The blue sky sent a cool breeze across their anticipating faces, and the birds were joyfully chirping as they welcomed the bright morning sunshine. The bell rang, signaling the commencement of the first day of school. With smiling faces and determined glances, the girls formed neat lines awaiting the Principal’s address.
Farah spotted Amina, joyfully squeezed her into a tight hug, and together they began searching for Asma; whom they found after a while peeping through the crowds trying to catch a glimpse of her friends! Their classmates were all familiar to them, except for one new girl whose name they later found out to be Zaynab. It wasn’t just them, but almost everyone in their class was staring incredulously at the new girl. Her features were abnormal, and it appeared like she was suffering from a mental disorder, as she was constantly talking to herself in soft whispers…
No one expected the new girl to do well in her studies, including the teachers, but she took them all completely by surprise. She excelled in all subjects, yet it was her remarkable recitation during the Qur’an class that surprised them the most, for she had a beautiful voice and a captivating recitation that only manifests from a deep connection with the Qur’an. She became the talk of the school, praised by all her teachers until many of the girls became envious of her.
The girls that were jealous of Zaynab started spreading rumors about her. It was said that she was proud and that she felt superior to others, and thus they shot her glances of contempt and looked in her direction with resentment. It was as if she was the innocent, peaceful dove that all of a sudden turned into a detestable creature.
Farah, Amina, and Asma just couldn’t figure it out; they were sitting together during break time tirelessly squeezing their brains in order to solve a Mathematics question but to no avail! As they were looking around and scratching their heads helplessly, Farah spotted Zaynab sitting by herself as always, and after serious contemplations, she decided to seek her help. Before she could walk over to her, Zaynab got up from her chair and was heading outside of the library, but Farah called over to her: “Zaynab! Zaynab!” But Zaynab was nowhere to be seen, she had already left.
“Did you see that girls!” exclaimed Farah, full of rage, “She completely ignored me! They were all right; she’s so proud and haughty!”
Amina and Asma both nodded their heads in agreement, shocked at what had just occurred before their eyes.
They finally had their doubts answered by their teacher, when they went to her class during one of the break times. The teacher then added:
“You can go to Zaynab and ask her too when facing issues, she is always ready to help!”
“Is she?” replied Farah, remembering their incident with her, “she was leaving the library the other day when I called her to help us with this question, but she completely ignored me, she didn’t even turn her head around to see who was calling her.”
“Were you calling her from a distance Farah?” Her teacher asked with a skeptical look.
“Umm, kind of, why are you asking?”
“Because Zaynab has a hearing defect Farah!” replied the teacher with a reprimanding tone, “she can only hear those who are very close to her, which is why I always raise my voice when speaking to her in class if you noticed!”
Amina and Asma were shocked, and Farah looked down with shame. Apologizing to the teacher, they quickly rushed out of her room.
“I can’t believe we thought so negatively of her, we judged her without being aware of her situation,” confessed Asma.
Amina nodded her head in silent agreement. After a while of silence, Farah blurted out:
“But then why does she not socialize with others, and why does she leave the school with great urgency every day; I’m sure she doesn’t want to share her secrets and how she is always getting the best grades!” Asma and Amina were shocked at her speculation, shocked at how their friend became so brutally judgmental…
As they were leaving school the next day, a girl approached Zaynab as she was running down the stairs in a hurry. She was pointing at her book as if asking a question, but Zaynab cut her off and told her something quickly before she left, to which the girl nodded disappointedly. Although they heard none of what went on, Farah still commented triumphantly: “See, do you believe me now, I told you she doesn’t want to help others; how shameful!” Amina agreed, but Asma refused to believe it; she was truly disappointed in how her friends were making such baseless judgments. She warned them with a stern tone in her voice: “And most of them follow not except assumption. Indeed, assumption avails not against the truth at all. Indeed, Allah is Knowing of what they do.” 1 “This is not a trivial matter girls; severe punishment is promised in the Qur’an for such evil assumptions: “O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin…”” 2 In spite of her sincere warnings, though, they waved their hands at her carelessly. Asma couldn’t deny that something was indeed suspicious, that there was a major secret which Zaynab was hiding from them all, and thus she was determined to find it out.
Without revealing her intentions or dropping any hints to her friends, she followed Zaynab as she rushed back home. Zaynab entered her house, unaware that someone was following her, whilst Asma peeked meticulously through the windows. She spotted an elderly woman lying on a bed, with the Qur’an being played in the background, its volume filling the entire room. Zaynab started feeding her, not having changed her clothes or even a chance to rest. She then turned down the volume of the Qur’an, and out loud, she recited mesmerizingly to the elderly woman.
Asma continued to watch, she was standing near a bush full of thorns so she adjusted her position slightly. The bushes made a rattling sound, Asma panicked, and Zaynab was startled, she could see a shadow moving from the window. She dashed outside to see what it was, and with a bewildered expression on her face, she asked: “Is that you Asma? What are you doing here?” Asma turned bright red, she felt ashamed and embarrassed at the same time, but she told her everything, from the rumors that spread about her in school to their incident with her. She told her that she was very curious to know what she had to hide and so she followed her to find out. It was now Zaynab’s turn to speak.
“We got into a car accident, my parents and I, it was dreadful. My dad passed away immediately, while my mom and I barely survived. My face got disfigured because I crashed onto the broken glass from the car’s window, and mom became paralyzed but she can only move her head. Our life became extremely difficult then, we had no family to give us an aiding hand; but the mercy of Allah always prevails. The generous man who had helped us get to the hospital after the accident paid for my plastic surgery, which helped remove the deformation but my features may still seem strange to some. The accident did cause me some mental deficiencies, but my studies were not affected Alhamdulillah.
“I leave the house in the morning after having fed my mother and ensuring that she is asleep, but because she is alone I hastily return home after school. I study during the breaks because I don’t have much time at home, for I need to constantly be on my mother’s side. I don’t have time to socialize or hang out with friends, people think I am arrogant, but they just don’t know the truth behind my struggle, and they make it worse with their judgmental looks and gestures. I feel disheartened and alone when people stare or ridicule me, but Alhamdulillah, the Qur’an is my source of comfort and peace; I recite it out loud to my mother because I know that she too loves to have the words of Allah comforting her.” She explained, with a sorrowful expression on her face.
Asma’s eyes were filled with tears, she couldn’t hold them back, and before she knew it she was sobbing so loudly and instinctively went on to hug her. “Zaynab please forgive me, for everything, for spying on you, for judging you and having bad assumptions about you, if only I knew, if only I knew…” she repeated it until her throat went dry.
Everyone in school heard the story of Zaynab the next day as Asma related the events during the morning assembly. She reminded them of the ayah: “When you received it with your tongues and said with your mouths that of which you had no knowledge and thought it was insignificant while it was, in the sight of Allah, tremendous.” 3
Spotting the horrified look on Farah’s face and the teary, remorseful eyes of the other girls she ended her speech with: “How dare we utter that which we do not have knowledge of? We don’t know people’s circumstances yet we continue to make horrendous judgments. It is our negative thoughts and false assumptions that change our attitudes toward others; when all we know is but part of the picture. Thinking well of people is safer for our hearts that would otherwise be filled with baseless grudges. Positive assumptions can only lead to good, so let’s make that our goal!
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