We are kaleidescopes of experiences. Our minds are mazes echoing with distant and proximate memories- like halls reverberating with the sounds of laughter and tears. And encoded between the bricks are our tales of defeat and triumph. Engrained in the most hidden chambers of our heart are our worst fears, our most ambitious hopes. Multi-faceted and intricate, we are the products of divine work, each of us instilled with unmeasurable potential. Our bodies are super machines, the harmonious results of the cooperation and integration of billions of tiny components. We have all been bestowed with brains that can think, reason, and effortlessly translate thoughts into words and action. We have been gifted hearts that beat non-stop till the day we die- never taking a rest, never ceasing, even when we feel as though we cannot go any further. The master artistry displayed in our physical beings- in everything from our eyes to our hands to our feet- is awe-inspiring. Yet, we so often unjustly and cruelly slap onto ourselves harsh categorizations:
“Ugly, fat, stupid, awkward, slow.”
Spitting insults at our own reflections.
Where did our parents go wrong? Why were we never taught to love ourselves? Why do we hate ourselves with a contempt that crosses the line into unhealthy territory? Why, when Allah SWT says He has created us in the best of forms, do we still struggle to believe it, to believe that we’re beautiful? Why do we only concentrate on what we don’t like when we look into the mirror? We can we only see that “my nose is too big, my skin is too splotchy, my thighs are ginormous, my stomach sticks out.” Why are we not content with what have been given? Why do we, at the slightest affliction, the tiniest amount of stress, begin to complain and wail? How can we so easily forget the mercy we have all been showered in? How come the two happiest people in my life are two individuals who cannot even speak: one man has muscular dytrophy and the other is paralyzed from the neck down.
The first man is an old family friend whose younger brother used to be in my class when I was in early elementary school. Whyen I was a little girl, we’d often spend time at their house, and I’d see him nearly everyday at school, next to his mother. I never saw him not confined to a wheelchair or with the use of his fine- or gross- motor skills. He could not speak, eat on his own, make a fist, catch a ball, run, or make sajdah. Yet, I have never seen anyone happier than him. When I think of him, I always see his cheerful smile. Wallahi, I have never seen anyone else in my entire life smile like that. He would make sounds that allowed others to distinguished between syllables and words merely by the tone/volume of his voice (nevertheless, his extremely loving family always seemed to know exactly what he wanted to say), and the most common sound he made was one that signified laughter. And despite the fact that entire parts of his brain were declared “dead” by the doctors, he graduated as the validictorian of his class. And when asked by Make-A-Wish foundation what his dream was, he chose to visit the Ka’bah with his family. Despite how arduous it was for him, everytime the adhaan went off, this boy promptly proceeded to pray along with the rest of the family.Everytime we complain, we should remember that a boy who cannot even use the bathroom without the help of an aid is a much better person than any of us can ever be. His smile will always stay with me, a clear reminder from Allah SWT that we should be thankful for even the smallest of things and strive to make the best of our situations.
The second man is a person many Muslims have heard of: Robert Davilla. I remember hearing about brother Robert’s story, around midnight on a night when I was swamped with school work. I was looking for a break from my studying, and I happened upon the video on youtube. I listened to Ustadh Nouman’s narration, and sure enough, tears began to well in my eyes. I had been going through a sort of imaan stagnation- not a low, but definately a period when I wasn’t doing much to make any progress in terms of Islam. Instead, I was trying to find a way to cope with the stresses of school and extra curriculars. The story of this remarkable individual who, I believe, is a blessing from Allah SWT to our ummah, made me realize just how much we take for granted. Rendered incapacitated in his early twenties, he spent much of his life in a bed as the only young person in a nursing home. However, after seeing Rasulullah SAW in a dream and hearing a refutation of the worshipping of ‘Eesa AS as God’s son, he decided to do more research about Islam, Eventually, he took the shahadah and became a Muslim. However, the only masjid near him was about an hour’s drive away, and he, with the intention of making it to jummuah Salah, endured a grueling ride there which later caused him to become bed-ridden for the next 6 weeks. And after all that pain and struggle, brother Robert confided to Ustadh Nouman that he would, indeed, do it all over again as soon as he healed. While we make excuses for ourselves and wallow in self-pity, focusing on what we feel we have been deprived of rather than everything we have surely been blessed with, brother Robert, like my family friend, overlooked his situation as something trivial and made his main focus getting closer to Allah SWT. Robert Davilla’s story gave me newfound enthusiasm and motivation to continue bettering myself as a Muslim, at a time when I was struggling to get myself in school every morning.