Written by Amani Jabbar.
I was raised to be a fighter. I learned early on that if I wanted my fair share of things, I had to toughen up. If I didn’t, my needs would be ignored. It was instilled in me that this world was for the strong, the brave, those who didn’t give up. My father told me many times, that nothing would ever be simply handed to me. I had to work for everything. I know these lessons were taught with love. My parents wanted to prepare me for a world that was, at times, cruel. I learned early on that only the strong survive. I watched my parents work long hours. I took note of their struggle, and I internalized it.
I was child number five in a family of seven children and I also had five brothers. I realized from a young age that I lacked some of the necessary toughness needed to navigate the terrain of my family. I was often teased by my siblings for being weak and meek. I was also extremely shy and soft-spoken. I was one of the smaller children, and that made things worse. At times, I would isolate myself. I would retreat into my books, or sometimes into my own mind in order to have a reprieve from all of the strong personalities of my siblings. I remember one day, fighting one of my brothers for the last apple in the house, after tussling it out for awhile, I realized I was fighting a losing battle. He was older and stronger than me. Of course he won. I remember crying in frustration. In retrospect, it was such a small incident, but I was also a very sensitive child. Moments like this taught me that the weak ones didn’t win.
So, I became a fighter…in my own way. I’ve never been a loud or brash person. However, I fought to make my way in this world. I was the first child in my family to go to college. The first one to purchase a home. I struggled with my weight, and eventually lost 70 pounds…I thought all these gains were from my own hands. It was my grit, my own perseverance that granted me these blessings. Right?
Of course, I believed in Allah. I was taught to trust in Allah in all ways. I was also taught the old adage, “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.” So I thought that’s what I was doing. I educated myself and tried to make the best decisions. In the back of my mind, I knew it was my own endurance that allowed me to get married to a man I thought was stable and trustworthy. It was my hard work that earned me a bachelor’s degree, and later a master’s degree. I thanked Allah, of course I did. Yet, I also knew that all of this was a reward for my work, because “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” To me that meant, “Allah helps those who help themselves.”
I was pregnant when I came to the realization that I couldn’t fight any more. I began to fall apart. I was extremely sick, vomiting many times each day. I couldn’t sleep nor eat. Yet, the thought of giving up made me feel like a failure.
That doesn’t mean that I looked down upon those who didn’t have my drive. I volunteered. I gave charity. Yet, I also felt thankful that Allah has given me perseverance and patience to see me through my struggles, and I fought those struggles. I fought and I thought it was my willingness to fight on that would guarantee me a good life.
So, when the signs began to show that maybe this man wasn’t so trustworthy, I ignored them. I resolved myself to fight through them. This was my battle. This was my test from Allah. This was my struggle in life. I would come through this, and learn so much about myself and about my marriage. My marriage would come through this stronger than ever before. Right?
I was pregnant when I came to the realization that I couldn’t fight any more. I began to fall apart. I was extremely sick, vomiting many times each day. I couldn’t sleep nor eat. Yet, the thought of giving up made me feel like a failure. I wanted so desperately to win this fight, to pass this test. I was supposed to keep fighting, right?
I prayed day and night…I realized that letting go was my only option. Despite my feelings of failure, despite the judgements of others, despite the stigma that so many in our community assign to divorce. I knew I had to let go. I had to put my trust in Allah in a way that I never had before. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, preparing to leap over the edge with only complete faith and trust in Allah to guide and protect me. Yet, I realized that faith was all I needed.
I discovered that sometimes letting go takes more strength, more grit and more tenacity than holding on ever could. Yet, I had to believe in the promise of Allah. The Qur’an states, “Say: Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector: and on Allah let the Believers put their trust” (Qur’an 9:51).
My question to you is this: What are you holding on to? Are you ready to trust in Allah and take the leap of faith in the face of all that you might lose? It’s in the letting go that you will realize your true power. I know because I’ve been there. I also urge you to trust in Allah when he states, “Indeed, what is to come will be better for you than what has gone by” (Qur’an 93:4).