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My Starry Night – How Van Gogh Gave Me A Glimpse of Allah’s Plan


Drama Mama
When things that you thought were entirely unrelated to each other come together, it is a joy and a relief. A joy because you experience firsthand a flash of the divine plan: It’s all connected! Everything! Everyone! And a relief, because for that fraction of time, things make sense. Order is present and it is established and it is manifest.

This is what faith means to the faithful. The constant knowledge that there is reason and order behind everything, even, or rather especially, when we can’t see it.

But when does this faith begin in us? And how? As children, can we pinpoint any spot in our childhood in which we directly witnessed the machinations of divinity? Perhaps not. But as adults, as parents, with all the experience and wisdom that age brings us, I have come to believe, that if we are present and paying close attention, we stand good chance of catching glimpses of the divine plan in the lives of our children.

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Art history is not something I would have ever thought to include in my children’s homeschool curriculum. It simply would not have occurred to me. But all of a sudden, art history has become an integral and exciting part of our educational journey. My six year old son, Beta, is enthralled and I am running, breathlessly alongside him, often behind him, trying to keep up.

It all begins with that glorious website, beloved by parents everywhere, Starfall. Beta browses through it regularly and one day he stumbles upon the extremely short biographies of six renowned artists. I hear him reading along with the chirpy web voice about Marc Chagall. Paul Gaugin. Van Gogh.

“My favorite artist is Van Gogh.” Beta announces a few weeks later, apropos of absolutely nothing. (most of his pronouncements are like that – seemingly out of left field, but usually as a result of a long, internal dialogue which suddenly comes to be verbalized.) Van Gogh, Van Gogh, Van Gogh. I hear his name dozens of times a day. I nod and smile but pay little other heed. After all, I’m not very interested in art history.

Two Saturdays on, we are in a bookstore and my three children are sitting on the floor playing the awful game of who can pull out dozens of books from the lowest shelf and makes the biggest pile. They’re dragging and yanking and a mountain of book is growing beside me when plop! a storybook about a little girl visiting an art museum falls straight (from the heavens?) into Beta’s lap. He is captive and quiet for the next half an hour. The game is forgotten and he is entranced. We obviously purchase the book and bring it home.

Three days later, we are making our Plan for the Day and the kids clamor painting. Painting! Argh, I think, I am so not in the mood. I am feeling angry and confused about the kids and what their education or lack thereof is looking like. But they beg and plead, so painting it is. I bring out the paints and lay out the paper on the ground. Fine! Paint! I am sulky, already anticipating the mess to follow.vangogh2


But instead of painting, Beta is crouched in front of his bookshelf. He has opened up the story book we bought last week and is intently studying the pictures inside. I see him staring at “Café at Night”. I ask him, “Hey, we have this picture in our house. Can you think where?” He looks at me amazed. This picture? In OUR HOUSE? How does he not know this?! I think the same to myself. How does he not know this? Our apartment is tiny. There are only two pieces of art on the walls. This is yet another example of what an internal life this boy of mine leads.

We walk ten steps over to the living room wall. There, in its full 1500 piece glory is the jigsaw puzzle of Van Gogh’s Café at Night. Beta is laughing and laughing. “It’s so beautiful, Mumma. It’s so beautiful. Look! It’s in my book and it’s on our wall!” Yes, yes it is.

“Today, I’m going to paint like Van Gogh,” he declares. I show him how to Google images. We type in Van Gogh and stare silently at the dozens of image tiles that pop up. He eventually points to Starry Night. We leave it open on the laptop. I begin pouring out our acrylics, white, black, blue, yellow. When the materials are ready, I leave him to it. He looks back and forth from the screen to his paper for a long while. I walk around the house, doing my chores. Every so often, I pop my head in and I talk him through it whenever he seems confused. “Try using more white.” “Mix blue and black for this part.” He keeps going and going and an interesting version of Starry Night slowly but surely begins to appear on his paper.

It takes our entire morning and most of the afternoon, this “lesson”. It is Reading and Writing and Art and Art History and Computer Skills and Speech Therapy and Fine Motor Skills and Concentration and Logic all rolled into one. For a boy with many delays, including sensory processing, who just two years ago would howl uncontrollably if a speck of paint touched his fingers, it is progress. It is dedication and focus and frustration and effort and achievement.


