Seeing the Glass Half Full

Winning story of “A Life-Changing Experience” Story-writing Competition Organized by hiba

glass half full

“Oh no! Another pimple on my face!” I exclaimed.

During my teenage years, I had something to whine about every day: my short height, my plump physique, why I was not as fair as snow or why Allah (swt) had given pretty eyes to my best friend instead of me. And oh yes, if I spotted a fresh pimple on my face in the morning, my mother wouldn’t hear the end of it. She would often tell me that I was very beautiful the way Allah (swt) had created me. However, for me, being as beautiful as all the ‘picture-perfect models’ was terribly important.

“Beauty lies in the inner self. Make your soul beautiful and people will love you for it,” my mom would often say. “See how intelligent Allah (swt) has made you. Just look at your academic results! You should be one grateful girl, sweetheart,” my dad would say in order to lift my spirits.

But nothing worked for me. The inferiority complex had totally overtaken me, and I had become a miserable teen, who envied every beautiful girl around. Materialism and glamour had made me a thankless creature.

Sometimes, we experience events that have a huge influence on our lives. No matter how long we live, some particular incident becomes deeply engraved into our memory, leaving a lasting impact. The same happened to me, when Allah (swt) decided to help me out one day.

In 2004, I decided to attend a training workshop by an NGO named LIOCS (Leading Institute of Competitive Skills), which was arranged by a young team led by two visually impaired youngsters. They believed in the philosophy: “If we can’t see the world, then let us do something, so that the world can see us.”

During one of the lunch breaks at the workshop, the most unforgettable activity took place. In the conference room, all the participants were blindfolded and asked to find their way to the kitchen, where lunch was served for them.

“It will be a lot of fun,” I thought, as I happily put on my blindfold. After all, the kitchen was just two minutes away. But, to my profound surprise, that two-minute walk from the conference room to the kitchen turned out to be the longest walk of my life.

It was strange, how a mere blindfold had deprived me of my entire confidence. With a feeling of helplessness sweeping all over me, I slowly set off for this ordeal that seemed to go on forever. Mumbling ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ every four to five steps, as I stumbled and banged into other participants or the door or a pillar, was very embarrassing for me and many others.

The sound of the kitchen door being banged with a saucepan by one of the trainers was the only ray of light in the pitch black darkness that surrounded me.

The entrance to the kitchen came as a big relief, but the nightmare wasn’t over yet. The worst was yet to come. We had been briefed about the location of lunch boxes, salad, paper cups and drinks. However, I lost my orientation upon entering the kitchen and couldn’t make out, where the things were. When after multiple attempts, I finally got hold of the lunch box, I squatted onto the floor and started to eat the rice.

Suddenly, I heard the trainer say, “Hey, you, why are you sitting in the doorway? Do you want someone to trip over you?”

Red-faced, I stood up apologetically. On the other side of the kitchen, the second trainer was ridiculing another participant: “Tsk, tsk, it seems you cannot see, you poor boy!”

Without being able to see the food, my appetite was already half gone. Above all, the trainers were amplifying our frustration with such shameful remarks as: “Can’t you manage such a little thing?” and “Maybe Allah (swt) has taken away your sight for the sins that you have done!” and other mean remarks. (This was all part of the programme.)

That was the turning point in my life; it was the moment that changed my perception about life. I realized for the first time, what a marvellous gift is sight, which I had always taken for granted. When we were finally allowed to take off the blindfolds, the relief I felt was beyond words.

In an instant, the darkness vanished and the world became so colourful, so bright, so… worth living!

That day, as I drove back home, I was a transformed person. I was a totally new Iram, who could empathize and be thankful for Allah’s (swt) blessings. On my way, as the traffic signal turned red, I saw a crippled beggar, who made me wonder: “Iram, what is there to feel sad about, if you can’t afford the latest fashion heels? At least you have a perfect pair of feet for walking and running and a dozen pairs of other sandals.”

I had learnt my lesson. So what if I am not a beauty queen? At least Allah (swt) is generous enough to bless me with all five senses. Every organ of my body is functioning perfectly. So what if I don’t have beautifully coloured eyes? I still can see what an amazing and colourful place this world is.

So what if a pimple appears on my face once in a while? Thanks to Allah (swt), I look prettier than countless others with skin diseases. Visit a hospital some day, and you will come across hundreds envying you, ready to exchange places with you. Walk a mile in the shoes of those who sleep on roads, and you will know how lucky you are.

I have finally begun to appreciate Allah’s (swt) countless blessings.

It’s all about seeing the glass half full.

Did you know?

  • 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision.
  • 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss.
  • Over a billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability.

