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‘Nabiha My Love’ – But a Person Is With the One Whom They Love

The following article was written by Abu Shoaib Ashmead Choat, a very dear family friend of ours. He visited Houston a few years ago and gave some talks there; he’s a graduate of the College of Hadith from Madinah and an active da’i in Trinidad (where he runs his own full-time Islamic school). His daughter Nabiha passed away last year, while still a teenager. She grew up in Madinah and memorized significant portions of the Quran. She was an active tajweed teacher in her native land of Trinidad.

After her tragic death, her father Abu Shoiab wrote up this beautiful article. I’ve asked his permission to post it.

Nabihah My Love

But a Person is With the One Whom They Love

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Even before we start to write about this glimpse into the life of our dear daughter, it is necessary to purify our intentions, hence the reason for the delay. This must not be for Shuhrah or fame or some Nahiha fan club, but it must be for, as Allah has said, “Ya ayyuha ladhina amanu itaqullaaha wabtaghoo ilayhil waseelah” (Oh you who believe fear Allah and seek out the means of approach to him). Great effort and attention must be paid in trying to purify our intentions and knowing precisely why we are doing this. It may be a wake up call for a lazy or sleepy Muslim. It may help someone to realize how short and fleeting this life is; how precious it is that we must take every opportunity to do good, no matter how small, and we must seek every opportunity to invite people to Allah and use all the resources available to us in that cause, even if that means the life and death of our dear baby.

How do we begin to describe the love of our life? If Allah had given us someone for one or two years and took her away, it would have been easier because of her short life. Or if she had been married with children and away from the home it would have softened the loss. But our baby girl was in the prime of her life, just at the age of marriage, and the decision is with the Lord of the universe. As our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said at the moment of his death, when he was given the choice to go or stay, “Balir-rafeequl-‘alaa, Balir-rafeequl-‘alaa – certainly the highest companionship, certainly the highest the companionship.”

It was late 2004 when Nabiha discovered a non-healing ulcer on her tongue which became exceedingly painful and was preventing her from eating. In March 2005, she had her first operation for the removal of the ulcer and a biopsy, which showed a presence of malignancy. In retrospect, when a Muslim is faced with the news of cancer, he begins to think of the options available to him. Seeking treatment and medical care is encouraged in the Sunnah (called: “at-tadaawee – seeking treatment”). So over the next two years, we followed the full gamut of treatment of up to seven or eight surgeries together with radiotherapy in far away India, a return there for a review, then on to chemotherapy back in Trinidad. Despite huge setbacks, we were to see the Hand of Allah in everything that challenged us. He tested us but walked us through to the very end. Allahumma laka wa minka; O Allah to you and from you. Laa malja’a minallahi illa ilayhi; There is no refuge from Allah, except in Him.

Our daughter, for those who know her, loved Qur’an and its fine recitation. And even before her loss of speech, she began to slowly lose the ability to pronounce key letters in the Arabic alphabet. She was taught recitation at the finest “Tahfeedh” in Medina, where Salman, the son of Shaikh Thubaytee, was taught. One could imagine the pain she felt, and I remembered her last great effort to recite Qur’an after radiotherapy on her return from India; a moment in time that will not be repeated. Her speech slowly started to dwindle, and with great pain, I heard her say the words of the Prophet Sulayman, “Rabbi Awzi’nee an Ashkura Ni’matakallati an’amta alayya wa ‘alaa waalidayya wa an ‘amala saalihan tardaahu wa adkhilnee bi rahmatika fee ‘ibadikas saaliheen.”

During radiotherapy in India, in early 2006, she and her mother looked for appropriate gifts for her father to no avail. She thought that the best gift would be to memorize Surat Maryam. Every morning she would memorize a portion, and, while clamped on the cold stainless steel slab in the radiotherapy center in Trivandrum, India, she would revise what she had learnt that morning. While the rays from the linear accelerator machine were destroying the tissue in her neck and jaw, and, in the later stages, even with blood spewing from her mouth, she would be revising Qur’an.

We still remember one morning after she returned, she was anxious to recite what she had memorized, knowing how I loved that Surah. She sobbed bitterly in torment, not being able to pronounce certain letters properly. Her mother rushed downstairs thinking something was seriously wrong… ‘nothing could be more agonizing to Nabiha than not being able to pronounce the words of Allah’.

For a few months we thought all was well, until Eid-ul-Fitr 2006. While I stood on the Mimbar, my daughter was at the hospital in Trinidad going through another painful procedure.

All throughout life, people are faced with situations in which they have options in dealing with them. We are sometimes faced with good news and sometimes with bad, but in Naibha’s case, it was rare to hear good news. From then on it was constantly downhill. The family was being faced with one piece of bad news after another. The wound only became worse; the swellings increased, but our daughter Nabiha would continue to stand at night in prayer. It was not as though she became suddenly pious with the onset of illness. Rather, Nabiha continued to sail smoothly without missing a beat on a path that she had always tread. How Allah has blessed us with this privilege. Her sister remembers when we lived in Madinah in the nineties, how she would wake at nights, saying that she went to the washroom and thinking that was a long p….!

For days she would not speak because of the difficulty and pain. When she could not give Dawah with her speech, her fingers did the talking. Constantly admonishing people, worldwide and inviting them to Islam. Two Jewish Americans who became Muslims are living testimony to what she did. As parents we are only now beginning to realize the full extent of the people she advised, admonished, assisted, and supported. What is nice, however, is that the full extent of her work will never be known and is best left to Al ‘Aleem. Sincerity is best measured when hidden from people’s eyes. As our Prophet (saw) said when he performed Hajj: “Allahumma laa ri’aa feehaa walaa sum’ah – O Allah, let there be no ostentation in it nor fame.”

Patience took on a special meaning for this young woman, seeing her life, her beauty, and her youth gradually taken away from her. There would be intense sadness and tears, but she bore her illness with dignity and with the full conviction that if this is what Allah wills, then so be it. Even close to the end I probably lost it when I said “bint, where do you get all this strength” and lifting the frail hand into the air she pointed upwards, a move that words cannot do justice. One remembers laughing then at the relief and contentment for having a child of such Iman and ‘Aqeedah.

The ulama say Patience is of three types:

  1. Patience on the obedience of Allah
  2. Patience in refraining from Allah’s disobedience
  3. Patience in enduring the painful trials form Allah.

Patience is easier in the third than in the first two. If a Muslim or a Kafir is faced with Cancer they both have to endure it but in the first two types we have choices either to obey Allah or disobey him. We hope and pray that in her moments of solitude and months quietness that our daughter was Dhaakiratullah katheeran – a woman who continued to remember Allah much.

Despite the great pain and trauma that we, the family, felt at times, we would say to Nabiha that we are a team and that we would never desert her, not even for a moment. In taking care of our ill child we did our very best, but we knew that one day the angels would take over and that that would be the day when our privilege and source of great blessings would come to an end. As we would shroud and perfume her lifeless body, so too we had the full assurance that the angels would be clothing and perfuming her Ruh.

Her body continued to emaciate and yet she showed extreme patience and courage. Her little body was battling the disease, but as Muslims we know that the body is just a shell… food for the worms of the grave. As a matter of fact, Allah showed us a glimpse of the breakdown of tissue and necrosis even before she left this world. (He showed us just what we could bear; her brother and I both acknowledge that we were about to reach the breaking point. How easy it is for Allah, Al Jabbaar, the One who Overwhelms.) It was a solemn reminder of the fate that each of our bodies will face. The eyes and whatever was little was left of her face remained shining like a beacon in the night, as though the cancer could not touch it. Again, we saw Allah’s ease in the battlefield.

