The Islamic Garden
He killed my girl!
This is a true story of a situation which I faced before becoming a Muslim. It served to make me ponder deeply over the ugly aspects of human behavior and the justice that was nowhere to be seen.
I’d known Mrs. Baker for a number of
years. We lived
just around the corner from each other near the beach. The houses
were quite old but strangely elegant and rambling with huge
timeless trees reaching skyward, far beyond the misery we daily
perpetrate on each other.
I passed her house
most mornings to take the children to school and she was usually
there, standing at her gate watching the people pass.
“Lovely morning, isn’t it,” I said.
“Yes, it’s a lovely day.”
These fragmented conversations continued for a few years. Gradually I got to know her and her family. I knew her cat’s name was Beazley and that she was born in Bendigo. Her gentle face always made me very careful with her. I was afraid to hurt her feelings. She looked delicate.
“How are Trudy and Milly these days?” I asked.
“Just fine, thanks. Just fine.”
She never spoke about her husband and I never saw him.
On one particular
day, it had started to rain on my way back from school. I’d forgotten my umbrella and was quite
wet. As I
passed her home, I saw her on the front porch calling me to come
inside. Her home looked welcoming and I stepped through the gate.
The hallway was
nicely covered with old but tasteful carpet and the walls were
white and crisp. Green leafy plants adorned the entrance to the
living room, which reeked of a cozy, homely atmosphere. I felt
perfectly at ease and walked around the room looking at the
photos on the mantelpiece and the trophies and medals on the wall
shelf. Mrs. Baker beckoned me to come and sit next to her. She
poured some tea into two quaint little teacups and cut a nice
thick slice of home made walnut roll. It was delicious. I gazed
out the bay window that looked onto the back yard. Rambling rose
bushes edged the garden. Cane chairs and a neatly covered table
were standing on the patio, soaking up the rain. The greenness of
the garden, the welcoming crackle of the open fire and the nice
hot tea made me want to talk.
“Mrs. Baker I love this place. It’s really homely.”
“Thankyou lovey, it’s nice that you’ve come to visit me at last.”
“Really? I didn’t know you wanted me to visit you before.”
“I was always shy to ask but I’m glad you’re here.”
I told her about
my studies and my family. On and on I talked about myself. Her
home seemed so ideal, so natural and relaxed. I envied her.
“You have two lovely daughters Mrs.
Baker,” I remarked.
“Well, lovey actually I have three daughters.”
“Three? I only ever saw Trudy and Milly,” I observed.
“My oldest daughter died five years ago.”
“I’m so sorry Mrs. Baker. I shouldn’t have…”
“It’s not a problem my dear. You didn’t know.”
What should I say
now? If I just changed the subject it would be callous and if I
asked further, it would be cruel. So I just sat quietly. Mrs.
Baker was a very kind woman and understood my dilemma. She got up
and walked over to the cupboard. She opened it reverently and
took out a photo album.
“This is all I have left of Jenny.”
She stroked the cover of the album with gentle, shaky fingers and opened the first page.
A cute, pudgy
little baby with deep brown eyes smiled at me from the photo.
Straggly black hair covered her little head and she was wrapped
in a snow-white hand-knitted shawl.
“She was a gorgeous baby Mrs. Baker,” I said quietly.
“Yes, my Jenny was the easiest of them all. She just ate and slept and played. She was a joy from the moment she was born until the day she left us.”
Together we leafed through the following pages and watched Jenny take her first steps, play in the sand pit in the back garden, pushing tip trucks and digging with colorful spades. I saw her little nose peeking out from under a sun bonnet and the day she learnt to swim. I watched with great interest all her school photos from first primary until she finished university. A tall, rather pretty young woman with big brown, kind eyes – just like her mother.
“Jenny was always a kind person. Always
thinking of others. She studied child-care at university and
wanted to work in a kindergarten. She was waiting to start her
first placement in a pre-school when she started to work as a
volunteer in an opportunity shop.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“An opportunity shop is where they gather unwanted clothes and household items and sell them at a cheap price for poor people. You can pick up a lot of bargains there, my dear,” she said. “It’s amazing what people throw away.”
Tears filled my
eyes as I looked at this woman’s
sadness and her graceful self-control.
“How old was she when she died?” I asked.
“Jenny was twenty-two years old. She was about to be married, when it happened.”
“What happened Mrs. Baker?” I asked curiously. “If you don’t want to talk about it, I understand.”
“It’s good for me to talk lovey. I don’t get much chance these days. The girls are always busy and I find myself alone a lot of the time.”
I sat and waited
in silence. My curiosity was strong but I certainly didn’t want to hurt this lady.
“Five years ago Jenny went to work at the op-shop and it was a quiet day. She called me on the phone to chat because there was nothing much to do. Someone came into the shop and so she excused herself, saying she’d call back later. That was the last time I heard her voice.”
“What happened?” I asked through knitted eyebrows.
“A young man came into the shop. There was no one else there and he took out a knife and stabbed her to death. She wasn’t found for some hours.”
“Oh how terrible,” I said. “Did they find who did it?”
“Yes. He was the son of some wealthy politician.”
“What happened to him?”
“He’ll be out after a few years, they say. His father has friends in high places.” The corners of her mouth pointed downwards with a look of deep scorn.
“He’ll be out?”
“My Jenny is dead and he’ll be walking this earth,” said Mrs. Baker, with a faraway look in her eyes. “If it was a war or something, perhaps it would be easier to bear, but to die for no purpose, no purpose at all, is just too much.”
Mrs. Baker put her head down and cried silently. I’d never seen anyone with as much self-composure as she had.
“I don’t know what to say Mrs. Baker. It’s too terrible and too hard on you.”
“It’s ok really. Just when I talk about it again, it stirs up memories and the anger I still keep inside here.” She pointed to her chest.
“He should be killed. The one who killed my girl, should be dead. She never hurt anyone. She was a kind and gentle soul. I’d like to see him die.”
I looked at Mrs. Baker. I couldn’t believe that such a gentle, kind lady could say such words.
“It’s got nothing to do with forgiveness lovey,” she added. “But it’s got everything to do with justice. That’s why my husband left lovey. Everywhere he looked in this house, made him remember Jenny and he couldn’t stand it. But for me, I didn’t want to leave this place because it does remind me of her and I don’t want to forget.”
I left Mrs. Baker’s house that day with a feeling of
lead on my heart.
Her words kept ringing in my ears ‘it’s got everything to do with justice’ and continued to do so for some years to come. I moved away from that place and never saw Mrs. Baker again but the memory of what happened to her family never left me.