If i should speak, p.6

If I Should Speak, page 6


If I Should Speak

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  “Makisha,” Makisha replied, barely giving Dee a smile, abruptly turning her back and busying herself with reading the menu that hung on the wall.

  Tamika smiled apologetically to Dee, who waved her hand and shook her head, letting her know she understood.

  “I better hurry up and grab something,” Dee said, glancing at her wristwatch. “I have class in seven minutes.”

  “Oh yeah,” Tamika agreed. “You better hurry.”

  “I’ll just talk to you later,” Dee told her, disappearing into the crowd.


  “She’s so irritating,” Makisha commented after Dee had gone.

  “Makisha,” Tamika interrupted her in aggravation, “chill.”

  “She is,” Makisha insisted. “She acts so preppy,” she criticized viciously. “And fake.”

  Tamika laughed at her friend’s irrational reaction. “Makisha, some people are just nice.”

  Makisha rolled her eyes. “No,” she disagreed with insistence, “some people are just stuck up.”

  Tamika shook her head, still smiling. Sometimes Makisha could be impossible.

  She reached under the food lights and removed a wrapped burger and a bag of fries, the heat momentarily warming her hand. “You want one?”

  “Just give me the chicken. But I’ll take some fries.”

  After serving themselves something to drink and paying for their meals at the register, they found an empty table on the far side of the cafeteria away from where the food was being served.

  “You really like her?” Makisha asked curiously after they were sitting down.

  “Why wouldn’t I?” Tamika inquired, unwrapping her burger and taking a bite.

  Makisha shrugged, sucking her teeth. “Whatever.” She sipped her soda through the straw. “Just don’t come cryin’ to me when they drive you nuts.”

  “Don’t worry,” Tamika grinned, “I will.”

  Makisha laughed. “You’ll just be sleeping in the hall then.”

  Tamika chuckled.

  They ate in silence for some time, sounds of chatter and laughter of the students rising in the background.

  “You know Aminah’s Muslim, don’t you?”

  Tamika nodded, chewing her food, and pulled a fry from its bag. “Mm hm.”

  Makisha stared at her, warning. “Don’t let her get to you.”

  Tamika swallowed. “What do you mean?”

  Makisha sucked her teeth. “Casting doubt on what you believe,” she told her matter-of-factly. “You know all of ‘em do that, always trying to argue with you about something.”

  Tamika shrugged. “I wouldn’t know.”

  “Well, I do,” Makisha assured her. “And all I know is, like my mother told me, you just gotta be well grounded in what you believe.”

  “You argued with one before?” Tamika inquired, suddenly interested.

  “Girl, yeah,” Makisha told her emphatically. “My ex-boyfriend’s sister was Muslim.”

  “He wasn’t?”

  “She converted.”


  “And she was always trying to tell me about contradictions in the Bible and this and that.” She forced laughter, remembering, but she was not happy. “Had me doubtin’ my religion for a while.”

  “She did?” Makisha had never mentioned this before.

  “Girl, yeah. Please.” She rolled her eyes and sucked her teeth. “‘Cause a lot of what they say gets you thinking, but after talking to my preacher,” she chuckled, “he set me straight.”

  Tamika listened nodding, pondering what Makisha was saying, slowly eating her food, eyes staring beyond Makisha, mind elsewhere.

  “But when she starts comin’ down on you, just remember that we ain’t here to question God. We’re just here to believe.”

  She nodded, agreeing, eyes distant. “That’s true,” she replied. “You’re right.”

  That evening, when Tamika returned to the apartment, she found Aminah there studying on the couch. Aminah must not have been expecting Tamika, because she appeared startled when Tamika entered, quickly covering her hair with her head cloth, which had fallen off.

  “Hey,” Tamika greeted, her exhaustion apparent in her voice. At that moment she noted the marked difference between Aminah’s appearance when she was wearing the head covering and when she was not. She was surprised that without the cloth on her head, Aminah actually looked normal, like an average person. If she had not seen her with the head covering, she would never have guessed she was Muslim.

  “Hey,” Aminah replied, forcing a smile, her mind on whatever she was reading.

  She must have prayed already, Tamika deduced. It was almost dark outside, and Dee had told her that Aminah prayed at sunset. Slightly disappointed to have missed watching her, Tamika sighed and decided to unpack some of her boxes before studying.

  For a while, the two worked in silence without a word spoken between them. Aminah studied and Tamika moved things out of the living room into the bedroom. As Tamika organized her belongings, she kept thinking about her religion paper and the note cards that were due in a couple of days. She needed a lot of information on Islam. She had to interview a Muslim, visit the place of worship, and have at least ten sources cited in her paper. She had planned to ask Dee for the information, but Dee was not there, and Tamika had planned to begin writing her note cards that night.