When Nabiha died, her feet glowed almost luminously, to a point that it startled us. Those feet that walked Makkah and Madina and stumbled between Safa and Marwa while fasting in Ramadan. Those eyes that cried incessantly when Abdullah Juhani and Salah Budair recited in Taraweeh in the Prophet’s masjid. She would not miss her stars in recitation; not for the world.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) took this family and pushed it through wave upon wave of difficulty. Yet even with the difficulty was ease, smiles, comfort, and the security of knowing that even though He pushed us to the ends of world, He never left us on our own, but was constantly with us, protecting us and nurturing us. We discovered within ourselves, our capabilities for coping with crises we never imagined we could survive. It was easy to visualize a grotesque image of Nabiha once the cancer took over, but Allah has protected us and preserved our beautiful memories of our dear daughter.

When Nabiha died I, the father, was not present. He, Allah, placed me in the heart of the forest out of phone contact. Even when the family tried to call, I would not be accessible. Herein lies my test: Would I blame myself for not being present when she most needed me or will I totally accept the plan of Allah? Alhamduillallah, the one who was absent was able to console those who were present at her passing, and Allah knows whether I would be able to bear seeing her life leave her body.

People comment at our strength, but in truth we are exceedingly weak. He is our source of strength, and we fear to think how those who do not have Allah in their lives can manage? How do they live? How do they face the world and its trials?

Nabiha’s life for us now is a bitter-sweet experience. We fear that after her passing, the chasm between us and our Lord will increase, and we will become more distant. Yet, we dare not say, “O Allah bring on the next test,” for possibly the next test might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We only beg to stay close to Him and enjoy His sweet cuddliness; more than a mother can possibly show a child.

We would keeping telling her “my baby just as we helped your helpless body in this life, maybe Allah would allow you to help us on Yawmul Qiyamah.” You could not eat nor drink nor speak nor shift your head in those last few months, but on that Day, if we were to receive our book of deeds in our left hand, we would have no power to shift it to the right. What utter helplessness!

Nabiha, we love you dearly, but we love Allah more. Just as you loved us dearly, but you loved Allah more…… as you were trained. “And do not say of those who are killed in the path of Allah that they are dead, nay they are sustained by their Lord. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Bounty and rejoice for his sake for those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind that on them no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice in a Grace and a Bounty from Allah, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers.”

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Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.

62 Comments

62 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Asim

    June 25, 2008 at 2:41 AM

    SubhanAllah….what a moving story…

  2. Avatar

    Ibnkhalil

    June 25, 2008 at 3:06 AM

    Assalam o alaykum wa rahmatullah i wabarakatuhu. Inna lillah i wa inna ilayhi rajion. May Allah grant her Jannah and give her family patience.
    This is truly a touching story. Just now in our masjid we recieved news of a brother who passed away at a young age. Death of a loved one or someone near or dear to us reminds us of our fragility and weakness. We are powerless against Al-Qawi.

    Interestingly the author talks about how non-Muslims cope with the trials of the dunya. What is their source of peace? Alhamdulillah for Allah has guided us to Islam and made us put our trust in Him.

    BarakAllah o feekum for such a touching and eye opening article.

  3. Avatar

    Kul

    June 25, 2008 at 3:15 AM

    Dear Shaikh Yasir Qadhi

    Alhamdhu Lillahi and Thank you very much for the enlightening article. These are hard times for me after losing my loving and beautiful daughter at the tender age of twelve. I constantly pray to ALLAH to bless her soul in paradise and give us patience. I am so grieved by her loss and every second is a struggle for me. As the article said, I also wonder if ALLAH is not in my heart., How could I cope with the loss and this tribulation. May ALLAH subahaanahoo watha aalaa bless you in this life and the hereafter for all the good work that you do.

    kul

  4. Avatar

    Bint AbdelHamid

    June 25, 2008 at 5:20 AM

    Barak Allahu feekum for sharing such an amazing article. May Allah grant Nabiha the highest level of paradise, and instill in our hearts a love of the Qur’an as He, subhanahu wa ta’ala, instilled in hers.

  5. Avatar

    moon

    June 25, 2008 at 6:44 AM

    So That You Can Fly!

    A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day, a small opening appeared- he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours, as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly.

    He took a pair of scissors and snipped the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. However, something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shrivelled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly, expecting the wings to enlarge and expand at any moment to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and deformed wings. It was never able to fly.

    What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restriction cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the small opening of the cocoon are Allah’s (SWT) way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings, so that it would be ready for flight, once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Sometimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our life.

    If Allah (SWT) allowed us to go through all our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could. Not only that-we would never be able to fly.

  6. Avatar

    Aminah Muhammad

    June 25, 2008 at 6:49 AM

    Asalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatulahi Wa Baraktu,

    Barak Allahu Feekum. Inna lillahi wa inna illahi raji’oon. May Allah Subhaana Wa Ta’aala Forgive her sins, Have Mercy on her soul, enter her into jannah, and Grant patience to her family. Ameen.

    This is very touching.

  7. Avatar

    ExEx Blogger

    June 25, 2008 at 7:42 AM

    Excellent post!!

    May Allah forgive Nabiha and enter her into Firdaus Al-`Alaa.

  8. Avatar

    IbnAbbas

    June 25, 2008 at 8:14 AM

    Assalaamu a’alaikum.

    Subhaanallah… this is indeed incredibly touching. Jazakallahu khairan Sheikh Yasir for sharing it with us.

    Ameen to all the beautiful dua’s.

    Shows how weak and helpless we humans are.. and we still take our good health and life so much for granted.

    I am not a father but I know that only a father/mother would feel the heartbreaking moments of when loosing someone so dear. May Allah strengthen their Emaan and enter them into firdaus al a’la.

  9. Avatar

    MR

    June 25, 2008 at 8:28 AM

    …even with blood spewing from her mouth, she would be revising Qur’an.

    :-(

    May Allah (swt) grant her the highest jannah and re-unite her with her family. Ameen!

  10. Avatar

    Alima

    June 25, 2008 at 8:37 AM

    SubhanAllah, what a reminder!

    That touched me… :(

    May Allah swt grant her the highest level of Jannah and make her of those whom He swt is pleased with. Ameen.

  11. Avatar

    Musilmah

    June 25, 2008 at 10:55 AM

    JazakumAllahu khairan. That was a beautiful reminder and example of how we must live our life in order to attain a husn al-khaatima.
    May Allah ta’ala have mercy on our little sister Nabiha and on her family, ameen.

  12. Avatar

    Zahira

    June 25, 2008 at 12:23 PM

    SubhanAllah, may Allah give us this beautiful patience that the family had in this time of hardship. May Allah grant her Jannah Al Firdaws and her family inshaAllah. I am very touched by this and a reminder for the rewards of those who are so patient…

  13. Avatar

    nisa

    June 25, 2008 at 1:03 PM

    It touched me and reminded me of all the things we have and are ungratefule for.. Its a reminder to take advantage of our health before the illness comes, life before death comes and youth before old age. May Nabiha be granted jannat-ul-firdaus. Jazakallah khair sheikh for sharing this with us.

  14. Avatar

    Farhan

    June 25, 2008 at 1:06 PM

    wow, may Allah give her Jannah and all of the Muslims Jannah.

