Greeting one another on the auspicious day of Eid after namaz, I was startled by a soft tap from behind. Turning, I was struck by an inexplicable joy. There, she stood. The same happy face I had met on April 25 in the market of this very place, Rajgir (Bihar). “Aslah Bhaiyya! Asslamu alaikum, eid Mubarak, takbalallahu minna VA minkum,” the ten year old completed in a single breath clasping both my hands in her tiny ones.
Fathima Naufira is not someone who could be easily forgotten. Naufira is the child of the Imam. The little child of fourth grade who very boldly confided her greatest dream with me the first time we met, “I want to be an Imam too. And I want to give them khutuba (Friday speech). We hadn’t met after that, until this Eid. In the little broken Hindi I know, I asked her, “Don’t want to give your speech?” pointing to the Mihrab (The position for the Imam in the mosque). She replied pleasantly, “Fathima Naufira will, for sure.” Insha Allah. The fear whether her license to heaven would be questioned by the very same ‘good/god men’ who questioned the girls who posted their picture of namaz in between a journey on Facebook, remains. But being one of Allah’s closest friends, I am assured that nothing on Earth can stop her.
Getting back home after namaz, I scrolled down my time-line to April 23rd. My meeting with the little dreamer was jotted down so:
“I got out for a stroll in the burning Bihar heat. The idea of an ice lolly on the way back served as tremendous motivation. Savouring my chocobar, I sat. This little girl sat ahead of me and thrusting a torn ten rupee note, pointed at the ice-cream shop. My knowledge of Hindi is limited but sign language is universal. I stretched the torn note at the shopkeeper and asked for a chocobar. The man gave me a pitiful look, and I returned the same. He glanced back at the little one and inquired if it was for her. He took the note with a smile and handed me a chocobar. A happy me presented it to an even happier Naufira. She uttered a loud, merry Bismillah and licked at it. My curiosity was piqued. In broken Hindi combined with a bit of sign language, we shared what would later be one of the most memorable conversations I had in life.
Aslah: Hey. Your name?
Her: Fathima Naufira
Aslah: Aha, that’s an interesting name. In which grade are you?
Her: Fourth grade. Do you know who Fathima is?
Aslah: Yea, the Prophet’s beloved daughter.
Her: Why didn’t you pray for the prophet as you took his name?
Aslah: Oh. Sorry. I forgot beta.. Sallalahu alaihiva sallam. Where do you stay?
Her: Nearby. Near to the hostel right in front of the Masjid. Aur aap?
Aslah: It is a bit far away…
Her: Far as in? Madina?
Aslah: Allah… na… I live in Kerala. Heard about it?
Her: Haan… suna hei. The first muslim masjid in India was built in Kerala.
Aslah: Masha Allah. Thuje kaise patha?
Her: These are things related to Islam. Patha hona chahiye.
Aslah: Aiwa… What else?
Her: I love the Prophet more than ammi and abba. Aap?
Aslah: Haan, beshaq. Me too. What do you want to be when you grow up?
Her: I want to give speeches on Islam. Guide the crowd through namaz as the Imam.
Aslah: Allah… what if someone disagrees?
Her: Aap ne waisa kyun poocha? If I know enough, everyone will let me.
Aslah: And you know?
Her: Thoda patha hei. I want to learn more, but. For now, my abba is the Imam.
Aslah: Aha… Even I attend the Masjid at times…
Her: Will you be around for long?
Aslah: Nahein… Just two years. I will go once my course is over.
Her: So you won’t be around when I am the Imam?
Aslah: Of course I will be here! Mein aaonga.
Her: Aha… aapka naam kya hei?
Aslah: The good one.
Her: Are you a good one?
Aslah: Am I?
Her: Yes, it is because of you I got the ice-cream today.
Aslah: Tho mein acha aadmi hoon…
Her: Haan. Lekin, try not to go bad.
Aslah: Won’t you Dua for that?
Her: Insha Allah. Am I not a good girl?
Aslah: Are you?
Her: Aap bolo.
Aslah: Yes. You are a very good girl.
Her: Aha… I should go.
Aslah: When will Fathima come to Kerala?
Her: Once I learn enough. I will also be an Imam there? Hein na?
Aslah: Haan. Mein intazar karoonga.
Her: Tho teek hai. Assalamu alaikum.
And once she left, I felt the very same feeling of fresh crisp clothes on Eid. A warm chill.”
Aslah K is a Keralite, pursuing his Master’s Degree in Sociology at the School of Social Science, University of Anadolu in Turkey.