Ali Family Autism Truths #17 – April 17, 2016
I harbor secret fantasies of chartering a private plane and taking D for Umrah – the lesser pilgrimage to Makkah done during non-Hajj times.
My friend, Joohi Tahir, executive director of MUHSEN (Muslims Understanding and Helping Special Education Needs), wrote a post for me about two years ago about how she and her family performed the Umrah with their autistic daughter Mehreen. The story is simply beautiful:
Every step of this journey became easy for us from the minute we decided to go. We had all the support materials and prepping done, even to the point of showing Mehreen YouTube clips of tawaaf (circling around the Kaabah) and what to expect, so that she knew what we would be doing. We even had her teacher make PECS (picture exchange communication system) cards and a schedule of actions, like salaah (prayer), airplane, hotel and the Kaabah. Once we arrived in Makkah, we noticed all the miracles beginning to unfold – tentative at every point, yet filled with strong iman and hope.
Never say never.
Several months ago, Joohi and I had an extraordinary conversation, in which she told me that maybe we could work on a program where MUHSEN developed a guided Umrah package for people with disabilities and their families. Now that would be something.
But it makes me wonder about my shortcomings in teaching D about the rituals of Islam and faith. For a guy who thrives on routine and rituals, I sure dropped the ball when it came to teaching him faith rituals. Like, we read the Quran to him often or play recordings of the Quran for him. He is a part of our Eid prayers and certainly is often in the room with us when we pray Maghreb together as a family.
But I never made the effort to teach him the positions of salat. Things were always so challenging and difficult with D from very early on, that it all we could do to have him sit down and eat a meal, let alone stand, bend down, kneel and prostrate through the rakats of ritual prayer.
Did I teach him snippets of the Quran, like the kalmah (declaration of faith, which is one of the five pillars of Islam) and had him repeat other short surahs? Yes. Did his paternal grandmother spend months patiently having him repeat the opening line from Surah Al-Alaq of Iqra bismi rabbika alladhi khalaq (Read in the name of thy Lord who creates …), which is universally believed to be the first line of the Quran revealed to the Prophet Muhammed? Yes she did.
But ritual salat never happened. Nor did fasting. And, I suspect the Hajj pilgrimage and the giving of zakat (charity) won’t be done by D either — though of course never say never.
But out of the five pillars, the first, which is the shahada – declaration of faith – is a ritual that has held true every morning since D was a babe in my arms. I wake him up and call to him. La ilaha illal-lah, Muhammadu Rasulu llah. Sometimes it is a fast utterance, and on other mornings I pause, urging him to repeat.
Me: La ilaha
Me: La ilaha illah-lah
Me: Muhammadu Ra …
D: Soo la la!
And so really, the truth of it is that whether or not we fly D all the way to Makkah to perform Umrah doesn’t really matter. He has belief in his heart. His akhirat (ever after) is made.
So why am I even worried?
Stay in touch! Like Muslimah Next Door on Facebook: