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The Six Fasts – A Short Story


The six fasts

Abu Ayyub reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwal, it will be as if he has fasted for the entire year.” [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1164]

(This story is an adaptation of “The Six Servants,” compiled by the Brothers Grimm)


The Pawang and Bomoh

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Once upon a time, there lived an elderly pawang who practiced magic in the jungle. As powerful as she was, sorcery could not save her husband from the throes of war. He passed tragically in the Malayan Emergency. With her daughter, she retreated further and further into Kinabalu, surrounded by thousands and thousands of flora.

The pawang hated mankind for the devastation they wrought. The spraying of “Agent Orange,” the rationing of their food, and the slaughtering of livestock.

“We,” she told her daughter, “we will exact revenge upon them all.”

Years later, rumors began to spread about the pawang. The people said that she was beautiful. 

“Indeed, she makes flowers grow.”

“I heard that even the fog is shy to cover her.”

Kasih, her name—oh, to earn her love!”

“Not to mention that she can cure any remedy.” With her mother as a pawang, it was no surprise that Kasih had become a bomoh, a traditional healer. 

All suitors were charged with three impossible tasks. If they passed? Betrothal! If they failed? Beheaded! Even that, no magic could fix.

Mukhtar, the sickly son of the King, heard the tales. As his health was always up and down, the most pertinent thing to him was that Kasih was a healer. He begged his father to attend, and begged Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in the last ten nights. He must have begged on Laylat al-Qadr, because when Mukhtar inquired again on Eid, he was finally allowed to go. But the King had only one stipulation: that his son fast the six days of his journey to Kinabalu Park. 

The son, already feeling unwell, was puzzled by the request—but obeyed his father nonetheless. When it came time for him to set up camp in the jungle, and prepare for iftar, he collapsed on the ground next to what looked like a round rock surrounded by ferns.

“How am I going to manage?” he burst out. “I am starving!” 

“As am I!” said the rock.

A Growing Band

Mukhtar yelped. The rock straightened itself upwards, and the ferns began to rustle. Lo and behold, it was the bulging stomach of another man, staring at Mukhtar’s iftar with equal hunger. Noting Mukhtar’s kopiah on his head, the stout man placed a wide hand on his chest.

“Assalamualaikum! I am Abdulbasit!” he beamed. “My stomach is large, but it can get even larger. A thousand times, at least! I recite Qur’an from my diaphragm—” Abdulbasit paused to gesture at the lower part of his stomach, “and I can go on for almost a minute. Will you take me into your service, good sir?”

Mukhtar, noting that the poor man was starving as he was, laughed, and accepted. When it was time to pray maghrib, Abdulbasit’s assertion was true—he could go on for ayat upon ayat.

‘Isha came, and then fajr. Abdulbasit practically inhaled his suhoor, which concerned Mukhtar. But he swallowed his complaints, as he was fasting, and pivoted. I will just have to hunt earlier than expected. But how would he, as tired as he was from traveling?

On the two went until the sun began to set. Abdulbasit remained with Mukhtar’s horse, saying that he would “make abundant du’a” with the great diaphragm he’d been bestowed. The prince sighed and caught sight of a deer, which he pursued with great enthusiasm. Through the trees and the vines, but with his lack of energy, the deer became too much to keep track of.

“Ahem,” another voice whispered. “If you’re looking for the deer, it’s that way.”

Mukhtar darted his head towards the newcomer. “How did yo—”

Quietly, the man pointed to his ears, almost as large as his face. “You want to catch the deer, do you not? Just shoot your arrow in that direction. I can hear him breathing just over there.”

The prince marveled at the man’s hearing. It was only a murmur of a “Bismillah,” and soon after, even he could hear the sound of the deer falling.

“Excellent shot, adik!” The man clapped gingerly, as though the loud sound might be too much for him. “Are you a hunter? Oh, please forgive me, my name is Abdulsami’. You might not have heard of me, but I have likely heard of you. At the very least, heard you.”

Mukhtar smiled, and like Abdulbasit before him, placed his palm to his chest. “Mukhtar.”