    The ulama say Patience is of three types:

    1. Patience on the obedience of Allah
    2. Patience in refraining from Allah’s disobedience
    3. Patience in enduring the painful trials form Allah.

    Patience is easier in the third than in the first two. If a Muslim or a Kafir is faced with Cancer they both have to endure it but in the first two types we have choices either to obey Allah or disobey him.

    With all due respect to the ‘Ulema, I don’t think that is right, at least not for me. The 3rd category can destroy a person’s Emaan. The first two rarely do, and become easy with time. After all, the stories of the Qur’an, Surah Yusuf for example, talk about a person going through category 3, not 1 or 2.

  15. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    June 25, 2008 at 3:31 PM

    SubhanAllah… what an amazing story. Ameen to the ad’iyah above, and may Allah let us also reach such a level as she did, and elevate us in the levels of Jannah, ameen!

  16. Avatar

    Asma

    June 25, 2008 at 4:32 PM

    May Allah grant her the highest level of janah Firdowsa Amen
    I ask Allah to grant us patience and have a good ending….

  17. Avatar

    Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    June 25, 2008 at 4:38 PM

    Jazzak Allaahu Khayr for this beautiful reminder.

    Farhan, Part of the dificulty with the first two types of sabr is that people are often lulled into a false sense of security and they forget that they are going through a trial. When hardship hits, everyone is aware that they are undergoing a trial. This is part of the reason why and Allaah knows best that our Prophet (saw) feared comfort and wealth for his ummah more so than poverty and want, although of course there is trials and testing in both states.

    Allaah knows best.

  18. Avatar

    Musilmah

    June 25, 2008 at 4:54 PM

    Brother Abu Noor explained it well. Also the story of Prophet Yusuf is really a striking of example of the first two categories of patience than the last (being good to brothers although they treated him poorly, obeying Allah despite fitnah of the wife of Azeez and not commiting zina, remaining steadfast to the command of conveying Tawheed despite being in prison, etc) although I can see why one would think it were an example of the third alone.

  19. Avatar

    Siraaj Muhammad

    June 25, 2008 at 5:24 PM

    May Allah subhaana wa ta’aala give your daughter the highest levels of Paradise, may He give her parents, strength, patience, ease, and wisdom with this difficulty, and I want to personally thank you for this story as it is an inspiration for me to raise my own standards of practice, and I hope insha’Allah, with my own family.

    Siraaj

  20. Avatar

    Mariam 3:36

    June 25, 2008 at 6:53 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaykum wa Rahmat Allah,

    Jazaakum Allahu khayran for sharing this–for reminding us about the destroyer of pleasures–and Ameen to all he du’aa for Nabiha and her family.

    “Nabiha’s life for us now is a bitter-sweet experience. We fear that after her passing, the chasm between us and our Lord will increase, and we will become more distant. Yet, we dare not say, “O Allah bring on the next test,” for possibly the next test might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

    SubhanAllah, I think many of us walk this line of wishing to maintain the closeness we feel during tests without the hardship of the test itself waAllahu a’alem. May Allah always bring us what is best and make us strong enough to face that which He decrees and to be content with it and react to it in a way that is pleasing to Him. Ameen.

    It is reported that the Prophet (sallah Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allah says to His angels when they take the soul of a person’s child, ‘You took the fruit of his heart.’ They (the angels) say, ‘Yes.’ So Allah says, “What did My slave say (upon that)?’ They say, ‘He praised you and made istirjaa’ (meaning he said, Inna lillaahi wa inna elayhi raji’oon’ – verily to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return). So Allah says, ‘Build for My slave a house in Paradise and name it the house of praise.'” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad in his musnad and graded hasan by Shaykh al-Albaani) as quoted in “Testing, Afflicaitons, and Calamities” by Dr. Saleh as-Saleh rahmat Allah ‘alayh.

    Indeed Allah is the most merciful!

  21. Avatar

    Anisa

    June 25, 2008 at 7:46 PM

    SubhanAllah….

    Ameen to duas,may Allah grant her and her parents jannah, ameen

  22. Avatar

    Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

    June 25, 2008 at 8:06 PM

    SubhânAllâh

  23. Avatar

    Hidaya

    June 25, 2008 at 9:39 PM

    Ya SubhanAllah….Ya Rabbi, grant her the highest level of Jannah for her beautiful Sabr!

  24. Avatar

    Kadijatu

    June 25, 2008 at 9:56 PM

    SubhanAllah, what a touching reminder!

    May Allah(Swt) grant Nabiha Jannat al-Firdaus, and may He grant her family patience, and may He keep us all steadfast. I pray that Allah(swt) makes us all humble, pious, sincere servants of His until our last breath. Ameen.

  25. Avatar

    bint Chiragh

    June 26, 2008 at 12:49 AM

    Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakaatuh,

    Inna Lillaahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Rajiyun Allahumma’ jurni fi muSeebati wakhlufli Khayran minha.” To Allah we belong and to Him is our return. O Allah recompense me for my affliction and replace it for me with something better.

    May Allah grant Nabiha Jannatul Firdaus and allow her to be joined there with her family. Reading this story truly touched my heart. It reminded me of my beloved father for I too lost my father Rahimahullah just a few months ago. I also was not present at his death and neither were any of our direct family members because he was traveling when he passed away. The regret and pain hurt us so much in the beginning for not being there near him when his soul left his body. But the words of Abu Shoaib were comforting. Indeed this is all a part of Allah’s Great Plan which we cannot alter. It was best for him and us not to be there when he left this duniya. Who knows if we could have tolerated seeing his lifeless body. As the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wasallam said when his son Ibrahim died, “Our eyes shed tears and our hearts are filled with grief, but we do not say anything except that by which Allah is pleased. O, Ibrahim we are sorrowful due to your separation.”

    Allah showed me the miracle of life and the reality of death in the same year. First with the birth of my first child in August last year and then with the death of my father in November. I felt such great joy and excitement seeing my little blessing in my arms with the birth of my daughter. But to remind me no to forget that this is all duniya, Allah showed me the importance of remembering the akhira by calling my father back to Him. Truly it seems death of a loved one is one of the hardest things to go through in life. I still never forget him every moment of everyday. But now that I have experienced the death of someone so dear to my heart, my parent someone I knew to be there for me my entire life, my perspective on the akhira has changed. I feel the closeness, the reality of it more knowing that my father must be somewhere now, knowing how he was taken in an instant and we had no idea he was about to go. It can happen to us. We can go to sleep in our beds one night and wake up to be in our graves. Death is real and we just live life thinking it will never touch us. A great scholar once said, “Death is the one thing about our future which we have no doubt will happen to us, yet we treat it as if it is the most doubtful thing to take place.”

    I pray we all can be like Nabiha in our patience, iman, and courage to battle and stand strong in the face of great tests from Allah. I pray we will be die with La Ilaaha Ilallaha as our last words and die with Islam in our hearts. May we remain steadfast in answering the questions in the grave and be saved from the punishment of the grave and torment of the fire. I pray we can stand patiently when we lose a parent or a child and accept the Qadr of Allah.

    May Allah grant my father and Nabiha Jannatul Firdaus and join us with them. May Allah expand their graves and allow us all to be under the shade of Allah’s Throne on the Last Day.

    Wa’assalaamu Alaykum,
    Bint Chiragh

  26. Avatar

    abuaisha

    June 26, 2008 at 1:25 AM

    my mom’s father died wihin 2 weeks of me being born subhanallah i cannot imagine what my mother must have gone through in such an ordeal. it is reflecting on situations like that, and seeing the pain and agony the parent feels for the child – that we see truly how short we fall in being good to our parents. may Allah give nabiha jannatul firdaws and unite her family with her in the akhirah.

