Short Story

Haunting Past

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Intisar shut down her laptop, picked up her jacket and tucked a stray wisp of curly brown hair into her scarf. Picking up her bag, she walked to the door of her office and shut the light as she left.

“Leaving for the day, boss?” said a young writer Intisar recognized as Julia.

“Yes, Julia. When are you heading home?”

“Oh, not for a while. You assigned me that that story about the Richardson house, remember? Deadline’s next week.”

“Oh, yes! How is that coming?”

“Pretty good, actually. I just wanted to edit it a little more.”

“Glad to see you’re putting in the extra effort. Good night, Julia.”

“Good night, boss.”

A chorus of more “Good nights” and “See you tomorrows!” followed her to her car. Intisar smiled as she walked across the small parking lot in front of the building. She loved her job.

She approached her car – an electric blue Mustang. It stood out so much that she didn’t even notice the small black one parked beside it. As she reached to pull open her car door, she heard a soft sniffle. She looked up instinctively.

One of the older writers, Renee Thomas, stood by a small, black Nissan Altima, sobbing silently. Intisar hurried over, unable to leave her friend in such a state.

“What’s wrong, Renee?”

Renee looked up at Intisar, her tear streaked face coming into the light. She said only three words.

“My father died.”

Intisar reached out and held Renee, hearing sobs wreak her body, the silence and darkness of the night engulfing them completely.


The words spoken by Renee brought back memories for Intisar. She was trying her best to push them to the back of the mind. Driving along the crowded streets of Maytown, Intisar looked at the rush of people walking under the neon streetlights, trying to distract herself.

All kinds of people walked these streets. A young man flipping his dark hair out of his eyes. A little old lady wobbling along with a smile. A middle-aged man holding hands with a cheerful young girl. Intisar’s eyes stopped. And as the man she assumed was the little girl’s father laughed with her, Intisar’s mind went back to another time.

A blanket of silence hung over the field. A little girl stood by her mother, the green grass and blue sky sharply contrasting with the way she felt inside. A silent tear slid down her slightly pink cheek. She watched quietly as her father’s body was lowered into the ground…

“BEEP!” Intisar shook her head, turning her attention back to the road. She took left and slowed slightly as a squirrel ran across the street to safety. Intisar’s stomach grumbled. Her mind, however, overflowed with the incessant flood of memory.

11-year-old Intisar lay on her bed. Sleep was not coming to her, no matter how hard she tried. Her pillow was stained with dark, wet spots from the tears that had flowed so easily from her eyes. Now, her eyes were dry – there were no more tears left inside her. She hadn’t eaten anything but a cheese sandwich and some water for three days. No one had really cooked dinner. Her mother, she hadn’t been the same since. Since the accident.

Intisar took a right turn into her driveway, putting her car into park before sliding the keys out of the ignition. Taking a deep breath, she stepped out of her car, locking it on her way into the house.

The door opened before she even got out her keys. Two small pairs of eyes peeked around the door before she opened it completely. Two identical faces, with two excited identical, mischievous smiles on them cooled her eyes. Seeing her sons, Intisar couldn’t help but smile too. They were adorable, Masha’Allah. She couldn’t ever thank Allah enough for them.

“Can I carry your bag, Ammu?” said a still-smiling Musa.

“No, I want it! Don’t give it to him Mommy. He always gets to help you!” retorted an exasperated Haroon.

“I don’t have any candy today guys.” Intisar smiled sadly, amused.

Not wanting to cause another argument between them, she kept her bag with her and took off her shoes, a smile still lingering on her calm face. Hearing footsteps, she looked up at her husband, her smile widening.

“Assalamu alaykum! How was your day?”

Still smiling, she replied, “Awesome, Alhamdulillah. The two new writers are working hard.”

“That’s good news. You want to have dinner now?”


“Awesome. Let me take that for you,” Siraaj said.

