Healing the Walking Wounded
Have you ever looked at a younger version of yourself and shaken your head in wonder? How time changes us. How, over the years, circumstances, experiences and events shape and mold us into an older, often wiser, version of ourselves. This wisdom, hard-won as it is, is a blessing to be sure, as life tests us and, ultimately, refines us.
Many of us will remember our days as new Muslims – those days after we converted or returned to the deen of Allah – as a high point in our lives. High on iman, we made new allegiances, adopted new ways of being, discarding previous identities and associations in order to fit into our new way of life. While many made it through this phase of their religious development with their humility and sense of humour intact, there were some that were not so fortunate. For some, this period was characterised by increased insularity, intolerance and estrangement, sometimes from family, other times from society in general. At the time, this felt right. A new way of life, adherence to the truth, necessitated a break with the old ways and a strict demarcation between those ‘on the haqq’ and those who were astray.
But a curious thing happened to many of us as we aged. Life taught us other lessons. Our views matured. Often as the result of some trauma or another, we began to think critically about the way we had been living. We began asking ourselves tough questions. We began to interrogate what we thought we knew, the examples we were seeing around us. We began to see ourselves as individuals, rather than members of a homogenous ‘whole’. And, of course, this led to friction as others saw us change, evolve and grow in ways they had not expected. Or, in more painful examples, the trauma had a negative impact on our practise of Islam which, in turn, led to even greater friction and estrangement from those we had once felt so close to. These are the sisters I term the ‘walking wounded’.
The sister who experienced hostility or rejection from the masjid community because she wasn’t the same race, or didn’t adopt the dominant culture. The sister who had an abusive marriage and had no-one to turn to who could tell her more than ‘Be patient’. The sister whose husband succumbed to his addiction and dragged his family into degradation, despite her valiant efforts to keep them on the deen. The sister whose son ended up in jail who had to attend court alone and have her name dragged through the mud by those on the sidelines. The sister whose daughter got pregnant and was ostracised by her former friends. The sister who lost her kids when their father took them from her, stripping her of her right to mother them, even as part of a shared custody arrangement or from a distance. The sick. The lonely. The tired. The depressed. The poverty-stricken in the land of plenty. The sisters battling to hold onto their deen, even as life events conspire to rip it from them. The sisters barely holding on. The sisters on the brink. The walking wounded.
If there is anything maturity has taught me, it is that it is easier to judge a sister’s reaction to the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ than to empathise with her and seek to understand the reality of her situation. To be there for her, without condemnation, with love and humility – and kindness. Simple, human kindness. The type of kindness that seeks to alleviate the stress, to heal the pain, to help in any way possible, be it by way of du’a, or sincere advice or, the one we all struggle with, practical help. Yes, practical, hands-on, I’m-in-this-with-you help. The kind of help that stays up late at night with the sister, holding her hand, listening, standing by her until the storm has passed.
Because, the chances are, that sister didn’t stop attending the masjid because she no longer loves Islam. She didn’t stop wearing hijab because she no longer believes in it. She didn’t take a haram job because she doesn’t believe in the Akhira. There could be many reasons for why she did any of these things. In fact, there could be seventy seven reasons. Our job is to try to understand exactly what those reasons are and find out what part we can play in solving the sister’s problems. This we do with sincerity, humility and a sense of gratitude that we have not been afflicted with similar trials.
Isn’t this the state of the true believer? Rather than pointing the finger in condemnation, shouldn’t we be looking at our own reflections and giving thanks that we have not been tested in the same way, always aware that, had it not been for the Mercy of Allah SWT, we could have been the ones struggling to hold on to our deen with every ounce of strength we have left.
And if you are one of those sisters, please remember that Allah SWT knows what you are going through. Turn to Him; he will not abandon you. Cry to Him; He will hear your cries. And, please, my sister, forgive us for our apathy, the weakness of our community support systems and the narrowness of our minds. We are still learning, still growing, still maturing. We are still learning to deal with the sometimes painful reality of living our Islam.
This editorial is in honour of all the sisters – and brothers – who are struggling with their iman, who are fighting their nafs, who are fighting to hold on to their Islam. May Allah bless your efforts and make your return to Him easy.