When I was in hospital, all battered and bruised, an old nanima approached my bed. She appeared from nowhere, it seemed. I was startled, thinking that maybe she was a Jinnat. “Seek solace and comfort by performing your salaah. Salaah is your key to contentment. Start reading the Quran. Begin and reflect with Surah Nisaa. Read the English. It has many lessons for women.” She advised me.
I felt so lost. “Today we are only Muslim by name,” I replied.
“Thirty years ago I was in your shoes. I only found my strength when I became punctual with my salaah. Ask Allah for help first. The best time is tahajjud time. There is nothing wrong to seek counseling. Everyone thinks going to a psychologist or admitting you have depression is only for nut cases and we don’t want to admit this about ourselves. It really helps to talk to someone about this and let it all out without it festering inside you.” She continued to offer me sage advice. She handed me a few helpline contact numbers. “These organisations are excellent and give you a new lease on life, especially from an Islamic perspective.” she said reassuringly. She embraced me with the warmest hug I had ever felt and left. I did not know this stranger, but in a short while I felt so much peace from her compassionate words.
I immediately went to my phone and opened the browser. I searched for Surah Nisaa, the English translation and explanation. I never realized women have so many rights in Islam. Like the rest of the world, I felt we were oppressed. It explained the guidelines about the smooth running of the family unit. Ways to settle disputes. Rules for marriage. How the rights of a husband and wife are apportioned fairly and equitably. It emphasised on the status of women in society. I immediately felt empowered.
I gathered all my strength, got up from my self-pitying state and walked to the bathroom even though my ribs were hurting. I looked at my reflection in the mirror. It was not a pretty sight. My lip was cut. I had big, blue bruises. My one cheek was swollen. My face was riddled with stiches.
It didn’t matter what I looked like. I started making Wudhu. I walked towards the jamaat khana in the hospital. I was glad to see that they had an abaya and burqa available. I donned the Islamic garb. This was the first time I had worn it in years. The last time I wore it was at madressah. I commenced my salaah. As soon as my head touched the thick mat in sajdah, I immediately felt peace and tranquility enter my heart. When I completed my salaah. I sat in duaa. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I was engrossed in conversation, finally talking to my Lord, asking HIM to help me and guide me. It felt like I cried out every pain I had ever suffered.
Soon after the visit from the mysterious nanima, I was discharged. I often still wonder if she perhaps was an angel. I went back home. Aslam was not around. I was relieved. For the days that followed, I couldn’t wait for salaah time. It had become my solace. I started pondering more and more the loss of your identity when you get married. You are either someone’s wife or someone’s mother. You are never you. Before marriage you have such high aspirations and you just give it up all for a man. I made it my mission to find out who Layha is? And so began my journey of self-discovery.
Aslam came home one day to tell us he was getting married. My brother Adam, who was visiting, wanted to hit him but restrained himself. I did not feel a thing. I was at peace. I was basking in the Light of my Allah, and came to the realization that Allah is sufficient for me.
I wished Aslam well. He was shocked and seemed a bit disappointed actually, that I didn’t kick up fuss. I felt remorse about how I had wasted my life loving someone who treated me like trash. All heartbreak is repaired when you accept that everything is the will of Allah.
Aslam and Fatima’s wedding day arrived. Aslam hijacked the anniversary party I planned for us. These material things did not bother me anymore. I felt it was my duty to warn Fati what she was getting herself into. You wouldn’t wish almost dying in a pool of your own blood, battered and bruised even on your worst enemy. Abuse takes your soul to dark places you have never been to before. You feel lost. Every time you get hit you feel like another part of you is lost. I confronted Fatima at the door and pleaded with her to make the right choice. She just shoved me aside. All I can do is make dua she finds the straight path again.
When I reached home, Aneesa came running towards me. “I am so sorry I brought Fati into your home.” She fell on my shoulder. I embraced her. “She was my best friend. I can’t believe she did this,” she sobbed. “I feel a part of me has died now that my friendship is over with Fatima,” She cried.
“I have forgiven Fatima, so should you?” I said trying to console her.
My mother entered the room, “It’s all your fault he is marrying that slut….” I blocked myself off from what she was saying. She babbled on for a while before I looked her with a genuine smile on my face and said, “Mummy, Allah has a plan for all of us. We don’t understand this plan but let us trust He knows best.” That quietened the noise somewhat.
Only by being punctual with my salaah and reading more Quraan with understanding, did my life turn around completely. No one teaches you this in madressah. Turn to Allah in your darkest hours and make dua to Him. Life gets busy and we forget how to be Muslim. We’re never ready to change. One day, some day when I am older then I will go for haj or I will start wearing scarf. All we need is to have some faith.
After the wedding, stories about the wild, raucous after-party started to surface. I was shocked. I knew Aslam drank with clients because I had to cater for the wining and dining, but what I heard utterly horrified me. Although I gained materially, I had sold my soul to the devil in the process.
I went to my brother Adam. “I want to get a divorce!” I exclaimed. “I can’t see myself staying in this hell-hole any longer.” I offered justification, “He doesn’t want kids. I want more out of life. I got married fresh out of school because he was a rich guy. I also told Aneesa to rather study then get married and experience life a little.” Adam came towards me and hugged me tightly. “You can move in with us if you want?” He suggested. I needed a fresh start. I went on my musalla and read my istikharah, begging Allah to show me the way forward.