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Reconciliation: Among The Noblest Acts of Worship

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Is there anything in the world that could busy Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and cause him to delay his prayers?

Prayers which Prophet Muhammad ﷺ considered the coolness of his eyes.

Prayers which Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would resort to whenever he was distressed over a matter.

Prayers which, when their time approached, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would be excited about performing them as they brought him comfort and relaxation.

Yes! There is an event that made Prophet Muhammad ﷺ busy and caused him to delay his prayer. No doubt, that matter had to be of extreme importance and high priority; a matter which the sooner it was implemented and worked on, the better.

And that matter was reconciling between the people.

It was narrated in Al-Bukhari that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ became aware of  a dispute taking place between his companions in Qubaa’, a location that was considered outside the city of Madinah at that time. He ﷺ said to some of his companions: “اذْهَبُوا بِنَا نُصْلِحُ بَيْنَهُمْ” [Let’s go and reconcile between them]. So the Prophet ﷺ went on the mission of reconciliation. His return back to Madinah was delayed to the extent that the time of prayers has come and Bilal proposed to Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with them) to lead the prayers.

Do we truly want the best for our brothers and sisters similar to the concern of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ’? If yes, then it would hurt us to know how damaging it is for them to be in dispute and to the Ummah as a whole.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“لاَ يَحِلُّ لِرَجُلٍ أَنْ يَهْجُرَ أَخَاهُ فَوْقَ ثَلاَثِ لَيَالٍ، يَلْتَقِيَانِ فَيُعْرِضُ هَذَا وَيُعْرِضُ هَذَا، وَخَيْرُهُمَا الَّذِي يَبْدَأُ بِالسَّلاَمِ”

”It is not permissible for a Muslim to forsake and abandon his brother for more than three days, each of them turning away when they meet. The better of them is the one who gives the greeting of salaam first.” [Al-Bukhari]

It isn’t only prohibited to forsake one another, but additionally Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“تُفْتَحُ أَبْوَابُ الْجَنَّةِ يَوْمَ الاِثْنَيْنِ وَيَوْمَ الْخَمِيسِ فَيُغْفَرُ لِكُلِّ عَبْدٍ لاَ يُشْرِكُ بِاللَّهِ شَيْئًا إِلاَّ رَجُلاً كَانَتْ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ أَخِيهِ شَحْنَاءُ فَيُقَالُ أَنْظِرُوا هَذَيْنِ حَتَّى يَصْطَلِحَا أَنْظِرُوا هَذَيْنِ حَتَّى يَصْطَلِحَا أَنْظِرُوا هَذَيْنِ حَتَّى يَصْطَلِحَا”

“The gates of Paradise are not opened but on two days, Monday and Thursday. Forgiveness is granted to every slave [who worships Allah and] who does not associate anything with Allah except for a man who had between him and his brother enmity & hatred. It is said [about them]: “Leave these two [no forgiveness is granted unto them] until they reconcile, leave these two until they reconcile, leave these two until they reconcile.” [Muslim]

It isn’t only prohibited and forgiveness isn’t granted to those in a dispute until they reconcile, but additionally Allah says:

“وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّـهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ ۖ وَاصْبِرُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ”

“Obey Allah and His Messenger and do not dispute with one another, and as a result would be discouraged and weakened. Persevere! Surely Allah is with those who persevere.” [8:46]

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was sent as a Mercy to all beings and he ﷺ truly loved his Ummah and would not want them to be abandoned from Allah’s forgiveness ; nor would he ﷺ want the Ummah to be discouraged and weakened.

The greatest example of reconciliation, as the scholar Al-Haakim has narrated in Al-Mustadrak —classified as authentic — was when Anas the son of Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“بينا رسولُ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم جالسٌ إذ رأيناه ضحِك حتَّى بدت ثناياه فقال له عمرُ ما أضحكك يا رسولَ اللهِ بأبي أنت وأمِّي

“As the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was sitting we saw him smiling to the extent that much of his teeth were showing. Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said to him: “What was it that brought you such a big smile? I’d give up my mother and father for you!”

