His name was.
We met under the guise of longing—for salvation, for liberation. We talked about the crescent atop every roof of masjid one sees around. I commented on the bais who wear their hijab with such zeal that only their eyes are unveiled. Such niyat to cover their aurat—not all women willingly envelop themselves in symbolic black. He nodded his agreement while looking at me. I was, on that day, wearing my favorite white blouse and my red veil draped on my neck.
He was from the other side of the Lake.
He narrated how close he is to his family especially to his Ina. He would tell her how his day begins and how it ends. He said his Ina taught him how to cook. I nodded my interest while fondling the fancy oversized ring on my forefinger. I am close to both my parents and I have decided at that very moment to learn how to cook even a simple dish of initinda a seda.
He grew up where religion hangs like a flag.
You cannot fail to hear the adhan, he said. Because it resonates. Yes, I know, was what I said. I grew up in Montiya where faith is an every-day-every-hour journey. There, men and women may not appear a believer, but they are. Including myself, I murmured to the air.
He was almost married.
About nine months ago, on a Friday morning, his Ama asked him if he was ready to meet the lady chosen for him. He said he would settle for whoever and whatever his family would come up with. I slowly nodded. I would have insisted upon my Bapa to let me decide upon a marriage proposal. After all a bai cannot be forced against her will to accept a datu for her groom. Hey, I interrupted. Have you forgotten about that? We cannot be imposed on.
His name was.
He said he will be leaving for Jeddah the following week. He would be seeing beautiful crescents there and would be hearing solemn adhans. Ameen, may you be blessed. Inshaallah you will land on a job which will pay big, I said.
And you? He asked.
I will stay. Maybe I will reconsider putting on my hijab.
And maybe I will continue to remember what his name was. He, a datu I met when I longed for liberation because salvation was too profound.
Sukran- ‘Thank you.’
Adhan- call for prayer
Initinda a seda- traditional Maranao fish dish
Inshallah- literally means ‘If Allah so permits.’
Ameen- means ‘Amen.’ It is usually said to accompany a wish as when one says ‘Inshallah.’
Aurat- skin. The Qur’an says that women should cover their body except for the eyes and the hands as to mean the high regard for them. The Qur’an also says that women could show their aurat to their husbands, fathers, and uncles.
Arifah M. Jamil was a creative writing student at UP Mindanao. She resides in Cagayan de Oro city where she will await the results of the bar exam she just took. We wish her success.