Between the living and the dead

Between the living and the dead

Between the living and the dead

There was a man who was extremely burdensome upon others. He was burdensome to his colleagues, his neighbours, his brothers and even his children. He was very unpleasant. He would always hear people saying to him, “Dear brother, you are cold, devoid of emotion!” But he would never respond to them positively.

One day, his son came to him very happy and excited, waving his notebook since his teacher remarked on it, “Excellent!” But the father paid him scant attention, and only said, “O.K? So what? you’d think that it was a PhD!” Obviously, this wasn’t quite the response the son expected.

He was a teacher and he had a student in his lesson who was light-hearted. He felt that the lesson (and the teacher) were a bit cumbersome, so he decided to brighten up the atmosphere by making a joke. But the teacher’s complexion did not change. He simply said, sarcastically, “Happy now?” Oh that his behavior with his students was slightly different!

He entered a grocery store where the shopkeeper said to him, “Al-hamdulillah! My family has sent me a letter!” But he did not react. He did not even ask himself why the shopkeeper decided to inform him of this! By Allah, the poor shopkeeper didn’t inform him of this except to share his happiness with him.

He visited one of his colleagues who made a cup of coffee for him and then showed him his first newborn, well-wrapped up in a blanket, and if he had been able to wrap him up with his eyelids he would have done! He stood in front of him with his baby and said, “What do you think?” He gave him a cold look and said icily, “MashaAllah… Allah will bless him for you.” He then lifted his cup of coffee to drink. Obviously, he was expected to be more responsive, perhaps take the baby in his arms, kiss him and praise his looks and health. However, our friend was quite foolish.

When you deal with people, try to see the importance of matters as they see it, and not how you see it. So the word, ‘Excellent’ for your son is more precious than a PhD. Your friend’s newborn is more precious to him than the entire world. Each time he sees his baby, he feels like opening up his chest so that his son may reside therein. Doesn’t your love for your friend dictate that you should share in his moments of happiness, if only a little?

Sometimes, people feel passionate over issues. You should show that you also share their passion over those issues. Do not be cold-hearted and lacking in emotion. Give compliments, respond to their feelings and demonstrate your happiness, sadness or amazement. Do not act like a corpse!

 This is why those who are not responsive to others’ feelings often complain, “Why don’t my children sit with me?” We respond, “Because, they relate a joke to you, but you never respond. They relate their stories from school, but they feel as if they are talking to a wall. Hence, they never feel excited to sit with or speak to you. Even if a person were to mention a story to you which you already know, then there is no reason not to respond to it positively.”

‘Abdullah bin al-Mubarak said, “By Allah, sometimes a person would relate something to me, and even though I knew of it before his mother gave birth to him, I would still listen to him as if I was hearing this for the first time.” How beautiful is this skill!

Just before the battle of Khandaq, the Muslims dug trenches and perfected them. There was a man amongst them whose name was Ju’ayl, but the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) changed it to ‘Amr. As the companions were busy working, they began to sing:

His name he changed, Ju’ayl to ‘Amr, Gave the poor man that day his help. As they all said, “‘Amr”, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) joined them and said:


When they said, “Help”, he joined them and said: “Help.”

Thereupon, the Companions would become more excited and joyous and feel that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was actually with them.

When night came upon them, the weather became severely cold and they continued to dig, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went out to them and saw them digging joyfully. Upon seeing the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) they sang:

We are those who have pledged our oaths to Muhammad That we will remain on Jihad for as long as we live!

He said to them in response, “O Allah, the only life is that of the Hereafter, so forgive the Ansar and the Muhajirun.”

And so he would continue to respond to their emotions throughout the days.

Once he heard them singing, whilst completely covered in dust:

“By Allah, if it wasn’t for Him we would not have been guided

We would not have given charity nor prayed

So send tranquility upon us

And make our feet firm in the battle

Indeed these people have oppressed us

But never shall we yield if they try to bring affliction upon us.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would also sing with them saying, “never shall we yield… never shall we yield…” in response to their feelings.

Whenever anyone joked with Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) he would respond by laughing or smiling. Once ‘Umar bin al-Khattab – may Allah be pleased with him –came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) whilst he was angry with his wives, since they were demanding more stipends. ‘Umar – may Allah be pleased with him – thought to himself, “I am going to make the Messenger of Allah laugh!”

