I missed all but five fasts last Ramadan, and if this sounds like a shocking confession, you might want to try a survey of women to see how many of them have fasts to make up. Many young mothers struggle to make up dozens -if not hundreds- of fasts missed in the alternating cycles of pregnancy and breastfeeding. There are also people with medical conditions that prevent them from fasting entirely, and last year I was a little bit of both.
Ramadan 2012 the fasts in Dubai were 17 hours long and the weather was a daily average of around 45C. That’s 113 degrees in case you think in Fahrenheit, and it was sometimes higher, sometimes lower, but never anywhere below 100 degrees. I had a five month old baby to feed and two children to care for when I got a kidney infection that was exacerbated by dehydration. The spiritual bootstrapping that I had been looking forward to all year, every year, was brought to an end having barely begun -after just five fasts.
I felt guilty. I felt cheated. I felt resentful to yet again be sacrificing my personal spiritual goals to the never-ending demands of motherhood. Wasn’t it bad enough that I was struggling with Fajr and praying with one eye on the baby and less than half a heart in my duas? I’d been to less than a dozen Jumma prayers in the previous six years, was forgetting my longer surahs, and now I couldn’t fast either?
If I wasn’t fasting, then what was I supposed do for the rest of Ramadan?
I wasn’t sure, so for lack of an alternative, I sulked. In parallel, I put on a cheerful Momma-mask and tried to make Ramadan special for my children, but when the sun set on the last day and I realized that Ramadan was over, I cried. I wasn’t expecting to -and I certainly wasn’t planning to- but I was mourning.
I thought it was all gone: the spiritual high, the feeling of lightness that lets you float through hunger and thirst without your feet even touching the ground. I missed the opportunity to get close to Allah for that one month, when I had always struggled to find that closeness for the remainder of year. The sweetness of the first date after 17 hours of hunger, the life that the first sip of water brings to the body after thirst -it was lost. I thought my soul was a land of drought that was doomed to never again see rain.
Alhamdulillah, I was wrong. But it took me a while to realize that. In giving me children and health challenges, Allah wasn’t taking me out of the game, He was raising the bar. Think of it this way: it’s easy to clear a forest if you’ve got a chainsaw. But what if Allah takes the chainsaw away? Can you still clear the forest? If you want to badly enough, yes. Because fasting is a spiritual power tool, but it is not the only tool in the believer’s box.
If you’re not into religious metaphors for lumberjacks, then think of video games. When you were young and single and carefree, you could wake up and pray half the night, eat suhoor and read Qur’an until the sun rose. You could sleep after Dhuhr and spend as much time in the masjid as you wanted to because you were playing the game on easy mode. No kids, no job, nothing to stop you from using all the big guns in the game right from day one. Congratulations, you got a high score -but that was easy mode.
Play the game again, and this time put it into “Adult” mode -you get a full-time job so you can’t use tahajjud or long taraweeh to level up. There are way more baddies stomping around; family, work, and peers pulling you away from Allah, and the puzzles you’re required to solve to reach the next level are even more complicated. If you get a high score on adult mode, MashaAllah, good job. There are still harder levels, and “Mother” is one of them.
When you play Ramadan in “Mother” mode, you get one gun, one medikit, and only six bullets for the whole game. No sleep, rushed Fajr, no sitting peacefully before Iftar because you’re busy frying things. You’re pulling double shifts: the red-eye suhoor to taraweeh schedule, in addition to the 9-5 kids & school schedule. Try earning Ibadah points when you’re busy feeding people and struggling to get enough rest to survive another day. Try -just try- to find the time and the quiet to take your twisted, battle-hardened nafs and strip away the armor to find the softness of repentance inside. But try that later, because right now there are guests coming over so please make two dozen samosas.
Also, the baby is crying.
Oh, and the kids need help with their homework.
And can you please iron this? Thanks.
There’s a bright side. The greater the challenge, the greater the reward. In the same way that a person who struggles to read Qur’an is rewarded more than one who reads it without effort -the person who fasts with great difficulty will be rewarded more than one whose fast is easy.
If you’re a young mother and you’re frustrated with balancing maternal responsibilities and missing spiritual goals, you’re not alone. You should not be sad, you should actually be honored. Allah decided you’re ready to play on the next level, and your duties as a mother are not a distraction from the game, they’re actually part of the plot.
(Of course, it may also be part of the game to teach you to prioritise and downscale which Ramadan “traditions” are spiritually nourishing and which are spiritually sabotaging, but religious vs. cultural practices for Ramadan is a post for another day.)
