Winning story of the 3rd Annual Short Story Writing Competition organized by Hiba

I vividly remember the disastrous day my mom forced an Abaya on me. I was an extremely outgoing girl, the very opposite of what my mom wanted me to be. My life revolved around partying, hanging out with school friends, and especially socializing around the many social networking sites on the World Wide Web. One of my closest friends was an emerging musician, and although I did not have a knack for music, she was my source for the latest gossip relating to our school’s social scene.

It was after a parent-teacher meeting at school that my mom became adamant upon having me wear an Abaya: by hook or by crook. In normal circumstances, I would surely not have given in to her way, but back then, I knew that I had lost my ground as my teacher had informed her about all my ‘extra-curricular activities’. My mother was furious. However, it was not her anger that struck me the most; it was the fact that I had betrayed her trust that caused her to hurt most, and that made me reflect upon my character and the path of disloyalty I was treading.

The initial few days of being shrouded in an Abaya were quite miserable. The many times that I would run a critical gaze down my Abaya-donned body made me deeply regret my agreement to have it as an identity for the rest of my life. But since I live in a highly judgemental, stereotypical society, the chances of shedding a covering that you have once given into are almost nought, unless you are ready to be targeted by people’s aggravating, pessimistic remarks. Thus, I let Islamic symbolism enter my life.

The very next year, my mom resolutely decided to make me observe Niqab, the Islamic face veil, as well. However, since this time I was not guilty of any misdemeanors, I was not giving in. I had not counted on what came next: I was grounded for the entire winter vacations. Eventually, I was compelled to throw in the towel since the winter break was over, and I could not miss school; I had always been one of the most active students in class.

It still amuses me to think back on those days. I cannot forget my early-morning frenzy before leaving for school to get my Niqab to stay in place on my nose with a strip of cellophane tape or with pins to hold it up against my temples. It would not be an exaggeration at all to say that I looked like a complete clown to all my acquaintances, with one of the most unusual niqab fastening fashions. Nevertheless, with the passage of time, I came to accept my public attire as my own, taking pride in it, and feeling that it only added to my grace. Yet, the most disturbing issue, hindering me from letting go of my past and pursuing the Right Way, was the tough, intolerant environment I was stranded in. My friends, including those from social networking sites, formed that environment. No matter how hard I strove to part from my indecent history, I soon found myself plunged back into it.

It was during those stressful, tiring days that I made the Dua I had delayed so long, a Dua that I had hesitated in making partly because I was insecure about my decision to bid farewell to the glamorous, glittery past to start an ever-lasting journey onto the highway of Guidance, and partly because I had feared the Dua may never be answered. I just felt as though my request was too big.

That night, though, I gathered all my reflexes against the erroneous whisperings of Satan, and poured my heart out to the Lord of the Worlds, the Sustainer of all that exists. Amidst my very sincere apologies and repentance, I asked Him to decree for me my pious cousin as a spouse, whom I felt would have grave objections to accepting me as his life-partner since he was so well aware of what my past had been. I cannot ascertain the amount of time I spent at the prayer mat making Dua from the core of my heart, but I remember waking up the next day and deploring my escapist tendencies the previous night. To be married to a person who was, by all standards, a virtuous Muslim! What a thought!

Days came and went. Each day unveiled new trials, testing and polishing my Iman, and I did my best to get through them. Within two weeks, I had quite forgotten the Dua I had made so fervently, and my Duas now focused on the enhancement of my Iman, and on having the courage to shape my life accordingly.

The following year, as I rested beside my mom one day, I found her being a tad bit hesitant, as though she was trying to choose her words to talk to me about something. Her words are alive and etched in my memory as though she just spoke them, and I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach.

She asked me if it would be alright with me if she and my dad accepted a marriage proposal from one of my paternal cousins: the very cousin whom, just a year before, I had begged Allah (swt) to ordain for me as my spouse. Subhan’Allah!

I barely managed to respond in the affirmative as I hurried away to hide the overwhelming shyness I felt. Still, only I knew that my hasty exit had as much as to do with my bashfulness at the time as it had to do with the ecstasy I felt deep down inside, and it was in sheer gratitude that I prostrated in two units of voluntary prayer in front of Allah (swt).

I was married within four months of the proposal. A week prior to my marriage, I gathered enough courage to ask my mom: “How long ago did you receive this proposal?” She patted my cheek, and replied: “Exactly one year ago.”

Now, when I do the calculations, it is clear that the proposal was sent the same week I had supplicated to Allah (swt) for my husband, knowing that what I asked for was a near impossibility.

So you just need to ask. Nothing is impossible for Allah (swt), and He knows how to guide you to your goal.