You may have heard that Latinos are not only the fastest growing minority in the United States, but they are also the fastest growing minority within Islam. However, the history of Latinos is just as rich with Islamic roots and influences as their future promises to be. Not all Latino Muslims are converts; many have been practicing Islam for generations and some are even descendants of Muslims from faraway lands. Because Latinos have been involved in Islamic and civil rights movements in the United States as far back as the 60’s and 70’s, and may have been here for even longer, one would think that Muslims would do their best to familiarize themselves with the culture, traditions, and geography of Latin America to better understand their brothers and sisters. However, the non-Latino Muslim community still knows very little about Latin America, what it really means to be Latino or Hispanic in America, and what it means to be Latino and Muslim.
That is why we have compiled this list of things that Latino Muslim leaders all over the US want you to know:
1. We want to be treated as equals.
Muslim Latinos want to be seen on equal footing of respect, admiration, brotherhood, and affection. This requires work on our parts, as well as that of our communities… We want others to know that many of us feel hurt and that we are being treated as we have been treated by non-Muslim society: like second class citizens, but that we stand with our brothers in religion even though our social and political agendas may look and sound different.
Hajj Yahya Figueroa, Alianza Islámica (formerly New York), Pennsylvania
2. We come from good families.
Many, if not most of us, came from very moral families. The idea that we converted from some horrible background simply because we’re Latino is not our narrative.
Shinoa Matos, Journalist, New York
3. We can be Muslim and keep our Latino identity.
I would like others to be able to understand and identify the difference between the true practices of our religion Islam vs the diverse cultures that Muslims who practice Islam belong to. For example, someone can be Mexican and Muslim and nowhere in the religion are we encouraged or obligated to choose between the two. We can be just as proud of our faith and culture. We do not need to compromise.
Nahela Morales, ICNA Dallas, Texas
4. Latinos helped to establish Islam in the US.
Latino Muslims were instrumental in establishing Islam in the US; they possess a role in Muslim American history not known to many. Unfortunately, despite these facts, not enough has been done to assist the growth and continuity of the Latino Muslim community by the larger body of Muslims. So, the community is forced to struggle to address its needs with very little support.
Imam Yusuf Rios, 3 Puerto Rican Imams Project, Ohio
5. Our community can relate to both the indigenous and immigrant experience.
Latino Muslims offer a unique experience within the narrative of what is American Islam. We can be a bridge between the African-American Muslim community and immigrant Arab and South Asian Muslim communities. For many of us, we understand and are affected by many of the issues that affect the African-American community due to our proximity and long history within the U.S. yet at the same time, we understand the immigrant experience and the notion of what “back home” means. Latino Muslims are at a crossroads and we are still defining who we are.
Hazel Gómez de Crain, Organizing Fellow at Dream of Detroit, Michigan
6. We are a collage of cultures and customs.
The ethnic mix of the Latino Muslims reflects people of a broad spectrum including: Africans, Native Peoples, and Europeans etc. This has increased because of the diaspora, the Triangular Slave Trade, and the Pre and Post-Colombian Exchange. We should consider the possibilities (and find common ground in): Why we look like we do, eat what we do, speak like we do, and all those other traits that make Latino Muslims a unique group of individuals.
Jamal Abdul-Karim, MEd., Teacher, Maryland
7. All of us deserve to learn about Islam.
We have the right to know and learn about Islam just like everyone else. Not all of us are blue-collar immigrant workers, nevertheless, a Latino or Hispanic person should never be regarded as inferior because of where they are from or their occupation. It kills me to see a Latino person cleaning the mosque or working on landscaping outside a mosque, who doesn’t even know anything about Islam or Muslims because no one bothers to talk to them. There is no excuse.
Wendy Díaz, Co-Founder, Hablamos Islam, Maryland
8. We are just like you.
We came to Islam because it appeals to our very Latinoness (Latinidad). We are converts just like born Muslims are nothing more than the descendants of converts.
Shinoa Matos, Journalist, New York
9. We have been inspired by our predecessors.
As Latino Muslims, our inspirations are the great scholars who learned the Deen and became prominent while being Non-Arabs: Imam Bukhari (Uzbekistan), Imam Muslim (Nishapur), Imam Qurtubi ( Spain ).
Imam Daniel Hernandéz, Pearland Islamic Center ISGH, Houston, TX
10. We want you to acknowledge that we are valuable.
We are not 2nd class citizens, rather we are servants of the Most High and that makes us brothers/sisters under His Mercy and Grace. Affirm our specialties and acknowledge that we are no less than you in our professions. Do not use us to gain wealth or move your organizations the way the slaves were sold in the markets.
Imam Wesley Abu Sumayyah Lebron, Misericordia Para La Humanidad (Mercy for Humanity), 3 Puerto Rican Imams Project, New Jersey
11. We want you to get to know who we are.
Latino Muslims coming to Islam just add feathers to our beautiful Peacock. We are many nations who are diverse in culture and customs. Please take the time to personally understand the Latino Muslims you come across and not only their conversion stories.
Imam Daniel Hernandez, Pearland Islamic Center ISGH, Houston, TX
12. Latinos are diverse.
We are not all Puerto Rican or Mexican. Latin America is very diverse.
