Sabah Gets Married / Eyes Don’t Lie

Sabah Gets Married / Eyes Don’t Lie

Sabah Gets Married / Eyes Don’t Lie 150 150 ComfortAid International

Sabah Gets Married

It is twenty years ago when I meet Sabah Nazim Hussein in Kolkata, India. Her mother has passed away giving birth to her fourth child. The father, desperate and destitute, decides to sell one of his infant sons for money. Shocked, dismayed, and angered at the deranged man, bless him, Aliakber Ratansi of Al Imaan Charitable Trust, CAI’s local partner in India and I attempt to get the baby back, offering twice the money to the buyer to return the child. We threaten legal action and try, frantically, to enlist the police. Alas, to no avail. Goondageeri triumphs and we lose the infant. CAI/Al Imaan adopts the remaining three siblings, two girls, Sabah and Roshni, and the boy, Anwar Hussein at once.

The two girls join Sakina Girls Home in Mumbai and Anwar Hussein enrolls at the orphanage in Kolkata. CAI and other donors support these children with their daily needs but most importantly, their education. Tragedy strikes the family once more when Roshni develops end-stage renal disease. Unfortunately, even after intense and premium medical attention, she succumbs to her failing kidneys and passes away at the tender age of sixteen.

The maximum age an orphan can stay at any CAI orphanage facility is eighteen. CAI/Al Imaan donors purchase a small apartment for Sabah and Anwar Hussein when she turns eighteen and they return to Kolkata to be at a place where they are more comfortable with their Bengali background, culture, and language. The new adults are made comfortable but independent with a constant eye on their safety and wellbeing.

It is with much happiness that Sabah ties nuptial knots on Tuesday, February 2, the birthdate of our Lady of Light (a) to a partner from Bhavnagar, Gujarat at the same orphanage she grew up in. Mubaarak, much mubaarak, not so little Sabah. All of us at CAI/Al Imaan and their donors and well-wishers pray and wish you and Murtaza only the very best. May Allah bless your union and keep you both healthy and happy forever, insha’Allah. I hope you two take pleasure in cooking and feeding each other khandvi, dhokla, rezela, ras malai…

Here are Sabah and Murtaza after nikah on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, at Sakina Girls Home, Mumbai.

Eyes Don’t Lie

It is said that the eye never lies. Ever. Iris recognition or the combination of eyes/facial features will eventually take over our lives, from a simple credit transaction to being whisked through immigration and customs or identified for a crime. It’s already happening, I clear boarding my recent flight by looking into a camera that captures my eyes. Or so the rather obese, giggling and out-of-breath-sounding gate agent informs me. So, it is my eyes that I first make the ziarra of every morning. It tells me, pretty much, if my behavior and mindset the last 24 hours are something, I can be proud of. Or at least acceptable and nothing to hang my head in embarrassment for. Sadly, of all my life shortcomings, and there are many, my eyes will not let me forget my earlier year’s treatment of the Black human race.

It is no secret that I was a racist for at least half of my life. It was only after I moved out of Africa, acquired quality education, read history, especially the lives of my Aemaas (a) that I fully realized the follies I had believed in and practiced all my life. This is a fact, no matter how hard I try to manufacture an excuse to pacify or mitigate my conscience. That I was born into a community which practiced active racism, that my household had acquired the trait, that I learned it at the school I attended, from witnessing the treatment of housemaids we hired to the way we afforded access to the black man at the mosque and their exclusion (or separation with substandard facilities) in the rites of the religion we practice. I have accepted this acquired flaw and tried, with halting contentment, to make peace and amends with the fact through prayers of forgiveness. But also, to educate my children and to take a public stance with anyone – friend, family, or foe who still harbor such bigoted sentiments or practices. Still, the guilt and shame of this vile vice will torment me every time I ponder on my actions and look at my eyes in the mirror.

What makes my past painful is the reopening of wounds, especially when I visit my birth country. I was in Dar es Salaam recently and the mindset of us versus them is, still, so apparent. I squirm in embarrassment and ire when colleagues or relatives, especially those older, the mullahs, and thus wiser, take to degrading terms of goolo, kaario, or gaggo in describing the Black man. I want to lash out and ask them to shut up, to be decent and accepting, to at least not opine these labels openly if they cannot be contained due to the weakness of their tongues. But I stay quiet and hate myself for my enforced silence instead.

A case in point – I am in Uganda recently and CAI donors instantly step in to support about 140 distressed orphans at a dilapidated shelter. They eat subpar food to fill the belly instead of nutrition, they wear clothes almost all of us reading this Blog would discard, they sleep in crummy unlit dorms without power and on mattresses that are gnawed by rats… I want this injustice changed. CAI donors agree. Wholeheartedly. Yet, I find resistance from the management, led by people of the pulpit. In my enthusiasm, I ask the guy to equal or better the food, facilities, and clothes with what CAI has to offer other worldwide orphans. The response is both flabbergasting and jarring.

No Sir, he says flippantly, this is too much for them.

He then proceeds to recommend vastly reduced and inferior quality alternatives.

When are we going to wake up and learn!  By Allah, four of our Aemaas (a) are from the womb of Black women! Kapeesh?

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