قال رجلان من أمَّتي جثَيا بين يدَيْ ربِّ العزَّةِ فقال أحدُهما خُذْ لي مظلمتي من أخي فقال اللهُ كيف تصنعُ بأخيك ولم يبَقْ من حسناتِه شيءٌ

He ﷺ said: “Two men from my ummah were pleading in front of The All-Mighty Lord. One of them said: “Bring me my right from my brother” Then Allah said: “What will you do with your brother when he has no more good deeds [to give you for the wrong he has committed]”

قال يا ربِّ فليحمِلْ من أوزاري وفاضت عينا رسولِ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم بالبكاءِ ثمَّ قال إنَّ ذلك ليومٌ عظيمٌ يحتاجُ النَّاسُ أن يُحمَلَ من أوزارِهم

The man [who was wronged] then said: “Then let him take from my sins.” At this point the Prophet (ﷺ)’s eyes were filled with tears and then said: “Indeed that day [of judgment] is a great day. People are in need for their sins to be carried [by other than them].”

فقال اللهُ للطَّالبِ ارفَعْ بصرَك فانظُرْ فرفع فقال يا ربِّ أرَى مدائنَ من ذهبٍ وقصورًا من ذهبٍ مُكلَّلةً باللُّؤلؤِ لأيِّ نبيٍّ هذا أو لأيِّ صديقٍ هذا أو لأيِّ شهيدٍ هذا قال لمن أعطَى الثَّمنَ

So Allah said to the one with the request: “Raise your gaze and look [to what is up there].” The man looked up and said: “O Lord! I see cities of gold and palaces built out of gold decorated with pearls [beauty that no human could ever imagine]. [O Lord] for which prophet is this or for which truthful is this or for which martyr is this!?” [Allah] said: “To the one who can afford it.”

قال يا ربِّ ومن يملِكُ ذلك قال أنت تملِكُه قال بماذا قال بعفوِك عن أخيك قال يا ربِّ إنِّي عفوتُ عنه قال اللهُ فخُذْ بيدِ أخيك وأدخِلْه الجنَّةَ

[The man] said: “And who can afford it?” [Allah] said: “You can afford it.” [The man] asked: “How?” [Allah] said: “By forgiving your brother.” [The man replied without any hesitation and] said: “O Lord! I forgive him!” Allah said: “Take the hand of your brother and enter him into Paradise.”

فقال رسولُ اللهِ صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم عند ذلك اتَّقوا اللهَ وأصلِحوا ذاتَ بينِكم فإنَّ اللهَ يُصلِحُ بين المسلمين”

Then Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said [afterwards]: “Be conscious of Allah! [Fear His punishment] and reconcile and make peace between yourselves. Indeed, Allah reconciles between the believers.”

With that said, how many people do you know who are in a dispute? Can you promise to follow the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and show love to this ummah by doing your best to reconcile and bring peace between your brothers and sisters?

Do everything you can to reconcile, and if you exhaust all your resources and they are still in dispute then consider “lying” and making stuff up to bring peace between them!

As despised as lying is in Islam, it is loved when it comes to reconciling between people. And as much as truthfulness is loved in Islam, it is despised when it comes to causing hatred between people.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“لَيْسَ الْكَذَّابُ الَّذِي يُصْلِحُ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ وَيَقُولُ خَيْرًا وَيَنْمِي خَيْرًا”

“A liar is not one who tries to bring reconciliation amongst people and speaks good (in order to avert dispute), or he conveys good.” [Muslim]

The One who called us brothers and sisters is Allah! And He commanded us, the believers, to reconcile between our brothers and sisters and as a result Allah will shower His mercy upon all of us. Allah says:

“إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ”

“The believers are but brothers, so make peace between your brothers. And be mindful of Allah so you may be shown mercy.” [49:10]

 

It is understandable that there are certain cases where abandoning the person is not prohibited. As Shaykh Ibn Othaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) stated:

“والأصل أن هجر المؤمن لأخيه المؤمن محرّم حتى يوجد ما يقتضي الإباحة”

“The default status is that the abandoning of the believer to his brother is prohibited until something occurs which makes it permissible.”

Of the things that would make it permissible is if one feared the harm of the other person with regards to their faith and/or life. But let’s be real, how many of those in dispute are really abandoning one another due to such fear of harm from the other person?

To conclude, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“أَفضلُ الصدقةِ إصلاحُ ذاتِ البَيْنِ”

“[Of] the greatest [forms] of charity is reconciling between people” [Saheeh At-Targhib]

I pray to Allah that He makes us keys to the doors of goodness and locks to the doors of evil.