  27. Avatar

    umu Meryam

    June 26, 2008 at 5:09 AM

    ina lilahi weina elihi rajeun wow, i cry a lot this morning as soon as i started reading this post life is full of surprise that is all i can say the thing that i relize is that in nebihas situwation , a lot of muslim die while singing dancing doing a lot of harm disobeying partent sosososo on when i hear this kind of death while reciting quran being a nice muslim i feel jealous and wanted mine to be in a nice why while obeying allha subhanehu weteal .
    inshall she will be in jenna and i wish for her family and for all muslim may alllha give us suber and iman ya reb

  28. Avatar

    Ibn Masood

    June 26, 2008 at 11:04 AM

    Inna Lillahi wa inna alayhi raji’oon.

    Jazakallahu Khair for a beautiful story. May Allah swt make it easy on sister Nabiha, widen her grave, and administer her into Jannatul-Firdaws.

  29. Pingback: Heart Softeners « iMuslim

  30. Avatar

    Nihal Khan

    June 26, 2008 at 8:01 PM

    “‘…nothing could be more agonizing to Nabiha than not being able to pronounce the words of Allah’.”

    She knew how to pronounce them but couldn’t….how about us people who don’t even make an effort…May Allah (SWT) have mercy on Nabeeha and ourselves. Ameen

  31. Avatar

    Alia Abuzaid

    June 27, 2008 at 4:34 AM

    In Allah etha ahbba abdn ebtlah,( If Allah loved someone he will test him) .I lost my father and mother in the same year ,it is the most painful experience i ever been through ,may Allah bless their soul and all muslims. It is hard to find the people that u most loved gone but this is Allah’s wish and we have only to accept his wish and pray to Allah to gather us all in Jannat Alferdaous, Allahm Ameeeen.This story is to remind us of the destroyer of pleasures( death). Allah yrhm Nabeha and all muslims and Allah yhdy kol shabab almuslemeen.

    Alia

  32. Avatar

    Azara

    June 27, 2008 at 6:50 AM

    May Allah SWT grant Nabiha the highest of Jannah, Ameen. Its been a year and 3 months since her death, yet for people who knew her it feels like it happened just a short while ago…
    I am glad I got to know her even if it was rather briefly, during the last year prior to her death and she was very nice sister. May Allah SWT preserve her family and reward them for their patience and this indeed is a reminder for all of us we dont know when our time is and we can die at any time be it when we are in our 20’s or even younger…

  33. Avatar

    UmmAbdullah

    June 27, 2008 at 1:38 PM

    Salaam Alaikum

    May Alllah bless her with Firdous.

  34. Avatar

    Fewthoughts

    June 27, 2008 at 6:08 PM

    Salam,

    This was a very moving, and an emotional narrative. May Allah ease their burden and grant us all good in this life and hereafter.

  35. Avatar

    Hannah

    June 28, 2008 at 10:37 AM

    hearing a speech might make me cry, but reading one never did until now.

    may Allah lift the load from the hearts of nabihas family and may they meet again in firdaus inshaAllah.

  36. Avatar

    Yasir Hilal

    June 29, 2008 at 1:21 AM

    Inna Lillahi wa inna alayhi raji’oon.
    May Allah give her family the sabr and strength to withstand the loss. This is yet another example that this world is temporary and a glimpse of the people we will live with for ever in the hereafter, inshAllah in Jannah.

    May Allah not test us for what we cannot bear.

    Wasalaam

  37. Avatar

    AbuZayd

    June 29, 2008 at 5:06 AM

    SubhanAllah… ina lilahi weina elihi rajeun. May Allah swt grant her the highest levels of Jannah, inshAllah.

  38. Avatar

    Ikhlaas

    June 29, 2008 at 4:12 PM

    Subhanallah, an extremely emotional account.

    The bit that really penetrated my heart was when the brother wrote:
    Even close to the end I probably lost it when I said “bint, where do you get all this strength” and lifting the frail hand into the air she pointed upwards, a move that words cannot do justice.

    She could not speak but as it famously said, actions speak louder than words, and Allah swt granted her the ability to demonstrate this. This sister is a role-model for us, she did not suddenly turn to religion after her illness but she continued in her sincere Ibaadah. Allah swt tests those whom He Loves, the severest of tests were for the prophets and so on while the mildest are for those weak in imaan. and I pray Allah swt makes us strong so that we too can maintain sabr like this beautiful sister did.

  39. Avatar

    Al Madrasi Al Hindee

    July 2, 2008 at 2:12 AM

    Subhanallah .

    What a moving account . May Allah grant Nabiha Jannathul Firdaus .

    May Allah give us the strength to bear the trials and tests he bestows on us .

    Jazakallahu khairan Ya Sheikh . May Allah grant you a high darajah amongst the scholars that will be raised on that DAY . Your articles and books and speeches have been a great source of inspiration for Muslims of this generation world over and not just the states , BI ithnillah .

    Wassalam
    Al Madrasi

  40. Avatar

    Sookoor Ali

    July 2, 2008 at 10:27 AM

    Assalaam u alaikum to all.

    Ashmead is my kid brother, and Nabsi (nabiha) was my beloved neice.

    One day I read for her Sura Hashr, and she said ” Unks, I am so proud of you, You dont know one word of Arabic, yet your recitation is very pleasing” what she meant was, I sounded like a frog jumping in a lake, She couldnt bear to hurt me by correcting me, yet she was a master of tajweed, May Allah give her Jannah, AMEEN

  41. Avatar

    vindicated

    July 2, 2008 at 11:37 AM

    Subhanallah.

    The way that people react in times of difficulty is a true test of character.

  42. Avatar

    Mohammad

    July 7, 2008 at 6:13 PM

    One of the lessons I take from this is, although this muslimah had a diseased mouth, her heart was healthy and she struggled to do dhikr with her tongue.
    As for us, our mouths are healthy but our hearts are diseased. Instead of our tongues being moistened with dhikr, they are engaged in sins…..

  43. Avatar

    LH

    July 9, 2008 at 2:56 AM

    May Allah bless Nabiha and grant her Jannah. Ameen.

  44. Avatar

    Jawharah

    July 15, 2008 at 7:42 PM

    Inna lillahi wa inna illayhi raji’oun. :cry:

    That was beautifully written and very touching.

    SubhanAllah, Nabiha’s patience and the patience of her family was amazing. Reading about how she made the most of their days in Madeenah is heart warming…

    Jazakallah khair for sharing Sheikh Abu Ammar.

    Ameen to all the duas.

  45. Avatar

    Shalima

    July 16, 2008 at 9:26 AM

    Assalam Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh….’Princess Eman’ as she was fondly called,was truly a beautiful sister…on the inside and on the outside.It was truly a blessing from Allah that I had her friendship and love…..even if it was for a short period…..

    When you were around nabzy…..u would be happy,excited and have so much fun(her enthusiasm was contagious)…but most importantly…she would NEVER leave your company…without taking your hand and bringing you closer to Allah…whether it was through advice,an ayah of Quran,an answer to a question,giving you a book,encouragement or even just the way she lived….was dawah!….

