It’s time to wake up.

Last night, I found out about the passing of a young friend. She was a mere 20-years-old, filled with bright dreams and big passions. She had a smile that lit up her face and a kindness that could mend broken hearts. And she had this incredible thirst for knowledge–not just any knowledge but for the knowledge that would bring her closer to Allah (SWT). And in spite of everything going on in her young and busy life, she looked for ways to search for it.

I didn’t really know Amina Aweys that well, unfortunately. I met her randomly one Friday night at the local masjid. She greeted me and we shared a quick conversation and became friends. Over the next year or so, I ran into her at the same masjid. She always had a hug to give and a smile to spare. We tried making plans to meet up but that never happened. And I’ll tell you what…I regret not making more of an effort to see her outside of the masjid. Because if I had, then I would have had the chance to be in the company of someone amazing.

By looking at her Facebook wall, I can see that Amina was truly loved. Posts after posts talk about the kind of person she was. Friends talk about how much she helped them through problems and every single one of them talk about how kind of a person she was. Her wall is filled with pictures of her and her friends and in every single one of them, she has the same bright smile.

As I studied her face, I noticed that she has this glow…this undeniable noor on her face. And I remembered seeing that same noor on her face every single time I saw her. She only had 20 years of life to live but enough life in her to change the lives of countless people. She only had 20 years of life to live but enough life to offer to brighten up the bleakest of souls. She only had 20 years of life to live…only 20. But she lived it fully. She lived it completely. And she lived it selflessly. 

What a person she must have been, to be taken away on the most blessed of months. How much could she have been loved by Allah (SWT) that He called her back with the gates of Jannah wide open. I cringe at the thought of how much pain her body had to have been in when it was crushed in her car. But I smile at the thought of her being free from the the shackles of this world. 

In her sudden death, Amina taught me one thing: It’s time to wake up. We say that Allah (SWT) will hold us accountable for every minute of our lives. But really, we will be asked about each breath. As you and I take another breath, let’s ask ourselves: Are we ready to meet the One who created us? Make each breath count. You never know when it’ll be your last. 

As you finish reading this post, put your hands together and say a prayer for Amina. Say a prayer for her soul and say a prayer for a lofty place for her in the gardens of Jannah. Say a prayer for her family. Say a prayer for their ease and say a prayer for yourself. May we all leave in a way that has the world crying but our souls smiling at the sheer delight of meeting Him. Ameen.

Reflecting

For every day that I fast,there’s someone who longs to do so but whose health doesn’t let them.

For every word I read of the Qur’an, there’s someone who longs to do so but can’t, because they can’t see.

For every word I hear of the Qur’an, there’s someone who longs to do so but can’t, because they can’t hear.

For every bite I take at suhoor and iftaar, there’s someone who longs to do so but can’t, because they haven’t the food.

For every prayer, in which I stand till my calves hurt, there’s someone who longs do to so but can’t, because they haven’t the legs or the strength to do so.

For every hug I give in greetings to familiar faces I see once a year, there’s someone who longs to do so because they haven’t the company to do so.

For every breath I take this month, there’s someone who couldn’t make it to see this Ramadan. How do I know that next year, there won’t be someone else breathing in place of me?

This Ramadan is a month of reflection for me. There’s no promise of a tomorrow and there’s no better time than today. Make the best of what you have and keep your intentions in place.

May you all have the best Ramadan you’ve ever had. May all of your duaas be answered, in abundance and to your surprise. May your prayers be accepted and may you live to see the moon of another Ramadan.

From my family to yours, Happy Ramadan!

Expecting the unexpected

I always envisioned myself being a stay-at-home mom, carpooling a minivan full of kids to and from soccer games. I thought I’d be the mom that had it all together—a clean home, home-cooked meals, weekends filled with family activities and a week of homeschooling extravaganza. But like so many other things in my life, my expectations have met the unexpected. Instead of being a stay-at-home mom, I’m a working mom, dedicated to making a fulfilling career out of what I do. And I say this with no shame—I love it. I get a satisfaction out of my job that I get nowhere else. It’s a natural high.

