Ahmed was a man born in the pre-Islamic era of the Arabian peninsula. He was not like the other Bedouins for he, was a compassionate man.
Others buried their daughters alive as it was considered a shame to have one. It hurt the egoistic Arab pride, they all wanted only sons.
My wife was inside the house in severe pain due to the birth pangs. Along with her was a midwife to help her deliver the baby. I sat outside with mixed emotions. Will it be a boy or a girl, Ya Allah? I pray for a boy. Please let it not be a girl.
While Ahmed prayed furiously for a boy, his wife just delivered their baby. Wonder of all wonders, it was a girl and Masha’allah, she was beautiful.
The midwife brought the baby to me. I held my breath as I looked at her face. Yes, it was a girl. Her face was as radiant as the moon. She was beautiful. I held her only for a moment as the midwife gently told me that the baby had to be fed. I reluctantly gave her back.
Then, my mind went back to the conversation with our tribe’s chief and I shuddered inwardly. I pushed the thought aside and went to embrace my wife.
5 years later
“Amara, Abi wants to take you to Nana’s house. Wash yourself and wear your best clothes habibi.”
The 5-year old child named Amara, the eternal beauty, was very happy. She loved going out with Abi. They had a lot of fun together. It’s too bad Abi visited her and Ummi only once a week.
“Ya Qamar (beautiful like the moon), let us walk to Nana’s house.”
She nodded her head and held on to my hand. As we slowly walked along, she chattered continuously. She laughed and giggled. Her innocence pained me. Hot tears slid down my face. As Amara noticed this, she tugged at my robe and pulled me down.
She wiped my tears, kissed my face and said, “Abi, I love you.”
The hole I dug the previous night lay in front of me. I carried my daughter and placed her in. I quickly started filling the hole. Amara yelled, screamed and begged. But I turned a deaf ear to her. She finally stopped and I looked down on her. Her face was resigned and her golden brown eyes glistened with tears.
She said, “Abi, I love you.”
5 years earlier
“Brother Ahmed, listen to me carefully. This is a warning. If your wife gives birth to a girl, you have to bury her alive as she turns 5; this is our tribe’s tradition and you have to follow it. If it’s a boy, it’s good fortune for you, alhamdulilah.”
“No, brother Khalid. Please. No.”
“You think I don’t know about your first born daughter, Fatima, living in the desert with her Khala? I was merciful to you once. But this time if you make the same mistake, you will face the consequences. Your first-born Fatima will be sold as a slave to a man. He may do whatever he wishes to do with her. As for your wife, she will be beaten to death for the crime of rearing a daughter. You and your son Hassan will watch the women in your family disgraced. That will be your punishment. It’s all in your hands, brother Ahmed.”
As Ahmed stood above his daughter’s grave. He thought back to the events that brought upon him such pain. He thought about the sacrifice he was forced to make.
He silently wept in the moonlight for his Amara and said, “Ya Qamar, I love you too.”
Image source: flickr.com