In Jawad’s world, the sins are visible by the human eye to specially trained warriors called Mottaqīn, who are assigned to exterminate them. However, one sacred rule cannot be broken: do not go seeking the Whisperers. When Jawad does exactly that, guided by his secrets and the longing for his dead mother, he endangers not only himself but all those whom he loves as well…
Hundreds of long centuries ago, when Earth was empty of Evil and Man existed not, all the angels and the Jinns prayed to one Lord. When He created man, one of the worshipper Jinns, by the name of Iblis, denied to accept the creation of a clay-made creature above his own. He was casted to the Earth, and as a bitter revenge, he swore to lead all the clay-made creatures astray and make them suffer.
And that’s where we come in, thought Jawad. Mottaqīn, as in, godwary – human beings who protect not only themselves from the harm unleashed by Satan and his offspring and followers, but others as well.
“Would this one work?” A small, squiggly voice said. Taban was holding a metal machete in his hands, pointed at both tops and sharpened to ridiculous ends. His small and bony figure barely kept it upright.
Jawad rolled his eyes. “We’re going to exterminate a Gunah demon, Taban – it’s not a mass murder party.”
Taban shrugged and, aiming to put it back on the weapon’s shelf, dropped it down on his feet instead. He jumped away from its pointed edge at the last minute, yelping.
Good, Jawad thought, or we’d have exterminated two demons in one night. The thought made him chuckle.
Taban shivered and looked at Jawad, and with solemnity leaking from his wide, innocent eyes, “Gunah demons are partly-living creatures underlying a human’s skeletal system, dormant until one of the Whisperers from the offspring of Satan rouses them. They use their semi-physical form to flow out of and around the body, leading the human being to commit a specific gunah.”
Jawad stared at Taban.
This was one the problems of the kid. He had seemed to memorize every textbook of his curriculum and it seemed sensible to him, for some particular reason, to keep reciting parts of it for no reason. Creepy child, Jawad shuddered inwardly.
Thankfully, Jawad was saved from surviving through further creepiness as Warisa came barging into the weapons room, not a hair out of place. Her black chador fluttered around her as she approached, face up and firm, ready to fight. Without a moment to pause, she began stocking her favorite throwing knives into her sleek black weaponsbelt that she wore beneath the chador. My sister and her flair for serious dramatics, Jawad thought, rolling his eyes.
“Are you men ready?” Warisa asked curtly as she placed the last knife firmly on her belt, and whirled around. Her eyes landed on the machete lying on the floor. She frowned, but without a word, placed it back at its proper rack.
“The man is ready,” Jawad began, and then looked over at Taban. “Although the child might not be so much.”
“That’ll be enough, Jawad.” Warisa chided sternly. Despite the fact that she was the younger sibling, she had an aura of authority around her. “Taban, I wish you the best of luck for your first undertaking. You’ll be mostly watching, so no need to take any weapons.” She gave the machete a brief glance.
Taban nodded his measly little head quietly.
She smiled. “Good. Let’s begin in the name of Allah.”
“In the Name of Allah,” They repeated.
And then they exited the room, running face-first into trouble. Willingly.
Point of View: Jawad
We’re of the Mottaqīn – just not the completely trained, full-time ones. Not yet. We consider it our duty to protect ourselves from the devilish whispers of Satan, and other, more vulnerable humans as well. Thus, the undertakings.
Although, I thought, we’d not be out here right now at all if I hadn’t ‘acted out of sheer impulse’ and been ‘such a troublemaker’. In my defense, the daily classes had left me more bored than usual, and acting like I could see the Satan himself in the eyes of an innocent child was not that much of troublemaking. The child had freaked out, yes, but all children freak out. The Instructor should have reprimanded them and thanked me for revealing the fact that the future Mottaqin are in fact scared of the silliest of things.
Instead, I got ‘another chance’: Take ten children to their first undertakings and be nice to them.