To take it up another level, the one who fasts amidst difficulty and gets closer to Allah in Ramadan will be rewarded for their effort, but the one who Allah does not allow to fast –but achieves the same closeness- could be rewarded all the more for the greatness of that challenge. If you are someone to whom -for whatever medical reason- the door of fasting is closed, remember that the doors of tawakkul, Qu’ran, sabr, sadaqa, ihsan, and iman are still open and they all lead to the same place -nearness to Allah.
Instead of seeing your situation as a disadvantage, try to see it as the next level and thank Allah for the opportunity to play it. You will have to work harder, think faster, and plan better to be able to reach the same spiritual goals that everyone else is, but Allah challenges us directly in proportion to our abilities, so trust that Allah knows you’re up to it.
So, if your Ramadan game is on Hard Mode for whatever reason, here are some things you can do even if you can’t fast:
This is a given, but Muslims have an interesting relationship with Salah. If you’re not from among the blessed minority who love it, look forward to it, and perform it with Ihsan, then you probably do it because you should, and you may not be enthusiastic about doing more of it than you must. You might not be tremendously excited to hear that you should be praying more in Ramadan, but there’s a good reason for this.
“But prostrate yourself and draw near (unto Allah)” (Surah al-Alaq:19)
In a nutshell, not wanting to pray more indicates a distance from Allah, or having a heart that is yearning in a direction away from Allah. The solution? Pray more. Pray harder. Pray longer. The more you pray, the closer you get. Dua included.
Attend religious talks and classes, even if you normally never do and might otherwise not
Allah (glorified and exalted be He) has supernumerary angels who rove about seeking out gatherings in which Allah’s name is being invoked: they sit with them and fold their wings round each other, filling that which is between them and between the lowest heaven. When [the people in the gathering] depart, [the angels] ascend and rise up to heaven…
…Then He (Allah) says: I have forgiven them and I have bestowed upon them what they have asked for, and I have granted them sanctuary from that from which they asked protection.
He (the Prophet ) said: They say: O Lord, among them is so-and-so, a much sinning servant, who was merely passing by and sat down with them. He (the Prophet ) said: And He says: And to him [too] I have given forgiveness: he who sits with such people shall not suffer.
[Related by Muslim (also by al-Bukhari, at-Tirmidhi, and an-Nasa’i) Full version of the hadith available here: http://sunnah.com/qudsi40/14]
Share the blessings by sharing Iftar
Zaid ibn Khalid Al-Juhani reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever feeds a person who is breaking his fast will earn the same reward as his without anything being lessened from the reward of the fasting person.”
[Sunan At-Tirmidhi 807, Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to At-Tirmidhi]
Wrap yourself in mercy and surround yourself with angels by reading Qur’an in a masjid.
Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports as part of a longer hadith, from the Messenger of Allah that: “No people gather in a house of the houses of Allah reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves except that serenity descends upon them, mercy envelops them, the angels surround them, and Allah makes mention of them to those with Him.”
[Muslim (4867), Tirmidhi (1345), Abu Dawud (1243), Ibn Maja (221), Ahmad (7118), and others]
Replace your background noise with Qur’an.
While this is a good tip in general for reducing sins and helping detox your brain from the addiction of music, there is another benefit as well:
The Messenger of Allah has said: “The one who recites the Qur’an and the one who listens to it have an equal share in the reward.”
[Mustadrakul Wasa’il, Volume 1, Page 293]
Do Dhikr, and aim for quality over quantity
Rather than target saying a certain phrase a certain number of times and patting yourself on the back for it, pick something and say it once. Then, think about it. Understand it. Ponder over it. Blog about it if you must, but make sure your dhikr isn’t evaporating off your lips without ever reaching your heart. Remember that when you make mention of Allah, he is with you, and he mentions you. Let that sink in -if you even whisper Allah’s name to yourself, he whispers yours back.
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Prophet said:
Allah the Almighty said: “I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.
[Related by al-Buhkari, also by Muslim, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn-Majah]
There are many more ways that you can draw close to Allah during Ramadan other than fasting, in the same way that there are other tools for cutting down trees other than with a chainsaw. So, if you really want to make the most of Ramadan, and if you really want the emptiness of your stomach to put the sweet taste of faith on your tongue, then you’re going to have to work for it.
Are you game?
How To Be Positive In Hard Times
We all know that we should be grateful. And we definitely know that we should be certain that whatever happens is good for us as believers. However, when we are tested -as we inevitably are-, many of us crumble. Why is that? Why are we not able to ‘pass’ these tests, so to speak? Many of us after a tragedy become hapless, sad, depressed, angry, or bitter.
The essence lies in knowledge that is beneficial, and the best form of knowledge is that which an individual can apply to their day-to-day life on their own. Here are a few tips to increase your patience in hard times. Like building muscle at the gym, it takes time to exercise this habit, but becomes easier over time:
Unfortunately, stressful events are abundant in our lives. People under stress can find themselves falling into thinking errors. These thinking errors include -but are not limited to-: black and white thinking, mind-reading, self-criticism, negative filtering and catastrophizing. Together this can affect how we perceive reality. Next time you are tempted to make a catastrophe out of a situation, stop and ask your self two questions:
- Is this really a big deal in the larger scheme of things?
