Chapter 35: New Directions
22 Shawwal, 1663
It had been five days since Muhammad, along with his companions after some convincing, had been honored as heroes of Spain. General Saeed and his men were all still camping in Madrid, having political affairs to attend to now that the land was under Muslim rule. Proper legislation had to be seen to, with various men being considered for designation as governors. Muhammad had been offered a position but he immediately rejected the offer, not wanting any part in the major responsibility and burden that that would entail both in this life and the next.
Instead, Muhammad and his company returned to Farhan's residence where he now stood, ready to set out to go and visit Ishaq. "Can't I go with you this time?" Jannah asked him as he tied on his turban. She'd gotten dressed and stood outside his tent to ask to go with him to see Ishaq as soon as she'd heard he was going.
"No," Muhammad replied, fixing himself up in the tent before exiting. "I don't need any company; and besides, now that there are other women for you to be amongst, it's best you don't travel about with non-mahram men anymore."
"I know, and haven't I been staying here for these weeks? I only wish to go now and see the man who saved my life."
"You've thanked him for that already; no need to go see him now."
"Well, he's sick, I should visit him. You're supposed to visit the sick. Are you going to prevent me from following the Sunnah?"
"If it keeps you following the fard, yes."
Jannah sighed, having no counter reply to that. She crossed her arms in defeat and headed back to the house. Muhammad shook his head and turned himself to head towards the lodge where Ishaq was resting. The medic woman from out of town was supposed to have arrived one night ago, after major delays in her trip. She'd promised to begin treatment this day and Muhammad wanted to visit and check on things.
As Muhammad set out to the cot, Imran and Usama were just returning from the army encampment. They passed him by and gave Salaams before walking into camp, carrying on their conversation. The two had just come from a visit with their brothers and Roshan at the camp. There, they briefly discussed their intended plans and such. Usama was upset to learn that Nizaam had no intentions of taking Obada and Sumama home yet.
"Well he has a point," Imran said to his chafed companion. "With Roshan being ordered to stay here a bit longer, there isn't really much Nizaam can do to get your brothers home."
"He shouldn't have brought them," Usama replied, holding back the annoyance in his voice. "But that's the past. I just wish that now he would return them to their home where they belong."
"What's the rush man? They're safe now, Alhamdulillah; this is a Muslim territory now, not a warzone."
"No, but it very well may turn to one again. Do you think that the people will be so submissive and peaceful for very long? Maybe they are gathering arms and making plans to revolt and overthrow the Muslims right now. Maybe when General Saeed and his men leave to join the alliance in their march against Kwaade, these people will launch a rebellion and take out as many of the Muslims who remain behind as they can."
"Then having your brothers and all the other men here to defend against that would be beneficial, don't you think?"
"Yes but, it's not their job. They should be at home; if anyone has a right to be defended by them it's our mother. You should look to your family and those near of kin first, correct?"
"Yes, I understand what you're saying, but if there's nothing that can be done, there's nothing that can be done. It's not worth getting upset over."
"I'm not upset; I'm just... I need to think this out. I must figure out what I should do."
"What do you mean? General Saeed and his men leave tomorrow to join the alliance, we need to be heading out with them to continue the fight. That was the plan after all."
"Yes but, as with the rest of this journey, plans change man."
"So what will you do then?"
"Allahu Alam. I need to think on this and-"
"Ya Imran," Farooq called out upon seeing the two. Imran and Usama looked over to the house and saw Farooq standing in the doorway, waving Imran over. They walked over hurriedly, noting the apparent urgency in his voice. "As-Salaamu Alaikum," he greeted them when they came nearer.
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh," they both replied, shaking his hand thereafter.
"Did you need something?" Imran asked the young brother.
"Farhan and my father wanted to speak with you about my sister."
"Oh," Imran said, getting notably more nervous. Usama nudged him with his elbow and smiled. "Um, okay, where are they?"
"Inside, with Farhiyah. Go on in to the same room that we sat in last time; they'll be waiting for you there."
"You're not coming?"
"My father and older brother can handle it. Besides, I should stay here with Usama and keep him company."
"Fair enough. I suppose I'll see you guys when I return."
With that, Imran took off his shoes and headed inside to go meet with his potential in-laws. Usama stood at the door with a smirk on his face as he watched his friend disappear. When Imran was out of sight, Usama sighed and crossed his arms, leaning up against the wall.
"Would you like something to drink?" Farooq offered. "It's mid-noon, have you eaten? Would you like to come inside and have something to eat and drink?"
