five years. “You went to visit him today?” “Tomorrow, insha Allah. Kak Fatima will take care of my morning class.” “Want me to come?”
“It’s okay. I need to see him alone. You are not hurt that I turned downyour offer, are you?” A flicker of a smile appeared on Shafikah’s face. “I understand. Just give me a call tomorrow if you changed your mind.” “Okay, insha Allah. Sorry I didn’t ask about your trip. How was it?” “The trip was slow. Still snowing up north, but all went great,alhamdulillah.” ~ So much had happened during the last six years of Shafikah’s life with herson. After ‘losing’ Ashraff, she kept herself occupied with working and raisingAffif, as well as learning more about Islam. She wanted to make sure she haddeep Islamic knowledge to fulfill Ashraff’s wish for their son to be a well-broughtup Muslim. She also never stopped writing and was an active freelance writer. Itwas something she loved and would always do in her life. Journalism was thecatalyst that had brought her and Ashraff together. Then, more than a year ago,she completed her second degree in Islamic studies through a distance learningeducation program. It took her about three years to complete it. She had to do it- for herself, Ashraff, Affif and the Muslims in Bloomingdale. Shafikah felt blessed to have this family by her side through the years.They had been a great support in her life, especially after Ashraff was gone.He may not be in her life anymore, physically, but a big part of who she was now,was in fact Ashraff. Although the time they spent together was short, her life withhim had taught her much about this life and eventually the journey to the next life.She knew that it was something that all Muslims would have to endure to preparethem for the precious and invaluable reward – a meeting with Allah (s.w.t.) inJannah!
Chapter 2 “Assalamualaikum dwellers of the graves.” Shafikah whispered as sheneared the graveyard and continued. “Assalaamu ‘alaikum ahl al-diyaar min al-mu’mineen wa’l-muslimeen, Insha Allah bikum laahiqoon, as’al Allaaha lana walakum al-‘aafiyah (peace be upon you O people of the dwellings, believers andMuslims, Insha Allah we will join you, I ask Allah (s.w.t.) to keep us and you safeand sound).” The morning was beautiful. It was not cold though a thin layer of snowcovered the ground. Spring had just begun. The trees were still bare though, butsoon green leaves would be crowning the trees all over Bloomingdale and other
parts of southwest Indiana. The surrounding was quiet. The peaceful air seemedto envelop her to pacify what she was feeling inside. Her heart was filled with love, sadness and longing for the person she wasvisiting. About seven steps before the intended spot, she stopped. She lookedaround. It was peaceful and quiet. She saw an old woman kneeling by atombstone of her loved one reading verses from the Qu’ran in her hands. Aquestion popped in her mind. “Would I still be here to visit you at that age?”She turned towards her direction and started walking. “Assalamualaikum, Ashraff.” Shafikah whispered and her eyes were fixedon the clean spot in front of her. She was calm. No tears, just, peace inside her.She was amazed at how neat and clean the place was even though she and thefamily rarely came to visit. She wanted to come more often but her obligationsas a mother, a teacher and a writer took much of her time. Anyway he was withher anywhere she was. She just knew this always. Ashraff even prayed for thatduring his last days… ~ Ashraff and Shafikah had just finished Isha’ prayer together. She wasamazed at his sudden strength at every prayer time. He reminded her thatRasulullah (s.a.w.), during his last days before his death, still led prayers eventhough he was sick. Still sitting on his praying mat, Ashraff turned around. As always, Shafikahapproached him to kiss his hands. When she looked up to him, he held herhands in his. Looking deep into her eyes, he smiled and spoke to her. "I love you and that little guy in the next room. Don’t ever forget that.” Shafikah looked into his eyes and smiled. “I won’t, insha Allah.” Still holding her hands in his, he gently placed them on their touchingknees. He seemed calm and peaceful. “Insha Allah, you are not going to be alone, Shafikah.” Ashraff paused andsmiled lovingly at his wife. “Insha Allah, one day, you’ll meet a good man…
