Heartstring Remedies


Most of us have been unfortunate enough to overhear a conversation that degrades the Muslim way of life. In these moments the temptation to react with a withering pithy response outweighs any desire to use the opportunity for open dialogue, but what if we did?

“The Sunnah is like the sky, always with you. For guidance, look to it.” – Kamaluddin Ahmad

It’s a physical ache, the kind that stops you dead in your tracks.  A slow burn in the chest and a mind cluttered with worry.  I feel every beat melt into the next and my heart’s inaudible whispers grow louder. Patience. I’ve been told that this world, this fleeting dunya, is not for the faint of heart. I dig deep and the whispers ripple through my chest. Patience. My heartstrings are in a disjunctive mess and I need a remedy.

Three hours ago

An all too monotonous Monday began with the blasting sound of my alarm clock ensued by the feverish hustle of the teeth brushing, face washing and getting dressed. I managed to grab an apple from the kitchen table before rushing out the door. I wrapped my scarf around my face after I’d realized the air was biting and began my ten-minute walk to streetlight 290. T.S Eliot would describe this moment as a mosaic of “midwinter spring”. The sky was a strange bright crimson and the all too familiar street was lightly dusted with a fresh coat of snow. I paced quickly along the salted road and once I’d arrived I pulled a book from my bag and delved right in. The bus arrived shortly after and I climbed aboard. The window seat beckoned and I sat, lost in my own thoughts for most of the trip.

I arrived at school painfully early only to remember that my professor had cancelled class. I sighed in defeat and flipped through my day planner and found the words “class cancelled” scribbled in my boldest print. Alhamdulillah in all instances. I had a lengthy to-do list I needed to tend to before my next class so I made my way to the library where I found my favorite study carrel vacant. The silence exuded calmness and I fell into the rhythm of the lines of poetry I was reading. On good days the fourth floor of the library boasts the reputation of being the quietest study spot but as more and more people streamed in the buzzing of moving lips and rash discussion filled the room. Snippets of various conversations echoed through book selves and my quiet sanctuary ceased to exist. I did one of my infamous eyebrow furrows and pulled my book closer to my face, in an attempt to regain focus. Patience.

I glanced up as a group of students walking in sat down at a table directly behind me. “It just doesn’t make any sense. How can you consistently force someone to do something they don’t want to do?”, one of the young men asked as they shuffled their seats. “What kind of religion says it’s all about peace and freedom but condones oppression?”,  he continued. “Islam doesn’t mean peace”, another young man attested. Islam, I thought, my pure and perfect Islam. My cheeks flushed and I felt my heart drop. Should I say something? In the midst of my distraught internal dialogue, I heard a young woman’s voice.

“Especially the head scarf”, she proclaimed. “It’s only used to keep women in a kind of inferior status. The whole religion is based on controlling women”.

Inferior status? Controlling? I felt my ears getting warm as I mustered enough courage to confront them. How dare they? , I thought. How dare they say such things about Islam? Their conversation continued and all I could hear over the blasting sound of my heartbeat were the faint comments on how wrong they believed Islam to be.

I inhaled to compose myself but I felt an ache in my chest that wouldn’t go away. With each passing breath, I only felt more and more angry and I instantly recalled a saying of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him),

“The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.” [Bukhari]

I wanted to berate them; tell them they were wrong. I wanted to show them how ignorant their comments were and to show them that I, a Muslim woman, could prove that they were completely out of touch with the true reality of Islam. But, all I could think about was Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam. How many tears he had cried at the hands of those who refused to believe.  How his beard, and the floor which he prayed on, would be soaked from the tears of his deepest prayers.  How many he had tried to guide with no avail. But most of all, how they had treated him in Ta’if. How they threw garbage at our beloved sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Clothes torn and bloody, he was driven from their town. All I can think of in this moment is his patience and strength. Patience is my remedy.

“Excuse me”, I said as I turned around. “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. I’m Muslim and I don’t feel the least bit wronged or oppressed into wearing the scarf. Maybe I can help shed some light on any questions you have”. I tried my best to steady my voice and to be as clear and concise as possible. They obliged and we discussed an array of topics and in the end it became apparently clear that we were not on the same page. As I turned to leave the conversation I quoted the Prophet sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam who said,

“Islam began as something strange, and it will return to be something strange. So give glad tidings to the strangers”.

For indeed, I was a stranger in this discussion of faith and I smiled at our beloved peace be upon him sending us glad tidings.

In retrospect, I learned that patience is the shield of a believer and the sunnah and example of the Prophet sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam is never far from our thoughts. We are the strangers the Prophet sal Alahu ‘alayhi wa salam is referring to so let’s suit up with the armor of patience and hold tight to our pure and perfect religion. Sabr encircles effective dawah and for every action you perform or word you utter for the sake of spreading Islam, know that your reward is with Allah, bi idhnillah.