Of course, Warisa had no need to accompany me. She kept saying that it’s for her own experience, but anyone with half an eye could see that she’s trying to look out for me – despite the very obvious fact that I don’t need looking after. I don’t mind either, though.
Right now, she walked a few steps ahead of me, strides short and firm, chin tucked up as she tried to sense the way around. Every few minutes, she’d pause and listen, and then beckon us along. Some people say she looks, speaks and acts exactly like Mother, but we wouldn’t know. Our mother was gone way earlier than we’d like to believe.
Warisa held up a hand. “We’re near,” Her voice was slow, calculated. “Taban, are you ready?”
“Yes.” Taban squeaked, which showed exactly how ready he was.
We felt the demon before we saw it.
My vision darkened, blurring at the edges. Darkness loomed in front of me, around me, in me. Every other thing disappeared – it was just me and the hopeless, long, long life ahead of me. I didn’t want to live, I wanted to wail. I wanted to bang my head on the floor. Why? Why me? Why was I even born? I don’t want to live.
Shuddering, shivering, I breathed, “A’udhu billaahi min al-shaytaan ir-rajeem.”
The darkness around me dimmed, and I repeated, “I take refuge in Allah from the outcast Satan.”
The darkness swirled, lessening, and the heavy weight lifted from my chest, until all of it was gone.
Then I heard the weeping. A girl, maybe a few years younger than me, clad in a headscarf and manteau, sitting on the floor curled into a ball. Her whole body shivered and trembled as she cried. And around her, disappearing and materializing every second, was a swath of darkness, glittering. Ya’is, the Gunah demon of hopelessness.
Warisa was already a few steps ahead of me, and she gently crouched down beside the girl. “Wow, such a beautiful girl! Why are you crying?” She whispered gently to her, smiling warmth itself.
The girl shuddered. “I…I…” Another round of sobs racked out from her.
Taban tried to move forward into the action, but I held a hand out. “Not now, good kid. Just watch.”
Taban scowled. “Don’t call me that.”
“What, good?” I frowned slightly, then shrugged. “Alright, bad kid. Just watch.”
Ahead, Warisa lightly touched the girl’s shoulder. “What’s your name?”
“A-Amina,” she trembled.
“Alright, Amina dear. Can you look up at me?”
Amina obeyed. Her round eyes were full of teardrops, cheeks blotched and nose red. Her fat lower lip bobbed as she trembled.
“Amina, do you believe in Allah?”
“Do you know He is the Helper of everyone?”
She nodded again.
“Then why are you sad?”
“E-Everyone hates m-me. Since I s-started wearing h-hijab. They… they make f-fun of me all the time. I c-can’t do this a-anymore.”
Warisa listened patiently, a hand softly stroking her arm. When she finished, Warisa gave her another smile. “But Amina, such a wise girl like yourself, did you start wearing your hijab for them?”
“Then whom do you wear it for?”
“If you wear it for Allah, why do you expect the reward from others?”
Amina remained silent, hiccupping.
Warisa said, “Tell me something. Who is your worst enemy?”
Amina tilted her head, thinking. After a moment, she blurted, “Jalila?”
Warisa chuckled softly. “No, not her. The enemy of the whole human race.”
Amina’s face fell. “Oh. Yes, Shaytaan.”
Warisa nodded. “Yes. Shaytaan, Satan, Devil. He doesn’t want to see you happy, you know? When you do something right, and Allah wants to reward you, and you are about to become happy… He hates to see that. So do you know what he does?”
Amina shook her head.
Warisa touched her cheek. “He makes you cry. He makes you suffer until you decide to give up. Will you give up, Amina?”
Amina shook her head again.
“Good, then. Will you recite Audhubillah and get rid of it?”
Amina just looked at her for a few seconds, then quickly recited under her breath. Ya’is‘ grip on Amina loosened slowly, and it started dematerializing.