perhaps a much better Muslim man than I am…and insha Allah, Affif too willhave a brother or a sister…or more.” “Ashraff, no… don’t say…” Her eyes were full with tears. Ashraff put hisfinger to her mouth to interrupt her. She did not expect him to talk about this.Not that soon anyway. Ashraff continued. “You will love them and tell them about how much wehelped each other grow as Muslims…and how much we loved each other inAllah Ta’ala.” He paused. His eyes were glistening with tears as he continued ina whisper, “…and how I hurt you…but Allah the Almighty has kept us togethereven after all these…alhamdulillah.” Shafikah was looking into his eyes trying to capture the way he looked ather and never wanting to lose it. “I pray that every time you miss me or think ofme, Allah Ta’ala will make you feel my presence. After all, as long as you bothlove Him, He won’t let you both feel alone. Be close to Allah Ta’ala always… thatway you will have peace…’real’ happiness in Him. Remember always…HasbunAllah wa ni’mal wakil (Allah (s.w.t.) (Alone) is Sufficient for us and He isthe Best Disposer of affairs (for us))." Shafikah fell into his arms sobbing. Ashraff held back the tears as muchas he could and a painful smile appeared on his face. It was not the pain fromhis sickness. It was the pain from thinking about Shafikah and their son livingwithout him. ~ She gently ran her fingers over the stone engraved with Ashraff’s name,dates of birth and death while kneeling close to it. She took a small book fromher bag. Settling herself comfortably beside him, she began reading the smallbook in her hand. The late morning breeze touched her cheeks while she wassoftly reciting the beautiful Qur’anic verses. Later, as she was placing the little book back into her bag, she saw the oldwoman leaving the cemetery. They glanced at each another and exchangedsmile. Then, Shafikah was alone with him.
“Our little guy is bigger now, alhamdulillah. I didn’t tell him I was cominghere. Or else, he would make me bring him here too.” She weakly smiled andpaused. She could picture Ashraff smiling at her words. Taking a deep breath,Shafikah continued. “He’s a very bright and smart kid. SubhanAllah! You would be proud ofhim… I know you do see him some how, sometimes.” Shafikah looked intently at his name on the white stone of his grave. “I’m not sure why I came. Last year, I thought I would skip it this yearsince Affif needs me but…here I am...again.” Shafikah let go a small sigh. “I know that I can be strong and live without you, Ashraff. Insha Allah, Ican. Abang Yusuff and Kak Fatima have been so great to me…and Affif…he’sjust so wonderful, subhanAllah…” She paused and, with a longing expression onher face, continued in a whisper, “…but I’ll miss you forever.” Shafikah felt a sudden surge of emotion. She quickly took another deepbreath. She tried her best to stay composed as she had promised herself. Shedid not want to drop a tear there. “It seems like only days ago you were entrusted to me by Allah Ta’ala.Then, the ‘amanah’ was lifted from me when you returned to Him…but, there willalways be a part of me that just won’t leave you. A part of who I am now… is youAshraff.” Shafikah didn’t say much after that, but looked at the grave intently.Sitting next to his grave, she felt their closeness at that moment. But, she couldnot trespass the barrier set between his and her worlds. Only the Almighty Allah(s.w.t.) knew when they would be together again in one world. Until that timecame, she could only pray that he was “treated” well in the other world. Sheremembered the lecture given at the mosque: “One’s good or bad deeds are his/her companion in the grave…your salat,your fast, your dhikr…” She just wanted to be near him for a while before facing another daywithout him. Her past when she first came to the town and their past togetherflooded her mind as she recalled her life for the past twelve years. It was all
coming back to her…her life before him, the life they shared, and her life withouthim.
Part Two (Years 1990 – 2000)THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF LIFE
Chapter 3 1990 was Shafikah’s final year at IUPU - Indiana University PurdueUniversity, Indianapolis. Shafikah had been contemplating working inBloomingdale, the town where her brother and his family resided. Her plan wasto get some additional experience in journalism before leaving the town for good.However, Allah (s.w.t.) gave her more than what she had bargained for. ~ Indianapolis Airport in August 1988 was busy, just like the one in L.Athought Shafikah. This one was smaller but still packed with people who werecaught up with their own travel arrangements. Shafikah was looking at her watchwhen a light tap landed on her right shoulder. She quickly turned around andsmiled. “Assalaamualaikum, Fikah.” Her brother, Yusuff, greeted her with a biggrin. “Waalaikumsalaam, Abang Yusuff!” She excitedly returned his salaam.She took her brother’s hands to kiss and they hugged. They talked about herlong trip and she conveyed salaams from their family and relatives back at home. “It’s really been a while since we last saw each other. You look…” Yusuffquickly took two steps back and studied his sister. “…different!” He smiled ather. “No, I don’t! Not that much different any way!” Shafikah immediately gaveYusuff a light punch on his left arm. She rearranged her light blue flowery satinscarf. It was fully covering her hair and flowing onto her chest. She wore itdifferently the last time he saw her – not exactly covering the whole hair, lettingthe bang showing on her forehead and tying the scarf at the back of her neck,thus leaving the front of her neck and chest uncovered by it. That was a yearand a half ago, not long after his marriage to Fatima. Yusuff had come home tointroduce his wife to his family, and to meet his wife’s families and relatives.
