Kiss From a Stranger


Allah’s plans for His creation can sometimes be very unexpected, as guest writer Ittaqillah shares in this story.

I had been sitting there for over four hours. My back was aching since I hadn’t changed positions in that uncomfortable little chair, and I was debating whether I could wait much longer before my legs forgot how to function. I had been waiting in the hospital for my mother’s medical procedure to finish, but I myself was a bit delusional as I was quite unwell at the time and was absolutely clueless about how much longer I would be sitting there.

I had been trying to study for a certain exam that was coming up from an Islamic seminar and was attempting to absorb myself within its details. However, sitting in the waiting area of a hospital for an unlimited number of hours, probably coming down with a fever, and being a niqabi, I couldn’t really focus.

I had my fair lot of worries that day, not to mention the conversations I would overhear that were enough to drive a person mad! (Each and every one of them revolved around food, what people did on New Year’s, and the ghost of Christmas past…)

As I was mulling over my distresses, a phrase from the Qur’an was constantly on my lips: “Allahul-Musta’aan.” This phrase occurs in Surat Yusuf, at the end of ayah 18, and it refers to an attribute of Allah as the One Whose help is sought. Throughout my wait in the hospital, I kept repeating this phrase; for though I had been placed in such an uncomfortable scenario that day, Allah would be able to bring about the help and the ease needed to overcome the day.

At some point during the wait, I was on the brink of a breakdown from having had sat there all alone, and the hospital environment was just getting too much for me to handle. Oh, how I wished I had a companion to talk to; just anyone, someone to pass the time. I really couldn’t take it anymore; and Allah is al-Musta’aan, the One whose help I seek.

Not thirty seconds had passed by after I thought this, when an elderly lady came by and sat down on the chair next to mine. I continued to seem absorbed in my book, but I was slightly moved at the presence of someone right next to me after having sat alone for however many hours and having just wished for a companion. I didn’t think much of it, though, and continued to study, but I had a feeling the lady was watching me. Now I’m used to the stares, so I didn’t really mind, but the next thing I knew, she cheerfully called out, “Oh, are you wearing a burka?!”

So I looked up and replied back just as cheerfully, “Why yes, I am!”

“Oh how wonderful,” she exclaimed, “I’ve never met anyone who wears a burka.”

“Well there’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?” I replied, relieved at the pleasant change of affairs, no doubt by the help of Allah, the One Whose help I had sought.

She continued to ask why I would choose to don such a garment, so I closed my books and jumped into the entire spiel over it, A to Z, you know the drill. She seemed fascinated and continued to ask questions until we had established a good deal of common ground over quite a few topics. She seemed like a really sensible woman and was agreeing over a lot of what I had to say, and I gently tried to steer the conversation towards Tawheed.

After she had finished explaining to me a bit about Jesus (she was Roman Catholic), I posed the following question to her:

“How is it possible that God, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, the Self-Sufficient, the Self-Subsisting, the One Who is in need of nothing, and the One Whom all creation is in need of – why would He need a son for Himself?”

She went blank. “I… I don’t know.”

“Think about it,” I encouraged.

“That’s what they teach us in church,” she concluded.

I continued, “The very same Jesus you refer to, peace be upon him, was sent by God as a Messenger to deliver the message to mankind to worship God Alone, without any partner or son.”

She seemed so moved by this, but she had no reply for me. Before I could elaborate further, she brought the topic back to dress and how the women of today focus solely on how much skin they can bare and how things are getting too out of hand.  I was surprised by her line of thinking and readily agreed with her, but she went on to mention that the way I was dressed was the dress of centuries past, and that times had moved on, and we had to change with it.

“But that’s precisely the matter!” I said. “The leeway that’s been given to the women of today in terms of dress is exactly what’s led them to the excessive state they’re in, something which you yourself brought up just now.”

She agreed with me again, but for some reason or other, our conversation kept ending off with a thoughtful silence on her end. She seemed so affected and overwhelmed, and I was hoping to delve into a different topic again, but she got up to leave.

“Well, it was lovely talking to you, and I’ve learned so much. Do take care of yourself!”

I reciprocated her courtesies with as much enthusiasm as I could muster but was then caught off-guard as she did something wholly unprecedented. While we were exchanging handshakes, she leaned over and gave me a partial hug, and pecked me on the top of my head affectionately.

It took me a few moments to realize that a complete stranger had kissed me after an acquaintance that had lasted a maximum of fifteen minutes. What I was initially moved by was the fact that when I had started niqab, I expected I was in for the worst: jeering, mocking, name-calling. I had expected people to go so far as to spit at me, but here was an entirely new state of affairs. Here was a stranger who had been so moved that she had kissed me, an affirmation or an acceptance, in my eyes, over the way I was dressed.

I reflected over the fact that, subhanAllah, I really had nothing to do with this. It was all through the help of Allah Whose help I had sought; Allah Who indeed responds to His slaves when they beseech Him. It was Allah who had directed that lady to me when I wished for a companion to converse with. It was Allah who made my niqab a means to strike up a conversation about Islam. Had it not been for the way He has chosen His slaves to be, to act, to live, one less person would have received the message of Tawheed that day. To be kissed by a stranger just because I was trying to practice my faith to the best of my ability shows the strength and the power of Allah’s Divine Wisdom and laws. All He asks us to do is adhere to them, my dear sisters, and Allah Himself will take care of the rest. Wa Allahul-Musta’aan.