How a chance meeting opened my eyes to the unacknowledged miracles within us
He fidgeted uncomfortably on his seat as he nudged his elbow to discreetly push back the loop of a plastic tube that was sticking out from the side of his wheel-chair. I lowered my head and pretended to re-check my audio-recorder in order to give him time to adjust himself, without the embarrassment of being observed.
Brother Salim* is a paraplegic and he is paralysed from the waist down. I was meeting him for an interview for a local newspaper about life in a wheel-chair. Before our scheduled interview, he had kindly sent me books and videos describing the details of his physical condition as well as the everyday challenges faced by people with paraplegia and quadriplegia. Therefore, I was aware of the purpose of that plastic tube that showed up accidentally. That tube was part of a urinary catheter.
The interview went fine, but I returned home a changed person. His story kept resonating in my mind. A sea diving accident had turned his life around: from an energetic air traffic controller to a sedate office worker; from a newly married man to a divorcee; from a physically fit athlete to a wheel-chair bound invalid.
"Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return" (Al Baqarah: 156).
Our Creator tests all of us in different ways. I prayed to Allah (Subhanahu wa ta'ala) to grant him patience, and to lighten his burden. I also supplicated to Him to keep me protected from such trials.
But that meeting had awoken another sensation inside me, a feeling that perhaps began as a faint quiver in my core on first seeing him, then grew to an intense throbbing with the blood flowing in every vein, till it reached a point that rattled and shook my very soul: a humbling sense of gratitude.
"Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinns and men) deny?" (Ar-Rahman:13).
My mind was crowded with questions. Have I ever consciously expressed gratitude to Allah (Subhanahu wa ta'ala) for my ability to move? Have I truly appreciated my Creator for giving me a perfect body? Have I ever realised that even when I'm sitting, my legs continue to work for me by providing balance? Have I ever thanked my Lord for the ability to effortlessly relieve myself?
Yes, to be able to answer the call of nature in privacy and with dignity is a great blessing of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta'ala), something I had never realised before. Brother Salim, due to his condition caused by damage to the spinal cord, is unable to feel when he needs to go to the bathroom so he has to wear a catheter. And when he does go to the toilet, he requires the help of a nurse to clean him.
I remember a saying of one of our pious predecessors: "If a man is able to drink and expel a sip of water with ease, gratitude becomes due on him." Putting all other infinite attributes aside, I pondered and focused over just this one aspect of my body's blessings and it left me in awe.
"And in your creation, and what He scattered (through the earth) of moving (living) creatures are signs for people who have Faith with certainty" (Al-Jathiya: 4).
As a child I had been taught to utter the words of dhikr before and after going to the bathroom. I knew their meanings, but over the years, the remembrance had become a mindless reflex action. That is, until that day. Today, when I utter the word "Ghufranaka" as I leave the washroom, my mind is attentive and aware of the meaning, and my heart is humbled and filled with gratitude at the realisation that many have to suffer the pain of indignity and shame for this natural function of the human body.
Realisation is the first step towards true thankfulness. "No blessing is bestowed on a slave and he realises that it is from Allah, but the reward of giving gratitude for it is written for him..." (Patience and Gratitude by Ibn Al-Qayyim).
I owe my Creator the highest gratitude, so I aim to busy myself with ways of expressing it. The Messenger of Allah (S) said: "There is a (compulsory) Sadaqa to be given for every joint of the human body (as a sign of gratitude to Allah) everyday the sun rises. To judge justly between two persons is regarded as Sadaqa, and to help a man concerning his riding animal by helping him to ride it or by lifting his luggage on to it, is also regarded as Sadaqa, and (saying) a good word is also Sadaqa, and every step taken on one's way to offer the compulsory prayer (in the mosque) is also Sadaqa and to remove a harmful thing from the way is also Sadaqa" (Bukhari).
*Name changed to protect the privacy of the individual .
Huma Imam is a U.A.E. based freelance writer with qualifications in Home Sciences. She has experience in voluntary work with Islamic centres and occasionally speaks at sisters' halaqas.