    Nabzy was the first sister that encouraged me to wear hijab…..and by the Grace and Mercy of Allah…she supported and advised me untill eventually,I did take that step Alhamdulillah!…..Even then her kindness did not stop:)….She showered me with gifts of hijab,abaya,jewellery and even a visit to my home to demonstrate how to tie the hijab properly SubhaanAllah!…(I was overwhelmed)…She was so excited for me…..I’ll never forget how happy she was that day! She was a true sister in Islam…..This is only one example of how wonderful this sister was…..only one small example…

    We can only pray and ask Allah to bless us with qualities similar to this….Her extremely strong faith in Allah,her contentment with His decree,her love for Allah and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him),this deen,her patience,her sincerity…..what a true sister in a world filled with deception…..she liked for others what she would have liked for herself.

    May Allah forgive her and reward her with the highest station in Paradise and May Allah continue to bless and protect her parents and family,Ameen.

  46. Avatar

    fatima

    July 23, 2008 at 10:03 AM

    Subhanallah, subhanallah, subhanallah!

  47. Avatar

    Jaffar Lone

    August 10, 2008 at 1:45 AM

    Asalam ‘u ‘Alaykum,

    Inna lillahe wainnna ilayhe rajoun

    May Allah forgive nabiha’s sins and give her a place in jannat al-firdous.

  48. Avatar

    Nabiha Abdul Karim

    August 24, 2008 at 12:29 PM

    Assalmualaikum to Nabiha’s father
    my father named me Nabiha and your letter moved me greatly Nabiha means pure and eminent your daughter was truly so. She has shown me what it is to be patient and strong and i thank you for your selfless act of telling us her story. Allah bless you with Jannatul Firdous. I hope you get this message

  49. Avatar

    true friend of nabiha

    September 20, 2008 at 5:23 AM

    Asalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatulahi Wa Baraktu,

    Barak Allahu Feekum. Inna lillahi wa inna illahi raji’oon.

    as a friend of nabiha me knowing her for few years we were as close as sister so me sayin friend is not right u can call us sisters,
    kept in touch with her while she was in india
    she was a wonderful person she never complained or question allah for the sickness that had over come her
    she always had trust in allah and alway told me in any difficulities just ture to our creator allah and he will help u cause he is the one that put u through it. i still treasure all her letters that she wrote to me from the day we met.
    it was really hard for me to accept the allah has taken her to a better place then this world but was happy for her at the same time.
    we shared n treasured lots of things we had trust in each other n could share all our deepest thoughts …….ect
    i really do miss her alot she is never out of my heart n my prayers so is her family .
    as for her love for the quran there is no way i can explain that her knowledge on deen was very good
    we aslway reminding each other to read a postion of quran daily n as for salaat too was very imp to us

    i can carry on but with all the emotions i will stop now

    may allah rant my sister the best of jannat an may her family and all those who were close unite with her in her beautiful place. ameeeen
    may allah grant us the love of the quran and the love for salaat n his deen
    ameen
    wasalam
    sister ifrom south africa

  50. Avatar

    Azan R. Khan

    October 17, 2008 at 9:00 AM

    Asalamu Alaikum Brother
    Your story was so moving. I read it while sitting in class and it literally brought tears to my eyes. May Allah SWT have mercy on your daughter, I hope that she breathes the sweet scents of jannat al firdous and may she recieve her book of deeds in her right hand.

    Wasalam

  51. Avatar

    AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 17, 2008 at 11:26 AM

    Innalhamdolillah! ‘Inna Lillahi wa inna ilahi raji’oon,’ and ‘Allahumma ujurnhum fi museebathum w’ukhluf lahum khayran minha’
    bismillah. my apologies if i did not change the suffixes appropriately in the dua.

    for an individual who has been tested with calamity, few examples are like those of this Imam. may Allah protect him, his family, and all of us from similar tests of our faith, and may He accept from them. ameen.

    the hadith of umm Salamah, radi Allaho anha, does come to mind though, and the dhikr she narrates was ‘Inna Lillahi wa inna ilahi raji’oon,’ then, ‘Allahumma ujurni fi museebati w’ukhluf li khayran minha.’ (the text i use was reported here.)

    and the promise of Allah is always True and always Fulfilled.

    jazak Allah khayr for this article.

  52. Avatar

    AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 17, 2008 at 11:41 AM

    bismillah. MM, maybe we need a full-time category called “heart softeners” in which articles like this one can serve as reminders to all of us in times of trial or self-doubt.

  53. Avatar

    om Anas

    November 17, 2008 at 10:35 PM


    assalamu alaikum wa rahmatu’Allahe wa barakaatuhu
    i don’t know how to start,i feel what you feel,i know what does it mean to loose a child,mine was 16 when he passed away,Yassir Qadi talked to him in the phone,i remember his word when sheikh told him do you know me?he replied yes of course i always listen to your lessons.he lost his buttle with cancer last year in december.almost all the community knew him and his story here in houston,his name is Anas,but u know the difference between us and you is that we,me and his father, were next to him when his soul travel to Allah,and when his tongue was saying shahada,it was hard to see him go but i know he was going to the most generous,i didn’t show him that i was sad when he was going,any way,u know they are there we can not say anything where they are,we only ask Allah to bless their sole and give them the best that a mo’omin can ask from his lord.

  54. Amad

    Amad

    November 18, 2008 at 9:33 AM

    asa Sister Om Anas, I am really sorry to hear about your loss. I can only imagine how it must have felt. I applaud your patience and perseverence. May Allah forgive all your sins for your sufferings, and reunite your family with Anas in jannat ul firdaus.

  55. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    November 18, 2008 at 9:55 AM

    Om Anas,

    I remember Anas very well. I found him to be a brave boy; I had tears in my eyes after I hung up the phone because of the bravery that I heard in his voice, knowing his fate yet putting his trust in Allah.

    May Allah accept your patience and grant you and your family much reward for all that you have suffered, and may He place Anas in His highest Jannat, Ameen!

    Yasir

  56. Avatar

    ali choate

    April 4, 2009 at 11:58 AM

    I am the uncle who visited her in her real surrondings in medina and trinidad and happy to say
    this child is a lover of ALLAH and his beloved prophet,sixty three years old and i never met someone, that young that rekindles the flame of islam in people like me , i cried when i saw her but left laughing when she answered my
    questions on life and death,i make sincere duas for her every salaat and beg ALLAH subhanahoowataalla to grant her the wish of all muslims jannahfirdous ameen .
    uncleALI

  57. Avatar

    Megan Wyatt

    June 28, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    Bismillah

    Thank you for posting this. Every time I read a story like this, I am reminded
    that it’s not just the “people of the past” in the Seerah texts who were amazing
    Muslims. We recount the history of early generations of Muslims with feelings of
    “where are the muslims like THAT today?” (not denying the special place of the
    Sahabah of course)

    And then we realize, if we talk to enough people, that they are all around us. But
    because their stories aren’t part of “history in the making” we don’t hear about it.
    And this piece is a beautiful example and reminder that the awliya of Allah are
    many, may Allah grant us all Jannatul Firdous and to be amongst them.

    When I recently watched this long uncut video if the turkish ship in the flotilla,
    I was in tears, because I watched as a few men on a ship, a SHIP, were praying
    qiyam al-layl, and then it showed the athan at fajr – over the ocean (just the fact it
    was on the ocean made me feel wow… that would be a new experience for me)
    and then watched as they prayed fajr. And with all their du’a, soon after, came such
    a great test from Allah, because it’s not long before the opposing ships arrived
    and began shooting at this ship. A ship that was floating with people having just
    sat making thikr of Allah,…then men bleeding, reciting the shahadah, and then
    passing away.

