She observed a girl walking serenely in an Islamic uniform, wearing a dress with a hijab that extended all the way down to her ankles.

This girl was swift in her steps, for she despised being late. Punctuality was of utmost importance to her. Hence, she always left home early. However, on this particular day, she had woken up late at 7:30 and had to rush to school, which started at 8:00 am. The previous night, she had stayed up late, as she remembered that Malam Mustapha had assigned them a small walk and asked them to revise the sarfu (Arabic grammar). This had caused her to lose some precious sleep. Yet, she reached the school and joined the line just in time, following in the footsteps of her classmates, Dalubai and others.

Once inside the classroom, they waited by their desks for the teacher to arrive.

During breaks, she would stroll around and chat with her friends until it was time to head back home.

That evening, they sat in the courtyard to escape the city’s heat. Her mother turned to her and said, “Rabee’a, today is the birthday of a four-year-old girl. Should we go and celebrate with Sam? You can go in if you like.”

When she heard Rabee’a’s name, she realized that her mother was addressing her. Rabee’a’s son looked at her and said, “Aunty Faty, welcome! She sent you.”

Rabee’a responded, “Yes, Mom.”

Mama Tamike went into the room to fetch her hijab and said, “Tell Malam when he returns.”

“Okay, Mom. Give my regards to Aunty Fatyn,” Rabee’a replied.

As Rabee’a lay in bed, her thoughts drifted to Malam Hussain, who, every time she went to school, reminded her to take care of herself as well as the younger boys. She pondered her parents’ love for her. “I’m a stranger, and yet they say they love me?” she mused. She couldn’t recall ever hearing her father say “hello” or ask, “Yar’Baba, where are you?” However, today, it was her mother’s voice calling her, saying, “Yauwa, Yar’Baba, I’m your mother. Come to Aunty Faty’s house. Welcome.”

Roused from her thoughts, she replied, “Alright then. In the name of Allah.” She sat next to her mother and listened as her mother conversed with Aunty Faty.

Malam Yusuf adjusted his shirt, aware that he had nothing to be ashamed of. He began, “There’s a certain Alhaji Dalladi. What do you know about him?”

Remembering Malam Hussain’s advice to call upon God if she ever found herself in a situation she didn’t like, Rabee’a remained silent. Finally, Malam Yusuf spoke again, “You’re quiet, Yar’Baba.”

With a touch of frustration in her voice, she responded, “I heard you, Baba, but what about my studies, Baba?”

He clapped his hands and rolled a ball, an indication that he wouldn’t punish her. He was a blessing in her life.

Even if Mama admonished her, she didn’t like it, but in her heart, she always turned to God for everything. She knew that even if she were her parents’ only child, her nephew was also her responsibility.

The next morning, her face was streaked with tears due to her mother’s crying and condition. Nevertheless, she left for school, lost in her thoughts. She couldn’t fathom that the grammarians of today wouldn’t understand how she felt. While Rabee’a heard their words, her mind was elsewhere. When she spotted her place of worship, her friends were sitting there. Malam Hussain’s son prostrated in front of them.

Observing a woman in the third row, Rabee’a removed her niqab and approached her, saying, “Ahadin salati auxan.”

The most common verbs she practiced were “Dharaba” (to hit), “Yadribu” (he hits), “Wayafulu bildamma” (he spills with blood), “khataba” (he wrote), and “yaktubu” (he writes).

She took the book and recited it in her heart. He could sense that she was making an effort, and though her pronunciation might not have been perfect, she was determined to learn. At the start of the class, she closed her eyes as he reviewed those who were struggling. He gave them additional help and even gifted them a Quran. Whenever he heard her voice, he felt reassured. Even when a boy stood up and told her to be quiet, she didn’t stop working. Her friends had advised her to ignore such comments, but when they returned, Rabee’a looked at him and said, “Do you know if she’s related to Aunty Faty’s family? Maybe she’s somewhat closer to us?”

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