The Gift of Iddah

A part of me died four months and ten days ago.

But, alhamdulillah, it wasn’t hope. It wasn’t courage. And it definitely wasn’t faith and trust in my Lord’s perfect plan.

 The call that changed everything

The call woke me before Fajr. My heart stopped as I tried to recognize the number on the screen. A blank. But when I answered the phone and heard the familiar voice of the doctor on the other side, I prepared myself for the worst.

And the worst came: heart stopped beating, CPR attempted for 30 minutes, no hope.

‘JazakAllahu khairan,’ I whispered hoarsely before cutting off the call. Then I immediately rose from the bed and fell into sujood of shukr. Alhamdulillah.

It was the moment I had dreaded but also a moment I had been preparing myself for, ever since a sister, who had come to visit me at the hospital, had told me the story of a husband and wife whose daughter was desperately ill. Every time they came to the hospital, the doctors would tell them more reasons why she was not going to make it. And, at every visit, the father would turn to his wife and said, ‘Don’t forget.’

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This continued for several days, the doctors predicting the worst, and the husband reminding his wife not to forget, until the day they arrived and were given the news that would break any parent’s heart: their daughter had died.

Upon hearing the news, the husband turned to his wife and said to her, ‘Now,’ and they both fell into sujood of shukr.

The hospital staff were amazed, some of them even horrified. Surely this was a terribly sad event, one to be wept over, to be mourned, not to be celebrated with sujood?

They asked the couple why, why had they done this?

And the couple told the staff at that hospital how they had taken the decision to give thanks for their daughter’s life, for the joy she had brought them, for the love they had shared with her. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had allowed them to love and care for her for all those years: should they not give thanks for this?

And, when I heard this story, I decided that that was what I was going to do, if it ever came to that.

Because, you see, I had no right to bemoan losing my husband, after being gifted with more happiness in 16 years than many taste in a several lifetimes. Alhamdulillah, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guided us both to Islam and, a few short years later, to each other. My husband’s understanding and patient attitude brought out the best in me, in deen and dunyah. His way was not to command or force, but rather guide and, even, let me make my own mistakes and learn from them. As with those he worked with, his aim was always to support me in fulfilling my potential, because it was that quality that had drawn him to me in the first place (his words, not mine!). Quite simply, we understood each other, we supported each other, we were best friends and allies, as well as husband and wife. It is no exaggeration to say that, without him, I would not be the woman I am today. It was for this reason that I dedicated From My Sisters’ Lips to him, all those years ago: ‘For the wind beneath my wings’. I always prayed that any good I had done would be counted in the scale of his good deeds.

As it was, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) took him after a bout of illness, after completing the Hajj twice (the last time, with me) and having recently taken all his children for ‘Umrah. He died a Muslim, on tawheed, in the land of the Muslims, well-loved by his family, friends and colleagues. Alhamdulillah, some things are indeed a comfort.

 

A deep and terrible loss

In the days that followed his passing, I was on autopilot. There is no time for breaking down when you are a foreign national, trying to complete paperwork for a burial, on the day the British Embassy is closed for a UK holiday. I went through the motions: I Whatsapped everyone to give them the news, I sat on the phone to try to get an appointment to allow his body to be buried in Egypt, as he would have wanted; I stood in crowded offices while my papers were shuffled back and forth, collecting stamps and signatures along the way. By the time we had finally got permission to bury him, we were late: the Dhuhr prayer was in less than an hour. My phone was dead. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to let people know about the Janazah in time. But, by that time, I was past caring.

I observed the Janazah salah from the steps of the masjid and I said my last salaam to him in the courtyard before they took him on the long drive to the graveyard.

Surrounded by my children, my family, my in-laws, sisters, brothers, colleagues and well-wishers on every side, I felt like I was watching a scene in a movie. I played my part well: I was the gracious widow, receiving condolences, comforting others, maintaining my composure, but, in truth, my heart was aching. And yet, through it all, my faith in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was undaunted, alhamdulillah.

I wrote at the time: I feel so incredibly blessed. Even in the midst of the trial, as the tears fall, I am surrounded by His Mercy. The du’as, the support, the love, the sense of strength and serenity, are all signs of His Mercy. Alhamdulillah, I accept. Alhamdulillah, I am at peace. Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah is the balm for my aching heart.