Majed completed a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Windsor, a Bachelor’s in Islamic Studies in Islamic Jurisprudence and Legal Theory from Al-Madinah International University, and a Master’s in Business Administration from Wayne State University. As he travels worldwide lecturing about different aspects of Islam, Majed works full-time as a mechanical engineer and teaches with Al-Maghrib Institute. He currently lives in Michigan with his wife and children.

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Our Struggles – Mental Health And Muslim Communities | The Family and Youth Institute

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By Elham Saif, Sarrah AbuLughod and Wahida Abaza

Fariha just started her freshman year at university. Overnight, she was separated from her support system of family and friends and thrust into a foreign environment. She was facing many new challenges, including a heavier workload, new friends, student clubs and organizational responsibilities. She was drowning in endless assignments, exams, and meetings.

Fariha never thought much about mental health issues beyond the few “mindfulness” posts that she’d scroll through on her Instagram feed, but recently she was starting to feel out of sorts. She started to feel anxious as a hijab-wearing woman on campus especially after hearing about anti-Muslim incidents on the news. All of the possibilities of what could go wrong played over and over again in her head–and kept her up at night. Everything was beginning to feel overwhelming. She started having trouble getting out of bed in the morning and was losing motivation to complete her assignments. She felt confused and at times, even afraid. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, close to 50 million Americans suffered from mental health issues in 2017. One in 5 adults in America is living with a mental health illness at this very moment. American Muslims are not an exception to these statistics. According to different studies, like Fariha, 15-25% of American Muslims report suffering from anxiety disorders and 9-30% report mood disorders. Many of these mental health issues in the Muslim population go unaddressed and unresolved because of lack of knowledge, stigma and shame experienced in many Muslim households and communities. 

When these issues go unaddressed, people report that the pain and suffering they experience rises and that overall their problems tend to get worse. Sadly, their struggles can snowball into additional illnesses that were not present before, such as self-harm or addiction. According to the research, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are sometimes not considered to be “real” illnesses. Community members often see mental illness as a sign of weakness, a mark of poor faith, or something that doesn’t affect Muslims. They may also see it either as a “test from God” or sometimes as possession by evil spirits. Even when there is an awareness, many of these illnesses and issues are culturally stigmatized as shameful and kept hidden within the person or family. People may be concerned about the reputation of their family or their marital prospects should a psychiatric diagnosis be disclosed. 

The irony is that Islam ought to be more of a protective factor given how intertwined Islamic history is with the fields of psychiatry and psychology. The contribution of Islamic scholarship to the field of psychology is documented in our history and legacy from health promotion in the Quran and Sunnah, to early scholarly diagnosis, treatment, and intervention. Alaa Mohammad, FYI researcher and co-author of the chapter “Mental Health in the Islamic Golden Era: The Historical Roots of Modern Psychiatry” in Islamophobia and Psychiatry points out that,

“there was a lot of focus on concepts like ‘sanity’ and the significance of mental capacity as well as the general mental/emotional state in many of the early Islamic texts especially in regards to Islamic rules and law.”

Early Islamic scholars described the “cognitive components of depression and sadness, anxiety and fear, obsessions, and anger in detail and suggested a variety of therapies and treatments.” Learning more about this rich history and pulling from these stories in the Prophet’s (SAW) seerah is a key step towards opening the way for people to get the help they need and learning how to support one another. 

Fariha knows that she needs help. She was considering seeing one of the mental health workers on campus, but she’s afraid of what her parents would say if they found out she shared so much with a stranger, especially one that is not a Muslim.

What can parents do?

Research has found that in the face of rising Islamophobia, supportive parenting serves as a protective factor and helps strengthen young Muslims’ sense of identity while unsupportive parents who don’t help their children navigate their experiences end up weakening their identity, which then increases their chances of participating in more risky behavior. 

When Fariha finally shared her fears and anxieties with her parents, she was surprised and relieved to hear that they took her seriously. They listened to her and she didn’t feel like they were ashamed of her, only concerned for her well being. They were eager to find her the help she needed to feel like herself again. 

As Muslims, we need to shift our mindset around mental illness and the effects of Islamophobia. Like Fariha’s parents, it is imperative that we listen carefully and look more deeply at the issues facing our youth. It is through this openness that we can reduce the stigma and encourage more people to seek help. 