When he is finished, we spread it on the balcony to dry. He turns to the iPad, his preferred refuge when he has been outward for too long, and I am sitting on the floor, physically spent but mentally satisfied. I am looking at the Beta-Van Gogh styled splatters of paint. I am thinking.

I am thinking of a day long time ago.

Six years ago to be precise: After two years of wanting and trying and praying, I am finally pregnant. We are happy but nervous. At the end of the doctor’s appointment that marks the end of the first trimester, we are cautiously jubilant. We are wandering around a toy store. We want to buy something but superstitiously don’t want to buy anything for the baby. I find myself gravitating towards the jigsaw puzzles. My husband, Hums, laughs. “You’ve never done a puzzle before and you’re going straight for a 1500 piece one?” Yep, I nod. I don’t know why I pick the one I do. It’s a Ravensburger edition of a Van Gogh. They don’t come cheap. For an unemployed couple who feels like throwing up when it’s time to pay for groceries, this is a splurge. But I am driven by something. I must get this puzzle. I must.

I come home with my Café at Night. I spend the rest of my pregnancy working on it. It is a very slow and painstaking, often frustrating, process. But as the days slip by like beads on a tasbeeh and I get bigger and bigger, so does the puzzle. I finish just a couple of weeks before Beta is born. It is beautiful. It is the only beautiful thing in our bare apartment and it makes us happy to look at it. The rich colors and the relaxed mood of the café diners under the twinkling stars help us forget, if only for a few minutes, the burden of our financial strain. A few months later, when we realize we are moving from Canada, bone broke, I make Hums promise that one day we will come back to that same shop and get me Starry Night. That’s the one I really wanted. But they were out of stock. Hums promises and we move across the world.

Six years later, it appears that I got my starry night. That I got it from this child, this child that I carried inside me while I searched the shelves of the toy shop for the puzzle; this child with all of his struggles, this child who has taught me patience, gratitude, and what hopeful happiness tied only to unshakeable belief in the promises of Allah looks like, this child who is the shining light, the shimmering star of my life, is the cherry on top of a very sweet cake.

For the adult, this is the lucky break. It is a front row seat to the grandest show of all. It is how parenting becomes the blessed opportunity to look both backward and forward so that we may witness the way flashes of light, His Light and His plan, are scattered throughout our lives starting from when we are not even born.

For the six year old, when things, seemingly unrelated – what you saw on a website, what’s hanging on your living room wall, the new book you bought last week, a painting lesson – come together in one exquisite whole, it is the picture of learning. But not just academic learning, no. It is the beginning of his education of what it means to be human, of what it means to be a trusting servant of his Lord, of what it means to have faith. He doesn’t know it yet but he is taking the tiniest starting steps towards understanding a little of what his mother and his mother’s mother and all his ancestors from time immemorial have been trying to learn and remember about life itself:

Nothing is random. Everything is connected. Every person you meet, every decision you take, every mistake you make, every purchase, every encounter, every success, every failure, everything has a purpose.

And all that this life, this starry, starry life asks of you is that even though you often don’t see that purpose for years and years or maybe even ever, you trust.


You trust that you are part of a bigger puzzle. You trust that the pieces of this puzzle are slowly but surely coming together. You trust that the puzzle may be frustrating, confusing or time consuming, but ultimately it is beautiful because the Maker is beautiful and He is Wise.

You trust.

And you keep the faith.


Hiba Masood is a writer, a motivational speaker and an entrepreneur. You can find more of her thoughts on life, faith and parenting on her page

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. 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.

Hiba Masood is the founder and CEO of, an educational platform to help Muslim children learn the Quran and Sunnah through authentic scholarship. She is also the author of Drummer Girl (Daybreak Press). You can find more of her work on her website and on her Instagram at @hibamasood



  1. Kirana

    January 14, 2016 at 3:11 AM

    When Allah gives something you wanted such that you *know* it’s from Him ‘personally’ it’s infinitely better than if you got it when you wanted it.

  2. uzma gora

    January 14, 2016 at 8:35 AM

    *sigh* you make me cry….every single time you write something, you make me cry. Stay blessed, you beautiful soul. <3

  3. Shahnoor

    January 14, 2016 at 8:45 AM

    MashaAllah I am tears eyed You are a beautiful soul Hiba and May Allah swt continue to bestow his choicest blessings and Rahmah on you and uour beautiful family!

