Forgotten and frustrated. That just about summed it up for Heba, a revert sister and single mother of two, during a long period of illness recently. When sisters first heard she was ill, some had sent comforting texts. A couple of sisters had visited, bringing food and helping her out with the children, but it seemed as if one week was their limit. After that, the support simply vanished.
She kept the children off school for a week, unable to get out of bed, but having them at home all day proved even harder – so she then had to struggle to make the usual school journeys, collapsing in her bed after each one. On her worst days, she’d even pay for a taxi to get them to and from school. Heba felt full of guilt at not being able to look after her children properly – everyday activities such as reading, chatting together and doing homework with them became too much of an effort.
As time dragged on, basic jobs such as washing, cooking and cleaning were increasingly difficult. Ready-made meals or take-aways were costing her a fortune but she could do nothing else. The children were managing with dirty clothes for too many days, and even running baths for them took a huge amount of effort. Her oldest struggled with the hoover, and the little one had quickly learnt to put herself to bed each night whilst Heba just gave instructions from the sofa where she spent most of the day.
She had taken her shahada a year previously, and was initially amazed by the welcome she found from the community of sisters she met at her local mosque. But becoming a Muslim had put up barriers between her and her non-Muslim family, which was another problem when she was ill. She felt unable to ask them for the support she needed, and didn’t want to leave her children in their care for fear of the negative influence they would have on her childrens’ deen. So instead, Heba struggled on alone. Deep down, she had expected the local sisters to be more supportive. She was disappointed that no-one really seemed to care, and she found the hardest thing of all was to have to ask sisters for support. Several times she would write a text asking for help, then stare at it for what seemed like ages, willing herself to press the send button. But the culture of managing alone, of having a stiff upper lip, stopped her from doing so.
At the computer one evening, she came across SOLACE, an organisation for revert sisters in difficulty. As she visited their website, Heba realised they would be able to help her at her time of need, and it somehow seemed easier asking for support from those who didn’t know her. She referred herself online, knowing that she couldn’t carry on alone for much longer.
Within a week, she was receiving the help she deserved, and was touched by the kindness of those she came to know through SOLACE. Sisters would drop food, come and clean the house, and give her the spiritual support she had needed for so long.
Heba’s illness was one of the darkest times of her life as a revert, and it could have ended by her becoming disillusioned with Islam, due to the lack of action from the Muslims around her. However, along with practical support from Solace, she also came through her difficulties with a deeper understanding of how illness can be a source of benefit for the believer. She learned to be thankful each day instead of being frustrated by what she was going through, and reflection on her experience has now enabled her to support others when she sees them in a time of need.
The following are some reminders to us all if we want to do our best for those revert sisters in the community who may be facing a period of illness in their lives:
• Keep regular weekly contact with the revert sisters you know, so that you are aware if they become ill. So often the Muslim community simply doesn’t realise a sister is ill until they realise they haven’t seen her around for a few weeks – those weeks could have been a very low point in their lives.
• Always respond when you hear a revert sister is ill. Remember she may be isolated or cut off from her family, and is expecting you to be the supportive family she has lost. Don’t think that others may be supporting her – do it yourself.
• Appreciate that asking for help is often the hardest thing to do. Don’t wait to be asked – drop in with some extra food, give her some encouragement in her Deen by reading her some ahadith or by reciting Qur’an. Get on and give practical help such as putting a load of washing in, hoovering up, or washing dishes. A task that will only take you ten minutes may have been waiting for days to be done. Your help doesn’t have to involve a long visit – just dropping in for fifteen minutes will make all the difference, and if you can’t manage that, then just a phone call or even a text shows the sister you are thinking about her and that she’s not been forgotten.
• Remember Allah (SWT) before you do – or don’t do – anything. One day you will be standing before Him and will be asked about your actions. Will your answer be good enough? Will being too busy, or never getting around to it, be a valid answer?
• Finally, if you can’t manage to do all you want to for a revert sister who is ill, at least refer them on to SOLACE (with the sister’s permission), or make them aware of the services SOLACE can offer them.
For further information, visit www.solaceuk.org to see the full range of services available to revert sisters in difficulty.
In the Hadith Qudsi Allah will say on the Day of Judgment: “O son of Adam I was sick and you did not visit Me. He will say: O Lord how can I visit You. You are the Lord of the worlds? He says: Did you not know that My servant so and so was sick yet you did not visit him? Did you not know that if you had visited him you would have found Me with him?” (Muslim).
* All names and circumstances are altered in these articles to protect the confidentiality of sisters who contact us for support.
SOLACE is an organisation which helps revert sisters going through difficulties, regardless of whether they have been Muslim for a few weeks or for many years. SOLACE provides fully trained volunteers to work alongside revert sisters, offering a range of carefully designed services.
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