Tag Archives: faith

Day One: Good Deeds In Ramadan

Day One: 

Wow I can’t believe the year has passed so quickly. We were JUST preparing sohoor like two weeks ago!
Anyways so let’s talk business.

It’s Day One of our 30-Day Ramadan Challenge, and I was thinking what’s the BEST thing to start this Holy month with?

And that’s when I came across this beautiful Hadith

“My people (Ummah) are granted five gifts that no prophet before me had been given.
First, when it is the first night of Ramadan, Allah looks at His servants. He will never punish those at whom He looks.
Second, the smell of their mouths when night approaches is more pleasant [to Allah] than the scent of musk.
Third, angels seek Allah’s forgiveness for them everyday and night.
Fourth, Allah commands Paradise saying, ‘Be prepared and adorned for My servants; they are about to be relieved from the pains of the worldly life and move to My Home and Honor.’ Fifth, when it is the last night (of Ramadan) Allah forgives the sins of all people.” (Ahmad and Al-Bazzar)

 

Tonight, the first night of Ramadan, we close the door to the past, take a deep breath and open the door to the blessings of new beginnings….

Ramadan-pray

Take a moment to absorb the magnitude of this Holy month. Do you know how many Muslims died last week? LAST WEEK!
They missed this chance, but you didn’t.
You were chosen to witness this special night, where Allah looks at His slaves, and if they’re in a state of submission or worship, that alone is a sure ticket to Paradise inshAllah.

The first night is singled out from all the other nights.
Don’t miss it. Trust me, nothing can be more important.

So here’s your FIRST ‘Act of Goodness’ this Ramadan
(Based on the beautiful advice of Sheikh Omar Abdul Kafy)

 

Beginners Level:

Detach for a moment.
Make a long heartfelt sujood (prostration) with full submission, and ask Allah to purify your intentions for this Holy month.
Ask Him to forgive, accept, guide and help you through it…

Advanced Level:

Make two raka’s (what’s a rak’a in English?) before that long beautiful sujood.
Thank Allah for being here, ask Him to guide and help you, pray for those who couldn’t be here this year, and end with a note of gratefulness for all the blessings we take for granted.

Ramadan is sooooooo kareem and generous guys
Let’s take like FULL advantage of it.
Let’s start it right!

Lilly S. Mohsen

30 Acts Of Kindness This Ramadan

30 Acts Of Kindness This Ramadan

 

Ramadan Kareem everyone!

Remember me?
Well. I never thought I’d be the kind of person who gets super excited about Ramadan and fasting in this hot weather.

Yeah, I was right!

I actually usually completely disappear (or more like evaporate) in Ramadan, to hide in my own little cave, just asking Allah to help me survive one more day.
But this year, I plan on doing things differently inshAllah.
Why?

Okay, I’m gonna be honest here. I’ve been studying about healthy habits and positive states of mind and stuff, and I was forced to take an up close and personal look at my ‘emotional’ pattern around this time of year.

About a month before Ramadan, I start reminiscing about the peaceful vibes, the togetherness and how much I need some private, quality time with Allah. I’m all like ‘Soooooooo niceeeeeee!’

But then the closer we get to the first day the more I start panicking. I actually had moments when I’d remember we start fasting in three days and I run to drink water! Add a whole lot of anxiety attacks, palpitations and stress headaches to that scenario and you’ll get a vague idea of my mental state on the night of the first ‘sohoor’. Which reminds me, can we please have a moment of silence for those of us hooked on morning caffeine?

Thank you…

Okay, so to cut a long story short, I’ve decided to do something about my ‘fear of fasting’ phobia. I’m gonna change my habits and actually do my best to seize every single moment of this blessed month, not only through prayer and reading Qur’an, but also by doing one good deed or ‘act of kindness’ a day and I’d love to share my journey with you guys because

  1. I love my readers so much and want them all to get extra rewards, and
  2. When I go public with my goals, I usually stick to them if only just to save face LOL.

Acts-of-kindness

Starting tonight inshAllah, I’ll be putting up ideas for one good deed a day aimed at beginners, and will also options for ‘advance-level-fasting-is-so-easy-for-me’ kind of people to up their challenge-loving hormones too.

See you tonight inshAllah
You guys ready?
Bism Allah….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Episode: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Ted Talk

 

Inside The Therapist’s Office
Final Episode: Feel Your Life Purpose

 

A few years later…

February 3rd, 2016
San Diego, California
Ted Talk Conference: Ideas Worth Spreading

(Applause)

Zahra stood tall on the red-carpeted stage and said, “When I asked my sister-in-law about the upside of me being blind, she said “I can now roll my eyes at you anytime I want”’

The audience laughed.

“It’s strange really. My nickname had always been ‘Supa’ as in ‘Super girl’. My loved ones believed I’d accomplish something big one day and become an influencer. Only they didn’t know my journey to becoming an international motivational speaker and a best-selling author would start AFTER losing my eyesight. The night I got nominated to give a Ted Talk my husband, who is also my publisher, planned a secret celebration dinner and invited the whole town. I had no idea what was happening. Before introducing me to the curator, who was amongst the hundred invitees, my husband said “Honey, guess who this is!”

Zahra froze with a funny, puzzled look on her face.
I’m as blind as a bat. How would I know?”

The crowd cracked up laughing again, including her husband Ali, who was backstage watching her like a hawk. Ali laughed from the heart even though he had practically memorized his wife’s speech since he was the one helping her practice it for the past two weeks.

