One of the basic beliefs of a Muslim is the belief in the Divine Decree (Predetermination / Destiny and Fate), whether good or bad.
This entails the acceptance that nothing happens except by the will and decree of the Creator. Although mankind has free will, we are neither forced to obey or disobey our Creator, and all that we are and all that we can be is subject to the will of the Creator.
I have often reflected in awe at the circumstances that came together so propitiously to facilitate my move to Dubai in 2006. For many years I wondered what the higher purpose was for me to come to Dubai and remain here, and waited patiently for it to be revealed, but somehow it never was.
I heard someone say once that if the Creator has destined something for you, He would bring about the circumstances to make that happen. I am under no illusions that He brought about the circumstances to make it happen. Despite everything that could go wrong, going wrong; I still made it to the shores of the UAE, even though it was six months later than initially planned.
And I kept waiting for that thing that was destined for me to be revealed. Yet somehow it never was.
Until one day after a conversation with my brother it hit me like a bolt of lightning. The higher purpose was for me to be here. My destiny: to live here and make a life here in Dubai, for as long as He wills. To have a life completely different to the one I had envisioned as a wide eyed teenager many years earlier. The realization felt like a heavy burden had been lifted from my soul.
For all the years since I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis; so severe that only the most advanced treatments have worked; I had felt trapped. It felt as if I was forced to stay here because going back to my family home would spell almost immediate debilitating illness and most likely a slow and painful death. Even now they don’t have the medication available in South Africa that I used ten years ago in Dubai.
No doubt, my early years in Dubai were painful, gloomy and sometimes bleak. The only glimmers of light in the endless darkness of pain and discomfort were my calls to my mother and my conversations with friends online. But those difficult times were a necessary purification of my heart and soul. My friend once likened it to purifying gold by a high temperature heating process (2000 degrees F). Without the intense heat the gold would retain impurities.
As a child I yearned for the adventures and romance that I read about in my picture story books and modern 1001 Arabian Nights collection. From the Princess and the Pea (I’m literally the princess who can feel any defect in any mattress) to the folklore of Scheherazade; I yearned to see the world like Sinbad the Sailor or escape the mundane on Aladdin’s flying carpet.
As an adult I was able to give in to my need for adventure and expanding my horizons; experiencing the thrill of heading into the wild unknown on my own. Without anyone to hold my hand. Travelling to foreign lands with only my wits, belief in my own abilities and a healthy dose of enthusiasm despite being scared spitless, built my confidence more than anything else.
As if to bring me down a peg or two, a recent unexpected conversation with a relative brought some timely outside perspective. It appears that my life is still everyone’s business, despite me living on a different continent.
- You have no children, who is going to look after you?
- You leave no legacy, what was the purpose of giving birth to you?
- Get a man or just have the kids!
- ‘You can’t even make time to spend 30 minutes with me? One day I’m gone then you never spent any time with me to share memories. That will be sad’.
The first three questions I really have no answer for, except this:
Childlessness and old age
- When I was first diagnosed my doctor proclaimed that I would have a significantly reduced lifespan… probably by 15-20 years as a result of the disease and the side effects of the immuno-suppressant medications. Covid-19 is more than just a distant threat to my very existence.
- A quick calculation of my parents’ lifespans indicates an average age of 64 years. Adjusted for the most optimistic view I could live until 49 years old. Adjusted for the pessimistic view, I’m already on borrowed time Alhamdulillah.
- Either way, I have lived with the expectation of death for the past 13 years and have never given any thought to living to old age or needing a carer. Allah knows best.
Purpose and Legacy
- The purpose of my life as a Muslim is to worship Allah by complete surrender to His will over my own. This surrender and worship includes acts of obedience, good deeds and purification that lead to piety and good character. I don’t have to please anyone else in this life or the next. Only my Creator.
- A few years ago on my birthday my Aunt made a supplication for my health, happiness and a good husband who would take care of me. My mother exclaimed that if I got married, who would look after her? My aunt was appalled and upset and scolded her.
- I belly laughed because I realised then that my mother was pleased with me as a her daughter, Alhamdulillah. My purpose; as the daughter of the woman who was placed in an induced state of unconsciousness for three days to heal after nearly dying from a hemorrhage after giving birth to me by C-section after 26 hours of labour; was by her own words, to take care of her.
- I won’t leave behind fabulous material wealth or possessions, but I pray that I have brought a small measure of light and love to the lives of some of the people I have encountered over the years. God willing, they will even say a prayer for me.
Marriage and children
- If it was my destiny to have the blessing of a husband and children at this age, then Allah would have brought about the circumstances to make it happen. Of that I have no doubt.
- I lost loved ones in my life before, who probably never knew how much I loved them; or perhaps they did and it was found wanting.
- Since the night nearly 13 years ago when the first doctor called me to confirm an initial diagnosis of an auto-immune disease, I realised that having children of my own would be highly unlikely, if not impossible. Alhamdulillah, always and for everything.
To the final question:
- I will try to do better in shaa Allah. Every time I go back to visit my family I wonder whether I will return, and if I do, who will no longer be there to welcome me back.
- Life is short and we have to make the most of the time we have with our loved ones. I try, but I cannot be everything to everyone all of the time.
When everything that happens seems to lead you in a very specific direction and you have absolutely no control over the outcome of events, what is meant to be will still come to pass, even though you may face obstructions or difficulties on your journey.
Sometimes you may recognize the signs along the way, you may even try to divert yourself from the path you are on, and still you go hurtling towards your destiny. At that moment relax, enjoy the ride and know that the Creator will never test us with more than we can bear.
This article was first published on 25/03/2015 and since has been updated.
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