The Family and Youth Institute recently released an infographic that talks about some of the struggles facing our American Muslim communities. They teamed up with Islamic Relief USA to get this infographic printed as a poster and will be sending them to over 500 masajid/community centers around the United States in the coming months. 

What can you do to help?

  • Reduce the stigma by sharing this article and infographic and starting a conversation with your friends and family members. The more we talk about it, the more we normalize and destigmatize mental illness and move towards mental health. 
  • Organize a community conversation around the issue of mental health. Invite a mental health specialist to come speak to your mosque youth group or parent group. 
  • Seek therapy when needed. Connect with SEEMA and the Institute of Muslim Mental Health for a list of Muslim therapists. If you are seeing a clinician who is not Muslim, share this book Counseling Muslims: Handbook of Mental Health Issues and Interventions with them to give them a better sense of the specific religious and cultural needs of their Muslim clients. 
  • Educate yourself – There is a plethora of information out there about mental wellness and wellbeing. For help navigating through it all, sign up for The FYI’s daily article share to receive vetted infographics, articles and videos on this topic. Mental health affects our whole life. Whether you are struggling with bullying, helping a loved one with depression, living with and caring for an elder or wanting to build the best environment for your new baby, we have a resource for you! 

These steps are just small ways we can begin to shift the conversation away from shame and stigma and towards help and healing. Mental illness and mental health issues can be scary, but they do not need to be faced alone and in isolation. As the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” Together, we can fight the existing stigma and misconceptions, provide support, educate the community and advocate for our brothers and sisters suffering with mental illness and their families. 

Sources:

Aftab A., & Khandai, C. (2018). Mental Health Facts for Muslim Americans. APA Division of Diversity and Health Equity, Washington, DC. 

Basit A, & Hamid M. (2006). Mental health issues of Muslim Americans. The Journal of Islamic Medical Association of North America, 42(3), 106-110.

Ciftci A., Jones N., & Corrigan, P.W. (2013) Mental health stigma in the Muslim community. Journal of Muslim Mental Health, 7(1), 17-32.

Hodge, D.R., Zidan, T. & Husain, A. (2016). Depression among Muslims in the United States: Examining the role of discrimination and spirituality as risk and protective factors. Social Work, 61(1), 45-52.

Zong, X., Balkaya, M., Tahseen, M., & Cheah, C.S.L. (2018). Muslim-American Adolescents’ Identities Mediate the Association between Islamophobia and Adjustment: The Moderating Role of Religious Socialization. Poster session presented at the biennial meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, Queensland, Australia. 

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Loving Muslim Marriage | Is it Haraam to Talk About Sex?

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)

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Loving Muslim Marriage

Female sexual nature and female sexual desires are often misunderstood, especially among Muslims. There are some classes and seminars by Muslim speakers that offer advice to Muslim couples about intimacy but unfortunately, the advice is not exactly aligned with correct female sexual nature.

So we decided to come together to clarify these misunderstandings and explain the sexual nature of women and their desires, so we can help build healthy intimacy within Muslim marriages leading to happier Muslim marriages.

This is going to be a series of videos that we will release every week, inshaAllah.

What should be expected out of these videos?

Each video will address a specific myth or misconception about either female sexuality, or Muslim marriage to help men better understand women. We will also explore male sexuality and other subjects.

We hope

– to help better quality marriage
– to help couples- both men and women- get a more satisfying intimate life
– to help women navigate intimate life in a manner where they are fulfilled, paving the way for involvement and desiring of intimacy; breaking the cycle of unsatisfying intimate lives for both husband and wife

Disclaimer:
Please keep in mind that these videos are for people with normal sexual desires — they are not meant to address asexuality.

The content of these videos is a mean to provide marital advice based on mainstream orthodoxy as well as best practices and relationships.

Some experts joined us in these videos to offer their expertise from an Islamic and professional perspective:

Shaikh AbdulNasir Jangda: He was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and at the age of 10 began the road to knowledge by moving to Karachi, Pakistan, and memorizing the entire Qur’an in less than one year. After graduating from high school, he continued his studies abroad at the renowned Jamia Binoria and graduated from its demanding seven-year program in 2002 at the top of his class with numerous licenses to teach in various Islamic Sciences. Along with the Alim Course he concurrently completed a B.A. and M.A. in Arabic from Karachi University. He also obtained a Masters in Islamic Studies from the University of Sindh. He taught Arabic at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2005 to 2007. He served as the Imam at the Colleyville Masjid in the Dallas area for three years. He is a founding member and chairman of Mansfield Islamic Center.

