Category Archives: My Story

My Mother My Treasure

When I was innocent and new, she cradled me in her arms. As if time had stopped, we rocked slowly, her voice so close I could feel the warmth of her breath.

I can still hear her softly singing: “I love how your arms feel, whenever you hold me.”

A song of romance appropriated for the special love of a mother for her child.

I reveled in the scent of summer bed sheets, listening to cricket’s lullaby while she soothingly stroked my back. She woke me up gently. So lovingly that I knew in my sleep that she deserved a smile, and I woke up smiling, at her.

On summer mornings, she was already downstairs; a cooler packed with fruit, sandwiches and lemonade. Ready for a day at the beach. She watched as we swam and built sandcastle memories of endless summertime days.

Her days, hours, and sleep were ransomed in exchange for our smiles. Like a fountain, she gave and gave. She made me feel special. She made all of us feel special.

Then before we realized what was going on, I was swept away. Whisked away by friends and fashion and a greed for independence. It was adolescence, tainted by selfish pursuits. But, she was still there – my mother, believing in me, hoping for me, eager to see me happy. Even when that meant remaining quiet while my ungrateful teenage feet walked all over her.

And then there were the college years. After which, I found a letter she wrote. She wrote it to herself about the day I left. I had been excited to move into the dorms. I couldn’t wait to have my own refrigerator, my own key: freedom. She didn’t say a detracting word. She helped me through it all, every step of the way, sharing in my joy. But, all alone she wrote to herself of the pain of leaving her first child, miles away. I never knew; too oblivious to realize that my empty room was like a hole in her heart. Days went by and I didn’t call.
Within those college years, I wanted to travel. They reluctantly allowed me to go to Kansas, then cross-country. I sent a postcard or two over the month during which I all but disappeared into the wilderness of the Wild West. It only got worse.

Next, I wanted to go to the other side of the world. I cracked open the nest egg my father had intended for me to use after graduation. I used all of it, drifting along on the currents of my whims without a second thought. Little did I know, I was pulling on the heartstrings of the one who pulled herself apart to bring me into the world. I wandered away, happy and blind.

I returned months later, inspired. Next stop would be the most volatile section of the planet, embroiled in perpetual conflict. This time, my parents put their foot down. I couldn’t go, they said. But I was free from compassion for the ones who lived to see me happy. As I sat in the airport waiting for my plane to board, I received a call.

It was my mother. She couldn’t let me defiantly disobey her and put my life in danger a thousand miles away without saying goodbye; without telling me she loved me.

I imagine it must have been like a knife to my mother’s heart as that plane plunged into the skies. How she survived my disregard for her I don’t know, but I will always know now that her love is unbreakable.

After that, I submerged myself in the study of Islam. Like one thirsty and broken in a desert I drank in the Quran and every book I could find. And it was as if all my life I had been walking in darkness thinking it was daylight. My discovery was eye opening and earth shattering.

Heartbreaking even, for my mother.

After the tornado that was my adolescence, after disappearing into my studies, after wandering the world without a care, I came back. I finally came back. This time I was beginning to understand that my mother is the single most important person in this world to me. Above friends. Above my studies. Above my cravings for adventure. But, the very thing that had slapped me across the face and woke me up from my selfish stupor tore an impassable chasm between us.

I had to break the news one day. “I’m a Muslim, Mom.” It was awkward, but like she always had, she let me speak, and she listened with care.

She thoughtfully bought clothes for me when something that suited my new, more modest style caught her eye. However, I don’t think she was quite prepared for the day I showed up with a scarf wrapped all around my head.

I can’t remember what she said; it’s all a blur. I suppose I looked too unfamiliar, like someone from a far away land. Not the daughter she had raised. Perhaps it seemed things had gone too far.
I was back, but our family wasn’t the same family. I wanted us to be complete again, like we were when I was small, but instead I threw everything off balance. There was now this oddity, and it was me.

I just couldn’t figure out how to navigate the murky waters between my new faith, and my (new) family life. Overzealous and still a newbie lacking in deep knowledge, I overburdened them with Islam.

