For a reformed Muslim who has been discovering herself through a combination of Deen and Duniya, it is a little surprising that I would choose this ayat. And I’ll tell you why!
I have lived a privileged life. I have a great family. I have a job that I had wanted for as long as I can remember. I have a good marriage. And I have the means to live a comfortable life.
When you live with so much privilege you learn to live in a bubble. My blog is full of feminism and oppression of women and gay rights and love for humanity and kindness for children but if I told you that I grew up as a classic specimen of privilege, you might find it hard to believe. Yes I was given privilege by Allah but I didn’t use that privilege for others. For the first 28 years of my life I used that privilege to extend my own privilege and create means for myself.
But as with all happy stories, there is an unexpected bump in my story which is actually the event that pivoted my life. While I was enjoying my marriage with a loving man, training in a super competitive internal medicine program and reveling in the miracle of motherhood, my oldest was diagnosed with autism. In a moment, Allah took away the privilege. Every person has a humbling moment. That was mine.
I had many fights with Allah. Many arguments and many sleepless nights. I had loads of complaints. I worried and I fretted. I lashed out and I hated. I became the antithesis of who I was and what I believed in. Where I was carefree, loving, kind and winsome within my means, I became bitter and forlorn. I became angry. And I was the most angry with Allah.
Allah has always been my friend. I had always just had to ask and He would bestow it. The class privilege that I enjoyed wasn’t because I deserved it. He gave it to me. The brains or the physical appearance that I had weren’t because I deserved them. He bestowed them on me. The parents I have weren’t my winning. He chose them for me. He spoiled me like anyone who spoils someone they love. But He tested me like only He can. He tested me with my child.
I prayed that the autism testing was negative. That my child didn’t have it. That this wasn’t really happening. I screamed and cried but Allah gave us autism. He didn’t listen. For the first time in my life, He didn’t listen.
But before this, I had had a flavor of Allah’s test. My dad died a young death and had been sick before he passed away. It was torture to live a life without him. He was, in a way, my rock and the only person whom I called my own for as long as he lived. His death brought my mom and I close. He gave me my mom in his death. My dad had a hugely productive life and death. I made peace with his death very quickly because my mom became my confidante, friend and sister. So Allah again awarded me with a thing better than the thing He took from me. My dad fought my battles but my mom didn’t. She never fought my battles but she gave me the tools to fight them. Her practice of parenting is very different from my dad’s. My introversion is best understood by my mom and she therefore encourages me always to fight for myself and fight for others also. My current day self is my mom’s shaping of my personality.
But autism had no bright side. It was exhausting mentally and physically. It made me cry and be sad. It took me away from my husband. It made me see some close relatives in a brutally harsh light and that wasn’t pretty. All in all, autism made me weak.
For many years, it made me weak and it made me angry. I asked myself “why me” and “what if” type questions. There were no answers.
Slowly, the dust settled. He cleared a path for me. I met a wonderful group of women who had kids with special needs. I became one of them.
My privilege washed off. I could talk more to a woman whom I had no commonality with other than special needs compared to fellow physicians. I could share more with other sad moms who were going through early phases of diagnosis. My privilege washed off. I lost interest in the labels that tagged me. My proudest labels became a “disability advocate” and an “autism mom”.
So you see how autism came to change me? Autism came to change me from an entitled, haughty and benevolently kind woman to a mom who had seen adversity finally close enough to see the good in it. If you’re confused still as to why this ayat is my favorite, let me explain in as few sentences as I can.
This ayat isn’t about the obvious good to me. It isn’t about what would work for us. It isn’t about a worldly advantage. It is about what’s good for our soul and our hearts so it keeps us from hellfire. No worldly advantage can keep us away from hellfire. In fact, every worldly advantage and every superiority that the world gives us has a great potential to get us into hellfire. The fire we spend our entire life running from is actually what we unfortunately make provisions to run into at the same time. Adversity, that we run away from, is the thing that keeps us away from hellfire because it makes us analyze ourselves and our methods and our privilege too.
So Allah tested me with autism. And my test continues. But I’m not angry anymore. In fact, a part of me is thankful that I got close to Him beyond my imagination through autism. So He created good out of something that I saw as so depressing and limiting.
In all His wisdom He gives us tests. They may not look good, but every test is a test of our faith and resilience. Every time we practice faith, we step away from the heat of hell.
So when Allah said “Ask me and I shall give”, He allowed us to ask and so if we ask “Give us what’s good for us” without any qualifiers, He will give us what’s good for us and imagine how good would that thing be that He’d choose for us.