I sat at the dinner table with the family, discussing potential gift options for our new nephew. A story hidden deep in my memories resurfaced. It was a lesson for my children about good intentions and sincere actions being more important than the actual monetary value of a gift. I recalled a time, before my children were barely old enough to talk and walk and my dear husband was out of work. It had been months of unemployment. It was difficult for us. While we never lived lavishly, we were accustomed to a nicer apartment and organic food. Our nest egg of funds was quickly drying up and the hope of a new job felt like empty wishes. There were times, I made so much dua in sujood that my heart felt like it was going to explode and fall out of my chest. Alhamdullilah, one of Allah’s great tests for me.
During this difficult time, we got invited to a friend’s wedding. She was a youth that I mentored through many difficult engagement adventures and very special to me. She was finally engaged to marry a wealthy brother and an extravagant wedding was planned. I was shy to attend because I did not have a new outfit worthy of the occasion and I felt I could not afford an expensive gift. I debated for many days, trying to find a logical excuse not to attend. My husband was extremely kind and somewhat clueless as to why I was hesitating to attend. He said to me, “You go and have an enjoyable night out. Don’t worry about the kids. I’ll be fine.” How could I tell him I was ashamed to bring an inexpensive gift. Ashamed to wear an old outfit that I had already worn to several times? How could I trouble his dear heart? It was one of those self struggles that I could not confide to anyone.
Finally, one day after salah, some wise thinking came to me. I had no legitimate reason to decline an invitation from my Muslim sister. I had a suitable dress and I should make my intention to go and wish her well on her special day. All I needed to do now, was find an inexpensive sentimental gift that she would treasure.
The evening of the wedding, and my husband dropped me off. I entered the posh glass building, bright with chandeliers, and took the sparkling elevator up to the grand banquet hall. I greeted a few people and tried hard to be happy inside. I saw everyone sign the guest book as they entered through large mahogany banquet doors. Many with extravagantly decorated gifts in hand.The wedding was massive, maybe 700 people. and started very late. I never got a chance to greet her personally. The crowds swarmed the bride and my husband was scheduled to pick me up soon. They had not even served dinner yet, but it didn’t matter to me. She looked happy; really happy. All those moments, when I wiped her tears over men that were not right for her seemed to fade. She was going to start her new life in a different city with a good brother. I checked the time on my watch and it was my time m to leave. I turned towards her direction and we locked eyes. I blew her a kiss and put my hand on my heart. I left that evening knowing that I came for Allah and I did the best that I could. I never signed the guest book. I never left a gift, but I gave her the best gift that my heart could give. That night, I stood in Qiyam. I prayed from the deepest part of my heart for my friend to have a good marriage, strong deen and righteous offspring.
As I sat around the dinner table telling my children this story, my husband looked completely perplexed. He never knew how I felt. I told my children, that many expensive gifts were given that night, but only Allah knows how I wanted to give her the best gift of all. Maybe, just maybe my intention and good action was granted.
Sarah Ibrahim is a loving mother of two budding mountain climbers. She enjoys healthy cooking, reading and finding creative ways for family exercise.