Chapter Four: Embracing Humility


Naasir felt uneasy as soon as he stepped in through the main gate. 


Nusrah waited at the front door, worry etched in her brows. For a moment I was transported back in time — staring at the same face, but older.




Nusrah looked so much like her. The resemblance was uncanny.


I’d forgotten just how much she looks like her.


There was no time for Naasir to contemplate that thought because Nusrah raced down the front steps as soon as she saw me.


“Ace! I’ve been calling you.”


Naasir pulled his phone out of his pocket to reveal several missed calls from Nusrah and his dad. His heart skipped a beat.


“My phone was on silent.”


“Where in God’s name did you go to?”


“I told you, I was at Femi’s place.”


“Daddy has been asking after you. I think he called you as well. Hmm, he’s really angry o. It’s about to go down after iftaar I’m sure of it.”


Naasir shrugged, affecting an air of nonchalance. However, deep down inside, he was worried. 


“Did you tell him anything?”


Nusrah shook her head. “No time. He arrived only a few minutes before the adhaan for Maghrib was called.” She stopped, grabbed Naasir’s hand and led him inside.


“Quick. Go and pray Maghrib before he comes back from the mosque.”


Naasir obliged. On the dining table was a fruit spread. Oranges, bananas, dates, tangerines. Naasir deftly pilfered a banana, tangerine and bottle of water as he passed.

Then he raced upstairs to break his fast.




The air in the dining room was heavy and still. Every person in the room seemed to be holding their breath, waiting. It was about to go down as Nusrah had predicted, the question was when.


Naasir’s expression was strained and guarded, his eyes darting around the room, never quite meeting anybody’s gaze. A ripple of guilt rushed through him. Iftaar used to be a bubbly affair, especially when Nusrah was around. Naasir was aware that his actions were the cause of the tension at the table.


Nusrah tried her best to ease it by telling funny stories about school. Even his stepmother talked about two of her patients who were making progress. 


His dad listened and replied appropriately. One could almost be fooled that he was paying attention, but Naasir knew better. His dad’s eyes had barely left him since the beginning of iftaar. The anger radiated off him in waves so much so that Naasir feared his dad would grab him, place him across his lap and thrash him soundly.


As expected, the chatter slowly died down and silence reigned once again, broken only by the occasional rustle of clothing and Jibike’s nervous cough when she came to place the side dish on the table. 


It was his favourite: Gizdodo


By Allah, Naasir tried. Truly he did. But the aroma wafting from the bowl proved too hard to ignore. As he reached out with his spoon to take a portion, his dad cleared his throat. Naasir looked up and found his dad looking at him pointedly.


‘Really, Naasir? Should you be having seconds when you are yet to answer for your crimes?’ The look said. 


Naasir sighed in defeat and dropped the spoon. 


Farewell, Gizdodo. Until we meet again.




“In my room. Now.”


His father’s order had Naasir scrambling to his feet. Like a puppet drawn by strings, he followed his dad. He thought he felt a gentle pressure on his wrist. Surprised he looked down but she had her attention on her phone. 


Had he imagined her squeezing his hand?


Nusrah smiled at him pitifully and whispered: Good luck. 


Naasir gave her a nod, grateful for her support.  He 100% felt like a cow being led to the slaughterhouse.

He climbed the stairs after his dad, with wooden legs. Nusrah’s whispered-  what do you think daddy’s going to do to him? – were the last words he heard before his dad shut the bedroom door behind him. 


They were well and truly alone now. 


I can handle this, he thought. Haven’t you been wishing for a confrontation for God knows how long?  


Head held high, arms crossed behind his back, Naasir stood before his dad, awaiting reprimand.


“Give me your phone.” His dad said, voice all steel.


Naasir opened his mouth and closed it. The request took him by surprise. Naasir had expected many different things, but never in his wildest imaginings did he conjure his dad asking for his phone. 




“Don’t make me repeat myself.”


