I sat in the line of the waiting room, secretly examining those around me. To my left was a shabbily-dressed woman with bloodshot eyes who’d clearly spent the past few days crying. To the right I spotted a balding man who constantly fidgeted. He was trying to put on a calm demeanour and display a brave front, but the stains of sweat rapidly spreading on his shirt betrayed his nervousness. Everybody here, it seemed, had a problem “too huge to cope with” and had knocked on the door of the renowned herbal doctor from Uganda, Prof. Ali Baba, for relief.

“Next!” We all jumped as he called for the next ‘patient’ to come through. I suddenly realized that it was my turn and stood panicking, my heart thumping in my chest. I stood for a moment, breathing deeply, trying to soothe my nerves. I clenched and unclenched my fists, feeling my chewed nails dig into my sweaty palms. “It’s now or never” I thought. I braced myself and pushed open his door entering the unknown…

It all started about six months ago when I transferred to a new school and hooked up with some new friends. Their clique were the absolute ‘elite’ in school. They were held in such awe that other wannabe students actually formed a fan group in their honour. Being the new student in the school, I did feel kinda odd, not having any friends, so when one of the clique came up to me out of the blue and invited me home, I saw this as a major step up the social ladder and grabbed the rungs with both hands. She approached me in the break and said, “I’m Khadeejah. Why don’t you join us at my place after school for lunch today? Oh and you can call me “Kat” for short, hardly anyone calls me Khadeejah anymore. See you later!”

I wonder why they took an interest in me. I’d be foolish to stare a gift horse in the mouth though. She turned and, with the Swarovskis studding her glasses flashing, whirled away like the whirlwind in my life she was soon to become.

I got closer and closer to the clique over the next few weeks, Kat in particular, until I finally won their trust. I was now ‘privileged’ to join them for sleepovers. Little did I know that these sleepovers would leave me sleepless for a long time to come…

“Hmmmm!!!” we all inhaled appreciatively. “Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked muffins, hey Kat?” laughed Tasneem. We all grabbed a few hot muffins and settled down on the floor to watch the latest release in the “Twilight” series we’d all been waiting for. Halfway through the movie, Kat turns to me and asks, “Are your muffins working yet?” “What do you mean ‘working’?” I ventured cautiously. “I mean are you getting high yet?” she asked matter-of-factly.

My heart skipped a beat. I was NOT ready for this. Nobody had told me that the muffins were laced! But I didn’t want to lose my new friends either. “Um… Not yet.” I hastily replied. But I soon was high, very high, way too high, and all I wanted was more “magic muffins” to scoff down.

Before long we were all giggling to ourselves, each of us in a ‘happy zone’. The fun wasn’t over though, in fact – it was only just starting. Kat brought out the pencils – it was Charlie Charlie time.

That was the first of a series of many “sleepovers” (we never actually slept) in which each outdid the last in the drug we’d take, and the way we’d clown around calling Charlie. Our taste in movies went from bad – to worse – to purely satanic and the EDM music we blasted was none the better. That was also the beginning of my misery.

Whether it was the drugs, the movies or the whole Charlie Charlie – thing to blame, I was soon seeing ghosts and having nightmares every night. I’d hear knocking on my cupboard doors despite being alone in the room. The fear was eating away at me, I was perpetually on edge, and I was going to go out of my mind.

My grades naturally dropped and my parents were, by now, frequently hearing me scream in bed. They knew that there was a problem at hand but didn’t know what it was. I could have never told them the entire story though and so… they obviously blamed it on jaadoo.

“I’m telling you! It’s Yasmeen and her lot! Always jealous of us they are! It must be them putting jaadoo on our little girl!” my mother ranted and raved to nobody in particular. “She even smirked at me in Spar the other day as if she knew we had a problem!” she justified.

I sat huddled in the corner, just wishing this nightmare would be over. Knowing well that I had brought all this misery on myself just made me feel worse. My dad managed to get an appointment with a so-called ‘aamil, I’d be seeing him tonight…

I think my mind must have blocked out the memory because I honestly can’t remember how it happened. I do remember that we were alone in his room as his ‘jinn-catcher’ hadn’t pitched. The one moment he was holding my hand to “check me up”, and the next – he’d taken advantage of me!

How could my dad be stupid enough to leave me alone in there with him anyway?

When we emerged from the room to my anxious parents, he confirmed their worst fears – I had a jinn in me. “A very powerful one too!” he said shaking his head gravely. “Lucky you weren’t in the room with us. He was on the verge of getting quite violent” he lies to my gullible parents. He prescribes some treatment and sends us home with a sly grin on his shark-like face.

I felt humiliated, violated and helpless. I cried the entire trip home.

The treatment obviously didn’t work. My parents were now more worried than ever and so confided in their various friends, asking them if they knew of anybody powerful enough to remove the jinn who’d ‘fallen in love with’ and wanted to ‘possess’ their dear daughter (wherever did they get those details anyway?).