  As she walked from the living room to the bedroom and from the bedroom to the living room, Tamika continually glanced at Aminah, searching for any indication that it was okay to interrupt her to ask her a few questions. Although Aminah was merely reading her book, showing no signs that she would be upset if interrupted, Tamika could not bring herself to strike up a conversation. The room carried a polite but distant atmosphere. Tamika hoped Dee would return soon.

  For a moment, Tamika felt herself thinking What the heck and started to say something to Aminah, but she stopped herself, shying away from the opportunity. She convinced herself that she could just wait for Dee, and even if Dee did not return until late, tomorrow would be fine.

  “Did you want something?” Aminah inquired, glancing up from her book.

  Was it obvious? “Oh, um,” Tamika replied, unsure what to say. Should she tell her about the paper or just wait for Dee? “No, that’s okay.” She waved her hand. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, mentally kicking herself for turning down the unique opportunity.

  “Are you sure?” Aminah asked, having noticed that Tamika had started to say something.

  Tamika shrugged, forced a smile, and nodded. “Yeah.”

  “Okay,” Aminah replied slowly, uncertain, sensing that Tamika was not being completely honest. A second later, she resumed reading, hoping that whatever it was, Tamika could complete it without her.

  “Actually,” Tamika began, deciding that now was probably the best chance she would have to tell either roommate about her project. “I just wanted to see if you knew of any books I could read or something…”

  “On what?”

  Why was Tamika nervous? This was unlike her. “On, um…” she could not say it. “Your religion,” she said finally.

  “On Islam?” Aminah’s interest was sparked, Tamika could tell. She hoped that was a good sign.

  “Yeah, I mean, if you know of any.”

  Aminah chuckled. “I know of lots. Why, you interested in becoming Muslim?”

  “No, no, no,” Tamika laughed, remembering Makisha’s warnings. “I just have to do a project for my religion class.”

  “Oh, I see.” Aminah glanced around the room. “You can look on the shelves if you want,” she offered, pointing across the room. She paused. “You have Dr. Sanders?”

  Tamika nodded, smiling. She made her way to the shelves, kneeling to read the titles. “Yeah.”

  Aminah stood and walked over to the shelves. She reached for a book. “You may want to start with this one.” She handed it to Tamika, who read the title.

  Fundamentals of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheis

  “You ever heard of it?” Aminah inquired.

  Tamika shook her head. “Not really.”

  “Well, it’s pretty good in giving you the basics of Islam in terms of how Muslims view God,” her roommate explained. “And this one,” she told her, bending down to pull another from the shelf, “it’s pretty basic too.”

  A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam.

  “Never heard of that one either, huh?”

  Tamika shook her head.

  Aminah nodded, now standing, eyes skimming the shelf. “Well, feel free to read anything you want.”


  “Even the Qur’an.”

  The Koran? The Muslim holy book? Should she—would she dare? No, that was unnecessary. “Thanks, but I think these are fine.”

  “Are you sure?” Aminah questioned, finding it difficult to see how Tamika could efficiently write a paper on a religion if she had never even opened its holy book, the foundation of the entire faith.


  “Well,” she said slowly, not wanting to offer her suggestions but also not wanting Tamika to report on the religion incorrectly, “if you change your mind, it’s right over there.”

  Tamika’s gaze followed the direction of Aminah’s finger, which pointed to the large green book that Aminah had been reading on the couch.

  “I usually keep it on this little stand,” Aminah told her, referring to a wooden book holder that was shaped like an X. “Feel free to read it, because I think it’ll give you a better understanding for your report.”

  Tamika nodded, eyes now fixed on the books she held, the immensity of the waiting knowledge weighing on her.

  “And feel free to ask me anything if you have any questions,” Aminah offered. “And don’t worry,” she assured her, chuckling, “I love questions, so don’t hold back.”

  Really? Tamika was pleased. Aminah was likely to be a big help for her project. But she tried to conceal her pleasure, merely nodding mechanically. “Okay, thanks.”

  Aminah returned to the couch and sat down, opening the Qur’an and continuing her reading where she left off. Tamika again began organizing her belongings, having set the two books on top of a shelf, planning to read them later. As she unloaded her boxes, she found herself inadvertently glancing up at Aminah, studying her intent expression, curious as to the subject she was reading at the moment. Tamika had never even seen a Koran before, and, of course, she had never seen a person reading one. She had heard about the book from her mother and preacher once or twice, but they had never said much about it except that Christians did not need it since they had the Bible.

  But what was it that it said? Why should she stay away from it as others suggested? Why not read it, even if just to learn? The questions hung in her mind like a rain cloud hovering. Perhaps she should read it. What could it hurt? Wasn’t she doing a report on the religion anyway? She would not be reading it for herself, she reasoned, but for her paper.

