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What I Wish I Knew At 21

Blog Post 57

December 4, 2022

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(This piece was written on August 16, 2019 for a dear Sister-Friend of mine who turned 21 in 2019. It was included in a gift book of writings on this topic by her family and friends.)

Sister-Friend, when you were born, I was there. And now you’re 21!



When I turned 21, I was married, in my last year of university and about a year and six weeks away from taking my Shahadah, Al-Hamdulillah.

What I wish I knew when I was 21 is how lovely Islam is so I wouldn’t have wasted so many years deciding if Islam was the final and complete religion.

 Yet, I know now that the process of getting to that point was ordained by Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala for without those years of contemplation, questioning, researching, praying and understanding, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

You see, when I came upon Islam, I didn’t know much about the world and how it operates, how people are, how much suffering goes on at the hands of others. What I knew was Prophet Isa (a.s.) suffered and loved, black people had been enslaved and native people had been wiped out. But I didn’t know the US was so terrible all over the world, although I knew about their tortuous oppression of the Iranian people and the

Laila at hunger strike at White House 1980

valiant Imam Khomeini, may Allah reward him immensely, and his fight for justice and truth and his genuine spirituality. Al-Hamdulillah, Sister-Friend, you already know all of those things, have been brought up in all of those things, live all of those things. So what you know at 21, I was only beginning to know. Inshallah, you will spend the rest of your life in pursuit of justice, assisting the oppressed and worshipping our Creator with sincerity and certainty. 


Lailas parents wedding in Germany

What I wish I knew when I was 21 is how to honour my parents. Sure, I understood how much my parents loved me and how they tried to instill belief in God, goodness and fairness to others, yearning for knowledge and a magnificent work ethic. I was grateful that they had tried to steer me in the right direction, enjoining the good and forbidding the wrong, taking me to church. But I also felt that their pressure for good grades and always being good was too hard. Added to that was the “do what I say, not what I do” mantra. Because I began to realize that there were lots of things in their lives that weren’t up to par, I began to feel that if they could do it, so could I, while knowing that they and God weren’t pleased with that attitude. I began to feel that my parents shouldn’t tell me what to do, that they didn’t know me and they didn’t know everything. This is a mistake. Our parents do the best they can. They are human beings who make errors, have faults, suffer from their own lives’ circumstances and the choices they make. Most of it, we don’t even know about. I wish I’d known more about their lives before me, their struggles and decisions, their childhood, their parents and ancestors, the factors that led them to be who they were and talk the way they did and act the way they acted. So now, I am attempting to open my life up to my children so they can see me as the needy human being I am, who’s had experiences they would never dream I had, who’s a combination of my genetics, upbringing, family, education, choices, decisions, marriages, children, jobs and Allah’s Mercy on me, Al-Hamdulillah. If my parents hadn’t loved me and taught me the way they did, perhaps I wouldn’t have been led to Islam. It’s a mystery why Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala places us into our particular families. So I regret the treatment I gave them through the early years and am thankful that once I became a Muslim, I tried harder to honour my parents, speak gently to them, help them, visit them, love them, thank them and get to know them as individuals rather than as my parents only. Inshallah, Sister-Friend, you know and do all of that already. Now’s the time to get to know your parents as friends, as individuals, and thank them for their love and guidance in instilling in you the faith and practice of Islam. It’s been said that parents naturally love their child, but a child doesn’t naturally love their parents. So love your parents and honour them every day. After all, you can’t possibly repay them, but you can try.

Ali and Laila Again

 What I wish I knew when I was 21 is that love comes in different versions. The love for a child, parent, sibling, friend, spouse, the lovers of Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala and Allah, The Most High, are not the same. Each look differently, behave differently, feel differently. We search for love that we feel is missing from our lives and often seek out that love hoping it’ll heal our hurts, our emptiness. Putting that pressure on another person, such as our spouse, isn’t fair and won’t be successful. Our spouse, for example, isn’t there to cater to our wants, fix us and make us complete and happy. Although, many spouses try hard to do this, it ultimately leads to a dead end because, although our spouse “completes” us, it doesn’t just happen automatically. This is a hard lesson to understand. Essentially, we are all searching for love, contentment and wholeness and it is only through our relationship with Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala that we will be successful in that search. Marriage is a loving partnership on that journey. Spouses help each other to be the best that they can be, refraining from bringing out the worst in each other, reminding each other of their purpose in life, their accountability to The Creator, their commitment to each other to be peaceful and loving, hide each other’s faults, live harmoniously together without stepping over the bounds into unjust behaviour, advising each other of what is right and what is wrong. But to expect your spouse to make you happy is too much. To expect your spouse to not make you sad is a better way to look at it.

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That love is pure, sincere and pleasing. That love is forgiving and compassionate. That love is sharing the road, understanding the other’s fears and personality and self-talk, and compromising with each other. It is full of smiles, laughter, tenderness, joy, togetherness and, yes, tears. It is a harbour from the world’s woes and hardships, a shelter in which the couple can weather the storm of this dunya hand in hand and find within yourselves the strength that the worship of The Most High gives. Inshallah, Sister-Friend, you will be able to love your husband the way Lady Khadijah (a.s.) loved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), the way Lady Fatimah (a.s.) loved Imam Ali (a.s.), and vice versa, like the two wings of a bird flying towards Paradise as one.

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