“It’ll just be one week,” I kept reassuring my friend, in whose tiny studio apartment I had just dumped my stuff. Only a week before, I had left student housing with no idea where I would live, and, standing there before her, offering my reassurances, I didn’t actually know where I would be a week into the future either. It was summer break, I was broke and homeless, but I was a Muslim and I was no longer afraid.
Thus began my first lesson in dependence and independence. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is known to have said “Whoever seeks the acceptance of Allah (SWT) but angers people – Allah (SWT) will free him from dependence on people, and whoever seeks the acceptance of people by angering Allah (SWT) – Allah (SWT) will leave him to the people” (Saheeh Tirmidhi). Indeed, the truth of these words was made vividly clear to me in the first major test of my faith.
It is hard to give a clear picture of the difficulty of these times without criticising, and perhaps thereby causing injury to, those nearest and dearest to my heart: my non-Muslim family. However, suffice it to say that many concerned adults were “worried about the direction my life was taking”, and that’s when they put it nicely. Since my family had been funding my college education, as well as my room and board, they could no longer tolerate being “enablers” of my self-destruction, as they saw it and decided to cut off their financial support. I understood, even then, that their criticisms were rooted in fear and that their fear was rooted in love, but there are some times in life where you just have to follow your heart and the truth you find therein. Thus I found myself in a position where, in order to please Allah (SWT), I had to rely on no one but Him. It was in this state that He delivered me to the door of a young woman named Aya*.
Just as the Ansar took in the Muhajiroon, the new Muslim immigrants to Medina, Aya took me under her wing during that difficult time of transition, offering me a place to live when I had nowhere else to go, as well as her friendship and emotional support and the example of how she lived her daily life.
Aya was someone I had only come to know recently, and I was anxious not to make her feel imposed upon or, really, to give her any sort of difficulty at all. A triple-major Sudanese exchange student, with the lighthearted sweetness of a little princess and the commanding nobility of a great queen, Aya was the epitome of the kind of person I aspired to be.
I was in awe of her generous nature – she hardly knew me and certainly owed me nothing. Though I had several other Muslim friends with bigger homes and more room to spare, as it were, she was the one that took me in. She was there for me with words of wisdom, probing analysis, and comforting humour during one of the most turbulent times in my life. What’s more, she never complained about the fact that my “one week” turned into one month, which then turned into four months. Her patience and kindness in the face of someone dumping their entire messed-up life on her doorstep is beyond description.
Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an, not only once, but twice; “Inna ma’ al-‘usri yusra” (Verily, with every difficulty there comes ease) (Qur’an 94:5-6). Indeed, it was when I placed my trust completely in Allah (SWT), not knowing what the future would hold, that Allah (SWT) freed me from dependence on people and brought me to a situation infinitely better than what I had before. Allah I had tested my faith and provided me with everything I needed, as promised in the above verse, through the benevolence of a compassionate sister and provided me with a live-in tutor on how to practice Islam.
How can I count all the lessons I learned in the months I lived with her? We woke up to pray Fajr together every day, and from that I learned the beginning of Surat Ya-Seen as well as what an enjoyable habit waking up for Fajr can be. From shopping and eating together I found that simple, healthy meals and a few essential possessions are often more than sufficient and that most of what we think we need is an illusion. From sleeping in the same bed, it dawned on me that actually the majority of people in the world sleep together in small spaces such as this and they’re perfectly happy that way. I learned to integrate simplicity with pleasure – to live with less and enjoy life more.
Allah (SWT) sent Aya into my life like a guardian angel. By openly sharing her home and her entire life with me, I had not only been provided with physical comfort, but with even more valuable lessons in the practice of Islam. Though, alhamdulillah, I eventually found a good-paying job and was able to move into my own apartment and support myself, I will never forget the days and nights spent with Aya and the lessons learned. I pray that my experience may be an example to all my sisters with any room to spare, and for all my sisters down on hard times, a reminder that Allah (SWT) will provide relief for their suffering as surely as spring follows winter.
Tara DeLancey is a part-time writer and full time mum currently living in South Wales.