Loving the gift more than the giver
Inspired by Yasmin Mogahed.
To be completely honest, I struggled with my journey to Allah SWT. I faced test after test, and all I did was question Allah SWT, as to why He SWT is constantly punishing me or taking my things away. It was only when Ramadhaan this year began, that I took one step at a time in His SWT's direction, and everything began to make sense. This is my story in the journey towards Allah SWT.
Growing up, all I wanted was to be someone's wife and have half a dozen of children. I didn't focus on studying or on good marks, school was a past time to grow up so that I could be married. Reality, however, was very far from my expectations. Everyone around me got a proposal, got married and I became the designated single girl. Until one day it all changed.
It doesn't matter now how I met my ex husband, what matters is we got married in a whirlwind. I was so excited to finally be a bride and someone's wife that nothing and no one else mattered. It didn't matter that I failed to pray Istikharah or even Shukr salah. It didn't even matter that I didn't even care about salah at all. All I cared about was my princess gown and my fairy tale wedding, it didn't even phase me to ask Allah swt for minimum guidance as I entered this new phase of my life.
I made off with a Quraan from my parental home, which was to be forgotten, and into a loveless marital home. All my nightmares came true in this "fairytale" of mine. My Prince Charming didn't even bother waiting a week before informing me that I was to work full time as he couldn't afford my upkeep.
Arguments that once lasted a few hours, turned into days and sometimes into weeks. I lived far from my parental home, and I maintained an appearance of happiness. I never experienced happiness. I was in a bottomless vortex. Lonely, and my then husband offered nothing, not even a cold shoulder. Not once did it occur to me to turn to the Creator of my heart. I was convinced that this loveless marriage was my punishment for perhaps looking for an easy way out of my parents' home. I never once considered it a test of my Imaan. Come to think of it, what Imaan? I cant even once recall praying salah behind my ex husband. The Quraan that was a gift, I never completed reading it once. Who was I back then?
One day, happiness came, in the form of a positive pregnancy test. Amidst my storm, I was going to be a mummy. At least Allah SWT gave me something. It wasn't everything, I thought to myself, but something. And I could live with it. My belly grew and my little girl was active. I had a healthy pregnancy apart from the 24/7 morning sickness, and my baby was especially calm when I played Imaam Sudays on the speakers of the tv. I should have taken that as a sign that I was losing my way. I didn't. I was making my baby happy and nothing else mattered.
Salah and tilawah of the Quraan were never prominent in my house, even though those were the values that my mother instilled in me. I wanted to be a wife and mum, and I fed that by going shopping and buying everything in sight. I only wanted what was mine, and what was mine was this baby. Because she was inside of me, she really belonged to me. A lesson that I learnt the hard way.
My baby was born 6 weeks too early, too beautiful for this world and 17 days later, Allah swt called her home. She was never mine. She was a gift, a gift from the Almighty SWT. To teach me the value of gratitude, which until then I hadn't learnt. I still refused to learn. I blamed everyone, including myself, for the death of my baby. I often sat on the Musallah (prayer mat) and cried. And what did I cry about, I cried that Allah SWT chose to punish me. Instead of giving me a happy marriage, I had an awful husband and a baby in her grave. Surely Allah swt hated me. My whole vision of Allah SWT being merciful in this world was so skewed.
All I knew was that I wanted everything back and I was ready to die for all of it. I went into clinical depression and somewhere along I realized I was pregnant. All the signs were there but I kept myself in denial until I was 6 months along. I didn't want this child. I wanted my first born. My beautiful dimpled princess with her pitch black hair. I didn't want a replacement child. I wanted to die and not go on. My life was over even before it even began and I as convinced that happiness was not in my destiny.
My second daughter was born and even though I was breastfeeding her, I had such severe post natal depression, that I rejected her for almost 6 weeks. She wasn't MY baby. This was Allah SWT's way of replacing what He SWT owed me, I thought to myself. Over and over again. Again, it never struck me to pray, for forgiveness or to say Alhamdulillah. This baby was to fill the space of her sister. And my marriage would glue itself together automatically.
Was I wrong on so many levels. My little girl sensed my rejection and even at 3 weeks old howled until she heard my voice when I was not around. She knew who she wanted, she knew me by smell and sound. Until today, she is just as attached to me, through my voice and scent.
My marriage, on the other hand, went in the completely polar opposite direction. My ex and I drifted. The arguments seized and our marriage was ruled by uncomfortable silence. I couldn't live like this, I began to wither away. My baby felt on edge whenever an argument eventually ensued. One day, I just asked him to leave, and he did. He hasn't looked back and its been over seven years.
Nothing describes the past seven years better than the cliché of a rollercoaster. The highs were too high and the lows were too low. There have been in between's as well.. but none as memorable as how I got to where I am. When my child's father left, I was emotionally distraught. Like in the movies, I expected him to fight for me, come and fetch me, be saved like Goldilocks. As sad as that picture looked, it was also less than realistic. Those were fairytales and I was a Muslim woman going through talaaq.
My father became my pillar, of strength, of hope and of wisdom. He encouraged me to excel at work, and to put all my energy into being a better person. He also begged me to pray. "Pray?" I asked him. "Yes, istighfar and shukr", he replied. I laughed, in anger, bitterly and responded in the worst way possible.