The next challenge, after burying him, would be mourning him, observing the ‘iddah.

Observing the ‘iddah

There is a delicate tension in the state of iddah, the mourning period for a widow.

On the one hand, life continues, particularly if you have children or have to work to support your family. Contrary to popular belief, it is permitted for the widow in ‘iddah to go out during the day to fulfil her needs*. The pressures, demands and responsibilities of the world are real and they won’t wait for four months and ten days to be over. Some widows find that family members take over these tasks but, in many cases, you are forced to plan, to look forward, to move on, to face the world. It can be an exquisite distraction from the pain that lies buried deep under the school run, bedtime stories and endless paperwork and deadlines. But it is still a distraction.

On the other hand, your state of ‘iddah restricts you; you cannot fully embrace life, even if you want to. You are not supposed to wear beautiful clothes or adorn yourself in any way. Although you may have visitors and spend time with family and friends, you are expected to shun social gatherings. You are not to entertain proposals. You should observe your period of mourning in your marital home. All this means that you must pause. You must reflect. You must withdraw. You must face the reality, brave the darkness: the ache, the loneliness, the anger, the fear, that feeling of being utterly bereft. You must face it because it will break you down, bring you to your knees, make you feel once again that vulnerability of his last days when you would have given anything for one last apology, one last kiss, one last promise. You must face the reality that this is Allah’s plan for you. And that, if this is so, there must be khair in it for you. It’s there. It’s there in the chance to ask for forgiveness, to pour your heart out, to cleanse, to rectify your soul, to purify your habits, to be ready to emerge from your ‘iddah like a butterfly from a chrysalis: reborn, refashioned, beautiful.

The gift of ‘iddah

For me, my ‘iddah has been a time of discovery, full of challenges, but, equally, full of triumphs. So far, I have weathered the storm. We all have, alhamdulillah.

During my ‘iddah, I have tasted grief, a grief unlike any I have felt before. At times, I have felt a crushing and desperate loneliness, a longing for my love that threatens to suffocate me. But then I breathe, one beat, two beats, and it is soothed: Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sends me relief in the form of an ayah, or a poem, or a phone call or a sister dropping by out of the blue to listen and hold my hand and let me know that it is ok to feel.

I have also felt, as many widows do, the weight of new responsibilities, too numerous to name. The realisation that it is all down to you now, that you are a single parent, that there is no escape from the responsibility, is a terrifying one.

I have also felt the confusion, the anger, the sadness that all widows must feel.

But, equally, with every test, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has shown me the truth of His words: ‘Verily with every difficulty, there is ease.’ I have held onto those words; they have kept me from drowning many, many times.

By His grace, I have felt the love of so many kind and goodhearted souls who have been there for me, sometimes traveling great distances, to take the kids, to make me a cup of tea, to listen to me, to let me cry and to let me sleep for two days straight. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reward them with Jannat-ul-Firdaws; they have taught me the true meaning of sisterhood. I have felt the love that radiates from my children, my family and from those I do not know a thousand miles away; I have felt the thrill of strength and determination as I continue to walk forward and achieve the goals I have set for myself, for our family; and I have felt the healing balm of gratitude that continues to sustain me.

If it is not improper to say so, I would say that I eventually found my ‘iddah period empowering. By Allah’s grace, I have been able to come to terms with and accept that my husband is no longer with us. I have come to accept and embrace the challenges that this new journey will bring. I am at peace with the decree of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) promises that He will never burden a soul more than it can bear – that alone gives me the courage and confidence I need to meet the numerous challenges head-on. I know in my heart of hearts, with full yaqeen, that He did not test us with this to break us, but rather, to purify us, to lift us up. He has been my solace throughout this test and I have never once despaired of His Mercy. Alhamdulillah, He has never failed to come to my aid in my time of need. He has never failed to ‘catch me’. And He never will, bi’idhnillah.

Alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli haal.

 

Sweet stoicism

Stifles the screams,

Silences the sighs,

Sinks the soul

To numbness.

My heart is too hard to hurt.

My hands, too full to face the sky.

