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Once, They Were Lovers

In a flash of fiction, Zainab Bint Younus reveals a time-worn dilemma.

His dark eyes watched her from afar as she walked through the date orchard, his eyes shining with ardour, memorising every move. A small sigh escaped his lips, his beard rustling, a murmur of adoration. His heart ached, full and fierce, and he felt almost overpowered by his love for his wife.



He loved her.


She could feel his gaze on her, could feel the tug of his love for her; she lifted a shoulder in irritation, as though to shrug off the weight of his devotion the way she would brush off a fly.


She did not love him.


He could feel her shudder of distaste when he brushed his fingertips along her skin, knew that she endured his embrace only out of dutifulness, but he couldn’t stop loving her.


He loved her.


She had once loved him, long ago, but she didn’t know when it had faded to tolerance, then irritation, then something akin to hatred. His tenderness grated at her nerves; every glance, every caress, every word of love was a chain of slavery.


She did not love him.


He clung to the long-ago memories of reciprocated love, of sweetness shared, of blissful moments. The words she spoke now, the disinterest of her gaze, the forced obedience of her actions, did not matter. All that mattered was that, once upon a time, she had loved him.


He loved her.



She did not loathe him; she pitied him for the helplessness of his love. She wished that his gaze would stray, that some other woman would snare his affection, be his wife in the way that he deserved.



She did not love him.


Freedom. Finally. She rejoiced, rushing towards it with fervour and gratitude, without a moment’s backward glance at the man who adored her more than any other man could or ever would. She didn’t care.


She was free.


His heart was broken, destroyed. His feet followed only her footsteps; his eyes saw only the woman who had been his wife, his beloved, even as she forsook him joyfully.


He still loved her.


Ibn ‘Abbas narrated:
Barirah’s husband was a slave, who was known as Mughith. I can almost see him, running after her and weeping, with tears running down onto his beard. The Prophet said to `Abbas: `O `Abbas, do you not find it strange, how much Mugith loves Barirah and how much Barirah hates Mughith?’

The Prophet said (to Barirah), `Why do you not go back to him?’
She said, `O Messenger of Allah, are you commanding me to do so?’
He said, `I am merely trying to intervene on his behalf.’
She said, `I have no need of him.'” (Sahih Bukhari)



Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a hopeless romantic who, ironically enough, knows how Barirah must have felt like. When not brooding over the meaning of love and reading tragic romances, Zainab blogs at www.TheSalafiFeminist.blogspot.com.





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