Sometimes beginning, sometimes ending
by Talal Sarwani
It’s about noon in the Jenin Refugee Camp...
This part of town has always been riddled with debris. It’s inhabitants have long given up hope of putting up abodes made of cinder blocks, fearing the certain destruction of such signs of hope and advancement. They harkened back to long lost days spent in joy, with the dread slowly draping itself over the wandering souls.
“Is he coming? Please call him,” Khadija panted as she held onto her mother’s hands.
“He is on his way, my dear. We called two hours ago, and he left immediately. You know how the checkpoints get. Inshaa Allah
, he should be here any minute.”
Umm Khadija saw the distracted worry on her daughter’s face, “He’ll be here habibty
, just concentrate on the well-being of the baby.”
Ammaar sat in the bus, looking at the window, anxious to get to his wife and to see his child brought into this world.
“One more checkpoint,” he thought to himself. All the hatred and anger he would usually feel on his daily trip to the city and back, he didn’t have time for. He dusted off the usual shame the guards would try to inflict upon him and his brothers. Today was a day of light shining through the dread.
. La hawla wa la quwwata illa billaah
At the same time, on the other side of the world, where it’s not too long until Maghrib...
Sameer blasted through the double doors at the entrance of the hotel. He ran to the receptionist.
“Umaymah.” He saw the confused look on the receptionist’s face, and reflected it right back at her, forgetting that she wasn’t the nurse’s relative.
“Umaymah..uhh..” he snapped his fingers, going through a list of last names he had in his mind, “...Hassan, Abbasi, Khan... Chaudhry!”
“Umaymah Chaudhry...please, where is she?” He was finally able to put it together.
“Maternity, Room 206... through that hall and up the stairs,” came the answer.
Umaymah waited with a practiced breath in the prep room. The contractions were coming as expected, walhamdulillah
everything seemed to be on schedule. Sameer opened the door and suddenly a burst of energy entered into her.
“Everything alright?” he asked her.
, she answered. “The doctor said everything is normal, and that they’ll be moving me into the delivery room soon.”
“So, what did you think of your present?” he smiled at her.
Before she could answer that smile, a contraction hit, and she clasped Sameer’s hands. The doctor told her that it would be getting tougher. She bore it with the solace she found in Sameer. He stood there, calming her and talking her through everything. They had studied for this moment, wa bi idhnillah
they were focused on passing with flying colors.
A few minutes later, in the delivery room...
“Okay Umaymah,” said Dr. Sa’eedah, “this is where your effort counts most. InshaAllah
, I want you to focus and concentrate when I tell you to push. Okay?”
Umaymah was panting now, and could only muster a nod.
She looked to Sameer, who whispered, “Chalen?”
She nodded once again, and the doctor knew the signal.
In Jenin, Umm Khadija’s room was filled with all the hustle and bustle of a delivery room, without any of its niceties...
“Everybody out”, she commanded. “Haifa and Hanaa’, you both stay to help me.”
Haifa and Hanaa’ made the preparations their aunt taught them the night before. Everyone else left to the sitting room, and took on their new roles, supplicating for success in bringing the child to the world outside.
“Mama,” whispered a crying Khadija, “Ammaar...”
Umm Khadija held her daughter’s hand, as Haifa and Hanaa’ looked on.
“My dear daughter... this is your first test of motherhood. You have a mashaa Allah
husband who loves you more than any man has ever loved a woman. I want you now to remember why he travels two hours everyday, undergoing humiliation at checkpoint after checkpoint. Getting to a job that pays less than what is required for life here. I want you to remember that you give him the strength to stay away from the cowardice that all the other men here have fallen into. I want you,” the words were barely able to leave her, “ya bint
Abdul-Rahim, I want you to rely on Allah (‘azza wa jal
), and to feel his mercy engulf you. Ammaar is running to be here with you, and he is looking to the same place for his strength in making it here.”
Khaija wipes her tears.
“Mama”, she grasped her mother’s hands, “I love you”.
Ammaar’s bus was suddenly halted a half-mile from home. Armed guards suddenly appeared, ordering everyone off for a random search. Ammaar was devastated. He could see their house from the bus, and now this.
“Sir,” he addressed a guard.
“Shut up and get down,” the guard pointed him to the gravel.
“I beg of you sir, please let me go.”
The guard glared at him.
“You go, when I let you go,” he snarled, “IF I let you go”.
“I beg you please,” Ammaar falls to his knees, “I beg you to please just let me go to my home. It’s right there,” he points.
“I said shut up, or you will never see your home again.” The guard kicked him to the floor.
Back in the delivery room...
“That’s it Umaymah, I see the head”, said Dr. Sa’eedah, “just a couple more. You ready? One more time”
Meanwhile, half a mile from where Ammaar lay on the ground...
, I don’t know if I can do it,” cried Khadija.
“I KNOW you can do it...Khallas habibty
, you’re nearly there”.
Ammaar’s turn had finally come up for the search. The guard sneered at him.
“You, finally.” He pointed to a sentry and ordered, “Arrest this man.”
Ammaar flared up in shock. He struggled with the sentries as they tried to handcuff him.
At that very moment...
“Here you go, here’s your baby boy.”
Doctor Sa’eedah gave the infant to his mother, who was enshrined in an aura of care and joy.
Sameer stood beside the two of them. Before, he thought he loved her as much as can be, but now he was suddenly engulfed by a sense of mercy and love for Umaymah and their son... feelings that had hit him so suddenly like a jolt of lightning. Tears choked his breath as he held onto his son for the very first time.
Also at that moment...
“Khadija, it’s a girl”.
Khadija held onto her daughter, unable to comprehend the life she held in her arms, forgetting the nine months of struggle, forgetting the dread of the world around her.
“Awwwwwww... mashaa Allah
she’s beautiful,” said Haifa.
There was a glint in the child’s eye, which Khadija knew belonged to Ammaar.
Ammaar’s struggle had ended, as he ran for his life, away from the pursuit of the guards.
At that precise moment of time, which could not be paused, nor could it ever be rewound...
Umaymah handed her child to the nurse to clean him up.
She looked to Sameer, “So it’s Ammaar then?”
“Alhamdulillah,” he answered.
Khadija looked at her daughter.
“Ammaar will be so happy, Mama, he wanted a daughter so badly”.
“Did you already decide on a name”, Umm Khadija asked.
“He did. Umaymah”.
The bullet pierced Ammaar’s head a hundred feet from his home.
Umaymah bint Ammaar was never held by her father.
SubhaanAllah walhamdulillah, wa la quwwata illa billah
... so goes life in this world... sometimes it begins... sometimes it ends...