“Well, I’m not going to comment on that yet…but one remains the same…still as perky as ever! Now, let’s go get your stuff and leave this place! UmarHafzi is waiting for you.” Shafikah was all excited at the mention of her six-month-old nephewwhom she had never met. “I can’t wait to see him and Kak Fatima. Let’sgo….lead the way!” ~ “Fikah?” Fatima called Shafikah when she noticed that her sister-in-lawhad been lost in thought. They were cleaning the table after iftar. Yusuff waslooking after the two-and-a-half-year-old Umar Hafzi in the living room. “Earth to Shafikah…” She joked and finally caught Shafikah’s attention. “Huh…huh…oh, I’m sorry, I was just thinking….this might be my lastRamadhan here with you, Abang Yusuff and little Umar. How fast time flies …it’sbeen two years…well, almost!” There was a little sadness in her voice. “I know…it is, especially when you’re not looking at the watch… countingthe minutes and the seconds…” Fatima made a small laugh, trying to cheer herup. She glanced at Shafikah and caught her half smiling. Fatima detected a little sadness in her sister-in-law’s voice and wondered.“You’re not happy to go home for good? Are you sad?” “I’m not sad…well maybe a little…I’ve grown to be attached to this place.It’s just that…this place…all that happened to me here, living with you and AbangYusuff has changed my life. I guess I grew up more here in two years than I didtwenty years living at home…masha Allah! I wonder how Mama and Papa willreact when they see me.” Shafikah ended with a wondering look. Living with her brother and sister-in-law in a non-Muslim land madeShafikah see how beautiful Islam was. The Muslims tried hard to hold on to theirfaith and really put the teachings of Islam into practice in their daily lives. It wasa gift that she doubted she would have experienced and felt, living in her ownhome, a Muslim country. In fact, the experience made her feel she had taken forgranted being a born Muslim.
“They’ll be just as happy and grateful as I am right now to have you as mysister!” Fatima made another effort to cheer her up. “And you’re partly responsible for that positive change. Alhamdulillah!” “Alhamdulillah. I’ve also learned some things from you…and Yusuff. AllahTa’ala made us learn something from each other I believe…here.” “I still remember the first time Abang Yusuff came home during thesummer break after a year studying here. I was still in high school…in form four,I think. He had changed a lot! We were all surprised. I even teased him bycalling him Abang “ustaz”…he tried to talk some sense into me about being abetter Muslim woman…but I was too stubborn back then…kind of a rebelliousdaughter and sister… too much affection got to my head…I was like a spoiledprincess in the family, you know!” They both laughed at what Shafikah had justsaid. Living with Fatima had taught Shafikah one thing in general. “I guess Itook the fact that I was born Muslim for granted…never really realized how manyconverts…or should I say reverts….there are. How much these reverts struggleto find “the true path”. Living in a non-Muslim country and trying to stand up formy religion has opened my eyes about the true meaning of life. I really need thiswake up call. Alhamdulillah, I’m grateful to Allah Ta’ala and thanks to you too KakFatima. You’ve made me see how much of a struggle becoming a Muslim is. Inthe end, at least you know, insha Allah, you will get to heaven and all the struggleof finding the right religion will pay off…insha Allah.” Shafikah smiled at hersister-in-law. They sat around the table for a glass of water. Both were reminiscing thepast, as if trying to capture and to share every unforgettable moment of their pastlives. They had never talked about this side of each other before. “When I first met your brother, the only thing we shared was our nationality– Malaysians! He was sitting at the da’wah table in the student center…and thisChinese girl…that was me…and her friend stopped by his table. He smilinglyand politely gave us a couple of pamphlets about Islam. We didn’t stay for longand left. It took me a year later to accept Islam as my religion. But I believed that
