Ramadan Thought: Are you ready to return to your Creator?
My name is Thanna Alghabban. The year is 2015 and the year I will be celebrating my 28th Birthday. This year is also the year I married my soulmate and best friend, the year we found out I was pregnant, and also the year I lost my husband. Here is my story…
I was born in Manchester and moved to London when I was seven years old. I was raised in a moderately religious Muslim family, all of whom observed hijab. I therefore decided to observe hijab myself when I was eight years old. I continued to wear a headscarf (though not in the most modest of ways) up until I was 25. At age 25, I decided that I was going through a midlife crisis and that my hijab was the foundation on which my crisis stood.
Unfortunately, although my original justification for removing my headscarf was ironically to try and focus on the other pillars of my religion, such as praying, fasting, reading more, I found myself going in the opposite direction
I had just started work at a law firm and so began my “westernised” lifestyle; “drinks after work”, “Christmas parties”, “events”, you name it- I did it. I justified my participation as just doing what was necessary to integrate with my peers, and because I didn’t drink and I didn’t engage in what was strictly and very outwardly “haram”, day by day I found myself becoming numb to the situations I was being exposed to. Soon enough they became normal; what seemed like a big deal at first, became normal and what became normal, became instilled in my life.
The second I met him, something in me woke up, suddenly going out with my friends wasn’t important, and suddenly “living my life” meant nothing.
For about a year, I got worse and worse, until I eventually reached what I thought to be a “balance”. I call it a “balance”, but what it was really just a new outlook on religion, where even though I was committing what might be seen as ‘minor’ acts of haram on a daily basis, I justified it to myself by the following ideology; “I am a good person with a good heart, even though I am doing this, God knows that my intention is pure and therefore this will be taken into consideration” – a laughable ideology now that I look back.
During my “balance” I met my husband; Mohammad, through the unorthodox, not-so-Islamic means of social media dating, a platform called “Tinder”. After speaking for one day, we decided to meet up for a meal on 11th June 2014. The second I met him, something in me woke up, suddenly going out with my friends wasn’t important, and suddenly “living my life” meant nothing. Something just clicked for the both of us, and despite us both not being hugely bothered about what was strictly halal and haram at the time, something inside pushed us to what seemed like the right path and we decided to get Islamically married before we pursued our relationship further. So on 21st June 2014, just ten days after I had met what I would soon find out to be my true other half, we had our Nikkah recited.
I moved in with him straight away, I found myself tiring of my old lifestyle just by being with him. I wanted to become a better person although I gave myself all the time in the world to get to the best person I could be. Similarly, he began integrating with my family more and it sparked a new-found interest in religion for him. It was safe to say we were both headed on the right path to becoming better people, but it was a very slow progressing path, one that was part of a 20-30 year life plan.
Fast forward to 19th January 2015; we found out I was pregnant, we were surprised at first, but ecstatic with the prospect of starting a family together. Although we were already Islamically married, we decided to have a wedding reception as when we had originally gotten married, it was just ten days after we had met and a reception was not the normal thing to do with someone you had just met.
We had decided on a western “first dance” song, but days before our wedding, we decided to change it to Maher Zain’s song entitled “For the Rest of My Life”. Our reasoning at the time was solely because it mentioned the word “Allah” and we wanted it to bless our wedding, we did not read into the lyrics beyond that at all.
On Saturday 28th March 2015, my husband had work, he kissed me in the morning before he left while I was half asleep and told me he would see me later on in the day. I had the day off, so, when I woke up I decided to go baby shopping with my mum. Throughout the day, he was messaging me letting me know how work was going, funny things that happened at work…all normal things. As soon as he finished work we made a plan that he was going to come and meet me and my mum at the shopping centre. At 5:01pm he sent me a message saying “I’m coming babe xx” to let me know he was leaving work.
It got to 7:00pm and I had heard nothing from him, I kept calling but there was no reply, Although I was worried because it was at most a 45 minute journey, I forced myself to be angry at him for being late and not letting me know where he was because I did not want to believe anything bad had happened. I sent him messages asking “where are you”, and “can you at least tell me if you are dead or alive” believing he was just being a ‘typical guy’, decided to stop off somewhere, didn’t think to let me know, lost track of time, just a whole other scenario that I wanted to believe instead of the truth, which was that he is not the kind of person who would ever go three hours without contacting me to tell me where he was. I decided to go home hoping that he had just gone home and not told me.
It was then they told me my husband had had a motorbike accident and was pronounced dead 5:19pm – just 18 minutes after he told me he was on his way. As soon as I entered the house I ran upstairs, and I continued to call him. Within less than five minutes I heard a knock on my door and I ran to the window and looked down to find two police officers at the door. My heart dropped to my feet as I was running down to answer the door. As soon as I opened the door, SubhanAllah, I saw the next ten minutes play in my head before they had even uttered a word, a sort of déjà vu, and I burst into tears.
In what we thought was the beginning of a beautiful new life together, my husband lost his life and I became a pregnant widow.
Never in my darkest fears could I ever have predicted this turn of events; that I have my wedding reception on 8th March 2015 and I bury my husband exactly one month later, on 8th April 2015. In what we thought was the beginning of a beautiful new life together, my husband lost his life and I became a pregnant widow.
