Are you alright, sister? – Strengthening the bonds of sisterhood

by Tonje Hagen

10 months into Islam I finally got the opportunity to visit my first mosque. Being the only Muslim in my family and living in a small town almost deprived of Muslims, I had never really understood the beauty and truth of sisterhood in Islam. I had only read about it and was therefore very curious about how it was in real life – and if it even existed.

Then finally, a spring day in May (2012), Allah SWT sent me to a big, beautiful mosque in the east part of London. My heart pounded rapidly and my eyes filled with tears as soon as I had entered the sister’s entrance. After praying dhuhr salah in congregation – there were probably 40-50 sisters there, which was a massive number for me – I was barely able to leave the prayer room. Something kept me back. I didn’t want to leave at all. Therefore I stopped right outside the entrance to the prayer room and let all my emotions come out. My gratitude to Allah SWT reached its peak at that moment and I had tears flowing down my face.

Luckily, no one was there to observe me. Still, I had made a dua asking Allah SWT to let me talk with just one sister in the mosque and feel some sisterly love and connection. So what happened? A sister that hadn’t yet left the prayer room came out and found me in my petty state. Without even thinking twice, she asked me with the most sincere, caring and wonderful voice I’ve ever heard “Are you alright, sister?” Then she gave me a tight, genuine hug. And without much delay she brought me back into the prayer room.

Even though she had her normal duties to deal with that day, among them a husband and three young daughters to take care of and even a cancer diagnosis on her shoulders, she took some time out of her day and spent it with me. 10 months as a Muslim and I had never been asked so many questions about my journey to Islam, my struggles with my non-Muslim family, my studies and future plans, and even my country (Norway). She’s like the most curious, caring and loving person I’ve ever met.

I was completely blown away by her caring treatment of me, her curious questions, and her very beneficial and sincere advice to me. I was a stranger to her. She was a stranger to me. Still, there was a connection there unlike anything else I had ever experienced. There was mutual love, kindness and compassion between us – for no other reason than our common belief in Allah SWT.

Subhanallah! There is nothing really like it – sisterhood in Islam.

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Later, I’ve been gifted with books, clothes, food, prayer carpets and a Quran; I’ve received some wonderful support, encouragement and help; I’ve been given compliments way beyond what I deserve; I’ve been invited for dinners; I’ve been greeted with salams on the street; I’ve been hugged a whole lot on Islamic events; and I’ve befriended some wonderful Muslim sisters.

The thing is that every single act of kindness, every single gift and every single good word has gone straight to my heart. They have strengthened my iman, my gratitude to Allah SWT and my sense of belonging. More importantly, they’ve given me the strength, motivation and courage needed to keep walking on the path of Allah SWT and to stay patient through any difficulty sent my way.

When choosing to be a Muslim and abiding by the commands of Allah SWT one becomes a stranger in this world. One is also guaranteed to become tested. This does not apply exclusively to Muslim reverts – not at all. This life is a struggle and a test for all of us. Allah SWT is telling us:

“Verily, you are ever toiling on towards your Lord – painfully toiling – but you shall meet Him” (Quran 84:6)

It’s a fact that after one problem is finally solved, another one will soon appear. It’s the nature of this world. We shouldn’t be surprised, because Allah SWT has stated it clearly in His Book:

“Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.” (Quran 67:2)

Rather than letting Satan trick us into thinking that the outer blessings of another sister are unfair and exceed our own share of benefits – which can easily make us fall into the traps of jealousy, hatred and backbiting – we should look at each other with love and care. Remember that Satan is on a mission to deviate us from the straight path, and one of his greatest achievements is causing trouble and disunity among the servants of Allah SWT.

Realize that any sister who prays her five or covers up properly – and even if she hasn’t come this far yet – is undergoing, or has gone through, some serious difficulties. She might be facing some really tough challenges as you see her or speak with her. But as a devoted Muslimah, she will not present all her problems to you. She knows Allah SWT is the only One who can truly help her, so she keeps her struggles between herself and Him – and those few in a position to help and advice.

Allah SWT has, in His wisdom and mercy, given us a very important role to play in each other’s lives.

“The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another” (Quran 9:71)

The Prophet (saw) explained that we don’t need to go out of our way in order to help, support or protect our sister. Even little things mean a lot.

“Do not belittle any small act of kindness even if it is to pour water from your bucket into the vessel of the one who asks for it or to talk to your brother with a cheerful face.” (Ahmad)

Your kind words, friendly gesture or small gift might touch her heart and do wonders in a way you cannot even imagine.

Action steps – all from the Sunnah of our Prophet (saw)

–         Give salams to those you know and those you don’t know

–         Smile to your sisters and give gifts

–         Offer your services and take care of her needs

–         When you love a sister for the sake of Allah, tell her

–         Make dua for her in her absence

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–         Address her as “sister”

–         Spend time with her and get to know her

–         Love for your sister what you love for yourself

–         Invite her for dinner or accept the invitation from her

–         Remind her of Allah, the Hereafter, doing good deeds, being patient and death

–         Encourage her to think positively, be grateful to Allah SWT, utilize her special skills and talents for the sake of Allah and continue seeking knowledge of our beautiful deen

–         Give her sincere and humble advices if you see her doing something wrong. Be sure to do it in private.

–         Never expose her mistakes in front of others. Cover her faults and sins.

–         Think the best about her. Give her excuses whenever she says or does something you perceive as incorrect. There might be a good reason for it.

–         Treat her with kindness, respect, compassion and love

–         Be quick to forgive

 

Meet the author:

Tonje Hagen (21) was born and raised in Norway by Christian parents. She embraced Islam in June, 2011. She is currently studying development studies (full-time) and tafsir (part-time), but she aspires to become an author, personal life coach and teacher of Islam. She shares her thoughts and assists reverts at Dive Into Deen.

 

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