Instead of having a clean home, my chair has a loving relationship with my clothes. Instead of being the one who cooks the meals, I’m blessed to be able to eat my mom’s food every day. I used to crave for it so badly during my married years and now, my craving has been satisfied, alhamdulillah. 

And as much as I’d love to be home and teach my daughter, I’m not able to afford that luxury. In order to be able to give ourselves the lifestyle I want us to have one day, I have to go through grad school and work. My weekends are filled with errands but luckily, my daughter enjoys going “to the shopping”, as she says. 

There are days I forget to bathe her or brush her teeth. The other day, I forgot to change her clothes. Our laundry hamper is over-flowing with clothes leftover from a few weeks ago. The last several months of my life has been on constant replay. Work. School. Safi. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. And until recently, socializing was a ghost of the past. 

I’m not the mom I thought I would be. I’m not even the woman I thought I’d be. But I am the mom that Safi needs. And I am trying to be the woman that I need to be. In place of a clean home, there are books strewn about that Safiyah so dearly loves. In place of homeschooling, there are so many wonderful people willing to help me out with her. In place of home-cooked meals, there are weekly trips to Safiyah’s favorite restaurants that she may grow up remembering fondly. And in place of weekends filled with family activities, there are weekends filled with relaxation and unwinding from the past week. And in place of being able to do it all, there’s plenty of love to replace everything else that I lack. And instead of having a bunch of siblings, Safiyah gets to have two parents in one person. 

My life has shown me how to expect the unexpected and try to make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation. I honestly don’t think I’d be the person I have become over the last few years had everything gone exactly the way I wanted it to. Life has kept me on my toes and on a roller coaster ride, all at the same time. And I have to say…it must be worth it. 

Stealing the spotlight

18 years ago, my cousin and his wife had a beautiful little girl. I remember feeling immensely proud that someone so precious and so cute would call me phoopie (aunt). She was a doll, with chubby cheeks and curly hair. Her eyes took in the world and her smile melted the hearts of everyone around her.

Today, I attended her high school graduation party. As she gave a speech in the middle of a room full of people who loved her tremendously, my eyes teared up. Her father passed away almost 9 years ago but it was evident that he still played an immense role in her life. I think we all said a quiet prayer to ourselves for him, as she spoke about him. It was an emotional moment–almost impossible for any of us to stop the tears from flowing. But as she stood talking, I felt a strong sense of hope.

Although she lost her father at a very young age, she has been given the chance of finding a dad in another man. This man treats her (and her siblings) with such respect and love that it is hard to believe that he is not her biological father. Blood aside, there is nothing else that separates the bond of a father and daughter.I cannot even begin to describe the level of respect I have for the man that opened up his arms and heart for another man’s children. If people could have multiple hearts, I’d say that this man has seven, one for each of his children.

So as Sameeha stood giving her graduation speech, I felt a strong sense of hope overcome me. Although it may be selfish of me to think of myself during someone else’s spotlight, I couldn’t help it. Sameeha, at just 17, gave me hope in finding a partner that will love me like her dad loves her mom. Her mom, too, watched her husband battle cancer. Her mom, too, overcame a tragedy at a young age that not many can understand. And her mom survived, finding love in a man who had a heart big enough to love another man’s children.

Sameeha, at just 17, gave me hope for my daughter. Sameeha and her siblings remember their baba but Safiyah will not. But one day, I pray, Safiyah will find a dad in another man. Over the years, I’ve shared the memories I’ve had with Sameeha’s baba and one day, Sameeha will be able to share the memories she had with Safiyah’s baba. And one day, inshAllah, Safiyah will be able to call someone dad. Lately, I’ve been in need of a dose of hope and today, Sameeha gave that to me.

I hope, that at just 17, Sameeha can give you hope. She has lived the life of a young woman years beyond her age and it has only made her stronger and wiser. She shows that it is possible to overcome tragedy and embrace the goodness that comes after it. At just 17, Sameeha, I hope, can help you overcome your tragedies and embrace the goodness that surrounds your life. Nobody has a perfect life but nobody has an imperfect life either.

