I was born to Muslim parents in a Muslim household. But that was the extent of my being a Muslim. I used to get up for fajr prayers, yawning and grumbling because my dad’s clock was loud enough to awaken the dead. I used to hurry through my other prayers because there was television, college activities and my friends whom I just could not ignore.
I fasted in Ramadan because iftar things seem more delicious when one is hungry. And I would hand out a few coins to the beggars who would knock on my car window because I had some loose change in my purse after hours of shopping. Yes, that was my extent of being a Muslim.
For the first 20 years, I breezed through my life without a care in the world. I had very loving parents esp my dad who could never say no to any of his four daughters. I had good brains which saw me through school and college. My wardrobe overflowed with colorful dresses and more shoes than I could possibly wear.
When I got married, I was blessed with a beautiful daughter. Next year, my second daughter was born. Less than six weeks after her birth, she contracted viral pneumonia and my life changed forever. It was the 21st of Ramadan and the time was just before fajr prayers when she breathed her last in my arms.
Nothing in my life had prepared me for the sorrow or anguish or pain or the disbelief that followed. We had money to admit her to the best hospital in town. She was under the care of top pediatrician and the hospital prided itself on its nursing care. I was surrounded by my family. She was supposed to get well and not die. Wasn’t she?
Then the anger set in. What had I done to deserve this? What had she done? Why did Allah give her to me in the first place if she was to be taken away just weeks later. Why did I carry her for nine months, and endure the torturous labour pains when she was not meant to live? Why did I have milk to feed her when she was not meant to stay?
I needed answers so for the first time in my life, it seemed, I really turned to Allah. I begged for peace and tranquility and somehow that made me open the Qur’an. It seemed to me that every verse had been written for me and it gave me comfort like nothing else could.
“Truly, it is by the Remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest.” [Qur'an, 13.28]
“And be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are patient.” (Qur'an 8:46)
I had not been very patient, it seemed to me so was Allah with me? Had I been forsaken and abandoned? And then I began to find answers and it seemed to me that the more I read the Qur’an, the more I got what I sought.
“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested.
And We indeed tested those who were before them….” (Qur'an 29:2-3)
Don’t we go through motions in life, feeling superior and safe because of our material comforts and wealth? How quickly our faith crumbles when a calamity touches us. How quickly our eeman flies out of the window and we lose hope when grief and sorrow come to visit? Doesn’t the Qur’an say:
“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sâbirin (the patient ones, etc.).” Qur’an 2:155
That day, Allah tested me with loss of life that was dear to me and it was up to me to be one of the patient ones. But how? Tell me, O Allah. And then the verse of Surah Rehman hit me.
“Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you deny?”
Allah had given me so much my entire life. Did I ever thank Him for my loving parents or my caring sisters? Did I ever show gratitude for any of the blessings that He had bestowed upon me? Did I ever say a prayer of thanks for my husband who had tears of joy in his eyes when our daughters were born and wept when our younger one passed away? Did I ever pause to take stock of all the things I had taken for granted all my life and even think about thanking my Creator?
And then another verse that brought me to my knees
“Who say, when a misfortune strikes them: Lo! We belong to Allah and Lo! Unto Him we are returning. Such are they on whom are blessings from their Lord, and mercy. Such are the rightly guided” (2:155-157).
This transient life has no meaning if we do not understand its purpose. Each of us is here because Allah willed and death will certainly overtake each of us. Our prophets, most pious and beloved of Allah, also suffered calamities and sorrow and yet remained steadfast. Prophet Ayub (peace be upon him) said:
“What Allah has taken away from me belongs to Him. I was only its trustee for a while. He gives to whom He wills and withholds from whom He wills.”
When my Creator says that He never puts any burden on a soul that is beyond its ability to bear, who am I to argue otherwise?
“No burden do We place on any soul but that which it can bear.” (6:152)
Verse after verse of the Qur’an washed over me, driving away my despair and bringing solace. Today Alhamdulillah, I have two daughters and two very naughty sons.
Indeed which of the blessings of our Lord can we deny?
My younger daughter is forever in my thoughts. In her memory, I buy school books for needy children, give away new clothes, toys and shoes on Eid and it is always a wonder to see the smiles that light up those children. Though she is not with me in physical sense, I am very fortunate because there are many women who never experience the joy and miracle of giving birth. Allah has given me this joy and for this blessing I am truly grateful.
At times, I wonder what she would have looked like today. Wearing a pretty pink dress and her front teeth missing? Maybe bent over her school books doing homework? Sometimes I still cry but I have found peace and I know that Allah is never unjust and our trials are a test of our faith in Allah and in Qadr.
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Strange is the affair of the Mu’min, verily all his affairs are good for him. If something pleasing befalls him he thanks (Allah) and it becomes better for him. And if something harmful befalls him he is patient (Saabir) and it becomes better for him. And this is only for the Mu’mmin.”
My request to those who are reading my story is this. If you have parents or siblings or a caring spouse and children, if you have the ability to see, hear and do things with your own hands and if Allah has given you the means to enjoy comforts of life, please say a short prayer of gratitude to Allah every day.
Take some time to reflect upon the favors of Allah and thank Him as is His due.
“If you count the favors of Allah, never will you be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude.“ [Qur'an 14:34]
Do not be among those who are ungrateful and thankless.