    Anyhow… I appreciate that the sheikh reminded us of purifying intentions before
    sharing the beginning of this story, but I am also grateful that this story was shared,.

    May Allah have mercy on Nabiha and her family, and grant them Jannatul Firdous. Ameen.

  58. Avatar

    Farweez

    June 28, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum
    it indeed overwhelms me. it was a lesson when i most needed it. May Allah reward you with the highest Jannah for changing the way I was looking at things even at this very moment and may Allah reward your daughter with Al firdaus for her patience and forbearance.

  59. Avatar

    UmmuYahya Sultaanah

    June 23, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    Assaaamu alaikum. My name is Sultana and i met nabeeha through her cousin who was my friend since were were 13 going to high school together. Anyway, nabeeha was there for me showing me islaam through her example as sisShalima said and she never left my side. We spent soo much time together and her life was dawah not just her words.
    I was fortunate to know her, to be loved by her and to be chosen by her as a companion and sister in islaam. Sad to say there are no sisters like her today that ive met. Nabeeha stuc like glue, and thats what i loved most.
    In her last years we grew distant. Myself and shaytaan to blame, but contrary to what ppl thought,i never stopped loving her and i always remembered EVERYTHING with her. Till today, i was telling my husband, there ist a day that goes by that i dont think of nabeeha and wish i could hear her voice again. Allaahknows i wish to be reunited with her in jannah Ameen.
    May Allaah forgive her and me, make her grave spacious, bright with nur and fill it with the scent of jannah, and may He raise her and her fam and me and my fam to jannatul firdous Ameen!!

  60. Avatar

    Aunty Zalie

    January 11, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Thank you Brother for this true and blessed life and death story of my Niece Nabiha Choate…I am the big sister of her dad, Ashmead Choate, whilst he is and was the baby in the family…I was at Nabiha’s bedside until she leave us…was her wish and I had to be there..I live in Canada and quit everything for her my loving niece and blessed child…I’ve got this here just by chance being on the internet clicking on choat’s and there this beautiful page of choice I’ve found…I was told about this but too busy until now..a retiree…THE WORDS HERE IN YOUR PAGE IS ALL THE TRUTH BECAUSE I WAS THERE AND EVERYONE HAD TO ANSWER TO ME BEFORE THEY ENTER THAT HOUSE…NABIHA HAD A LIST FOR ME WHOM SHE WILL AND WILL NOT SEE…AS SHE WAS DETERIOATING BODILY SO FAST AND UNABLE TO SPEAK AND EVEN WRITE NOTES ANYMORE…MAY ALLAH BLESS U BROTHER FOR ALL YOUR BLESSED TRUE WORDS OF WISDOM HERE AND SALAAM..THANKS FOR THIS…sister Zalina Ali Narinesingh…in Canada

    • Avatar

      waliyah abdullah

      June 23, 2014 at 6:56 PM

      May Allah make it easy for the entire family.

  61. Avatar

    waliyah abdullah

    June 23, 2014 at 6:52 PM

    Assalaamu Alaikum. I would often hear Shaykh Ashmead Choat talk about his beloved daughter with such love. Its a parents worst nightmare to lose their child. Very touching story indeed.

    Ya Rabb, reunite this father (and family) with his beloved daughter in Jannah.

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Coronavirus

Alternative Eid Celebrations In The Midst Of A Pandemic

“Eid-al-Quarantine” is what my sister has so fondly dubbed our upcoming Eid al Fitr this year. I find myself asking, “How are we going to make Eid a fun and special celebration this year in the midst of a dangerous pandemic?” With a little bit of creativity and resourcefulness, this Eid can be fun–no matter the current circumstances. This post will provide you with some inspiration to get your alternative Eid preparations underway! 

Special note: Shelter-in-place restrictions are lessening in many places in the United States, but this does not give us the green light to go back to life as normal and celebrate Eid in the ways we usually would have in the past. I am no health expert, but my sincerest wish for all Muslims throughout the world is that we all err on the side of caution and maintain rigorous precautions.

In-person gatherings are going to be much riskier in light of public health safety concerns. I do not recommend that people get together this Eid. Keep in mind, as well, that this is a big weekend for all Americans, as it is Memorial Day Weekend and crowds may be expected in places like parks and beaches. 

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Eid Day Must’s

Just because you are staying in, doesn’t mean that all of the Eid traditions have to go. Some may be exactly the same, some may be slightly adjusted this year. 

  • Get dressed up, even if it’s just for an hour or two. This might be a good chance to do hair and make up for sisters who normally don’t on Eid because of hijab or other modesty concerns. 
  • Take your family pictures, as usual. 
  • Decorate your house, even if it’s just with some fresh flowers in a vase or hanging up some string lights. (This time, I think sharing pictures of your setup may  have some more wiggle room.)
  • Find a way to pray Eid salah at home, if your local imam mentions a way to adapt for the current situation or check out this MM article
  • Eat some good food, and make sure to feast. 
  • Take that infamous Eid nap. 
  • Greet loved ones (phone calls, video calls, text messages, voice/video messages, make and send Eid cards).
  • Give and receive gifts. (Electronic ways to transfer money/checks in the mail, dropping off gifts to homes/sending gifts in the mail/having an online order pick-up in-store. You may also choose to do a gift exchange, if not this weekend, next). 

Virtual Parties

Virtual celebrations are a great, safe, option. The best thing about virtual hangouts is that people from all over the world can “come together” to celebrate Eid. This can be as simple as talking and catching up, or can be as orchestrated as a full-out party including games. Keep in mind, the games and virtual parties aren’t only for the kids–everyone should have fun this Eid! We recently threw a virtual birthday party for our one-year-old and it was quite the experience. 

  • Split guests into different calls (kids’ call, adults’ call; men’s call, women’s call)
  • Party agenda for a rigorously planned party so everyone knows what to expect
  • Party games, either with certain items that everyone has (or can easily and quickly purchase) or games that do not require much else besides an internet connection 
    • Games requiring physical items (think of items that everyone is likely to have and think of carnival-type games):
      • Soccer ball juggling or basketball shooting competition
      • Water balloon toss
      • Timed races (three-legged, holding an egg in a spoon, etc.)
    • Games with little to no special equipment
      • Online Pictionary https://skribbl.io/
      • Online Scrabble
      • Video games
      • Charades
      • Taboo (we do this for our cousin game nights with pictures of cards that one person sends to people from the opposite team)
      • Scattergories
      • Bingo
      • Mad libs
      • Speaking games that take turns going around a circle (going through the alphabet saying names of animals or colors or foods, rhyming words [we played the last two lines of “Down by the Bay” for our son’s birthday party])
      • Movement game (Simon says, dancing if you’re into that [“Cha Cha Slide,” dance-off, passing along dance moves as was a TikTok trend I heard of, simply dancing…])
      • Games like in Whose Line is it Anyway? or like the “Olympics” (specifically the “middle games”) that I wrote about way back
  • Performances
    • Skits prepared by one family or even across households
    • Reciting a poem or surah or singing
    • Other showcases of talent, by individuals or not
  • Gift Exchanges (I’ve been doing this virtually since 2013 with friends/distant family members.)

Alternative Virtual/Group Celebrations

Being “together” isn’t always gathering for a party, and that’s what I think most people miss during the forced isolation caused by the pandemic. There are many things you can do to get ready for or celebrate Eid with loved ones even if you’re not together. 