"Alhamdulillah, I'm fine," Usama replied with a thankful smile.
"Are you sure? Perhaps a small snack or some fruit? We have bananas, papayas, guavas, and pe-"
"Did you say guavas?" Usama asked, his eyes growing wide. It was a well-known fact amongst those near to Usama that guavas were his most favorite fruits in all the lands. In fact, he had once made a two journey just to retrieve a sack of them, only to have eaten all but one of the sweet fruits before returning home. He loved guavas of every sort, and given their rarity nowadays, he was always delighted to find the little treasures. Today, however, was different.
"Yes, do you like guavas?"
"Very much so," Usama replied, practically drooling on himself.
"Ah good, Alhamdulillah, come inside and have some. My sister and I have just brought some fresh ones from the market. They're amazingly sweet and juicy, Ma Shaa Allah." Usama's stomach growled as he hung his head low, unable to accept the offer. He sighed and whispered something under his breath before he looked up to Farooq.
"Jazakallahu Khairun for the offer; maybe later In Shaa Allah."
"Is something the matter?" Farooq pressed, curious as to why his generosity was being turned down.
"No, no, Alhamdulillah, everything is good. I'm just fasting my six days now is all."
"Ah, Shawwal of course. We usually fast ours right away, the day after Eid. I didn't even consider that you guys might not have. I'm sorry."
"Alhamdulillah, no problem; you couldn't have known."
"May Allah accept your fast and reward you generously."
"Ameen, and may He reward your kindness."
"Ameen. Well, if you're not going to eat right now, what shall we do in the meantime?"
"I don't know. I'm still thinking about what I should do about my brothers."
"Has something gone wrong regarding them?"
"Not quite. It’s just that I'd rather not have them out somewhere where it's not safe; but there's no way for them to return home yet. The ship they came on is remaining here with the captain and I cannot take them home myself as I've only got one horse."
"Isn't the camel also yours?"
"Yes, but I can't just take the camel which the others use to carry their supplies and just go home; it wouldn't be right."
"Ah, I see."
"You're really protective of them, aren't you?"
"I'm just looking out for them. For all of my family. I put my trust in Allah of course, but I also have to do my part in keeping everyone safe, you know?"
"Yes. You're quite like my brother. I think my father would like you. Are you married brother? We have plenty of other si-"
"Alhamdulillah, I'm married already and not looking for another in this time. Quite honestly, I feel rather ashamed to not be home with my wife and kids right now."
"Why? You were out on a noble cause Ma Shaa Allah; it would've been shameful to stay home, safe and comfortable like me while the others were out fighting and giving their lives."
"You have a family that depends on you and needed your support; you didn't stay out cowardice, laziness, or negligence. The reason you stayed behind is the only reason that I wish that I could now be back at home. My family who depends upon me need to be taken care of as well. When I set out for this trip, I never intended it to be this trip. I didn't intend to set out in this path, and so I didn't even leave behind that much for my family. I worry at night if I've left them enough wealth, enough food, and supplies to survive without me until I return, or if I even will."
"Subhaan Allah, I see your worry. I don't know what to tell you about your brothers, but I think you yourself should return home to your family. If you've already been away so long, and you don't know the status of their wellbeing and such, you should return to them. You're not turning away from your responsibilities here; you've done your fighting. Don't turn away from your responsibilities there now. I think you should return to your family."
"Hmm...maybe," Usama said, stroking his beard as he pondered over Farooq's statements. "Now I really need to think about this. I'll consult the others too and pray Istikharah. Jazakallahu Khairun for the advice."
"Alright, um, I think I'm going to head to my tent now In Shaa Allah."
"Alright, take care. As-Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah."
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh." The two shook heads and separated, with Farooq stepping inside the house and Usama heading towards his tent. He had much thinking to do, many things to consider, and very minimal time to contemplate it all. He entered his tent, sat down, and immediately opened up his mind to the various thoughts flowing through...
The smell of herbs and ointments filled the room. It was dark, it was humid; the air was hot and heavy. Ishaq lie on his back, his wounds uncovered where the ointments had been applied. His unconscious body rested, breathing lightly as before. The medic had left him in this state for over an hour now and was just now coming to return. She entered the room to see Muhammad leaning against a wall, his arms crossed and his eyes closed.
"You haven't disturbed him have you?" she asked Muhammad. He opened his eyes and gave a look, though he was sure she couldn't see it.
"No," he replied.