I unsheathed my dagger, stepping forward, and as soon as Ya’is broke its life connection from Amina, I jerked the dagger into it. There were no shrieks, no howls of pain. Ya’isoon — just like the rest of the Gunah demons — are only semi-physical, like Whisperers themselves. It swirled and circled me, then dissipated into nothing.
Already, a new Ya’is must be born beneath Amina’s skin, dormant and asleep until a Whisperer wakes it up.
As soon as the last fragments of the demon disappeared into nothing, I felt a burning flash of disappointment, followed by a flurry of guilt. Don’t be selfish, I chastised myself internally. I can’t believe you were still hoping to meet it.
Amina blinked a couple of times, as if confused. She looked up at Warisa with her large doe-eyes, still wet but not shedding tears any longer. “Thank you,” She whispered quietly.
“I did nothing.” Warisa got up, dusted her chador and then gave a hand to Amina. She took it and pulled herself up, still blinking.
And then the unthinkable happened.
One moment, Amina was there, safe and alright. The next, she gasped as another lurch of darkness shot out from her, circling her menacingly. It swirled and danced around her, and her eyes filled up again, tears forming right there and doubling over her baby cheeks.
Taban gasped, his petite hand on his mouth. “A Whisperer is one of the offspring or the devotee of the castaway Satan whose ultimate aim is shared by its forefather: the maximum suffering of the human beings. It’s their Whispers which awake the dormant demons and lead the man astray.”
My dagger clattered to the ground with a sharp, metallic tang.
Before I could think, before I knew what I was doing, I was there, in front of Amina, speaking to her. “Amina,” My voice was hoarser than I remembered, but I didn’t care. “Amina, tell me. Who is it?”
Warisa inhaled sharply. “Jawad! No!”
I didn’t care. I had to. It was my only chance.
Amina began to cry again.
“Focus, Amina. Please. Please tell me. Who is that person? Who made you cry? Did you know her?”
“H-Him,” She said. “A m-man.”
My throat tightened. “Had you seen him before?”
“Then describe him. How did he look? His hair? His build?”
Amina spoke in fragments, giving little details about his appearance and roughly pointed in the direction he left. Already an image was constructing in my mind, flashier with each tiny detail – and with it, a plan.
An impulsive one. A foolish one. But one that I longed for since that last touch of my mother’s to my cheek, her soft good-bye.
I had lied earlier.
I remembered her more than I wanted to believe I did.
I didn’t wait. I dashed, vaguely hearing Warisa call out after me. I ran and ran and ran, twisting in alleys and dodging trashbins lain on the ground. I heard nothing but the woosh of my blood running in my ears. My heart, thumping wildly. My chance.
The alleyway opened into a small park, bustling with people. Babies clung to their mothers’ arms as they strolled around, chattering with others. A group of toddlers played on the bright colored plastic slides. Men jumping around the makeshift tennis court, little girls tricycling about the park circumference.
And, at a side, away from everyone and as different, stood a man.
Tall, taller than most men around, clad in an elegant suit and shining, gold-colored tie. He looked posh, his thick black hair gelled back smoothly, revealing a stunning face with perfectly sculpted lips and large, handsome eyes. He leaned against a tree as if it was his throne, watching over the people lazily. He flicked a finger, and one of the younger boys playing in the court yelled at his brother for stealing his racquet.
In half a second, I was next to him, panting. There were a thousand things to say, a thousand things to deliver, but all came to my lips was, “Y-You!”
The man – the Whisperer – gave a sluggish smile and slowly, taking all the time of the world, peeled his eyes away from the court, looking at me. “Me,” he said softly, his voice like the sweetest melody to my ear. My head went blank.
Then I felt it. Desire. A deep, burning craving, longing for something I wanted more than anything on the planet. My soul screamed for it, pleaded to give in to the yearning, to go search the heavens and the earth for –
I cleared my head. Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim. “I know what you are,” I hissed at him, loosing control of my calm, collected persona.
