“Please, don’t!” I pleaded. “Trust me, there are other options!”
“I wish that were true” She whispered sadly, pointing the gun to her head.
“I’m sorry! I don’t know why I can’t stop laughing! You must think I’m a terrible person!” Salma leaned back in her chair and giggled. This was her second therapy session and she was still refusing to come to terms with her grief.
“I don’t think you’re a terrible person Salma. I’m more interested in what you’re thinking,” I replied. “Sometimes inappropriate reactions are a sign of denial. Perhaps you’re not fully absorbing what had happened to your best friend,” I said slowly.
“What is there to absorb? One minute she was a bride-to-be and the next she was lying in a hospital bed circling the drain! And even though she survived, she’ll be living with a disability! She’s actually DISABLED!” Salma paused then cracked up again. “I know it’s not funny! I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I seriously need to stop laughing!”
Three months ago…
“SURPRISEEEEEEEEE!” All the girls yelled when the bride-to-be walked into Salma’s living room.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed.
She covered her face then whirled around to hug her best friend Salma with sparkling eyes full of love and gratitude. They called her ‘Supa’, a shorter ‘British accent’ version of her nickname ‘Super Girl’. No one knew how and when she got it, but given her kindness, smartness, talent, beauty and courage, it suited her perfectly. She really was a super girl.
“Tell us about him!”
“Does he have any brothers?”
“I hear he’s the hottest bachelor in the whole country!”
“When is the wedding?”
“I don’t know anything yet!” Supa giggled, her face flushed red. “He just met with my dad two days ago!”
“Girls come on give the blushing bride a break! The groom’s family is having a dinner party tonight, and of course, I’m invited because you know, I’m her best friend and all!” Salma teased. “I promise I’ll take pictures and post them on their wedding website!”
“There’s a website?” Supa’s jaws dropped.
“Umm yeah! Now let’s get going. They’re waiting for us in the car. You don’t want to be late and get on your future mother-in-law’s bad side on the very first dinner!” Salma warned.
“Oh my God you know those irritating people who flutter their eyelashes and say ‘I’m so blessed’? Well, I’m one of them now,” Supa giggled. “I really am blessed. AlhamduliAllah!”
“I still get nightmares about that car accident. The very same night Supa was thanking Allah for His blessings, she lost everything! She’s in such bad shape, no one is allowed to see her. Why? Why is life so messed up and cruel and mean?” Salma cried.
“It is, isn’t it?” I asked.
“I know I’m not supposed to ask these questions, but I can’t keep it inside anymore! The resentment is eating me up! Why does Allah punish good people and reward bad people? Like in college, the guys who used to drink and smoke and party all night, they were the cool and popular dudes! And the girls dressed in sleazy skintight outfits and had zero morals; they were seen as fun and sexy! And the worst part is good guys fell for them! How twisted is that? I know girls who have done the unspeakable with an array of different boyfriends in the past, and are currently happily married to rich, successful and decent men! Why does God let this happen and then call Himself Fair?”
“So you think if you had loosened up a bit or dressed provocatively, you would have been married by now too?” I asked cautiously.
“I wear the Hijab, pray, read Qur’an and do everything EXACTLY the way I’m supposed to do it! But it obviously makes no difference! I’m still invisible or unapproachable or even unmarriageable and it makes me feel rejected and lonely! I’m not saying I do all of this to land good suitors, but I certainly never thought being on the right path would turn them off either!”
“Why do you do it then?” I asked.
“Because I want to be a good Muslim! I want to go to Jannah! I believe in Allah and love Him but I’m not sure why He hates me so much! And why He constantly tests the believers with hardships and heartaches while rewarding the non-believers with fame, fortune, and happiness! It makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs, WHY?! Why does God deny us even the tiniest sources of happiness? Why does He want to see us suffer?”
“Do you believe in the ‘Choco-Purpletine theory’?” I asked.
“I don’t even know what that is. How can I believe in it?” Salma snapped.