Islam had taught me that my mother was the most important person in my life. The one most worthy of my respect, my care, my compassion and whose wishes are most deserving of my honor.

I understood this, but I found myself already on the other side of that huge divide. Trying to express my love across a chasm, my words were lost in the wind. Our relationship was like an untended garden overrun with weeds, and my attempts at repairing it only got tangled up in the mess.

When I decided to marry, my mom said he was a good match for my mind. Even with the approval, the marriage was just another whirlwind of chaos and emotions. The cultural differences, the particularities, the food, the two very different families hesitantly coming together. Perhaps I could have slowed down and asked what I could do to make things easier.

When I was having my first child, I really began feeling at a loss. I would lie in bed at night, tears streaming, quietly soaking my pillow. Regret and sorrow over all the times I had taken my mother for granted, over all the times I rebelled and disrespected her.

With that first child though, came so much blessing. My daughter’s birth cleared the air and I felt closer to my mother and family. There was a common joy to share. My daughter helped bridge the gap that had seemed so insurmountable. Since then, there has been much more ease, but it’s still not easy.

It was through Islam that I learned to appreciate my mother. She is the most important person to me on this planet. I no longer put my own desires above her, but I have to put the One who created us both above her. The One who gave her to me and me to her. By whose grace I was cradled in her arms with so much love. I’m grateful to my mother for all she has been to me, and to God for blessing me with her.

I feel that whatever I do it will never be enough to make up for my shortcomings. I long to go back to that love we had in the beginning. I want her to look at me and feel love again, not pain. So, I turn to Allah, and I plead for my mother. I pray she’ll be enveloped in His Mercy as I was enveloped in hers when I was young.

{And We have enjoined on mankind (to be good) to parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: “Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Destination.} (Quran 31:14)

 

*This article Originally appeared on AboutIslam.net

 

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For My Dad. My Quiet Hero

I have three sisters. My house was usually overflowing with girlish giggles, chit chat about hair, shoes and even sensitive topics that would make any man writhe in his seat. Our girlfriends would often come to visit, adding to the weight on the feminine side of the scale in our home.

But my father, although often quiet and reserved, didn’t fade into the shadows. His example and support shaped each one of our lives. From the honest integrity with which he ran his business, to his passion for cars, he provided an independent, brave example that was unwilling to compromise on ethics to get ahead.

Some of my fondest memories are the exciting swap meets I enjoyed with him as a child, and watching him restore regal, but dated cars to their original glory in our garage on weekends. I grew to love all the smells of oil and polish, grease, and metal. I loved when he would take me with him on an errand, like a trip to a special parts supplier far away, or to job sites for his business.

In Highschool I wound up the only girl in car care class, where I learned how to change the oil and brakes on my ’87 Monte Carlo. I was proud to hear its small block 305 engine rumbling as I drove it into the high school shop. My Dad’s influence is clear in many of my own passions and aspirations.

He taught me about how to handle turns on a race track and I think of him everytime I take curves on the parkways (even in my minivan). But more than love of cars, hard work and getting dirty, he provided numerous other examples and a special kind of support. My Dad never pushed me to go in any particular direction. Instead he listened, and payed attention to what mattered to me. What I was passionate about. What made me happy. Then, with his quiet demeanor he stepped in to make it happen. He never announced his favors, or reminded me about them. They were always just there. Just right.

Like many fathers, my Dad worked hard (and still does!) for his family. Successfully running his own business, the stress of which I recognize more keenly now. Even with the ups and downs and uncertainty of that difficult endeavor, we were his primary concern, before himself.

He invested so much in my family – in me.

I’m sure when I announced my decision, that I had become Muslim, it couldn’t have been easy for him. But he put my happiness first. He affirmed that I could believe whatever I wanted to.

The stage following my decision to enter Islam was tough for me and my family at times. When I moved back to my parent’s house after a year or so developing as a Muslim away from home, there was inevitably some tension.

I knew my mom felt uncomfortable about me covering my head. It must have been hard, seeing her daughter looking so unlike the girl she had raised.

