I seek refuge in Allah from satan the accursed.
In the name of Allah Most Compassionate Most Merciful.
“Considering what our women go through at the hands of their men, jannah should be wajib on them.” -my father
For some reason, women’s lives are very tumultuous. Even if you are the “luckiest” woman on Earth, you still have a much rougher time in life than the man in the same boat as you. I want to share with you insights into the lives of two women who have touched my life recently. Both of them are women whom I crossed paths with. (To protect their identities, I am not using their names in this post)
The single mom
After I stopped working at the Islamic school in my community due to my pregnancy and birth of triplets, I still kept in touch with my former principals, who are very humble and generous. On one such visit, they introduced me to a kindergarten student whose mother also recently gave birth to triplets, and was having a rough time due to being abandoned by her husband. I asked for her number just so I could perhaps befriend her and provide some moral support. When I did call her, I was heartbroken to hear her story.
She was an African American revert, who left her first (non-Muslim)husband after accepting Islam, and travelled to Egypt where she soon married a good man. She had a daughter with that man (the one who went to the Islamic school), but her happy life was shattered when one morning she woke up to find her husband dead next to her. He died in his sleep! It was very difficult but somehow she moved on and remarried another Egyptian man. This time, she was the second wife and the relationship was unstable. She described how her new husband often had arguments with his first wife, and would bring his stresses and temper when he came to visit her and her young daughter. What she disliked the most was how he was unreasonably stern and rough with her daughter. She still kept trying to make it work, and soon enough she was pregnant again, and this time, to her shock, she was expecting triplets.
Her situation got out of hand when one day, her husband had an angry conversation with his first wife over the phone and one thing lead to another, and the next thing she knew, he picked up the sword meant as a decoration ornament, and scared her then two year old daughter. She knew he wasn’t going to hurt her with it, but was very concerned over the young child’s distress. She had had enough and decided to end the relationship, as she could not discount the safety and well being of her daughter over her husband.
She moved to Canada, where she gave birth to her triplets, and her life suddenly became even harder. Her husband did nothing to stop her, telling her to leave if she wanted, and did not make any serious effort to try and reconcile or see his children. She explained how she had left almost all her belongings in Egypt, and when she asked her ex husband to sent them to her, so perhaps she could sell some valuable items to make ends meet, he told her to come to Egypt and take them herself if she wanted them so badly. But she couldn’t go, not with so many small children and all by herself.
Overtime she got help from the provincial government and made connections with some Muslim women, and although she had some family in the area, most of them did not make serious commitments to help her situation, especially since they were not happy about her becoming Muslim. I recently reconnected with her after about a year and was glad to hear that she was still going strong. Although her life is still very tough, her intense faith in Allah SWT keeps her going and she feels blessed for everything she has in her life. Hope resonates in her voice, as she laughs and chats with me, asking me about my triplets’ new developments, and sharing her experience and tips.
Despite leading such a tough and at times painful life, she is a woman full of faith, hope, and inspiration. When I think about her journey and heartaches, I pray that God make her test easier, and that He opens up some doors for her soon to lift her heavy burden.
The illegal immigrant
This past Ramadan, my youngest sister and I were strolling the streets of downtown Toronto, when we passed by a few homeless men. Their faces looked withdrawn and were covered with sadness and hopelessness. As we kept walking down the street, my eyes caught a woman who looked to be in her mid to late fifties, wearing hijab, reciting the Holy Quran, while sitting on the pavement, next to a garbage can. I went through several shocks upon seeing her: a homeless woman, an elderly woman, a Muslim woman! Homeless, yet using her time in Ramadan to recite the Quran!
My mind quickly processed this information and then my memory brought forth the images and audio of a BBC documentary on the French president’s wife’s work with the homeless. I remembered the cameras following her at night, handing out blankets and food to those without any shelter. But what had really struck me were her words that although to the fortunate people out there, it appears that homeless people simply need some money or food, what they truly desire is more human contact and for people to talk to them. As soon as this memory flashed before my eyes, I decided to take the chance, and after giving her what little cash I had in my wallet, I bent down, gently touched her arm, and asked her, “what are you doing here?” The woman seemed quite stunned for a few moments. She stopped her recitation and out poured her heart-wrenching story. I was totally not ready for this intense experience, but that made it all the more exhilarating, albeit overwhelming.
