By Aliya Vaughan
“…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not” Quran 2:216
“The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life” A.R Bernard .
Two years ago I had emergency eye surgery for a detached retina. I wasn’t able to read, use the computer or drive, (all the things I loved doing). Although it was painful and a hardship at the time, I was grateful to Allah that I didn’t totally lose my eyesight. A few days after my eye operation Allah gave me a far greater test, although I had not yet recovered from the first. My family and I faced homelessness. Our landlady had given us notice to leave and we were unable to find suitable alternative accommodation by the deadline. We had to declutter, pack up all our belongings and put them into storage. This was no easy task when I was supposed to be recuperating from my surgery and advised on doctor’s orders, not to lift heavy objects! My family and I had to move into grim temporary homeless accommodation. It was cramped, had dirty walls and carpets, no curtains and no electricity or gas, which meant no lighting or hot water for the first week. But Allah promises that throughout every test there is ease, and alhamdulilah there was. The sisters in the community created a meal rota for the first week and supplied my family with hot meals. After that, we struggled to do the best we could with only a two-ring stove to cook meals for a family of eight people. I became very creative in oven free cooking!
With all our belongings in storage we lived a life of simplicity. Originally it was only supposed to last a night or two, which extended to a week or two, then a month or two, then a full year. We lived out of suitcases, cardboard boxes and bags. We had no tables, very few chairs, no chest of drawers or wardrobes. We had no washing machine or tumble dryer so we made weekly trips to the launderette. This was expensive and no easy task carrying heavy bags of clothes, bedding and towels for eight people, but at least we had a car to transport it, alhamdulillaah. We didn’t have a sitting room, so we would eat our meals sitting on the beds in the boys’ bedroom, but at least we were all together and had each other for company. I make it sound quite upbeat, but it was definitely ‘no picnic!’ Allah made things hard and yet with His gracious Mercy, He provided ease at the same time. This helped us to be more grateful and better able to cope during our hardships.
Allah showed me many reasons to be grateful for my circumstances. During the freezing cold winter months, I remembered the poor families in the Syrian refugee camps. I would also walk past two homeless people, sleeping rough in a tent in a bush, close to our house. I thanked Allah for having a roof over my head and central heating. During the summer, we decided to escape from our depressing, temporary homeless accommodation and go on holiday abroad. However, it was the worst holiday we ever had as a family. Despite this, Allah is the best of planners. It made us appreciate the home we had back in England, despite all its faults and flaws. I would elaborate, but wordcount does not permit it. But suffice to say – at least our temporary home had continual clean, running water, a constant supply of electricity, nicer food and no mischievous jinn living with us! I also thanked Allah for rubbish bins and seat belts …but that’s another long story!
Slowly we adjusted to normality in our temporary homeless accommodation ( Whatever that is! I have since realised ‘normality’ is subjective and differs from one individual to another). Allah brought me caring people in my time of need who went above and beyond the call of duty. One sister shared everything she had, including old hijabs to use as curtains for our windows and gave many household items we lacked. Every week we would visit her in her house for lunch, coffee and cake for a sense of normality and humanity. Without her, I think I would have gone out of my mind with stress.
During this time, I tried my best to live a normal life as possible and I encouraged my children to do the same. Outside of the house, no one would have known the tests we were going through. Life had to go on and we made sure it did. It wasn’t easy, but there were many blessings throughout the heartache and tears.
For my family, it taught us that whatever situation we experience, our mindset and the way we think and react determines how we cope. It forced us to turn to Allah with faith, gratitude, patience and acceptance of His qadr.
We had to search for the blessings and the ease which in turn, helped us to lower our expectations and appreciate the simpler things in life. Throughout our hardship, we could have lost faith and collapsed into a mental health mess, but instead we chose to persevere and struggle through it. There were times of negativity, but we supported one another to stay positive and actually achieved quite a lot during that year: One child started university, another was in college, another was in school and my other three were home schooled. One child managed to get two part time jobs and another got three part time jobs. My thirteen-year-old daughter (at the time) started her own business selling her products on her online Etsy store, in a shop in the city and at a craft fayre. I signed contracts to publish my children’s story and I applied for a PhD studentship (although I was unsuccessful). I left my job and started my lifelong ambition setting up my coaching business, blog and women’s confidence workshops. Countless other blessings came our way too which probably would not have happened if we had not been homeless.
No matter what kind of test we go through, life does and has to move on. In fact, without our test we probably wouldn’t have wanted to achieve all that we did, as we may have been too complacent in our old, home comforts. Allah reminds us that throughout every test there is ease and that eventually, it will come to an end. And despite the hardship, the experience helps shape us to become more appreciative and accepting of our life’s situation, which was planned and tailored perfectly by the One who created us. This temporary life will never be perfect however, and we should try not to get attached to the things that do not matter. Allah will show us the things that do matter and we will become more grateful to Him because of it. During that year I learned to be grateful for my eyesight, my family and my home despite all their imperfections. Although I hated it, homelessness was, in fact, a blessing in disguise.
About the author: Aliya Vaughan has been a Muslim for 24 years. She lives in the UK with her husband and six children. She is a qualified life coach and author. She has recently published her award-winning children’s story ‘A Race to Prayer’ with Kube Publishing.