Nivia Martinez, Grassroots Dawah, New York
13. We do not want to confuse culture with Islam.
Don’t bring us your cultural baggage and confuse it with Islam. Islam is just as much a part of our heritage as it is of yours. We are equal because we share this Deen with you, and we follow the footsteps of the best generations because we accepted Islam based on knowledge and not culture.
Hernán Guadalupe, MEng., Doctoral student, Business Administration, Maryland
14. We do not want you to believe the stereotypes.
I would want non-Latino or “native” Muslims to know that we are no less than them (some would argue our higher standing due to our choice of Islam vs being “born” into it – but I reject those divisive thoughts). Secondly, not being “born” into it then gives us a certain push in the Islamic direction. The last point – is sad because I have to say it – we are not all bad or criminals or the sort, as all Muslims are not terrorists or murderers or the sort. There are just a few bad apples in every culture!
Alex Robayo, ME, Physics Instructor, New York
15. We are not just learning about Islam in the prison system.
Some people believe that we have come to (learn) Islam in prison. Not all of us have come to know about Islam because of prison, alhamdulillah.
Juan Alvarado, Caseworker, Pennsylvania
16. Our conversion stories are just as diverse as we are.
Many of us did not become Muslim for marriage. Not to shame those who did, but some of us made this choice on our own.
Nivia Martinez, Grassroots Dawah, New York
17. We demand respect.
Just as every Latino is not Mexican, every Latino is not a drunkard. Almost all immigrant Muslims who contact me are trying to marry a Latina. Many of them see us as no more than a Tinder (dating app). Maybe they could ask to help in the dawah, instead.
Juan Galvan, Co-founder, LADO, Illinois
18. Our women are not for sale.
Unfortunately, we Muslim Latina sisters are fetishized and sexualized amongst the men in our Ummah; considered cheaper alternative brides and punked (many times out of ignorance) from having a legitimate wali, then offered less in dowry, dignity, and honor, and discarded. It’s not right and these conversations need to be had.
Paulina Rivera, MSW candidate, USC, California
19. Rather than criticize, lend a hand.
Do not criticize the Latino once he is learning about Islam; instead, you should help him, get to know him, befriend him and learn with him all the things you do not know about our culture.
Sonia García, The Latina Muslim Foundation, California
20. If you want to know more about us, just ask.
Do not assume to know who we are, what we have been through, or how we got here. If you want to know our story, just ask. We will be happy to tell you. And when we do, don’t judge us; just listen.
Melissa Barreto, Homeschooling Educator, New Jersey
21. We are proud of who we are.
After coming to Islam, Latino Muslims truly appreciate their home countries and who they are because they get to have Islam and be Latino at the same time.
Dr. Julio Ortiz-Luquis, Professor of International Relations, New York
22. We want you to learn about our rich history and contributions to society.
There is much to celebrate in our Latino customs, from our past indigenous contributions in the pre-colonial American landscape to the more recent contributions throughout Latin America. Islam is as transformative to Latino Muslims as it is to non-convert Muslims. Find out more on how to make a more meaningful impact in our communities by getting to know our histories, our people, our values.
Nylka Vargas, P.I.E.D.A.D National Coordinator, NHIEC Dawah Committee, New Jersey
23. Just as we have a shared past, we have the same goals.
We aspire to belong to the Ummah of Muhammad, the mercy for mankind. I would like for the Muslim community to accept us as Muslims with an Andalusia flair.
Imam Yusef Maisonet, Masjid As-Salaam, Alabama
24. We want to feel accepted.
As a Muslim Latina, I would like to let non-Latinos know that we are very open and accepting individuals. I would like to share my Dominican recipes and put a spunk to their dishes! Most importantly, I want them to know that we just want to be accepted, not rejected from the (Muslim) community.
Sahar Amada Quesada, Teacher, New York
25. We are here to stay.
We exist, and we are here to stay. Islam is for everybody; it is universal and not confined to one place or time.
Imam Danny Khalil Salgado-Miralla, Masjid the Abrar, New York
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Qur’an, 49:13)
Historically, Latino Muslims have sought refuge in Islam because it resonated with our spirituality, morals, family values, and traditions. There is so much to learn from our “Latinidad,” what makes us innately Latino*. We are a people from various countries and backgrounds bound together by a shared language and principles and a history of colonization, oppression, and injustice. Now, we have been united with you under the banner of Islam. We have so much to offer the greater Islamic community, but this begins with acceptance. Make a conscious effort to get to know your Latino brothers and sisters today.
*Note: The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Latino as: “a person who was born or lives in South America, Central America, or Mexico or a person in the US whose family is originally from South America, Central America, or Mexico,” whereas Hispanic means: “coming originally from an area where Spanish is spoken and especially from Latin America.” Latino origin is based on ancestry, lineage, heritage, nationality and/or country of birth, therefore Latino people come from a variety of countries, backgrounds and social statuses.
Mexico is the only Spanish-speaking country that shares a border with the US. However, there are a total of 21 countries in the world where Spanish is the official language. The bulk of those are in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. All Spanish-speaking countries are represented throughout the US.
Our Struggles – Mental Health And Muslim Communities | The Family and Youth Institute
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 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.
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.
Loving Muslim Marriage | Is it Haraam to Talk About Sex?
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.
– 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
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.
Losing Our Parents, Finding Ourselves
“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.