It may seem easy to look at my situation and blame God- why did God do this? There must be people in the world who are more deserving of such fate? We were on the right path, albeit slow, why cut that path short?
On the contrary; instead of making me lose hope in all that is life, what feels like the worst test of all has actually brought me so much closer to my creator; Allah. For those of you that don’t know me as a person, I have rarely experienced any hardships in my life, no close deaths, no illnesses and no financial hardships. I have been what one would class as fairly blessed, but unfortunately, even with all these blessings, I did not ever stop to truly thank God for all he had done for me. So when the time came for him to give me one of these hardships, he gave me what one could argue is the toughest one of them all, losing your best friend who you had just began your life with; the father of your unborn child.
Before losing my husband I used to break down at the mere thought of losing anyone close to me and was so sure with myself that if such a tragedy happened I would stop living. Funnily enough, I surprised myself and I didn’t.
Throughout my life Allah has given me what I have understood to be little signs here and there. These came in the form of dreams, for example when I was once “off the rails”, I had a dream where I felt my soul was being pulled out from my feet and on feeling this, I tried to wake up and open my eyes. To my horror, my eyes were so heavy and I could not open them fully and i could not move my body. I remember thinking, “this is real, the angel of death is taking my soul because if this was a dream it would have stopped now that I’m awake”. So after the initial shock and realisation that my life was about to end, I tried to say the shahadah but I was unable to move my lips, almost like God wasn’t letting me. I was eventually able to wake up as soon as I began reading Quran.
Signs like this, I got about once a year. I would get them, completely freak out, vow to change my ways, then fall back into my old habits within a month or two.
Now that my husband has passed away, I can’t help but look at it like another sign, my final sign from God, to take his hand. I look now at all the other signs before this and I think, all of these would have been sufficient enough for God to tell me on the day of judgement when I am being tried that I had every opportunity to turn to him, but STILL I chose the wrong path. This thought alone, in the midst of what appears to be of the unluckiest situations, makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Why? Because Allah (SWT) doesn’t always bless everyone with a clear sign calling someone back towards Him and Islam, let alone in my case; three or four or five. In Surah Al Baqarah it says:
“…those who choose to do the wrong and they choose not to see, God will make them blind to the right path and will allow them to stay on the wrong one”.
Although this is the most hurtful of experiences that I truly do not wish on my worst enemy, I fully accept that this was Allah’s (SWT) will, and although I may not see its true extent now, it is what is best for me and for Mohammad.
For Mohammad, he experienced more problems in this last year than he had his entire life. I believe God did this to purify his sins before he was due to return to him. Furthermore, Mohammad was not raised with religion in his life, he pretty much raised himself because he was on his own but the closer he got to my family, the more he began to open his eyes and ask questions about religion. Mohammad was the closest he had ever been to religion in all his life when he was taken away, that in itself is a blessing. The way he died, was instant and painless, he was thrown off his bike and was dead before he even hit the ground SubhanAllah.
As personal as this experience is to me and as fresh as my wounds are still, I chose to share my story, to reach out, even if it’s to just one person, who like me, didn’t always pray on time, if at all, didn’t thank Allah for every blessing He had given you, big or small, distracted yourself with this world more than your preparation for the hereafter, engaged in conflict with others for stupid reasons…. and so many more things.For me, Allah (swt) gave me the chance to take his hand once again, but this time He gave me a test that I could not ignore after a month or two. I look back at everything preceding this tragedy and even down to the song we chose last-minute for our first dance, I look at the lyrics now and it just makes sense “I thank Allah for opening my eyes” and “you’re my wife and my friend and my strength and I pray we’re together in Jannah”.
I pray that everyone who is anything like I was, can see things for what they really are without having to go through such a painful experience….Our life is a journey, we take nothing with us but our good deeds and our constant remembrance in Allah and the blessings He has bestowed upon us.
My husband died before his 26th birthday, Alhamdulillah he was a pure individual, didn’t hurt people intentionally, didn’t wish bad on anyone, but ask me – was he ready to die? I could not answer that question, He messaged me at 5.01pm to tell me he was making his way back from work, and was pronounced dead at 5.19pm, so in 18 minutes, he went from thinking he would be meeting his pregnant wife and mother-in-law and that he had his whole life ahead of him, to losing his life.
As difficult as this realisation was to accept, it sparked the same question for me, was I ready to die? My answer was no. I have so much to make right and there’s just no guarantee when Allah has written for our time to end in this world.
Now whenever I feel like I’m “dropping the ball” and begin to feel like this life is drawing me back in again, I remind myself that the graves are full of people who thought that they would turn to God when they became old, but old age is promised to no one. My whole life I had a “plan” to return to my religion, and now God has reminded me that no plan is certain in this life, in fact nothing is certain in this life, nothing other than death.
I hope this helps anyone who is at a crossroads with their faith or even anyone who has lost someone close to them. Please, please, please re-evaluate your life this month of Ramadan, they say that if death doesn’t change someone, nothing will; but don’t wait for such a tragedy to push you to change, not everyone is guaranteed a sign, or an experience to remind you that you need to change your life. You just don’t know, reading this article might be your sign, maybe Allah feels you do not need such a devastating one.
I ask that you read a sura fatiha for my husband Mohammad Reza Ghaffari and all those who are with Allah Inshallah.
Also published on Medium.