Jaadoo was Nani’s absolutely favourite topic so she obviously couldn’t let herself be left out of the action. “I wonder if it’s not jaadoo instead of a jinn?” she said, thinking out aloud. “Must be hidden away in our freezer!” she declared with a sniff. “Yasmeen knows we only clean it out after every second ‘Eid.” she concluded, even swaying my mother with this line of reasoning. Dad rolled his eyes to himself and replied, “No jaadoo is powerful enough to find place in that freezer.” 

Aunty Zubi eventually came to the rescue, phoning my mother and insisting that the most powerful healer of any sort to be found in the country was Prof. Ali Baba from Uganda. He was apparently so powerful that he’d succeeded where all previous ‘aamils had thrown up their arms in despair – he told her which maid was stealing the teabags and sugar! After the appropriate oohing and aahing, my mother fell for the story, hook, line and sinker and an appointment was made.

That was how I now found myself entering his room with my mother at my side (I’d never go in alone a second time!).

A wrinkled old man called us in from behind the desk of a surprisingly modernly furnished office. The Prof, in fact, didn’t seem to fit in with the whole PC, fax machine, Mercedes car key and coffee machine décor as he was wrapped in seemingly nothing but a few tatty old leopard skins.

“Da ancestahs said me dat you coming today.” He announced in a wheezy voice. He squinted at us through glasses that were so thick; if he looked up at the sun he’d probably burn a hole in his head. As he spoke, I noticed that he had hardly any teeth left and even those were terribly rotten. I felt slightly nauseous and wished we hadn’t come. After my mother told him her version of the problem, he turned and handed me a small leather bag. As I took it I heard the contents rattle. “Throw da bones and let da ancestahs speak!” he urged, rocking back and forth in a frenzy. More than a little afraid of this old lunatic, I reached in and – Ugh! – pulled out some disgusting bones which I flung on the floor as quickly as I could. “Hmm… It looking like a very powaful muthi has been used on this gehl!” he declared with an air of success. “Was it Yasmeen? Is it in my freezer?” my mother eagerly asked. “Same one! But in fridge, not freezah.” he confirmed.

After dishing out a staggering R5000 (which was apparently a bargain), we departed for home with a list of weird instructions to follow.

On arriving home, mum made a bee-line for the fridge and began frantically digging through all the contents. I, however, was now at my wits end. This was the last straw. I’d had enough! I was not going to be sprinkled with the blood of a black rooster slaughtered at full moon and thereafter bath in the waters of Blue Lagoon. I could think of only one person who could help me. I picked up the phone and dialled…

She answered on just the second ring and I wasn’t surprised. I mean, that’s what superhero-aapas do right? I poured out my heart to her, confiding in my childhood mentor, the woman who’d taught me the basics of Deen which I’d now sadly neglected. Being the superwoman she was, she instantly comforted me and made my dilemma seem easily manageable. “Don’t stress!” she insisted. “All you need to do is re-connect with Allah Ta‘ala. He’ll solve all your problems in no time!” she advised.

I maintained contact with her and through her help and support, I kicked the habit and changed my circle of friends. I even realized that I hadn’t suffered from jaadoo at all – I was merely hallucinating and suffering the ill-effects of all the drugs I was poisoning my body with. She managed to get me onto a programme of reciting at least quarter para of Quraan Majeed daily which I thereafter worked on increasing. I guiltily lifted my Quraan Majeed from the shelf where it had lain discarded, covered in dust for the past few months. As I started to read, I felt such a feeling of peace and happiness wash over me and warm me from the inside that I literally felt high – high on the love of Allah Ta‘ala.

The ecstasy ‘smarties’ Tasneem had once stuck on the cupcakes were no match for the ecstasy experienced in making du‘aa at the time of tahajjud (Aapa would punctually phone and wake me up every morning). Allah Ta‘ala had given me a second chance and I was going to value it.

Looking back in retrospect, I guess I learnt some really important lessons:

1. The most effective remedy is to have the lifestyle of a true Muslim. With my aa’maal now in order, my dressing more modest, my circle of friends changed and the TV now out of the house (my parents took some convincing for the last one but eventually came around and even they are slowly changing their lives now), I slept soundly every night, content with the knowledge that Allah Ta‘ala had sent an angel to guard me.

2. Beware of bogus ‘aamils taking advantage of women with their hocus pocus!

3. Our first conclusion should not have been that jaadoo was to blame. We would have been spared a lot of trauma and saved a lot of money if we had just dealt with my lifestyle problems.

4. I’m so thankful that my parents sent me to maktab madrasah. If they hadn’t, I’d by now be a totally lost case.

5. Mum, to this day, is unable to face Yasmeen because of the rumours she spread and things she said about her. She should have never listened to Prof. Ali Baba.

The fortunate one is he who learns from the mistakes of others, don’t fall into the mess I did!