"Allah SWT is punishing ME, why must I ask for forgiveness? And you still telling me to be grateful?", I spat at him.
He was so patient through my angry outbursts, but I was so broken . Eventually, as time went by, I had nothing left to loose, so I decided to try his advice. He had also gone through a divorce, before marrying my mum, so he wasn't making anything up. I went with it.
Everyday I woke up and said Alhamdulillah. Some days, I couldn't look into the mirror, other days I could muster a smile. I continued my internship, one day at a time.
I got the highest mark in class, and I was offered permanent employment. Within that hardship, I found the ease that Allah swt promises all the believers.
Yet I continued denying his favors unto me. I still wanted to be a wife and have more children. That longing grew bigger and bigger, but I continued working and providing for my baby, watching her grow, bigger, smarter and her happiness slowly became my reason to live.
Couple of moves, and years later, and here I am. A corporate job, almost done with a law degree, a few lucrative offers. My life is nothing that I had previously envisioned, but Alhamdulillah I have been so blessed by Allah swt. His mercy is boundless, if we look for the ease within the hardship. My gratitude became my blessings, and I slowly began to see the bigger picture.
The right now warrants its own chapter. I used to be a music addict. Specifically, a Shah Rukh Khan fan of note. So much so that my earphones were kept under the pillow in the case of insomnia so that I could watch Shah Rukh Khan. Music was my life. Day in day out. My salah and Quraan made occasional appearances, I had learnt gratitude, but I couldn't give up music. I still wanted all the shiny beautiful things money could buy and all I dreamt was meeting Shah Rukh Khan.
It was in this way that I found Allah SWT. I had become addicted to my earpho nes and my day couldn't start or end without it. I began panicking around the time for Ramadhaan, and eventually I found the podcast application on my iPhone. I subscribed randomly to Mufti Ismail Menk, Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed and Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan. Emotionally I was a complete wreck, I had just lost someone who was an integral part of my life, through some argument or the other. I needed something solid, and slowly I began listening to podcasts from these speakers.
In particular, Nouman Ali Khan, was doing tafseer of Surah Baqarah. This was the entire story of the struggles of Prophet Moosa AS, that Allah swt revealed to Nabi Muhammad SAW, as lessons of emotional strength, patience and perseverance. I slowly began to analyse the tiny details in my life, and constantly doubled checked these lessons with my friends around me. I, indeed, had gained so much.
Allah SWT gains nothing by neither taking or giving to me. He SWT gives more than He SWT takes away.
All my tests were designed for my to turn back to Allah SWT. Everything that I had lost was never mine to begin with. It was all the gift, and I was so attached to the gift that not once my heart felt love for the Giver. The same Giver who was the Creator of my heart. My heart belonged solely to Allah swt, and I needed this realization in order to heal from so many scars from the past.
The end goal is Jannah. Nothing in this life prepares one for Jannah, but we need to strive (Sa'ee) in order to attain Jannah. This is where I placed my gifts in front of me and began to thank the Giver, Allah SWT. My daughter was never mine to begin with. Her 17 days of life were to show me a piece of Jannah in this world. How many of us are blessed with such a huge trial in this world, to be guaranteed Jannah through the death of an infant? Indeed, with hardship comes ease. And, indeed I had been blind. My feelings were made up of resentment and anger as I had struggled to be grateful.
I have acquired a love and passion for social reform and human rights law. I have countless of ideas on how to ease the lives of people, both through Shariah and secular means. Add to this the many friends I have who listen to my ideas for days. When I picture the happy families portrait in my mind, it no longer correlates. Perhaps my marriage was a way to help my grow. Into the person I am today. I doubt that being married, I would have been compassionate or so inclined to help human beings as I am right now. Don't think I am saying marriage is wrong. It isn't. In fact, it is half your deen. But the other half has to be perfected by you as a woman, as a Muslima, through everything you do. You do not have to have a man by your side in order to conquer the world. Remember Prophet Isa AS's mother, Maryam AS. She was a single mother and she is in the Quraan as the Queen of Jannah. Taking that into account, I live each day, trying to better my life. In the way I pray, both in quality and quantity. Small baby steps.
I am trying to be a better human being. A better daughter. A better mother. A better co worker. While I do not have a husband, I am, however, blessed to serve my beloved parents. I am thankful to Allah SWT for teaching us that without our parents, we are nothing. Without their duas, the doors to Jannah will not open. I am grateful to serve them, as an adult, as a daughter and as a friend. Perhaps, if I was married, I would not be able to serve them in this way that they deserve. They have sacrificed so much for my daughter and I and I hope that soon inshallah I will be able to repay them.
As a mother, I write this with an aching heart, as I hope that one day I will be able to relate all of this to my daughter and that she understands the journey I have been on, and I hope to continue on, and that she feels some sort of pride in who I have decided to be. I hope that she never experiences heartache or sadness, but even if she does, I hope that through my experience she understands that Allah SWT always promises an ease in every hardship, and that she doesn't take as long as I did to learn this.
Mas – Salaam.