Rabb ishrahlee sadree. Rabb ishrahlee sadree. Oh, Allah expand my chest. Musa was asking his Lord, the Knower of all and the Giver of good to give him that which would be beneficial in his preparation to meet the most powerful man on the planet, Pharaoh. Before he asked for his brother Haroon to be his aid, before he asked for an easy path, before asking to untie the knot that impedes his ability to speak eloquently, he asked for an expansive chest.
As one chapter closes in my life and another begins, I find myself often repeating the same request. Oh Allah, expand my chest in order that I may be open to all that may be of benefit. In this time of transition, I do not know wish to harbor any feelings that may impede this process. The ability to be flexible is key, but questions race through my mind: Will I be able to form a community as helpful and supportive as the one I am leaving behind? How can I best carve out mental and spiritual space that allows for creative thoughts to flow while I tend to an active two-year old who enjoys constant attention and bathing herself in lotion?
I found myself attributing so much of my self-worth to my job title: Muslim Chaplain. Now, Allah, at least temporarily, has taken the institutional backing of that title away. As much as I know where I have fallen short in my duties to be a good chaplain, mother, wife, sister, and friend, I cannot help but think of all the fond memories I had with my students at Trinity College and Wesleyan University. I had the unbelievable opportunity to witness firsthand the spiritual journeys that many undertook to grow closer in their relationship with Allah (swt). My heart still wells with pride when I think of my students. My students- some of whom have courageously delivered the Friday khutba as first years, and others who started wearing the hijab in an ultra-liberal anti-religious environment. My students who came from all backgrounds and yet were all the same in their pursuit to help Islam thrive on campus. So forgive me if it hurts to say goodbye.
Needless to say the support of confidants and mentors has been indispensable throughout this process; the process of leaving a job I was firmly invested and fulfilled in for the sake of a better opportunity for my family as a whole. Society does not often talk about it. It is no longer a woman’s role to sacrifice her dreams and passions for the sake of family. But many many women do it. On good days they find ways to fulfill their dreams and passions without a job description- they volunteer, they write, they run marathons, they counsel friends in need. On gloomier days, it may be hard to justify why they’re down on their knees scrubbing soap scum and unclogging the bathtub after 20 plus years of education and multiple degrees. My friend once stated that Allah gives us the opportunity to be mothers in order that we strip our ego of the need to be recognized. I remember asking her, “Well, do you ever detox from it?” “Not really, but you find ways to contribute and understand how short of a time motherhood really is,” was her response.
I need to be able to trust the process. So, I leave it in Your hands, ya Allah. I pray that I am able to see what You are showing me, and this is why I will keep asking for an expansive chest- not that I may dwell in what I had, but that I may not reject the opportunities that lay ahead, either knowingly or unknowingly.
Marwa Aly loves reading, writing, volleyball, and tacos. She enjoys spending time with her young family and connecting with other like-minded dreamers.