I fell because I did not listen to my Mom. She said don’t go ice skating and I did. It doesn’t matter that she is 36,000 miles away. An order is an order. And it doesn’t matter how old I get, respect and obedience are still due. The result was a nasty slip, a fractured knee, excruciating pain and three months on crutches. The three months turned out to be a very humbling and instructive experience.
In addition to realizing that obedience to Mom is crucial, I realized how difficult it is to be patient. As the Prophet (saws) said, “Verily, the patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.” (reported by Anas bin Malik in Sahih Bukhari, vol 2 hadith 372.) The calamity for me was not the actual injury rather the instance when the doctor gave the prognosis that I would have to be off my foot and completely dependent on crutches for at least three months. I had thought I would be running around by the weekend. Three months! My heart sank and I scowled at my husband all the way home and informed him that he had taken me to a terrible doctor. I did not like him at all.
The logical side of my brain was telling me that this is a test and if I am patient I will be rewarded for it, inshallah. The time will pass and inshallah everything will be fine. This is just a minor, temporary injury and not something that I need to become so paranoid about. But my eyes pricked with tears. I would not allow them to flow because that would be a sign of weakness and a lack of faith. The ride back home seemed intolerably long.
I returned home to be greeted with loving embraces from my kids and a new sign was up in the kitchen. “This is now a self-service kitchen. You use it, you wash it.” If mom was walking no one would ever think of putting up that sign! Friends and family called to ask about me. I faked patience and gratitude and smiled and said, “Alhumdolillah, I am fine. It is only the left knee and it will heal soon inshallah.” My heart was sad, frustrated and angry. I thought back over the events and conversations of last week trying to figure what I was being punished for. I came up with too many answers and so I soon dropped that exercise. And then it happened…
The food started coming. And it kept coming. As news of my injury spread, friends called and consoled and of course brought food till my freezer was overflowing. Flowers and cards followed. I was so overwhelmed at this outpouring of compassion and care that gratitude gradually seeped back into my soul. It was still extremely demeaning to ask for help for everything but as my depression lifted I began to figure out ways to get around and make myself useful in the house. Alhumdolillah, for the wood floor and the computer chair! I don’t know how I would have survived without the ability to zip around the house on that chair. I broke the stick of the mop and managed to keep the house at a reasonable level of cleanliness. I sat in a chair and ironed as if my life depended on it.
After a month I hobbled my way back to the masjid, crutches and all. My friends greeted me as if I had crossed the finish line at a marathon.
Another very interesting thing happened; anyone who had ever fractured anything in their life made it a point to come and chat with me. They would give me a detailed account of how they were injured and how their recovery took place. Some were very positive and supportive while others gave dreary accounts and ominous warnings that total recovery never really takes place. Their conversations were a reflection of their outlook on life. Those that enjoy ‘victimhood’ tend to enjoy spreading the misery. Some of these people were mere acquaintances but we felt a bond of kinship because of a shared experience. Sometimes we want to talk to people about Islam (Muslims and people of other faiths) but fail to make a connection. Hijabis and non-hijabis especially, are plagued with misconceptions about each other. My injury made me approachable and an open, welcoming attitude, a smile, a simple salaam will usually open the doors to conversation as well.
Early one morning, while my family slept, I went to do the grocery. I asked one of the employees how to operate the wheel chair and fearfully sat down to try it out. I did not know where to put the crutches and they kept tipping over the side and clattering noisily to the floor. Another kind soul rushed to my aid and said that she would keep them by her till I finished doing the grocery. I thanked her profusely and made my way towards the aisles. I have been driving on the roads and the highways for years, but I was petrified to drive that wheelchair down the aisles in the store. It was too big for me and would only run if I leaned back uncomfortably in the seat. In addition it made a squeaky beeping sound whenever I reversed. I had horrific images of backing into an aisle of canned goods and crushing the people in the other aisle. People would stand aghast and point at me, “These Mozlems, always destroying things!” Alhumdolillah nothing happened. The trip to the grocery store on my crutches was as boring as the trips I usually took on my two feet.
Alhumdolillah, the time passed but only Allah knows if I passed the test or I failed it. This life is neither Paradise not Hell, so nothing is permanent. In Sura Al-Furqan when Allah (swt) speaks with fondness about His Ibadur Rahman (the slaves of Rahman) he mentions:
And it is He who has made the night and the day in succession for whoever desires to remember or desires gratitude. (Sura Al-Furqan 25:62)
My brief interlude of pain and dependence has opened my eyes to the fact that blessings and challenges alternate like night and day. Every ascent is inevitable and every fall is destined. I have learned that there is no time to be complacent and the test of life has only one question, “Are you grateful?”