An Enigma called Sumaiyah!

In the washroom at the  Eden Gardens Stadium clubhouse, a woman stood in front of a full-length mirror, languidly taking off her black burqa, alas, only to adjust it. But I had ample time to observe her.

Realising I was watching her, she smiled and, in an accented English typical of South Africans, asked, “Do you live here?” I nodded and added, “Your husband is doing very well out there in the field.” With an expression oozing serenity typical of those who believe in fatalism, she responded, “God is doing it.”

The man out in the field was Hashim Amla, dourly batting to deny India victory on the last day of the second Test match. And the woman in the washroom? Amla’s wife, Sumaiyah, who over the five days of cricket at Eden had been sitting in the glass-encased clubhouse box, covered from head to toe in a black burqa, often exchanging comments with the other visiting wives and partners of South African cricketers. Most viewers thought the image was stark—a solitary woman in the burqa amidst women wearing spaghetti straps and strapless sundresses.

As Amla expertly defended and stroked the ball around, stoking the anxiety of the crowds keen on India’s victory, many in our box turned to look at the figure clothed in the impenetrable veil, wondering what her emotions were. Once when Amla tripped on the field, gawking eyes turned to her to gauge her reaction. The figure in the burqa remained still.

Her marriage to Amla was an arranged one. Sumaiyah resigned as a schoolteacher to see to her new responsibilities.

And now there she was before me, in the washroom, without her face covered. Sumaiyah was extraordinarily friendly. She said her own knowledge of cricket was nothing more than rudimentary, largely because her own family consists of three sisters, and, understandably, never produced a cricketer. Sumaiyah, who’s the eldest of the three, remarked, “Sometimes I do lament that we don’t have a brother.” Not because it’s considered important in some cultures to have a son, but because “I think it would have been nice to have a brother. Women should be emotionally independent, strong and of course, God-loving.”

Her marriage to Amla was an arranged one, though the two met a few times and agreed a life together would work well for them. She decided to resign from her schoolteacher job following her betrothal, to attend to the many responsibilities at her new home.

Sumaiyah had been to India before, with her family. On this tour, she found the people of Nagpur exuding warmth, and those in Calcutta a bit “aloof”, though she added her impression could be skewed, as she didn’t have a chance to meet people outside the cricket fraternity here. “I like to meet people and understand the culture of the places I visit. Unless you go out on the streets and talk to the common man this is not possible,” she said, inviting me and my husband to visit her and Amla in South Africa.

Our conversation was punctuated by a loud roar of the crowd. Could it be that Amla had fallen? She said it didn’t matter: “Some days are good, other days are not so good. If we have faith in God He will take care of everything.” As she lowered the veil to step  out, I too turned to the exit. Her voice wafted across, “Please remember us in your prayers.”

I sent her an e-mail requesting for a formal interview on Islam, and the stress Muslims were under. She said these were subjects too sensitive for her to speak on, and quoted this verse from the Quran, chapter 112: “Say, God is one/He is the absolute/He was not beget/Nor was He begotten/And there is none that is equal to Him.” Then these words: ‘Take care, God bless, Sumaiyah’.

-Dola Mitra

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About Nasmira

Asalamualaikum !! =) A proud Hijabi, Writer, Nutritionist, Artist.. Click the link below and take a sneak peek into my world! =)
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7 Responses to An Enigma called Sumaiyah!

  1. ummkhaleel says:

    Masha’Allah, the first thing that comes to my head which will describe her perfectly is – ghurabaa! She must be a very strong woman to be in the midst of people who are not fully clothed.

    • Nasmira says:

      oh she certainly is!! but the most beautiful part is..both she and her husband carry the message of Islam beautifully around to others. Her hubby is the ONLY South African player who doesn’t sport the Castle Lager logo on his shirt coz it deals with alcohol, and he doesn’t take a single penny that comes from that sponsor when he plays..mashaAllah at that! :)

  2. Dreamlife says:

    Hashim is a beautiful example of Islam in the public sphere, and unfortunately a rare one at that. When most of what we see in the media are Muslims behaving badly – tyrant rulers, misguided murderers (like the recent French killings), etc – it’s understandable that many non-muslims have a very warped view of the deen. Just look at any News24 article about Islam, and see the comments that get put up.

    But mention Hashim, and most of it is positive. I wish we had more like him – not just in sport, but in other spheres too.

    And by association, if his wife gets this kind of positive publicity, it’s a bonus in terms of portraying a Muslim woman that’s NOT oppressed and helpless (as many wrongly believe).

    • Nasmira says:

      Couldn’t have said it better. MashaAllah, you’ve put it really well here…
      Moreover its also an amazing chance for us to be living examples of Islam and show others what the religion IS, rather than debating about what Islam is NOT..
      I think we live in a challenging environment where its become incumbent on ALL of us to speak out and let others know about the beauty of this deen!

  3. ummkhaleel says:

    Oh that’s him! He was mentioned in the lecture I attended last week. Sh Yawar Baig was saying that he was asked why he had such a big beard and it caused any difficulties when he is playing cricket. His reply was simple but beautiful – He said that he had a big beard because he loves Prophet Jesus (a.s) and wants to follow his away.. love his reply because rather than going into the nitty gritty of Qur’an and Sunnah which most non-Muslims wouldn’t care for, his reply was something that even non-Muslims can relate to. And also, I didn’t know that’s his wife! Masha’Allah, such an inspiration for us! :)

    • Nasmira says:

      oh Sh.Yawar Baig is AN amazinggggg speaker…and he stays just a few minutes away form where I stay..bit i haven’t got a chance to see or interact wiht him even once.. :(
      Hashim Amla is an amazing example..subhanAllah!! may Allah preserve him, guide all of us and make us inspirations too! :)

      • ummkhaleel says:

        Lol Sh Yawar Baig is hilarious for a serious looking man! I was surprised when he started joking around on stage lol..

        Aameen! And May He make us amongst those who strive to be a stranger! :)

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