He is the founder of Qalam Institute and he has served as an instructor and curriculum advisor to various Islamic schools. His latest projects include Quran Intensive (a summer program focusing on Arabic grammar and Tafsir), Quranic analysis lectures, Khateeb Training, chronicling of the Prophetic Biography, and personally mentoring and teaching his students at the Qalam Seminary.

In these videos, Sh. Jangda helped present the Islamic rulings and corrections of various misconceptions regarding intimacy and female sexuality.

Dr. Basheer Ahmed: He is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with 18 years of teaching experience at various medical schools. He started off his career by teaching at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York as a Psychiatrist in 1971. Then he started his own private practice in 1984 till the present time. Meanwhile, he continued to teach at various universities around the U.S.
He is also the Chairman of MCC Human Services in North Texas.

In these videos, Dr. Basheer explained several psychological conditions that women may suffer through when they are sexually dissatisfied in a marriage.

Zeba Khan: She is the Director of Development for MuslimMatters.org, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate.

She helped address the uncomfortable myths and misconceptions throughout these videos and helped provide the correct perspective of female and marital intimacy for Muslim couples to enjoy a better marriage.

Usman Mughni: He is a Marriage & Family Therapist and holds a Master’s of Science degree
Northern Illinois University and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, along with a degree in diagnostic medical imaging. He worked as a therapist at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in the Center for Addiction Medicine. Usman has experience providing counseling to individuals, couples, and families at Northern Illinois University’s Family Therapy Clinic along with experience working with individuals, couples, and families struggling with chemical dependency and mental health diagnoses and running psychoeducational group therapy at Centegra Specialty Hospital’s partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs.

Since Usman enjoys working with couples to help bring tranquility back into the marriage and providing premarital counseling to couples who hope to have a successful marriage at a time when divorce seems to be on the rise, he especially joined us in this series to offer his expertise. He highlighted the most common intimacy issues in Muslim marriages that he has observed throughout the years of his experience as a therapist. His insights and knowledge has helped us clarify many misconceptions not only regarding female sexual nature but also about men and marital intimacy.

Ustadha Saba Syed: She has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language and Literature at Qatar University and at the Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi.

She’s been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage, family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas. SHe also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.

She took the initiative of putting together these videos because through her pastoral counseling experience she realized that there are many marital intimacy problems in Muslim marriages, mainly due to the misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding female sexuality and female sexual nature.

Hence, with the speakers above, and with these videos we hope to clarify and explain as many myths and misconceptions that we believe have become a hindrance to happiness and success in Muslim marriages. We welcome your comments and suggestions in order to make this series more successful.

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Losing Our Parents, Finding Ourselves

Hiba Masood

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“To lose one parent is misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.” – Oscar Wilde

If I am to take Mr Wilde’s words to heart, I’ve had an extremely careless kind of year. Despite our utter devotion to our extremely beloved parents and our best efforts to hang on to them, my siblings and I still went ahead and lost them both about ten months ago.

A long-drawn-out, physically and mentally ravaging illness in which he (and us) suffered for over a decade, took my brilliant, generous, math genius of a laughing, twinkly-eyed father. Upon which, a day after his funeral, my wise, gentle, hostess in chief, caregiver-supreme of a mother promptly contracted a deathly cancer of her own and within a few rollercoaster months, went out like a shooting star.

In between, just to keep things interesting, I also unexpectedly lost a beloved khala (my maternal aunt), a dear long-time family doctor, and our pet cat, who in perfect health one day, dropped dead on our front door the next morning, without any warning whatsoever, completing what was certainly a most eventful year.

I like to think my sister, brother and I, we took all these losses with patience and resilience, in more or less stride…holding fast to the rope of Allah, understanding His qadr and accepting His will as better and wiser than anything we could’ve willed for ourselves. We did this not because we are unfeeling robots or super-mu’mins but because this is how our parents raised us. They raised us to be strong and smart and strong, smart people don’t crumble in the face of what life throws their way. Doing so would be a betrayal of who we were as a happy family and we loved each other just too much to betray.

