By Khadijah Abdl-Haleem
I was 22 years old, sitting at the eye doctor’s office, in a state of total shock.
“Have you ever heard of Multiple Sclerosis?”
That question was the first of a new chapter in my life. I had heard of it. It was a scary, unfathomable medical name I didn’t comprehend. I know now that it is a disease that causes the immune system to eat away protective nerve coverings. There is no cure.
I looked down at my seven-day-old son in my arms, and thought, “Alhamdulillah it is me and not him,” but beyond that, my mind was foggy and silenced. Empty. I stood and left the room and walked slowly, not thinking or feeling.
Crossing the reception desk, it was as if someone was pounding every letter slowly but surely to cross all the barriers in my stunned mind and heart, the ayah came slowly to the forefront of my mind, “Indeed, we belong to Allah and indeed we to Him we will return.” In that pivotal moment I was reminded of my ordained purpose in life: to be grateful and worship Allah. Our lives shift when we accept, truly recognize, that reality.
Serenity enveloped me, and from that point by the mercy of Allah, I was never thrown into such a muddle of confusion and shock by MS. Not that I have not had my share of MS relapses, but they did not overwhelm me. Everything was in perspective. MS was not going to kill me inshAllah, I could rely on the fact that a relapse as surely as it starts will finish, and I would go back to ‘normal,’ whatever that elusive word means.
I received a phone call on the way home, much to my surprise, from an old friend of my father, a scholar and my teacher. He consoled me, said he understood the difficulties and the fear of MS. He did not leave me with only consolation though, but left me with a reminder and one the greatest pieces of wisdom I have been given: “Don’t worry about your MS. Worry about your deeds.”
In the moment, I was once again reminded of the reality of life. No matter what is happening, what grief you have, what fear, you are still accountable. Your deeds are piling one way or another, good or bad, as surely as the sun rises and the days pass.
The certainty that the remembrance of Allah would always pull me away from human issues lives with me. Allah tells us, “Those who believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are reassured,” (13:28).
My comfort and solace is found continually and without fail when I immerse myself in the Quran, the greatest form of remembrance of Allah.
Twelve years later, I find myself being introduced to another reality. I sit here and battle (if I can even call it a battle) with a disease that has affected my life minimally, and I take the prescribed medications that come to me every month.
But the world of undeserved, forced poverty and sickness lies open before my eyes. What about that other mother of an infant who is just diagnosed with cancer and cannot receive or even expect treatment? Or the one who is starving, and watching her children grow frail and weak and cannot say, “Alhamdulillah, it is me and not them”? What can I do?
So long as I have the capacity to help people suffering from sickness and lack of medical care, I should fill my good deed balance by giving however I can. May Allah forever bless Zakat Foundation of America for making it easy for me to give where I feel it is needed, whenever I can. May Allah forever make my hand and heart, and the hands and hearts of all my brothers and sisters of humanity, open to giving. And may He let me always worry about my deeds and not my worldly problems. Ameen.