I was torn between not hurting my mom and wearing a piece of cloth – an identity that had become beloved to me. So, When I would go off to work in the morning, I’d wear the hood on my jacket from the house to the car. Once in my car I would awkwardly struggle to fix my hijab in the rearview mirror. Upon returning home, I would remove my scarf and replace it with my hood once again.

I thought no one knew.

But, my Dad was so aware. He always seemed to somehow know what was going on. One day he approached me and informed me, he had seen what I had been doing.

“You don’t have to do that.” He gently told me.

He assured me I didn’t have to hide my hijab. I saw the compassion in his eyes.

Though all my family has gradually become somewhat more comfortable with my Muslim identity and my choice  to cover more of my body, my Dad has perhaps shown the most support. Warning me when a Man is coming over or at the door and making sure I am dressed before he allows them in.

When he met my then to-be husband, he asked “How are you going to take care of my daughter?”

He held my hand at my marriage. kneeling on the floor in a mosque, he facilitated yet another happiness for me.

That is real love. The kind of love to ponder – that boggles the mind and fills the heart.

I pray I will grow to be a better daughter, to express that same kind of love to my father. To give back a little, even a fraction of what he’s provided me. To make him know that he’s my hero.

dadwedding

My Dad and I, on my wedding day

For My Mom – I Remember

Dear Mom,

I remember you digging in the garden and pulling up the weeds.  The summer heat was heavy and enveloping. Cicadas sang behind you in the woods. I remember your clothes and your limbs and the profile of your face as you worked.

I remember you standing in front of the stove at dusk, the light of the hood illuminating you as you cut onions. I stood nearby watching.

You made raw potatoes and burnt pasta and baby bell peppers so special, and you often called us to taste them, or to test the pasta as it boiled.

I remember you rubbing my back at night to help me fall asleep. How did you find the time?

I remember how you made my tummy feel better when it ached. When I was sick, you soothed me, bringing me soup, and crackers, and apple juice in my favorite cup.

I remember how tolerant you were of me when I wanted to stay home with you, so I feigned illness, for a little too many days –

and how tolerant you were on so many occasions, and in so many moments in which, I realize now, must have really tried your patience… but I was so blind.

You picked me up, you dropped me off. You fed my friends and you drove them too.

Your food was always the best.

You arranged parties, and baked cakes, and you sewed costumes for us that were exactly what we wanted.

You prepared fruit and sandwiches and lemonade in the early morning, when the sun had barely risen – to take all four of us on the ferry to play on the beach all day. You’d call us to eat, handing us plums and pouring our drinks and watching us every time we called you,”look mommy!”

I remember you calling us to a colander filled with juicy strawberries. Sometimes you added a tub of delightful cream for us to slather them in, before we gobbled them up and ran off… back to our ‘important business’ of having fun.

And the days when you called us, because you had cut open the most delicious pear. I remember the juices running down your beautiful, tanned wrists. You cut and you cut, and you shared that pear.

You gave away the most ripe, delectable pear… to us.

After we devoured its sweetness, we ran off to our important business… not realizing there was nothing more important than you…

I remember how whatever I wanted, managed to appear in my life. How you stayed awake until the wee hours of morning, wrapping, and preparing so many different things on so many nights. For us.

I remember coming downstairs and breakfast was ready. An egg in a special cup, or pancakes shaped like our names. You were there at the stove and I remember just sitting down and eating,

telling you my dreams.

Every joy, accomplishment, or fantasy I shared with you, even if I had brushed my teeth and they were so smooth I had to show you, or I finished a book and wanted to tell you all about it,

you always listened.

You made me feel what I did was great, that I was great. You always made me feel good about myself and what I did. I don’t remember you ever stopping me short, or seeming uninterested or annoyed, even though I am sure now, that you were at times… but you never, ever showed it.

I remember how you wanted to give me every opportunity.

The beautiful memories seem endless.

And before all that, you had held me in your arms when I knew nothing but your scent, and you carried me and you comforted me when I cried. You got up in the middle of the night so often, but you weren’t even counting.

Even when you were sick you still cared for me. I don’t think I ever heard you complain of your pain… You never even asked for help.

