This Muslim Women’s Day submission is by Mariam Abdel-Razik. May her faith in God, even during the darkest days of her life, inspire you to greatness as well.
Daughter, sister, friend, educator, entrepreneur, and above all, a servant to the Most High. Filipino, raised Catholic, mother; Palestinian, raised Muslim, father. I never really belonged to either side, so I held my faith close since I knew I would always belong to God.
Growing up in the inner-city of the south side of Chicago never felt like a problem. My parents made sure that we never felt like we needed anything more. Boiling water on the stove for a shower didn’t seem odd. Layering up inside the house during the cold Chicago winters felt like the norm. My parents instilled gratitude in my heart and, throughout my childhood, I can’t think of a single thing that I ever really yearned for.
As my four siblings and I grew older, the city became worse in terms of gang violence. We had memorials at our school for students who were unjustly murdered. From my balcony I watched as a young boy shot a young girl dead without reason. That’s when my parents knew we had to get out of there. They did everything in their power to move us out closer to the Islamic School they enrolled us in.
Fast forward a few years and I was attending high school. Two weeks before final exams, I remember being home studying when I found out that my brother was held at gunpoint and shot multiple times at a gas station.
I remember it like it was yesterday. The officer knocked on our door around 11 :00 in the evening and asked my parents to come with him to identify the body of my 30-year-old brother. We were praying, as we had absolutely no idea what was going to come. I remember falling asleep with my face flat on the floor, as I made duaa for my brother to be okay.
It was around 3:00 in the morning when my parents finally got home. My mother walked in, went downstairs, and began doing laundry. I stood at the stairs, for what seemed like hours, waiting for someone to tell me something. She walked up to me with a basket full of clean laundry and an expressionless face. I knew things weren’t okay, but she didn’t say a word. I went downstairs to hear my father praying, waiting for him to finish. Once he was done, he looked at me and simply said, “Pray for your brother.”
I remember asking him a lot of questions. Was my brother in the hospital, was he severely injured, did he have broken bones? I wanted anything but the real answer which I already knew.
He said, “He was at the gas station and the station was robbed,” then began to sob. I didn’t make him go on. I walked up to my room and prayed for strength and patience to be bestowed on my family and me.
The miracle in all this is that God did just that. He made us strong, full of faith in His decree, and showed us the true power of having tawakkul, or trust in God. This tawakkul has brought me to take on tasks I never would have thought to take on, but the memory of my brother keeps me moving forward.
I’m a third year teacher, but when I was in college, I didn’t think I could do it. Everything seemed too difficult; tuition, applications, working, exams, essays…I wanted to quit.
When my brother was still alive, God bless his soul, he had really tried to help me in school. I had trouble reading and he would practice with me everywhere. I recall learning how to read and spell the word “delicatessen” as a result of a trip to the grocery store with him (of all words, I know.)
During that same trip, he told me about how he never liked his teachers, how school wasn’t his thing and that’s why he dropped out. Despite that, he always encouraged me to pursue a career in nursing as he believed I had a knack for care-taking. I had a different idea, though. I wanted to teach all of the kids like him – the ones who fell through the cracks, who didn’t feel loved enough by their teachers, who felt defeated, hopeless, and lowered their own expectations of themselves. I learned what an important role educators played in raising our future and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to change the lives of children who walk into my classroom. I am privileged enough to live my dreams every single day.
Through it all, I’ve learned that tragedy has a silver lining. I am an educator and coach, and I’m just starting my own business by the grace of God. When you put your trust in Him and make the right intentions, He will make it easy for you. He will open doors you didn’t know were there and open your mind and heart to tackling your dreams fearlessly.
Here’s to being inspired by those who have passed, turning darkness into light, and sharing your sunshine.