Chapter 3: The Journey Begins
22 Jumada Al-Awwal, 1663
After burying their dead, the Muslim army had returned to the village. The wounded were receiving treatment while the rest of the army gathered to distribute the war booty amongst the soldiers and their families. Muhammad chose to store his away in his hut. Imran and Usama turned down their shares, choosing to donate it to the families who had lost their men in battle. The families then graciously accepted and were dismissed.
Muhammad now sat beneath a lone tree with Munirah, relaxing in the shade. "I assume this is not the end for you," she sighed as she laid her head on his chest.
"No, I don't believe so," Muhammad replied, looking up. "This isn't a one-time thing for our brothers and sisters around the world, and so it can't be so for me. The world is at war again, and I have a duty. I don't know how long I have to, but Munirah I must fight."
"I understand,” Munirah replied, sifting her hands through a small pile of sand. “I just don't know how you'll join the fight, when you've already defeated the nearest enemy. We live out here in the desert far away from most other civilizations, where will you go to now? This is mostly unclaimed lands."
“Look,” Muhammad said beginning to draw out a map with his fingers in the sand. “This circle represents our home. We are surrounded by vast deserts and have nearly no neighbors, like you have said. And,” he said, placing some leaves a short distance away from the circle. “To the northeast we have the Ikeqi.”
“Yes, I see,” Munirah said, sitting up to give Muhammad space to move.
“For miles all around, we are in an unclaimed land, that’s true. There are scattered tribes here and there, but nothing major aside from the Ikeqi. However, travel far enough north or west and one reaches into Kwaadi lands.” Muhammad took a small pebble and drew a deep line to represent the start of Kwaadi lands far away from the circle. “Kwaade has a huge stake in the lands of this continent. Most of what isn’t his land is merely the deadly wastelands that are too dangerous to inhabit.”
Bordering the end of the line, Muhammad drew an X. He then placed several small pebbles outside the X. He placed a small piece of tree bark in between the X and the line. “Enclosed between the two, just on the brink of extinction, lies the second Christian base. Their largest-” Muhammad continued, getting to his knees and crawling a bit of a distance away from the bark. “-Is way up north.” He placed a slightly larger piece of bark in an open space.
“Yes I know of them,” Munirah said, as she watched her husband draw a few more shapes in the sand.
“These are a few Islands, belonging to the Muslims,” he continued. “They used to be a part of the larger continent, but were dislocated over time from natural causes and partially due to the effects of the Great Wars. The land masses surrounding these islands belong to Kwaade, and he is gaining influence in the area rather quickly. We plan to head there and join the struggle to keep him out of there.”
“But that’s at least three months’ journey on horseback, and some time at sea as well,” Munirah replied, comparing the scale to the real journey.
“Yes, I’ve considered that.”
“And what of me?”
“I do not intend to stay for long. My plan In Shaa Allah is to go and help spark a stronger resistance to Kwaadi influence, on physical and spiritual battlefronts.”
“And what fierce battling we shall do on these,” Imran said as he walked up to the couple.
“As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum,” Muhammad said, standing up to shake his hand.
“Wa ‘Alaikumus Salam.”
“I was just explaining to my wife my plans.”
“She’s concerned that I may be gone for too long.”
“Well you know during the reign of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) he would send the fighters back to their families after serving for six months.”
“Yes. Usama and I discussed this on our journey back. Didn’t he fill you in on that too?”
“No, he only told me of the plan for where we are going.”
“Well, considering it is a three month journey -two and a half if we really move fast- I intend to stay there assisting you guys for maybe a month at most. Thereafter, I will return to my wife for half a year. If things do not get better during that time, I may return once more. Is this agreeable with you, Munirah?”
“Yes, but what am I to do in your absence, ya Muhammad?”
“I’ve already been arranging that. From my share of the spoils, I have gained a horse and a fine set of armor. I will not wear the armor, nor do I have need for another horse. Thusly, I leave you with the horse for transportation and I will soon sell the armor. Its price should be enough to sustain your basic needs for four months. That aside, you have our animals and our small garden for food.”
“And what shall I do for companionship?”
“During the journey back, one of the elder men overheard my planning with Usama. He offered to help in any way that he could. I asked only that if he has a wife or a daughter that he sends her to keep you company from time to time and check on your wellbeing. He has agreed. Munirah I have thought this through; we’ve got it planned out.”
"It seems YOU have it planned out.”
"Nothing; do what you must." Munirah stood and walked away with tears in her eyes. Muhammad placed his hands on his head in frustration and sorrow.
"Man, akhi, I know what you must be going through right now," Imran spoke up. "I avoided getting married because of just such a thing."
"I was going to be married a few months ago, but when I caught news of this war, I knew that I had to choose. I couldn't get married just to make some poor woman a widow or at the very least a woman living with high stress and fear every day. So I changed my mind. Problem solved."
"Well, that's very comforting," Muhammad sarcastically replied.
"Look, man, this isn't an easy thing; and no words from me can remove any stress for you. But I can advise you this, turn to your Lord. And help your wife in doing so too. The both of you would find peace in prayer. I'd advise you do so with her before your time runs out; we need to head out soon."