Abdulsami’ gasped. “The son of the king?!” Before the prince could go on, Abdulsami’ continued, “Yes, yes! I heard you just a day ago! You were talking to your father about the daughter of the pawang.”

The cheeks of Mukhtar grew red, but Abdulsami’ didn’t seem to notice. Instead, he shuddered. “Adik, I just heard another person has… well…” He drew a line across his neck.

“Would you like to join us, Abdulsami’? I have one servant already, but I can always use another.”

Delighted with the opportunity to serve the king in some way, Abdulsami’ joined their party. Abdulbasit was elated—his “abundant du’as” had worked after all!

The three men cooked the deer and then cleaned themselves for another iftar and Maghrib. As they approached a stream, they noticed a pair of legs sticking out from the bushes. Wary of another man wanting to compete for Kasih’s cure, Mukhtar instructed his other servants to ignore him.

But that proved impossible, as the man before them then stood up, taller than any they had ever seen. He was almost as large as the tree itself.

“My, what a beautiful deer you’ve got. I’m never quick enough to catch them.” He knelt. “If you like… I can tell you where they are headed next. Might I then have a share?”

Mukhtar hesitated a moment, then extended his hand. “Let me guess… Abdulkabir?”

The man burst into a grin. “Oh, how did you know?”

Abdulsami’ stifled a smile. “Mukhtar may not have great ears, or a great stomach—”

“—But he has got a great heart!” Abdulbasit said.

“Well then! I think it should be great to join you, if you will have me!”

The four men broke their fast together. Abdulbasit and Abdulsami’ volunteered to set up the camp, as Abdulkabir and Mukhtar would keep watch around them. The task was easy for Abdulkabir, but challenging for Mukhtar. The jungle had a noise at every turn—a branch snapping, an animal chattering, or something moving—

There, at the corner of his eyes. Mukhtar readied his bow in preparation. The footsteps were slow and steady. It sounded much like…

“A human?” Another man appeared, walking with a cane in one hand and a traveling bag in another. His forehead was swathed in bandages that completely covered his eyes. “Please, do speak and let me know. I wish you no harm.”

Mukhtar gasped and lowered his bow immediately. “Abang! Do you need help?”

The other man smiled, and shouldered his traveling bag to stretch out his hand. “Oh, adik, you need not worry about me. My eyesight is not damaged, rather, my eyes damage whatever they glance at. If you could perhaps lead me out of this jungle, I will do my very best to avert my gaze from you.”

“Better yet,” Mukhtar said, accepting his handshake. “serve me for the rest of my journey through this jungle, and I will find a way for you to be able to remove that bandage.”

The man’s smile grew wider—it must have reached his covered eyes. He shook Mukhtar’s hand, sealing the agreement, and introduced himself as Abduljabbar.

“We had four at maghrib,” Mukhtar told the rest of his servants, “and now five at ‘isha!”

“Perhaps six at fajr,” Abduljabbar said. The wink of an eye was heard in the lilt of his voice. Mukhtar knew what he meant—and the other men imagined the same, the beautiful Kasih joining them, and they teased him until he lightheartedly introduced Abduljabbar’s ability. Then they went quiet.

An idea came to Mukhtar. “Were all of you cursed by the pawang?

All of them shook their head yes. Abdulbasit broke the silence first, still licking a bone clean. “We didn’t want to tell you, for fear of frightening you. And we thought that you could help us.”

Mukhtar didn’t appear phased at all. “Yes! Of course, I want to help. But—I thought pawang only had control over the weather and animals. Is she really that powerful?”

“Indeed. I once drifted too far close to her home, tantalized by the sound of the beautiful birds…” Abdulsami’ rubbed his ears, “and she cursed me with the kinds of ears that would be able to listen to them forever.”

Abdulkabir hummed in assent. “I always loved to travel through the jungle. With this kind of strange appearance, the pawang thought I might not want to return among people again.”

“And as you can see,” Abduljabbar said, gesturing towards the bandages,” I have only just returned, in an attempt to rescue the poor girl.”

“What do you mean?” Mukhtar asked.

“Haven’t you heard?” Abdulsami asked. “Kasih has accepted Islam, now.”