Her eyes were full of pain, as though she had just walked out of surgery, and her face was marred with lines, making her look older and more tired than she was. With tears pouring out of her saddened eyes, she told me that she originally came from Pakistan on a visit visa because she ran away from her husband, who was cruel to her and had a drinking problem. She used the term “ayyaash” to describe him, which is an Urdu word meaning someone who indulges in a life of excess. She said that she was childless, and that after her visa expired she applied for refugee status but somewhere along the line, her immigration lawyer scammed her, taking all her money through fees but not actually doing anything to serve her case. Since then, she explained, that she had been floating from rented rooms to the streets, based on the mood of the landlord or ladies, if they felt comfortable enough to rent their properties to an illegal immigrant. She told me how she was an educated woman with a master’s degree, and that she could not use any of it to work, since she was an illegal immigrant. My heart bled after hearing her story, as she insisted she could not return to Pakistan due to her life being in danger over there.
And as she recounted her life to me, people walking by stared at us out of curiosity, and some flipped coins and a few dollars into her plate. Each time someone dropped money, she looked up, and said in her thin voice, “God bless you.” I asked her if she had gone to a mosque for help, and she told me how they turned her away, threatening to call immigration to have her arrested as an illegal migrant. I had a really difficult time accepting that this was the only option for her, so I gave her my phone number, asking her to call me while I found out if I could find something to help her out.
Once at home, I researched what options there were for someone in her position but came up with nothing except turning oneself in to the immigration office, where most likely you would be deported. There were no support groups for people like that because it was against the law to assist anyone illegal, and I understood why the administration at the mosque turned her away. But something inside me was still hurting, and I felt like I was giving up on her.
I kept thinking about what relevant examples there were from the Prophet’s (pbuh) life, and then it came to me. There was a time in the Islamic history, when there was a peace treaty between the Quresh tribe in Mecca and the early Muslims in Medina, when one of the clauses agreed upon stated that if anyone from Mecca reverted to Islam and ran off to join the Muslims in Medina, they must be returned to the Meccan authorities. A man from Mecca, who accepted Islam once ran off to Medina to seek protection with the Muslim community, but when the Quresh heard of it, they reached Medina, and demanded the return of that man because his coming to Medina was a breach of the law they had agreed upon. Although some companions objected, the Prophet pbuh handed over the man to the Quresh, knowing that he had to abide by the pact he had signed, and told the man to remain patient and steadfast no matter what hardships he faced at the hands of the Meccan authorities.
So keeping this example in mind, I understood that I would have to follow the law, and that there was nothing else at this point I could do for her. I did not notify the authorities about her, but when she did call a week later, I had to have the most difficult conversation with her. It felt like my heart was being twisted in knots as I heard her voice, full of hope, that perhaps I had some way out for her. I stuttered and stammered through my conversation, fearing that I would upset or hurt her. But to my surprise, she was very gracious and calm through the conversation, and accepted what I told her without a hint of bitterness. Worried about her future, I asked her what she would do, how she would manage to live, and she answered, “Allah is Most Merciful. He will make a way for me, child. Where one door closes, He opens other doors.” I was completely humbled by her response, and with tears sitting at the corner of my eyes, I said goodbye to her, asking her to remember me in her prayers. Hanging up the phone, I still felt a heaviness in my heart, and it stayed with me all day, as I tried my best to focus on my own family and children.
I still think about that woman from time to time. I wonder if she is still roaming the cold streets of Toronto, or if she found some help. Or maybe she couldn’t keep going and went to immigration, or what if someone reported her and she got detained and deported. God only knows. I pray for her whenever I remember, that Allah SWT ease her situation.
I remember after I took one of my sons for his circumcisions, how much he had cried, and feeling bad as a mother for my child’s pain, I told my mother how I was worried for my other son’s circumcision appointment, as I didn’t want him to feel so much pain. My mother’s response was, “Don’t worry. Tell him that this is the only pain you will feel in your life.” Her words had truth in them. She meant that women had much more painful and difficult lives than men. When I told about my mother’s words to my mother-in-law, she agreed, stating, “Look at a women’s life! She bears a lot of pain and hardship all her life.” These women’s stories are a testament to my mother’s words, and I hope that my father’s words come true in the next life. I hope that Allah SWT forgives these and other women with hardships, and enters them in His wonderful jannah.
For the Muslim men out there, please try your best to be good role models for your younger brothers and sons, because actions speak louder than words. We can tell our sons or brothers to be good to their wives, but if our own husband and fathers are being unjust or cruel to their women, then they will most likely follow what they constantly observe over what they are told. May Allah SWT guide us all to be just and kind to all of humanity. Ameen.