“Who is this for? We don’t want this. Take it back.” The words fell upon my ears like a smack in the face. I was expecting to hear duas and praises to Allah when Ramadan groceries showed up at the doorstep of this needy family. Instead, I was shocked, confused, and hurt upon being turned away and unwelcomed. Why did this happen? Ya Hayyu, ya Qayyumu, bi-rahmatika astaghith. O the Living, O the Eternal, I seek help by Your grace. I believe I had good intentions. I took care to think thoughtfully about what ethnic foods they would like, and tried to choose suitable treats for the children. What went wrong?
I realize now, when we set out to do good deeds, the red carpet may not always be rolled out for us. The path to Jannah isn’t all roses. We should have determination and plan to do well. But also, we should not deter easily when things don’t go as expected. Maybe this is a reason why doing good deeds is always prefaced in the Quran by patient perseverance (Surat Hud v. 11).
I recall the story of the man who set out to pray fajr at the masjid. He was tripped up by shaytan along the way. He had the fortitude to go home, change and set out once again. And once again shaytan tripped him. This reoccurred to the point where with each attempt, Allah forgave his sins and those of more and more people around him. On the last attempt, shaytan himself made sure to help the man complete his task. He feared that Allah’s mercy would extend to even more people!
When I critically think back to my doorstep food visit, I wonder if I had volunteered mainly out of convenience. The timing and effort required, fit with my routine and schedule. Could that have tainted my intention? Like many of us, I admit I am accustomed to doing things on my own terms.
Now especially that we are about to leave Ramadan, we need to be watchful of “shopping” only for good deeds that fit conveniently into our lives. Would you still share a plate of food with your neighbor, if it meant you wouldn’t have leftovers the next day? How would you respond when your grandmother says “No thanks, I don’t want to inconvenience you” after offering her a ride to pray in the masjid? One option is to take the out, the easier route. Your neighbors likely won’t miss the plate of food. Your grandmother thanked you for the thought, and then let you off the hook. Yet, only Allah knows what lies beyond, if only you were to persevere a little further.
Push aside your own comfort. Battle against your grandmother’s reluctance for help, and overcome the unwelcomed words of others. “For them who have done good is the best reward and extra. No darkness will cover their faces, nor humiliation. Those are companions of Paradise; they will abide therein eternally” (Surat Yunus v. 26.). Let’s be true to the Ramadan spirit of sacrifice, perseverance, and generous giving all year round.
Dalal is currently a chemistry graduate student who above all loves being mom to a precious 3 yr old.