“It is quite possible that something which you don’t like is good for you and that something which you love is bad for you. Allah (SWT) knows and you do not.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:216)
For every Muslim, ‘Eid-ul-Fitr is a day of joy and celebration – a day to signify the end of a month of sacrifice and abstinence. However, on the cold, crisp morning of ‘Eid-ul-Fitr in 2001, 1422AH, I received some shocking news: my best friend’s mother had passed away. This was a woman I respected and loved; someone I had served iftaar to and hugged only two days before. Yet that morning was her calling to return to her Lord.
Up until that point, I had been an outgoing teenager who was into everything that my parents would allow, and even some things that would have raised their eyebrows. But that morning, I felt like I’d been dropped from an indescribable height and had shattered into tiny shards. Life took a full turn, leaving me dazed, confused and full of questions.
Although I was born into a Muslim family, my family were of the liberal persuasion where the salah was not really enforced, and the rules of fasting were not strictly adhered to. Nonetheless, my parents ensured that my siblings and I gained some sort of an Islamic education and thus we were sent to madrasah on the weekends. The seemingly endless lessons, however, had little effect on our lives once we exited the doors of the mosque.
The death of my friend’s mother shook me to the extent that I began to question my own life. As difficult as it is to deal with death, it serves as a reminder that our time in this world is limited and that we will not receive any warning as to when our departure from this world will transpire.
On my way home from college one evening, I realised that I was living a double life. On the one hand I was the polite Muslim girl who got top grades in Islamic Studies, who prayed when everyone else prayed and wore a cute khimaar abayah at madrasah; while on the other hand I was a teenager who often transgressed the boundaries laid down by Islam. On a bus journey home, I met one of my madrasah teachers. Shame overcame me that evening when she saw me without the head cover and loose-fitting
garments that she was accustomed to seeing me wear. A dark blanket fell upon me, but I realised that my shame in front of my teacher was unfounded. Standing before her in my usual college gear conjured up the same feelings of shame that Prophet Aadam (AS) and his wife Hawwa must have felt when they realised they were naked. At this point, I realised that I too was naked, and that my shame should not be spurred by my teacher’s witness of it, but that my Lord, Allah (SWT), was always a witness to it.
It was then I realised that my life needed to change; I could not go on being two people. From that day, I began donning a Louis Vuitton silk scarf in order to stay within my ‘gangsta chic’ image. As much as I wanted to change my appearance, my willpower shrank the moment I stepped out of my front door. I wasn’t ready to face the world – and the entire Student’s Union common room – as a fully fledged Muslimah. Not so soon, anyway – but as my confidence and knowledge of Islam grew, I took the
brave step of wearing a full headscarf… what a day that was!
I got looks that shouted, ‘where in the world did you come from with that?’ especially since I was the Publicity Officer of the Students’ Union. People approached me and asked, “Are you Muslim?” which I guess was their way of expressing
their shock. Some asked me, “When did you become a Muslim?” I always hated that question, as it made me feel embarrassed and ashamed for my previous ways: a Muslimah-by name, but not a Muslimah-by nature. I would respond meekly, “I’ve always been a Muslim”.
By Allah’s (SWT) Infinite Mercy, I was able to slowly progress from skintight jeans to a loose, long skirt, and then to a long, flowing dress; and my headscarves became longer and wider in order to cover my chest. I found that the more confidence
I gained within myself, the more readily and easily I was able make those outward changes.
Attending university was a fresh page in my book – it allowed me a freedom that I didn’t have at college. The bonus of having a strong Islamic Society helped me in many ways, as I no longer felt like a lone sheep, or an ugly duckling. I felt like I belonged. My sisters were my pillars; they held me up when everything else around me seemed to be crumbling. We prayed together, ate together, laughed together and sometimes cried together.
My friend’s mother’s death was a turning point in her life, but also a turning point in mine. For her, death signified the end of a longstanding relationship between a mother and daughter; for me it was the onset of a true relationship between a slave and her Lord.
It’s almost impossible to see any sunshine through streams of tears, but Allah’s (SWT) continuous Mercy became evident from
that very day.
‘Eid-ul-Fitr 1421AH was my friend’s mother’s calling to Allah (SWT), and was also my calling to return to the way He has ordained for me. Indeed, that one death comprised of two callings.