I have seen God in their eyes…

The simple thought of standing next to my bestie in ritual prayer [salaat] brings tears to my eyes. This may sound ridiculous but I’ve never felt so close to God than when we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder in submission to God. I can share with her what I couldn’t with anyone else by virtue of us both navigating Islam and complex intersectional identities, and by being female in spaces that often abide by strict gender segregation. She practices better than I do in many respects – which she enjoys reminding me, in jest, often enough – but it’s less her practice and more her fervour that inspires me. She pushes through. Through the years, Eren has gone through her share of struggles, and through it all, she’s sought out support and community, and found spaces where she can write (also here, here and here), pray, and grow.

She pushes me to actively improve myself, indulging my shenanigans on our podcast, but also exploring new Muslim spaces that can often be awkward as a lone convert. Her friendship is invaluable to me, and she leads me to be a better writer, a better activist, and a better Muslim.

My friendship with Eren has made it very clear to me just how influential a platonic relationship can be.

“Which of our companions are best?”
Prophet Mohammad: “One whose appearance reminds you of God, and whose speech increases you in knowledge, and whose actions remind you of the hereafter.”
[Targhib, vol.1 pg.112, Majma’uz zawaid, vol. 10 pg.78 & 226, Ithaf of Busiri, Hadith: 8129 & Shaykh Habibur Rahman A’zami’s footnotes on Al-Matalibul ‘Aliyah, Hadith: 3233]

Friendships can be so strong, and yet so fragile. My life has been blessed with more than one truly life-changing companion. While I always acknowledged the importance of those friendships, I did not always find the words or the time to truly express how influential these friendships truly were.

I recently ran into my first true friend from elementary school. We’d lost touch in high school, and I wish I’d had more to say to her. Social media has kept us just aware enough of each other’s lives that it seemed, at that particular moment, that we didn’t have much small talk left in us. I wish I could have hugged her longer, for what she would probably consider an uncomfortably long time. It simply seemed that there wasn’t much I could say to her that could be expressed in words.

She was an integral part of my life for well over a decade and I valued her friendship above all. I remember talking her into a “save-the-world” campaign that would begin with cleaning garbage from our school yard, and having more sleepovers than can be counted. I wish I could have said her friendship meant the world to me even to this day, that it saved me from myself more than once.

As I keep up with her at a distance, I rejoice in her happiness, her successful career, her family and her child. She might never know, but the love she has carried with her throughout her life inspires me every day to love everyone just a little bit more.

“Mix with the noble people, you become one of them; and keep away from evil people to protect yourself from their evil”
– Ali (raa), Al Bukhari and Muslim

I have many girl friends who helps me be a better me. However, one in particular has pushed me through life and it’s tragedies  thanks to her unwavering support. She has dried my tears and brought me reasons to laugh again. Our religions are different but our hearts are not.

When we meet, once a week, for a swim, a chat, dinner or a movie, her warmth makes me believe in human goodness. She knows me well and knows when to correct me and when to let me come to my own conclusions. Thanks to her, I have walked away from bad situations and I have affirmed my truth. I often believe that I owe her all of my happiness.

“And He is alone who causes [you] to laugh and to weep”
– Qu’ran 53:41, translated by Muhammad Asad

Oddly and interestingly enough, the person who inspires me most doesn’t think he’s any help at all. No amount of convincing has ever been enough to make him understand how important his influence has been.

I don’t have many “born-and-raised” Muslim friends. He is one of very few that I consider close friends. Our friendship began as a romantic relationship; as a partner, he supported me through many difficulties — moving to New Brunswick, coping with severe depression, managing anti-depressants, buying my first car…

It eventually became apparent to us both that we wanted different things in life, but we parted in extremely good terms and I’m eternally grateful for it. He would not consider himself a good practicing Muslim, but when most of my surroundings are entirely non-Muslim, having a friend to whom I don’t have to explain my practices is priceless. By virtue of being raised and educated in an Islamic household, he’s provided me with information that’s lacked from many of my other sources.

His kindness towards and acceptance of LGBT folks inspires me and provides me with strength when, too often, I am confronted by bigots in and out of the Muslim community. I am grateful for his friendship despite our breakup.

“If you want to know the [true worth of your] relationship with your friend, then anger him. If he treats you fairly whilst he is angry [then he is a true friend], if not then keep away from him.”
– Imam Sufyaan Ath-Thawry, Al-Aadaab Ash-Shar’iyyah of Ibn Muflih

I would be remiss if I forgot to mention my current partner. He is not “Muslim” but he understands better than most what it means to be subservient to God. He always strived to make the world a better place and encouraged me and others to do the same.

I’ve heard criticism of Muslims dating or marrying non-Muslims. I cannot deny that doing so comes with particular challenges that are not often easy to overcome, but this partnership has provided me the opportunity to think critically about my belief and practice of Islam. He asks, usually without judgement, to explain various aspects of faith and rituals. Sometimes I have concrete answers for him, sometimes I have to admit to following my own heart and desires.

There are days when I resent being questioned, and he knows and understands that. There are also days when I am glad to talk incessantly about God and Islam; sometimes I have to tone it down for his sake.

All in all, we are reaching a balance between us which allows us both to practice our religions fervently with our partner’s dedicated understanding, respect, support and help.

“And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates of your own kind so that you might incline towards them. And He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think!”
– Qu’ran 30:21, translated by Muhammad Asad

I could not possibly name everyone whose eyes reflect God’s kindness and mercy; friends, colleagues, readers/viewers/listeners, family members, acquaintances and strangers. I am grateful for ever more reasons and ways to believe in God. May He grants us all our time in paradise.

Prophet Mohammed: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself”
Narated by Abu Hamzag Anas bin Malik, Muslim and Al-Bukhari, 40 Hadith Nawawi 13


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