Muhammad stood up and looked off to the direction Munirah had left in. With a heavy sigh, he too headed off. Imran stood, fiddling with his arrows alone beneath the tree.
"Funny," Usama said with a smile as he too emerged on the scene. "As I recall, the choice wasn't entirely yours. I seem to remember you asking for a certain sister's hand but she told you to go fight first; and if you return then she'll marry you, not the other way around."
"Yeah, yeah, details man; it's all the same thing. I'll get married if and when I get back. And you, you never told me how your wife and kids took the news."
"Because I myself do not know. I sent word of my decision after I left for our business trip, remember?"
"Ah yes. Well, I suppose you won't really know until we return to them, because the way the war is going our next destination is in the opposite direction of your home."
"True. I wish we had agreed to leave sooner so I can return sooner."
"Nah, the set out date is fine as it is. We'll give Muhammad two more days with his wife and then get going. In the meantime, we're going to need some supplies for this journey. Let's see if we can do some business with the locals here."
23 Jumada Al-Awwal, 1663
It was a mildly warm night of silence. Muhammad and Munirah lay outside on a rug in front of their hut. They were staring at the distant stars which shined against the black blanket of night. "With you gone, my life's going to be like this night sky," Munirah began.
"How so?" Muhammad queried.
"I may have small instances of light and happiness from time to time, but overall I'm going to be in darkness."
"Well, habibti, in my heart you will be as the Sun: distant and yet still warming and comforting in the day. And at night when I can't see you, I lay down to rest and dream of the time that I do." Warm tears ran down Munirah's cheeks as she reflected on the conversation and the full realization of the situation completely hit her. Muhammad turned on his side and looked into her eyes. "Look, I understand this is all so much, and so sudden. We were living a life of ease and peace and it was abruptly disturbed. And I love nothing more than to be in peace and happiness with you. But that's just it, Munirah. True peace and happiness are in Jannah; and how can I flee from Jannah for temporary enjoyment in Dunya*?"
"Yes, Wallahi* I understand completely, and I support you in the fullest for this. I pray for us to both achieve Jannah by whatever means necessary. In Shaa Allah, there we could live a perfect life. Believe me, I want nothing more than to be in Jannah with you. I often think of the ayat* from Surah Ya-Sin*, where Allah says, 'Verily the inhabitants of Jannah that day will be busy in joyous things; they and their spouses reclining on adorned thrones; For them therein is fruit, and for them is whatever they ask for.'(36:55-57). And it makes me smile, because I know that if we can make it there, we've reached true success and there will be our true happiness. But even so, Allah paired us together in this life too, and I've always thought that maybe that was so we could help each other to reach that point together. How then can I so easily accept that something might happen to you and I have to go the rest of the way alone?"
"Your patience in that might just be the thing that enters you into Jannah, don't you see?" Munirah sighed and closed her eyes. Muhammad took her hand in his and closed his eyes as well. "The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that a person will be tested and put through increasingly difficult trials all throughout their life until they meet their Lord cleansed of all their sins. So just keep patient in all of this, and In Shaa Allah if we're not reunited here then our joining shall In Shaa Allah be in Jannah. Then as you mentioned, Allah says we'll be relaxing and at ease, tasting the sweet fruits of Jannah, reclining on thrones in the shade. Having everything our hearts desire and it never has to end. That is a Promise from our Lord, and He is always true. So let's turn our hearts in submission to Him and remain patient and obedient."
25 Jumada Al-Awwal 1663
Dawn stole away the final night Muhammad and Munirah had together. It was just after Fajr prayer and the three warriors were preparing to set out. Usama and Imran had amassed a good supply of resources and were waiting outside the hut for Muhammad. The brisk night air was giving way to the warm rays of the sun. Tying a satchel to his horse, Imran smiled and spoke beneath his breath. "O Allah, we head out for Your sake, so bless us with the greatest success. Our lives are in Your Hands, should you take them, we are pleased to be in Your service, and should you keep us living, we are pleased to continue these works. O Allah, forgive us any transgressions of the past and protect us from any such sins in the future. Unite us with those whom You are pleased with and whom You love, and unite us with those who we love and who love You."
"Ameen*," Muhammad spoke as he exited his hut.
"You ready to leave finally?" Usama asked as he groomed his horse.
"As ready as I'll ever be. If I don't leave now, it'll only get tougher walking away from my wife in tears again."
"'Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about His decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious," Imran spoke, quoting another ayah from the Quran (9:24).
There was silence. Muhammad turned his head back to the hut as if his eyes could peer through its clay walls and see his wife one last time. Then he turned back and tied his bag to his horse before mounting it. Imran and Usama looked on curiously. "If you guys are going to just stand there then lend me your weapons won't you? I've got a war to join. If you're ready to head out, then let's get a move on shall we?" Imran and Usama mounted their horses with eagerness. Side-by-side, they stood gazing into the distance. "Now, let the journey begin."
The three men rode out with their horses kicking up clouds of dust and their camel close in tow. Munirah stood holding her stomach at the hut's entrance as she watched the warriors set out on the first of many journeys…
Dunya: Worldly life
Wallahi: (I swear) by God
Surah Ya-Sin: Chapter 36 of the Holy Quran