I waved at my children as they passed through the security gates. My ten year old girl waved back and, with the biggest grin, shouted, “I’m off on my great adventure, Mom!”
“Yes, and you will be just fine,” I shouted back.
It would only be a week or so and I would catch up with them.
It had been several months of paperwork and for some medical reasons I hadn’t received my residence visa to travel. The flights all had waiting lists as everyone was going to Saudi for ‘Umrah in Ramadhan and there was no way to delay their tickets. I would just move my ticket to First Class and fly out as soon as my visa was finished – or so we thought.
My husband had really missed the children the previous year as he was working at his new job so he had no problem with the idea of taking them. University started after Ramadhan so he planned to have quality time with them while they waited for my arrival.
Many of my friends, who also have big families, felt that this was a gift from Allah (SWT): a week’s vacation and maybe a few days of quality ‘ibadah since I wouldn’t have the responsibility of family or cooking and all that entails. I had been taking an online course in Sha’ban about how to make the most of Ramadhan. The idea was to get yourself physically and spiritually ready for the the big event, including fasting as much as possible in Sha’ban. That way you would hit the floor running on the first day. I had big plans to make this Ramadhan the best one ever. Last year had been a big letdown for me so I wasn’t going to let another Ramadhan slip by. The cherry on the top would be ‘Umrah in Ramadhan as we would be living in Jeddah, only an hour or so away from the Ka’ba. I couldn’t wait.
The first week of Ramadhan passed and I was checking my ‘ibadah list. From time to time, I would go to my daughter’s home and have iftar with her family. I attended Taraweeh prayer at the masjid next to her apartment and found the voices of the imams so beautiful that I quickly became addicted and wound up staying quite a bit with my daughter and granddaughters. It was such a blessing that, out of my seven children, Allah (SWT) had left one of them with me so I wouldn’t be completely alone. I got time with my three granddaughters and was able to attend Taraweeh at the same time.
The course I took was really paying off. One of the things we had learned is that Ramadhan is about the Qur’an and it isn’t about whether we spent an hour or two with it but rather the Qur’an is the constant and we should only interrupt that for simple cooking or quickly doing whatever is absolutely necessary for the family. It was a different way of looking at Ramadhan. I turned off the television and set up a programme for myself: I would read a juz’ in Arabic and listen to its tafseer in English while holding my Arabic Qur’an, following the English, looking at the Arabic words and thinking about their English meanings. That night, the imam would recite the juz’ and, remarkably, I was able to follow a great deal of what he was saying. This was the first time in my life that I didn’t have to worry about the ‘wandering thoughts’ condition that afflicts so many of us who don’t know what the sheikh is reciting. I thought that I had reaped the fruits of the blessing of this Ramadhan and I was confident that Allah (SWT) in His infinite mercy would soon end the paperwork and I would be off to complete my ‘Umrah. As we approached the last ten days of Ramadhan, I knew that this would not be the case. Saudi Arabia shuts down during the last ten days and I knew that if I didn’t have my paperwork before then, I wouldn’t be going. My husband and I decided he should take our three youngest on their first ‘Umrah since I probably wouldn’t make it in time. That honour was to be his alone.
At Taraweeh prayers in Egypt, you pray four raka’at and then the imam gives a lesson so you can rest up before the last four raka’at. One night, he seemed to be addressing my problem. He told us how to have khushoo’ (be at peace) in our hearts, not just our prayer. We needed tafweed (turning our affairs over to Allah (SWT)), tawfiqh (accepting or resigning ourselves to our situation) and tasleem (surrendering ourselves instead of fighting it). This was a combination of realising or accepting that Allah (SWT) plans our life and He is Al Hakeem, Al ‘Aleem (The All Wise, All Knowing), that He is the one in control, not us. That Allah (SWT) is the best of planners and that, in Islam, we need to submit ourselves to Allah (SWT)’s will in complete confidence that He arranges what is best for us. I was sure that I was being tested. Would I be patient? Would I be accepting or would I complain and get depressed and feel sorry for myself?
Certainly, by the last ten days I was starting to feel sorry for myself. I packed my backpack and decided to make i’tikaf at the masjid I had been attending. The masjid didn’t have a programme but women could come in at ‘Asr and stay until sunrise so I decided I would continue my own programme with that type of i’tikaf. On the first night of those precious last ten days, I found my old Qur’an teacher in the front row, setting up her little spot – “our house,” as she would call it. I couldn’t have been happier: it was a real gift from Allah (SWT) to have found her. She would be a guide for me. We were joined by two other sisters and I was soon snapped right out of my pity party. One sister was going through an ugly divorce, the other was in her late 30’s and had been unable to have children and the third one was in her mid 40’s and had never had the opportunity to get married. I looked at this group and found myself the blessed one. I had children, a good husband and, although they were not with me, they were there and alive and healthy and I felt so ashamed of myself. I felt I had no reason to beg Allah (SWT) for anything when I already had everything. Even if Allah (SWT) took it all away from me at that moment, I felt I had more blessings than I deserved and more blessings than many people ever have. In those last 10 days, the lessons came flooding in. The ayat of the Qur’an were popping off the pages. So many ayat I felt I was reading for the first time. I often felt Allah (SWT) was speaking right to me: addressing my problems, consoling me and encouraging me to be strong and to overcome my tests. It really helped me to cope with my overwhelming desire to see my children and grandchildren scattered in the States and in Riyadh.
I wrote this article in my third month of separation. I kept trying to increase my knowledge and started memorising Qur’an once again with my old Qur’an teacher whom I love so much. My intention in writing this article was to give other women who are experiencing trials the advice that whatever it is, it is good for you, whether you can see it now or not. My advice to you is this: do your best to hold on to the rope of Allah (SWT) and see your way through. Be patient for Allah’s (SWT) sake and look at every opportunity before you as a way to please Allah (SWT) and win His favour. Most importantly, remember Al-’Imran:8 in your du’a:
“Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower.”
Ann (UmAmeer) reverted to Islam 25 years ago and lives between Cairo and Jeddah with her Egyptian husband. The Middle East has been home for over 20 years. She has seven children and six grandchildren with two on the way insha Allah…