I was listening to my girlfriend recite Surah Ya Seen — the 36th chapter of the Holy Qur’an whose recitation is meant to help ease the transition of the human soul from this realm to the next — to a beloved auntie of ours in the hospital tonight when I heard Surah Fatiha (the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an) being recited in an elevated voice outside of the hospital room.
“Who’s reciting Qur’an so loudly…and in public too? And why?!” I wondered in a panic before rushing out the door to investigate.
The nurses were sitting at their station with amused looks on their faces. Surah Ya Seen was still emanating from the room behind me while Surah Fatiha was echoing out from the room next door. The thought crossed my mind, “Oh good God! How obnoxious! We Muslims are just taking over this place!”
When I peeked into the room next door, I saw that it was actually my son Shaan who was reciting the Arabic verses as he led his “uncle” (an ILM Tree dad who had also been visiting our mutual auntie that evening) and a stranger (a patient wearing a hospital gown and hooked up to an IV) in prayer.
When my girlfriend later joined me in the hallway with the Holy Qur’an still in her hands, I told her about what was going on next door. Suddenly a tall white lady was standing next to us with a sad smile on her face.
“That’s my husband in there with your men,” she told me. “I’m not Muslim, but he is, and he was very moved when he realized they were Muslim and he asked them to say a prayer for him, so I guess that’s what they’re doing. Let me tell you, nothing has been so healing for him in this whole hospital as whatever is going on right now in that room.”
She seemed like she could use some cheering up, and we told her that we wished her husband well, a complete healing from whatever was ailing him (we didn’t ask for any details and she didn’t offer any). I asked her where she lived, and when she named her town, my girlfriend told her, “We’re neighbors! I live in Lafayette!”
We talked some more and realized that one of our ILM Tree graduates was actually best friends with this lady’s youngest daughter. We were flabbergasted by all of the random connections and how small the world suddenly seemed. “It’s so interesting that God has chosen to cross our paths here in this hospital of all places,” I told her, and she agreed.
When I interrupted to introduce myself to the man (and for my girlfriend to re-introduce herself to him), he looked at us with tears in his eyes and had a hard time talking without breaking into sobs.
Later, Shaan told me what had happened while my girlfriend and I had been sitting by my auntie’s bedside. He told me that he and the ILM Tree dad had been standing out in the hallway with misbahas in their hands when this man came walking by, rolling his IV on a stand and with his wife by his side. Shaan noticed that he kept staring curiously at the prayer beads in their hands. Finally, the man asked them (with the wife embarrassedly telling him to leave the two men alone), “What is that in your hand?”
The ILM Tree dad said, “They’re prayer beads.”
He responded gently, “Many religions have prayer beads.”
Our friend said, “We’re Muslim.”
The man started crying and hugging and kissing Shaan and the ILM Tree dad while his wife went “ohhhh…awww…oh!” in the background. Shaan said she was obviously touched and surprised by how moved her husband was. Finally, the man broke away and asked them through his tears, “Can I pray with you guys? Can you say Fatiha for me?”
Shaan said, “Well, it’s Isha (last prayer of the night) time. We can pray Isha together.”
The man said, “Yes, I would like to pray Isha with you! Let’s do that! Let’s pray Isha!”
When he lined up for prayer (by sitting in a chair), Shaan overheard him murmuring in a state of wonder to himself again, “I haven’t prayed Isha in awhile!”
Shaan led him in prayer, and afterwards the man got choked up again and thanked him for reciting a surah in the prayer that was the same title as his name (Shaan had no idea that he had done that at the time). Then the man said, “I’ll tell you my story. I was living the American Dream — it was all work work work go go go. I used to tell myself that one day I would feed the orphan, one day I would help the poor, one day I would do all the things that the Qur’an tells me to do. I was about to retire and finally start doing all those things that I had thought I would do one day…then two days ago, I found out I have a brain tumor…and I realized that I should have been doing those things all along.”
It was soon after this point that my girlfriend and I entered the room to greet him. The man could not stop crying as he told us what meeting us had meant to him. Before leaving the hospital, we prayed for him and exchanged numbers and reassured him that we would be in touch, insha’Allah.
On the drive home, Shaan said, “You know, Mama, it’s interesting how Allah closes one door, but then He always opens another.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, I was thinking about how one door is closing now that Auntie So-and-So is passing away. And I was wondering who we would get to go visit now. But then Allah sent us this man. We can start visiting him.”
He continued, “And, you know, I was starting to become a little cynical regarding the ummah (global community of Muslims) after some of my recent interactions with some of them. But tonight cured me of all that. I love the ummah. Someone can be away from the religion for their whole lives, but in the end, everyone always comes back to Allah.”
When I got home and tried to tell Zeeshan about our experiences that evening, I became overwhelmed and started crying. “Do you know what we witnessed today, Zeeshan?”
“We witnessed a man calling on Allah and Allah saying, ‘Here I am.'”
Zeeshan nodded, then sighed, “And the sad part is that that actually happens all around us all the time…most of us are just too busy to notice.”
Source: Hina Khan-Mukhtar