At least, that is what I loftily tell myself during daylight hours, when the sun is shining and the business of living takes precedence over the philosophy of dying. Because at night, when the house is still and quiet, when my children are curled up in their own beds when the work is done and I put my head to pillow, it is a lot trickier to be so practical-minded.

Every night, every single night for the last 10 months, when I lie down in the dark, before I fall asleep, no matter how hard I try to not have it happen, my mind insists on playing a torturous film. First, I watch my dad die. I am catapulted, in the pitch blackness of my room, back to the night of him in his bed, his eyes closed, his chest slowly rising and falling, rising and falling. I see myself standing beside him, my hand resting on his heart. I see my mother sitting beside us, head bowed.

We are breathing with him, both willing and not willing each next breath. There is nothing different in his outward appearance to suggest the end is near, but the air in the room is holy and we know what’s coming. We don’t move from beside him for one hour, then two, then three. Somewhere past midnight, I see/feel/hear the absolutely deepest silence I have ever encountered. He is gone. So quietly, one would have missed it if they weren’t right there. I see myself exclaim through the tears, “All praise to Allah for He has rescued my Baba from pain.” and I hug my mother.

But my hug doesn’t last. Because, immediately after, it is my mother’s turn. She is in the same bed, the bright morning light flooding into the room. Everyone dear to her is assembled around her, praying and reciting, in aching disbelief that something so similar is happening so soon. Her eyes are wide open and she is breathing faster and faster. I am telling her “Allah loves you, I love you, you’re doing so great, don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine, straight to Jannah, Ma, straight to Jannah“. Suddenly, her whole face softens, relaxes, eases into a radiant smile. She recites the kalima, the room rings with Allahu Akbar and she’s gone.

Earlier, I used to always sob through this entire montage. Pity for myself, grief for who I had lost, the ache of missing them in every imaginable future that lay ahead, would fill my eyes and drench my pillow. The reality of our situation hitting me afresh in the gut: We are orphaned, the roof blown off our heads in a whirlwind of a year, wondering how exactly does one live without the people who taught them how to. Later, as a few months passed, I watched with a more grim, gritted teeth patience. I knew I had to get through this if I wanted to eventually fall asleep. More recently, and this is perhaps the evolution of grief, I have begun to watch with a tender fondness, a dawning understanding of how privileged I was to see the peaceful passing of two righteous people, how lucky I have been to be taught that to love someone, to truly love them, means to bear witness to their journey of becoming more and more human.

And is there anything, ANYTHING more essentially human than death? I bore witness to my parents’ humanity till their very last breath on earth. And because I am human, and I believe in being kind to myself, I finally know that I am not losing my mind or being weak when I keep revising and reviewing this film each night. Instead, I am taming and teaching my very human mind to accept, to submit. I know that all my mind is trying to do as it wrestles every night in the dark, is attempting to make the most beautiful sense out of a most necessary reality.

How do we love? How do we let go? How do we gracefully bear witness to the final moments of our beloveds? How do we prepare for our own final moments?

These questions will take a lifetime to answer.

Perhaps you, dear reader, are already facing these questions. If not, you will certainly face them someday. The truth is, we will all, each of us, one day lose someone we desperately love, despite our very best efforts and most valiant hopes not to. This is the reality of this world. It will not be misfortune or carelessness on our part…it will simply be Allah reminding us that we belong only to Him, that only He knows what is good for us.

If last year, for me, was the year of loss, then this year and all the years ahead are the years of making sense of this loss and deriving meaningful meaning from it. In losing my parents, I must find my self. That is the only thing that will help my parents now. Because, when they were alive, I think I tried my very best to do my due diligence in bearing witness to their humanity. Now that they are in their graves, I can only hope and pray that on the Day it really matters, I am able to bear witness for my parents again: “Oh Allah! Have mercy on them as they did on me when I was younger.”

This is what our loved ones need from us. Prayers, good works so that we may be sadaqa-jaariah, and a relentless testifying to He who listens to all aching, breaking hearts, both in day and night: They were good, Allah. They were good. Have mercy on them.

May Allah forgive our parents, elevate them and reunite us all in Jannah.

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