I woke up to the sound of Mrs. Vermaak banging down my door. “Hold on… Hold on.”, I yelled, trying to make my way to the door through the obstacle course that had been created in my flat by the sleeping guys last night.
I felt like a bat when I opened the door and the light shed directly inside. We had been indoors all weekend, so you can imagine how my eyes rolled back into my head when I opened the door. Trying to peel my eyes open and look at the body corp lady, I listened as she went on ranting about the noise we made this weekend. “Do you know how many complaints I’ve gotten because of the racket you had made in these past 3 days? This is unacceptable!”, she scolded.
I stepped outside and pulled the door behind me so that the guys inside wouldn’t get disturbed by the noise this granny was making. “I understand. I’m so sorry. I truly am… My friends just came to say goodbye since I’m leaving work. And you know how hard it is to control a pack of wild guys.”, I told her. Her eyebrows raised right up in horror before she cleared her throat and said, “I wouldn’t know about that. Just please… Don’t let it happen again.”
“I won’t Mrs. Vermaak, thank you!”, I told her, throwing a million dollar morning smirk at the old lady. She sped away quickly, probably feeling uncomfortable at this point.
I turned around to go back inside and realised that the idiots inside had locked me out. “Damn! I should’ve known…”, I mumbled to myself. “Cumon bra! Open the door.”, I tried whispering through the key hole. I had just received a verbal warning from body corp, I wasn’t going to chance getting a written one. “Guys… Please man.” I pleaded, with my ear against the door, trying to figure out who was behind this stunt.
I was standing outside in nothing but boxers and socks. Although I’m sure my neighbors would appreciate the handsome view of me hugging my door in my morning hair, I was definitely not appreciating the chill up my butt. I tried pushing the door open but to no avail. Just before I could think of another plan to get in, this little girl comes down the stairs with her Mum and gasps before saying, “Mummy, that man is naked!”
If she thinks this is naked, she should go to phoenix and chatsworth, there are a lot of naked men there. Every morning you’ll see people parading in their boxers on the street. The boys even play cricket like that during the holidays at times. I used to find it odd, until I discovered how comfortable it was.
I smiled and bobbed my head, walking away awkwardly while the mother covered her daughter’s eyes. I didn’t get what was the big deal anyway. It wasn’t as if I really was naked. I don’t get the white ladies here… They take their kids to the beach where men are wearing one piece swimming costumes all over the place and that is considered ok. Some of the men are so big sized that you can’t even tell that they are wearing any pieces at all, whereas me on the other hand… I had 3 pieces of cloth on and just because of the color of my skin, it’s disgusting and unacceptable.
Shaking my head out of annoyance, I looked for a way into my flat from the outside. I lived all the way on the 13th floor, so this wasn’t going to be easy. The bathroom window was still open, but the only way to get to it was to jump over the 13 story drop from the passageway and grab onto the windowsill. While I was busy trying to talk myself into doing this crazy crap, Zaid had just finished taking a shower and got dressed. Opening the blinds to let the steam out, he saw me sitting on the edge of the wall outside. “WHAT THE HELL MAN?!”, he yelled, startling me so much that I nearly fell. “Dammit Zaid! I could’ve died!”, I yelled back at him. “No shit!”, he said sarcastically.
“If you wanted to kill yourself, couldn’t you at least have the decency of dying with your clothes on?”, he asked me, popping his head out from the window.
“Really? THAT’S what you’re worried about? Me being half naked? I would’ve thought that the first thing you would do is give me a lecture about suicide being Haraam.”, I told him,getting off from the wall.
“Yeah… That also. I know you’re trying to be superman for the new love in your life, but bra, I don’t think your flying ability kicked in yet.”
“Yeah Yeah. I was just giving it a kick start.”, I joked before telling him to hurry up and open the door to let me in.
As I stepped in, there was an uproar. The guys were whistling and applauding for me. They even threw money at me and told me to give them a dance – Idiots! I felt so dirty after that, that I made them all get up and get going. Zaid was the last one to leave though. He stayed to help clean up. “Leave it man, I’ll get someone to sort it out. You’re going to get late for work.”, I told him. “Na man, no worries. I’m working night shift today anyway.” He insisted. I felt so bad that he was cleaning up my place, that I decided to clean too. At first it seemed like a lot to do, that’s why I was going to pay someone else to do it. But surprisingly, once I got started, the place was clean in no time.