what I saw and learnt on that day started my soul searching. Alhamdulillah for thetaufiq and hidayah from Allah Ta’ala.” Shafikah remembered the first time she had learned about her sister-in-law’s pain and difficulty after her conversion to Islam. Her family had disownedher. Her marriage to Yusuff had made it worse. However, the birth of UmarHafzi was the beginning of her reunion with her family. Even though the strain intheir relationship was still there, at least now, Fatima and her family werecommunicating. They were still engrossed in their conversation when Yusuff popped hishead through the door to the kitchen. He interrupted them, “Excuse me myladies, I hate to bug, but let’s get going.” They laughed at him and left thekitchen. It was 10th April 1990, the fourteenth day of fasting for the Muslims allover the world. The night was the15th Ramadhan night. And like the previousnights, they were leaving for tarawih prayer at the Islamic Center. ~ When the tarawih prayer ended, the Imam’s wife reminded Shafikah andFatima about the second family gathering for iftar that weekend. They agreed tocome and promised to invite more families to attend. Suddenly there was aknock on the door to the women’s praying section. It was Yusuff, signaling themto leave. Yusuff was talking to a man by their car as Shafikah and Fatima wereapproaching. They could not tell who it was, but Shafikah thought he lookedfamiliar. He seemed to have just finished the tarawih prayer there too. Yusuffexcused himself and walked towards the women. He handed Umar to his wife.“I offered this brother a ride, but I will drop you ladies home first. Umar is asleepanyway.” The women took the backseat. As the car was pulling out of the drivewayof the Islamic Center, Yusuff introduced the brother to his sister and wife. Hisname was Muhammad Ashraff Matthew. He nodded slightly to his left as a signof courtesy. Shafikah, who was sitting behind the driver’s seat, was surprised to
see his face and so was he. He quickly glanced back for confirmation. “Ohsister, so that was you this afternoon?” Concealing her surprise on meeting him again, Shafikah answered. “Yes,that was me.” “You’ve met my sister, brother Ashraff?” Yusuff sounded surprised. “We met at the Islamic Center’s library this afternoon. I was looking forsome books and asking her about the latest lecture tapes…” “…which, unfortunately, I couldn’t get for you. Someone had alreadychecked them out…” Shafikah felt sorry for Ashraff as she recalled him lookingso hopeful of getting those tapes from the library. “Perhaps I have some at home that you might like,” Yusuff suggested. Themen continued talking about the tapes. Yusuff invited Ashraff for iftar at theirhouse for the next day. ~ After putting Umar in bed, the women sat on the couch to fold somelaundry while waiting for Yusuff. Shafikah told Fatima about her earlier meetingwith Ashraff at the library. She had planned to tell her brother and Fatima aboutAshraff. “It must have slipped my mind.” They both smiled at her forgetfulness. “I was going to ask if Abang Yusuff could lend his tapes to him. I did askfor his contact info so that Abang Yusuff could contact him about the tapes. NowI think it’s all taken care of, alhamdulillah! “He seems like a good brother…reminds me of myself when I was a newMuslim a few years ago. I also went to the library of the Islamic Center to findmaterials on Islam.” Shafikah said she and Ashraff talked a little about the Muslim families inBloomingdale. He also told her about his short trip to this town. “He came here this morning…a journalist on an assignment…” Shakirahexplained casually but Fatima interrupted her with a surprised look.
“Did you just say a journalist, Fikah?” Fatima suddenly stopped folding ashirt and waited for an answer from Shafikah. “Yes, a journalist.” Shafikah replied short, but she could not hide the thrillin her voice. Fatima noted the excitement in Shafikah’s voice when she mentioned theword “journalist”. Then, with a teasing smile, she told Shafikah. “Perhaps there’ssomething from Allah Ta’ala that’s in store for you, Sis. This is, after all, ablessed month, Ramadhan. Have you made the decision yet? Or may be youcan get some advice from the professional, insha Allah!” Shafikah smiled sheepishly at Fatima. “Perhaps, insha Allah.” Then, sheadded with a thoughtful look. “I wonder if he’s been a Muslim for a some timealready. He seems to know much about Islam, but still in quest of knowledge.” “Well, aren’t we all supposed to… as Muslims?” Shafikah smiled in agreement, but her smiling face slowly turned pensive. Fatima chuckled at the curious look on her young sister-in-law’s face. Sheinterrupted Shafikah’s thinking. “Insha Allah, we’ll know more about our newbrother tomorrow, Fikah!”
