Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
Maryam grew up in the English countryside, and could tell me the name of any flower I wondered about. As a mother of five, she and her husband opened her home to daʿwa – calling it a ‘dawah center’ and exchanged tending the flowers of the country with tending the hearts and lives of new Muslims and non-Muslims who were considering the path.
She embraced everyone who crossed her threshold with a smile, home-cooked food and organized learning.
I was introduced to Maryam as her daughters’ teacher. I have met many mothers before and they have welcomed me into their lives with varying degrees of hesitation. Maryam told me that I was the answer to her prayers. She said she had sent her daughter to Syria and prayed that she would meet the person (people) who would mend her. Maryam was hungry for knowledge and attended every class she could in those early days. Later when I would return to England and engage in long nights of worship, and stand for hours in prayer with my young students, she would travel to meet us and participate. Even when her arm was no longer functioning, and the pain necessitated regular morphine shots, she still stood up in prayer night after night, showing more energy for worship than many young healthy women I’ve known.
One day she asked me to be her teacher; I said that my teacher was her teacher and that we were sisters. Indeed I learned much from Maryam. I learned the true meaning of ‘ṣabr’ from Maryam. Her thin-lipped smile – the one that never left her face – hid behind it much pain, indeed more pain than any normal person could endure. I learned thankfulness from Maryam. I once brought her Zamzam water that had been ‘read upon’ by a person of God. She embraced it as though I had given her a ten-karat diamond ring. I learned love from Maryam. Her love for other people was an intense and palpable feeling. She truly and deeply cared about the well-being – physical and spiritual – of people around her.
Maryam was a peaceful person and chaos and noise disturbed her. She reminded me of Khadīja (r) who was promised Paradise and told that she would have a place where there is ‘no noise’. Abū Hurayra (r) reported that Angel Jibrīl came to the Prophet ﷺ and said: O Messenger, lo! Khadīja is coming to you with a vessel of seasoned food or drink. When she comes to you, offer her greetings from her Lord, the Exalted and Glorious, and on my behalf, and give her glad tidings of a palace of jewels in Paradise wherein there is no noise and no toil.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim) I imagine Maryam’s gratefulness at the peace and relaxation of paradise.
Maryam and I didn’t speak that often, but the day before she died, as I drove the MN highway I suddenly felt that I was sitting with her. I felt as though I was next to the very bed I had visited in January, and we were together saying ‘lā ilāha illā Allah’. I said them loud, because it was difficult for her to speak. Maryam and I were connected by Islam, by shared hardships, by the love of the same people – and we were connected by that unexplainable feeling we get when we meet someone and believe we have always known them. As the Prophet ﷺ said, “Souls are troops collected together, and those who had a mutual familiarity amongst themselves in their prenatal existence would have affinity amongst them…” I think Maryam and I were part of the same ‘troop’ of souls.
Maryam enjoyed horses, a good cup of tea, beautiful flowers, and kind people. I imagine her gazing upon her place in Janna with the joy of one who has lived right, the peace of one who chose right action over her nafs, the anticipation of one who awaits the reward of her Most Generous Lord.
May Allah bless Maryam, forgive her shortcomings, reward her for her patience and good deeds and enter her into the highest level of Paradise. May Allah the Exalted comfort her family and rain upon them Divine Mercy and Grace.
My life has been enriched and my faith has been deepened because I was blessed to know Maryam. May we all exemplify patience, forbearance, and faith as she did. Ameen.