BEING A MUSLIMAH by A. Hameedah
It’s Friday already. The week seemed to be faster for those who left their homes for works and schools. But for Hassanah, it was the creepiest week ever as she wasn’t able to go to school since Wednesday when she had the sprain. Her movement was restricted and she was asked not to stress the foot further than she had. This Friday, their weekend visit was canceled.
Every last weekend of the month, Hassan and Hassanah visited and spent the weekend with their paternal grandparents. This was their grandma’s request to have her grandchildren around. If her children had agreed, she would have loved her grandchildren to live with her and be the one to raise them. She still loved the presence of children in the house and have them around to instruct them to do things, tell them tales at night, shout at them for being naughty, advise and give sermons or even watch when they all played all about the house. The presence of the twins and their cousins gave their grandfather some strength too as the boys would want him to play football with them or teach them how to play the game of chess, and those who have mastered the game would play. They would also make him tell them stories about his childhood, youth and how he had met their grandmother. They always did so many things together. Having those children was always fun for the old couple. This was what they wanted and the children also loved being with them.
On several weekends, the grandparents had taken the children out on excursion to different places. One time, they visited a bag and shoe factory where the children were shown the different materials and instruments used in making bags and shoes and how they are made. Aliyah, one of the children, had once made a bag and pair of shoes with carton and coated them with beautiful wrapping paper. She had to make it for an art exhibition at school. She also had a pad where she sketches her bags and shoes designs. When she saw the factory works, she was excited and asked lots of questions. The owner of the factory met them there and noticed how she had been asking questions. He was surprised and asked if she had an assignment or just liked the work. At first, she was shy but later told everyone about the art exhibition and her design book.
Everyone’s jaws dropped as no one thought she could have been doing that at the age she started. The factory owner gave her some encouragement and advised Mama and Papa to make sure her creativity didn’t die but must be made into something. “She doesn’t need any job when she grows up. She is a business owner in embryo. Please make sure you help her fulfill her dream. This creativity must not waste” The man said. “My dear baby girl, you can always visit here whenever you want. I or any of my workers will teach you more about these things. He said to her as he draws his hands like a big circle, emphasizing on “these things”, trying to mean everything about the factory.
Everyone would have thought if that wasn’t too much to introduce to or teach a child who was still in junior secondary school, or if the man really meant what he said to her, or even if he didn’t have the intention to use the girl for his company. Those doubts didn’t matter to Aliyah. She started to visit the factory and learned very fast about the different leathers, fabrics and other materials with their names, pros and cons. She had started to learn how to handle the sewing machines and other instruments. She learned other techniques, perfect her measurements, designs, cuts and all. She found it fun and it had helped her to choose her career. She had chosen her path and she loved it.
She had made her first set of bags when she finished her SSCE. She made for herself, mum and Mama. She made other designs for the company to sell. The customers’ feedbacks were monitored. People loved the designs and quality. This boosted the company’s sales and popularity. She refused to take any money from the CEO as a reward for her designs. As a compensation, she was awarded a professional certificate and the best student among other students who learned the art at the company’s school, even though she was neither a formal student nor did she pay for the training.
She had motivated her younger cousins to start to think about what they would like to do. “You guys shouldn’t waste time. We can’t grow up to live our lives after school, searching for jobs that don’t exist. I have got to know that in future, there will be more technologies. I mean, more machines that will take jobs from men and workers will be laid off their jobs. The only thing that can save the wise ones is to be entrepreneurs. Own your businesses, be your own bosses and you won’t need to worry about searching for jobs.” She had said to them during one of her elderly talks. “All you have to do is to find what problems people are facing and how do you think you can solve the problems for them. That’s the best way to become an entrepreneur. People can pay any amount to get their problems solved. You can also look for existing entreprises, do your surveys, get to know where others are lacking and improve on them. You continue to improve on yours. Build your strengths. ” She continued. Her younger cousins had all kept quiet after she finished when one of them asked if that meant they should stop going to school if the certificates won’t be of any use. “Of course, we should go to school. We mustn’t stop learning but we must not rely on our certificates. The generations when many of these certificates were relevant and useful have gone.” She replied.
The children started to understand their older cousin. They began to mention the richest people in the world and realized they were entrepreneurs and not working for anyone. Not all of them even have university certificates. Some of them got their degrees after they became rich. One of them later objected because those mentioned were not Nigerians. “I have never heard that Aliko Dangote ever attended any college or university, let alone have a certificate. He might have bagged one for himself after he became so rich and started to attend so many world functions, though. The fact is that he’s one of the richest men in the world.” Hassan said.
