Updated: May 14
04/03/2023 A JOURNEY OF HEALING AND FORGIVENESS.
“This series and the characters in it are fictitious. Certain long-standing institutions, agencies, and public offices are mentioned, and the religious rites are authentic, but the characters involved are wholly imaginary. “
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Copyright © 2023 by Hadiza Bagudu.
Hajiya Safiya was exhausted. She had spent the whole journey trying to keep the children in line while juggling their various bags containing their food and several changes of clothing and diapers. She was very close to losing her mind. Her husband was no help at all. He had been the one that paid for the trip for all of them, and back then, it seemed like it would be fun. But now, he blamed her for bringing the children along. So he refused to help her with anything.
It was supposed to be a wonderful family vacation for all of them. Yes, it was a religious obligation, but she wanted them also to incorporate a much-needed family vacation time while they were at it. They had not had a vacation in ages and drifted apart. Their marriage had been in trouble for a while, and she was afraid that they might break up or, even worst, he could take a second wife to punish her.
Ten years ago, they were happy and in love. She had a small shop in Central Market, Kano, selling wrappers and veils. He was a junior staff at Kura Cement. Then he got promoted twice and became the assistant manager of the company. It took most of his time and also took him away from his family. But she was patient and loving. As compensation, Alhaji Kura appointed her as the primary seller of his textile in the central market. That was also a time-consuming business, even though it was financially rewarding. Suddenly, both husband and wife were too busy for themselves and their children. Nannies were hired as money was no longer an issue, but the distance was taking a toll on their relationship. So, he asked her to stop working and become a full-time housewife to look after the children properly, but she thought it wasn’t fair and refused. Being a chauvinistic Hausa male, that didn’t sit well with him. They started to fight a lot. Eventually, they reached an impasse, and she hired more staff for her shops and cut back on her hours, but the damage had already been done. To make things worse, family members and friends all supported him. Everyone just kept telling her how stupid and ungrateful she was, that after all, her husband was rich enough to provide for her and her children; why did she keep working herself? She should stay at home and get spoiled by him. No one tried to understand that she needed that job too. It wasn’t about the money at all, and it was her identity. It was hers, and that was important to her.
Then, she discovered that his family was trying to find a more appropriate wife for him since she didn’t have time to be one. It was not fair. She was trying her best. She worked like a donkey, both at home and in her shops. She cooked all their meals herself and made sure that she bathed and prepared the children for school, dropped them off and picked them up, and took them home herself. But it was still not enough. He wanted her to stop completely. It almost seemed as if her success threatened him. She tried to reason with him, and she did, and every time she made any progress, he would go and talk with his family, and then he would be angry again. They were poisoning him against her, and she could do nothing about it. She tried to make him see them for who they were, but he didn’t want to believe it.
So, when he came to her with tickets for Hajj, she was surprised but went with it. He wanted it to be just the two of them, but she insisted they went with the children. He told her no, but she insisted until he agreed, and when he didn’t buy the tickets for the children on time, she called her travel agent and got it from him. That was the last straw; he took it as an insult and an act of defiance, even though she didn’t mean it that way. She was only trying to help because she thought he was busy and kept forgetting. He thought she was showing off her wealth, and his authority was challenged. So, he decided to let her suffer alone on the journey.
It wasn’t easy going to the mosque while trying to hold on to the boy and girl and carrying the baby on her back. But somehow, she managed to do it. As she was struggling, she saw an Arab man and woman about their ages, also performing the Holy rites. The man was backing his baby and holding on to another while holding his wife’s hand to ensure she was safe and didn’t get lost among the crowd. That nearly brought her to tears. Life isn’t fair to her at all. Why couldn’t her husband do the same? Why couldn’t he be that sensitive and caring? So, in the Prophet’s (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) mosque, she prayed for Allah’s help and guidance in their marriage. She also prayed for protection from his family and their enemies.
She had planned to go shopping with the family while they were there, but that was impossible, or at least, she didn’t feel like it. She was exhausted just thinking about it. He had ruined the journey for her.