He said, “O Messenger of Allah, if you recall us when we were men of Quraysh, we always had our women under control. If any of our women were to ask one of us for more stipend, he would have jumped up and grabbed her neck! But when we came to Madinah, we found that it was the women keeping their men under control. So our women began to learn these tricks from their women!” Thereupon the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) smiled. ‘Umar continued to speak and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) continued to smile.

You read in ahadith that often the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would smile till his molar teeth would show. How great was the Prophet’s behaviour! As Allah has said, “Indeed, you (O Muhammad) are of a noble character!” and He also said to us, “Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah for you there is a noble example.”

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to deal with all sorts of people, and some of them would not be able to deal with others in a noble manner. Some of them would not respond to his feelings, rather they would be very reserved and hasty. Despite this, he would remain patient with them.

Once, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had stopped over at a place called al- Ji’ranah between Makkah and Madinah. Bilal was with him on his journey. There came a Bedouin to ask the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) for a need, which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) promised to fulfil but ultimately could not.

The Bedouin was in hurry so he said, “O Muhammad, won’t you deliver what you promised?”

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied to him in kindness,

“Rejoice!”‘Rejoice!’ how beautiful a word! Is there a word nobler than this?

But the Bedouin did not respond positively or courteously, and instead shouted with audacity, “I have heard enough of ‘Rejoice’ from you!”

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was angered at the reply but controlled his anger. He turned to Abu Musa and Bilal who were sitting next to him and said, “He has refused to rejoice, so please rejoice the two of you.”

They said, “We rejoice, O Messenger of Allah.”

He asked for a jug of water and washed his hands and face and rinsed his mouth. He then said: “Drink of this water and wash your faces and necks, and rejoice!” meaning, rejoice at receiving the blessings of this water.

They took the jug and did as he said very joyfully. Umm Salamah – may Allah be pleased with her – was sitting near them behind a curtain and wanted to partake in the blessings, so she called out from behind the veil, “Save some for your mother!” So they left some water and sent it to her. She took the water and did as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had said. (al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Hence, our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was very kind in nature, it was always pleasant to be in his company, and he was always forbearing.

He would never make a mountain out of a molehill.

Once the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sat down with ‘A’ishah −may Allah be pleased with her− who began to relate to him women’s talk, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) attentively listened to her. She was speaking at length and in detail, and despite the Prophet’s busy life, he kept listening to her with keen interest and commenting where needed, until ‘A’ishah −may Allah be pleased with her− finally finished.

So what was the story that ‘A’ishah was relating to him?

She was relating a story about a gathering of eleven women in the pre-Islamic days of ignorance who promised not to hide anything with regards to their husbands. They began to mention everything about their husbands without concealing anything. So what did they say?

The first woman said:

“My husband is like the meat of a useless camel on top of a mountain. It is neither easy to reach to the top of the mountain, nor is the meat good that it should be carried down.”

She likened her husband to a difficult mountain on top of which there is unpleasant camel meat, such that no one likes to obtain it due to the difficulty in climbing the mountain. The meat is also very unpleasant in that it is not worth tiring oneself to obtain it. Meaning, he has bad manners and is arrogant, even though he has nothing to be proud of, since he is stingy and poor.

The second woman said:

“I would not describe my husband for fear of leaving him, and if I begin to describe his faults I would be relating terrible things.”

Meaning, her husband had many faults and she feared that if she were to describe his faults and the news of it reached him, he would divorce her. She was stuck with him due to her children.

The third woman said:

“My husband is a tall man. If I describe him (and he hears of that) he will divorce me, and if I keep quiet, he will leave me hanging.”

Meaning, her husband was tall, ugly and very ill-mannered.

He never overlooked her faults and was like the edge of a sword hanging over her. She lived under the constant threat of divorce. Her words to him were unbearable, and whenever she complained he would divorce her. He would not treat her as a husband should treat his wife. Hence, she was left hanging, neither married, nor divorced.

The fourth woman said:

“My husband is a moderate person like the night of Tihamah which is neither hot nor cold. I am neither afraid of him, nor am I discontented with him.”

It is known that the night of Tihamah is neither windy nor dusty, which the inhabitants find quite pleasant. She described her husband as being nice to her and having moderate manners – a man who never hurt her.