- Are there any positives in this situation?
Have a Realistic Perspective of Qadr:
Although it is part of our creed to believe in divine destiny, personal responsibility is still of importance and we cannot simply resign ourselves to fate; especially if we have some sort of influence over a situation.
Allah says in the Quran:
لَهُ مُعَقِّبَاتٌ مِّن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ يَحْفَظُونَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ ۗ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ ۚ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَالٍ
For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron. [Surah Ar-Ra’d;11]
This puts the responsibility on us to change ourselves. Notice the word, themselves. We are not responsible for events beyond our control. These events include the behavior of our spouses, the affinity of our children to the religion, the love in the hearts of people, the weather, the gender of our child (or how many we have), or even the amount of money we will earn in a lifetime -to name a few. Often we become stuck and focus on our conditions, rather than focusing on our own behavior.
Nourish Positive Thinking:
In order to be able to have a wise and calculated response to life’s events, we must learn to interpret these events in a way that assign positive meaning to all. Allah is after all, how we perceive Him to be. Shaytan interferes with this process through waswaas (interjecting thoughts that are based on negativity and falsehood). His goal is for the Muslim to despair in Allah’s mercy. The goal is not to be happy all the time; this is unrealistic. The goal is to think well of Allah as consistently as possible.
- Create a list of what you are grateful to Allah for daily.
- Remind yourself everyday of the positive aspects of situations when your mind falls to default negative thinking. Self-criticism will will only encourage you to take full responsibility for negative life events and become depressed, or at the opposite end take no responsibility whatsoever; either mind-set does not help us improve our self.
Remind yourself as well as others of the benefits of Positivity:
- On an individual level, once we begin to think positive about ourselves and our life, we become optimistic. This positivity will then also effect our perception of others. We become more forgiving, over-looking, and patient with others when we can see the positives in any situation.
- Increased rizk and feelings of well-being
- Reduced likelihood of reacting in a negative way to life’s events; increased patience.
- Increased likelihood of finding good opportunities in work, relationships and lifestyle.
- Higher energy levels and motivation to take on acts of khayr and benefit.
Practice self-care as a daily routine:
Our bodies have rights on us. Our souls have rights on us. Our family has rights on us. Allah has rights on us. Often, when there is an imbalance in one area, our whole being can sense it. This creates anger and resentment towards those around us and life in general.
- Take care of your body, feed it well and in moderation and exercise in a way that makes you feel relaxed.
- Pray your prayers, read the Quran, maintain the rights Allah and your own soul have on you.
- Take care of your tongue by avoiding back-biting and complaining.
- Take regular showers, comb your hair, brush your teeth, and wear clean clothes; even if you are at home.
- Take care of your mind by doing dhikr as much as possible and letting go consciously of ruminating on situations.
Do not over-rely on your emotions:
Our emotions are a product of our thoughts. Our thoughts can be affected by slight changes in the environment such as the weather, or even whether or not we have eaten or slept well.
كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” [Surah Al-Baqarah;216]
Ultimately, our perception can be manipulated by our thoughts, shaytan, and other factors. Allah is not limited in His perceptions due to stress, emotions, or circumstances and moods. Therefore, we should be humble to defer our judgements to Allah’s ever-lasting judgement. Far from naval gazing, the more we are aware of our internal perceptions, emotions, and motives, the more able we are to practice Islam in its full essence. Our forefathers understood this deeply, and would regularly engage in self-assessment which gives you a sense of understanding and control of your own thoughts, emotions and actions.
Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware
“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”
[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]
Mindful or Mind-full?
Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.
A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.
For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.
Autopilot to Aware
Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?
Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.
Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.
Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.
Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”
Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.
Real Life in the Present Moment
You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.
The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.
The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.
You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.
The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.
The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.
You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.
This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.
The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.
The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.
In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims
Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.
[Imam Al Ghazali]
Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah , refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.
Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.
- Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
- Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111
- “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx
To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.
Fall Apart: Be Weak to Find Strength in Allah
Growing up in Jeddah, every evening in Ramadan, we would pile into our car and whiz off to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers to Shoaibi Mosque and spend a few spell-bound hours under the reassuring baritones of Sheikh Abdullah Basfar. His beautiful voice became the anthem of my childhood in many ways but more than his voice, it was the building of tradition and memory that became ingrained in my system. By doing the same thing, day in, day out, year in, year out, my parents gave us a sense of stability and predictability that set the tone for our entire adolescence.
