“Assalamualaikum dwellers of the graves.” Shafikah whispered as she neared the graveyard and continued. “Assalaamu ‘alaikum ahl al-diyaar min al-mu’mineen wa’l-muslimeen, Insha Allah bikum laahiqoon, as’al Allaaha lana wa lakum al-‘aafiyah (peace be upon you O people of the dwellings, believers and Muslims, Insha Allah we will join you, I ask Allah (s.w.t.) to keep us and you safe and sound).”
The morning was beautiful. It was not cold though a thin layer of snow covered the ground. Spring had just begun. The trees were still bare though, but soon green leaves would be crowning the trees all over Bloomingdale and other parts of southwest Indiana. The surrounding was quiet. The peaceful air seemed to envelop her to pacify what she was feeling inside.
Her heart was filled with love, sadness and longing for the person she was visiting. About seven steps before the intended spot, she stopped. She looked around. It was peaceful and quiet. She saw an old woman kneeling by a tombstone of her loved one reading verses from the Qu’ran in her hands. A question popped in her mind. “Would I still be here to visit you at that age?” She turned towards her direction and started walking.
“Assalamualaikum, Ashraff.” Shafikah whispered and her eyes were fixed on the clean spot in front of her. She was calm. No tears, just, peace inside her. She was amazed at how neat and clean the place was even though she and the family rarely came to visit. She wanted to come more often but her obligations as a mother, a teacher and a writer took much of her time. Anyway he was with her anywhere she was. She just knew this always. Ashraff even prayed for that during his last days…
Ashraff and Shafikah had just finished Isha’ prayer together. She was amazed at his sudden strength at every prayer time. He reminded her that Rasulullah (s.a.w.), during his last days before his death, still led prayers even though he was sick.
Still sitting on his praying mat, Ashraff turned around. As always, Shafikah approached him to kiss his hands. When she looked up to him, he held her hands in his. Looking deep into her eyes, he smiled and spoke to her.
"I love you and that little guy in the next room. Don’t ever forget that.”
Shafikah looked into his eyes and smiled. “I won’t, insha Allah.”
Still holding her hands in his, he gently placed them on their touching knees. He seemed calm and peaceful.
“Insha Allah, you are not going to be alone, Shafikah.” Ashraff paused and smiled lovingly at his wife. “Insha Allah, one day, you’ll meet a good man…perhaps a much better Muslim man than I am…and insha Allah, Affif too will have a brother or a sister…or more.”
“Ashraff, no… don’t say…” Her eyes were full with tears. Ashraff put his finger to her mouth to interrupt her. She did not expect him to talk about this. Not that soon anyway.
Ashraff continued. “You will love them and tell them about how much we helped each other grow as Muslims…and how much we loved each other in Allah Ta’ala.” He paused. His eyes were glistening with tears as he continued in a whisper, “…and how I hurt you…but Allah the Almighty has kept us together even after all these…alhamdulillah.”
Shafikah was looking into his eyes trying to capture the way he looked at her and never wanting to lose it. “I pray that every time you miss me or think of me, Allah Ta’ala will make you feel my presence. After all, as long as you both love Him, He won’t let you both feel alone. Be close to Allah Ta’ala always… that way you will have peace…’real’ happiness in Him. Remember always… HasbunAllah wa ni’mal wakil (Allah (s.w.t.) (Alone) is Sufficient for us and He is the Best Disposer of affairs (for us))."
Shafikah fell into his arms sobbing. Ashraff held back the tears as much as he could and a painful smile appeared on his face. It was not the pain from his sickness. It was the pain from thinking about Shafikah and their son living without him.
She gently ran her fingers over the stone engraved with Ashraff’s name, dates of birth and death while kneeling close to it. She took a small book from her bag. Settling herself comfortably beside him, she began reading the small book in her hand. The late morning breeze touched her cheeks while she was softly reciting the beautiful Qur’anic verses.
Later, as she was placing the little book back into her bag, she saw the old woman leaving the cemetery. They glanced at each another and exchanged smile. Then, Shafikah was alone with him.
“Our little guy is bigger now, alhamdulillah. I didn’t tell him I was coming here. Or else, he would make me bring him here too.” She weakly smiled and paused. She could picture Ashraff smiling at her words. Taking a deep breath, Shafikah continued.
“He’s a very bright and smart kid. SubhanAllah! You would be proud of him… I know you do see him some how, sometimes.”
Shafikah looked intently at his name on the white stone of his grave.
“I’m not sure why I came. Last year, I thought I would skip it this year since Affif needs me but…here I am...again.” Shafikah let go a small sigh.
“I know that I can be strong and live without you, Ashraff. Insha Allah, I can. Abang Yusuff and Kak Fatima have been so great to me…and Affif…he’s just so wonderful, subhanAllah…” She paused and, with a longing expression on her face, continued in a whisper, “…but I’ll miss you forever.”
Shafikah felt a sudden surge of emotion. She quickly took another deep breath. She tried her best to stay composed as she had promised herself. She did not want to drop a tear there.
“It seems like only days ago you were entrusted to me by Allah Ta’ala. Then, the ‘amanah’ was lifted from me when you returned to Him…but, there will always be a part of me that just won’t leave you. A part of who I am now… is you Ashraff.”
Shafikah didn’t say much after that, but looked at the grave intently. Sitting next to his grave, she felt their closeness at that moment. But, she could not trespass the barrier set between his and her worlds. Only the Almighty Allah (s.w.t.) knew when they would be together again in one world. Until that time came, she could only pray that he was “treated” well in the other world. She remembered the lecture given at the mosque:
“One’s good or bad deeds are his/her companion in the grave…your salat, your fast, your dhikr…”
She just wanted to be near him for a while before facing another day without him. Her past when she first came to the town and their past together flooded her mind as she recalled her life for the past twelve years. It was all coming back to her…her life before him, the life they shared, and her life without him.