My eyes, too focused to tear up

With wild, wilful tears.

Forgive me, Lord.

Forgive me

And catch me

When my back finally breaks

When my heart finally cracks

When the tears finally fall

And fall

And fall,

Drowning me

And all my patience,

Strength

And fortitude.

When the agony of loss

Threatens to throw me from the cliff,

Catch me, Lord.

Catch me.

Na’ima B. Robert is the acclaimed author of From My Sisters’ Lips and founding Editor of SISTERS www.sisters-magazine.com , the Magazine for Fabulous Muslim Women. Her new book of poetry, ‘Catch Me’, is available on Amazon,  Amazon.co.uk, now. Her support website for widows www.my-iddah.com goes live this week, insha Allah. To find out more about her work, visit www.naimabrobert.co.uk

[Editor’s Note] A free preview of Catch Me for our readers, please use this link: http://sistersawakening.com/catchme_preview

 

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33 responses to “The Gift of Iddah”

  1. Avatar Add says:

    Please fix the Amazon link for her book.

  2. Avatar Mummyjaan says:

    I’m very sorry for your loss, Naima. May Allah grant Jannat ul Firdaus to hour husband Ameen.

  3. Avatar WAJiD says:

    Asalaam Alaikum

    Such a wonderfully powerful essay. JazakAllah khairun for sharing this.

    May you all be reunited in Jannah.

  4. Avatar Umm Abdillah says:

    Goosebumps reading this. May Allah always cushion your Ieman and be your constant Wali. May Allah grant your husband Jannatul Firdaus.

  5. Avatar Aaminah says:

    I have read ,followed your write up for almost 7 years now and I have loved you all for Allah’s sake. May Allah ease your task,grant you the best in this life and hereafter and accept all your deeds as an act of Ibadah.

  6. I am deeply sorry for your loss, sister.
    This post is amazingly written and has left me in tears. You are strong mashallah & so inspiring. I can’t imagine going through what you went through. Alhamdulileh you have found some strength to cope with your unimaginable loss. May Allah help you raise your children & keep you strong for them. May Allah help you deal & cope with your loss. May Allah reunite you all in Jannah. May Allah forgive your husband & have mercy on his soul. Ameen ya rab.

  7. Avatar Abu Fawzaan says:

    Hasbunallahu wa nimal wakeel
    Hasbunallahu wa nimal wakeel

  8. Avatar salma sambo says:

    May Allah continue to give you more strength in facing the challenges of life, nd may Jannatul Firdaus be his nd our final abode.

  9. Avatar Maryam Abdul says:

    Assalamu’alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. My dear Sister you have always been a source of inspiration to me and I’m certain so many other sisters. And even now with your loss you have the courage to share with us so we can learn from it. Your reward is with Allah SWT and may He bless you in abundance. May He grant your husband and other dead muslims comfort in the grave and jannatulfirdaus. Amin

  10. Avatar R.b.p says:

    Am currently sitting in iddat and can sooo relate to those feelings?..Allah make easy for you and remember my children and i in your duas…

  11. Avatar Ummu Ayeesha says:

    Sister Na’ima you have been a great source of inspiration to me and many more. May Allah reward you in your grieve and make Jannatul Firdaus his eternal dwelling.

  12. Avatar Fazeela Dulloo says:

    Being widowed recently I sympathize with you. In the grand scheme of life Allah knows and will reward you – patience my sister
    patience Allah knows,

  13. Avatar Bashirat Yusuf says:

    Reading through your memoir, I couldn’t help but stifle back the tears that were threatening to roll down my cheeks; tears not for your loss, but for the strength and courage you displayed, even in your loss; making me to realize that the strength of Islam displayed by the sahabah is very much alive and real. May Allah comfort you and continue to strengthen you my sister. Never look back please, a lot of sisters around the world are looking up to you. May Allah forgive your husband and Grant him aljannah firdaous. Amin.

