“Can men actually fly?” asked a wide-eyed Marium. Samra Apa chuckled: “Where have you seen that?” “In the movie,” replied five-year-old Marium innocently.
“Hmm…” Samra Apa furrowed her brows, deep in thought. “But they are only acting, sweetheart. None of it is happening. And now they have special computers to make the wildest and strangest stuff look real.”
“Yeah! Yeah! I saw buildings falling and fire shooting everywhere in New York City,” grinned Ali. “Heaven knows how many times they will show New York under destruction. Every movie shows a new tragedy happening there.”
“So men cannot fly?” Marium persisted. “No darling, flying is for birds. Men take care of many other important things on land. In fact, let me tell you a story of a real hero called Az-Zubair Ibn Al-Awwam (rtam),” offered Samra Apa.
Marium and Ali gathered around Samra Apa quickly. She began with a twinkle in her eye. “Az-Zubair was related to the Prophet (sa) through blood ties as well as marriage. He was tall and fearless. Once, as a youth, he fell into a scuffle with a man. It only ended with Az-Zubair breaking his arm. Az-Zubair’s mother was very proud of her son. She wanted to see him fight bravely. Az-Zubair lost his father when he was young. His mother Safiyah (rtaf) wanted him to grow up to be a strong and dignified man. Hence, she was very strict with him. Az-Zubair was beaten by his mother to discipline him, too.”
“I am glad our mother doesn’t do that,” Ali said.
“That is why you are scared of a lizard,” laughed Marium.
Ali pulled a face at her.
Samra Apa continued: “Az-Zubair was taught mastery in horse riding, sword fighting, and spear throwing. While there were evil practices going on in Makkah, Safiyah (rtaf), who was also the Prophet’s (sa) aunt, taught Az-Zubair about Muhammad’s (sa) honesty. Hence, he was the fourth or fifth revert to Islam at the age of fifteen years. Abu Bakr (rtam) preached to him. Az-Zubair was also the first one to draw his sword in defense of the Prophet (sa) in Makkah during difficult times.”
“Az-Zubair participated in every battle of Islam. He closely defended the Prophet (sa) against his enemies. On the day of the Battle of Trench, Muhammad (sa) asked for a daring mission: ‘Who will bring us the news of Banu Quraydhah?’ Az-Zubair responded: ‘I will!’ This happened thrice and each time it was Az-Zubair who went out to fetch the news of the dangerous enemy to bring back to the Prophet (sa). For this he was given the title of the ‘Prophet’s disciple.’”
“Wow! He was a real hero,” admired Ali.
“Could he fly?” Marium inquired.
“No but he could do better than that,” answered Samra Apa. “Once, the enemies painfully killed a Muslim companion called Khubaib (rtam) in a faraway land. Allah (swt) informed the Prophet (sa). He then asked: ‘Who will fetch Khubaib from the cross so that he would be granted Paradise?’ Naturally Az-Zubair (rtam) volunteered. After a journey of forty days, he reached the place with his companion Miqdad. Forty men were guarding the martyred Khubaib’s (rtam) body that was still fresh. But when Az-Zubair challenged them to a fight, they fled. Az-Zubair successfully returned to the Prophet (sa). As an honour he said to him once: ‘May my father and mother be sacrificed for you.’ ”
“Was he only a soldier?” Ali asked curiously.
“No, Az-Zubair was a very successful trader also. He was known for his generosity. People would keep their valuables with him for safekeeping. He was a man of many qualities. But yes, he was famous for his courage. It is said that there were three holes as big as eyes on his chest. Two were received in the Battle of Badr and on the Day of Yarmuk,” Samra Apa explained.
“I would like to be like him some day!” Ali muttered dreamily. “And me too!” copied Marium.
“Girls can’t do all that!” Ali teased Marium.
“You are wrong, Ali,” Samra Apa corrected him. “It was Az-Zubair’s mother Safiyah (rtaf) who protected the women and children in Madinah in the Battle of Trench and killed a Jewish man. Courage was in their blood. Muslim girls are as brave as Muslim men.”
Maruim nudged Ali and punched him in the stomach until he fell to the floor and both were in a wrestling match already.
Samra Apa burst into fits of giggles and tried to draw the little cat back. Marium was ready for battle. Ali was rolling in laughter on the floor. Mom marched in the room in utter confusion wondering what the racket was all about. “Mabrook! Your kids are ready for battle.” Samra Apa winked at mom.