The fifth woman said:

“My husband, when entering (the house) is a leopard, and when going out, is a lion. He does not ask about whatever is in the house”

Meaning, when he enters the house he behaves like a leopard. The leopard is considered to be generous and active. When he leaves the house and mixed with the people he behaves like a lion due to his bravery. He was also very tolerant, such that he did not ask detailed questions about what his wife took or spent.

The sixth woman said:

“When my husband eats, he eats too much, and if he drinks he leaves nothing, and if he sleeps he wraps himself up and does not stretch his hands here and there in concern for my sorrow.”

Meaning, her husband ate so much that he did not leave anything for his family. He likewise drank too much to leave anything for anyone. When he slept, he wrapped himself up in a blanket leaving none of it for his wife. When she felt sad, he never cared to bring his hand closer to her and be kind to her to find out the reason for her sorrow.

The seventh woman said:

“My husband is a wrong-doer and imprudent and foolish. All defects are present in him. If you speak to him, he may insult you. If you joke with him, he may injure your head or body or both.”

The eighth woman said:

“My husband is like a rabbit to touch (i.e. very soft). He smells like a Zarnab (a kind of good smelling grass). I overpower him, whilst he overpowers the people. (i.e. he was very easy going with her and gave in to her demands, yet, was a hero and therefore overpowered others. He had a strong personality).”

The ninth woman said:

“My husband is a tall generous man wearing a long strap for carrying his sword (i.e. his house is large and always open to his guests). His ashes are abundant (i.e. he is always lighting fires to cook for his guests). His house is near his meeting place (i.e. the place where he meets his friends is near his house out of his concern for his family). He never eats to his fill in a gathering (i.e. he does not eat much when serving the guests). He does not sleep during the night of fear (i.e. if there is danger at night from an enemy, etc, he remains awake to guard and watch).”

The tenth woman said:

“My husband is Malik, and what is Malik? Malik is greater than whatever I say about him. Most of his camels are kept at home and only a few are taken to the pastures. When the camels hear the sound of the lute they realise they are going to perish.”

Meaning, her husband’s name was Malik, and no matter how beautifully she described him, she would not be able to do him justice. His camels were always kept near him and they were hardly taken to pasture so that they were always ready for milking and slaughtering for guests. When the camels heard the sound of the lute, they realised that they were to be slaughtered for the guests.

The eleventh woman said:

“My husband is Abu Zar’, and what can I say about Abu Zar’?

He has given me many ornaments and my ears are heavily loaded with them and my arms have become fat. And he has pleased me, and I have become so happy that I feel proud of myself. He found me with my family who were mere owners of sheep and living in poverty, and brought me to a respected family, having horses and camels, threshing and purifying grain. Whatever I say, he does not rebuke or insult me. When I sleep, I sleep till late in the morning, and when I drink water (or milk), I drink my fill. The mother of Abu Zar’ and what may one say in praise of the mother of Abu Zar’? Her saddle bags were always full of provision and her house was spacious. As for the son of Abu Zar’, what may one say of the son of Abu Zar’? His bed is as narrow as an unsheathed sword and a small portion of baby goat meat satisfies his hunger. As for the daughter of Abu Zar’, she is obedient to her father and to her mother. She has a fat well-built body and that arouses the jealousy of her co-wife. As for the slave-girl of Abu Zar’, what may one say of the slave-girl of Abu Zar’? She does not uncover our secrets but keeps them, and does not waste our provisions and does not leave the rubbish scattered everywhere in our house.”

She then said, “One day it so happened that Abu Zar’ went out at the time when the animals were being milked, and he saw a woman who had two sons like two leopards playing with her breasts. Upon seeing her, he divorced me and married her.

Thereafter I married a noble man who used to ride a fast and tireless horse and keep a spear in his hand. He gave me many things, and also a pair of every kind of livestock and said, ‘Eat (of this), O Umm Zar’, and give provision to your relatives.’”

She then said, while describing her love for her first husband, “Yet, all those things which my second husband gave me could not fill the smallest utensil of Abu Zar’s.”

This was the end of the long story about the eleven women.

We can deduce from this just how long the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) spent listening to the story from his beloved wife and life-companion, the mother of the believers, ‘A’ishah – may Allah have mercy on her.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was listening attentively, while responding positively and showing his interest and enjoyment as ‘A’ishah spoke. He did not exhibit signs of boredom, despite being tired and busy.

When ‘A’ishah −may Allah be pleased with her− finished her story, in order to show that he had understood the story, and that he was listening to her and not lost in another world as she was relating it, he said to her in response, “I am to you like Abu Zar’ is to Umm Zar’.’’

