Ya Umm Hamzah

We were done for the day. It was a long day all right, uneventful, i can safely say. Naturally i was thinking of a warm, wholesome dinner and recounting remarkable points of the day I often make a point to share. I fondly refer to them as our little ‘story-swap sessions’. I was disappointed there wasn’t much to tell, everyone in the group was behaving miraculously well, and there wasn’t even a slightly eccentric character in sight.

And I saw them. She was limp on her shoulder, lifeless I first thought, if not for her blinking eyes. I came to realize that this was the same child I saw sleeping on her bed minutes ago. I walked with them to the elevator, purposely going out of the unpredictable elevator; that works only under some very specific circumstances at very random times, when they went out, so I could be with them a little bit longer. I watched her as she asked the security guard to tell her when the next elevator would come, she wanted to go and sit, the child was too heavy for her to carry. I went in with her when the next one eventually came, and watched her tell the guards at the closed front door, she just couldn’t walk any farther with the child, and heard them replied a dry ‘Allah helps you’.

I walked beside her towards the other exit. I asked her if I could carry her bag. To which she replied, ‘but I don’t want to bother you’ which was of course ridiculous, I was already bothered the first time I saw the limp child on her shoulder. She relented at my insistence, and we walked to the bus.

She told me about the child, how she was doing well until she had a seizure two years ago and her gait changed, she started regressing and losing her motor skills gradually. When I saw the child, there was no movement at all, she could only open and close her eyes. And she said she had five other children just like her, they all died after two years of having a seizure. She has a daughter, who is doing well, she just can’t walk. She prays, fasts and wears hijab in front of everybody else except her father and brother. Her eldest is fine, he is in the Navy. ‘Alhamdulillah’, she added with a small smile.

She asked for her bag for the bus fare, which I refused to give, I asked if she would let me pay for her. And she firmly said ‘No, I have money for the fare in the bag’. To which I replied ‘Yes, I know you have it, but let me just pay because I really want to’. She hesitated before giving in, and I was relieved I didn’t have to resort to more extreme measures if she had insisted. Just before getting on the bus, she said ‘I can pay’, I pretended not to hear and nudged her in.

It was a while before the poignancy of her story set in. The tears didn’t even have time to well in my eyelids, there was a steady stream falling, I saw them taking away the words on the papers I had on my lap.

وَمَا يَسْتَوِي الْأَعْمَىٰ وَالْبَصِيرُ.وَلَا الظُّلُمَاتُ وَلَا النُّورُ.وَلَا الظِّلُّ وَلَا الْحَرُورُ

Not equal are the blind and the seeing, nor are the darknesses and the light,nor are the shade and the heat. [Faatir:19-21]

They left me wondering for long, of everything that would come at times to be so puzzling and contradictory to how I always thought things were. If I were to be given a choice; sight or blindness, light or darkness, under shade or scorching heat, I would simply have chosen all the formers. Because I was standing on the ground that life is only easy or hard, good or evil. I looked past the door that led to chastity Allah opens for the blind whose sight were never tainted with filth and grime the world is filled with. And light that always comes at the end of the pitch-dark tunnel. And life that sun brings with the heat, wherever it shines.

وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ ۖ وَلَلدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ ۗ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ

And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah, so will you not reason? [Al-anaam:32]

She came and showed me that no matter how hard life is, we are fortunate Allah does not make it lasts forever. If life were to last, then she is the one who would have every legitimate reason to be upset. But life and all its odds were the least of her worries because she got too busy perfecting the task Allah gave her. She was so preoccupied thanking Allah for everything that she has, she forgot some of the things Allah took away. So Allah gave her the gift of beautiful children, some are waiting for her in Jannah. The gift of strength of unproportionate amount, given the fragile nature of the human heart, it is hard not to attribute an element of divinity to it.

Our short encounter left me with grief so deep and so heartfelt. I couldn’t really say what made me cry so hard, tell her story to everyone and end up repeating the story to the same person more than once. All I could say was that I lost grip of my emotions with the calmness she had when she was telling me her story. Paradoxical, yes, her composure let my emotions loose.  But what I felt was like I said, unexplainable and the feeling kept on tugging at my heartstrings until I started to listen to what He has been trying to tell me.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ

O mankind, you are those in need of Allah , while Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy. [Faatir:15]

That I am all His. What He wants for me is what will happen. He fills me with feelings I can’t justify so I would listen. When I am weak He wants me to know where to look, to His words. When I ask, I would do so with certainty that He would answer. When I face a challenge He wants me to know that He is the source and when I come out of the ordeal stronger, He is still the source.

Ya Umm Hamzah,

I really need you to know that the tears you saw were not of pity, for I’m not sure it’s even worthy for someone like you. Nor were they of empathy, my shoulder would have broken if I were to place myself in your shoes. It wasn’t sympathy, you are not suffering after all, you are just getting closer to Allah, in a way slightly harder than what I am used to. So I guess they are tears of envy then, that you got to His side before I do.

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