Chapter 4 Yusuff was fixing Umar’s toy when he heard a knock at the door. It wasAshraff. He arrived an hour before iftar. Yusuff invited him in. They talked aboutAshraff’s visit to the town. Suddenly Umar tugged at Ashraff’s pants. The littleboy wanted to show him his fire truck. Ashraff gave his attention to the boy andplayed along. Yusuff watched them with a smile. Later, they broke the fast withsome dates and drinks. Before eating the main food, Yusuff led Maghrib prayerin congregation. ~ Ashraff studied the food in front of him. “I ate Malaysian food once…acouple of years ago in Kuala Lumpur. Kind of spicy I think, but delicious! MashaAllah!” “You are welcome to try every one of these. The ladies specially preparedthem for you…the guest!” Yusuff smiled. Ashraff returned the smile and glancedat the women happily. “He’s right brother Ashraff, help yourself, please,” Fatima added. They talked about Malaysia and places Ashraff had been to for hisassignments as a journalist. He was in Malaysia for two days in 1985 aftercovering a story in Singapore. Yusuff mentioned that Shafikah was graduating inJournalism that spring. Ashraff was surprised she had not mentioned it when
they met at the library of the Islamic Center’s. He had told her he was a journalistwhen he introduced himself. “Congratulations, Sister Shafikah!” “Thank you, insha Allah, if everything goes well.” “So, what’s your big plan after graduation? Leaving for home to be areporter or a writer, perhaps?” Yusuff and Fatima looked at Shafikah with a smile. They knew this was adecision she had been trying to make since finishing her internship in the fall. “I still have this semester to complete, but yes, I have that in my plan,insha Allah.” “You could stay here for a while and seek for a part time job at the localpaper to get more hands-on experience. It would be good for your reśumé later,insha Allah,” Ashraff suggested. Shafikah turned to look at her brother who then raised his eyebrows as ifwaiting for Shafikah’s response to the suggestion. She turned to face Ashraff. “I’ve also thought about that, Brother Ashraff,but really I haven’t made my final decision.” “I know someone at the local paper here. If you decided to stay and workhere for a while, I could help. Just don’t hesitate to ask.” Ashraff explained thathis old friend worked as an editor at the Bloomingdale Chronicle. “Thank you, jazak Allahu khairan.” “Wa anti kathaalik.” He gave her a friendly smile. After dinner, the women left Yusuff and Ashraff alone. They werediscussing the lecture tapes he was looking for at the Islamic Center. Later, theyall left for tarawih prayer. ~ After the tarawih prayer, Yusuff invited Ashraff for another iftar since thenext day would be his last day in Bloomingdale to finish his work. However, hehad already accepted the Imam’s invitation. He told Yusuff that they might meet
again at the Islamic Center tomorrow night. He planned to leave for Indianapolisafter tarawih prayer. Ashraff walked Yusuff to the car to say goodbye. The ladies were alreadywaiting at the car. “I guess this is goodbye, then… just in case I don’t get to see all of youhere tomorrow night. Thank you for everything, alhamdulillah. I really had agreat time at your home tonight. It’s a pleasure meeting your lovely family,Brother Yusuff. I won’t forget this.” “We’ll keep in touch, insha Allah.” “That would be great, insha Allah.” Fatima was already at the back seat of the car holding the sleeping Umar. Shafikah opened the car door to the front seat. “Take care of your iman,Brother Ashraff.” “Insha Allah. Make du’as for me too Sister Shafikah…we’re in a greatmonth right now.” He smiled at her. “Insha Allah, I will. As salam alaikum.” ~ Yusuff met Ashraff after his last tarawih prayer at the mosque. He sent hissalams to Fatima and Shafikah. He reminded Yusuff to tell Shafikah again abouthis offer to help her.