Monday, February 17, 2014

Tawbah of a Muslimah (Third Place in Short Story Competition for NISE 2014)

Title: Tawbah of a Muslimah
Author: Siti Fairuz binti Che Othman
University: University of Leeds
Phone no: 07593353623
Email address:

So I stared into the void space. Looking like a zombie and asked myself “How did I end up here?”
Breathing in the air taking in the sight. I use to hate this place for everything. Couldn’t stand the sight or the smell. But today this place is my salvation. Recalling the moments.
“We suspect, it’s breast cancer, believe to me malignant and unfortunately it has spread to most of your internal organs”. I frowned and asked “I don’t understand” Then he continued in a as-a-matter-of-factly tone  “ based on our calculation predicting that you will only have 12 months to live depending on how your body reacted to the medication.”

I resented the man in front of me even if he does look like Aaron Aziz. Why did he had to drop the information like a nuclear bomb. Why can’t he be more subtle and why does he have mentioned 12 months when he can say one year. I thought Dr was supposed to be gentle. Forget it. Then he continued “I am afraid we have to keep you here for a few days to run some more tests.” I nodded.

Here I am. That’s it. Is this the end.I can’t stay put. I feel a mess. So I decided to give this place a tour. Aimlessly walking. I’m not sure if I am allowed to do so. So I continue walking, until I came to a place where I only use to see in the movies or commercial ad. You know the place where they have a huge see through window placing all the newborns. I looked at one of the baby and to my surprise he or maybe she, I can’t tell, they all look the same looked back at me. I smile and say “hey kiddo, welcome to the world…I am leaving in 12 months” He/she moved and I swore I think the baby smiled at me as if he/she understand me. For the first time after the news I feel comforted. I decided to stay a while longer. There were rows of chairs facing the window and I sat there.

Then I heard someone says “ Assalamualaikum…” I turned to the voice..A pretty little women smiled at me and sat a few chairs away from me..feeling a little annoyed I feel like leaving but I decided to stay instead “Waalaikumsalam”..then she said cheerfully “ It’s good that you returned my salam..x jawab dosa (if you don’t return’ll ended up sinning)”.. “Cliché” I whispered to myself. ”My name is Melissa, breast cancer, 3 months left to live..but I won’t buy what the Dr says..All are predictions until Allah says it’ll happen” I kept quite and absorbing the sight of her. Compared to me, I don’t wear hijab, but she was wearing one. The sound of Allah’s name alone sent a jolt of an electric shock to my heart. When was the last time I talked to you Ya Rabb. Lost in thoughts then I heard her voice “ Are you ok? Why are you crying?”..Dang it…I touched my face and It was wet…I left here there and then without a word. Didn’t even glanced back at her. I just kept walking, back to my ward. The initial plan was to stay undercover because I suddenly feel the fear crept up the deepest corner of my dark heart I headed up to the bathroom instead and without any hesitation I take my wudhu. The coolness of the waters kept me calm for a bit..ermmmm…I hesitated…the water is running…then I heard a voice whispered..”your hand first” I jumped and and squeaked..I turned and saw Melissa sheepishly smiled apologetically at me “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you..i just can’t stand the site of water being wasted..I decided to come over and helped” I sighed..I still think she’s annoying. But then I said “Melissa right..your name is Melissa?” She nodded cheerfully “I continued even though I was embarrassed, I politely requested her “If you don’t mind, can you help me remember how to take wudhu” She beamed brightly “Of course I can..oh..we can pray together if you want to..I haven’t preform my isya’ prayer anyway” I nodded. Honestly, I do have a small recollection of me praying when I was in the orphanage but I was so naughty I usually try to escaped the daily prayer routine which have become a habit until now..After the prayer I asked her “How do you do it?” She was lost “Do what?” I said “Being cheerful on the verge of death” She smiled..”I don’t know..Maybe because I was taught that death is not something that you should fear” I nodded and I was lost in thoughts again then I hear her say “You should have a rest..we’ll talked again tomorrow”. Then she walked to her bed and I was surprise it was right next to mine..I fell asleep..
In the darkest hour of the night I was suddenly awake. I looked at Melissa’s bed. It was empty. Then I saw her next to her bed on the praying mat, she was very absorbed, hand raised high slightly looking up. The sight was amazing, it was like she was talking and conversing with someone. I looked at her..only to realize that she turned to me and say “ Hey you, how did you know it was the Fajr prayer already” Then we both went to the bathroom to take our wudhu again she lead the prayer. After the prayer I looked at her and bluntly blurted out “You’ll die a beautiful death Melissa.” She kindly smiled at me “Why do you say that” “You never miss your prayers, you perform night prayers and you seem to be ready for it.” She said “Every single Muslim will die a beautiful death. As long as they believe there is Allah s.w.t and Rasullullah s.a.w, Jannah awaits for the in the next life.” Then she asked when is my next check-up and tests “ I told her in a couple of hours. We promised to meet each other at the first place we met. The baby section.

