The understanding of concepts like Islamic teachings, Hijab, home schooling, and motivational conversations, and so much more I must give credit to her for.
Growing up as the eldest in a family of four really didn’t mean that I was the leader, or guide, or “knower of all cool stuff” for my siblings. It may be that in many families the eldest born is the path maker, or the pillar of strength or bond between siblings. I am not saying that I saw myself as that, but what I thought should have been was in fact the role played by my younger sister, the second born.
It all started in high school, as far as I can remember. I am not proud to declare this, but it was a time when growing up in a western environment, in Kenya – Nairobi, had its due peer pressure where we were discovering the world, so to speak. I never had the guts to directly ask my parents for permission to attend parties, or go out with friends. But my younger sister would motivate me. Please don’t get me wrong. It does seem like this was a negative thing to do but I want to point out that her strength and persuasiveness, and ability to convince and communicate is what I realised and started to rely upon a lot, and still do.
The real and first suitable example I can start with is when I was in university, doing my Post Graduate studies and she was in Pakistan for her Medical undergraduate studies. We were talking to her on the phone, like we often used to, catching up, and sharing. By “we” I mean the family; parents and two younger brothers. Suddenly, while my father was speaking to her, I heard him say, “Of course Beta! You do not need my permission to fulfil what Allah has requested. Masha Allah if this is really what you want, please go ahead.”
I was intrigued! While we would take turns talking to her, we would be sitting around in the room, just keeping each other company and sharing the “miss-my-sister/daughter” feeling. My father’s words seemed so important and I was sure I had heard a hint of pride in his voice as he had said them.
After he finished his conversation, it was my turn. I would usually take the cordless to my room to speak to her in private. We were very close, like best friends, something which developed due to a past occurrence, another story for another time. I immediately asked, “What were you talking to Baba about?” Her strong but gentle reply was, “Appa, I want to start wearing Hijab, so I wanted to ask Baba about this and Insha’Allah I will now do so.”
I won’t forget the knot in my stomach. It felt like such a big decision, and at that time I didn’t even realise that this small decision meant so much more.“Are you sure?” I asked. Thinking back, I feel so ashamed now when I remember that at that time I kept thinking to myself, “Why? Why is she doing this?” Subhan Allah! That was just the start. After that, she played the role of information giver, answering all questions, and eventually one who opened the teachings of Islam as a reality and way of life to me. If I recall correctly, a year after that, I too started wearing Hijab, Alhamdulillah.
Another time, after I was married for about five years and my sister had two daughters at that time, she introduced me to something new. She had been facing problems with the school system where she had a job as an Administrator, the same school that her daughters attended. Working there had given her a deep insight into the system and though the school was surely putting a lot of efforts into their goal and mission, there seemed to be a lot of issues that were not being addressed which affected the students and their learning, and eventually their lives. She would tell me about them from time to time.
Then, it came, like many of her “bomb-blast” announcements, she had decided to start home schooling her children! Such a concept is not very familiar for the Asian subcontinent. As usual, I felt apprehension and confusion. Such a big decision this was. I did not doubt her capability but what did this mean? After talking to her and our many conversations, I began to understand. She made a decision for the benefit of her children. How did this benefit me? When you learn or realise that man has created uniformity and limitations which eventually act as shackles towards thinking, and growth of emotion and sometimes knowledge, it feels like a breath of fresh air, a glimpse of freedom when you realise that these shackles are only self-made and that Allah has created freedom for all to enjoy through His guidance and teaching. She educated me and opened my mind towards options which I never knew even existed.
My younger sister, May Allah give her strength and happiness, always strives to live her life and manage her family to the best of her ability. This ability is aimed towards gaining the pleasure of Allah, our Creator, Sustainer and Provider. There have been so many times when I feel mentally exhausted, depressed, or anxious, and all I have to do is speak to her and her words motivate me and give me strength to tolerate or work through the problems. Alongside, she always reminds me that we are not alone, Allah is always listening to our prayers and since He knows best, all will be taken care of.
Age has nothing to do with maturity, or knowledge, it is Allah’s will and through people like my younger sister who do not fear making the right decision, one learns and tries to do what is right, Insha Allah!