She is the Wedding Speaker. Perhaps that sounds unamazing or cliché to you, but to me and those who know her, it’s an amazing feat.
I was speaking to a friend on the phone a few days before her wedding, and she asked me to give a small talk on her special day. ‘Uhhhh, what about Um A?’ I asked. She’s a happy speaker masha’Allah, and she always manages to make people smile. And come to think of it, she’s the one who has been speaking at our community weddings for the past few years. When I mentioned Um A to the bride’s sister-in-law, she also replied, “Duh… I love Um A, how could she have slipped my mind?”
To me, Um A embodies the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh), “How amazing is the affair of the believer. Everything is good for him- and that is for no one but the believer. If good times come his way, he is thankful and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he is patient and that is good for him.”
This woman has gone through hardships in the past few years that would fell a much stronger tree. She came to this country many decades ago, learned the language, studied the culture and raised her children proud of their Islam and contributing to their greater American community. And then she faced the test of her life: a test so much harder because it involved her beloved, her eldest son, the center of her heart.
Um A lived to see her innocent son wrongfully imprisoned, tortured and forced to confess a crime which he did not commit, and then she watched him receive a sentence of 30 years in a court of law for an intangible crime. When the Bush years are mentioned to me, A jumps to my mind as the epitomy of wrong that Muslims faced in America in the post 9-11 era.
And yet, this woman continues to persevere. She is at every happy function in our community, smiling, encouraging, speaking, joining in. She comes out every night of Ramadan to the taraweeh prayers in the masjid, and if you are lucky enough to pray next to her, you will be moved by her silent tears, especially when the Imam reads the story of Prophet Yusuf (alayhil salaam). She smiles when she sees you and gives you one of her special, tight hugs. She talks to you like she’s truly interested in you and understands every young person’s troubles.
The pain doesn’t end for her. She goes to sleep every night knowing that her son will live another day without his freedom, and her other children will live another day fighting all the physical, political and psychological effects that their brothers’ wrongful imprisonment surrounds them with.
And yet, all that faces Um A is good, for as the Prophet saaws said, “”How amazing is the affair of the believer. Everything is good for him – and that is for no one but the believer: If good times come is way he is thankful and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way he is patient and that is good for him.” (narrated by Muslim)
Fatima Abdallah is a dedicated mother, sister, daughter, and MAS youth worker. After spending several years in Cairo and post-Saddam Baghdad, she now lives in Virginia with her two daughters, ages 2 and 3.