Saheed was not happy; the sister he had chosen to propose to had not been giving him attention. Dedicated and responsible members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Society they had both been and Saheed had always crushed after this particular sister called Fatimo. He learnt she was from Kaduna; others said she was from Maiduguri and he had meant to ask her out but she wouldn’t give him such audience. Saheed is a native of Ile-Ife, a Yoruba Muslim who had gone to Zaria to school.
Just the other day, their sect leader had encouraged that they marry from within the sect as other sects of Muslims weren’t practising the religion properly. And on that notable Friday, Saheed had determined to register his love. He waited at the front of the central mosque, the Jumat prayer just ended, Fatimo was going to pass by that route and he was ready to finally summon the courage to woo her.
Like a ubiquitously awaited crescent moon Fatimo herself had appeared in all her overwhelming glory, the neat blue khimar flowing after her swift steps as she cut lightly through the windy afternoon, the honest eyes gently sweeping over Nature’s landscape, the pattern-painting on her hands simply a remedial sight for bleary eyes. Aside the hands, only her face was visible and Saheed admired the modesty.
She was in the company of two other sisters, one of whom was already engaged to an Ahmadi brother, a spectacular motivation to others still single in the sect.
“Salam Alaykum Waramotulah Wabarakatuhu,” Saheed greeted anxiously.
After the chorused response, Fatimo raised her head up at him, of course he knew him, the brother who was always gazing like he was sick or something. She didn’t want to look at him twice but Saheed made it squarely clear he wanted to talk to her. So she stepped aside while her friends waited ahead.
“Auzubilah minna shaytorn rajim, bismillah ar-Rahamon-Raheem,” he started. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a long time, Hajia Fateemah. I am Brother Saheed as you must have known, we belong to the same-“
“I know, I do see you at the Fellowship.”
“Ah, Al-hamdulilah! Yes,” with refreshed spirit, “I want to tell you that I’ve noticed a striking difference in you in the community of our sisters. You’re always dedicated, gentle, easygoing, coolheaded and reads Qur’an with such a sweet voice.”
“Astagfurlah, but I don’t recite the Qur’an loudly.”
“Yes, but I’ve heard you read it anyway, and you’ve got the best voice in the world.”
“So, of all the women in the world, you’re the only one I see and I know by Allah’s grace, if we could establish a certain closeness, we’d make a good husband and wife. You’re just my perfect choice.”
Fatimo giggled briefly but then she returned to her frowning. “But…” she hesitated, seemed trying to mask her embarrassment or something. Her hands were up but she just stayed like that until she finally asked, “And you rushed out of the mosque to tell me this?”
“No, I didn’t rush out. People were already out, so…”
“Astagfurlah, how do I start now? I already have a fiancé, his name is Idris. He… He j-just…”
Silence… Saheed nervously swallowed, frantically.
“Where are you from by the way, Brother Saheed?”
“I’m from the Department of Financial Ac-“
“No, I meant your state of origin.”
“Ah, Ile-Ife. I’m from Ile-Ife in Osun State, níbi ojúmó ire ti ñ mó.”
“And… what would that mean?”
“Where good days dawn.”
“I see, but that’s South West, is that not so?”
“Yes, South West, you’re right.”
“But you speak Hausa so fluently!”
“Astagfurlah,” he chuckled. “I can even speak few more languages, Hausa, Yoruba, Nupe, Arabic and French.”
“Allahu Akbar! You know what, my friends are waiting for me, we’ll talk some other time but we can only be friends, do you understand? I already have a fiancé.”
“Okay.” He swallowed hard. Ayé le òò, ìbòsí ò.
Before he even answered, Fatimo had already dashed to her friends, Aisha and Bilikis.
“What was that about?” asked Bilikis as they regained their momentum.
“He wants to marry wife,” snickered Fatimo.
“And what did you say?” asked Bilikis.
“That I have a fiancé of course, what else would I have said?”
“Which fiancé is that, Fati?”
“Idris of course.”
“You’re joking, right? Idris who said you’re an infidel? This is an Ahmadi brother proposing to you and you’re talking about Idris, who Idris epp?”
They laughed briefly.
“Men are all the same,” said Fatimo frankly, certain gloominess consuming her face. “I don’t want any relationship right now.”
“And he’s very nice walahi, in fact, other sisters really like him.”
“Which sister like him?” muttered Aisha who had been silent all the while. “You better be careful, Fatimo, that brother is a Yoruba man. You can’t marry someone like him.”
“Why?” screamed Bilikis. “Is he not a Muslim? Is he not an Ahmadi like us unlike that Alus-Sunna Idris? What else matters?”
“You know what, Bilikis,” muttered Aisha. “You should just go and marry him yourself and leave Fatimo alone.”
“You’re not serious Aisha. I’m already engaged. It’s you I’ll gift to Brother Saheed now.”
“Allah ya kiyaye! Bana son irin wasan nan. Me? Marry Yoruba man? It’s not possible! God forbid!”
“Let’s just forget about it,” said Fatimo. “My dad won’t allow it anyway. Most of the Yoruba Muslims are not proper Muslims, they’re fetish. They mix idolatry with Allah. Shrikh! My parents would rather die than let me go and live with them.”
They changed the topic afterwards. Brother Saheed cherished her but he was not a Hausa man and didn’t stand the chance even though he was an Ahmadi like her. Love is natural but is often at the mercy of ethnicity. Hausas rarely marry Yorubas even if they’re practising the same religion; they would rather marry a fellow Hausa like them. And again, for the umpteenth time, ethnicity beat love, but this is not the end.
…to be continued.
-Lord eBay (and his random ruminations, 2017)