I was not more than thirty years old when my wife gave birth to my first child. I still remember that night.
I had stayed out all night long with my friends, as was my habit. It was a night filled with useless talk, and worse, with backbiting, gossiping, and making fun of people. I was mostly the one who made people laugh; I would mock others and my friends would laugh and laugh. I remember on that night that I’d made them laugh a lot. I had an amazing ability to imitate others – I could change the sound of my voice until I sounded exactly like the person I was mocking. No one was safe from my biting mockery, even my friends; some people started avoiding me just to be safe from my tongue. I remember on that night, I had made fun of a blind man who I’d seen begging in the market. What was worse, I had put my foot out in front him – he tripped and fell, and started turning his head around, not knowing what to say.
I went back to my house, late as usual, and I found my wife waiting for me. She was in a terrible state, and said in a quivering voice, “Rashed… where were you?”
“Where would I be, on Mars?” I said sarcastically, “With my friends of course.”
She was visibly exhausted, and holding back tears, she said, “Rashed, I’m so tired. It seems the baby is going to come soon.” A silent tear fell on her cheek.
I felt that I had neglected my wife. I should have taken care of her and not stayed out so much all those nights… especially since she was in her ninth month. I quickly took her to the hospital; she went into the delivery room, and suffered through long hours of pain.
I waited patiently for her to give birth… but her delivery was difficult, and I waited a long time until I got tired. So I went home and left my phone number with the hospital so they could call with the good news. An hour later, they called me to congratulate me on the birth of Salem. I went to the hospital immediately. As soon as they saw me, they asked me to go see the doctor who had overlooked my wife’s delivery.
“What doctor?” I cried out, “I just want to see my son Salem!”
“First go see the doctor,” they said.
I went to the doctor, and she started talking to me about trials, and about being satisfied with Allah’s decree. Then she said, “Your son has a serious deformity in his eyes, and it seems that he has no vision.” I lowered my head while I fought back tears… I remembered that blind man begging in the market who I’d tripped and made others laugh at.
Subhan Allah, you get what you give! I stayed brooding quietly for a while… I didn’t know what to say. Then I remembered by wife and son. I thanked the doctor for her kindness, and went to go see my wife. My wife wasn’t sad. She believed in the decree of Allah… she was content… How often had she advised me to stop mocking people! “Don’t backbite people,” she always used to repeat… We left the hospital, and Salem came with us.
In reality, I didn’t pay much attention to him. I pretended that he wasn’t in the house with us. When he started crying loudly, I’d escape to the living room to sleep there. My wife took good care of him, and loved him a lot. As for myself, I didn’t hate him, but I couldn’t love him either.
Salem grew. He started to crawl, and had a strange way of crawling. When he was almost one year old, he started trying to walk, and we discovered that he was crippled. I felt like he was an even greater burden on me. After him, my wife gave birth to Umar and Khaled. The years passed, and Salem grew, and his brothers grew. I never liked to sit at home, I was always out with my friends… in reality, I was like a plaything at their disposal [entertaining them whenever they wanted].
My wife never gave up on my reform. She always made du’aa for my guidance. She never got angry with my reckless behavior, but she would get really sad if she saw me neglecting Salem and paying attention to the rest of his brothers. Salem grew, and my worries grew with him. I didn’t mind when my wife asked to enroll him in a special school for the handicapped.
I didn’t really feel the passing of the years. My days were all the same. Work and sleep and food and staying out with friends. One Friday, I woke up at 11 am. This was early for me. I was invited to a gathering, so I got dressed and perfumed, and was about to go out. I passed by our living room, and was startled by the sight of Salem – he was sobbing! This was the first time I had noticed Salem crying since he was a baby. Ten years had passed, and I hadn’t paid attention to him. I tried to ignore him now, but I couldn’t take it… I heard him calling out to his mother while I was in the room. I turned towards him, and went closer. “Salem! Why are you crying?” I asked.
When he heard my voice, he stopped crying. Then when he realized how close I was, he started feeling around him with his small hands. What was wrong with him? I discovered that he was trying to move away from me! It was as if he was saying, “Now, you’ve decided to notice me? Where have you been for the last ten years?” I followed him… he had gone into his room. At first, he refused to tell me why he’d been crying. I tried to be gentle with him… Salem started to tell me why he’d been crying, while I listened and trembled.
Do you know what the reason was?! His brother Umar, the one who used to take him to the masjid, was late. And because it was Jumu’ah prayer, Salem was afraid he wouldn’t find a place in the first row. He called out to Umar… and he called out to his mother… but nobody answered, so he cried. I sat there looking at the tears flowing from his blind eyes. I couldn’t bear the rest of his words. I put my hand over his mouth and said, “Is this why you were crying, Salem!”
“Yes,” he said.