Mukhtar raised his eyebrows. “But that means she would have to give up being a bomoh…”

“Which that hag would hate!” Abdulbasit huffed.

“The poor thing,” Abdulkabir said. Then, when the group looked appalled at him, he clarified, “Kasih, I mean.”

Abduljabbar cleared his throat. “In any case, we ought to get our rest. Curses or not, neither of us can go on without sleep.”

Mukhtar only found mindfulness in prayer. Throughout the night, he began thinking of Kasih. Had she really become Muslim? Or was it just another ploy to lure more men to their doom? It was no secret that the pawang hated men. Come to think of it, was he even to believe that Kasih was a bomoh to begin with? That might have been another trap… Suddenly, four servants seemed to be too few.

But it was too late to turn back now.

When the morning came and they all began the third fast, Mukhtar hoped that Abduljabbar’s guess would be true—and that they would indeed be a party of six soon. 

No sooner had Dhuhr come in did they stumble upon a fifth man, lying like a starfish in the hot sun. Even then, he was shivering.

Abang, I will not waste your time,” the prince began. “I presume you have a curse of some sort, courtesy of the pawang, and a name that matches it.”

“Abdulh-h-h-hayy,” he said. “And-d-d I get colder in th-th-the heat, and h-h-hotter in the cold.”

The other servants shuddered with sympathy. This was the worst curse they had seen.

“I and my servants are traveling to the pawang in the hope to undo all that she has done. If you would like to join us, then please do so.”

Choosing to save his breath, Abdulhayy rose, nodded, and took his place among them. He fit in nicely among the group, and was quite the survivalist. Being a party of six, now, all were careful to keep close together, and alert one another if they found anything suspicious.


A party of six [PC: Tobias Mrzyk (unsplash)]

Hours passed, and it was once again time to pray—or so they thought. The jungle canopy enveloped them, and even Abdulkabir struggled with batting away leaves and vines to see them down below.

“Maybe it is time for Maghrib instead of ‘Asr,” Abdulbasit said, hope gleaming in his eyes.

“It cannot be,” Abdulsami’ said, massaging his earlobes. “I would have heard the birds returning home to feed their young around that time.”

Abduljabbar sank his head. “I would look, but…”

And Abdulhayy said nothing. As they were cloaked in shadow now, he had begun to sweat profusely, and he was panting to cool himself down.

“Ya Allah,” Mukhtar exhaled. He could feel his own body weakening from the harsh elements of the jungle, but he wanted to persist. They had just reached the bottom of the mountain. If they could pray and then climb before night fell… “We need your help—I need your help—send us Your aid in the way You see fit!”

“Ameen!” the five servants echoed.

A small opening appeared in the canopy above. Suddenly, a floating head appeared. And there was chaos.

“Abduljabbar!” Abdulbasit screeched. “UNVEIL YOUR BANDAGES—”

Abdulsami’ was wincing in pain. “Ouch! Pipe down, you oaf—”

Abdulkabir placed his great hands over Abduljabbar’s head, reassuring him that there was no need for such a dramatic action. Abdulhayy struggled in the darkness for Mukhtar, and pointed once more towards the floating head.

“It is…” he wheezed. “It is not a spirit. It is another man.”

“What a fun bunch!” the floating head exclaimed. He bowed his head in introduction, and suddenly, it sank out of view. The servants formed a circle around their prince, and Mukhtar braced himself for an attack.

But there was none. Instead, the crevice in the canopy shined upon a man whose head was very much attached to his neck.

“I am Abdulwasi’!” He bowed apologetically towards them. “It is not my head that is the spectacle. It is the neck!” Abdulwasi’ paused for a moment, holding out his arms for effect. Then his neck began to stretch, upwards without limit, rivaling that of even a giraffe’s. The group was in awe.

“I wish I could do that,” Abdulhayy sighed. “I could go into the clouds and cool off.”

“The birds can be quite a nuisance!” Abdulwasi’ called from up above.

Mukhtar grinned, taking in a quick glance from Abdulsami’—who was less than pleased by the comment—and cleared his throat to address the newcomer. “Abdulwasi’, can you see the pawang from up there?”