"Good, good. His body needs to sleep while it fights off the chemicals."
"Chemicals? I'm sorry, what?"
"Your companion here has been poisoned, that's why he hasn't woken up. His condition sounded familiar, so I drew a blood sample and performed a few tests to the best of my knowledge. It was just as I had suspected. The amount of toxins in his body is unbelievable; he ought to be dead. Just the amount in one drop of blood from him would be enough to kill a horse. How he has survived this long with only being unconscious is beyond me, however I still believe he can be healed."
"And how is that?"
"Well, when I first got word of his condition, I suspected that it may be poisoning or it may be a coma from some traumatic injury. Thinking ahead, I prepared for both and brought with me a variety of herbs and chemicals to produce an antidote for him. Putting together the mix will take a day or so, but in the meantime, I applied some ointment to his wounds where the poison was injected, presumably by-"
"Yes, well, I applied some there and that will keep the poisons from spreading through any infections in his wounds."
"So he's going to be fine thought, correct?"
"Yes, God-Willing, he will be healed by tomorrow evening."
"Alhamdulillah. That's all I came to see. I'll be heading out now."
"Before you go, may I ask you something?"
"This man here, he is known as the Wandering Fox, no?"
"Yes, that's what I've heard."
"Then you've no connection with him, the Fox is an orphan, with neither friends nor family. Why are you here and why do you care for his wellbeing?"
"Well, you're right and you're wrong. He has no relations or friends and such to care about him. But, he has saved my life twice and cared about countless others. So at least one of those will care about him and take him to be a brother."
"Ah, so it is because of being indebted to him for saving you?"
"No, it's because as I said, Ishaq is my brother. Satisfied?"
"Well enough. I've nothing more to ask. I will take care of your 'brother' well and have him healed soon, God-Willing."
"Thank you, I will pray for the best."
With that, Muhammad took his leave. He closed the door behind him and sighed. As his eyes began to adjust to the bright intensity of the sun, he spotted a moving shadow behind the corner. He thought nothing of it until he heard whispers. As he began walking over, he could see three separate shadows merge into one as the figures all pressed against the wall. Unfortunately for the ones hiding, Muhammad made a full round of the building and spotted them. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
Jannah exhaled the breath she'd been holding upon seeing him make his way over. She'd been hoping that he wouldn't approach, and that if he did, she hoped that he wouldn't recognize her in her new niqab. Unfortunately for her, he was more than keen to her ways. With her head hanging in defeat she sighed and gave a reply. "I came to visit Ishaq," she stated. "Before you say anything though, at least I brought other women with me, so that’s good, right?”
Muhammad looked beside Jannah and there were two of Farhan's younger sisters, also covered from head to toe in abayas and niqabs. Muhammad slapped his palm to his forehead and sighed. "Even if that did make it any better,” he began with a sigh. “Why would you drag them along here? If you're going to go for an outing, then shouldn't it be for something beneficial for you? Perhaps like sending another letter to your family in case they didn't get the last one. You really ought to be returning to them soon."
"Fine, I'll go right after we go in and visit Ishaq."
"He needs to sleep. The medic said that his body needs rest to fight off the poison."
"He's been poisoned? Why, when I find the filthy rats that did this to him I'll-"
"Go home, Jannah."
"What? No I came to visit Ishaq."
"And he needs rest; you can't see him right now. Go home."
"Fine, but you're not in command of me you know. I'm only going because it's hot out here and I no longer feel like being out, not because of your commands. So, As-Salaamu Alaikum…Jerk."
"Wa Alaikumus Salaam, O foolish child."
23 Shawwal, 1663
The darkness of the night was at its peak. The city was asleep. In the dead of night the seven figures moved, silently. Each and every footstep was more reluctant and sorrowful than the last. The trail came to the end of the city and the rearmost of the figures turned and glanced over Madrid one last time. With a silent prayer whispering from his lips, Gabriel turned back to his family as they left their home behind them.
"There is no place for us here," he reminded himself and his children, whose eyes were full of confusion and disappointment. "There is no place for us here." His wife, big and pregnant, rode atop the horse with her youngest son, while Gabriel walked just behind their elder son and daughter. The dog loyally marched beside him; its watchful eyes and perked ears were on alert for any danger. Ramona looked to her husband with eyes full of tears, then looked away before a single tear could drop.
