From Act III, Chapter 3
In the afternoon, Usman drives by his sister Sadia's private girls' school and thinks of how she used to be the top student in Lahore, of how proud everyone was of her and all the items in the local papers. How many times had he heard his father tell the story of when Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as prime minister in 1988, and Sadia came down that morning for school dressed in Bhutto's green and white. "One day," she announced to her class, "maybe I will become like Benazir Bhutto." She was nine years old.
Usman plans to spend the evening with Sadia. They have a whole night to talk, to just be, and he finds himself retracing the steps of her journey--from that nine-year-old girl to this quiet woman in her abaya.
How do you get from there to here? Two years Usman's senior, Sadia was always so much his role model. She was fierce, even confrontational. When she got into the London School of Economics and their mother opposed her acceptance, saying it was too far, too foreign, Sadia called their father and asked simply, "Would it be different if I were a boy?" Tariq had often preached about the emancipation of women in the West; Sadia forced him to be true to his words. And off she went to London.
Her rebellion, and her journey, guided Usman. As Sadia blazed through her first year of college, studying economics and mathematics, Usman prepared for his launch.
But life is tricky, as are best intentions. Tariq and Ayesha were delighted when they found that their daughter could live in the London home of a family they knew well, the Qureshis. Tariq had gone to school with the Qureshi boys, played cricket with them. Sadia would not seem so very far away, living in the London home of people so well known to the Khosas.
After her first year, Sadia came home wearing a head scarf, and there was panic in the family. Tariq and Ayesha were up all night. She had not been raised this way. She was taught to be free from all of that. On each subsequent visit, she had added something, another layer, another article of clothing hiding their beautiful daughter from the world. Sadia embraced the limits, the proscriptions. It made no sense to Tariq and his wife . . . .
On this night, Usman and Sadia retire to the comfortable living room--the formal main room of the house. Tariq joins them, as does Imran, Sadia's husband, who'd been out running errands.
It's a time when Sadia can talk more freely, in the company of her father and brother--maharim, or "unmarriageable relations"--who in Islam have special status.
Sadia sits in a severe, straight-backed chair, Imran in one next to her, while the two Khosa men recline across the room, each on a couch, as everyone makes small talk.
Though they talk on the phone, Usman and Sadia have not sat together for nearly two years. Usman's last visit to London was in the spring of 2006, just before his arrest and interrogation. She seems to have moved, since then, even further into the life of faith and piety.
She says she's happy--working as a teacher in an Islamic school. She feels enormously "safe in the world. That's what my faith gives me."
Usman thinks about how Sadia has often described her internal struggle about wearing the dupatta--the head scarf--in her early days at the London School of Economics. She was having deep conversations with the religious Qureshi brothers. She began asking herself a new set of questions that were not about human knowledge and learning--the curriculum in her college courses--but about "perfect knowledge," as she would call it: knowledge from God. When she put the head scarf on, it "was like I was struck by lightning. I knew who I was." A fellow student at college, an Asian girl, told her that day that she didn't even know Sadia was Muslim. It was striking, Sadia said, that "here was the most important thing about me, and she didn’t know it." That was January 13, 2000. Two years later, she was in the abaya, walking London's streets--a presence in black that would "make people choose how to respond and react to a person of faith," as she tells it. Sadia has said she considers that the start of her new life.
Tonight Usman and Tariq want to engage her. . . .
Sadia Qureshi is the older sister of Usman and daughter of Tariq Khosa. An exceptional student, Sadia earned a full scholarship to the London School of Economics, only to find herself, after traveling from Pakistan to London, growing ever more attached to an orthodox version of Islam. The Way of the World tells her story and narrates a pivotal encounter at the Khosa home in Lahore between her and Usman--representatives of the modern and the traditional within the family of Islam going head to head.