“Oh, certainly! But not her spirit servants!”

The prince gasped. “She has servants, too?”

“Of course she does. Did you think you were new to the idea?”

Ordinarily, he might have laughed at the quip. But reality began to settle in on him more as they saw the path upward looming before them. He was going to need all the help he could get.

“Abdulwasi’, if you join me, I will let you see far more than this jungle. As the son of the king, I will employ you to travel far and wide. Will you be in my servitude?”

The man’s head snapped back onto his shoulders. “I was waiting for you to ask! Come—perhaps we’ll make it in time for dinner!”

“Hopefully we will not be the ones being served,” Mukhtar replied, allowing Abdulwasi’ to lead the way.

As they rose up the mountain, Mukhtar would often stop to catch his breath. He was not used to the high altitude, and while he was fasting, no less. 

But Abdulsami’ heard him when he lagged behind, and urged the others to wait. Abdulhayy, feeling hotter around the curtain of fog, gave Mukhtar his own woolen coat. Abdulbasit began to recite a nasheed as they went up, one that Mukhtar recalled from the sirah:

“La aysha ‘illa aysha alakhira!” There is no life besides the afterlife. All of the men began to chant it, even Abdulkabir, who was brushing aside leaves for them to cross.

As they continued, Abdulwasi’ turned his long neck back to check on Mukhtar every few steps, to ensure his new master was feeling all right. Abduljabbar, using Mukhtar as a guide, patted his shoulders, urging him to continue.

Then they all fell silent. The sky was tinting purple and pink, darkening from its golds and oranges. It was time to pray Maghrib. Even through all of his sicknesses, Mukhtar had never felt closer to death.

So he prayed as though it would be his last prayer. When he rose again, he was startled to see that his servants did not follow him. 

“The challenge is for you only,” Abdulsami’ said. “I heard the other men come alone. And the same must be done in your case.”

Abduljabbar nodded. “Say you are here to complete the three tasks, and she will not harm you unless they are finished.”

“Even in the w-w-world of a p-p-pawang, there are r-r-rules and r-r-rituals,” Abdulhayy forced. “So obey the r-r-rules—” 

Abdulhayy sneezed, and Abdulkabir continued. “But not the rituals!”

“But eat first, will you? I certainly would not eat from a pawang.” Abdulbasit advised.

Abdulwasi’ snorted. “Yes, you would.”

Mukhtar laughed. At the end of the third fast, he had begun to grow very fond of his new servants. He would not have survived the trek to Mount Kinabalu without them. And he hoped that he would survive with them to tell the king about his adventure.

He prayed Maghrib, asking for his strength and their protection. Then he followed the remainder of the path upwards.

“La aysha ‘illa aysha alakhira,” he whispered into the empty air. “La aysha ‘illa aysha alakhira!”

“Now whatever does that mean?”

The Tasks

The voice that spoke to him was aged but not weak. The pawang appeared seemingly out of nowhere, emerging from the fog as though it were her curtain call. Her baju kurung covered her completely, save for her wrists and head. There were more colors on her skin than he knew the names of.

“Speak up, now. Or are you here to make trouble instead of conversation?”

Mukhtar gulped, then was seized by a bout of coughing. The pawang raised her eyebrows, but he was persistent. “I have journeyed for your daughter, Kasih.

The pawang grinned, revealing a set of crooked teeth. Doubtless, there were even more crooked intentions behind the nasty grin. “Of course,” she murmured. “What else would call a prince from his castle into the jungle?”

Before he could reply, she waved her hand forward—calling to attention her barren fingers. “I have dropped my ring in Low’s Gully.”

His face paled. The one-thousand eight-hundred-meter gorge? She had dropped her ring there?

“So you know it,” she said smugly. “Surely a prince who has made his way so bravely up here can make his way down there. You have one day. Run along!”

He had no choice but to obey. Feeling defeated already, he descended back to his camp of servants. They welcomed him as a hero, happy that he had made it back in time for ‘Isha in congregation.

“I heard it all,” Abdulsami’ told Mukhtar. “And we were just devising a plan on how to retrieve it. Rest easy tonight, my prince, and we will guard you.”