I forgot about my friends, I forgot about the gathering, and I said, “Don’t be sad, Salem. Do you know who’s going to take you to the masjid today?”
“Umar, of course,” he said, “… but he’s always late.”
“No,” I said, “I’m going to take you.”
Salem was shocked… he couldn’t believe it. He thought I was mocking him. His tears came and he started crying. I wiped his tears with my hand and then took hold of his hand. I wanted to take him to the masjid by car. He refused and said, “The masjid is near… I want to walk there.” Yes, by Allah, he said this to me.
I couldn’t remember when was the last time I had entered the masjid , but it was the first time I felt fear and regret for what I’d neglected in the long years that had passed. The masjid was filled with worshippers, but I still found a place for Salem in the first row. We listened to the Jumu’ah khutbah together, and he prayed next to me. But really, I was the one praying next to him.
After the prayer, Salem asked me for a Quraan. I was surprised! How was he going to read when he was blind? I almost ignored his request, but I decided to humor him out of fear of hurting his feelings. I passed him a Quraan. He asked me to open the Quraan to Surat al-Kahf. I started flipping through the pages and looking through the index until I found it. He took the Quraan from me, put it in front of him, and started reading the Surah… with his eyes closed… Ya Allah! He had the whole Surah memorized.
I was ashamed of myself. I picked up a Quraan… I felt my limbs tremble… I read and I read. I asked Allah to forgive me and to guide me. I couldn’t take it… I started crying like a child. There were still some people in the masjid praying sunnah… I was embarrassed by their presence, so I tried to hold my tears. My crying turned into whimpering and long, sobbing breaths. The only thing I felt was a small hand reaching out to my face, and then wiping the tears away. It was Salem! I pulled him to my chest… I looked at him. I said to myself… you’re not the blind one, but I am, for having drifted after immoral people who were pulling me to hellfire. We went back home. My wife was extremely worried about Salem, but her worry turned into tears [of joy] when she found out I had prayed Jumu’ah with Salem.
From that day on, I never missed the congregational prayer in the masjid. I left my bad friends… and I made righteous friends among people I met at the masjid. I tasted the sweetness of Iman with them. I learned things from them that distracted me from this world. I never missed out on gatherings of remembrance [halaqas], or on the witr prayer. I recited the entire Qur’an, several times, in one month. I moistened my tongue with the remembrance of Allah, that He might forgive my backbiting and mocking of the people. I felt closer to my family. The looks of fear and pity that had occupied my wife’s eyes disappeared. A smile now never parted from the face of my son Salem. Anyone who saw him would have felt that he owned the world and everything in it. I praised and thanked Allah a lot for His blessings.
One day, my righteous friends decided to go to a far away location for da’wah. I hesitated about going. I prayed istikharah, and consulted with my wife. I thought she would refuse… but the opposite happened! She was extremely happy, and even encouraged me… because in the past, she had seen me traveling without consulting her, for the purpose of sin and evil. I went to Salem, and told him I would be traveling. With tears, he wrapped me up in his small arms…
I was away from home for three and a half months. In that period, whenever I got a chance, I called my wife and talked to my children. I missed them so much… and oh, how I missed Salem! I wanted to hear his voice… he was the only one who hadn’t talked to me since I’d traveled. He was either at school or at the masjid whenever I called them.Whenever I would tell my wife how much I missed him, she would laugh happily, joyfully, except for the last time I called her. I didn’t hear her expected laugh. Her voice changed. I said to her, “Give my salam to Salem,” and she said, “Insha’Allah,” and was quiet.
At last, I went back home. I knocked on the door. I hoped that it was Salem who would open up for me, but was surprised to find my son Khaled, who was not more than four years old. I picked him up in my arms while he squealed, “Baba! Baba!” I don’t know why my heart tensed when I entered the house.
I sought refuge in Allah from the accursed Shaytan… I approached my wife… her face was different. As if she was pretending to be happy. I inspected her closely then said, “What’s wrong with you?” “Nothing,” she said. Suddenly, I remembered Salem. “Where’s Salem?” I asked. She lowered her head. She didn’t answer. Hot tears fell on her cheeks.
“Salem! Where’s Salem?” I cried out.
At that moment, I only heard the sound of my son Khaled talking in his own way, saying, “Baba… Thalem went to pawadise… with Allah…”
My wife couldn’t take it. She broke down crying. She almost fell to the floor, and left the room. Later, I found out that Salem had contracted a fever two weeks before I’d returned, so my wife took him to the hospital… the fever got more and more severe, and didn’t leave him… until his soul left his body…
And if this earth closes in on you in spite of its vastness, and your soul closes is on you because of what it’s carrying… call out, “Oh Allah!” If solutions run out, and paths are constricted, and ropes are cut off, and your hopes are no more… call out, “Oh Allah.” Allah wished to guide Salem’s father on the hands of Salem, before Salem’s death. How merciful is Allah!