So we agree on the importance of showing kindness and concern for others. From now on, if your son comes to you dressed in a beautiful garment, saying, “What do you think, dear father?” Respond to him positively and say, “SubhanAllah! How beautiful!”

Whoever it may be, your daughter, wife, husband, son or colleague, and whoever you may mix with, be lively and responsive.

Sometimes you may forget an incident. For instance, if a person says to you, “Good news! My father has recovered from his illness!”

Don’t respond with, “Actually, when did he fall ill?” Say, “Alhamdulillah!

May Allah give him a great reward and good health.

You made me happy by delivering this news, may Allah make you happy!”

Or, if one were to say, “My brother came out prison.” Don’t say to him, “By Allah, I didn’t even know he was in prison.” Respond positively by saying, “Al-hamdulillah, this is very good news.

May Allah always keep you happy!”

Lastly, dear reader, encouragement and responding positively works even with the animals.

Abu Bakr al-Raqi said, “I was in the desert and I passed by an Arab tribe. There, a man from amongst them took me into his tent as a guest. In the tent, I saw a black slave bound in chains. I also noticed some dead camels in front of the house. There was only one camel left which was about to die.

The slave said to me, ‘You are a guest and you have rights over your host. Please intercede on my behalf to my master, for he is very generous to his guests. He will not reject your intercession and perhaps he will unlock these chains.’

I remained silent since I didn’t know what his crime was.

When they brought the food, I refused to eat and said, ‘I will not eat until I intercede on behalf of this slave.’

The master said, ‘This slave has made me poor and destroyed all my wealth.’

‘What did he do?’ I asked.

He said, ‘He has a very beautiful voice. My livelihood is based on these camels. He loaded heavy loads on the camels and began to sing poetry in a very beautiful voice to make the camels go faster, so much so that they travelled a three day journey in a single night. When the camels were unloaded, they all died except one. However, since you are my guest, I would like to offer the slave to you in your honour.’ He then stood up and freed the slave from his chains.”

Abu Bakr said: “I then desired to listen to his voice, so the next morning I asked him to sing to a camel which was drinking water from a well, so the camel would be active at work. The slave began to sing in a beautiful voice. When he raised his voice, the camel became ecstatic and excited, and forgot itself so much so that it broke its rope. I fell on my face due to his beautiful voice. I do not think I ever heard a voice as beautiful as his.” (Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din)

If even the animals respond positively to a beautiful voice, which encourages the slave to beautify his voice even more and sing better, then how about human beings?

Develop yourself by training…

Be lively and not dead. Respond positively and with appropriate facial expressions, until others feel comfortable with you.

Enjoy your Life by: Dr. Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Rahman al-‘Arifi 

Muhammad ﷺ: The Man and His Message in the Modern World – Sh. Khalid Yasin

The Life of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) with Rageh Omar



The Good Deeds of Muslim

The Good Deeds of Muslim

The Good Deeds of Muslim

Praise be to Allaah.

The Sunnah indicates that people’s good deeds are taken up to be shown to Allaah without any delay, twice each day: once at night and once during the day. 

In Saheeh Muslim (179) it is narrated that Abu Moosa al-Ash’ari (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stood up before us and told us five things. He said: “Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, does not sleep and it is not befitting that He should sleep. He lowers the Balance and raises it; the deeds of the night are taken up to Him before the deeds of the day, and the deeds of the day before the deeds of the night…” Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The recording angels go up with the deeds of the night after it ends, at the beginning of the day, and they go up with the deeds of the day after it ends, at the beginning of the night. 

Al-Bukhaari (555) and Muslim (632) narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The angels of the night and the day come to you in succession, and they meet at Fajr prayer and at ‘Asr prayer, then those who stayed among you ascend and their Lord asks them, although He knows best about them, ‘How did you leave My slaves?’ and they say, ‘We left them when they were praying and we came to them when they were praying.’”  

Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said: This indicates that deeds are taken up at the end of the day. Whoever is in a state of obedience at that time will be blessed in his provision and his work, and Allaah knows best. Hence we can see the wisdom behind the command to perform these prayers (Fajr and ‘Asr) regularly and pay attention to them. End quote. 

The Sunnah indicates that deeds are also shown to Allaah (may He be glorified and exalted) twice each week. 