You’re probably thinking ‘wow, this blind girl is making jokes about her own disability, she must be really strong. Believe me, I wasn’t at first. A couple of years ago I lost my sight in a car accident and lost my faith along with it. I was angry at the world. I completely broke down. I broke things, broke up with my fiancé and then felt my heart break into a million pieces. I’ve been broken for a long time. I refused to learn how to deal with my disability. I steamed out on anyone who tried to help, and those who came to soothe me became my worst enemies. ‘What did they know about my struggle?’ I fumed. It was a constant nightmare I was sure I’d never wake up from. Try finding your way around the house blindfolded. Do you have any idea how difficult that is? Instead of leaving my room, I’d enter the closet. I’d spill drinks on the floor and slip on my own mess. I bumped into walls, broke glass bottles and used shaving cream on my toothbrush instead of toothpaste! Living in darkness became the reality of my life and I couldn’t accept it. I’m sure my therapist would have horror stories to tell you about my anger; she was practically my punching bag. It was a slow, tiring progress. And even though deep down I knew I wasn’t ready, I thought perhaps getting married would lessen my pain and speed up the process of moving on.”

 Sitting with the vast audience at the conference, I watched Zahra on stage and felt the tears of joy slowly roll down my face. I was very proud of her. She had come a long way in her therapy. Screaming, crying and talking about her feelings made them by time become less overwhelming and less upsetting. She owned her story. She realized losing her sight wasn’t her choice, but dealing with it was. And that was her first step to healing….

“I ran out on my wedding.” Zahra confessed. “I couldn’t actually ‘run’ anywhere, I just hid under the bed for an hour before my best friend found me…”

And sitting in the front row with her husband, Salma was genuinely proud of ‘Supa’ too. Seeing her on stage inspiring thousands of people truly warmed her heart. Zahra wasn’t only her life long best friend; she was also her beloved sister-in-law. Salma smiled at her husband Omar, who smiled back warmly, patted her very pregnant belly and whispered the words ‘I love you’, before turning his attention back to his twin sister whose presence lit up the stage.

 

“I was scared of marriage. I didn’t think I was good enough because of my disability. You know we all think we have big problems until we compare them with bigger problems. When you face your biggest fear, your small fears kind of fade out. I remember when my biggest fear was leaving home and being responsible for a house and a family of my own. This fear dimmed completely when I lost my sight. It felt like a death sentence, I thought nothing worse could ever happen to me, until I learned my fiancé got into an accident and almost died. My blindness didn’t seem like that huge of a problem anymore when I thought of losing the love of my life, even if I couldn’t see him, I just couldn’t imagine living in a world where he didn’t exist. I suddenly reclaimed all my strength and willpower and sent him a letter begging him to push through. I asked my sister-in-law to write it for me because I trust her…….. Blindly!”

Aisha laughed out loud. She came to the conference with her husband and her friends Lola, Sara and Helen, who, like her, were all wearing the Hijab proudly now, too. Aisha was working on acquiring a degree in marriage counseling to help struggling couples the same way her marriage counselor helped her and Ibrahim fix their relationship before suggesting they go on a second a honeymoon and thanks to Allah her life with him had been happy and peaceful ever since.

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In that hour of hiding under the bed on my wedding day, I realized I was only pretending to be in the acceptance phase, when in reality I was still swinging back and forth between denial and depression. I wasn’t ready to start a new page yet, and to my surprise, Ali, my fiancé was very understanding and promised to wait till I was. We called off the wedding, I went back to blind school and started therapy full time. And Ali waited for me for two years…. Because….” Zahra’s voice crackled and she couldn’t help her tears. “In his heart he believed only I could make him happy. He didn’t care about my disability. He said it made him love me even more.” Zahra smiled and wiped her tears as the crowed applauded her while ‘awwwwing’ and ‘ohhhhhing’’ sentimentally. “Yeah, he’s not always that romantic though. Just so you know, we got married last summer, and since then, whenever he wants to get back at me during an argument, he simply rearranges the furniture!”

 

(Audience laughter)

“You know, life is hard. This is an inevitable truth. It’s once you accept this truth that life ceases to be hard. And it’s when I accepted my destiny, that my blindness stopped being a ‘disability’. Everyone has problems, and God never burdens us with more than we can endure. There were probably seven thousand things I could do before losing my sight. And now maybe that number has gone down to three thousand! But I’m motivated to do more now than I ever was when my eyes were functioning. The only reason life throws horrific traumas our way is because there’s an area that needs to grow. God took away my ability to see, but gave me the will to achieve so much more with all my other senses. He gave me ‘insight instead of sight’ and it was a blessing in disguise. It was also the title of my first book. And I hear it sold over 15 million copies!” Zahra smiled while the audience applauded her again.

“In Islam we have six pillars of faith; belief in one God, His angels, His holy books, His prophets, belief in the Last Day and belief in destiny (Preordainment). We skim through them and say we believe, but do we? To trust God in the light of day is easy, we can all do it. But to trust Him in the pit of darkness… that is true faith. Even if bad things happen, you must believe it’s God’s will and it’s always for the best. You must believe He’s protecting you from something worse. Losing my sight is a blessing compared to being completely paralyzed. Being paralyzed is a blessing compared to losing your loved one in war. And you know what’s so much worse than any trial you can think of? Do you know what is the scariest calamity that can happen in this life? It’s losing one’s faith and dying a disbeliever…. I believe every other problem and hardship pales in comparison.

 

We are only as blind as we want to be.
Our Lord says: ‘Indeed
It is not the eyes that go blind, but it is the hearts, within the chests, that go blind”
(Surat Al Hajj, ayah 46, Holy Qur’an)

So many people still have their eyesight intact, but do they really see the truth? Do they really notice the miracles around them and look at life from different perspectives? Does sight count when there is no insight?” Zahra asked. “They say ‘love is blind’ but I disagree. Anger is blind. Hate is blind. Bitterness, envy and despair are blind. Hopelessness is blind. But love is what keeps us going. It’s what keeps us strong. My love for my Lord and my unwavering faith in His promise is what helps me get through the day, because even in the worst of times, I remind myself whatever He wills is good.” Zahra said.