” You’re right. He now has his degrees.” Aliyah said. “Femi Otedola is also one of the richest men in Nigeria. We also have Mike Adenuga. They are entrepreneurs. They have certificates too. That’s why I said we can’t totally do away with the schools and certificates because they just add to the prestige.” She added.
Mama had watched her grandchildren do the counseling by themselves that Saturday. She was happy that Aliyah had started her role as the eldest. She would continue to groom her on how to continue to carry out her roles as the eldest. “I’ll teach you how I taught your father. And I’m happy he has always been a good elder brother to his younger brothers. They never complained about him”. She said to Aliyah and smiled.
Mama got to Sekinat’s house. Sekinat had also just got back from work to stay with Hassanah. It was all written on Mama’s face that she was angry. “I know you don’t like to miss any of your grandchildren. But I’m helpless here, Mama. The doctor instructed that she must not stress the leg. It’s not time for her to start to exercise it. I’m…” She was trying to beg Mama when she shunned her. “Shut up your mouth, you useless woman! What on earth would you be able to do properly? Tell me how you were so careless with the children. Are they old enough to take care of themselves? Can’t you keep your eyes on them? You have placed much priority on your work, so my grandchildren have to suffer, right?” Mama queried.
“I… don’t understand you ma.” Sekinat said as she was surprised at her mother-in-law’s outburst.
“How will you understand when you have covered and heated up your brain? How could you watch my poor girl injure herself? You never paid attention to that girl. She has always been the one that suffers. Tell me you don’t like girl child, so you don’t pay attention to her. You’re just so careless and you don’t care about her “Mama snapped again.
“It happened at school, mummy. She sprained her foot at school” Sekinat tried to explain.
“I know! So what if it was at school? Tell me what you were busy with till it had to become this worse?”
Sekinat saw that trying to explain things further won’t make any difference. She kept quiet, rubbed her forehead with her palm and straightened herself. She heaved. “Mama, I’m sorry. I’ll try my best to be more careful with the children.
“I have told you this before, if you know you can’t take care of this girl, let me take her. I wasn’t blessed with girl children but they’ve come as grandchildren. Yet you’re not treating yours right. I never complained about others. It’s only you. You can’t do anything right. Can you? ” Mama said and hissed. All Sekinat could say was “I’m sorry ma”.
Mama ignored her and went upstairs to Hassanah’s room. She stayed and played with her for a long time. She was expecting Hassan to have been back from school. It’s Friday after all. But Hassan and his dad walked into the house in the evening.
The school bus assigned to the route home wasn’t in good condition. So, Hassan was asked to join another bus that dropped him off at his dad’s office. Both of them went inside Hassanah’s room to join Mama.
The chat was interesting when Taofeeq began “Mummy, we thought probably you all should spend the weekend here…. You and daddy, with the other children, here with their cousins. No one will have to miss the fun of the weekend. What do you think?”
“I can’t stay here with your wife. You know that.” Mama said.
“Mama, pleeeeeeease. Let everyone come over, granny. We won’t miss each other.” Hassanah pleaded.
“Pleeeeeeease grandma” Hassan added.
Mama thought for a while.”Will your wife be able to take care of those children? She hasn’t been able to take care of her children.” She added.
“My mum is a wonderful woman to be with. She’s a cool mum. She can handle everyone, you’ll see” Hassanah said.
“Mummy, she was the one who brought the idea. I’m sure you’ll like it too” Taofeeq said.
At first, Mama’s eyes were wide open with disbelief and disgust but she had to reluctantly agree. “It’s OK. Let’s go and bring the other children and your father over.” She said to Taofeeq.
Other children joined the twins at home that night. They were all happy they were together and wouldn’t miss anyone during that weekend. This gave the children a greater strength and motivation to do things.
On Saturday morning, Hassanah was taken for her physiotherapy session. She could now begin to walk few distance, just to start exercising. But the splint must be left on her leg. Her cousins helped her. They all had more fun. Sekinat herself stayed at home all day to play with the children and teach them some things. All fun they had didn’t affect the usual routine in the house; their morning and evening adhkar, Quran memorizing sessions, some other subjects tutorials – It was more like a Montessori homeschooling where children learn on their own and with fun, outdoor games were no exception. Their grannies were not left out of their shows, especially during their outdoor activities and moonlight tales.
When the children were about to leave on Sunday, they all admitted and told their grannies that they had had a lot of fun and that it was more relaxing for the old couple too. Papa agreed. They were right. It was more fun than being stuck in their own house. “From now on, this is how we’ll continue to spend our weekends in everyone’s house but grannies will decide whose house is next since festivals will be at grannies’ house.” Mama said.