By: Subuhi Owais English Teacher Al-Haq Elementary School and College
“Maha, Maha!” Sidra called out excitedly.
Maha who was busy making assignments for tomorrow’s Physics class looked at Sidra questioningly. Both were school friends and were now studying in the same college but in different faculties. Maha was studying in Pre-Medical and aspired to become a doctor one day while Sidra wanted to become an engineer and was studying in Pre-Engineering. They were not only childhood friends but next door neighbours as well and that’s what made their friendship special and strong. Both belonged to families who claimed to be practicing Muslims but were only confined to offering five prayers a day and the ladies covering their heads while going out.
“Now don’t look at me as if I’ve stolen your decades’ old Backstreet Boys’ cd,” Sidra teased her knowing full well that it was what she was obsessed with these days.
Maha sighed audibly and set aside her pile of books and papers. “So! To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“You are going to jump when I tell you what I’ve got in my hands.”
“What is it Sidra?” Maha said irritably as her mind was still on her unfinished work which she was supposed to submit by the end of the week.
“Two passes for Fakhir’s concert,” Sidra smirked.
“What!” Maha literally jumped out of her chair.
“See, told you!” Sidra said triumphantly. Maha had by now forgotten all about her assignment’s deadline and was beaming from ear to ear. Both friends were diehard music fans and Fakhir was their favourite singer. They had attended the concerts of almost all pop singers that were held in Karachi but considered themselves unlucky to have missed Fakhir’s only concert that happened years ago when they were too young to have been granted permission by their parents.
“But do you think I will get permission from my parents?” Maha asked after her initial euphoria had settled and was replaced by anxiety as she knew the strict rule of her parents that no partying or going out on New Year’s Eve. Apart from general strictness her parents were quite liberal and never minded their daughter’s hanging out with other friends at different restaurants or other places where mixed gatherings were common.
“Don’t worry. We are not going to go alone! One of my khalas will also accompany us.”
“But Sidra! You know such concerts last till after midnight and you do remember what happened the last time we attended it and that was not even New Year’s Eve!’’ She turned crimson as the memory of that night came flooding in. They were attending a concert of Junoon when she had found a boy looking at her in a way that had shocked and embarrassed her. For an instant she regretted coming but by then the pop group had started another song which also happened to be her favorite and she was back to enjoying herself along with Sidra and couple of other college friends.
“Maha look! If you are not interested, let me ask Shiza. She was asking me the other day when I would get the passes and baba has managed to get only two this time,” Sidra said, quite exasperated. Her father worked in a company which organized such events on a regular basis that was the reason she got free passes for herself and Maha so easily.
“Hey! Don’t you dare give my passes to anyone,” Maha threatened, laughing. “I’ll convince my parents somehow or the other.”
“ SWITCH ON THE T.V RIGHT AWAY.” Maha was folding the prayer mat after offering her Asr prayers when her mobile flashed a message from Sidra. She rushed to drawing room and was stunned to see the headlines “FAMOUS DIL DIL PAKISTAN SINGER TURNED PREACHER JUNAID JAMSHED DIED IN A PLANE CRASH ALONG WITH OTHER PASSENGERS NEAR HAVELIAN,” it screamed.
“This can’t be happening, ammi!”she wailed. Her parents who had grown up listening to his songs looked equally devastated. The whole day the news channels kept telling how he had left his singing career when it was at its peak and become involved in Da’awah and had changed his lifestyle completely. Later that night when Maha tried to listen to one of his songs she felt as if she was betraying her favourite singer by doing something he himself had shunned years ago. She reluctantly switched to a Nasheed, “Mera dil badal de, Badal de dil ki dunya, dil badal day…..” She started crying but not for him as she was aware he had died a beautiful death on his way back from da’wah but for herself. Was she prepared for the angel of death? She asked herself bitterly. She didn’t know what was happening to her but a cloud of gloom settled over her which she couldn’t shake off until she offered her Isha prayers and prayed for the forgiveness of all the deceased passengers.
“Wat r u going 2 wear 2mrw?” Maha picked her mobile idly and glanced at the text Sidra had sent. Two weeks had passed since that plane crash and she had spent her days as if in trance… going to college, attending lectures, taking notes but not socializing with friends. Upon returning home she hadn’t listened to any music at all but to the na’ats and nasheeds by Junaid Jamshed.
“Not going...sorry!” she texted back.
“WHAT????? I’m coming over.” And indeed Sidra was standing within minutes in Maha’s room, raging, “Now tell me, what’s the matter?”
“Really Sids… I haven’t given it a thought,” Maha replied, feeling uncomfortable.
“Since when? Look Maha! Junaid Jamshed was once my favourite singer too. I felt sorry for him but it’s been three weeks now! It’s time to move on. Remember it’s your all-time favourite singer Fakhir we are talking about!”
“First of all, shall we not remember him as a singer?” she said angrily. “He himself didn’t want to be associated with music anymore and second...why would you or anyone feel sorry for him? We should envy him. He got what he wanted… the death of a shaheed. He was returning from Allah’s cause! The way people turned up at his funeral! It was all from Allah! Maulana Taqi Usmani remarked that even he had not seen such a funeral in his life! What about me? What about you? Are we ready to die today? I want to turn to Allah, Sidra, before I return to Allah!” Maha said passionately. Two silent tears managed to escape her beautiful eyes.
“Are we getting philosophical here? Look! He turned to Allah in his thirties. Big deal! We are only nineteen for crying out loud, Maha! Come on! I’ll pick you up at 7 sharp tomorrow. Be ready, and no more arguments!”
“No Sidra! I am not going anywhere tomorrow! It’s not about age it’s about when you get hidaya and how you get it and maybe it’s my time!”
“Please Maha…don’t be so rigid,” Sidra pleaded.
“No, Sids. I have not listened to music in the past few weeks, plus I don’t believe in New Year’s celebrations now. If we frown upon Valentine’s Day and consider it a Western attack on our values and faith why do we go easy on New Year and birthdays? I don’t know whether I’m going crazy now or was crazy before but I need time to sort myself out and sorry Sidra! I really am not going!”
“You have definitely gone crazy no doubt about that,” Sidra stomped out of Maha’s room angrily. The front door of the house slammed shut but Maha was at peace. She got up and collecting all the CD’s of Pakistani as well as American singers, she broke them and threw them in the dustbin. “The less the temptation the better,” she thought contentedly.
Maha had forgotten all about the concert when on 1st January she woke up to the horrible news that her childhood friend, her school and college mate, her neighbour Sidra and her khala had died in an accident when their car had collided with an oil tanker as they were on their way to the concert. Sidra and her khala had died on the spot while the driver was in a critical condition.
“Oh My Allah!” Maha fell in sujood. “I’m sorry, Ya Allah! I’m so sorry. Forgive Sidra and her khala and grant them Jannah, Ya Allah. Forgive them please!” she cried over and over again.
She prayed for hidayah for the organizers of such events who were blindly imitating the Christians by celebrating New Year’s Eve, she prayed for those who attended such functions. “Please Allah ta’ala, save them from Jahannum. Please lead them to the right path,” she sobbed heart-brokenly. “Ya Allah, I don’t want to die copying the non-Muslims. I want to die doing Da’wah for the true religion Islam just like Junaid Jamshed did! Aameen!”