 

“In one of my therapy sessions, I was asked about whom I would trade my life with. And after much contemplation I answered ‘no one’. I really wouldn’t want to trade with anyone. I’m where I’m supposed to be…and I’m finally happy. May the Lord give us the wisdom to accept the things we can’t change (which isn’t easy) and may He fill our hearts with love, faith and light…. Amen. Thank you….”

  

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

Episode Six: Inside The Therapist’s office

Office

Episode Six: Feel The Truth

The Whole Story

 

 

Six months earlier…

 “SURPRISEEEEEEEEE” Everyone yelled when Zahra, the bride-to-be walked in. Salma had invited all the girls to celebrate her best friend Supa’s engagement to Ali, the hottest bachelor of the year.

“Oh my God you know those irritating people who flutter their eye lashes and say ‘I’m so blessed’? Well, I’m one of them now.” Supa giggled. “I really am blessed. AlhamduleAllah”.
Salma forced a smile on her face even though she was seething with jealously; she literally thought her envy might emit a sizzling sound. But then again, she was positively sure none of them would notice the green eyed monster she’d been harboring deep into her soul for weeks. Salma covered it up so well. She’s throwing a party for Zahra! Would a jealous friend do that?

Oh if only they knew…

Zahra’s eldest brother Ibrahim and his wife Aisha waited in the car with Omar, Zahra’s twin brother, for the bride and her best friend to come down. They were all invited to the groom’s house for dinner, Ali, who also happened to be one of Omar’s friends.

 

Sitting in the backseat of the car between Salma and Omar, Zahra couldn’t help bouncing up and down with excitement.
“Ibrahim is married. I’m engaged. It’s your turn now, Omar!” She winked at her twin.

“Oh now I know why they call you Supa, coz you’re ‘Super Delusional’.” Omar mocked. “I’m happy for you Zoe, but just so you know, don’t go expecting to hear any wedding bells in my future.”

“First they won’t be bells, they’ll be old women’s shrills’ Zahra laughed. “And secondly, who wouldn’t want to find everlasting love? It’s the best feeling ever. Ibrahim, say something.”

Ibrahim didn’t reply or even smile. He kept on driving silently while Aisha sat next to him in the passenger’s seat, staring at the ‘Oscar’s Best Dressed posts’ on ‘Instagram’, completely detached from the conversation.

“Maybe there’s a special girl out there who might one day change your mind.” Salma fluttered her eyes, desperate to get Omar’s attention. She’s been in love with him since God knows when and yet he barely knew she existed.

“Trust me, she doesn’t exist. Besides, I’m not the marrying type. I’m more of the ‘fun-partying-watch-my-friends-get-hitched-and-shake-my-head-at-their-dubmness’type of guy.” Omar replied.

Salma was fuming, especially when everyone laughed at the stupid insinuation, even Supa! Well, as long as she was happy with Mr. Perfect, what did she care about other people’s feelings? Salma’s jealousy, resentment and anger were bubbling inside her like lava. She had to do something about it before the fire coming out of her ears burns through her Hijab.

“I heard you’re throwing a party for Ali, too” Salma commented. “Copycat!”

“Yeah, the difference is I know how to plan one. You invite a few girls to gossip in your living room. I on the other hand party like a rock star” Omar boasted.

“You mean dancing and drinking till dawn. Isn’t this what you’ve been planning for Ali’s bachelor’s party? Yeah, I definitely can’t compete with you.” Salma smiled wickedly. That should ruin the night she thought.

Omar threw her a dirty look and glanced quickly at his eldest brother Ibrahim, who was on the phone. Thank God he didn’t hear her snide comment. Of course Aisha made an unreadable face and turned away. It was his twin sister Zoe who was shocked and hurt the most.

“Alcohol?” She whispered. “Seriously Omar? I thought we talked about this. Is this how you want your future brother-in-law to start his life with me?”

The twins argued while Salma listened, taming her envy with a liberating conclusion that ‘Supa’ wasn’t that super after all. She had a reputation for having such great motivational and persuasive techniques, that some of their friends predicted Zahra would become one of those famous influencers or inspirational speakers. Yeah right! She couldn’t even get her own brother to believe in God.

“I’m sick of hearing this Zoe. You don’t need to be religious to be a good person.”

‘I say it because I love you. Just try to open your heart. I know you’ll eventually find your way back to God” She said softly.

“If God has a problem with me not believing in Him then He should take it up with me, man to man. Right here, right now!” Omar yelled.

 

It all happened at the same time

Omar was challenging the great Lord..

Salma was simmering with envy to the point of wishing evil upon her own best friend.

Aisha was disappointed they were almost there. She had secretly asked God to create an excuse big enough to stop them from going to the dinner party, just to spite her mother-in-law.

And Ibrahim, consumed with fear, passion and guilt, while checking his cell, he took his eyes off the road for exactly two seconds. The wrong two seconds.

And then the crash happened and everything went dark..
“Is everyone okay?” Ibrahim panted. The pipes on the truck they rammed into speared through their glass, completely shattering it. Ibrahim could hear the ambulances’ sirens approaching and was relieved to realize that even though the sharp pipes caused some minor injuries, everyone was still breathing.
They had no idea the car crash chose only one victim to pay the price.

“I can’t see anything…” Zahra whimpered.

A week later..
“Mom I don’t care if she’s blind. I love her and I promised her nothing would tear us apart. I know you disagree but it’s my life.”
Ali slammed the door behind him and went to see his beloved Zahra, who was still refusing to meet him. Her parents asked him to stay away and let her move on with her life.
“I’ve been praying day and night for them to agree. They will eventually. They know I can’t live with her.” Ali insisted.
“My daughter is a proud young woman, she’ll never agree to marry a man without his parents’ approval” Zahra’s mom said.
He left the building feeling crushed, got into his car and drove off like a maniac at the speed of lightening. This is when he got into a terrible accident too and was rushed into surgery about two hours later. The plastic surgeon said it might take years before a reconstruction could make him look half normal again.