  14. Avatar Fa'izah says:

    Masha Allah sister. I am a young(ish) widow in my Idah at the moment. I feel sometimes like I am going crazy for being so happy about the passing of my amazing wonderful husband. I miss him terribly yes, but he had such an amazing death one any Muslim would pray for. We all want to meet our Creator and I am happy for him for this test to be over.
    I feel like you’ve captured the essence of this time so beautifully. Someone else is sharing this path and this grief and this strength and doing it in a similar fashion to me. Maybe I am not so crazy after all.
    All my love sister for you and may we emerge from our Idah as you described- beautiful butterflies ready to take on what Allah has in store for us.

  15. Avatar Abdia says:

    May Allah ease yiurpain and grant your husband janatul firdaus ameen

  16. Avatar Nafisah says:

    May Allah (SWT) reward you and ease your affairs. May He grant your husband and other dead Muslims Jannatul firdaus. Ameen

  17. Avatar Femida says:

    Masha Allah sister naima
    Please carry on making dua for all of us for Allah taala to grant us sincerity and the strength to cope like you have in all your challenges

  18. Avatar Ayesha says:

    My dear sister , may Allah azzawajal grant you and your family Sabrun jameel , may he have mercy on your husband , grant him a highest abode in jannatul fidaus and unite you all with the same .Ameen ya Rab

  19. Avatar Alpha Bravo says:

    I just have a hard time understanding this… How can you love someone who gives you pain, grief and puts you into misery. It’s like Islam is the ultimate test of cognitive dissonance: it just doesn’t make sense.

    The reaction of the hospital staff is what any average human being will go through… that’s what human beings were born with: the natural instinct to be devastated at loss of one’s child. However Allah tells us to act against our basic operating procedures. It’s like we were created with these instincts but the test is that who can go against these instincts. No wonder why 99.9% of bani Adam will end up in Hellfire.

    • Avatar Abu Haazim says:

      I understand your predicament. The story of husband and wife making sajda shukr shows a clear lack of understanding of the faith. While people get really impressed after reading these stories, the true ‘Abd(bondsman) of Allah realizes that Islam is not following your sentiments and desires rather following the way of the Prophet(Peace Be Upon Him). If they really understood the spirit of Islam, they would naturally weep as did the Prophet(Peace Be Upon Him) when his son passed away. Allah Ta’ala has not demanded of us not to weep on such a great loss but the command is to not to complain like some people do by saying why me or this was untimely etc. etc. One can mourn but at the same time, know firmly in your heart that nothing happens without the will of Allah and that it has good in it, whether we understand it or not with our very limited intellectual is a different matter.

      I pray that Allah Ta’ala give the author peace and fulfill her needs from HIS vast treasures and grant us all sound understanding of Deen.

  20. Avatar Mohamed shiraz says:

    ASSALAMMUALIKUM KINDLY ADD ME TO TOUR MAILING LIST JAZAKALLAH

  21. Avatar zaneera v says:

    Inspiring Sister Na’ima
    May Allah ease your grief, take you closer to Him and reunite you with your beloved in His eternal Jannah

  22. Avatar Mohammed says:

    May Allah grant him Jannat ul Firdaus Ameen.

  23. Avatar Sa'ada says:

    May Allah(SWT) make Jannatul Firdaus his final abode and may He(SWT) make it easy on you and other widows as well.
    May Allah(SWT) increase our faith and
    eeman in Him and His
    beloved prophet(SAW) and I pray we return to Him witout dirt and in full Faith.

  24. Avatar Aisha says:

    Allahumma baarik lakum. May Allah be your strength and grant your husband forgiveness and Jannatul Firdaws. Ameen

  25. Avatar Sumayyah says:

    May Allah bless you, my sister, and continue to make you a source of benefit wherever you are. <3

  26. Avatar Khadija patel says:

    I too recently lost my husband. I have had to put my mourning to one side and recollect my responsibilities. How to guide my sons in the best possible way that they benefit the deen and dunya. I sat at home for two months and had to return to work to support my financial needs. But shukr that the Almighty has given me strength and health to do this.

  27. Avatar Alabi rukayat says:

    may Allah (s.w.t) grant him aljanat Firdaous inshallah I’ve been reading ur books and u are such an amazing writer and u’ve impacted so many lives may Allah (s.w.t) reward u abundantly inshaallah.wish i could meet u one day.Jazakummullahu khaeran

  28. my-iddah says:

    […] This piece was originally posted at Muslim Matters […]

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