By Aisha Siddiqua
I looked up at the mirror staring at the glowing face, recently pampered and serviced by the best parlour in town in exchange of a hefty bundle of notes. A wave of pride and excitement ran down my spinal cord, causing my lips to curve in a delicate smile, as I imagined the expression on everyone’s faces when they will see me in my new HSY dress at the party tonight.
The bubble of full-of-myself thoughts suddenly burst with a knock on the door. It opened to welcome not just my maid but my mom too, scolding her over anything and everything. As she silently proceeded to place the coffee mug on my side table, I could not help but notice the way she smiled. So calm and so content. Suddenly my smile seemed too shallow and my glowing face too dull in front of her dark, worn-out features.
“What’s so funny?” I snapped at her.
“Nothing,” she replied, still wearing that peaceful smile on her tired face.
“Amma is scolding you like crazy out there! Are you deaf? Or too stubborn to ignore the mistakes you make to bug her day and night?”
“Why were you smiling when I entered the room?” She suddenly challenged me. “If you could skip your Salah for your parlor appointment and go out in front of all those men without covering your head, knowing how much it will enrage Allah (swt), and still sit here peacefully and smile, why couldn’t I? Yes, the constant scolding I have to undergo everyday pains me, yet I smile. I know that if I forgive your mother today, He (swt) will forgive me on the Last Day.”
As she left the room, I quickly gathered my thoughts. There had to be something about what that 16-year-old uneducated, under-nourished and underprivileged girl felt. How could she be so content, when she did not even know whether she would even be able to feed her paralyzed and widowed mother for the day or when all her life was about this mundane routine of cleaning people’s houses and being mercilessly reprimanded?
It had to be something beyond this world. My Islamic Studies teacher had once told me that the Sahabah (rta) loved Allah (swt) so much that they could taste the sweetness on their tongues when they took His name. Did she feel the same way? Is it even possible?
I had once heard a story about Fatimah (rta). One winter night, after offering her Isha prayers, she made the Niyyah to offer two Rakahs of Nafal. The Tilawat, the Ruku and the Sujood gave her so much pleasure that when she finished, the time of Sahoor was at its peak. She started to cry thinking that Allah (swt) had decreased the length of the night so much that she could just say two Rakahs of Nafal the whole night! What did she ever feel in those Sajood?
Yes, she is the same Fatimah (rta) who settled happily on reciting the Tasbeehs, when her beloved father turned down her request to provide her with a slave who could take care of some of her chores. What made her work the whole day and worship the whole night?
It was all too disturbing. Suddenly I felt even more degraded than Abu Talib and Abu Jahl. The reason they did not accept Islam was because they actually knew what it was about. They knew what it took to be a Muslim and they weren’t ready to submit to Islam. Am I not worse? I am a Muslim, yet I live in ignorance about my identity.
I got up to take out the brand new untouched Quran from the shelf and witnessed in the reflection of the mirror the same glowing face but with a completely different smile this time. A few steps from the bed to the shelf – that’s all it took!