He took her bags and files and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. Placing her things on the table, he rounded up the twins to go wash their hands…

Intisar looked up from her textbook. She wasn’t really reading it anyway. She didn’t really feel like doing anything anymore. She heard a sudden “thump” come from her mother’s room, but she knew better than to go in there when her mother was angry. And she hadn’t stepped in there once since her funeral. Another crash. Sniffling and soft crying soon followed. “Maybe I should go…she sounds really upset,” she thought to herself. After all, she was her mom. Her footsteps echoed in the empty hallway as she made her way to her mother’s bedroom…

Intisar heard playful laughter coming from the kitchen.

“Don’t splash me!”

“You splashed me first!”

“Okay, you guys both have made my shirt completely wet! I’m gonna get you now!”

“No Abu!” the twins said together. Laughter echoed from the bathroom into the hallway.

Her father picked her up and threw her into the air, and then caught her again. They laughed. They always had so much fun together. Intisar sat on the swing, bracing herself. And with a sudden push, she was flying up, and falling back down again. Her scarf fluttered in the breeze and her father laughed at her excitement. Soon, it would be time for the picnic…

Intisar smiled, but it was a sad smile, remembering the last evening together she spent with her father. But she pushed away this memory too. She just couldn’t bear to think about it. Or rather, she couldn’t bear to think about what happened next…

Siraaj walked in carrying Haroon and holding Musa’s hand. Musa suddenly let go of his father’s hand and broke out running into the living room. Intisar caught him, the smile returned to her face.

“I’ll just change Haroon’s shirt and we’ll eat, ok?”

“Sure,” Intisar said.

But inside, she didn’t want him to leave. She didn’t want her mind to be able to wander back. She didn’t want to think about her past.

“Careful, Musa! Don’t go near the bookcase!” The twins had bumped their heads on there too many times already.

“Careful Intisar,” came her father’s distant voice. “You shouldn’t run in the street.” But Intisar didn’t hear him, didn’t see the car coming. All she saw was her mother waving at her from across the street, the signal that the food was ready. She had looked forward to this picnic all day…

“Musa!” She said, as a small thump interrupted her thoughts.

Musa sat on the floor, looking startled. Intisar shook her head.

Suddenly, she was surrounded my blinding light. She heard her name being shouted, in a voice that could only be her father’s. And she was pushed out of the way, just in time. She was relieved, until she heard the crash, followed by her mother’s piercing scream…

“Mommy, why you crying?”

Intisar looked at her son, whose brown eyes were filled with concern. She couldn’t help but smile. She blinked, and the tears she didn’t know had gathered fell over the rim. She wiped them quickly, and gave Musa a hug.

In a dinner full of laughter, Intisar temporarily forgot about the thoughts that had been absorbing her mind since the meet with Renee. She laughed along with them, and after dinner, they had a lot of fun playing catch in the living room.

But later, after the fun had been had and the kids had been put to sleep, they came back. The house was quiet. Everyone was asleep, but the thoughts in her head rang louder than the toll of a thousand clanging bells.

The walk to her mother’s room wasn’t long, but to Intisar felt as if it took a thousand years. As she opened the door, she saw immediately how messy the room was. Clothes were strewn all about, and the desk was overturned. On one wall, there were two dents; and on the floor below a broken lamp and a vase, shattered. The source of the crashes. She looked around for her mom, and saw her lying on the bed. Before she could take another step, her mother screamed.

“You! Don’t you dare come near me! It’s your fault! It’s all your fault! He’s gone because of you!”


Intisar stared at the ceiling, tears streaming down. She didn’t even try to stop them. It had been so long since this memory came out of the shadows. So many times she had thought about this, so many times she had wondered if her mother was right. But, after that day, she promised herself one thing. She promised herself that no matter what happened, she wouldn’t let herself go like her mother had. She would stand through it all. She would be patient. She would accept it and go on with life. Thirteen years ago, that was the promise she had made. But what now?

“Ammu?” a small voice said from the darkness. Musa had entered her room, his face swept in fear.

“Yes, darling?”

“I had a bad dream, Ammu. Can I sleep with you tonight?” he asked, his lower lip trembling.

“Of course, my dear,” she said.

She set aside her comforters for her son and nestled next to his trembling little body. As she stroked his soft check, she realized patience was really the key.

