THAT SUNDAY MORNING — A short story by Shahzaad Ahmed

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Short Stories

It was Sunday morning and I was feeling fresh, as it was the day off from my strenuous job. Past week was really tiresome. As a routine, on every Sunday morning I visit Haneef’s home to have a glance of India Today weekly magazine and spend some time with him. We talk about the past week’s experiences of our jobs and have some coffee together.  By the way I forgot to mention that Haneef is a retired teacher and now supervising his own business of clothes. I was about to leave for his house which is two to three blocks away from that of mine. My little grand-daughter, of third standard came running to me to handover my spectacles which I forgot to carry. Everyone in my home knows about what I do on my holidays. I took them and left for Haneef’s home.

I opened the gate and entered the compound when Haneef’s fourth and youngest son, Abid came over to greet me and said, “Assalamu Alaikum Aslam uncle, come in. Dad’s taking bath and will join you soon.” I replied “Waleikum Assalam son.”

He pointed his hand towards sofa as if he’s gesturing me to sit down.

I sat down and took the copy of that week’s India Today magazine and was going through it. Abid went inside to inform his dad of my arrival I guess. I was deeply involved in it and I forgot that it was almost fifteen minutes I’ve been there and Haneef is still inside. After sometime, Haneef came into the living room where I was seated saying “Assalamu Alaikum Aslam bhai, how are you? Sorry for the late. I was just busy.”

“Waleikum Assalam” I replied, “I’m fine and by looking at your energy and freshness I think you are fine too, right?”

He smiled and nodded positively. As a routine, we talked for some time and had coffee together. I was almost finishing up the magazine when I heard someone calling at the gate. Haneef stood up and went to see who it was. I could see that it was an old lady in a black veil, not so neat. I haven’t seen her before. I could not hear what they were talking but I saw my friend showing her the way inside. She came into the living room and stood there. Haneef went inside telling her to sit down on the chair near her. She hesitated to sit on the chair and instead sat down on the floor. I did not understand what was going on. I dipped my face again into the magazine leaving the matter aside thinking it might be their family matter. After sometime, Haneef came into the living room and told her to sit on the chair. She hesitatingly sat on the chair which was just beside her. He sat beside me. His son Abid brought a glass of water to the lady. She drank it and kept the glass aside. Meanwhile, I asked Haneef “Who is she?” He replied “I don’t know her personally. She introduced herself as a poor woman and came here to ask for some help regarding her daughter’s marriage.” “OK”, I said and continued my job thinking that he might have called her in to offer some financial help.

After a small silence, my friend asked the lady, “Are you serious about what you came here for?”

“Absolutely sir, I swear by God!” she replied.

“What about your husband?” he asked.

“He died three years ago and now I have the responsibility of my daughter.”

“What about your sons and other family members?”

“I have no sons. Two of my daughters are married and this is my last one. I’m in no position financially to do her marriage and hence looking for help from the community.”

“Have you seen any man for your daughter?”

“No sir, first I want to make sure that I’m financially prepared before any advancement in the matter.” She answered.

“How much are you planning to collect the fund and how do you utilise it?” He asked. I thought that he might be asking these questions in order to make sure that it is the genuine case and not a fake one to ask monetary help. He might be wishing the full proper usage of his money.

She paused a bit and said “Sir, as of now I’m planning of gathering around 20-25 thousand rupees. More than a half of which I would be giving the Groom his Dowry and remaining for the marriage celebrations.”

“Dowry!” he exclaimed, “but why?”

“What sir, you are so amused! Who these days are ready for marriage without dowry? Or are you thinking that why we poor, who have no proper food, clothing or shelter is bothered about it? It is a long term custom and how can I ignore it? Even I have no means; I decided to give the dowry in my child’s marriage even by begging around! If not no one will be ready to take her hand.” she said fluently.

My friend remained silent on hearing her answer. I intervened by showing my consent to her views.

My friend turned to me and said, “Look, it is what we are bragging about and reluctant to leave the age old customary which has no valid reason to be continued. I fact it is one of the social evil prevailing not only in Muslim community but also in others. It is the cause for big head ache for the girls’ parents and is also the reason for the collapse of families where some idiots torture women to bring in extra cash after the marriage.”

She intervened and told “Sir, don’t be so preachy! Most of the people of middle and higher class societies preach like this and carry on otherwise.”