Once more, Gabriel repeated the line to himself, feeling a deep regret in his heart for what he'd let become of the city and the nation. No longer was he the Lion of Spain, for he'd failed Spain in the greatest of ways. He could not live amongst a people he could not protect; he could not live amongst a people who knew his greatest shame. He could live in Spain no longer. And so for that reason, he was leaving it behind. He glanced to the ring on his finger, the King's ring and seal. Despite the darkness of the night, there was a slight glimmer of light reflecting off the ring. Perhaps a glimmer of hope. Gabriel sighed as he looked on ahead. There would be a place for he and his family elsewhere, but never again in Spain. It was time for a new path, a new way...
"As-Salaamu Alaikum," Asghar spoke, shaking hands with Muhammad and the others as they entered the tent. Roshan and Nizaam were already seated in the large green tent, discussing various matters of Deen before the others arrived. It was just after Fajr, and the sun hadn't even risen yet. The men were gathering to discuss their plans one last time before the army set out in just an hour.
"Where are Obada and Sumama?" Usama asked, noticing the absence of his brothers before he even took a seat.
"Relax Usama, they just went to get a drink of water from the well," Nizaam replied, patting Usama on the back. "You worry too much; as if they'd run off ahead of time to join the army's march before you arrived to stop them."
"That was oddly specific," Muhammad remarked. "Sounds rather suspicious."
"Quiet you," Nizaam joked. "You're only going to make this one get more worried."
Muhammad laughed and shook his head as he looked at Usama who, even with a small smile plastered on his face, still showed signs of worry. As the men all gathered around and sat, there was a brief silence as they pondered where to begin. Finally, Roshan cleared his throat and spoke up to begin the discussion. "As-Salaamu Alaikum everyone," he began. When everyone returned the greeting he continued. "As you all know, today General Saeed and his men are marching out today. As a captain from the Amir sent under his command, I must join them and set out as well. You all, however, are given a free choice to go on or to stay here or to return home or whatever you like. So what are your decisions?"
"Well, we all came with you," Asghar said, referring to himself, Nizaam, and Usama's brothers. "So I think it would be best for us to go ahead with you as well, or else we'll never find our way back. I mean we will, but it would be an unnecessary hassle and a waste of time so we might as well just go. The others, I don't know. Are you all going to go and fight or stay here and perhaps help everything develop smoothly? The da'wah potential here is Ma Shaa Allah, you know, so if you choose to stay instead of going to fight there's some benefit in that too. Alhamdulillah, I’ve actually talked with some of the locals and a few of them are very open and curious about Islam. So I think for those of us who stay, some time should definitely be invested in da’wah efforts In Shaa Allah."
"Nizaam," Usama turned to his friend beside him. "What are you planning to do? You brought my brothers along; will you be staying here and looking after them?"
"I'll be leading them into battle," Nizaam said with a serious look. Usama's eyes grew wide and his face became noticeably redder. Before he could speak Nizaam began laughing. "I'm just pulling your leg Usama; I will stay here with them. They'll be fine In Shaa Allah. Don't worry. You can go ahead and go fight."
"That's not funny, Nizaam," Usama said, his face still stern even though he'd calmed down a bit and the redness had faded. Everyone else stifled their laughter and Usama let out a sigh. "And I don't think I will be marching out either."
"Really?" Muhammad asked, leaning closer. He'd missed all other discussions about going or staying before, so he was left only to assume that everyone would agree to keep going. "So then you're ready to return home?"
"Yes, and no."
"Care to explain?"
"I am ready to return, and I would gladly do so now if I could. Aside from missing my wife and kids, I have my responsibilities to them and need to look after them now that I am not fighting. However, I also have a responsibility to the family that is currently with me and I don't think it's best to leave them here in this time."
"You don't trust me?" Nizaam asked with mock offense. "Come on man, I looked after them for the entire journey and nothing bad happened. Besides, they're young men. They're not boys anymore. Go on home to your family, to your wife and your children who really need you."
"I appreciate your concern, but I've prayed Istikharah on the matter and have resolved to watch over my brothers and see to their safe return as well. I will be searching for means of travel for the three of us to return back in a short while. It'll take longer than setting out on horseback now, but I think in time I can find some work here and purchase a vessel to sail back home. Muhammad and Imran, you are welcome to join me of course; I wouldn't go and leave you stuck here or riding horses in the hot desert again."
"Actually," Imran spoke up. "I was planning to stay now."
"You were?!" Muhammad asked, more than surprised now. "What, you need to look after Nizaam and ensure his safe return too?"