No one dared tell Zahra about Ali’s accident. She was now at the institution learning how to cope with blindness and trying to adjust to her new life. Although her anger at the world made this ordeal an impossible, endless struggle.

“I know you don’t want to see anyone..”
“See? You think I can ‘see’ anyone? I’m as blind as a bat you idiot!” Zahra snapped at the poor nurse.
“I’m sorry” Zahra’s mom apologized to the nurse. “Please don’t take her tone personally. She’s been through a rough time”
“There’s a woman here to visit, and she’s insisting to meet Ms. Zahra” The nurse continued.
“Who is she?” Zahra asked.
“Her name is Rehana”
Zahra clenched her jaws, and pressed a hand to her throat, feeling her veins about to pop from her suppressed rage. “Mom, give us a minute please.” She hissed. “I need to speak to Rehana alone”

Later that day

“Rehana honey tell me what happened” I ran to hug my friend who had been waiting for me on my porch. She was shivering and sobbing hysterically, I could hardly understand a word she was saying.
“I talked to Ibrahim’s sister” Rehana sniffled.
“You what? Rehana you told me it was all over! You said you had repented and closed that page.” I scolded.
“No Lilly you don’t understand. They got into a car accident and his sister Zahra lost her eyesight. She’s staying in the same special needs institution I volunteer at. I couldn’t not go see her. Especially after what Ibrahim said. He blames me for the accident and for everything that has happened.”

I tried to hide my disappointment and be supportive instead. After all, I wasn’t just her life long friend I was also her therapist now, ever since she finally decided to confess her sin and asked me to help her get back on the straight path.

“Ibrahim thought confessing the truth to his sister would help him clear his conscious. He admitted he got distracted while driving coz I was texting him.” Rehana gasped for breath. “I went to ask Zahra for forgiveness, but she wouldn’t listen. It was horrible.” Rehana sobbed. “Even after I swore I ended it with her brother, she called me the worst names. She said she couldn’t understand how good people like her end up suffering instead of devils like me. She’s right Lilly. She’s so right.”
“She’s angry, Rehana. No one knows what they’d do if they were in her situation.”
“She said she wasn’t gonna suffer the consequences alone, and then threatened to tell my husband and my parents. She said she’ll make sure this scandal follows me everywhere I go, at work and at the institution. She never gave me a chance to explain.” Rehana was shaking uncontrollably I could tell she was about to have a nervous breakdown.
“Somebody HELPPPP” I cried.

Later that night

“Psych ward? Are you people insane?” I asked the nurse when I went to visit the next day. “Rehana is fine. She’s just a bit stressed out.”
“Doctor’s orders, ma’am.” The bored nurse replied.
“I need to see her”

Rehana was sitting on the floor alone in a dimmed room, barefoot and her hair disarrayed. She looked exactly like the first time I met her in fifth grade sitting in detention outside the principle’s office. She had the kindest heart yet, ever since we were little girls; she always ended up getting herself in trouble.

“It’s over Lilly…” Rehana stared at the wall blankly.
“It’s not honey. Have faith in Allah. He can change the unchangeable. You know that, right?”
“Ibrahim hates me. Zahra hates me. My parents hate me. My husband hates me. And even you hate me..” Rehana bowed her head down in disgrace.
“I don’t hate you Rehana. I love you and I’m gonna help you through this.” I cried.
“It’s too late for me. I don’t deserve Allah’s forgiveness…”
“Please don’t say that. The door to repentance is always open..”
“I know Allah hates me for what I’ve done. Zahra’s right. I am the devil.”
“What happened to Zahra isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s an act of God, and God will never allow bad things to happen unless good comes out of it.” I insisted. “Allah loves us, Rehana.”
“I’ve done so much damage, Lilly. You don’t know how many people I’ve hurt and how many lives I’ve singlehandedly ruined.”
“There’s still time to learn from your mistakes and fix what you broke. Like Omar Ibn Al Khattab said, ‘sometimes the people with the worst past create the best future.’”
Rehana buried her head in her two pale palms. “Lilly, I really loved Ibrahim and I never wanted to hurt him or his family. Promise me you’ll help him fix his life and find happiness. Promise me you’ll help everyone who suffered because of my actions.”
“I’ll try” I replied, desperate to say something soothing.
“I left a letter to my husband asking for his forgiveness, please make sure he gets it” Rehana whispered before sliding out a gun from under the carpet she was sitting on.

Where on Earth would she get a gun in solitary? I wondered silently, my heart pounding so loud, evidently distracting my brain from coming up with a plan.
“Please, don’t” I pleaded. “Trust me, there are other options!”
“I wish that were true..” Rehana whispered.
“Noooooooooooooo”

A couple of weeks later

 

“She tried to take her own life?” Zahra repeated the question like an endless tireless echo.

“We stopped her at the last minute. Unfortunately she suffered major deficits and is now in a coma. Doctors don’t think she’ll wake up anytime soon”

I came to see Zahra at the institution, still overwhelmed and heartbroken.

“I can’t believe she tried to kill herself. Why? How can any Muslim do that? I swear I wasn’t gonna say anything. I’d never shame anyone that way. I didn’t mean it. I was just blabbering out of anger, I didn’t mean it.” Zahra slurred.
It took a couple of days for her to absorb the immense impact of her words. She couldn’t eat or sleep; she was practically going insane with remorse.

“My heart is gonna explode. I don’t know how to go back to my life as if nothing happened. I’m so angry and hurt I don’t think I can take this anymore.” Zahra cried.