That was why she had been successful all these years. She had kept that promise throughout high school, where she had to do everything by herself, and college, which she worked hard enough to get a scholarship for. And when she found Islam, her life had been enlightened.

That was how she had gotten from there to here.

She held her son in her eyes, realizing that indeed, with every hardship comes ease. And now, at the end of her hardship, she had finally found ease. She had a wonderful family, an amazing job, and a Deen that she loved more than anything else. She was complete.

Now, it was her turn to whisk away the nightmares of her children by letting go of her own. The present was waiting. She slid into her covers and closed her eyes. And to the haunting past, she whispered. “Goodnight.”

Sumaiyah joined MYM to exercise her writing skills and broaden her horizons, and is currently the Editor-in-Chief. She has a Bachelor's degree in Education and finds joy in anything related to teaching and mentorship. She enjoys working with her fellow writers to help their pieces reach their full potential. In her free time, you can find her spending time with her husband and wild two-year old daughter, Noha.


  1. MashaAllah I absolutely loved this! It was so real. Wonderful imagery and detail and a beautiful lesson at the end.
    I thought it was so cute how the twins were named “Musa” and “Haroon.” :)
    May Allah help us all to be patient and strong and not to let our past haunt us…may He make our past a means of renewing our gratitude for where we are now.

  2. MashaAllah =) I LOVED the last paragraph. I like how Intisar keeps on having reflections, as if the past is really haunting her. Keep it up :D

  3. Salaam Alaykum, interesting article. Although may I suggest that the woman Ms Intisaar would feel complete even without the amazing job? I know in America Muslim women feel complete only when they have a job and a household but many Muslim women in the world feel complete if they have a happy household and the greatest and most respectful job of all for women – homemaker.

    •  You are obviously not a woman. And I bet you liked your own comment.

      • He has a point.

        Though I don’t think it takes away from the story, there are narrations from the Prophet (s) that the best place for women is home.

        Here is an IslamQ&A response:

    • I’ll take a second and reply to “…but many Muslim women in the world feel complete if they have a happy household and the greatest and most respectful job of all for women – homemaker.” 

      Many Muslim women? I do agree that having a happy household is indeed fulfilling… however, how would you know that most Muslim women feel this way, not wanting to obtain above-average education?

      Are you suggesting, perhaps, that you are amongst these Muslim women, brother? I do believe not.

      Next time, please refrain from making such generalizations, for even Muslim women overseas seek education and noble professions alongside homemaking.  

      Anyway, the character “Intisar” in this story is a homemaker and writer in America, no? Another note- If the author, Sister Sumaiyah, believed that Intisar would be amongst the women who would only feel complete once they obtained a job- so be it! It is her story, not your’s. 

      •  Thank you! We are on the same wavelength, sista!!!

  4.  But, women are allowed to work if they want to. Many women who are housewives actually have a feeling of emptiness, as though they haven’t fulfilled their potential.

    And Abu Yusuf is suggesting that women do not have a right to education, which they do. If you have encountered this man’s previous comments on this site, it will be clear that he is not a fan of women and is rather prejudiced against them.

    Plus, it is not for a man to say whether he thinks a woman is happy or not – half the time, he’s just saying what he thinks, not reality. That makes me wonder how many women this Abu Yusuf knows.

    • True. I see your point, but his opinion in this case is somewhat understandable. I know some men in my family are uncomfortable with their wives working, and I understand that.

      I agree with Br. Arif regarding his more biased comments. He tries to be funny at times… but to no avail. It’s best to ignore him sometimes.