Abduljabbar affirmed the promise, tapping his bandaged eyes once.

The fourth fast began, and three of the servants walked to Low’s Gully after Fajr came. Abdulwasi’ extended his long neck down into the ravine. As he rose, drenched in rainwater, he told Abdulkabir and Abdulbasit that he had seen the ring—just found no way to retrieve it. Abdulbasit sniffed, and with a great inhale, slurped the rainwater into his stomach. Then it was Abdulkabir’s turn. With his great height, it was easy for him to slope down the gully as though it were steady ground, and he returned with the ring happily on his finger.

Alhamdulillah!” Mukhtar proclaimed when they returned for iftar.

“Yes, alhamdulillah!” Abdulbasit said. A spread of delicious tropical fruit lay before them, and cooked birds for them all. 

Mukhtar once again prayed Maghrib and returned to the pawang. Now, she was the speechless one — examining the ring for any hints of magic.

“Well done,” she said simply. “Your next task, then. Surely you have seen the Enggang badak flying all throughout the Kinabalu? We use their beaks and feathers for our medicines. And their meat for our food. But,” she said with a sinister smile, “It will be you who will do the eating. As a treat. As for myself, I require three hundred and sixty-five beaks and feathers for the rest of the year. Now run along. Work up your appetite.”

The young man hesitated. Well, if she was a woman of ritual… “Pawang, I am fasting. May I have a friend to feast along with me?”

“Yes, but only one,” she said with a smirk. She had suspected that the boy had help before, but this only confirmed it. “For happiness shared is doubled.”

“And food for one is food for two,” Mukhtar quoted in kind. When he came back to the camp, his servants were waiting to begin ‘isha.

“Let me guess…” Mukhtar said with a sly glance at Abdulsami’.

“Quietly, if you please,” Abdulsami’ replied.

The next morning, Abduljabbar, Abdulhayy, and Abdulsami’ allowed the rest of their compatriots to rest. With his supreme hearing, Abdulsami’ directed Abduljabbar where to look. The birds passed peacefully with one glance from Abduljabbar, and Abdulhayy ran back and forth to catch them. It allowed him to feel less cold.

The six fasts

Beaks and feathers [PC: Javardh (unsplash)]

By midday, Abdulwasi’ stretched out his great neck to check on them. They had reached three-hundred and sixty-five birds, with no trouble at all! Abdulkabir took long strides back and forth, loading his pack with birds and leaving them at camp. Mukhtar prepared their beaks and feathers, Abdulbasit licking his lips all the while. He could hardly wait until Maghrib adhan came, and he devoured them all in the minutes leading up to the iqama. Thankfully, Abduljabbar had also hunted a deer for all of them to share.

So Mukhtar prayed, and once more ascended to the pawang. He greeted her, and then set the pack of feathers and the pack of beaks before her. He thought to rub the smile off of his face, and for good reason—she looked anything but happy to have free materials for a year.

With a frown still creasing the wrinkles on her face, she addressed him for a final time. “My daughter is dear to me, and this jungle is most fearsome—the world even more so. To prove to me that you can protect her, she will stay at your camp this night. If you want her to remain in your care for longer than that, then you must not fall asleep. Only then may I know that you are quite serious about guarding her.”

Mukhtar placed a hand to his chest. “You can trust her with me.”

“But just to be sure,” the pawang said with a cunning smile, “I will check on you at midnight. If she is gone… then you will be gone from this world.”

The prince knew that his servants were already planning a way to make this work. He nodded, his confidence leading him to impatience. “Yes, pawang, I will be sure not to close my eyes.”

Kasih!” she called. Mukhtar waited breathlessly, and once he laid eyes on her, he forgot what breath was. 

Prince or Protector?

The rumors were true. More than the intricate baju kurung that she wore, and the hijab that cloaked the top of her head, her smile appeared genuine upon gazing at him, and her eyes widened with delight.

She was beautiful. And better than that, she was Muslim.

“… Assalamualaikum,” he choked out.

Kasih burst into laughter, and she hastily covered her mouth with her hands. The pawang looked mildly agitated, but she allowed them both to leave her presence. Mukhtar led the way, only looking back every so often to make sure she was following him without trouble.