“Rehana gave up the Lord’s endless mercy and submitted to the whispers of Satan. She forgot that He says “No one despairs of Allah’s soothing mercy except those who have no faith” (Holy Quran, 12:87). Her hopelessness affected so many people. Her loved ones will never be the same again and they’ll probably never forgive her. If you give up now… Zahra I don’t know what will happen to them, to Ibrahim, Ali, Omar, Salma, Aisha, your parents, your friends. It will change them. If you fall apart now, you’ll drop their hopes to their ground, shattering their faith and willpower. And like poison, this anger and bitterness will spread around and it won’t end. It will never ever end.”

“This is a huge burden to carry…” Zahra wept softly.
“Life is a test; it’s full of hardships. But we must remember the events that take place during our journey don’t control us, our decision do. And you have a decision to make. This is the tipping point Zahra, whatever you decide today will change everyone’s life forever….”

 

Three months later

“I can’t find Zahra” Aisha panicked; still holding her sister-in-law’s abandoned wedding gown. “I think she ran away”

“How could she possibly run away? She’s BLIND!”

 
To be continued….

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

Episode Five: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Office

 

Season Two: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Episode Five: Feel The Power

 

With slumped shoulders and a gloomy look pulling his face down towards the ground, Ibrahim asked,

“Have you ever resented someone so much you actually felt physical pain? It really does eat you up inside. Especially when it’s someone you used to love..”

 

“Oh that’s right, you did the dishes ONCE since we got married. You should be nominated for ‘Husband of the Year’ award” Aisha, Ibrahim’s wife huffed sarcastically.
“I said I’ll do them.” Ibrahim mumbled.
“Really? You mean like right now? Or after you wake up from your three-hour nap in front of the TV?”

All they do is fight. And all she does is find ways to blame, belittle and put him on an endless, tiring guilt-trip. History has a weird way of repeating itself, for he watched his mom do the exact same thing to his dad all throughout his childhood. Ibrahim promised himself he would never allow his wife to disrespect him, but unfortunately, he eventually became his father. And instead of drawing a firm line, he just avoided her completely and drowned himself in work instead.

 

“You hardly leave the office Mr. Ibrahim. When do you sleep?” His secretary Rehana asked with a suggestive smile, leaning forward on his desk.

“I have to double check every one else’s work before giving in the weekly reports” Ibrahim stuttered, his eyes fixed on his computer screen.

“I admire your devotion.” Rehana complimented him as usual.
“You can go home Rehana. It’s getting late”

“Oh if my boss is here then I’m here.” She smiled, pouring him a cup of coffee. “Just let me know if you need anything. Anything at all.”

“Thank you” Ibrahim cleared his throat.

 

“A cup of coffee turned to two then dinner and late night chats and before I knew it…” Ibrahim said in a sad, brittle tone. “I was enjoying the attention. I never thought it would go this far. “

“What are you planning to do now?” I asked.

“I don’t know” Ibrahim drew in a long breath. “Aisha’s nagging and rejection made me lose my mind. I’m not a cheater. This isn’t who I am”

“Do you blame your wife for what happened?” I asked.

“The night of the accident, we were all in the car when Rehana called my cell. I picked up and pretended she was one of my coworkers. She said I must look great in a tux, something Aisha, my own wife, would never say! I hung up quickly, having mixed feelings of love and immense guilt.” Ibrahim confessed.

“And then what happened?” I asked.
“I usually put my cell in the cup holder while I’m driving. I was getting a lot of text messages after I hung up, and I was worried they were from Rehana. I didn’t want Aisha to get suspicious. My cell was beeping non-stop when a semi truck carrying Iron pipes came out of nowhere! I swear I only looked at the phone for exactly two seconds. TWO SECONDS!”

“It must be very difficult for you to relive this memory” I said.

“I ruined my baby sister’s life and wrecked my marriage. I don’t know how to live with what I did. For weeks I haven’t been able to sleep or eat or go to work. I hate myself. I’m a complete mess. I’m so gonna burn in hell.”
“Please don’t say that. Allah is the Forgiver of all sins.”
“I’m not going alone. Aisha will burn in hell with me.” Ibrahim added, totally ignoring my words.
“Are you holding her responsible for what happened too?” I asked.

“Of course I am. I would have never given Rehana a second look if Aisha had taken care of me and made me feel like the man of the house. I was a religious man when I met her. I’ve been a faithful husband for years. I was patient and supportive but she gave me nothing in return. She was always criticizing and making me feel like a failure. Can you really blame me for what I did?”

 

“That’s not for me to decide. We all think we have good reasons for the bad things we do. Allah, the Greatest Judge of All has the final say. He is the One who knows what’s in our hearts.” I said.

“Did Aisha say anything to you? Do you think she knows?”

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” I joked.

“I want you to know I ended things with Rehana a long time ago.” Ibrahim sniffed then rubbed his nose. “I blocked her and deleted all our chats.”

“Then why are you so worried?’ I asked.

 

“You’re lying. I can tell from your voice” Zahra said, her back towards her eldest brother. “You’re still seeing her aren’t you?”

“Only once since the accident. I had to end things face to face.” Ibrahim confessed.

“You said you were gonna end it the last time I caught you both at the office, and that was months ago. How could you do this Ibrahim?”

Ibrahim chose to remain silent. He didn’t wanna argue with Zahra or try to explain his reasons for cheating. She had already been through enough heartache.

 

“I’m sorry Zoe. I think I fell in love with her.”

“She’s MARRIED!” Zahra yelled, throwing her head back and her arms in the air. “I didn’t tell anyone because I believed you were sorry. I believed you woke up and repented. But I guess the only reason you apologized is because you got caught or because you were in trouble. You know who you remind me of? People in the hellfire begging Allah to take them back to their previous lives so they can do good, except Allah knows they would surely repeat the same mistakes.”