      • Abu Yusuf

        Salaam Alaykum, first of all my brethren, none of you respond to salaam, do it, it’ll make you feel better and earn you rewards :-) Secondly, Arif Kabir, I commend you for having a level head and understanding that Muslim Youth Musings encompasses the musings of both Muslims from the occident and the orient. And growth of the mind and critical thinking in these formative and impressionable college years is to be had by debate and pontification and acceptance of a wide variety of opinions – and I admit mine are rather conservative. To Sabera, thank you for referencing Shaykh Munjajjid’s site and more importantly the hadeeth of our Rasool indicating what is most honourable for women to do. But since my dry sense of european humour leaves much to be desired, I shan’t abandon my day job yet ;-) To sister Wtf (presumably a sister from the tone of the response), you will note that Abu Yusuf’s comments are “liked” more times than any other man’s on various Muslim blogs and conservative Muslim women have backed me for speaking what they dare not utter in this post modern neo-islamofeminist world. That Muslim women who are housewives might have empty lives is a tale working women like to propagate. Sure there are outlying data points to support your assertion, but the percentage of housewives who are happy is statistically proven to be higher than that of working women. That is something to sit down and pontificate on, no? I am Abu Yusuf, defender of Islam (and specifically defender of strong spined Muslim men against the onslaught of metrosexualism and ne-islamo-feminism) and reformer of liberal MSAs. And let it be known that I love my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, even if some of my commentary is deemed pejorative.  


      • Wa alykum assalam wa rahmatullah. 

        Once again, I’d like to “rebut” some of your comments, if I may.

        “…you will note that Abu Yusuf’s comments are ‘liked’ more times than any other man’s on various Muslim blogs…”

        My dear brother, let’s take a closer look at this. What kind of Muslim blogs? Which brothers are you comparing yourself against, and how many? If I may bring up Sister Wtf’s comment: are you going around liking your own comments, merely for the privilege to boast such things?

        …and why are you suddenly referring to yourself in third-person, as if you have become a superhero of some sort?

        “Muslim women who are housewives might have empty lives is a tale working women like to propagate.”

        There are two sides to this story. One, of the working Muslim women, who feel wholesome after becoming a hardworking homemaker. The second opinion, of the Muslim housewives lacking jobs, who could hold one of the four opinions:

          1. Having a job and being a homemaker is fulfilling.
          2. Being a homemaker is fulfilling. 
          3. You have to be a homemaker and job to feel whole.
          4. (Any other opinion which is midway, or something not commonly known to us.)

        Not all Muslim women are the same. We cannot speak for all Muslim women, whether we are of the female gender or male gender. There are multiple opinions, and none of us should ever generalize. We know people’s names, and not their stories.

        “I am Abu Yusuf, defender of Islam (and specifically defender of strong spined Muslim men against the onslaught of metrosexualism and ne-islamo-feminism) and reformer of liberal MSAs.”

        Indeed, masha Allah,  you are a defender of a sort. However, was this a self-appointed title? You may view yourself as a defender of Islam, but these other strong-spined Muslim men whom you claim to be the leader of may not agree with you. Their opinions may differ in terms of this neo-islamo-feminism you refer to.  How man strong-spined Muslim men against the onslaught to you know? Do you, perhaps, know all of them, or just the ones who go around on blogs such as this one and type out long, lecturing comments like yourself? Quite strong-spined.

      • Abu Yusuf

        Salaam Alaykum sister Khan, you have twiced used the “it’s her story, not yours” line over the past few months. That’s not a reasonable line of argumentation, you do understand that don’t you? And I can tell from your responses why you describe yourself as “slightly insane” in your autobiography. Too bad we both adore cats but cannot come to a whole hearted agreement about the vociferous and insidious onslaught that is neo-islamo-feminism. Muslim men generally do not like harridans and spitfires. May I refer you to this poignant article about challenges that such spitfire sisters in England are facing?     Instead, Muslim men like and respect the soft and reasonable mannered cultured lady. So vituperative diatribes shan’t get us anywhere, shall it? You must cross another 4 years of college and perhaps further before you will be able to debate in a manner that is cohesive, germane, and intelligent, inshallah. Now, to clarify, two sisters here interpreted my comments to mean that being a home-maker is anti-education. Nay, many educated Muslim women who are soft natured and family oriented choose home making and it is, I aver again, the most noblest of professions. I can make generalizations when it is backed by rigorous statistical data sister Khan. Please take a graduate level Statisitics course for more details. And since you all are pro-education here, I’m sure you’ll learn a lot therein.  If it isn’t apparent by now, I am pro-education myself, but I am not pro-feminist and pro-neo-islamo-feminist which is a disease that has rent asunder and caused schisms in communities. As far as your puerile attacks on the number of ‘likes’ then know sister that one person cannot like an article or comment more than once, so don’t let it hurt you that others may agree with me in silence. If you’re confused about whether a Muslim woman should primarily be career oriented or not, read what the scholars have written, and then read the practical scene on the streets in the above link I posted and then listen to your own scholar who heads the qabeelat brother Abu Ammar Yasir on youtube about his opinion on Muslim women working. When you and the rest were babies in  your cribs, Abu Ammar and the rest of us were making trips to Boulder, CO to sit with scholars to learn Islam. Neo-islamo-feminism was not an organized movement or threat back then, but it is now. And it must be addressed intellectually. After having said this, I retire from this particular post/article no matter the negative commentary or attacks that follow. Peace be with you and all Muslims.

