I have always cherished the concept of friendships, especially the early stages of getting to know another person in the hopes of forming a lifelong bond and the excitement and fulfilment of being opened up to a whole new world of someone else’s life. It has always been an incredible journey for me.
However, I later realized that friendships are not merely made but built with time and effort. They grow through various stages, sprouting from a foundation that must be strong enough to maintain the friendship’s stability.
In late 2015, fate brought a new friend into my life. We didn’t have any prior connections, neither as classmates nor neighbours, but fate had it that we crossed paths near our shared place of worship. It was a casual introduction, bonding over a mutual friend who couldn’t join us that day, yet it was a momentous occasion.
In that first meeting, I was struck by how effortlessly my new friend shared intimate details of her life. Our bond quickly deepened, and we started spending a lot of time at each other’s homes. Her family embraced me with open arms, just as mine did her.
For someone my age, it was the most profound and fulfilling friendship I’d ever had. So when I found out that my friend was moving away, I was devastated and didn’t know how to cope with the news. It was a separation that changed me forever.
Muti’ah Badruddeen’s novel, “Rekiya and Z,” explores the intricacies of friendship and how it can be tested and strengthened by distance and separation. Through the characters’ experiences, the author highlights the challenges of maintaining a relationship in the face of relocation and its profound impact on one’s connections with others.
Over the past few years, the meteoric japa wave has hit us in ways we never could have imagined. Friendships have been broken, and bridges have been burned, often more blithely than dismally. And when the relocating parties are called out on their actions, they usually drop the famous response: “Village People.”
Rekiya and Z had an unexpected beginning to their friendship. As teenagers from contrasting backgrounds and with disparate personalities, they formed “an unlikely alliance,” as the book describes. Rekiya, the unacknowledged daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the country, and Zaynunah, the hijabi from Ibadan with a more humble upbringing, met in a classroom at Noorah, their shared boarding school. Little did they realize that their chance encounter would result in a lifelong friendship that would withstand the challenges of time and distance.
When our friends move away, often to a more desirable city or country, we may assume they have it better. If they do not reach out or if we perceive even a slight decrease in communication, we may withdraw. My childhood friendship suffered due to my feelings of low self-esteem and failure to understand that people want to be friends with you because of who you are, not because you are physically present and accessible.
The strength of Rekiya and Z’s friendship was tested when Rekiya moved abroad to further her studies, which strained their relationship and eventually caused them to drift apart. Perhaps Rekiya built a wall around herself, while Z convinced herself she wasn’t good enough to maintain the friendship.
After years of being apart, the two women reunited under the sad circumstances of the passing of a woman who significantly impacted their lives. This reunion became the starting point for a new phase in their friendship, one that would be even stronger than the last.
“Rekiya & Z explores the themes of time and its fickleness, trauma, loss, and the varying realities of Muslim womanhood against the backdrop of Africa’s most populous country.”
Buti’ah’s novel made me ponder my past relationships and how I may have ended them prematurely. It made me realize that if I had just kept reaching out to my friend, we could have worked things out instead of sabotaging what we had.
Rekiya and Z’s journey to reconcile and build a stronger, more authentic friendship left me feeling inspired and hopeful. It made me realize that even with relationships that have been damaged and lost touch, there is always a chance for redemption and reconciliation. The book gave me renewed hope and a fresh perspective on how to approach rebuilding those connections.
Reading Rekiya and Z was a delightful experience that kept me engaged throughout the seasons of the main characters’ friendship and its transformation. Muti’ah Badruddeen skillfully alternates between the past and present, introducing us to the genesis of their relationship, the ups and downs they encountered along the way, and how those experiences shaped them.
Through the distinct voices of Rekiya and Z, we gain insight into their individual lives and gradually connect the dots as the story unfolds. The characters are relatable, and their struggles and triumphs are depicted with nuance and authenticity.
Overall, the book is a compelling exploration of the enduring power of friendship and the resilience of the human spirit.