“Since coming to this jungle,” he said, “I have had a habit lately of guessing the names of the people I meet. Do you think you can—”

“There are other people here?” Her eyes grew wider with shock.

“Yes,” he said, “my servants. I will introduce you to them. One is tall, one eats a lot, one has exceptional hearing, the other has a long neck, and the other is… well, he is cold sometimes, and other times, hot…”

“Are you a prince?” she asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“Hmm… so your name would be Ameer?”

He laughed. She was funny, too! “You get three guesses, just like your mother gave me three tasks.”

“Fair!” she said with a smile. “If it is not Ameer… could it be… Muhammad?”

“I wish.”

“Aww, I thought about changing my name to Kadijah.”

“From Kasih? Well, that would be cute… but you do not have to change it. I think it is a nice name.”

She blushed. “Thank you. But you are distracting me, Mister!”

“N-No I am not!” he protested. “In fact… it is a hint! My name rhymes with Mister!”

“Mister… hmm, it would not be Sister…” She was quiet for some time. He allowed her to be with her thoughts. Besides, it helped him settle his nerves. 

Then they reached the camp. It was at the sight of him that his servants opened their mouths, and she did as well. 


The servants applauded, and he tried to quiet them quickly. “Tonight, our task is to keep the princess safe until midnight. Er—after midnight, as well. We just…”

Kasih giggled. “Just do not let me be abducted in the middle of the night.”

“We can do that!” the servants chimed. The six of them surrounded the two at the center. The two resumed their conversation deep into the night, losing track of time all on their own.

But the pawang, being a woman of trickery, felt it was only fair for her to cast something to help her succeed, as Mukhtar had also taken advantage of outside help. 

A wind swept through the gathering at the camp, and they all fell asleep. The sound of all six servants’ snoring was too much, and Mukhtar awoke to a fallen camp. And worse, Kasih was nowhere to be found.

My servants!” he burst. “What happened?! She—Kasih is gone—what time is it?!”

Suhoor?” Abdulbasit asked hopefully.

Abdulsami’ rubbed his ears, still startled by the jarring scream of Mukhtar. Abdulkabir stood tall, trying to look for her. Abdulwasi’ did the same, stretching his neck. But Abduljabbar was hanging his head in guilt, and Abdulhayy was shivering once more.

“I f-f-felt a wind,” he said. “It m-m-must have c-c-carried her.”

“And it carries her voice now! Hush!” Abdulsami’ furrowed his brows and strained to listen. Relief crossed over his face. “Yes—at the base of the mountain. Surrounded by leopards. Abdulkabir, the journey would not be long for you, and Abduljabbar— quickly!”

In a matter of motions, Abdulkabir took his companion by the hand and strode to the bottom of the mount. Kasih was pressed against a tree, faced by the jungle leopards. Abduljabbar removed the bandages once more, and the leopards fell where they stood. He shut his eyes in time for Abdulkabir to retrieve him and the lady, and they returned to camp unharmed.

Another round of cheering, and Kasih steadied her feet on the ground. Mukhtar sighed at her with relief, welcoming her back with a wide smile on his face. She returned it waveringly, still jarred by the entire event.

Then fog cloaked their camp. The pawang emerged from the shadows beyond the jungle trees, angrier than Kasih had ever seen her. She had been bested by those she had cursed.

“Rules and rituals…” she began. 

The six servants readied themselves, and Mukhtar took his place in front of Kasih. The completion of a third task was too much to hope for. He swallowed an oncoming coughing fit, and prepared to make this stand his last.

“And I abide by both.” The pawang glided forward. “I only came to wish Kasih farewell.”

The six servants steadied, and Kasih went forward. Her expression was a mixture of worry and sadness, all of it laced with pain.

“Goodbye, my love,” the pawang whispered into her daughter’s ear, “I hope you are satisfied living with a prince who has his servants do everything you want.”

Jannah on Earth

Kasih slept unsoundly that night, thinking of nothing but that statement. Was this really a man that she could trust? A prince who had cheated his way through the clear terms and conditions her mother had put forth? 