      • Brother Abu Yusuf,
        Wa ‘alaikumus salām wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh,

        For the sake of intellectual thought, as you yourself are advocating, let’s please not use ad hominem attacks, popularity contests, stereotypical generalizations, and irrelevant personal experience in our arguments. Thank you.

        I know our other writers very well, and know they are not advocating anything except that which is within the sunnah of the Prophet (salAllāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). There is a clear distinction between what the sunnah states and what the insecurity of a man states.

      • Abu Yusuf

        Salaam Alaykum dear brother Arif, the proper answer here would be wa iyyaaki or iyaakunna since she is a female.

      • Wa ‘alaikumus salām wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh,

        Actually the “kum” can be used to refer to both men and women, and is considered to be more respectful to say to women, by men, than “wa iyyaki”. That is why even within the salaam we say “Wa ‘alaiKUMus salām” and don’t change its grammatical form.

      • Abu Yusuf

        Salaam Alayka dear Br. Arif. You are referring to taghleeb…however in the case where you are responding to a lady who directly addressed you or to a group of women who directly addressed you or to whom you are addressing, the feminine address is more appropriate and precise. The taghleeb address which you alluded to is more appopriate when the addressee is a male or a group of male or a group of male and female mixed. Radia Khan is a female undoubtedly. The writings make that fact manifest :-)

      • Dude, you have serious issues. Why is anyone even taking him seriously?

    • Salaam Alaykum WTF, may I directly address your concern? I do believe women have a right to education – both of my sisters are highly educated and one of them can even perform surgery on you or other Muslim women if that should ever be a need. Also, may I suggest that in refuting or making your point that you address the points with which you disagree rather than the person with whom you disagree? That is better for constructive debate. As far as me not being a fan of women, Muslim men love women, especially beautiful ones. Please read: “Beautified for men is the love of things they desire: Women, Children, much of gold and silver (wealth), branded beautiful horses, cattle and well-tilled land. This is the pleasure of the present world’s life, but Allaah has the excellent return ( Paradise )”(Surah Aali-Imraan 3:141)
      And it is because of our love for women that we want them to follow the sunnah and be devoutly obedient to their husbands. Therein is harmony for households and structure for society.

    • You have a point, but then again, the only way to smooth out major wrinkles in the Muslim Ummah is to root out minor disturbances here in our… smaller communities. 

  5. Very nicely written, masha Allah.

    I love the switching back and forth between her memories and the present, makes it feel like the haunting is thoroughly woven in her everyday life.

  6. Have you guys ever thought about publishing a book with various writers’ pieces (short stories, etc.)? You guys have amazing stuff on here, mashAllah, and I’d buy it in a heartbeat. :)

  7. This was an excellent, excellent piece of literature.

    MashaAllah May Allah continue to bless you with these talents and give you more opportunities to utilize it.

    The parallel structure of the story made it suspenseful and hard to pause from, and the emotion evoked is so poignant. SubhanAllah I was literally leaning into my monitor as I read this.


  8. I want to tto thank you for this good read!! I absolutelpy loved every bit of it.
    I have you saved as a favorite to look at new stuff you post…

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