Amusement twirled in his eyes. “And so do I.”
I hate you. I hate you so much. “I want to speak to your father.” The words sent a thrilling chill through me, raising the hair at the back of my neck. The sensible inner voice tried to speak up again but I choked it before it could.
The Whisperer cocked his head to the side, examining his perfect nails. “Father,” he clicked his tongue. “But you see, you poor, destitute clay-made thing, Father does not wish to speak to the likes of you.”
No. “You have to tell me. I need to speak to him.”
He chuckled, sending a tremor through me. “My kind is not so low as to converse with yours, human. Whatever it is that you want, why do you not ask from your generous Lord?” The taunt hung in the air, sharp and bitter.
“My Lord has given me everything I need.”
“And yet you’re here.”
Another wave of searing fury overtook my vision. I bared my teeth, but before I could utter a word, a familiar feminine voice called out.
She jogged up to me, a hand clasping the fabric of her everfluttering chador. Taban followed with widened eyes, his lacy brown hair clasped to his forehead with sweat. He stared at my chest, lower lip pouted in disgust.
I looked down. An insect-like body of rust-colored Gumah demon of anger, Ghadhib, was wedged on my chest, stirring. I calmed myself and stripped it away, it’s body disappearing as it’s life connection to mine was cut.
The Whisperer was back to looking over the court, not paying the newcomers a second of attention. Warisa shot him a menacing glance and took my hand, “Come,” she ordered.
Embarrassment rushed to my cheeks. I looked down, too ashamed to meet her in the eye. What was I thinking? Why did I just…?
“My Father was not responsible for Alisa, boy.”
A shocking wave of memories collided with me. Her soft, beautiful voice singing nursery anthems for me. Her touch, delicate, buttery. Her smile, full of warmth and love.
I whirled around at the Whisperer. He looked at me with a solemn glance, none of the earlier cockiness exposed.
“My brother is,” his musical voice sounded a little different now, like he was sorry for something.
“That’s enough,” Warisa said, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Come back here past midnight, boy, and I’ll tell you all that you wish to know.”
Warisa’s grip on my hand tightened. “Come, Taban.” She commanded, already striding forward, each step a furious slap on the ground.
All the way back, anger and disappointment radiated from her, revealed by her livid pace and flared nose. Her mouth was scrunched up, and she didn’t speak a word, not even when we were back inside the Academy. She deposited all her knives, and I silently made a note in the weapons’ journal about the lost dagger. Even Taban stayed quiet, swallowing every now and then.
The metal machete grinned at us from its rack, almost gleaming.
The Instructor came and congratulated Taban for his first undertaking with a clap on his back that rattled his whole body and thanked Warisa for her efforts before calling us all to dinner in the mess hall.
Later, when I was to part to the other way for boys’ hall of residence, Warisa came up to me. Her eyes were hard and she opened her mouth to say something, but shook her head. When she spoke, her voice was soft. “You know you’re not going to go.” She said quietly.
Despite the guilt, I felt myself recoil. How easy for her to say that. She was only three when Mother left us, hadn’t even learned to talk properly. I was the elder one. I was the one who endured days and days of hollowness and quiet, fright putting me to sleep each night instead of a mother’s sweet voice and loving gestures. I was the one who cried for Ma when I didn’t know what to feed Warisa, how to make her stop crying her lungs out. I grew up, every free second of mine either wondering what had really happened to the mother I knew or trying to stifle the wondering.
I felt only the slightest pang of guilt as I lied, “Of course I do.”
To be continued…
Demonic Vows [Pt. 2] coming on June 22nd, 2021 here, InshaAllah.
Featured Image via Unsplash.
Important note: Demonic Vows is purely a work of fiction. The characters, plot, storyline, events and everything else is a product of the author’s imaginations, and some aspects of the story might not be philosphically or theologically true. For accurate descriptions and information regarding the Unseen, please refer to Islamic scholarly works produced in this genre.