Muslim (2565) narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “People’s deeds are shown [to Allaah] twice each week, on Monday and Thursday, and every believing slave is forgiven except a person between whom and his brother there is a dispute, and it is said, ‘Leave these two until they reconcile.’” 

The Sunnah also indicates that the good deeds of each year are taken up to Allaah all at once in the month of Sha’baan. 

Al-Nasaa’i (1257) narrated that Usaamah ibn Zayd (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: I said: O Messenger of Allaah, I do not see you fasting as much in any month as you fast in Sha’baan. He said: “That is a month concerning which the people are heedless, between Rajab and Ramadaan, but it is a month in which good deeds are taken up to the Lord of the Worlds, and I would like my deeds to be taken up when I am fasting.” Classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’. 

These texts may be summed up by noting that people’s deeds are shown to Allaah in three ways:

·        Daily, which happens twice a day

·        Weekly, which also happens twice, on Mondays and Thursdays

·        Annually, which happens once, during the month of Sha’baan 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: The deeds of the year are taken up in Sha’baan, as the truthful one (the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)) has told us. The deeds of the week are shown on Monday and Thursday, the deeds of the day are taken up at the end of the day before night comes, and the deeds of the night are taken up at the end of the night, before day comes. When a person’s life comes to an end, all his life’s deeds are taken up and the record of his deeds is closed. End quote from Haashiyat Sunan Abi Dawood. 

The ahaadeeth which indicate that deeds are shown to Allaah indicate that it is encouraged to do more deeds of obedience at the times when the deeds are being shown to Him, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said concerning fasting in Sha’baan: “I would like my deeds to be taken up when I am fasting.” 

In Sunan al-Tirmidhi (747) it is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Deeds are shown (to Allaah) on Mondays and Thursdays, and I would like my deeds to be shown when I am fasting.” Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Irwa’ al-Ghaleel (949) 

One of the Taabi’een used to weep in front of his wife on Thursdays and she would weep in front of him, and he would say: Today our deeds are being shown to Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted. (This was mentioned by Ibn Rajab in Lataa’if al-Ma’aazif) 

And Allaah knows best.

Islam Q&A

The Bad Muslim – A Short Story


The Bad Muslim – A Short Story

The Bad Muslim – A Short Story

“I can’t believe you let Maryam have internet in her room,” Joanne said. She gripped the steering wheel of her car with her left hand as she lifted a can of diet cola from the cup holder and took a sip. She shook her head as she held the can inches from her mouth. “I swear that’s the one thing that makes me really uncomfortable when Samira comes over.”

In her peripheral vision, Joanne could see Basma turn to look at her, Basma’s narrowed eyes visible through the slit in the black face veil, but Joanne kept her eyes on the road. She already knew what her friend was thinking. It was what most Muslims thought when they heard her views on teens and internet usage. It was the same frustration she’d faced in Saudi Arabia.  If you didn’t wear a face veil and you listened to music, you forfeited all rights to being taken seriously for any moral boundaries you set for yourself and your family. And fact that Joanne was an American convert to Islam made her case even worse.

“Really, Joanne,” Basma said, shaking her head, “I’m surprised you feel that way.”

“Why? Because I’m a bad Muslim and should just go all the way?” Joanne chuckled and shook her head before taking another sip of cola.

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to.”

Joanne returned the can to its place and smiled at Basma.

“Don’t worry,” Joanne said. “I don’t blame you for it. I’m used to people thinking I’m a hypocrite.”

“Oh, Joanne, for God’s sake. Can we talk about something else?”

“I didn’t bring this up to bicker, Basma. I’m really worried about my daughter.”

“And you don’t think I’d treat her like my own?”

Joanne slowed the car to a stop behind a line of vehicles at a red light. “Honestly, Basma,” she said quietly. “That’s what I don’t want you to do.”

Joanne frowned apologetically as she met Basma’s shocked gaze. “I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m being judgmental, but—”

“If anyone should be worried,” Basma said, “it should be me.”

Joanne’s eyes widened as she chuckled. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means you’re not the only one worried about her daughter.”

“So you believe Samira will corrupt your innocent little girl?” Joanne rolled her eyes and smirked. “I should’ve known this is what you’d think after I asked if our daughters could be friends.  To you, this whole thing is a one-sided charity case.”

“Well, Faris and I are sacrificing a lot to help you.”

Joanne drew her eyebrows together. “You and Faris? What does your husband have to do with anything?”

