“That’s the first time you mention your parents,” I said carefully. “I can tell it’s a subject you try to avoid. Are you angry at them, Hannah?”
“My dad died years ago. And my mom is also dead… Or, at least, to me she is…” Hannah clenched her jaws, as she over-sugared her coffee.
Silence filled the office where I spend my hours listening to people talk. I could literally see my patient building an invisible stone wall around her, to prevent me from touching a feeling she had obviously been holding on to for way too long. Like walking into a minefield, I proceeded with much-needed caution.
“Your mom must have done something for you to shut her out of your life this way,” I said.
“She’s the reason my whole world fell apart!” Hannah sneered. “I know it’s hard to believe that a daughter can hate her own mom, but I do! I’ve hated her for as long as I can remember…”
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“Daddy! What’s wrong? What time is it?” Little Hannah asked, still half asleep.
“Nothing sweetheart. I just came to check on you. Go back to sleep,” Her dad kissed her and tucked her back in.
“Were you and mom fighting again?” Hannah asked. “I heard you guys yelling. What happened?”
“It’s just… it’s grown up stuff, honey. Mommy is a little bit angry at daddy, but don’t worry, everything will be okay. I promise!” Her dad whispered.
Days, weeks, months and years passed by, and still nothing seemed to change. Her parents kept fighting. She couldn’t even count the times she heard her dad apologize, and have the door slammed in his face. Her mom was always cranky, upset and sometimes just downright mean, even to her own daughter. But Hannah’s dad soothed her and gave excuses to the despaired, miserable woman. It was not love that held this family together anymore; it was her dad’s patience. He was the best dad in the world! And she could not help but resent her mom for rejecting and emotionally abusing a husband who obviously loved her so much; he went down to his knees to ask for forgiveness over and over again!
“Get out! I can’t even look at you!” Hannah’s mom cried.
“I can explain!” Her dad panicked. Hannah could see his face from where she was hiding behind the couch late one night, and felt her heart break for him.
“How could you do this? You have a daughter!” Her mom yelled.
“I didn’t do anything! You have to believe me! I love you both so much!” Her dad cried. “You know I can’t live without Hannah!”
“I don’t care if you love your daughter because I hate you with every cell in my body! Get out and never come back! In fact, I hope you DIE!” His angry wife pushed him out before locking the door.
Twenty minutes later, he did. Hannah’s dad got into a car accident and died instantly that very same night.
“I never spoke to her again! We lived like strangers under one roof!” Hannah said, holding the now-cold cup of coffee she hardly drank from. “Until I was about to get married and she came and warned me not to. She said, ‘Don’t marry for love Hannah! You’ll regret it!’ But I married him against her will, and she never came to the wedding nor did I ever hear from her again. She never even came to see me when I was at the hospital! She’s heartless! “
“Is there a chance this isn’t the whole truth? That maybe there’s another side to the story?” I asked.
“It wouldn’t have changed anything! She was the reason my dad died! If she hadn’t been so mean, perhaps she could have embraced me and prevented me from marrying Rasheed! If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have been a middle aged barren woman married to a man old enough to be my father!” Hannah cried.
“It’s the word ‘if’ that messes with our heads the most. You know why? Because it makes us believe we could have changed our destiny! ‘If’ only she didn’t kick him out… ‘If only’ she had said it in a different way… ‘If’ he hadn’t ignored my calls I would have still been able to have children!! The word ‘if’ doesn’t fit in our religion because it gives random luck so much power! It fuels our anger to blame others for what Allah had already decreed. No one has the power to do anything against His will! There’s no ‘if’ when you truly trust in ‘La illah ila Allah’. He decided on the exact timing of your dad’s demise even before your dad was born! Your mom is not powerful enough to decide otherwise. And when your heart lives and breathes the ‘shahada’, attesting that ‘Muhammad is His messenger’, you look at things differently, and you’ll be eager to follow his example. The cure to any feeling and the answer to any possible question is in the sunnah!”
“There are three sides to every story, Hannah. Yours, theirs and the truth! Perhaps your mom took the blame out of kindness and patience. She didn’t reveal her side because she didn’t want to deprive you of a good father figure. Maybe if your baby had lived, he or she would have ended up hiding behind the couch years later too, watching you and Rasheed fight and hating you. And you’d be in your mom’s shoes. Maybe deep down you already know that, and you’d rather cover it up with anger than go through the grief. But you can’t heal what you don’t feel! Once you accept His will, you’ll truly believe His promise when He says ‘Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.’ [Qur’an: Chapter 94, verse 6]
Hannah was crying hysterically at this point, and I could tell Allah had opened her heart to the truth. We put our guards up when we feel scared or insecure, but that is not how it works with Our Lord . The more we learn about Him, the more we trust Him. The more we trust Him, the more we submit to His will. And the more we do that, the more sense life makes. That is what the first pillar of Islam is all about: Trusting Allah alone and following in the footsteps of His messenger Mohammad .
It is the cure for fear, sadness and worry. It is the cure to anger and regret. It takes away the need to blame and judge and revenge. The shahada is the belief system that purifies our souls. It is the golden seal that unlocks our hearts.
The first pillar of Islam is simply the true meaning of ‘peace’.
“But do you think we can say it and not have that belief system tested? Oh trust me, we’ll be tested again and again! You’re scared of dying alone, Hannah because you don’t have a family, and yet you’re leaving your mom to die alone when she has one. YOU!” I added. “Remember, Hannah we’ll all be tested with what we fear!” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, verse 155]
Hannah covered her face and sobbed a bit more before getting up to thank me for helping her see things differently. She hugged me tight and my eyes went back and forth, not sure how to tell her this was against the rules! But I could not help but smile when she said she would go and visit her mom.
I thanked Allah for this blessing, and prayed for all of us to feel the light of true faith, and pass our tests with flying colors. It was now time to reward myself with one chocolate chip cookie. Or five!
“Your next appointment is here”, My assistant announced.
“As Salam Alaykom, Adam!” I greeted the grumpy teenager. “So, how was your weekend?”
“Yeah, whatever!” Adam spat out. “Let’s get this over with!”
To be continued…
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