Zaid left afterwards to catch up with the other guys who were having breakfast at a cafe down the road. I told him that I would join them after I had a shower and got ready. When everyone was gone and the flat was as quiet as it used to be, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Things didn’t feel normal. I had worked and lived with those guys for so long that when the reality of me probably never seeing them again hit me, it made me feel out of place.
I left the place, looking around once more just to take the whole past weekend in. We may have not done much besides playing games, eat and make noise, but the company was what made it special. I took in a deep breath and let out a sigh as I closed the door behind me. I pressed the elevator button and thought about how I would miss Zaid the most. He was always there giving some advice on what to do or what not to do. I learnt a lot from him. I also felt guilty or dropping him since I was the one who used to give him a lift to and from work everyday.
I got into the elevator and swung back and forth, waiting for the numbers above the door to drop but it went up instead. “Oh great…” I mumbled to myself. I find it so awkward when people join you in the elevator. You never really know what to say to each other, so you just greet or bob your head. Then everyone in the elevator just stands around, looking up and staring at the lit up numbers in silence as it changes, almost like helpless animals waiting to be fed.
The elevator stopped on the 22nd floor. Definitely a Laanie otherwise he wouldn’t be anywhere near this floor. This floor was one of the 4 penthouses in the building. Usually there are 6 flats per a floor, but on these floors, the entire floor was ONE HOUSE! You either have come from money or be working for money to live here.
I tried to avoid the awkwardness as the doors opened by looking down at my phone. A little boy swung the door open, making me look up instantly. He paused as he was about to step in, probably because he never expected anyone to be inside. “Howzit little man.”, I bobbed my head at him. “Going down? Ground floor?” I asked him. He stood still and turned to look behind him. Something about the way he looked, created this nagging feeling at the back of my head. I tried searching the boxes in my brain to try and figure out what it was but I just couldn’t get it. Perhaps there was just too much on my mind.
“Wait for me buddy!” A masculine voice said just as the little boy stepped inside, probably the little guys Dad. I didn’t want him to think I was a child stalker or anything so I looked back down at my phone once more, but something about the way the guy smelt made me want to look up again. It was so… So musky, which could only mean that the guy who had just stepped in was a very important guy, like one of those born bred Slumo guys.
I wasn’t wrong. The man got in, still buttoning the sleeves of his Kurta. “Howzit” he said, still focusing on his sleeve and not looking up at me yet. As the doors closed and the elevator started moving, I was shocked beyond words. “Uthmaan?” I took a chance. He looked up finally, “Sayfullah?! Subhan-Allah! How are you bhai saheb?!” He pulled me into an embrace.
“I can’t believe I’m seeing you after all these years! Is this your laaitie?” I asked him.
“Jee. The other two and my daughter are in the car with their mother.” He told me.
“You’re a father. Shoh… This is crazy! Umi is going to freak when I tell her who I bumped into today.”, I said excitedly.
“You think she would remember me? It’s been YEARS since I saw you last.” Uthmaan said.
“Of course! How could she not? All I ever spoke about was my friend Uthmaan and our gang. Who could forget all the adventures we went on?” I reminded him. He chuckled, remembering an incident, “Do you remember the time we snuck out when we went on that madressah hike?”
“Ooooh yes! All because Dawood forgot his jusdaan on the bus and he was scared to get into trouble with Ustaadh Moosa if the bus left.” I laughed, recalling how we all nearly ended up being taken away with the bus during our ‘rescue mission’.
Uthmaan’s son tugged on his kurta to signal him when the lift stopped on the ground floor. As we stepped out, I heard him ask his father, “Papa who is that man?”. Uthmaan turned to look at me and smiled before saying, “Do you know all the stories I tell you about my madressah days when I was your age?”, the boy nodded his head quickly, before his father continued, “Well… He was my friend that went on all my adventures with me.”
“How come we never met him before?” The child asked curiously. I felt a sense of regret fill up inside as his father replied, “Allah took us our separate ways for some time but now He has brought us back. Alhumdulilah.”
