When Muhammad Ghazali got married, he had two wishes: to be a good husband and to have sons – lots of them. In a perfect world, he would have had five (his own starting lineup, as he liked to say) but his wife talked him down to three. He was okay with that.
“That’s three kids total, not however many it takes to get three boys,” Laila clarified.
“Yes, I know. Three total,” Muhammad said confidently. He was part of an all-boy clan and his father swore it was because of special du’as he made during each pregnancy.
Perhaps Muhammad recited the du’as incorrectly, or maybe Laila recited her own special du’as. Either way, things didn’t go as planned.
Twenty-one years later, Muhammad found himself the loving but stressed-out father of three head-strong girls, Aalimah, Sadiqa and Fakira. They were lovely young ladies, intelligent, kind and strong (thanks to years of karate lessons), but they lacked that precious Y chromosome, and Muhammad was reminded of it daily.
It wasn’t that he thought boys were better; he just thought they were easier. Actually, he knew they were easier. No hair and makeup, no attitude and drama, and most importantly, no pregnancies.
“When you have a son,” his father used to say, “you only have to worry about one boy, but when you have a daughter, you have to worry about every boy on earth.” Muhammad found this to be true, and he was convinced it was the reason for every gray hair on his head.
Though he would never say it aloud, it bothered Muhammad that his daughters were so beautiful. It’s not like it was a surprise. Laila was stunning and Muhammad himself was a good looking guy. Of course they’d have attractive children, but he figured it would take some time for them to come into their beauty. As bad as it sounds, he was hoping for some awkward early teen years. Acne, a little baby fat, big teeth, something to keep the boys away. Instead, his wife birthed beautiful child after beautiful child. The awkwardness never appeared.
And, just as he had suspected, it didn’t take long for the boys to notice. When Aalimah was four, she received a Valentine from a boy in her daycare class. Laila, much more easygoing than her husband, thought it was cute, but Muhammad was outraged. He sent a long letter to the daycare director the next day and called the boy’s father to complain. They ended up getting into a huge, testosterone-fueled argument. That was 16 years ago. Things had gotten much, much more complicated.
“I can’t believe she did it,” Aalimah exclaimed as she walked into the kitchen and settled into one of the kitchen chairs.
“What is it you can’t believe?” her father asked. He peeked his eyes over the top of his newspaper.
“Fatimah, she got married! She’s only 19, with a high school diploma. Why would she do that? What kind of life is she going to lead now? She’ll probably be pregnant soon. There goes the rest of her life.” Aalimah shook her head like she couldn’t believe the words coming out of her own mouth.
Laila was in the sunroom, but couldn’t help overhearing. “So what are you saying? Getting married and having children is a bad thing?” She was now standing in front of her daughter with her arms crossed.
“Mommy, you know that’s not what I’m saying, but she’s too young. And her husband’s no better. He’s 19 too, works at his dad’s halal meat shop. What kind of life are they going to have? How is he going to take care of her and all the babies I’m certain they’re about to have. I’ve seen this scenario before. It doesn’t go well.”
Muhammad folded his paper neatly and set it aside. It was clear he wouldn’t be getting any more reading done. “It’s better for her to marry now than to get pregnant outside of wedlock. She’s making the honorable choice,” he said. Becoming a grandfather before his daughters were married was one of his biggest fears. The embarrassment. The shame. He couldn’t take it, and though he agreed that teen marriage is often a bad idea in this day and age, he’d rather see that than the birth of illegitimate children.
Sadiqah had been wearing headphones, but still heard the entire conversation. She decided to chime in. “If she wants to get married at 19, good for her, but if she’s only doing it to have sex, what’s the point? I mean, seriously, what are they going to do when the newness wears off and the sex gets old? Get divorced, that’s what they’ll do!”
Muhammad cleared his throat. He didn’t like to hear his daughters talking about sex. “Okay, that’s enough. Let’s let sister Fatimah live her life.” He looked over at the empty seat at the table. “Where is your sister?”
“Who knows?” Sadiqah shrugged. “Probably at a feed-an-atheist pancake breakfast,” she joked, bursting into laughter.
“Astagfirullah,” Muhammad said. “I don’t like her hanging out with so many different people. It doesn’t look right.” Laila shook her head in agreement. As laid back as she was, she too was uncomfortable with Fakira’s eclectic group of friends. Most of them she didn’t mind, but some of them were strange, like the goth girl who seemed to only speak in a whisper.
“I actually think it’s kind of cool,” Aalimah said. “She’s firm in her Islam and she does more da’wah than the rest of us combined.”
“Da’wah is one thing, but this is getting to be a bit much. If she ever left Islam, I’d…” his voice trailed off. He couldn’t finish. The mere thought was too painful.
“Morning family,” Fakira said, bounding through the door with a huge smile.
“Where have you been? Who were you with?” Muhammad barked, jumping up from his seat.
Fakira smiled calmly. “Daddy, you know yelling is bad for your blood pressure. Sit down and relax.” She walked over behind him and put her hands on his shoulders, gently pushing him back into his seat. “Wow, you’re really tense,” she said, feeling the knots in his shoulder. You need a good massage. Did you know some natural healers actually use therapeutic massage in the treatment of cancer? Compassionate touch is a true mercy from Allah.”
“Ain’t nobody healing cancer with no massage,” Sadiqah said, swiping her hand dismissively at the air.
“I wouldn’t be so quick to say that, Sadiqah” Aalimah said. “It’s actually an interesting concept. I’m going to read up on it.” She stood up from the table and headed off to begin her research.
“You still haven’t answered my question, Fakira. Where were you?” Muhammad asked again, trying to sound more relaxed this time.
“I was at Amirah’s. We were studying for our math test tomorrow.”
“Studying? This early in the morning?” Muhammad was skeptical.
“She has a busy day. This was the only time she had. We always study together,” Fakira explained.
An hour later, Aalimah and Sadiqah walked into Fakira’s room. “Okay, so where were you really?” Aalimah asked.
“And we already know Amirah is out of town so don’t even try to run game,” Sadiqah added.
Fakira looked down and took a deep breath. “Promise you won’t tell?”
You can read the rest of ‘Ghazali’s Daughters’ at ghazalisdaughters.hubpages.com
Nadirah Angail is an American writer who uses the medium of Muslim fiction to help remove the mystery and stigma surrounding Muslim women. She is the author of On All the Things That Make Me Beautiful and What We Learned Along the Way, a full-length novel. For more info, visit her blog, www.nadirahangail.com.
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