“I guess I deserve that..” Ibrahim wiped his tears. It’s true, Zahra had been keeping his secret for a long time, but it didn’t change the fact he had fell from grace with his baby sister after so many times of repeatedly assuring her the affair was over when it really wasn’t.

“What are you gonna say to your Lord on Judgment Day?” Zahrah asked, her back towards her brother, refusing to look at him.

“Zahrah please stop. I’m not the coward you think I am. I had my reasons and Allah is Merciful. He forgives sins”

 

Ibrahim, if our near-death experience didn’t serve as a wake up call for you, I don’t know what will. Do you know why belief in Judgment Day is an essential pillar of faith? Because even if you worship Allah alone, and believe in His angels, books and prophets, you have to remember you’ll be held accountable for your choices. You’ll stand before ‘Al-Jabbar’ alone! Do you think He will accept your apology just because you got caught? Or accept your excuses just because you’re in pain? We are all in pain Ibrahim.”

Zahrah finally turned around to face him, which made Ibrahim weaken to his knees. He took one look at her, fell to the ground and sobbed hysterically, asking her over and over to forgive him.

“I left feeling ashamed of myself. Her words shook me to the core. She said she will forgive me once I end it completely. I can’t believe I’ve ruined Zahrah’s life and she is still considering giving me another chance. I don’t understand how she can find it in her heart to forgive me.” Ibrahim’s eyes welled up.
“First you need to forgive yourself”
“How was I so blinded? What happened made me realize I was never really in love with Rehana, I just craved the attention and the way she made me feel. How was that need greater than my fear of Judgment Day?”

“This is what happens when we close our hearts and run away from our feelings. Instead of resolving them, we cover them up and give ourselves excuses, and this temporary relief becomes an addiction that furthermore numbs our hearts. We choose to become victims when things don’t go our way, and sometimes we lose faith by seeking revenge or deciding to follow our whims. We become selfish when giving doesn’t pay off. Believing in Judgment Day is the fifth pillar of faith, and its essence is in believing you’ll be accountable for your actions, regardless of what others have done. This unwavering belief gives you self-confidence, strength and willpower. It puts an end to the helplessness you feel. It lets you own up to your own successes and failures. I’m sorry Ibrahim, but you can’t blame Aisha’s nagging for your cheating, that’s like blaming the person who created chocolate for your weight gain!”

“The worst part is I miss Rehana sometimes and that’s why I feel so guilty. She won’t return my calls. I have no idea where she is. It’s like she fell off the top of the Earth” Ibrahim sighed.

I closed his file and took a deep calming breath. “That’s the only way to avoid temptation. Cut off the ropes bonding you to the sin completely. Perhaps that’s what she tried to do. Try doing the same Ibrahim. I know it won’t be easy. I advise you to ask Allah to help you get through this. Ask Him to take her out of your system. Ask for forgiveness and work on fixing your marriage before it’s too late..”

Ibrahim left feeling weary yet hopeful, and promised he would try. I looked at his file and all the other files of my current patients. They all told the same story so differently.

I suddenly couldn’t hold back my tears.
They had no idea it was Zahra who blamed herself the most.
They had no idea she carried more guilt than all of their remorse put together..
And what killed me the most, is that my patients had no idea of my true identity..
To be continued…

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

 

 

Episode Four: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Office

 

Season Two: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Episode Four: Feel The Joy and Pain

 

“I still get ups and downs, even though the decision has been made.” Aisha sighed.

“Are you having second thoughts again?” I asked.

“No. The truth is, I used to look down on women who didn’t wear the hijab and those who took it off. I thought they were gonna burn in hell. But then the weirdest thing happened. The same veil I took pride in became the thing that suffocated me the most! Now I understand and sympathize. This piece of cloth can be your best blessing or your worst nightmare”

“That’s a strong statement.” I said carefully.

“I’m not going to take it off. I’m just saying it makes me feel depressed sometimes, and I’m already miserable enough thank you very much!” She twisted the wedding ring on her finger and then looked away.

“Aisha, this dinner is very important to my sister. My whole family is expecting you to be there. So please apologize to your friends and let’s not fight like last time.” Her husband sighed.

“It’s Helen’s birthday. I have to go! Lola and Sara will kill me if I don’t. Do you have any idea how hard it was to find a table at this restaurant? OMG it’s like the place to be on a Friday night.” Aisha exclaimed. ”I’ll catch up with you guys as soon as I can. And I’ll make up a very good reason for being late I promise.” Aisha added, too busy applying her makeup to even look at her husband.

The conversation didn’t stop there.
It never did.
They kept arguing until they were both yelling at the top of their lungs.

“What do you mean ‘what will my mom say’? Let me remind you honey, you’re the one terrified of her, not me!” Aisha snapped.

“Ladies and gentlemen please take your seats. Aisha’s daily nagging show is about to start” Her husband announced sarcastically.

“The truth hurts, I know” Aisha added bitterly. “Here’s another ugly truth. It’s not about you being religious. We both know you aren’t. The only reason you won’t allow me to take my hijab off is because you’re scared of your mother. She practically runs our life!” 

After about an hour of fighting, Aisha decided to cancel with her friends and join her husband’s family dinner. She was no longer in a ‘partying’ mood anyway. She just wanted to avoid his acidic vibe and hopefully be far away from him as possible.
Watching the numbers descend on the elevator screen, and her husband checking his phone for the millionth time, Aisha couldn’t help mumbling under her breath “I hope something happens that will make us NOT go”

“You know, even though social obligations are a big deal for him and he guilts me into wearing the hijab and acting the part of a very proper, pious couple; he does it with no real conviction or awareness. He’s always some place else even when he’s standing right next to me, always focused on his phone and his work. He dismisses my feelings when I tell him so many people make me feel small because of my hijab. He never compliments me or makes me feel beautiful. I’ve become a ghost he’s scared of yet doesn’t see. Sometimes I feel he’s so far way I start suspecting he might be in love with someone else! I’m exhausted I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m tired of feeling insecure at home and left out in public. I just want to blend in instead of being stared at, shunned and ignored. It’s making me become an angry, miserable bitter person. It’s making me become aggressive and ungrateful. Don’t you think this upsets Allah more than me taking off the hijab?” Aisha asked.

