“Are you having second thoughts again?” I asked.
“No. The truth is, I used to look down on women who didn’t wear the hijab and those who took it off. I thought they were gonna burn in hell. But then the weirdest thing happened. The same veil I took pride in became the thing that suffocated me the most! Now I understand and sympathize. This piece of cloth can be your best blessing or your worst nightmare”
“That’s a strong statement,” I said carefully.
“I’m not going to take it off. I’m just saying it makes me feel depressed sometimes, and I’m already miserable enough thank you very much!” She twisted the wedding ring on her finger and then looked away.
“Aisha, this dinner is very important to my sister. My whole family is expecting you to be there. So please apologize to your friends and let’s not fight like last time,” her husband sighed.
“It’s Helen’s birthday. I have to go! Lola and Sara will kill me if I don’t. Do you have any idea how hard it was to find a table at this restaurant? OMG, it’s like the place to be on a Friday night,” Aisha exclaimed. ”I’ll catch up with you guys as soon as I can. And I’ll make up a very good reason for being late I promise,” Aisha added, too busy applying her makeup to even look at her husband.
The conversation didn’t stop there. It never did. They kept arguing until they were both yelling at the top of their lungs.
“What do you mean ‘what will my mom say’? Let me remind you, honey, you’re the one terrified of her, not me!” Aisha snapped.
“Ladies and gentlemen please take your seats. Aisha’s daily nagging show is about to start,” her husband announced sarcastically.
“The truth hurts, I know,” Aisha added bitterly. “Here’s another ugly truth. It’s not about you being religious. We both know you aren’t. The only reason you won’t allow me to take my hijab off is because you’re scared of your mother. She practically runs our life!”
After about an hour of fighting, Aisha decided to cancel with her friends and join her husband’s family dinner. She was no longer in a ‘partying’ mood anyway. She just wanted to avoid his acidic vibe and hopefully be far away from him as possible.
Watching the numbers descend on the elevator screen, and her husband checking his phone for the millionth time, Aisha couldn’t help mumbling under her breath, “I hope something happens that will make us NOT go.”
“You know, even though social obligations are a big deal for him and he guilts me into wearing the hijab and acting the part of a very proper, pious couple; he does it with no real conviction or awareness. He’s always someplace else even when he’s standing right next to me, always focused on his phone and his work. He dismisses my feelings when I tell him so many people make me feel small because of my hijab. He never compliments me or makes me feel beautiful. I’ve become a ghost he’s scared of, yet doesn’t see. Sometimes I feel he’s so far way I start suspecting he might be in love with someone else! I’m exhausted I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m tired of feeling insecure at home and left out in public. I just want to blend in instead of being stared at, shunned and ignored. It’s making me become an angry, miserable bitter person. It’s making me become aggressive and ungrateful. Don’t you think this upsets Allah more than me taking off the hijab?” Aisha asked.
“You know which people have been ridiculed, shunned, ignored and made fun of? The Prophets. Everyone loved and respected them until they preached something different from what people wanted to hear and then hell broke loose,” I said.
“Who are we to compare ourselves to the Prophets?” Aisha asked defensively.
“Nobodies. We can never compare to them. Yet, believing in Allah’s Messengers is the fourth pillar of faith. Why do you think that is?” I asked.
“Because if we didn’t believe in them we would have rejected the message they came with commanding us to worship Allah alone.”
“True. Except Allah dedicated a big part of the Qur’an to tell us their stories. Don’t you think that’s part of the message?”
“What do you mean?” Aisha asked.
“The Prophets were the nicest people on the planet and yet they were called the worst of names, evicted and threatened,” I explained. “They’re human and they have feelings, too. Did you think this struggle was easy for them? They persevered and continued with their greater spiritual Jihad. So even if we don’t compare to them, at least we are obliged to learn from and emulate their great efforts.”
“Are you saying me feeling this way, rejected and belittled because of my attire, is part of my Jihad?” Aisha wondered.
“We don’t grow when things are easy, Aisha. We grow when we face challenges, for they aren’t sent to destroy us, they’re there to strengthen and promote us to a higher level. In a way, the fourth pillar says: ‘Don’t be afraid of being different, be afraid of being like everyone else.’”
“You know, I cry myself to sleep every night. I blame myself for the accident. I feel like Allah flipped the car to punish me. Or perhaps to remind me that life is short. I’ve never said this to anyone but I feel guilty all the time…”
Aisha lowered her head and went into a soft daze as if she had unblocked something that melted her frozen heart and allowed the tears to finally flow down her face…
“If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials,” Zahra said.
“You’ve always been the ‘cup is half full’ type of girl, even after everything that’s happened. And I keep wondering, where do you find all this peace?” Aisha asked.
“We don’t look for peace Aisha, it comes to us. You’ll only find inner peace and true joy when you do everything from the heart…” Zahra replied.
“What if you can’t do it from the heart, Zahra? You know what happened changed me too. I know I should be more grateful. I know I should be more patient. But somehow, even though I’m trying, all I feel is the pain,” Aisha cried.
“Maybe that’s a good thing. Rumi says: ‘The wound is the place where the light enters you. The cure for the pain is in the pain,” Zahra explained.
“I can’t believe how wise you’ve become. You sound like one of those famous spiritual speakers. Who knows? Maybe that will be your calling.”
“Maybe,” Zahra smiled.
“I’ve learned so much from her. She’s the reason I’m here today,” Aisha confessed. “I used to be a better person before I went this numb. I wish I could regain my faith. I want to feel the joy she feels and see what she only sees.”
“You know what you’re feeling right now? This craving desire to be closer to Allah ? Hold on to it Aisha for it comes by so rarely. In the wake of an extremely materialistic world, we sometimes forget to meet our spiritual needs. We pretend like the people we befriend and the things we watch don’t affect us but let’s face it, they do! And so our hearts crawl away from Allah bit by bit, we hardly even notice it till it’s too late. Hold on to this beautiful rare feeling of wanting to be better Aisha, and try to recapture it. Recite the ad’eia (supplications) of the Prophets especially the ones mentioned in the Qur’an.”
“Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.” [Qur’an: Chapter 3, Verse 8]
Recognition dawned on her face and I could see the tears of joy and pain shimmering in her eyes.
“Ameen,” she whispered. “I’ll see you next week, in sha’ Allah.”
The following day, my next client arrived on time for his session, and we spoke for a while before he burst out.
“How can you say this? Don’t try to sugar-coat the truth, Lilly. You know just as well as I do, I’m the one who caused the accident!”
“I know you believe that and this is why you’re here, Ibrahim. To talk about it and analyze your feelings,” I said gently.
“I have! And you know what I’ve realized? The only thing worse than killing my baby sister… is not killing her.”
To be continued…
In your opinion: how does one believe in and practically follow the Prophets? Share with us your comments and reflections down below!
If you haven’t read Season 1 of this series, you can read Inside the Therapist’s Office Season 1 for more insight on the pillars of Islam.