  • Share special recipes with each other or plan to serve the same meals.
  • Coordinate Eid outfits or attempt to do matching henna designs.
  • Send Eid pictures to family and friends.
  • Prepare and cook meals or clean or decorate while on a video call (you don’t have to be talking the entire time).
  • Watch the same movie or show (whether that’s something everyone does as separate households or you do concurrently/even with a video or phone call running. This might be a good time to watch Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King” and do the 10 things it invites us to do.)
  • Go through family pictures or old videos together. Maybe even create a short slideshow/video of your favorites. 
  • Story time full of family legends and epic moments (the best Eid, a difficult time of sickness, immigration or moving story, new baby in the family, etc.). Someone build the fire and get the s’mores going.

Alternative “Outings”

In the same breath, it’s so refreshing to go out and do something fun, not just stay cooped up in your house, right? Seriously. 

  • Check out a virtual museum tour
  • Go on a nice drive to some place you love or miss going to, like drive by the masjid or school or a beautiful area (but stay in your car if there are other people around)
  • Watch an Eid Khutbah (or a regular one) on Eid day (make it special by listening outside in your yard or as a family where you pray).
  • Create a movie theater experience inside the home (that might just mean some popcorn and homemade slushies).
  • Get carry out from a favorite restaurant (if it’s open), and finally have the motivation to take a longer drive if needed
  • Make fruit or gift baskets for friends and family and drop them off at their homes
  • A “paint night,” or some other craft, that everyone in the family participates in
  • Decorate your car and drive around to show it off to friends (I’ve heard there’s an actual Eid car parade at various masaajid in Chicago

Interesting Alternative Community Celebrations I’ve Heard About

Some communities are getting super creative. As I mentioned above, a handful of masaajid in Chicago (Orland Park Prayer Center, Mosque Foundation, and Islamic Center of Wheaton as well as Dar Al Taqwa in Maryland) are putting together Eid drive-thru car parades. I’ve heard of different communities, whether officially sponsored by the masjid or just put together by groups of individuals, having a drive-in Eid salah, in which families pray in their cars in a rented drive-in theater or parking lot (Champaign, Illinois and a community in Maryland). I’m  definitely impressed with that last option, and I’m waiting to hear about more creative ways to get together and worship and celebrate.

So, what am I doing for Eid (weekend) this year? All the must’s, inshaAllah, including getting extra dolled up and making donuts from biscuit dough. A “game night” (virtual party) with alumni from my MSA. A gift exchange party with my cousins as well as another gift exchange party with classmates from my Arabic program (we’ll send unboxing videos out instead of meeting at the same time.) Check out a local college campus we’ve been dying to drive around. Binge a few episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender newly released on Netflix and do some online Memorial Day sale shopping. Le’s put a tentative on all of those, haha.

At the end of the day, Eid al Fitr is about acknowledging the month of worship we engaged in during Ramadan and spending quality time with loved ones. It doesn’t really matter what that quality time looks like–as long as it is intentional, this Eid will be special no matter what, inshaAllah. Who knows, this might be one of the best, most memorable holidays ever!

Eid Mubarak!

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#Society

COVID-19: A Muslim Perspective on Incarceration and Emancipation During A Public Health Crisis

prison

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has brought new challenges to society that demand solutions.  One such dilemma that has emerged is the spread of the novel coronavirus amongst prison populations and staff.

In Maryland, for example, there are over 200 coronavirus cases reported in the Maryland Prison system.  In New York, according to the Wall Street Journal, more than 800 city correction employees have tested positive for Covid-19, and eight have died.  Also, 1,200 inmates have tested positive and there have been at least 10 deaths from COVID-19.

Alarming reports such as these across the nation have sparked a response by the government to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the prison population and among correctional employees.

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In Washington, for example, the governor has commuted approximately 300 sentences, and over 40 prisoners have received work release furloughs.  Around the country, many low-level and non-violent offenders have been released.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, around 300 prisoners have been released in Orange County, Florida. Over 100 inmates have been released from prisons in Nevada and Alabama; 531 people have been released in Philadelphia, PA, and 1,000 prisoners are slated to be released from New Jersey prisons. Similar efforts underway in most states across the country.

In Maryland, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has been at the forefront of the effort to reduce the prison population at-risk for coronavirus, and on Sunday, April 19th, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order granting early release to hundreds of inmates to reduce the spread of the disease.

The ripple effect of such efforts are having an impact globally. According to reports, Poland has announced plans to release up to 12,000 convicts, and Iran has already released close to 80,000 prisoners.

UN experts have urged action, including Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who stated,

“In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so.  The consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic.”

What should inform the Muslim community’s position?

This Ramadan, as we seek to uphold these principles in our daily activities, Muslims cannot neglect prisoners’ rights.Click To Tweet

Following in the example of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the noble qualities of justice, mercy and compassion must be factored into the equation.

He said: “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” (Tirmidhi 1924).

According to a different hadith, or recorded narration of Prophetic sayings, he said: “Allah does not show mercy to those who do not show mercy to people.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

As Imam Omar Suleiman, founder of Yaqeen Institute, stated in part on the Poor People’s Campaign Appeal on Twitter on April 20, 2020:

“Ramadan is a time of fasting and sacrifice to clarify what is necessary and just. It is right and just that protections are enacted for people in mental health facilities, prisons and juvenile detention centers, especially supplies, personnel, testing and treatment. This includes the release of all at risk populations and non-violent offenders and detainees. There are 2.3 million incarcerated people and over 52,000 people in detention centers.”

Conditions in most prisons today clearly create an unsafe environment with regards to the elevated risk of infection with the novel coronavirus.  Releasing low-level, non-violent offenders who are most at risk is an act of Prophetic mercy.

As stated in the Holy Quran: if anyone saves one life, it’s as if they had saved all of mankind. (Surah Ma’idah 5:32).  Saving one non-violent offender from the contagion of Covid-19 in prison may not seem significant in the grand scheme of things, but that act of mercy and compassion reverberates and impacts on greater society.   

In Islamic law, or shariah, maqasid (aims or purposes) and maslaha (welfare or public interest) are two doctrines that inform rulings by jurists.

Maslahah “consist of the five essential values (al-daruriyyat al-khamsah) namely religion, life, intellect, lineage and property.  In this case, it serves the public interest to attempt to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus, thereby furthering preservation of life.

Our country’s broken criminal justice system is in desperate need of restorative measures. Prison is not a place where a civilized society can stow away prisoners, discard the key, and forget about them. Click To Tweet

Prisoners are entitled to basic human rights. To this effect, it is documented that as Caliph, the beloved cousin of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Ali ibn Abi Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), used to inspect the prisons, meet the prisoners in them and inquire about their circumstances.

The urgency of the principles of mercy and preservation of life need to be a priority for those entrusted with the authority to make a difference in the lives of the many low-level, non-violent offenders that find themselves caught in the sinuous vice grip of the penal system.

This Ramadan, as we seek to uphold these principles in our daily activities, Muslims cannot neglect prisoners’ rights.

We must make a difference where we can.

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Cultivating Spirituality in a COVID-19 Ramadan

“One of the seven given shade on the Day of Judgment is the man who remembered Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in private and so his eyes shed tears” [Sahih Bukhari]

Ramadan has arrived, and this year, along with a lot of uncertainty for many of us. The Family & Youth Institute (FYI) conducted a survey to better understand the spiritual and community needs of Muslim Americans during this Ramadan. Based on these findings, the primary concerns of American Muslims were found to center around the spiritual growth and connection we associate so much with the community/masjid.

