Title: A Temporary Gift: Reflections on Love, Loss and Healing
Author: Asmaa Hussein
Available at: Da’wah Books (DHA Karachi)
Al-Wahhab, the Giver of Gifts, has bound us in relations that we often take for granted and under-appreciate. In the words of Asmaa Hussein, we must “make amends… for the angel of death is a dutiful servant to his Lord”. The people around us are ‘temporary gifts’ that we are blessed with in our journey through life on this Earth, a means of achieving Allah’s (swt) pleasure for the everlasting blessing of Heaven.
Her book “A Temporary Gift” is a bittersweet read that evokes tears and gratitude for the family we have around us today. I was first introduced to Asmaa Hussein and the tragic death of her husband through a series of blogs that appeared on my Facebook feed. I had been looking for her book to give to a recently widowed acquaintance, but when I read it myself, I realized that it goes beyond inspiring patience and empathizing with the loss of a spouse – it compels us to express verbally and through our actions the love and appreciation that we feel for not only our spouse but all near relations, now.
Written in the form of diary entries, this book is actually a series of Duas made by a bereaved widow for her beloved husband – Duas for strength and patience for herself and all those who supported her in these difficult times. There are moving accounts of tiny details she remembers about her husband and his daily interactions that evoke heartfelt prayers from her, like the fact that he would thank her every time she cooked for him. This inspires the readers to analyze their own relations and motivates them to make the same Dua for their spouse.
In an attempt to rationalize her suffering and to seek relief for her pain, she turns towards understanding Allah (swt) through His attributes, which is one of the most enlightening aspects of the book. For instance, she focuses on the fact that Allah’s (swt) attributes are not mutually exclusive: “He never ceases being Merciful, even when He is angered. He never ceases being just even, if it is against those He loves.”
Parenthood is a central theme and some poems and diary entries are addressed to her only daughter, who was only eight months old, when her father died. Also, since the book is the result of her husband’s sudden violent demise, death is often discussed in a way that makes the reader introspective. For instance, she says we have to worry, because we have no time left. Also, she makes us aware of the transitory nature of the physical spaces we occupy, because it is our spirit that lives forever. The ‘ghost’ of our good deeds that ensures that the names of our beloved will not leave our Duas. The sentence that sent a shiver down my spine is: “The things that we happily purchase and use in our daily lives become the things that we use on our dead.”
I highly recommend this book not just for the recently bereaved but for engaged and married couples as well. Most Muslim marriages are arranged, so love and understanding have to be carefully nurtured and sustained. Death is the final trial for our loved ones, but life throws many unforeseen curveballs at us that strain our relations, and gratitude and empathy are often lost. In the current struggle for equality in relationships with the increasing divorce rates, this book can help married couples regain their perspective through the lens of our Akhirah.