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Monday 23rd of May 2022
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famili Rihab sat alone, musing to herself about the recent events that had taken place within her home.

CHAPTER ONE


 

Rihab sat alone, musing to herself about the recent events that had taken place within her home. "….everything is over. Hasanat has achieved happiness, having decided upon a harmonious future for herself. All the guests have left after celebrating the happy occasion with Hasanat, whose finger is now embellished with an engagement ring. She has got the man of her dreams and is now thinking of her future happy marriage. Everyone left, praising the bride and groom. What bothers me most is that I now have to go to my room and suffer tortuous boredom and isolation. How cruel it is to have to live in this spiritual alienation. My family is against me, on the pretext that I am wayward….

In fact they are! With their background and old-fashioned ideas that are the mainstay of their lives, they are all deviated, even my sister Hasanat, who now thinks she's chosen the right path and tries to make out that she's a saint. She is really misguided and abnormal. How could she agree to marry a man whom she has never seen, and who is far away?

 

He didn't even take the trouble to attend his own engagement party! Instead he asked his father to represent him! They say that he is a committed believer, and then he's the same as Hasanat. Both of them are crazy. How could he ignore beautiful European women and choose someone like Hasanat? He could get the most beautiful girls –he is rich and charming. Anyway, it must be some defect in himself that made him turn to Hasanat and neglect those beauties. Infact, Hasanat is beautiful and educated, but I never thought, she could get such a man. Anyway he is a complexed person -she won't be happy with him."

 

Rihab tried to dismiss the subject from her mind. She took a book from the shelf and tried to read. The book was entitled ‘Nothing Counts’ written by an Egyptian Author.

"Nothing is important. Neither dignity nor conscience, not even what comes after death." She enjoyed reading the story, written for people like herself and read till late. The next morning, Rihab awoke late. She sat listening to the happy voices of her mother and sister in the living room. She dragged herself out of bed and joined them with a forced smile on her face. She saw her sister was wearing a white gown. She was happy and cheerful, satisfied with her future. Jealousy increased in Rihab's heart, but she tried to look normal. She said to Hasanat, "How's the bride today?"

Hasanat said, "All praise be to God, quite well. I hope to see you a bride soon too."

These words angered Rihab and she maliciously said, "Perhaps a man from Africa will send to ask for my hand, just as a man from Europe did! Huh! As if there aren't enough men here!”

Hasanat had no wish to prolong the conversation and said, "God knows what is best sister.”

Rihab continued scornfully, "I know how to build my future myself. I won't marry someone I don't know."

Hasanat said defensively, "Why do you say I don't know him? I know everything about my fiancé. It is enough to know that he is a committed believer."

Rihab persisted, "Is it enough to be religious? You are still young. I fear you may understand life too late."

"What do you mean?" said Hasanat.

Rihab replied, "You should be with your fiancé now, so that he won't meet with other girls. You are here surrounded by the four walls, while your man is free enjoying himself living it up with the girls!"

 

Hasanat said quietly, "I am sorry to tell you that you are wrong. I would not have agreed to marry a man who was playboy. Mustafa is a righteous believer and does not care for loose women; that is why I am happy to have him. Since he is a religious person, he is deterred from such a life. His belief provides him with immunity whether he is here or in some other place."

Rihab was about to respond when their mother stopped the argument saying, "That is quite enough. You both have work to do. We are going to have visitors this afternoon.”

 

The days passed and Hasanat was quite happy except for Rihab's silly comments. For Rihab, the days passed slowly and were boring. She was vexed to see her sister always happy and cheerful, listening to people's congratulations.

 

A week later, Rihab returned from her office to find the postman at the door, just about to knock. When he saw her, he gave her a letter addressed to her sister Hasanat. It carried a European stamp. She knew it was from Mustafa. She hid the letter in her bag and did not give it to her sister. After dinner she hurried to her room to read it. Wickedness made her open and read, the nicely written letter.