“You know which people have been ridiculed, shunned, ignored and made fun of? The prophets. Everyone loved and respected them, until they preached something different from what people wanted to hear and then hell broke loose.” I said.

“Who are we to compare ourselves to the prophets?” Aisha asked defensively.

“Nobodies. We can never compare to them. Yet, believing in Allah’s messengers is the fourth pillar of faith. Why do you think that is?” I asked.

“Because if we didn’t believe in them we would have rejected the message they came with commanding us to worship Allah alone.”

“True. Except Allah dedicated a big part of the Holy books to tell us their stories. Don’t you think that’s part of the message?”

“What do you mean?” Aisha asked.

“The prophets were the nicest people on the planet and yet they were called the worst of names, evicted and threatened.” I explained. “They’re human and they have feelings, too. Did you think this struggle was easy for them? They persevered and continued with their greater spiritual Jihad. So even if we don’t compare to them, at least we are obliged to learn from and emulate their great efforts.”

“Are you saying me feeling this way, rejected and belittled because of my attire, is part of my Jihad?” Aisha wondered.

“We don’t grow when things are easy, Aisha. We grow when we face challenges, for they aren’t sent to destroy us, they’re there to strengthen and promote us to a higher level. In a way, the fourth pillar says: ‘Don’t be afraid of being different, be afraid of being like everyone else.’”

 

“You know, I cry myself to sleep every night. I blame myself for the accident. I feel like Allah flipped the car to punish me. Or perhaps to remind me that life is short. I’ve never said this to anyone but I feel guilty all the time…”

Aisha lowered her head and went into a soft daze, as if she had unblocked something that melted her frozen heart and allowed the tears to finally flow down her face….

 

“If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.” (https://sunnah.com/bukhari/75/5)” Zahra said.

“You’ve always been the ‘cup is half full’ type of girl, even after everything that’s happened. And I keep wondering, where do you find all this peace?” Aisha asked.

“We don’t look for peace Aisha, it comes to us. You’ll only find inner peace and true joy when you do everything from the heart…” Zahra replied.

“What if you can’t do it from the heart, Zahra? You know what happened changed me too. I know I should be more grateful. I know I should be more patient. But somehow, even though I’m trying, all I feel is pain..” Aisha cried.

“Maybe that’s a good thing. Rumi says: ‘The wound is the place where the light enters you. The cure for the pain is in the pain”. Zahra explained.

“I can’t believe how wise you’ve become. You sound like one of those famous spiritual speakers. Who knows? Maybe that will be your calling.”

“Maybe” Zahra smiled.

 

“I’ve learned so much from her. She’s the reason I’m here today.” Aisha confessed. “I used to be a better person before I went this numb. I wish I could regain my faith. I want to feel the joy she feels and see what she only sees.”

“You know what you’re feeling right now? This craving desire to be closer to Allah? Hold on to it Aisha for it comes by so rarely. In the wake of an extremely materialistic world, we sometimes forget to meet our spiritual needs. We pretend like the people we befriend and the things we watch don’t affect us but let’s face it, they do! And so our hearts crawl away from Allah bit by bit, we hardly even notice it till its too late. Hold on to this beautiful rare feeling of wanting to be better Aisha and try to recapture it. Recite the duas of the Prophets especially the ones mentioned in the Qur’an”

“Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.” (Holy Qur’an 3:8)

Recognition dawned on her face and I could see the tears of joy and pain shimmering in her eyes.

“Amen” She whispered. “I’ll see you next week inshAllah.”

The following day, my next client arrived on time for his session, and we spoke for a while before he burst out.

“How can you say this? Don’t try to sugar coat the truth, Lilly. You know just as well as I do, I’m the one who caused the accident!”
“I know you believe that and this is why you’re here, Ibrahim. To talk about it and analyze your feelings.” I said gently.

“I have! And you know what I’ve realized? The only thing worse than killing my baby sister….is not killing her.”

 

To be continued.

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

 

Episode Three: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Office

Season Two: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Episode Three: Feel The Way

 

“There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me” Omar confessed.

“What’s that like?” I asked curiously.

“Like a horrible nightmare. I live my life pretending to believe in something I’m not sure I truly believe in. And unfortunately, I’m a horrible liar!”

“Why would you lie about your beliefs? You’re a grownup now, and I’m sure you can decide what’s right and what’s wrong.”
“Because I’m confused and I don’t wanna hurt my loved ones anymore. I’m killing them slowly, one by one” Omar added sadly.

 

She sat near the window, relishing the warmth of the sun. Even though she hadn’t said a word, Omar was positively sure she knew he’d been standing behind her near the door just staring silently. She just chose to ignore his presence, like she’s been doing for the past few weeks.

“You look different” Omar finally broke the silence.

“I feel different” Zahra said, still not looking at him.

“I’m sorry for what I did” Omar whispered softly.

“For what? For challenging Allah and nearly getting us all killed?”

“Zoe I know you blame me for everything that happened. I don’t know what to do to make it better. What can I do for you to forgive me?” Omar asked.

“I was angry when I said those things.. I lost my faith for a while but now, I see things differently, and I wish you could too.”

“I do”

“No Omar, you don’t. What happened made you angrier at Allah and more confused. There’s a war raging inside you. You’re asking me to forgive you but you know what you really need? You need to forgive yourself first.” Zahra said softly.

 

Omar turned around and covered his face with his hands. And even though Zahra couldn’t see the tears streaming down his cheeks, she knew her words touched his heart.  