Many of us will miss the social gatherings at iftar time. Men and women who regularly pray at the masjid in congregation will now pray in their homes, alone, or with their families. Youth who find their spiritual high at youth iftars and qiyams with their mentors must find another way to meet this need. Revert Muslims who may not have Muslim families to celebrate with, and as a result rely on the greater Muslim community to experience Ramadan, will need another way to fulfill the feeling of togetherness and seeking knowledge.

We need to recognize that we can take steps to reduce our anxiety and take control of this new Ramadan so that we can enjoy and benefit from it! The tips we’ve outlined below can be found in much greater detail in The Family and Youth Institute’s (The FYI) Covid-19 Ramadan Toolkit!

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The central place of spiritual connection and growth has shifted from the masjid back to the home. So how can we motivate ourselves to feel the spiritual high of Ramadan from our homes? Here are some ways to make the best of our Ramadan that we can benefit from:

 

Know that the masjid misses us as much as we miss it.

It is missing Quranic recitation, people giving sadaqah, the barakah of people worshipping Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and more. For more on this topic, check out this webinar by The FYI’s Community Educator, Duaa Haggag, about how to keep the masjid alive in our hearts during this month.

Bring the Ramadan feel to your home. 

Now, more than ever, is a time to create a Ramadan home environment that appeals to all of our senses. Many of us do this already if we have children, but now is the time to also do this for ourselves, as adults. This can be done by putting up Islamic visuals (books, decorations), light traditional fragrances you associate with Ramadan, playing your favorite nasheeds, eating traditional foods for Iftar, and so on. These smells, sounds, tastes, and sights will reactivate the feeling you associate with Ramadan, even when you can’t be connected with your community.

Create a spiritual or masjid atmosphere within your home by trying some of the following: 

  • Make a space in your home for yourself where you will pray, read Quran, make du’a, and/or reflect. Have a Quran, dhikr beads, du’a journal/book, and prayer rug easily available for use. Take pictures of your spaces and share them with your friends to encourage each other
  • Mimic the masjid feel by ensuring that the adhan can be heard aloud in the house at all five times of the day
  • If you typically go to the masjid to pray the obligatory prayers, continue to pray at the time of congregation according to your local masjid’s congregation schedule. Lead your family in prayer at these specific times. This encourages you and your family to pray on time while feeling connected to your masjid. If you long to hear the Quran being recited, set that up in your space
  • If you have children, family togetherness will be even more important during this time. Check out the Family Bonding section of The FYI’s Covid-19 Ramadan Toolkit for many more practical tips and strategies

Create a special routine for Jumu’ah within the home.

Take the time to research the sunnah practices of Rasulullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and find creative ways to do them. Here are some other things to try:

  • Use this as an opportunity to learn the etiquettes of and practice giving khutbahs
  • Have a post-Jumu’ah halaqa or listen to one of the many online lectures being shared to maintain the connection
  • While you may not be able to physically go to the masjid for Jumu’ah, you CAN complete the other sunnahs that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) practiced
  • After Jumu’ah is a time when many of us would meet up and catch up with our family and friends. Host a post-Jumu’ah virtual session and share with your family and friends so you can still catch up and meet with them after Jumu’ah
  • Remind yourselves of the blessings and rewards Jumu’ah brings, even if it can’t be done as a community

Revive the Sunnah of praying Taraweeh in the home.

Learn about how praying taraweeh at home was how our beloved Rasulullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and Sahabis prayed it. Remind yourself that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is still waiting to reward you and listen to your supplications; that hasn’t changed. Set up virtual connections with friends or family during taraweeh time. You may not be able to pray together but this will help you connect to the same feeling you had in past Ramadans. Re-frame how we feel about a taraweeh at home. Consider our situation as an invitation to spend alone time (khalwa) with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Structure your Day

Now that we are in quarantine, it’s the perfect opportunity to slow down and focus on making the best of the month of Ramadan. Making a schedule allows you to keep a consistent routine while ensuring that your spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and social needs are all being met each day. There will be days when it is hard to follow the schedule, so be gentle with yourself and allow those days to happen.

  • Start your day with a morning virtual group that recites morning du’a and surahs
  • Designate times to recite your favorite dhikr, du’a, and recitation of the Quran
  • Start a gratitude journal writing at least 3 things you are grateful for each day.  Then when supplicating to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), thank Him for these blessings
  • Plan to listen to a weekly lecture/talk that is live, either with organizations or with your local mosque. Set it up on your TV for the whole family to watch together
  • Celebrate iftar preparation; make it a family affair! Challenge the children to set the table based on different themes and take pictures of it
  • Pick the days you will call a family member, neighbor, or elderly person during the week.
  • Make sure to set time for physical activity: Take a walk outside with the family or let your kids pick a sport to play with you after work hours are over
  • If you have children, refer to the Family Bonding section of The FYI’s Covid-19 Ramadan Toolkit to create a schedule with them

Minimize technology

Disengage with technology in order to engage with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

  • Be intentional with how you are using technology and how much you are using it; use it to connect with others, not just to scroll through feeds
  • Set and enforce a Ramadan Family Media contract
  • Monitoring how much we use technology is just as important as monitoring our children’s usage. Refer to The FYI’s Digital Parenting Toolkit for much more resources on properly engaging with media

Quran

We know the month of Ramadan is the month of Quran; though how can we live this during the times we are facing now? Prophethood began when the first revelation came to our beloved Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he was in a state of khalwa, or isolation. While we will miss listening to the Quran being recited by the qari every night in taraweeh, we can still keep the Quran wet on our tongues and ears. Try these strategies:

  • Make time for reading and reflecting on the meaning of the Quran– set SMART goals
  • If you have young children and find it challenging to find the time to sit and read the Quran, consider playing it while preparing iftar or taking care of the kids
  • Have a Quran competition within your family or with friends to see who can read the most pages by the end of the month
  • Engage children with the Quran by teaching them stories of the Prophets, reading Surat ul-Qadr, or Al-Alaq
  • Join or start a Quran recitation group where the Quran is being recited
  • Gather some friends that keep you accountable for your Quran goal.  Do a daily check in on a group text when you meet your goal

Du’a

During this unpredictable time, the power of du’a can bring hope by supplicating to our Creator.  It is also a chance for healing and developing good habits. This Ramadan, be intentional about the du’a you choose to recite considering your current circumstances.

  • Make a du’a journal with a list of important du’as to recite during Ramadan. Choose from the common du’as recited by the previous prophets, including Prophet Muhammed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and your personalized du’a
  • Choose specific times of the day that you will read these du’a such as during tahajjud, right before iftar, or after a salah
  • Involve your children by asking them to make a list of the important people in their lives they want to pray for and share the list with each other. This not only encourages you to be reflective of your physical and emotional needs, but also reminds us of the One who can meet those needs.
  • Start a text group where each person types in one du’a per day on the group and everyone makes the same du’a for each other

It is an understatement that this Ramadan will be an entirely new experience for the Ummah.  While we will miss the spiritual traditions we enjoy every Ramadan, this year is an opportunity to cultivate new traditions.  The opportunities to catch the blessings of Ramadan are not lost; it just looks different this year. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is so Merciful that he will accept our worship for Him wherever we are.  Ask yourself what spiritual acts draw you closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and structure it in your day whether you are working inside or outside of the home.

For much more information on other ways to take advantage of a Covid-19 Ramadan, be sure to explore The FYI’s COVID-19 Ramadan Toolkit

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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