Mr. Tough Cookie

When the true nature of the outward resonates within: a personal narrative.

After a long day of perpetual preoccupation; of stair climbing, hard work, and constant vigilance with no tea breaks. After a regular day of yelling and taunts from our teachers. At a place where we try to scrub off our feelings; where a heart is analogous to muscle fibre and valves. Where a baby Is a foetus and a patient is a number. After a day of life and death, I awaited my turn outside the changing room.

Beside me also stood the doctor in charge of the ward, well known for his piercing criticism and loud public insults. Gratefully, I lowered my gaze; seeking refuge in the sunnah at a time where I am most vulnerable.

Please, please Allah, not today, not right now. Your weak slave is too exhausted for a “sticks-and-stones-may-break-my-bones-but-words-can-also-hurt-me” session. Trying to feel invisible, I placed my trust in Al Wakeel.

“Hey you!”

Sigh. “Yes, sir?”

“Is this from my supplies?”

Great, now he’s going to unfold my incapabilities, and question my existence in this world and his operation theatre. What did I forget to put back in its place?

Sometimes it’s better not to answer.

“I’m talking to you! Is this your own?”

I looked up trying to identify where he was pointing; it was my huge bubble-wrap like assistant gown which I wore to cover myself over the short and revealing scrubs we have to wear.

“It’s my own Sir.”

“Wah! Such big people you are.”

He was just warming up. I tried to muster up whatever residual courage I had.

“When did you start doing this?”

Allahu Akbar, at least it’s not hospital property! Unable to think of an answer he would like, I merely glanced up again to acknowledge that I was being a good listener to his words of wisdom.

He pointed to the niqab on my face. Oh.

“It’s been a year Sir.” Alhumdulillah

“Did anyone tell you to do it?”


“I said, did anyone tell you to do it?”

“Oh, no. No one told me.”

His face broke into a smile. A warm smile. Wow. Not the sarcastic grin but a genuine smile. SubhanAllah. I lowered my gaze again. He turned to the side and continued to address me without looking directly. His voice became gentle.

“It’s a very good thing Masha Allah. It looks beautiful.”

I became numb. “Alhumdulillah..”

Alhumdulillahi Rabbil ‘Aalameen. How beautiful is this Lord I am a slave to? How easily we learn to distrust Him and His decisions. Here I was judging someone by his outward appearance and look how much value he has for my outward appearance? Astaghfirullah. Here is a man without a beard or an easy tongue but how soft is his heart. How easy it is for him to appreciate the beauty of the Shari’ah and the beloved Sunnah.

I was stirred out of my thoughts.

“I’m sure you must have faced a lot of bullying and taunts. “

“No sir, it was actually a pretty good response. No one said anything to me.”

“Wow. Really? It’s a very brave decision. Good job.”

Someone dropped a tray nearby and he screamed, “What did you fools break this time!”

And he walked away to do his job. And all I could do was just stand there and feel the slightest tinge of amusement. I chuckled to myself.

Well, you’re not such a tough cookie after all.