“Hey listen! Do you have some time for a coffee? For old times sake?” I asked Uthmaan, wanting to catch up a little. He looked over at the car parked across the road and then back at me and said, “Sure, why not? Just give me a second.” He walked his son over to the car, exchanged a few words with his wife and came back to where I was waiting.
“Where do you want to go?” he asked me.
“There is a coffee shop a block away. I hear they make killer coffees. We could try it out?” I told him.
“I don’t think that one is Halaal bru.”, he replied.
“Really? It’s just coffee though…”, I raised an eyebrow. I supposed that he was just one of those very strict Muslims who even looked for stamps on their popcorn seeds.
“There’s a nice place near my kids school and it’s halaal certified. My wife could drop us off there on the way. If you don’t mind…”
“Uhm… I don’t mind taking my car.”
“I’m actually taking the car for a service after she runs some errands. So if we’re in one car, we’d get to chat a little more. Plus she is heading that way anyway and I’ll drop you back when we’re done.”, he told me.
I agreed and followed him to the car. We both got in the backseat with the boys and his daughter got in the passenger seat next to her mother.
“Assalaamu-Alaikum”, I said as I jumped in. “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam-Wa-Rahmatulah”, his wife replied in a very soft, ladylike tone. It was odd for me to be driven around by a lady. What made it more awkward was the fact that she was in Niqaab. It was very rare for me to see a ninja in the driver’s seat. Usually they are the ones being driven around. I guess society is so used to labeling people, that we forget that they are ordinary human beings who have to live day-to-day lives too like the rest of us, and who just dress and behave more modestly than others for the pleasure of our Lord.
When we got to the coffee shop, Uthmaan and I jumped off and greeted before walking off. Uthmaan was sure to point out the halaal stamp on the door to me, as well as show me the halaal certificate inside.
“Relax bra, it’s cool. It’s just coffee.” I chuckled at his concern.
“Just because the ingredient itself doesn’t contain anything haraam like pork or alcohol, it doesn’t make it halal to consume.”, he told me.
“What do you mean?” I didn’t understand. What could be so harmful in coffee? Did people have to say Allah’s name when picking the coffee beans? What?
“In a recent article I read by Cii, it was said that pork bristle brushes were found to be used to clean the coffee machines in a coffee store.” He told me.
“Wow… I would have never thought of that.” I admitted before he explained further….
“So many of us are unaware. You might walk into a garage or cafe and buy a cheese and tomato sandwich without thinking twice about it. After all, where is the harm in a simple toasted cheese sandwich? But aside from the ingredients being halal, there are other factors such as:
-Where the sandwich is made?
-Is the utensils and cleaning equipment used ONLY for and on halal items?
-Is pork or alcohol made on the same premises?
-Are the people handling the food touching pork or alcohol?
You know… My wife pointed out that many of us with a sweet tooth buy cakes and biscuits from local grocery stores while we do our weekly shopping. I myself am guilty of it. We read the ingredients and think it is ok. But we don’t stop to think, is the chocolate on that doughnut halal? When they say ‘flavorants’, what does it contain? What are they cleaning the oven and utensils with before baking each batch? Is the yeast used in the rolls halal?
What about the cakes these ladies order from one another? Without knowing if the woman is Muslim or not, they place their orders. Who knows if that lady baked haraam meat in the same oven tray she used to bake your cake? What about if her husband was drinking a beer and tasted the icing while his wife wasn’t looking? The possibilities are endless…
We as Muslims need to start paying attention and putting the state of the food we consume on the top of our priority lists. Imagine… FORTY DAYS our ibaadat isn’t accepted when we consume something haraam.”
I looked at Uthmaan and I couldn’t help but wonder if my life would’ve turned out as great as his if I hadn’t dropped out of madressah, using the pressures of highschool homework as an excuse.
“Sorry man. I’m blabbering again. I do that a lot when I get into something. Force of habit because of my Friday lectures.”, he said, realising that we hadn’t ordered yet.
“Nah man. It was actually quite eye opening. I’m glad you told me. I never gave it much thought before but In-Sha-Allah that will change now. Rather be safe than sorry… Right?”, I smiled a genuine smile at my childhood friend.
Uthmaan seemed to have everything going for him. Wonderful life, good wife, great kids, earned well and most importantly he had a special connection with Allah. Everything he did, always reminded him of Allah. Being Allah conscious is a rare thing to find in a person. In a way… I wish I had his life. I guess all good things in life don’t come easy.