(Source: World Health Organization)

The Thunderstorm – Winning Short Story

Winning story of “A Life-Changing Experience” – a story-writing competition organized by Hiba Magazine

By Shagufta Shahzad

ThunderstormIt was the mid of July. I was sprawled on my comfortable bed and watching a movie, when my mother came in and asked me to get ready to go shopping; she wanted to collect her bangles from the jewellers. She said that she wanted to come back before Maghrib.

Fifteen minutes later, we were on the road. The sky had been cloudy since morning. As it began to drizzle, I became more conscious on the road. I had been driving fast, so I slowed down to avoid risks. The drizzle changed to sudden downpour as we neared the shop.

People on the road started to run frantically for shelter. Vehicles slowed down on the road as well.

Suddenly, we heard a very loud crack of thunder followed by a bright flash of lightning outside my car window. Within a few minutes, roads and streets had turned into streams and rivers. Many trees were uprooted. The storm plunged the city into darkness. Advertisement boards began to fall and damage vehicles around them.

We seemed to be frozen on the spot. It seemed impossible to move because I could feel water inside my car. I became confused and switched off the engine. My mother started reciting a Dua loudly. People from outside suddenly started to gesture and shout. They were asking us to move forward or leave the car because a neon sign board was about to fall on us. I immediately turned the ignition on, but the engine turned off. Just then, a man came and asked us to jump out. Throwing all caution to the winds, we did as told before it was too late.

“O Allah! Do not kill us with Your anger, nor destroy us with Your torment, and save us before that.” (Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasai and Al-Hakim)

We walked to stand near a wall, desperately in need of a ride home. At the time, we were totally oblivious to the fact that the sign board had indeed crashed into our precious car. I have no idea how long we stood there, soaking wet with a huge amount of cash in our bags. There were no rickshaws or cabs to take us home!

People were frantically moving in groups, holding hands to save each other from falling into any open sewerage or gutter. Whenever they would pass by us, they would ask us to get moving too. Honestly, we were too scared and too confused to think straight. Suddenly, a boy came near us and asked us where we wanted to go. He told us that there was no option but to hold hands and move from here as it was already dark and we two women were all alone. My mother held his hand and we started walking. The whole place was flooded; we had no clue where we were placing our foot. We were just praying and moving. We recited the Sunnah supplication taught to us by the Prophet (sa):

«اللَّهُمَّ لَا تَقْتُلْنَا بِغَضَبِكَ، وَلَا تُهْلِكْنَا بِعَذَابِكَ، وَعَافِنَا قَبْل ذَلِك»
“O Allah! Do not kill us with Your anger, nor destroy us with Your torment, and save us before that.” (Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasai and Al-Hakim)

Verses 19 and 20 of Surah Al-Baqarah related to my situation easily. Allah (swt) says:

“Or like a rainstorm from the sky, wherein is darkness, thunder, and lightning. They thrust their fingers in their ears to keep out the stunning thunderclap for fear of death. But Allah ever encompasses the disbelievers (i.e. Allah will gather them all together). The lightning almost snatches away their sight, whenever it flashes for them, they walk therein, and when darkness covers them, they stand still. And if Allah willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Certainly, Allah has power over all things.” (Al-Baqarah 2:19-20)

That was one of the most memorable nights of my life. It changed the way I interact with people. Now, whenever I am out, I try to find people who need my assistance, and help them in every way I can. No good deed looks too small to me. They are all significant in my eyes. 

Flashes of thunderbolts helped us to find the way and move forward. At that point, we all were hoping that these flashes remain calm so we could reach our destination.

People left us when they reached their houses and soon only that boy was left behind with us. When he reached his house, he offered us to come inside and stay there for a while. He took us through a narrow street. We were puzzled but he was the only hope.

It was very dark, as only lightning was showing us the way. He stood near a small curtain, behind which was a small door. He went inside, while we were standing outside confused and frightened. Then we heard a middle-aged woman approach us. She smiled and asked us to come inside.  As we walked in, feeling like we’ve just been on a battlefield, the lady offered us a hot meal and dry clothes.

In the morning, after praying Fajr, the lady prepared breakfast and her son went out to arrange a ride for us. It took us an hour because the roads were badly damaged, but Alhumdulillah, we finally reached home.

After the storm subsided, I decided to visit the family that had been of such great help to us that night. However, despite many attempts, I was unable to locate them. Maybe it was too dark when we had arrived and left…

I still pray for them whenever I can. That was one of the most memorable nights of my life. It changed the way I interact with people. Now, whenever I am out, I try to find people who need my assistance, and help them in every way I can. No good deed looks too small to me. They are all significant in my eyes.

O Allah, indeed, I am the witness to the day you saved us and in that dark night you sent thunderbolts and strikes as a blessing to show us our path. O Allah, bless my companions and myself with your guidance. Make us firm on the path of guidance and do not allow us to deviate from it. Ameen.

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