“I don’t know either I just made it up. But now, is there a chance that maybe the concept of God is also a fabrication and He doesn’t really exist?”
“No! I firmly believe in Allah and His existence. Nothing you say can possibly change that!” Salma replied.
“If you believe that Allah is Unfair, Unjust and likes to see us suffer then I’m sorry to say you don’t really know Him. And like you said, you can’t believe in something you don’t know. The first pillar of faith is ‘Belief in Allah’. Not just in His mere existence; but also in His Lordship, His right to be worshiped alone and in His Names and Attributes. You say you do everything exactly the way you’re supposed to do it, except it doesn’t mean anything if it’s not from the heart. Like traffic rules, we do them exactly the way we’re supposed to do them. We stop at red lights because we are obligated to do so; it’s the law. Parking on the side to help an old woman or remove a blockage from the road; that’s humanity. Acts with sincere intentions are what purify our hearts and bring us real joy. That’s the difference,” I said.
Despite the unmistakable rage in her eyes, Salma spoke softly. “I’m allowed to question, Lilly. Even angels questioned Allah when He created Adam . I just need to know, what did Supa do to deserve this doomed fate? Why are good people always pushed to their limit? Look around you. Islamophobia, Muslims being shamed, banned and killed because of their beliefs, people defending and celebrating homosexuality. Cheating, adultery, terrorism, violence and death of innocent young souls have all become prevalent. In the face of all this heartache and misery, why does Allah expect us to strive to be and do better?”
“Because this is the natural outcome of any strong belief; a constant endeavor to reach your goals. We are all fighting battles of our own, slipping in and out of physical, mental and emotional breakdowns. The few who survive and rise above are the heroes who change the world for the better. Look at the Prophets and companions.”
“Oh, don’t do that,” Salma protested, holding up a palm. “Those are unquestionably incomparable legends.”
“Okay then let’s look at modern day heroes. Martin Luther King overcame oppression because he believed in equality. Gandhi changed the world because he never tired from standing up for justice. 14-year-old Malala survived a shooting and is now one of the strongest proponents of education. These are all examples of people who stood up courageously in the face of torture. Their beliefs were strong enough to make a difference in millions of lives. How much more of a right does Allah, the Magnificent Almighty, have on the believers to stand up for their beliefs? Allah says:
“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars. [Qur’an: Chapter 29: Verses 2-3]
If it were easy, everyone would do it. Everyone would believe in God and be special, productive and successful. But it doesn’t work that way, honey. Allah is Fair. This is what you sign up for when you aim for Paradise; being tested, tried and purified. You get what you work for Salma, not what you wish for. Faith isn’t merely a philosophy, saying we believe in one God and doing nothing to prove it. There’s a practical aspect to this concept; one we strive to achieve daily. We struggle, push boundaries, and hold onto ‘unseen’ reality. That’s the whole point. In the face of misery and tribulations, strong believers and heroes are born!”
“So you’re saying Allah allows evil only because good things will come out of it?” she asked, tilting her head.
“Exactly!” I smiled.
“What good could possibly come out of Supa’s disability?” Salma wondered.
“I’ll answer this question soon, in sha Allah, I promise. An act of God always yields positive outcomes. There’s no doubt about it,” I replied. “Tonight, sit alone with Allah and ask Him to show you. Ask Him for everything you wish for. It’s one of the most beautiful forms of worship, for it gravitates you towards Him even more and strengthens your belief. Because when you make dua from the heart, you must believe Allah is listening. Otherwise, you’re just a crazy person talking to someone who isn’t there!”
Salma walked out of my office completely captivated, I think she stopped blinking!
She went home that night and whispered a silent prayer.
It had to be silent; for no one knew the secret she’d been keeping from her best friend.
No one knew what happened was all her fault…
To be continued…
Stay tuned to Part 2 of this series, and you can also read Inside the Therapist’s Office Season 1 for more insight on the pillars of Islam.