"No, but yesterday I spoke with Farhan and his father about marrying Farhiyah. They like me so far and they said they're willing to let me marry her, but they need a bit more time to get to know me. Just as well, Farhiyah feels that her family needs her to help manage all of the responsibilities, so she said that if she were to marry me, she'd want to remain close by so that she can help out still. So I need to get settled here and perhaps find a way to help them out as well, and we'll be getting married."
"Oh Ma Shaa Allah, that's good. Then you'll be the one on long journeys thinking about his wife back home."
"Yeah, no, I'm not turning into you. I'll be able to go five miles without turning back saying, 'I miss my wife,' the whole time."
"Right, you'll just be crying over your attar." The men all laughed at the dispute between Muhammad and Imran and the two smiled. Then a thought occurred to Muhammad. "So both of you are staying here for a while then?"
"Yeah," Imran said.
"Yes, In Shaa Allah," Usama added.
"Hm," Muhammad continued, folding his legs and crossing his arms. He looked down in thought as he contemplated his own decision. When enough thought had come to mind, he looked up and spoke aloud. "You know, this war, I've been thinking, it's very different than what I'd thought it to be. For years, I knew hardly anything of all of this, only the results. However, that day you two stopped by my home and told me about all of this fighting and such, Subhaan Allah, that's when everything changed. I never imagined that it would be like this. This Kwaade man, his influence over the people is far stronger than I'd thought and his sinister will exists within them even when they oppose him. The Muslims of that island and the Christians following Juan here, these people were all driven in some way or another to follow their desires and in a sense turn on their own people because of him. His followers are so numerous that I wouldn't doubt if for every one of us there are at least five hundred of them. Alhamdulillah, numbers alone are not what determine the outcome of a war. Even so, looking at this from a wider perspective, we cannot tackle this problem with just swords and spears. This is a much larger issue and our approach on it must be clever, thoughtful, and undefeatable. Now, the Amir himself is sick in this time, so he won't be leading any war fronts any time soon. Still, I think that a more strategic method out to be in place overall and we need a full plan mapped out. I think that that should be the message we deliver to him, and he can assemble his greatest minds and bravest generals and have them collaborate and devise a superior battle tactic to combat the Kwaadi influence physically, mentally, and spiritually. What we saw on that island wasn't something we can just solve by slicing and stabbing. That's going to take men of knowledge and patience there teaching those people and guiding them back to Islam. And the people here, we may have conquered them, without that being the original intention, but that does not mean that they've submitted or that everything will be peaceful. That will take years of effort, showing them the peace of Islam, dealing with them kindly, giving da'wah and inviting them with wisdom. This is how the Muslim influence would conquer over the Kwaadi or the Christian or anyone else who would oppose it. So I too think that I shall take a break from the fighting and perhaps reconsider my place in all of this. As Muslims, we should always consider what we as individuals can do to help the community and the Ummah as a whole. I will be returning home to my wife as I'd promised her, and I will take some time to think over everything and figure out what seems to be best in all of this In Shaa Allah."
The room was silent as everyone pondered over everything Muhammad had said. Even he still had his words echoing in his mind, with his resolve growing stronger. Everyone seemed to agree with what he'd said, and they too realized more thought needed to be given to everything. No one argued with Muhammad's decision to return home, but one thing was pointed out to him.
"You know," Imran began. "In a hadith reported by Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that 'If people knew the dangers of travelling alone, then no one would travel alone at night.' Undoubtedly there would be many, many dangers and many nights of you travelling alone should you go now. If you want to return to your wife, Alhamdulillah, I will not argue against that. But, I think that if you're planning to return, you should wait and go with Usama as he offered."
"Yeah, man," Usama added. "Alhamdulillah, it'll be fine. Just a few months and we'll probably be ready. Maybe even less if you decide you want to help with the costs. If not, it's still good In Shaa Allah; I'll pay and you can still come. Just don't travel alone; it's not safe."
"He won't be alone," a voice cut in. Everyone turned to the tent's entrance to see the skinny figure of Ishaq, standing in the tent flaps. He'd lost a lot of weight being in a coma those days with no food. His body still hadn't fully healed and he was noticeably weaker. Still, he stood ready to volunteer himself to accompany Muhammad. "I'll go with him and ensure his safe return to his family."
Muhammad nearly leapt from his spot to shake Ishaq's hand and greet him with Salaams. Before thanking him profusely, he asked him countless questions about his health and his condition. "You've just been awakened from near death," he said. "You oughtn't be going on any journeys without some time to rest so that your body can fully heal."
