“You should have left Ahmadiyyat by the time I return from Hajj!”
This was the order of a husband who wanted his wife to renounce Ahmadiyyat. He had renounced it himself a few years ago and had turned bitterly against Ahmadis. This wasn’t the first order of this kind. This woman had received such threats on many occasions. Although the start of her marriage had been smooth, but the road ahead got bumpier and bumpier as life started to move on.
Sadiqa was born to a practising and loyal Ahmadi family. Her upbringing had been typical of an Ahmadi child who learns to love the Holy Prophetsa, the Promised Messiahas and the Khalifa-e-Waqt from the first day of their life in this world.
Growing up in a lower middle class area of Karachi, she had been an active member of her local Jamaat and had immense love for Khilafat. As was customary in those days, she was seen as mature enough for marriage by the time she entered her teens.
Only just turned 18, she was married to her cousin. The father of this cousin had been a practising Ahmadi, but the mother – owing to her background and family – had always been borderline. The wedding, hence, was a very Ahmadi one in nature and the events surrounding it were nothing different to normal. Sadiqa’s life took a strange turn when her father-in-law passed away.
The borderline mother-in-law saw this as the best chance to renounce Ahmadiyyat; not only that, but to turn into an enemy of everything associated with Ahmadiyyat. Her sons, including Sadiqa’s husband, joined her in this move. In their enmity for the Jamaat, Sadiqa was the closest and softest target.
With her husband at the forefront, all her in-laws pressurised her to break all ties with Ahmadiyyat. What was first presented as an innocent suggestion soon turned into a threat. Sadiqa was not one to give up her faith to any threat. She stayed firm and never wavered even an inch from the path of the faith that coursed through her blood.
She would later recall those days – even the memory of which was agonising – and wonder what kept her unmoved in the face of such intense pressure that could, at times, become violent.
Day after day passed and eventually, Sadiqa gave birth to child after child, until she had seven of them – all born a year or a year-and-a-half apart. This combination of hate and procreation, both running side by side and on a very regular basis, could perplex those who are happily married; but it is a typical manifestation of domestic abuse in the South Asian culture.
She continued to give birth and bring up the children of a man who would rarely have anything to give to her but stress, pain, worry and sorrow. What had once started to appear as bags under her eyes would sometimes change colour to black or purple – the only colours that domestic abuse can bring. But Sadiqa always remained silent about those bruises.
Her husband’s threat of divorcing her if she didn’t renounce Ahmadiyyat never materialised. That would have meant an end to the abuse that he wanted for an Ahmadi victim.
So there she was, a young mother of seven who stood undeterred in her faith, absorbing in her heart (and through her body) all hardships that came her way. Although he never divorced her, but the marriage, and its twinned abuse, came to a sudden end.
Many Muslims think that performing the Hajj means salvation from all evil that had ever happened at their hands. Probably with the same wishful ambition, Sadiqa’s husband set off for the Holy Ka‘bah for a whitewash of his conscience. But he felt that he was leaving behind an Ahmadi woman who was still in his wedlock and, hence, could hinder his spiritual revamp.
Having bade a loving farewell to all family members, he turned around to Sadiqa and said:
“When I return from Hajj, I want to see you a Muslim!”, he demanded sternly. “Or else be ready for divorce!”
Upon his return, he had expected to see all prayers offered at the Ka‘bah accepted, including his wife’s change of heart. Before he could see whether the rest had been accepted, he found that the one which he had ardently begged for had been blatantly rejected. He became furious to see that his wife was still very much an Ahmadi. As if she was the one not to have accepted his prayer, Sadiqa alone had to take the toll of a frustrated enemy of Ahmadiyyat.
Like characters of a Shakespearean play, both persons represented a religious sect and its orthodox enemies, a community and a whole nation, the good and the evil. Now was the time for him to make a decision.
Just as he was about to make one, a sudden pain in his left shoulder caused him to bow and scream in pain. The jubilant household of a haji (pilgrim) returning home panicked and doctors and ambulances were sent for. It was on the ambulance bed that he breathed his last breath, never to make the biggest decision of his life.