He didn’t answer. I know it was not the silence of defeat in this short debate, but instead he was thinking something deeply. As a person of his closeness, I know everything about his character. He only speaks about what he does. His piety is unmatched.

He broke his silence and asked her, “Do you have any objection if I ask your daughter’s hand to my son in marriage?”

I was shocked at that. And the lady too was surprised. She staggered and replied, “Sir, please do not joke. I came here seeking some help. If you cannot, then I’ll leave. But please do not make fun of the poor.”

“No, I’m serious.” He said. I was still in a bit of shock. I know that this man is dead serious and is not in the mood of any joke.

“How can that be possible? There is no match of status and I cannot afford the marriage.”

“I don’t believe in such a thing. In fact, my son is eligible for marriage and as you have come to my door, my job is eased and I think what I’m doing is right. I only hope for the Lord’s grace on me. It is not the decision taken just now. When you came, I asked my wife and shared this thought of bringing this proposal to you if in case you haven’t engaged your daughter to someone else.”

I was not in a position to understand as of what was going around. It is like a sudden thing which we never expect to come across. I kept silent and was trying to figure out what’s going to happen next.

The lady too was silent for some time and later she told, “By Allah’s will, if you are serious, I have no objection to your proposal. But will your son agree?”

Just then Haneef’s third son, Aamer came home from the market with basket full of vegetables. He greeted all the persons there and went inside with the things he brought.

Haneef told, “This was the one I was talking about. He’s my third son, Aamer, who helps me in running the family business of textiles.” Haneef called Aamer to the living room. Aamer came after some time.

“Son, do you have any objection if I choose this lady’s daughter for you in marriage?” Haneef inquired.

Aamer was silent for a bit and told, “Dad, it is all unto you. Whatever you think about is for our well being and happy life. So I have no doubt about this and ready to marry the one you have chosen for me.”

I was watching all these things and it was really fascinating for me as I have never witnessed such situation in my life for 60 years. I took some time to understand fully about what’s going there. I was very much impressed by those people.

Aamer went inside. Haneef told the lady that he’s ready to marry his son to her daughter without any dowry from her side. He also said that the marriage ceremony will be held in Islamic traditions and the Groom will offer Rs.15000 in Mahr. (Mahr = Islamic obligatory dowry given at the time of Nikah (the marriage contract)  by the Groom to the bride for her personal use) He also mentioned that the Nikah will be simple in celebration and the Walima (The reception dinner given by the Groom to his relatives and friends on occasion of consummation of the marriage) will be on the next following day of Nikah. I stood up and congratulated both the parties and asked his permission to leave. I left Haneef’s home. May be the lady and my friend’s family planned everything about the marriage after I left.

This is one of the greatest things I witnessed in my life. I’ve seen many people who brag about themselves, preach the society but never practise the good themselves as if they are the exceptions. I know that Haneef’s two sons’ marriages prior to this were held in pure Islamic traditions where he never took a single buck as a dowry. But this one was even special. The most notable thing was how my friend, without differentiating any social status was ready to bring the lady’s daughter to his home as his daughter-in-law, he, being in middle-class, where majority of people in it think about their greatness and never show any respect towards the likes of that lady, who had no proper neat place to live, eat and cover. At that moment he looked like a perfect idol. But even the strangest thing was how his son showed his respect towards his parents without ever contradicting their decisions. He has not even seen the girl or any of her photos and accepted his parents’ decision. How great! May be I’ll not be able to come across such pious family personally anywhere else. I would cherish that Sunday morning all my life.

Now, I’m getting ready to attend the Nikah (Marriage contract) celebrations in the Mosque nearby. I hope this would be among the happiest marriages on the earth.

Author’s notes:

This is a true story with fictional characters. Some parts of the conversations in the story are fictional, but most of them are true related to the story. I’ve come across these people and got to know these happenings from a very trustworthy source. I’ve no doubt about its genuineness and greatness. I just thought to bring out this to the world in order to light up some of the issues in the society. I never intended to give any lecture or lessons about these issues, but rather this story highlights the human relations and some things which in today’s life are rare to happen. The story is a mix up of many tastes. It involves the social equality, the evil of dowry (in present form where the bride has to offer money to the groom before marriage), the family relations, obedience of the children, true Islamic traditions of marriage etc. I liked this incident so much that my respect to the characters has grown strong in my life. I’m very much impressed and it gives me the indication that good people are still around us where now days we find them rarely.


Shahzaad Ahmed.


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