And before all that, you nurtured and nourished me in your womb.

For that alone, I am forever indebted.

My religion teaches me that if I want paradise, it lies at your feet…

But I know I am undeserving,

inadequate in my appreciation, my love, my respect and honor for you. I’ve never done enough.

Please forgive me,

for every time I turned away, barely noticing your love and care.

For every time I didn’t thank you. For every selfish desire I fulfilled, even if it meant disobeying you. For every worried moment you ever had because of me. For the times I came home late, for the times I didn’t call.

For the time my classmate disrespected you and I was embarrassed of you, when I should have been ashamed of him.

For not putting YOU first, Because you deserve to be first.

No one on earth is more worthy of my love and companionship and honor than you. Yet even still, now that I know this, I still fall short.

So I pray that God guides me and helps me be the daughter you deserve. I pray that somehow, I can provide you with some happiness and joy even more than all the happiness and joy I have been able to have, because of you.

I pray that I can be the one to help make your life easier and that when you get older, I can be the one to be there to care for you.  I pray for God’s Mercy on you and His Love, as you were so merciful and loving towards me, when I was small, and as you are now.

I pray I can be even a fraction of the woman you are.

May God accept my prayers. Ameen!

Yours Always,

Danielle

Following Noah

I love to talk about Islam. It’s the most important thing in my life. It makes me happy, brings me peace, gets me excited.

Sometimes I just wish I could sit and share my favorite thing with a family member; my Mom, Dad, Sister, Grandpa, Aunt, anybody… and just have a nice deep, open discussion.

It’s hard sometimes you know, loving something your loved ones seem allergic to.

Something about which at least one has said, “this is our last conversation about this”.

But, that’s my situation.

I don’t feel comfortable talking about the thing I love most with the people I love. 😦

I always have enjoyed a challenge. I also enjoy discussion.

You can talk to me about many things I may not agree with and I will either present my point and listen to yours, or ask questions to gain a better understanding. (I can’t promise I won’t get impassioned)

I don’t mind if someone comes to me and tells me I’m on the wrong path and is willing to explain why. I’m open to that and I try to listen.

It seems people are willing to say “I disagree” but not to elaborate. Not to discuss.

The end of many an attempt is, “We have to agree to disagree.”

But, I don’t understand why we have to worry about whether or not we agree… If they don’t agree with me that’s fine, it doesn’t bother me. What’s wrong with learning? Understanding? Seeing things from one another’s perspective?

I do not get personally offended when people come to me and explain why they worship Jesus, or why they are atheist. I find other people’s beliefs and thought processes interesting.

But it seems, when it comes to Islam, it is as if the topic itself causes barriers to be set in place and people’s hair to raise on end.

My belief is that this reaction is linked with their lack of knowledge about Islam, yet the reaction forbids knowledge from being attained.

See the problem?

Although I love a discussion and I don’t mind being challenged, I know others do not. I don’t really like to bother people, so…

On the one hand, I feel like suppressing every word.

Hiding my thoughts and feelings.

On the other hand, I feel like I should keep trying, keep talking and not remain silent.

The prophet described in the Quran who comes to mind, is Noah.

Noah was telling his people about God for ages – and boy, did they ever dislike listening to him!

They hated Noah and his message from the Creator so much, they used to cover up their ears and turn away from him. They got so fed up, they threatened to stone him to death!

They really ridiculed him when he was building a ship in the middle of the desert. He was a laughing stock and his followers were very few.

Even his son abandoned him.

But Noah was persistent, because his care for his people surpassed his care for his own self, in the respect that, rather than protecting himself from their hatred and ridicule, he persisted in giving them the message that could benefit them.

He didn’t give up in the face of so many obstacles and his goal wasn’t to fit in and just make the people happy with him. His goal was to please only his Creator, by trying to help his people understand.

I think about Noah and then I look at myself and I see that I’m so weak.

I have something that I know could benefit my family, even if only they were to gain a better understanding based on knowledge,

but I don’t talk about it, because they will get annoyed with me.