"I'll be fine In Shaa Allah," Ishaq replied, pausing to cough a little. His face was once again hidden behind the turban he wore, and only his eyes were left to display the sickness he was battling. Muhammad walked him over to the ground to have a seat and the discussion carried on.
"If you're really intent on going, then I appreciate the offer, but I must also make a request on you."
"What is that?"
"Take a week or so for rest first. I wish that you hadn't given me your Black-seed before, then you could have eaten that and been healed sooner. Nonetheless, this is where we are, and so you must rest to let this sickness pass through. Until then, no journey will be made. I will not mount my horse until you are fully healed."
Ishaq gave a passing glance towards Muhammad, and then gave a nod of understanding. Muhammad gave a smile and placed a hand on Ishaq's shoulder. He truly did see him as a younger brother now, and that meant he'd have to take care of him like one. Ishaq would come to appreciate that one day he'd hoped.
"Now," Muhammad said, turning back to everyone else in the tent. "I think that settles everything, doesn't it? Roshan and Asghar will be the only ones setting out to continue on with General Sa’eed, correct?"
"Yes," Asghar answered.
“Actually,” Nizaam cut in. “I suppose if Usama is going to stay with his brothers anyways, I might as well continued on with Roshan and Asghar.”
“Figures,” Muhammad said with a smirk. “Those two can’t be separated for one day even.”
“Yeah, haha, how about you and your crying over Munirah?”
“Are you comparing my relationship with my wife to that of you and Asghar? Do you even realize how-”
“I didn’t mean it that way and you know it,” Nizaam retorted. Muhammad and the others all shared a laugh at their friend’s expense and he shook his head. “In any case, I will be continuing on with Roshan and General Sa’eed, yes.”
"Okay then,” Muhammad continued more seriously. “And Imran will be staying here to get married, correct?"
"In Shaa Allah," Imran answered, with Usama nudging him in the side with his elbow again.
"Usama will stay to look after his brothers and then sail home when possible, right?"
"That's the plan, In Shaa Allah," Usama said with a smile.
"And Ishaq and I will journey south to return to my home. But now I have two questions: What will you do after I go home to my wife, and also how will you even be travelling there? We all came on horseback. You managed to get here by ship and partially riding the camel."
"Let him have the camel," Usama spoke. "If Imran and I are staying, we don't need it anymore. You can have it, no worries."
"Jazakallahu Khairun," Ishaq replied, thanking Usama. "That covers my transportation. As for what I shall do thereafter, I will do what I have always done. Wander. I am a traveler with no set place in this world. Therefore, I shall continue to travel and involve myself in seeking knowledge and spreading good. Traveling provides many benefits to me and I am content with that, so worry not about me."
Muhammad sighed, unable to counter that sort of argument. Instead, he realized another question had come to mind now. "Okay, third question: what shall we do about Jannah?"
"Strive for it," Imran joked. Muhammad shot him a glare then continued on.
"The niqabi girl. It's been a few weeks and we've still got no reply from her family. Shall we escort her to her home on our way so that she'll be among her family sooner or shall we leave her here amongst other women and just hope that her family receives the letters soon and comes for her?"
"I think you should leave her here," Roshan advised. "It would not be good for her to be traveling amongst unrelated men on any journey without a proper mahram around."
"That's true," Muhammad said, stroking his beard in thought.
"Also," Nizaam cut in. "Have you considered that if you go and take her, her family may receive the letters and be on their way to come for her and so then they will have missed her and you will have missed them. It's not too likely that you would directly cross paths."
"Fair enough. Then I suppose we'll be leaving her behind."
"Then everything is settled now, Alhamdulillah. And only three of us are marching on with General Sa’eed's army."
"Nizaam, Obada, and Sumama," Muhammad teased.
"Not funny, Muhammad," Usama replied. "And Nizaam, just how far away is this well? If they-"
"They're fine, they're fine," Nizaam laughed. "You see what you've started Muhammad?!"
The men all shared a good laugh as Usama pressed Nizaam on the whereabouts of his brothers. Muhammad shook his head, watching Nizaam and Usama go back and forth until Usama playfully began to threaten Nizaam in Urdu. Again, Nizaam turned to Muhammad, asking him what he'd started. Muhammad smiled, his thoughts wandering off. Things were like old times back when they were younger. But things were quickly changing. With the calm, peaceful moments and joyous memories, he could only hope there would be more to come as they all set out on new paths in new directions...