The sixth fast began, and Kasih ate her suhoor with reservations, as the others were joyful. The group agreed to rest shortly after fajr, and when the sun truly rose, they would begin their descent.

But as they slept, Kasih gathered branches together. While she had given up magic, she still knew how to start a fire. The others awoke to the sound of crackling and smoke.

“Kasih?” Mukhtar mumbled in confusion.

“Mukhtar!” she called. “My mother had three tasks, and I have mine. I will not be your wife unless someone sits in this fire.” Inside, she hoped that Mukhtar might be the one to do it. To get up from his cot, to do anything for himself—or for someone that he cared for.

“A fire!” Abdulhayy cried out. He jumped into it, having been sweaty from the jungle heat. As seconds turned into minutes, he began to shiver, and the curse was truly realized. Finally, he stayed until he could no longer, and darted towards the shadow.

“She is a bomoh, it is true!” he said. “She must have enchanted that fire to be cold!”

Kasih shook her head in disbelief. Mukhtar came to her side, peering into her eyes for any source of charm. She looked away in shame. Mukhtar was silent.

The other servants urged them to get a move on. Abdulkabir, in the time that had passed, had found horses for them all to ride down.

They all rode silently. Mukhtar finally decided to break the silence.

“A fire like that would have killed me. And then I would not be able to be with you.”

She looked back at him. “I am sorry. I… I was always taught to question whatever it was that men did for me. Especially powerful men.”

“You have every right to. I am weak,” he confessed. “It is true. I am not a king. I am a sickly prince. I will probably never see the throne in this life. But I hope for one in the next from how I have to live between coughs and covers. And what could be better than that?”

“Well, the next best thing to—it is called ‘Jannah,’ right?”


“The next best thing to Jannah might just be a Jannah on Earth. A good spouse like you.”

Was this how Abdulhayy felt? Mukhtar could tell his cheeks were growing red and hot, and he chuckled in embarrassment. On they rode, following Abdulwasi’ as he guided their way home.

Just as they reached the valley bordering the palace, the sky grew black. The pawang’s voice echoed all around them. “This disgrace!” she screeched. “This disgrace!”

It seemed as though the jungle followed them. Fog billowed from all directions, encircling their horses and blinding their sight. One slip, and they would fall into a valley of no return.

“I heard you already, you vile pawang!” Abdulsami’ called out. “Abdulbasit—the rainwater from before! For the spirits and for her!

Abdulbasit nodded, and opened his great mouth to expel the rainwater. The spirits dispersed and scattered about.

“I see her now!” Abdulwasi’ said from his great height.

“Now, let me see her!” Abduljabbar undid his bandages and gazed in her direction. There was no need to hear a cry of death nor a splash—the sky returned to its beautiful blue hue, clear of cursed fog.

Abdulkabir swallowed. “Let me see if she is truly gone.” But when he went to move, he found that his strides were as a normal person’s. Slowly, the other servants realized that they, too, had been lifted of their curses.

There were tears of joy. Mukhtar and Kasih rode into the palace, and a great feast was held for their iftar. All six servants were employed in the service of the king and promised great reward for their sacrifice.

In the presence of his parents, Mukhtar introduced Kasih to them. She again accepted to be his wife and their daughter-in-law. Their wedding was grand, so much so, that even the dignitaries who were unable to make it wished that they could.

After their nikkah on the first jummah of Shawwal, he pulled his father aside.

“Why the six fasts for my journey, Father? It was hard… I feel like I would have managed easier if I was not fasting.”

“Because, my son,” he answered, “if fasting is how we are protected from the Hellfire in the next life, imagine what it does for us in this life!”

Mukhtar beamed. Truly, the sickly prince felt healthier—and happier—than ever.



Bismillah, The Beast [Part I] – A Short Story –

Breakfast With The Khans [Act One] – A Play

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Hannah Alkadi is a lawful good social media master, cat mom, and total nerd. She began writing in the pixels of online threads with friends since she was 13. Now, she continues in the pages of essays, short stories, and poetry. Her work has been published in Amaliah and Muslim Youth Musings by the grace of Allah ﷻ.

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