This could have been an end to Sadiqa’s miseries, but unfortunately, it was not. Her faith was to be tested further. Her husband had left behind a thriving business of cold storage for the fisheries by the coastal part of Karachi. The business brought back handsome amounts to provide for the many households that made part of his big joint family.
Sadiqa’s eldest son, who automatically inherited the business, was barely 12 years old and could not take control of the business. His uncle (Sadiqa’s brother-in-law) took upon himself the role of a “regent” until the “heir” came of age.
This long spanning period of regency left the business divided and split and scattered to bits; the bits of this big Humpty-Dumpty could never be put together again. Or at least this is the narrative that was given and Sadiqa, naïve as she was, had accepted it to be true.
A meagre subsistence allowance was fixed for Sadiqa and her children. She lived in a one-bedroom quarter allotted to her in the big house shared by families of her brothers-in-law. Abusive language for her and her faith remained a norm for many years that followed.
Finally, the greater family decided to move out of the family home and settle in a more affluent area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal in Karachi. It was here that Sadiqa was given a single bedroom quarter again, but one that was secluded for being at the rooftop of the house.
This, for Sadiqa, was a great blessing. She could now bring up her children the way she wanted. The non-Ahmadi rituals and practices were all left in the quarters downstairs. Sadiqa taught her children the reading of the Holy Quran, acquainted them with the teachings of the Holy Prophetsa and about the revival of these teachings at the hand of the Promised Messiahas. She instilled in the hearts of her children the love for Khilafat.
Of her seven children, one child had passed away in a road accident. She now had two sons and four daughters, all very much Ahmadi, all very much like her in virtue, kindness and tolerance. With little gap in their ages, all four daughters approached the age of marriage almost at the same time. Her finances were still very limited with the only source of income being the allowance that had been set for her many years ago.
It was not before the two sons started earning and contributing that life became only slightly easier for her; slightly because the queued up marriages of four daughters was not a walk in the park, not least in a society where dowry has become changed from a social norm to a social curse.
In the winter of 1997, Sadiqa was ready to have her eldest daughter married. That done, the queue started to move quickly and the rest of the children got married with the same gap of time as in their ages. It took her almost 10 years for her to marry all her children; all of them in Ahmadi families.
Purity of intention, patience, perseverance and steadfastness always bear the sweetest of fruits. Sadiqa witnessed this herself and so did everyone who knew her. Her in-laws, who once hated her for her faith, started to sail back to her after years of stumbling and rocking in rough waters of worldly misfortunes. They saw that their wealth and worldly prosperity had not earned them the peace and tranquillity that the poor woman had won only through her faith and prayer. Most of her in-laws, having envied her for many years, later reverted to Ahmadiyyat.
So this simple and almost illiterate woman called Sadiqa not only protected her own faith in Ahmadiyyat, but brought up six Ahmadi children and, through marrying them in Ahmadi families, produced six Ahmadi households.
Her patience and love won the hearts of her in-laws and brought about three more households back into the pale of Ahmadiyyat.
Sadiqa lived to see 18 grandchildren born into the six Ahmadi households of her children. I feel fortunate and privileged to tell you that I married her eldest daughter and have, by the grace of Allah, contributed three to the total tally of her grandchildren. This daughter of hers has taught my three children the reading of the Quran and has brought them up in a very Ahmadi-Islamic manner.
As coronavirus took hold of the world and everyone seemed to have nothing else to worry about, Sadiqa was diagnosed with cancer. She was diagnosed with stage four cancer in spring this year and come autumn, she breathed her last breath on 21 October.
I have written these lines not for my mother-in-law, but for a very brave Ahmadi woman who sacrificed every bit of herself for the honour and love of Ahmadiyyat. These lines are released from my pen not only from my sorrow at losing her, but for my desire that her legacy lives on. O Allah, be it so!
(Written by Asif M Basit)