It was a boring Wednesday morning; we were waiting for our teacher Ms. Fatima. I was looking outside the window. My eye caught the sight of a bird sitting on the window sill, singing. “Ms. Fatima never comes late,” I thought to myself, “she’s always on time.” The class was really noisy; boys were in the back making paper planes, trying to make them fly. In another corner girls were gossiping, I wasn’t very fond of gossiping but when I got bored I sometimes joined in. Ten minutes passed and Ms. Fatima hadn’t arrived. I had my ‘iPod Touch’ hidden in my pocket and was listening to my favourite music. Suddenly, the door opened, in came Ms. Fatima followed by a girl. Her height was normal, she was skinny, had a fair complexion and rosy cheeks; she was also wearing a Hijab. The girls in the corner were giggling at the sight of her. I thought she looked ridiculous. Ms. Fatima introduced her to us, her name was Mawada, and she had come from Saudi Arabia. After introducing her, Ms. Fatima sent her to sit with me, as the seat adjacent to me was empty. As she was coming to her seat, I cast a nasty glance towards her but in return she just smiled at me. I felt really weird sitting next to the ‘Hijabi’ girl. All the teachers were rather impressed with her and why wouldn’t they be – she knew all the answers. It was as if she had memorized the course books.
Two days had passed since the ‘Hijabi’ girl joined our school. No one talked to her, people would call her Rag head and Hijabi girl because of her Hijab, but it had no effect on her – she was just the same. Although she sat next to me, I never talked to her, because I knew if I did, people would make fun of me. It’s Friday, Mawada sat on her usual seat and for the first time she said ‘Salam’ to me. Not meeting her eyes, I replied with a ‘hi’ in a soft voice, so that no one could hear. I then turned towards my friend Farasha and started talking about the new outfit I saw at the mall. From the corner of my eye, I could see that Mawada was smiling and reading her book.
After school, I was waiting for my car. My mum said she might be busy today, and if she couldn’t make it, I should take the bus. So I waited and went to sit on the bench. To my surprise, I saw Mawada sitting waiting for her car, too. She was reading as usual. When I went closer to her, she looked up and smiled. I smiled back, because I knew no one was looking. I asked her about the school, and she said she liked it. She wasn’t rude at all, after what I had done to her. “She’s not that bad,” I thought. We heard a honk. It was Mawada’s car, which her mum was driving. She was a tall lady and Mawada was a carbon copy of her mother. Her mother was also wearing a Hijab. Mawada asked me, how I was going home, and I told her that I would take the bus. She offered me to come to her house. I couldn’t refuse, so I took up the offer. Mawada’s mum said Salam to me and I replied to it.
We reached Mawada’s house in twenty minutes, and she took me upstairs to her room. It was an airy room, the walls were coloured lilac. There were no music CDs, posters, magazines or movies… nothing. How did this girl survive? I started to feel suffocated. All I could see were huge bookshelves loaded with books. “No wonder she knew the answers to everything,” I thought. Mawada began telling me the importance of Salah, which wasn’t very interesting. I told her that I had to go. She remained silent, and we went downstairs. She said Salam and I came out of her house. My house was walking distance from her place. I reached home and let myself in. Mum was home. I kissed her said hi to my sister and went to my room. I switched on the radio, my favourite music was on, and I started doing my homework. I got bored, so I slammed the books shut. I opened the computer, checked my e-mails and my MSN, Farasha was online. We started chatting. I told her about the new cell phone my father was going to get me, and that I was really excited. My other friends came online too and joined the conversation. “This is fun!” I thought. As I was enjoying the chat with my friends, Mum called me for dinner and told me that Dad was home. I got so angry, because I didn’t want to leave the deep conversation. I closed the computer, slammed my bedroom door and went downstairs. After dinner, we always had a family talk, so everyone was talking. My dad didn’t say anything about the cell phone. I made a sad face, and when my dad saw me, he told me to close my eyes. I did so, and the next thing I knew there was a big black box on the table. Dad had bought me a Blackberry; I was so happy I jumped out of joy and hugged him. After fiddling with my new cell phone, I watched my favourite TV show and went to bed.
At school, Mawada was really happy. She said Salam to me and I replied. I started talking to her, she was friendly. She was good at everything: studies, sports, art, projects and everything else! She helped me, too, and I started getting good grades, people started calling me ‘nerdy birdie’, but I didn’t care, as long as my parents were happy and so was I. I started to change but not much. I still used to go to parties and listen to music. I now liked talking to this girl and began spending more time with her. Mawada used to tell all the girls not to wear tight clothes, not to gossip, not make fun of others and not to talk to boys, but they just made fun of her and walked away. I told her that no one was going to listen, and it was such a silly thing she had done. She told me that our Prophet (sa) was pelted with stones, when he was spreading the message of Islam, and it’s obligatory on us, too. She also said, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” I was dumbfounded at her courage – they had just made fun of her and she didn’t care. As I started hanging out with her, she told me more and more about Islam. I was born Muslim but my parents were not religious. I really liked the things she said – it was as if she was a permanent magnet and I a soft iron; I was attracted to the things she said. I told my parents the things she told me and they also were surprised. Mawada became one of my good friends. I learned a lot from her, she also took me to her Quran class. I liked it but I still couldn’t change, because I feared my friends would leave me.
Mawada said that the next time we meet, she’ll give me a book on the life of our Prophet Muhammad (sa). A couple of days passed, and I saw that Mawada wasn’t coming to school. She had never been absent and was always on time. “Maybe she’s sick,” I thought. Mawada was absent for a week. She also didn’t come on Monday. I didn’t have her number; otherwise, I would have called her. I went to the staff room to get my note book from Ms. Hafsa and I overheard Ms. Fatima and Ms. Zainab talking about Mawada. I could see that Ms. Fatima had tears in her eyes and said that she was really sad, when Mawada’s mother called and told her that her daughter had leukemia and was on remission. Ms. Fatima said that her chemo had caused infection and Mawada was admitted to Al-Shifa Hospital.
(to be continued tomorrow)