Immediately, Naasir obliged, placing his precious Samsung into his dad’s outstretched palm.


“This stays with me until I decide you’ve learnt your lesson.”


“WHAT! How… How do I survive without…?”


“You’re a brilliant boy aren’t you? Figure it out.”


Naasir stamped his foot to the ground. “This is so unfair! Why are you bent on making my life miserable?!”


His father shook his head. “You misunderstand me, Naasir. This is me trying to make you better…”


“What do you care, hmm? You’ve not cared about me or anything that concerns me since I was nine years old!”


That wasn’t entirely true, but Naasir was past caring. He watched his father’s face fall, all the anger drained out of it. Somehow, he appeared older, the lines on his face more prominent. Or maybe it was a trick of the light. 


Naasir dropped his gaze to his feet, unable to bear looking at his dad anymore. The sadness reflected back at him was becoming too much to bear.


The moments ticked by. A few minutes later, his father heaved a deep, weary sigh.


“I will not ask why you chose to disregard me today. Muneer is a chap who respects me a lot. I hold him in high regard as well.  Your actions today showed I may not be deserving of his respect since I can’t even control my own son.” His dad paused. “Look at me when I am speaking to you!”


Naasir looked up at his father. 


“After Taraweeh today, you will go to Muneer and apologise. You will tell him how sorry you are for wasting his time and how willing you are to make amends. Do you understand me?”


“Yes sir,” Naasir grumbled.


“I gave Jibike two weeks off work. You will take over EVERYTHING she does in this house until she returns. That includes cleaning and assisting Umm Sulaym with the cooking.”


“But I…”


“If I get any complaints about you from Muneer or Umm Sulaym, or I myself notice that you are slacking in any of the duties, OUR DEAL WILL BE OFF.  No school abroad or here in Nigeria for that matter. I will enrol you at the mechanic workshop down the road. Let’s see how your friends like you then.”

“Dad, you can’t mean that…”


“TRY. ME.”


Hot tears burned behind Naasir’s eyelids, threatening to fall. “It isn’t fair. “ He whispered


“No, it isn’t. However you forced my hand. I had faith in you and you showed me you can’t be trusted to make the right decisions unaided.”


His father came to stand before him and put a hand on his shoulder. Heavy and firm. It was all Naasir could do to not shrug that hand away.


“Go now and prepare for Taraweeh. We leave in ten minutes.”


“Yes sir.” Properly chastised, Naasir left the room on wooden legs.




Naasir was still sulking after Taraweeh. He was still in shock, his feet ached and he missed his phone most of all. He was sure Sholape and the boys would have called him. 


How was he going to update them about the new development? What about if the proprietors of Lend A Hand wanted to teach him? His social media accounts?




The worst part was that his dad had taken his desktop computer when he took the game console, so that was out of the equation. Maybe he could bribe Nusrah to…


“Hey, Naasir. Over there.”


His dad pointed to the front of the mosque where Muneer stood speaking with the Imaam.

Naasir grudgingly rose and ambled over to them.


“Assalamu alaykum.” He said in a small voice.


Muneer excused himself from the Imaam and turned to face Naasir.


“Waalaykumsalam Naasir. How may I help you?”


“I…” Naasir paused. He was tempted to say something rude, just to spite Muneer and his dad especially. He had learnt though, the consequences of testing his dad. 


Remember what’s at stake. 


“I wanted to apologise,” He started, looking straight at Muneer. “For missing the class and wasting your time. I was wrong. I would like to make amends and learn if you will still have me.”


Muneer smiled. “Will you still be unavailable for the rest of the month?”  There was a mischievous gleam in Muneer’s eyes.

Mortified, Naasir managed a small smile. “I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright. I was only joking. Meet me here same time tomorrow, in shaa Allah. Assalamu alaykum.” With a nod, Muneer left.

Naasir heaved a sigh of relief. That had gone better than expected.

Tomorrow he’d make sure to not be late. 

© Hafsah bint Nurein


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