  4. Sadaf

    January 14, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    Love every word!! Yes nothing is random.. Even me reading this at this point in time..

  5. Falak

    January 14, 2016 at 9:06 AM

    Starry night :)
    For someone not really into art , this is my absolute favorite painting. It speaks to me.

    The depth in your writing takes readers to a different wavelength. In the mundane days of caring for children, talking, connecting, then cleaning and more cleaning after them there is meaning . Your post reminds me that it is up to me to be mindful of that meaning.
    SubhanAllah, every mothers journey is unique and so beautiful. It’s a struggle as we advocate for what’s best for our kids.
    I have a 6 yr old boy with some speech and fine motor delays too – figuring out his puzzle has taken out the warrior in me.

    Keep writing sis – so that we can keep reading and getting inspired :)

    • Thomas

      January 28, 2016 at 9:42 AM

      And may I add our better understanding of whom we are in this confusing but beautiful world He has created for us all. We thank that eternal Love daily with our humble service to all. : ) Thomas

  6. nadya

    January 14, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    Beautifully written.. HE surely is the best PLANNER!
    You wanted that painting and it was out of stock and then you got it from where you least expected, thats how HE gives, just at the ‘right’ time!
    And I think beta’s painting is so full of hope, faith and light- definitely a master piece!
    hats off to the super mom- keep spreading faith and happiness through your blogs, posts and HAPPY PLACE, all the best.
    love & prayers!

  7. Rabah Masood

    January 14, 2016 at 9:58 AM

    I love this piece. Everything comes to a full circle in life. Subhanallah!

  8. Zujaja

    January 14, 2016 at 10:02 AM

    Beautiful thoughts all woven together to appreciate and thank for lords blessings..a connection we often forget to make, a much needed reminder..Alhamdullilah for everything indeed.

  9. Rabia

    January 14, 2016 at 10:39 AM

    This is what I believe in beautifully written

  10. Anas

    January 14, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    This is one of the best pieces you’ve ever written!

  11. Masooma

    January 14, 2016 at 1:45 PM

    ‘To trust that you are part of a bigger puzzle’ ; Thank you for the reminder Hiba!

  12. Fouzia

    January 14, 2016 at 2:36 PM

    Absolutely loved it.. Beautifully written.

  13. Maria

    January 14, 2016 at 2:50 PM

    This is beautiful.

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  15. Faiza

    January 14, 2016 at 3:12 PM

    Absolutely loved this piece of writing!! ❤❤❤
    And beta’s painting is simply awesome mashaAllah!!
    God bless u and ur family hiba?

  16. Mona

    January 14, 2016 at 6:26 PM

    Masha Allah. ….what an article!!! Love ur posts always. Keep going lady!!!!!

  17. M4

    January 14, 2016 at 6:42 PM

    Beautiful and so motivational.I was thinking just exactly this.That whatever plans we make,surely they benefit us,but what about Him,The Divine,He also planned for us,and ofcourse what He plans is Absolutely the Best of best,but for us humans it takes time to register,to absorb it,and because we are always so short of time,running after it,we almost miss it that what is coming towards us is actually the best piece.
    Wonderfully written,keep it coming and all the best for your new ventures.

  18. Sarah

    January 14, 2016 at 9:59 PM

    Gave me goosebumps. ….this is jus so beautiful

  19. Fawzia Salahuddin

    January 15, 2016 at 12:40 AM

    After reading your article, I had tears in my eyes… of happiness, of how well things got connected and out of sheer appreciation of the feeling of achievement and connectivity. You write beautifully and wonderful is the experience of being on the journey with you when reading your article. I can only aspire to be the mom you are for your kids… patient, cajoling, sullen yet understanding, rolling with the flow. Keep writing for you fill a void in me with your energy and your positivity . Jazak Allah Khair!
    PS: Beta’s painting is simply wonderful.. he’s so talented and bright Masha Allah!! His journey will be different and the “path less travelled”. Keep us on the path with you.

  20. Mahwish saud

    January 15, 2016 at 1:17 AM

    beautiful… no words to express my feelings…
    you writing this column without knowing that in how many ways this piece of writing can effect a person is also a part of the plan.
    I truly trust buddy…
    would love to meet you in person..
    In sha Allah will visit your happy place in coming days
    Allah khush rakhey…ameen

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  22. Jawairia

    January 15, 2016 at 4:54 PM

    I didn’t know that I’d be crying by the end of this..