She also wanted to share a room with him as a family, but he ensured they didn’t. Somehow, he set her up in a women-only room. She ended up sharing a room with Nana Aisha and another woman from Nigeria. The other woman didn’t mind the children at all, but the daughter of Alhaji Kura wasn’t pleased. She didn’t say anything, but she kept making faces and hissing. Even worse, her (Nana Aisha) mother kept checking on her to ensure she didn’t escape. Nana Aisha's mother and Alhaji Jigawa’s wife were in the next room. The mother had pleaded with her to be patient and to keep an eye on Nana Aisha for her. So, she just had to put up with her rude attitude. That afternoon, they were in the room together, and she was lucky that all three children were napping.
“Have you eaten?” She asked Nana Aisha. The girl hadn’t gone out of the room in two days. She just lay there and sulked all day.
“I am not hungry.”
“What? You haven’t eaten anything since yesterday.”
"I am fine.”
“Come on.” She said, going over to her bed to sit next to her. “You can’t starve yourself. Whatever it is, you can tell me.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Are you sure? I am a great listener.”
” Yes, I am sure, and I know that after I talk to you, you will repeat everything to my mother anyway. So, no, thank you. I will pass.”
“Ok then. I will leave you alone.” She got up and started preparing food for her baby. She was afraid that their conversation would wake the children up.
A few moments later, the other roommate came back from the market. She had bought a lot of stuff and was very happy.
“Wow! Safiya said to her. “You were busy, huh?”
“Yes, I was, and I still have more to buy.” She was beaming.
“Is this your first time coming to Hajj?”
“You need to be careful of how much stuff you buy because first, we still have to go to Maccah, and you have only a 60 kg weight limit to carry on your flight. You may be forced to throw away most of them at the airport or pay a lot for your luggage. Either way, you will not be happy.”
“Wow! That is so bad. I wanted to buy things for everyone in my family back home. Everyone else does that whenever they go for Hajj.”
“They don’t. Most of the things they take home, they buy right there in Nigeria. It is cheaper to buy them there and transport them home, instead of from here. Also, you don’t know how long we will be here, so do not squander all your money or you won’t even have enough for food.” The woman looked as if she was going to cry. “Don’t worry; everything is going to be alright. I am here for you.
“Thank you.” She still looked worried.
Later that evening, her husband came to visit the children. They had to meet in the lobby, as he is a man and could not enter the women’s room. The children were excited to see him. He played with them for a while before turning to his wife.
“Were you able to do the shopping?”
“No, I was tired and couldn’t bring myself to go.” She answered without looking at him. But tears were already pooling at the back of her eyes. Without seeing them, he understood and started to feel bad for what he had done to her.
“I told you not to come along with them; Shafa’a could have taken care of them back home.” She didn’t reply, but in her mind, she knew she would rather die than leave her children alone with his sister, Shafa’a. That is a woman who did everything to break them up. She would leave her husband’s house in Kaduna, pack her five children, and come and stay with them for weeks at a time in the guise of a vacation. She would make her as miserable as possible before she left and took every opportunity to cause chaos between her and her husband. She was a good pretender who made a show of trying to help, but in reality, she was driving a wedge between her and her husband. She seemed to want to be in charge of the house because she had three other co-wives in her own house, and things weren’t so rosy between her and her husband. So, she tried her best to exercise control in her brother’s house. It was undeniable how jealous of Safiya she was. She couldn’t hide it. Unfortunately for Safiya, her husband loved his sister so much that he refused to see what was happening. He gave her so much power that she successfully drove a deep wedge between them.
“How about I stay with the children tomorrow, and you have the whole day to yourself?”
“What?” She was so deep in her thoughts that she almost didn’t hear him. He repeated himself.
“You would do that for me?”
“Yes. I am sorry I didn’t help initially; I was so angry. But now I know that I was wrong. I am sorry.”
She couldn’t believe her ears. Her prayers had been answered. Miracles do happen. She wanted to hug him but thought against it as there were people around, and it could be frowned upon.
“Thank you.” She said instead, smiling.
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I'm Hadiza Bagudu, a mom, blogger, poet, author, and podcaster. Join me each week as we embark on 'An Epic Journey of Faith!' A series about a group of pilgrims whose lives were transformed by the Hajj experience. Let's explore the power of faith, the beauty of human connection, and more captivating stories on love, family, and society. Come along, and let's dive into the world of literature together!