“Oh my God. You can’t be serious, Joanne. Did you think I’d just invite some girl over to spend hours alone with our daughter and not ask his permission?”

“His permission?” Joanne looked at her friend, hands gripping the steering wheel. “You mean letting my daughter come over requires some major family deliberation?”

“Well, actually, it does.”

Speechless, Joanne stared at Basma. It was only the sound of a beeping horn that prompted Joanne to blink and shake her head. She lifted her foot from the brake and rested it on the gas pedal, guiding the car past the green light.

“In an Islamic household,” Basma said, her voice authoritative despite the soft tone. “that’s how it should be.”

“In an Islamic household?” Joanne contorted her face. “So what does that make my household?”

“Joanne, don’t be unreasonable. I just want you to know it’s not personal.”

“But it is personal, Basma. It’s very personal.”

Joanne squinted her eyes as she glanced at her friend. “Think about it. Do you have to get permission every time Maryam’s cousins want to drop by?”

“They’re family, Joanne. That’s different. We have to keep ti—”

“In Islam,” Joanne said, her emphasis on the word intentionally sarcastic, “cousins aren’t family. Otherwise, how did you and Faris get married?”

“Wh…” Basma’s eyes widened, but Joanne could tell Basma didn’t know what to say.

“And isn’t it true,” Joanne said, “your husband can forbid family from visiting if he thinks they’ll cause harm?”


“But nothing, Basma. So it’s personal. Period. There’s no need to lie about it.” Joanne’s nose flared. She shook her head. “And Islam forbids lying last time I checked.”

Basma sighed, and Joanne sensed her friend wasn’t in the mood to argue.

Joanne felt a tinge of guilt pinching her, but she found it difficult to let go of her offense. How could Basma think she was corrupt?

Joanne huffed. Was this what her life would forever be as a Muslim? Other Muslims holding her at arm’s length? Admiring because she’s American, but distrusting for the same reason?

Shaking her head, Joanne propped her left elbow on the seal of the window next to her as her right hand steered the car. Oh how she’d believed all that universal brotherhood rhetoric when she first accepted Islam. But now…what was left for her? Not even the marriage she’d thrown her heart into sustaining. She now lived an ocean apart from her youngest children. The two boys she loved more than life itself were with their father in Saudi Arabia.

Joanne was tired of hearing how Islam is perfect and Muslims are imperfect or how she shouldn’t judge Islam by the actions of Muslims.

“Oh please,” an American convert had said once, rolling her eyes. “That’s just what they say so they can keep living culture and ignoring Islam.”

At the time, Joanne had been infuriated. She was personally offended because she was married into one of the very cultures the woman was criticizing. “I swear to God these Black people are impossible,” Joanne had said to Riaz later that day. “People bend over backwards to treat them equal, but it’s never enough.” Riaz had laughed in agreement as she continued venting. “They’re a bunch of ungrateful leeches if you ask me. Always got their hands out, but then they complain that even the people who help them are racist!”

These were the words that hung in Joanne’s mind as she pulled the car to a stop in front of the Muslim high school where the girls were finishing a placement exam.

Joanne felt the beginning of a headache. She was beginning to see the world with the very eyes she’d scorned for so long.

Oh, sweetheart, don’t blame yourself,” Riaz had said when he’d sat her down to explain his reasons for divorce. “It’s not your fault. It’s just that this has been really hard for my family.”

What the—? Joanne had thought at the time. Was he kidding? You’re just going to throw away a marriage of fifteen years because your wife doesn’t “fit in” the family? You knew I couldn’t speak Urdu or cook biryani when you married me!

“Joanne,” Basma’s soft voice drifted to Joanne as if from a distance, “are you okay?”

Joanne’s heart beat had slowed to a normal rate, but the tightening in her chest had not loosened.

It’s not personal, Joanne.

Such simple, sincere words Basma had spoken. Yet they were eerily similar to the ones Riaz had used to break apart an entire family.

Yes, I know it’s not personal, Basma, Joanne thought as she turned the keys to shut off the engine. My problem is one I can’t control.

The keys jingled as she pulled them out the ignition.

I exist.



Adapted from A Friendship Promise by Ruby Moore

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost.  She is now writing juvenile fiction stories under the name Ruby Moore. To learn more about the author, visit or join her Facebook page.

Copyright © 2013 by Al-Walaa Publications.  All Rights Reserved.



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