Perhaps I am more fearful of displeasing them than I am my Lord?

Why me?

I had always felt that the path that led me to Islam was somehow paved by me.

I thought it was my actions, my choices that prepared me and that it was I who discovered it.

I vetted it out. I did countless hours of research. I couldn’t deny it’s truth.

I.

me.

I would marvel at all the events and decisions that lined up so incredibly perfectly.

And I thought it was amazing how I did that.

Not long ago however, I began realizing fully, how truly blessed and indebted I really am.

I’ve always been grateful, but I had gained a deeper consciousness of what Islam really means to me and how empty life would have been without it – And I started to really wonder-

Why me?

Why did God bless me with His guidance? I wasn’t any great person before, just regular: not especially kind or righteous in any way, not inclined to religion at all

And then one day it hit me. I know why now.

I remember the moment.

I was the kind of person who loved going to the beach at night. I remember running along the shore, as fast as I could under the stars.

The stars.

I remember the exhilaration of looking out into the unfathomable night sky, enamored.

I remember laying in my bed on saturday mornings as a teenager and wishing I could know everything about the world. What happened before me, what would happen after me. I would imagine that I would be given a view of the Earth and I’d be able to just watch history unfold.

I asked a lot of questions. I found it exciting.

Especially when the answers seemed unknowable.

So, after all that wondering and all the marveling I did at leaves and insects and stones; after looking at the astonishingly beautiful stars so many times and trying to comprehend how little me, a speck of intricately formed insignificance, could be living on a spinning rock flying around a burning orb suspended in a gorgeous galaxy – merely a blip amongst the others.

How? Why?

I think subconsciously I knew the world; humanity, beauty, pain- They couldn’t have just popped out of nothing.

So one night…

I was a freshman – I was sitting in my dorm room window: a big, square window.

I was looking out at the sky.

And I said something.

I said to myself, there must be some force out there. There must be.

Then I spoke to that force, but not with my lips. Only in my heart, quietly. I asked to know.

I wanted knowledge. I wanted the truth.

Then I forgot about it. I went about my life after that, for four years.

But that force I had beseeched, had heard me. And gently, I was guided to get ready. To get ready for Islam.

I did the weirdest things.

I used to listen to music a lot. Somehow I completely stopped listening to music with words and switched to classical.

I won’t tell you what kinds of music I liked before, but let’s just say that was an unpredictable move. I did it as if it was perfectly normal. Natural.

Then after a while, I ditched classical and switched to ambient: you know, the music that’s not really music? It’s just some sounds, almost like an environment more than music.

At 18, I gave up TV. I forbid my roommates from having a TV in our common areas.
That was odd. I lost some roommates like that.

But what I had effectively done, or had been guided to do, was remove external influences. No one was chattering into my ear anymore, telling me what to think.

My mind was mine again! Or, you know what? That might’ve been the first time it was really my own.

I started pondering about holidays and birthdays and about saying “God bless you” when someone sneezed.

I stopped saying “bless you” when people sneezed.

I stopped, because I didn’t know what that meant.

It didn’t make any sense to me, so I’d say instead, “you okay?” or something equally awkward.

I stopped celebrating holidays. Nobody Liked that very much…

But I just didn’t understand who Jesus was and why I needed to celebrate his birthday with a tree and Santa. I didn’t get why I had to eat chocolate bunnies or what was so significant about turning one more day older.

I stopped doing things I didn’t understand.

Oh, except for the time I just had to travel to a war zone as an international observer so I could walk in front of tanks and M16’s. That was all gut.

That was also how I met the first Muslims I had ever seen, and how I heard the recitation of the Quran, for the first time.

The Quran that I had been reading a translation of for the previous year, because I was going to prove to the world that religions were all flawed and thus man made.

So the point is, I asked for this. I asked for guidance. I wanted answers and God, in His infinite Mercy, granted my wish, answered my request; answered all my questions.

Because in that moment, in that window, I believed in Him.

Even though I didn’t know anything about God at the time and I never would have used that word. Still, I was a believer in that moment. I realized my smallness, and His Greatness.

That was how it all began.