  23. Zee

    January 16, 2016 at 12:47 AM

    Marvellously written! Touched my faithful ? and artsy soul!!! Can’t what to read it again.

  24. Bright Light

    January 17, 2016 at 9:58 AM

  25. Nadine

    January 17, 2016 at 12:02 PM

    What an incredible piece of writing, and what a piece of art your 6 year old son created! He is really gifted. Just read this quote yesterday: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” -Albert Einstein.
    Only the faithful can see miracles. Thank you and God bless.

    • Waheeda

      December 24, 2019 at 1:00 PM

      Beautifully expressed.Starry night is one of my fav paintings.
      I have experienced this slow leading up to a blessing in my life, Alhamdulillah.

  26. Mariam mustafa

    January 17, 2016 at 4:05 PM

    Mashallah very beneficial!
    Baarakallahu feekum.

  27. Quran Classes

    January 18, 2016 at 4:31 PM

    o so sweet very nice article thank you for sharing ..

  28. Muslima

    January 18, 2016 at 6:16 PM

    LOVED IT!! Jazakillah khair!

  29. Maryam

    January 19, 2016 at 3:50 PM

    Few years back, My family and I had a really bad time but with Allah’s help we went through. Now, when i explained to my friends
    I always say it was like a puzzle and little by little the pieces came together so yes i agree with you, life is like a puzzle and sometimes you don’t see it but when the tribulations calmed down and you reflect on it you realised it. That made me more thankful for everything I have and made me realised Allah is so important and He is there for anyone who want to believe. Everything happen because of HIM and if you are greatful to Him your puzzle’s pieces will come together and bring you happiness InshAllah.

  30. Larry A. Singleton

    January 24, 2016 at 7:09 PM

    You’re to be congratulated. you sound like a great mom.

    My mom related a story to me. I guess I repressed it. Where I ran downstairs from my room in the attic. (A really cool room by the way) I wanted to show some neighbors who were visiting my parents a picture I drew. I was about your son’s age. According to mom dad said, “They don’t want to see that s**t”.

    I don’t know how true that is. My parents had a nasty divorce and mom was continuously badmouthing dad.

    Speaking as a frustrated artist. That Starry Night picture the kid painted looks great. I hope you bankrupt yourself buying paints, pencils and brushes for this kid. Really, that is a very nice painting.

    I haven’t read this article yet but I’m looking forward to it.

    On a religious note I wonder where “forbidden images” enters into this? What would be the parents reaction if he decided to “draw Muhammad”. Or if he and his friends decided to have a “Draw Muhammad Sleepover” in the ole’ tree house.

  31. M

    January 27, 2016 at 7:24 PM

    Made me cry! “We have the pixel; God has the picture” (Hamza Tortiz) i.e. We may not understand everything that has happened and continues to happen in our lives, but God is The Most Wise and Most knowledge, so He knows the wisdom behind it. If we choose to see good in something even if it appears otherwise, we’ll benefit in developing ourselves to better.

    • M

      January 27, 2016 at 7:25 PM

      Most Knowledgeable*

  32. Thomas

    January 28, 2016 at 10:01 AM

    Love it & will share this Love with many! God certainly blesses us daily, we only need to appreciate it — keep it up, and many blessings to you!

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    April 23, 2016 at 1:56 AM

    Khoya Pyar Ko Pane Ka Strong Amal , “Amal is the very powerful way which is most preferable by the Muslim people to solve the problem and for completing their desires. Khoya Pyar ko pane ka strong Amal is a strong tactic by our astrologer for the people who are the Break up a problem. Love is a very fragile feeling and emotion which needs extra care and extra support and when couples fail to give that support then they fail to make their love story successful.

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    April 23, 2016 at 1:58 AM

    Surah Waqiah For Marriage, “Marriage in a dream is excessively translated in kinship with an arrangement. On the off chance that one get hitched a lady who bites the dust not long after her wedding in the vision, it means,his determination perform work to be paid him not anything other than rather hard work, drudging, and push. On the off chance that one weds a two-timing in a fantasy, it assets to he is a miscreant. In the event that one get married an awful, bellicose or a represent wife in a fantasy,

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