How that rhythm seeped into the very bones of who I am is something I am still discovering well into adulthood.
Last night, standing in my grandmother’s garden in Karachi, I experienced my first Taraweeh Khatam-e-Quran since leaving my parents home in Jeddah so many years ago. It is also, incidentally, my first Ramadan without both my parents, who last year seemingly decided they would much rather be together in Jannah than spend more time in this rubbish world and in quick succession, returned to their Maker, leaving me understandably grieving, awash in memories, struggling to steer my ship.
And so it was, that by the time the imam reached Surah Qadr, I was chokey. By Surah Kawthar, I had tears streaming down my face. And by the time the last three surahs, the comforting Quls, began, I was openly sobbing. Probably more openly than what is considered socially appropriate…but honestly, I was restraining myself. Because what I actually felt like doing was throwing my head back and howling up at the sky. Thankfully, I was flanked by women who knew, who understood, who with tears in their own eyes, let me be with my heaving shoulders and a chest that felt it would crack open under the weight of my emotions.
As the imam had recited surah after surah and the end of the Quran had approached, the ghosts of Ramadan Past had flooded into me and my body had remembered. It had remembered years and years of experiencing that same excitement, that same sense of weight as Sheikh Abdullah Basfar gently and methodically guided us over the course of the month through the Book of all books, that same uplifting, heartbreaking, momentous trepidation of offering something up to Him with the hope that He would bestow something shining in return.
Had this Book been revealed to a mountain, the mountain would have crumbled. You get a tiny glimpse of that weight when you complete a khatam. Here I am, Allah, here I am, in my little hole-y dinghy, with my itty bitty crumbs of ibaadah. Pliss to accept?
Back in Jeddah, after the khatam, we would pile back in the car and go for ice cream. Last night in Karachi, after the khatam, the Imam gave a short talk and in it he mentioned how we are encouraged to cry when conversing with Allah. We should beg and plead and insist and argue and tantrum with Him because He loves to be asked again and again. We live in a world of appropriateness, political correctness, carefully curated social media feeds and the necessity of putting our best, most polished face forwards at all times. How freeing then, that when we turn to our Lord, we are specifically instructed to abandon our sense of control. All the facades and the curtains are encouraged to be dropped away and we stand stripped to our souls in front of Him. In other words, He loves it when we fall apart. Which is exactly what I had just done.
Last night, I found myself wondering what exactly had I cried so hard over. Which tears were for Him and the desperate desire for His mercy? Which were for the loveliness of the Quran, the steadying rhythm of it, not just verse to verse but also, cover to cover? Which tears were for the already achey yearning of yet another Ramadan gone past? Which were for my breaking heart that has to soon face my first Eid day and all the days of my life without my beloved Mumma and Baba? Which tears were of gratitude that I get to stand on an odd night of the best time of the year, alongside some of my dearest people, in the courtyard of a house full of childhood memories, under the vast, inky, starry sky and standing there, I get to fall apart, freely, wholly, soul-satisfyingly?
And which tears were of a searingly humbling recognition, that I am so wildly privileged to have this faith of mine – the faith that promises if we navigate the choppy dunya waters right, we will be reunited with our loved ones in a beautiful, eternal place, that if we purposely, and repeatedly crumble under the weight of our belief in Him and His plans, our future is bright?
Today, I’m convinced that it doesn’t matter why I cried. Because here is what I do know:
1. “If Allah knows good in your hearts, He will give you better than what was taken from you…” (8:70)
2. “If Allah intends good for someone, then he afflicts him with trials.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
3. “Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
In losing my parents, I have drawn closer to Allah. And though I miss them dizzyingly, I am so thankful that through the childhood they gave me, through the anchoring to the Quran they gifted me with, through their own tears that I witnessed during those long-ago khatams in the Shoaibi Mosque in Jeddah, they left me with the knowledge that if in losing them, I have gained even an atom’s worth more of His pleasure, then that’s a pretty great bargain.
As a parent of three young ones myself, I’ve spent my days teaching my children: be strong, be strong, be strong. Stand tall, stay firm, be sturdy in the face of the distracting, crashing waves of the world. But now I know something just as important to teach them: be weak, be weak, be weak.
Crumble in front of Him, fall apart, break open so that His Light may enter and be the only thing to fill you. It’s not easy but it will be essential for your survival in the face of any loss, grief, trial and despair this world throws your way. It will help you, finger to tongue, always know which way the wind is blowing and which way to steer your ship. Straight in to the sun, always. To Jannah. Because how wondrous are the affairs of us Muslims that when it comes to our sorrows and our hopes, out there on the horizon of Allah’s wise plans, it all shimmers as one – The grief of what is, the memory of what was and brighter than both, the glittering, iridescent promise of what will be.