  That night she could not sleep, her curiosity tormenting her. Her mind’s eye still held the image of the thick book as it sat opened, its green ribbon marker hanging from the place at which Aminah had stopped, the wooden stand that cradled it inviting her. She could hear the rhythmic breathing of her roommates in the dark room, sleeping soundly. Tamika tossed, pulled the covers over her head, shut her eyes and tried to relax herself, her mind. She adjusted herself again, now lying on her left side, unable to get comfortable on her right. She situated the covers again, but still she could not relax.

  “Feel free to read it,” Aminah had told her, the voice still echoing in Tamika’s head.

  Frustrated, Tamika sat up and climbed out of bed. She needed to go to the restroom.

  After finishing, Tamika stood at the sink washing her hands, staring at her reflection in the mirror. The weary eyes stared back at her, and her skin appeared somewhat pale. Her hair was slightly disheveled as it hung just below her shoulders. She needed sleep. She sighed, turned off the bathroom light, and went into the living room, where she turned on the light and sat down on the couch, calmly lifting the heavy book from its stand and placing it on her lap.

  The night was unusually quiet, no sounds of students’ voices or footsteps in the hall, the cold wind blowing outside the only sound she heard at the moment.

  Tamika opened to the beginning of the book and began reading.

  In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds. Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment. You do we worship, and Your aid we seek. Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, Those whose (portion) is not wrath and who go not astray.

  What was so bad about that? she wondered, turning the page, continuing to read.

  Alif Lam Mim. This is the Book, in it is guidance, sure without doubt, to those who fear God, who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer and spend out of what We have provided for them.

  Curious, Tamika opened the book to where Aminah had been reading,

  Behold! The angels said, “O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you—chosen you above women of all nations....

  Behold! The angels said, “O Mary! God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter and of (the company of) of those nearest to God. He shall speak to the people in childhood and maturity. And he shall be (of the company of) the righteous.

  She said, “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?” He said, “Even so, God creates what He wills. When He has decreed a plan, He but says to it, ‘Be’ and it is!

  And God will teach him the Book and the Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel, and (appoint him as) a messenger to the Children of Israel (with this message), “I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s Leave. And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by God’s Leave, and I declare to you what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely therein is a sign for you if you did believe.

  “(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me, and to make lawful to you part of what was (before) forbidden to you. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. So fear God and obey me. It is God who is my Lord, then worship Him. This is a way that is straight.”

  Drawn in, Tamika read on. She had not even realized Jesus’ name was mentioned in the Koran.

  The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam. He created him from dust then said to him, “Be” and he was. The truth comes from your Lord alone, so be not of those who doubt.

  “So be not of those who doubt…” The words lingered in her mind, nagging her, tugging at her conscience.

  What was wrong with her? Tamika mentally scolded herself. Didn’t she believe as she was taught, that this book was not true? That what she was reading was false?

  But Tamika could not shake the reality of the parallels—the virgin birth, the teaching of the Gospel, the miracles of Jesus. Then what was it that made this religion so different from Christianity? Why did people say Muslims did not believe in Jesus as God’s son when in their book it talked about Jesus having no father? Was it that they did not believe Jesus was actually God, a belief that had led Christians, like Tamika, to believe Muslims would go to Hell?

  The night drew on and the questions kept coming, her mind overflowing with curiosity and puzzlement, the desire to know burning at the depths of her mind. Then who was Muhammad? And what was Islam truly?

  She flipped through the book again.

  …A Book revealed unto you. So let your heart be oppressed no more by any difficulty on that account—that with it, you might warn (the erring) and teach the Believers.

  Follow (O men!) the revelation given unto you from your Lord, and follow not, as friends or protectors, other than Him. L
ittle it is you remember of admonition.

  Tamika felt her heart begin to pound in her chest. What was she reading? And why couldn’t she put it down? And it all seemed so—

  No, she stopped herself, it could not be.

  But it must be if…

  No, no, she should know better.

  But she wanted to know more, needed to know more.

  Instinctively, Tamika turned to the index, searching for the name again. She needed to read more on him, the man whom Muslims believed to be a prophet, the man whom she believed—or at least was taught to believe—

  No, Tamika fought her subconscious. What was she thinking?

  —the man who she knew was not only God, but His son, the Father, what everyone must believe to go to Heaven.

  But what if…?

  There it was: “Jesus.” Tamika turned to one of the referenced sections…

  O People of the Book (Jews and Christians)!

  Was this addressing her?

  Commit no excesses in your religion; nor say of God aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of God, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers. Say not ‘Trinity:’ desist. It will be better for you. For God is One God. Glory be to Him. (Far Exalted is He) above having a son.

  Wait, no son? But she had thought... What about the virgin birth?

  To Him belong all things in the heavens and the earth. And enough is God as a Disposer of affairs.

  Enough is God… Enough is God. Tamika pondered this. He did not need anyone, Jesus or otherwise. It made sense, but still, religion wasn’t about sense. Wasn’t she just supposed to believe, not question?

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