Imam's Wife10 mins 372 10 mins 372
There are small tragedies, big tragedies and great tragedies in our lives. While the person on whom tragedies befall and let me tell you it falls on all of us sometime or the other, has to bear the brunt of it, people near and dear do help a lot in sharing a person’s sorrow and grief.
Occasions however come when one of your near ones suffers a tragedy and you are unable to decide whether you feel empathy for him or pity or even ridicule! There was one such occasion that I was involved in and this story is about my friend, Imam.
I was posted in Dar-e-Salaam during the years 2009-10 and was mostly alone. I used to wander in the streets of the beautiful city to explore its beauty. It was on one such sojourn that I bumped into Imam. His name is not Imam, he was the Imam of a mosque in the city. We met on the silver sands of Coco beach which is the most romantic place in Dar. I was alone as usual and he was sitting on the sands in deep contemplation at a close distance from me. I was staring at him when he turned his head to meet my gaze. I smiled at him in courtesy and he smiled back at me dryly.
I could somehow sense his gloom and sadness. It seemed to me that he was badly in need of someone to talk to. I never do this with strangers, but the pull was strong and I walked up to him and sat by his side.
“I’m Ravi”, I said putting out my hand. “I have come from India and work here.”
“Mohammed Mutumba”, he said. “I am from Dar, born and brought up here. I am an Imam in a city mosque.”
“Imam? You are a holy man?”
“You can say so; but I am a mortal, not god.”
We laughed and I always feel that laughter brings people closer in a bond of friendship. We spoke about India, Tanzania and a lot of other things. As all conversations usually do, the topic finally veered towards family and children.
“Are you married?” he asked me.
“Yes, one wife, two daughters.”
“Are they here with you?”
“No. One is working and studying in India and the other one studying in college. My wife keeps visiting me here. What about you?”
This question is normally asked and answered normally. It, however, seemed to have a very negative impact on the Imam.
“Never will I marry again. Never.”
I was taken aback. His answer led to a few quick interpretations. The Imam was averse to marriage; he had married once but had some bad experience, perhaps the marriage ended in divorce; the experience was so bad that he had now decided never to marry again. I could sense an interesting story, but this was personal and delicate, and I kept my studied silence.
When a person suffers a tragedy, he always wants to share it, however hard one tries not to speak about it. One expects to read your mind and ask you about your tragedy. You feel bad if someone doesn’t ask. I believe in this strongly from my own personal experience. At the cost of diverting your attention from this story, I shall very briefly illustrate my point.
Once upon a time, years ago, when I was working in the Ministry, I had a small accident. I had cut my finger on something and the small wound started festering. I put a band-aid on it and went to work as usual. The wounded finger and the band-aid on it was visible to plain sight, yet not one of my colleagues saw it or asked about it. Initially, my mind did not register this anomaly, but soon enough I began getting messages from some part of my brain that I was being ignored by friends and colleagues. Soon, this thought multiplied and snowballed into a bitter battle within me. I deliberately made my wounded finger more visible to the public view. Nothing happened; no one took the slightest notice and by the end of the day I had concluded in my frustration that I had no friends or well-wishers!
You see, that is how even small tragedies affect us. I was curious about the Imam and the reason why he would not marry, but I did not want to ask him. Then I remembered my own predilection with my wounded finger and decided to enquire.
“ Imam, you seem to be troubled. May I ask you why?”
“Friend, don’t ask me why. I cannot trouble you with my follies.”
“Imam, all of us are humans. I too have committed mistakes and blunders. No need to be ashamed about it. You know, talking about problems helps. Talking to strangers like me will help you, I assure you. You know, we may never meet again after this day.”
The Imam broke down. I let him sob till his tears dried.
“Ravi, I have committed a mistake, yes. But more than that, I am a sinner. I have sinned and I am now being punished by Allah for my sins.
Where should I begin my tale of foolishness? You see, I am 24 and have devoted my life to Allah and his purpose for me. I studied my religion, practiced my faith diligently and became Imam at a very young age. That was quite an achievement for me and I thank Allah for his mercy.
I don’t know why I wanted to get married, I was so happy. But the thought of marriage had taken root in my mind and heart and it seemed it was Allah’s wish and desire. I earnestly started seeking a bride for me. My parents are with Allah, and I have no close relatives; so it was Allah’s wish that I should choose my own bride!
Six months ago I met Swabullah at my mosque. She was young and spoke lovingly. She was a nice girl though her beauty was always hidden behind her burqa. I was drawn to her instantly, maybe Allah drove me to her.