“If you really love me Omar, help yourself.” She said. “You’ll find the card on the table. Please go see this therapist. That’s all I’m asking.”

 

 

“Are you angry at Allah?” I asked Omar.

“I am” He replied. “And I know it hurts Zoe more than anything she’s been through. She’s probably scared I might go to hell”

“Well, no one other than Allah knows who is going where” I said calmly.
“Exactly. Thank you! You just made my point for me. Why create us if He already knows who is going to Paradise and who is going to Hellfire? Isn’t this a form of sadism? Why give me a functioning, logical brain and then torment me for using it to question the unseen? I really want to know!” Omar asked.
“What do you think would have been a better scenario?’

“An obedient creation that doesn’t analyze or go against His will. A creation that worships Him alone and isn’t put through the test of a lifelong search for the truth that might easily end with eternal torture!” Oman snapped.

 

“He already created this type: The angels” I replied. “They do what they’re told, worship Him day and night and have no willpower. And then Allah created humans, and gave them the choice to believe or not, making them superior to the flawless, sinless angels.”

“So you’re saying in the test of life, everyone has a fair chance?”

“Depends how you look at it. When Med-students for example sit for their exams, don’t they all have a fair chance to pass or fail?” I asked. “Or do you think fairness necessitates they all become doctors whether they’ve earned it or not?”

“ No of course not. But students have textbooks to study from and plenty of time to learn and practice.” Omar barked.

“And so do we. The original scriptures of Torah, Gospel, Psalms, and the Qur’an were sent to humankind as guidance. This is why belief in the books is the third pillar of faith; because Allah is fair. He would never test humans without revealing the truth clearly first.”

Omar pondered silently, trying to open his mind to the other side of the argument

“You see, elite colleges and universities expect straight A’s. They expect a lifetime of dedication and perfection. If a doctor, a lawyer or a judge for example makes a big mistake they might lose their license, and their careers and reputations would be ruined for life. But Allah is Merciful and Kind, He doesn’t expect perfection. He expects progress, good intentions and for us to purify our hearts. He expects us to seek the truth, learn from our mistakes, help each other and worship Him alone. And once you read the Qur’an with the humility of a student, and not with the scrutiny of a doubtful critic, the truth will manifest as clear as the shining bright sun.”

“I read it, yet sometimes I’m appalled and confused by all the harsh rules and warnings. Why does Allah have to remind us of His punishment? Why can’t His words all be about good rewards and about spreading love and peace?” Omar asked.

“Do you stop at red lights? Even if no one is looking?” I smiled.

“Umm yes”

“Why? Is it because the police give out bouquets of red roses to those who do?”

“No” Omar laughed. “Because I’ll get a ticket if I don’t”

“But why are there laws and penalties and jails? Why can’t the government give us all a nice pep talk about the glory of peace and harmony and then leave us to our own devices?”

“That’s absurd. You can’t keep order without strict laws…. Okay I get it now.” Omar smiled knowingly.

“Just because Allah is compassionate and merciful, doesn’t mean He won’t be Just and Fair. Without the laws prescribed in the Holy books, humans would literally behave like animals and chaos would prevail. Those who follow Allah’s commands and those who don’t cannot be equal.“

“But now if I’m skeptic about the Qur’an for example, does that make me a non-believer, even if I believe in God?” Omar asked.

“I’ll answer your question with another question. Do you think if you had seen the sea part for Prophet Moses, or had witnessed prophet Jesus raise the dead and cure the sick, and denied those miracles saying ‘nah, I don’t buy it. This must be magic or an illusion’, would that have made you a non-believer?”

“I guess so. Denying miracles is a form of doubt or disbelief.”

“Exactly. And the Qur’an is also a miracle. It has baffled scientists, doctors, historians, nutritionists, philosophers, linguists… you name it! The list goes on.” I explained. “Except you can’t take the miracle in slices; say you believe some verses and deny others. If you think about it, belief in the Qur’an strengthens your faith.”

“How?” Omar asked with genuine curiosity.

“You see when you stop your car at a red light, you do so because you fear punishment. It’s more of an obligation. But when you stop your car to help someone in need, that’s a humane action of the heart. Exactly like our religion. It becomes a hollow shell if we just mindlessly perform all our rituals like praying, fasting and reading Qur’an in a hurry. But when you ponder on Allah’s words, and follow His rules out of love, that’s the true meaning of humanity. You can memorize every word and carry all the knowledge in your head, but what really matters is the belief and knowledge in your heart….”

“You sound like Zoe. We were having a similar discussion in the car, one that ended badly. Very, very badly..”

 

“I’m sick of hearing this Zoe! You don’t need to be religious to be a good person.” Omar said, fiddling with his annoying seatbelt.

‘I say it because I love you! Just try to open your heart. I know you’ll eventually find your way back to God” She said softly.

“That is so obnoxious. It’s like me saying ‘I hope you’ll eventually find your way away from God!” How would that make you feel?” Omar complained.

“It’s okay if you have doubts.” Zahra explained. “As long as you believe there is One God and He’s the only Judge.”
“If God has a problem with me not believing in Him then He should take it up with me, man to man. Right here, right now!” Omar boasted.

 

“I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself for what happened next. How did I challenge the Lord? What was I thinking?” Omar wept. “I didn’t mean what I said. I wanted to take it all back the second the words came out of my mouth, especially when Zoe gasped in horror and went completely pale. At that moment, even though she wasn’t dead, I saw the life leave her beautiful eyes slowly…”

Omar left with a broken heart, but perhaps that’s what also opened it for the light of faith to come through. Sometimes the worst heartaches are just blessings in disguise.

“Everyone is blaming Omar for the accident.” Aisha, my next patient said, tensing her shoulders and refusing to make eye contact with me. “The truth is, it wasn’t his fault at all. It was mine..”

 

To be continued…

Lilly S. Mohsen