There I was sitting in the baby section looking forward to see Melissa. No longer annoyed with her presence.  Then she came smiling sweetly at me, but I notice she looked a little a ghost. She sat next to me, then she said “I have something to give you, it’s not new, but I still want you to have it” She gave me two things, 1) Telekung (Women praying attire) 2) Al-Quran. I accepted with an open heart, truth to be told, I was a bit flustered and touched at the same time. I said “Thank you”. Then she said, tell me about yourself..I told her there’s not much to tell but she insisted “I am an orphan, all my life I have always been alone and I will always be alone” Melissa smiled “No one is ever alone. Being a Muslim, orphan or not orphan, we are never alone, we will always have Allah.” She said firmly and continue “And now you have me.” I then said “I like that”. We continue to pray together we continue that day. Again I saw her on the praying mat doing night prayers.  But I didn’t see her the next day. I assume that she has check-up or maybe chemo to attend too. I prayed alone that day. I waited for her till isya’. She was still nowhere to be seen. I sat there on my bed and then realized the gift that she gave me, the Holy Qur’an..I took it..I opened the first page her name was written on there ‘Melissa binti Abdullah’..I ran my fingers through her name. I see captions on the lower corner of the page “Seek and you will find”. I browse through and notice a few post it notes and pages being marked and few noted written here and there. I decided to randomly stopped at any ayah in the holy Quran..I came across this ayah. The last ayah in Surah At-Tawbah (The Repentance)

"Now, if they turn away (O Muhammad) say: Allah sufficeth me. There is no Allah save Him. In Him have I put my trust, and He is Lord of the Tremendous Throne."

I cried all of a sudden. I wiped my tears and waited patiently for Melissa to come. Then she was there, I felt relieved to see her again. I said to her “Thank you” She asked “For what” I said “For being my first friend”..She smiled “I am very glad I met you too”..On that night I asked Melissa if I could join her for night prayers. She told me of course. After the night prayer she said “Promise me something, promise me that you will never give up on anything especially on yourself.” I promised her right there and then. She then continued

“Finding balance is the most difficult thing that one can do. It will always be a constant battle, between the two. The heart and the mind. But being Muslims, emphasis has been put upon taking care of that one lump of meat (Heart). Have a good heart and you will have a good mind then good actions will follow. So take care if it”

She placed her palm on my heart. I nodded again. I asked her. “Melissa, when you pray what do asked from Allah?” She said “I pray for your recovery”

Then we prayed Fajr together after the prayer I didn’t feel the need to go back to sleep then Melissa said “I am tired, I want to sleep for a bit, can you wake me up for Dhuha?” I nodded. Instead of lying down in bed, she laid down on the praying mat. I watched her fell into a deep sleep. Her face looked calm and serene, she looked fragile at the same time. I gently touched her on the shoulder afraid that she might break. She didn’t move…I panicked..I tried again to regain her from slumber..she was still..I started crying and screaming for help. Nurses, doctors all came to the aid..The doctor came and checked her pulse.  She was no longer in this world. I scream and cried, begged the doctor to bring her back. The nurses had to hold me tight to calm me down. After I calmed down, the hospital became quite again. The nurses came and asked me, would you like to help settle her jenazah. I nodded. I was there with her until they’d buried. I get to kiss her forehead one last time. I notice she liked me was alone too. She only had me in her life.

I stayed at the hospital when a woman nurse came, I always see her around Melissa. Turns out she was her caretaker and nurse for the past 2 years she was diagnosed. She sat next to me and said “Let me tell you about Melissa”

“Melissa was a beautiful girl brought in a family who have different religious belief than she had now. When she decided to convert, her family threw her away and she live like an exile. Everyone turn their back on her. She didn’t give up. Years later after her conversion, she was diagnosed with the illness. She remained patient and alone..But she always smile and she always recite the last verse from surah At-Tawbah. She was the happiest when she met you and above all, she never wanted you to feel alone. Pray for Melissa ok”
The nurse left. I took the holy Quran that was given to me as a gift. I ran my fingers through her name. That explain why her last name was Abdullah.

 I did what was promise. I didn’t give up and fought for my life. I was cancer free. It was Melissa who saved me. I’ll see you in jannah InsyaAllah my dear friend. Promise me that we’ll see each other again in the next life.