“How did you do it?” I asked him.
“Do what?” He looked up confused.
“Find success so fast… I mean, you’re the youngest wealthy person I know.” I admitted to him.
“The Muazzin…” He said.
“Huh? I don’t understand… Did he leave you a fortune or something?”
“Better yet… Everyday he invites me with ‘Haiya ‘Alas-salah, Haiya ‘Alal-falah’ “, he opened his palm to show me five fingers and continued, “Five times a day he calls out in the azaan, two times each, ‘Come to Salaah. Come to Success.’ We are so busy chasing the world, but the day we stop and turn to Allah in Salaah, the world will chase us my brother.”
“Hmm… Easier said than done huh?”
“It all starts here…”, he placed his hand on his chest, where his heart is.
Just then, our waiter came to ask us what we would like to order. Uthmaan snapped out of Aalim mode and ordered. We spent the rest of the time we had catching up. He updated me on what the rest of the gang were getting up to nowadays and we also laughed and joked about our past adventures. Thinking back, our madressah days were probably the best days of my life. We went on excursions and attended youth seminars from as young as 8 years old. I can’t believe I let all that go, for highschool, which wasn’t even all that I expected it to be.
I guess we can’t change the past can we? But we can learn from our mistakes. I’ll be sure to never let my kids drop out, no matter what the excuse.
“Time is flying man. I haven’t laughed so much in years!”, I told Uthmaan, looking at my watch.
“Now that you know where I live, you must come visit.”, he said.
“You too. I don’t have a penthouse or anything, but I’m on the 13th floor, next to the staircase.”
“Ooooh… So you’re the new trouble maker everyone is talking about.” He chuckled.
“It was just ONE noisy weekend. Shoh… Gossip travels fast.”
“That’s not what I’ve heard. Your neighbors want you out bru. Maybe you should learn to be a little more… What’s the word…”
“Considerate… Towards them. You could start with a simple gesture of buying a cake…”
“Halal one.”, I added.
“Hahaha, yes… taking two slices to each flat on your floor, apologise and tell them it won’t happen again. Keeping good ties with your neighbors is so important. When you aren’t home, these are the people who will take time to make sure all is ok at your place. Besides that… You are Muslim. These people see Islam through you. Don’t give it a bad name..” He advised.
Uthmaan had a point. I didn’t see it that way before. In fact, I didn’t see a lot of things before our meeting today. I learnt so much from him in this brief 1 hour meeting and something inside me was thirsty to learn more. The Hadith about keeping good company played in my head.
“We need to do this again…” I told him.
“Come home next Sunday?” He invited me.
“I’m starting this new project soon. In fact I’m going to go get the details on it right after I leave here. So I can’t promise anything but I will let you know in advance.”
Before the bill came, Uthmaan excused himself. I assumed he left to go to the bathroom, so after checking my messages, I signaled for the waiter to bring the bill so that I could avoid the whole awkward ‘I’ll pay, no I’ll pay’ scenario. The waiter informed me that the bill was already paid and that our cake was on its way.
Uthmaan was just too much. The way he carried himself was so humble. You wouldn’t say he was doing it to show off how much money he had. He also didn’t live in a cardboard box or drive a scrap car, but he didn’t let his wealth get to his head either. He wasn’t the type to hold on to money like gold. Since he was a kid, he was a very giving person. He liked to see others around him happy. That is what made him happy.
When we were done, the waiter brought a whole cake and placed it on our table to go. “Whoh. When he said cake, I thought one slice or something. What’s this?”, I asked him.
“It’s for your neighbors. Forgive me… I wanted to have some share in the reward In-Sha-Allah.” He said.
I couldn’t help but smile. If there was any friend I was proud to have, it would be him. He was so selfless and was always planning ahead for the Aakirah.
“Why not? Besides, our Merciful Lord doesn’t cut my reward short to share it with you. He multiplies it…”, I told him.
When Uthmaan dropped me off at home, I went and made peace with all my neighbors. They were shocked to see me but their faces lightened up when they saw the cake. Its amazing how simple gestures can make a world of a difference.
