14. The Beautiful Baby-Cot

Hafsah and Saudah were cousins who lived next door to each other. Hafsah was three years old and Saudah was four. They always played at each other’s houses, but had to be constantly watched, as they were full of mischief. In a matter of moments they could wreak havoc, so their parents mostly kept them indoors under supervision.

One day Hafsah and Saudah were playing with some toys, in the play area at Hafsah’s house. They had been warned not to be noisy as Hafsah’s father was ill and at home resting. After a while they became restless and were happy to see the bedroom door open. This meant that Hafsah’s dad was awake and the children didn’t have to remain quiet as mice anymore. The children decided to go and chat with him. They entered the bedroom only to find it empty. Hearing sounds from the adjacent bathroom, they realised he was inside.

They both decided to climb into Hafsa’s beautiful baby-cot and wait for him to emerge. Here they could pass their time scanning the streets below. As Hafsah was an only child, she slept in a fancy cot in her parent’s room. The baby-cot was covered with beautiful, frilly, white drapes edged with silver ribbon. These drapes flowed over the cot, covering half of it and looked like the bed of a princess. The children soon got bored of looking out at the street below and after some minutes turned their attention to the room. “Look,” pointed Hafsah, “my daddy left his cigarettes on the bedside table!” Saudah turned to look and spotted the cigarettes nearby. A box of matches lay next to it. Hafsah naughtily whispered, “Come, let’s try and smoke. Nobody will see or know.” Saudah agreed by nodding.

They listened carefully and heard the sound of running water. This meant that Hafsah’s dad was still in the shower. Here was their chance to finally take a puff and try to smoke. They had been itching to do so, for ages. On the rare occasions that Hafsah and Saudah caught Hafsah’s dad smoking, they would ask to be allowed to try. He would sternly refuse, saying that smoking was bad for one’s health. It also troubled people and the Angels with its foul and offensive smell. It was a terrible habit that he was painstakingly trying to stop. He always advised the children to never ever try it and asked them to make dua (pray) for him, to be able to quit. The children knew that they were being naughty for wanting to smoke but were just too curious to know what is was like.

They quickly went and fetched the cigarettes and matches and climbed back into the baby cot with them. Since Saudah was older, they decided that she would be the one to light the match. Hafsah would hold out the cigarette for her to light. Saudah had often seen matches being lit before, so she confidently removed a stick from the matchbox and struck it on the side of the box. Lo and behold, the match lit up but before she could light the cigarette, she felt the flame about to burn her fingers. She dropped the lit match in her fright and the children watched with horror as it fell onto the drapes that covered the baby-cot. Suddenly it was aflame.

The children screamed in terror as they watched the cot catch alight. Hafsah’s dad had just stepped out of the shower, when he heard their panicky screams. Still soaking wet, he threw on his gown and raced into the room to investigate. On seeing the fire and the children huddled and screaming hysterically in the corner of the baby cot, he screamed out, “Fire! Fire!” He then grabbed hold of the trembling children and carried them away to safety. At that moment his wife burst in panting and reciting aloud, “Allahu Akbar! (Allah is the Greatest)” thrice, which later dawned on him was the dua to recite when putting out a fire.

Both raced to the bathroom to fill buckets of water, which they used to douse out the flames. When the fire was extinguished, they turned to the sobbing children, who were holding onto each other for dear life. They comforted the naughty children and after seeing how traumatized they were, didn’t have the heart to scold them. The cot was so badly burnt that it no longer looked like the beautiful baby-cot it had once been. Hafsah’s parents had to get rid of the burnt baby-cot but were thankful that no serious harm had come to the children.

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