 

 

In the Name of God

Dear Hasanat,

Assalamu Alaikum

Despite the long distance that separates us, I have chosen you. This is my first letter to you. I have enjoyed many days thinking of you throughout the past weeks. You are the hope I waited for, and I am overwhelmed with longing to be with you. My dreams came true when I found you, my treasure. These words can tell my feelings of love since I am deprived of your presence. Now that you are part of myself, I can tell you how much I love you. I have loved you though I have not seen you, because I know you love what I love, and believe in what I believe in. I shall always be faithful to you once this holy bond has joined us together. Such a relation would not have existed but for your faith and religions commitment and your accepting to marry me.

 

As for me, I think of marriage as a spiritual and ideological relationship with no false materialistic values. I have chosen you as a wife to build an ideal married life, one decorated with the flowers of faith with a torch of Qur'anic rays, supported with the Islamic injunctions of love, compassion and sincerity. We are both devoted to God first and then to each other. May God bless our spiritual unit and protect our love and guide us to His path. I wish I could keep on talking to you, but I fear you might prefer short letters.

 

My love to you

Yours forever,

Mustafa

10th October, 1970

N.B. Enclosed is my photo for you. I expect to get yours as soon as possible.

 

 

With great bitterness, Rihab read the letter, with each gentle word, she felt a sting of fire. Her hatred increased to such a degree that she decided not to give the letter and the photo to Hasanat. She spent the day suffering jealousy and was at a loss as how to rid herself of the letter. She read it several times and suffered more and more pain. She wished the letter was addressed to her, and not Hasanat. She spent a sleepless night, and read it for the tenth time. She said to herself "Beautiful handwriting, beautiful photo, nice words that reveal an emotional nature. Hasanat would have rejoiced at reading it, she would have felt happy, her happiness disturbs me…" Rihab decided to tear the letter up. Then an idea flared up in her mind. She murmured to herself, "No, I won't tear it up. I'll burn it and enjoy watching the fire devour his words of love." So saying, she went to fetch a match. She saw a bundle of small coloured candles in a golden ribbon with the words: 'Happy Birthday' written on them. She laughed nervously and took out one candle. She said to herself, "How nice to burn Mustafa's letter with Hasanat's candle. This is her gift to me for my 18th birthday. I have kept it to burn Mustafa's letter with, I'll burn her happiness…"

 

Before burning it, another idea came to her mind. She thought there was no use in burning it, as he would inevitably write her another letter and certainly she could not hope to find the postman at the door again. Thus, burning the letter would be of no use. She sat thinking for sometime. She would write a letter to Mustafa using Hasanat's name. She would try to destroy his love for her. Also she would give him another address, her friend’s address.  She decided to keep the letter incase she needed to read it again. She sat at her desk and wrote:

 

 

Dear Mustafa

 

I am grateful to you for your nice letter and loving words. I was also satisfied with a short letter, as I do not like long ones. You said that writing could replace seeing each other. I think that is nonsense. An imaginative person might think in such a way, in order to convince himself of something. But to me there is no use in letters. What can a letter do as I know nothing about you ? How you spend your time ? With whom ? You are in a country with every kind of enjoyment and entertainment. What will be left of you when you come back to me? I think there is no need to be religious. Today there is not such a sharp conflict between the oppressed and the oppressors, or a class struggle. There is not one exploited helpless group that makes us search for a means of saving it, or search in the darkness for a ray of light. Hence we create for ourselves a Supreme Power, which is stronger than darkness and higher than oppression. By such a belief we satisfy ourselves with hope in such a Power. We wait for it to solve our problems and remove our sufferings. For this reason man came to believe in God and, as a result have a religion. Don't you agree with me that we are no longer in need of such a belief since man has found the way to justice? Anyway, I am sorry to write such ideas, but you see I am a frank person, and like to deal with others frankly.

 

My wishes and regards for you

Hasanat

N.B. Please send your letter through the following address:

To: Miss Mida Naji ……….

 

 

Rihab posted the letter to Mustafa. She felt a pang of conscience. She was sure she could destroy her sister's happiness, but still she maliciously dismissed her accusing conscience. She waited for the result of her plot.

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