When I was done doing my deed of the day, I decided to take a small nap before heading to the address Uncle Ismail gave me. My small nap turned into a 5 hour snooze and by the time I woke up, it was too late to go exploring. I sat up most of the night afterwards, just thinking about all the ideas that were exploding from my head on how to refurbish this new place. I can hardly wait for tomorrow. May Allah make a success of this new venture In-Sha-Allah.
Authors note: Maaf for late post my wonderful readers. I was working on the Cii Youth Foundation Facebook Page makeover and had to put this project aside for a bit. But Alhumdulilah now that the page is running again, I will be back In-Sha-Allah. Please go like the page and share posts onto your wall to help us get the momentum going.
In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (saws) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” (Abu Dawood and at-Tirmithi)
Ali (raa) said: “Mix with the noble people, you become one of them; and keep away from evil people to protect yourself from their evils.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Kindness to a Non-Muslim Neighbor
The neighbor holds a special status in Islam. Islam encourages Muslims to treat their neighbors in a gentle way that reflects the true and genuine spirit of Islam as exemplified in its tolerant aspect especially with people of other faiths. It makes no difference whether the neighbors are Muslim or non-Muslim. Ayesha, the Mother of the Believers, stated that she once asked Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), “O Messenger of Allah! I have two neighbors. To whom shall I send my gifts?” Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “To the one whose gate is nearer to you.”
It is clear from the above Prophetic Hadith that Muslims are encouraged to not only treat our neighbors kindly, but also to exchange gifts with them. The wording of the Hadith does not indicate whether the one with whom we exchange gifts is a Muslim or not.
Below are 10 tips on how to approach your non-Muslim neighbors in a kind way that exemplifies Islamic manners:
1. Being good to neighbors is not only restricted to those who share the same building with you. Your roommate at the dorm is your neighbor; the person sitting behind you or next to you in a bus or at a bus stop is your neighbor; the one sharing your office at work is your neighbor; the person enjoying fresh air next to you in a public garden is also a neighbor. You ought to treat all of those people kindly and socialize with them within the permitted scope of Shariah Islamic Law.
2. Introduce yourself and your family to your neighbors when you move into a new place or when new neighbors move in. This will also help to relieve any fears or tensions they may have about Muslims. Also, don’t forget to say good-bye when you or they move away.
3. Care for them continually, especially at times of need and distress, as “the neighbor in need is a neighbor indeed.” If a neighbor is elderly or chronically ill, offer to run errands or shop for him or her.
4. In dealing with neighbors, it is safer to deal with those of the same sex as yourself. This does not mean that you should stop socializing at work or school with your non-Muslim workmates or classmates of the opposite sex, but be aware of satanic snares. After-hours socializing should be with your same sex.
5. While socializing with non-Muslims, be cautious of becoming too lenient at the expense of your creed and principles. For example, don’t go out drinking with them. They will respect you more for sticking to your principles than for breaking the rules.
6. In addition to sharing ideas, you can share meals with them by inviting them to dinner on the weekend. Be sure to advise them of your dietary concerns (Halal and Haraam) if they happen to invite you over. If it is more comfortable for you’ll all go out and eat at a halal restaurant, then suggest that instead.
7. Conduct mutual visits so that the families can interact in a constructive way. If the discussion does turn to religion, focus on areas of common ground. For example, if your neighbors are Christian, then you should not enter into a futile argument with them about Jesus not being God’s incarnate. Rather, tell them to what extent Islam honors all God’s Prophets and Messengers as a whole, and that Jesus is granted a special status among God’s Prophets and Messengers.
8. While socializing with neighbors, present your religion (Islam) in the best way. If you are faced with a difficult question or a distortion about Islam, do not be ashamed to stop for a while and tell them that you will try to contact a more knowledgeable person to seek the guidance regarding the issue raised. Thus, common grounds should be enhanced, and areas of dissension should never be raised.
9. If your neighbors show an interest in Islam, invite them to attend Islamic events, and even to accompany you to the mosque to see what it is like. It may be that their hearts become softened to Islam, and if they remain non-Muslim, at least you have succeeded in breaking the barrier. You can also visit the church where your neighbors pray if they invite you to do that, but here you should be cautious not to perform any act that your religion prohibits. In brief, be only a watchful monitor.
10. Always keep in mind the mighty reward that is in store for you in the Hereafter when you show kindness to a neighbor.
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