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Honoring Myself Through My Health Struggles

by Heba Subeh-Hyder

Heba Subeh-Hyder is a Palestinian-American author of Muslim children’s book series called Maymunah’s Musings. She is passionate about our deen and is determined to spread her love and passion to our children from a young age, so that they may grow up to become confident Muslims who are strong in their convictions. 

The inspiring Muslimah author takes us to where it all started. Her passion was fuelled by honoring her pain with just one belief – Alhamdulillah.

Bismillah.

Contrary to what others may believe, I’m but a weak human being who struggles to see herself in the light others portray her.  I go through the motions of the day; fail, succeed, fail again, succeed again, and fail multiple times after that.  I have only made it this far because of the grace of Allah, and I’m trying to invest a bit in my akhirah by living each day a little better than the previous one.  

Here’s my story…

The Diagnosis – Multiple Sclerosis

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is an insidious and incurable illness, in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, damaging the nerve lining in the brain and the spinal cord causing an array of unpredictable symptoms. They range from blindness and paralysis to debilitating fatigue. Saying the diagnosis was shocking is an understatement. 

As I sat listening to my neurologist tell me that I could either go blind or paralyzed any day was devastating. But a funny thing happened at that moment. Allah’s mercy rained on me and my mind paused as something was pushing me to keep repeating “Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah…”

“You have several lesions in your brain…”

“Alhamdulillah.”

“You may lose your cognitive abilities…”

“Alhamdulillah.”

“The lesions in your spinal cord may cause paralysis…”

“Alhamdulillah.”

That’s what kept ringing in my ears.

Alhamdulillah, it could be worse. 

Alhamdulillah I’m alive. 

Alhamdulillah, I can still see and move.

Finding Solace in Allah

“I called my husband to tell him the news. Hyperventilating, I chose to do wudhu and pray to Allah. I just needed the comfort of salah and the closeness to Allah in that moment. That was the only thing that day that put my heart at peace.

I placed all my tawakkul in Allah because there is no one better than Him to grab hold of my fears, and no one better than Him to care for me.

Flipping on the Switch of Faith

My diagnosis flipped a switch inside me that was dormant for years. I suddenly felt an urge to show my gratitude to Allah in a way that would last a bit longer than anything else I had ever done before. I wish it didn’t take a life-changing event to cause that flip, but when your human faculties are threatened to be taken away, you realize how truly blessed you are.

Simple acts of walking, seeing, and thinking clearly become so precious. So I decided to thank Allah through my writing. I wanted children to know Allah and love Him from a young age through my stories so that when they grow up and are faced with an affliction, they’d place their trust and reliance on Him just like I did.

I also decided to dedicate most of my time to learning about this beautiful deen of ours by enrolling in an Islamic university to obtain a degree in Islamic Studies. The more I learned about Islam, the more I loved it, and the more I realized there is to learn!

a muslim hijabi female on a hospital bed with the diagnosis - Multiple Sclerosis

Honoring Myself Through Stories

Maymunah’s Musings children’s book series was born in 2019. I wanted to write stories that highlighted an attribute of Allah in each one and teach children in a subtle manner through stories that will keep them engaged.

The latest installment, Does Allah Know I’m Sad was difficult to write as it covered the topic of grief and loss of a beloved pet, which many children, including mine, have experienced. My aim is to help our young readers navigate heavy feelings through simple stories to anchor their faith in Allah. I’m hoping that this story will teach them empathy and enable children to learn how to comfort those in need.

stories, illustration, children's story book, Does Allah Know I'm Sad

Letters To Allah

My writing doesn’t stop there. I journal, less often than I’d like to. Most of my entries are letters to Allah, in which I vent my daily struggle to my one and only Wali (Protector and Friend.) I find much solace when I word my entries in this manner because why not share what ails you, makes you happy, and puzzles you with the One who truly knows and loves you just the way you are? After all, He is the One who knows you like no one does, why not trust in Him? 

In writing to Allah, I tie what’s happening to me now, back to Who willed this to happen, and only then I’m assured that there is a reason for this, and whether I see it or not, there’s no one better than my beloved Creator to lean on and trust in.

a brown book in the back drop of a green garden,

The Power of Gratitude

I urge you, dear readers, not to wait for that life-changing event before you move towards accomplishing what Allah has intended for you. Set your intention to honor your God-given gifts and start trekking towards those changes today. Honor yourself by utilizing the skills and talents He gave you for His sake, and don’t ever stop being grateful. The more grateful you are, the more He increases you, for He is the Most Thankful, Most Generous. 

Quranic Verse from Surah Ibrahim, Arabic,

And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you…

[Surah Ibrahim 14:7]

And take it from someone who is going through some of the greatest trials in her life, when Allah afflicts you with something, know that He is purifying you every step of the way. You just have to ask yourself how this can drive you close to your Lord and be weary of it driving you further away.

May Allah ease our struggles and allow us to experience the beauty of the tranquility we achieve through our closeness to Him in these difficult times. Ameen.

Check out Heba’s conversation with @muslimproofficial on Instagram as she delves deeper and talks about her latest book discussing grief, and why films like Delisa’s Memorization of Prayer can be platforms for educating the community about dealing with grief.

illustration for a live on Instagram