Today, at just 17, Sameeha showed me that life is about balance. Take the bad and balance it out with the good. Whatever you are going through, you can overcome it. Hold your hands high and pray to the One that tests you in ways you’d never test yourself. Hold your hands high and pray to the One that will bring you out of your darkness, as long as you let Him. Hold your hands high and just pray.

Struggles

It is summer of 2008. I’ve packed my life of 22 years into several suitcases and headed over to a little town called Boca Raton  in South Florida. Leaving Houston was not something I wanted to do but doing so was a wise and uplifting choice. 

Fast-forward to summer of 2012:

I’ve packed my life of almost-4 years into several boxes and headed back to Houston. Ironically, I had more baggage than I did when I left Houston. Literally and figuratively. Leaving Boca Raton was not something I wanted to do–it was a choice made for me by the Creator. Accepting the circumstances and how to do so, however, was my choice. And so I chose to accept, wholeheartedly and without question. 

Fast-forward to summer of 2014:

I’m having lunch with a close friend, who I knew from my Florida-life. Although everything had changed from the last time I saw her, it was as if nothing had. For a moment in time, the present life felt surreal and the past felt like the present.  As we were leaving to go back home, I asked her point-blank: Have I changed since you last saw me?

She simply answered yes and we hugged goodbye. I had to fight back tears as I placed a kiss on her baby girl’s cheeks. It was such a bittersweet moment, the both of us being in Texas, dealing with the untold struggles of  a daily life. Her simple answer wasn’t so simple.

I have changed. I’ve struggled with a bit more than I would have chosen to struggle with but alhamdulillah, those struggles have changed me. 

But yet, I still continue to struggle. I struggle with motherhood and widowhood almost simultaneously and on a daily basis. I struggle with my deen. I struggle with my patience. I struggle with my tolerance. And I struggle with the idea of remarriage

Point-blank: If you think it’s hard getting married the first-time around, the second-time around will make your knees buckle. Things aren’t so simple the second-time around. Baggages have to be considered and the past tends to creep up on you at times. And if you have a child,extra-precautions have to be taken.

Getting married the first-time was a breeze and surviving it was dust-storm. Trying to get remarried is a dust-storm but I pray that being married again will be a breeze. 

To all of you struggling: Don’t let it define you. Rather, you define it. Choose how well you want to fight your battles and remember that all battles must come to an end. Keep your chin up and look out for the light at the end of the tunnel. I promise you that it is there.

Comforting her

Lately, Safiyah has been asking about a “daddy”. She asks about his whereabouts and when he’ll be home. At first, I thought nothing of it. She was just a baby when it all happened. So I just ignored the question or redirected her attention to something else. But then, she started asking about a “daddy” quite frequently–almost daily. And then I mentioned, very casually, that he had gone home to Allah (SWT). 

But then, she asks a question which I can’t even begin to decipher–”Where is my new daddy? Is he with Allah (SWT) too?”. She’s not even 3 and these thoughts clearly cross her mind. It broke my heart but I hid the pain I felt for her and told her that one day, she will have a new daddy and he will love her so much. I told her that Allah took her Baba back but one day, He will send an amazing daddy her way. 

It hurts to know that she ponders such things in that innocent almost-3-year-old mind of hers. But after talking to a good friend about it, I realized that I can make the best of this experience. As she grows older, my daughter will ask questions. As my friend put it, she will “learn and internalize our life together” and it will be a positve influence in her life. Death is hard on all of us,especially when it is still such an abstract concept. But it doesn’t have to a negative one.

So I want to use my life and teach Safiyah about having hope. I want Safiyah to learn how to dream big and pray harder. I want her to understand that although Allah (SWT) can take important people away from our lives, He will always send other important people our way. 

So babygirl, have some hope. The daddy that you ask and dream about will come around one day and he will be amazing, inshAllah. Don’t doubt it. Just pray for it.