I decided to make her my bride and proposed to her. She accepted. We had our Nikah in the mosque, supervised by my superiors. They were all very happy for me.
Strangely, my wife would not allow me to consummate our marriage. On our very first night, she told me that she had an aunt whose blessings we need to seek and we cannot make physical contact before her blessings are obtained. She had no other relatives but for her aunt. I readily agreed and we visited her aunt forthwith. I even took a good dowry of a few goats, a cow, honey and some cash, as desired by my wife. Her aunt was happy and blessed us.
Despite fulfilling her wish, my wife would not let me touch her in bed. She now told me that she was having her menses, you know, the monthly cycle which women have? I resolved to myself that I shall stay away from her till she was pure and ready for me.
Two months had passed and yet I failed to have her assent for consummating our marriage. I was now worried, anxious and disturbed. Had I done something wrong to my loving wife? Had I not shown her enough love?
During this time, my wife cooked delicious food, kept the house clean and sparkling and washed my clothes dutifully. She gave me no room for complaint, except that she would not undress before me or let me have her. I prayed to Allah for answers and soon enough he provided them.
A month or so ago, I returned home from the mosque after my morning prayers to find a crowd gathered in front of my house. Has something bad happened to Swabi, I feared.
My neighbor’s wife was shouting at my wife. The people who had collected hearing her loud voice were surrounding my wife and telling my neighbor’s wife that she should call the police.
I inquired and gathered that in my absence, there had been a theft in my neighbor's house and they were accusing my wife of it. They told me that my wife was a bloody thief; she had jumped the wall and entered my neighbor's house stealthily. She then had grabbed a TV and some clothes and was trying to get away when my neighbor’s wife caught her red-handed.
I saw my wife staring at the earth below her feet. Her eyes said it all. She was guilty, ashamed and afraid. The police arrived and the lady officer conducted a body search of my wife as the rules prescribed.
That was the most terrifying moment in my life! I wished Allah would part open the earth beneath my feet and swallow me alive. Instead, He made me witness the most shameful event of my life. May Allah not do this with anybody!
As my wife was being searched from head to toes, startling discoveries were being made. Every woman has breasts, Allah has given them these. My wife had paper stuffed in her bra. Rolls of paper tumbled out! She had no breasts!
It did not stop here; even as the crowd watched with amazement and I was feeling stunned by this discovery, the young lady from the police shrieked in alarm when she was searching the lower body parts of my wife. The lady pulled away from my wife as if Shaitan had bitten her. She then spoke to her officer in a hushed tone. The male officer’s eyes almost popped out of its socket. He beckoned to me urgently and asked:
“What have you married?”
“What? What do you mean? She is my wife.”
He walked to my wife and pulled the Burqa from her face.
“This, is your wife?”
The person who stood before me was a young boy. He looked miserably at me. He looked beautiful, femininely beautiful. I had never seen my wife without her burqa for she had never let me see her undressed."
I looked at him in amazement. This Imam, poor boy; he married a boy thinking he was a girl named Swabullah? Incredible! I have heard many stories being told to me; and I have told many a story to people. This was something too unbelievable. Was this Imam making up the story? If so, I was hooked to it.
There was a long silence. Imam had spoken and now I had to speak something.
“Imam, I don’t know how to react to your tragedy. Is this all true? Did such a thing really happen to you?”
“See? Even you don’t believe me. Can you imagine my plight when my superiors, my friends, my community and the whole world discovered my blunder? They laugh at me even I wonder what made me marry a boy! Look at this and you will know that I speak the truth.”
He fished out a few newspaper clippings from his pocket and waved to me to read. I read silently, looking at the graphic pictures and reports of my friend’s tragic marriage.
It was true. The boy who was his wife had planned it all with his aunt. The idea was to strip the gullible Imam of his limited riches and make a fast getaway. The dowry was the first installment. The boy-wife and his aunt were thieves. The boy-wife could not control his greed and had planned to rob the neighbour too, but unfortunately, the best-laid plans sometimes come apart. He was nabbed red-handed and his true identity and gender stood exposed in public view.
I could not hide my laughter. The moment it escaped my lips, I regretted it. How can one laugh at somebody’s tragedy? My Imam had lost everything. Marrying a boy, though by mistake, was sin in Islam. His superiors, who had blessed him and his wife quickly realized their mistake and removed Imam from his post. My friend, an Imam, was now shamed, stripped of honour, robbed and cheated by his faithless wife!
I wondered how I could console the Imam!