By Zaynab Dawood
For years I had a detached understanding of the analogies set before us in our religious heritage, of the stories of the anbiyaa ( prophets), those in the Quran and even those from the Seerah. It was only when I pushed myself over this mental precipice that I began to truly learn from these stories: the journeys of the righteous ones that graced the Earth. These journeys were challenging yet noble; some heart-breaking yet poignant; yet nearly all of the great believers that lived before us experienced the lucid grief of goodbyes- both temporary and permanent.
As a woman and a mother, I have pondered over how Hajar felt when her husband, Prophet Ibrahim (as) told her to stay in that barren valley with their little son. How must she have felt when her husband, her companion, her love, said goodbye and left them in that hot, desolate place? I imagine her smiling through her warm tears saying goodbye to her man, being strong as he let go of their farewell embrace, her post-natal hormones still brooding inside her. Yet she did it. This was her journey of goodbye, but she met it with faith and patience. She believed in her husband’s vocation as Allah’s Prophet; she believed in the vision of her husband.
We can easily forget the emotional journey that these special individuals faced by only concentrating on the religious or ritual premise of each narrative, but we need to fully immerse ourselves in their journeys to truly experience what they faced. Such an approach, I believe, allows us to deal with those painful episodes in our lives.
One of the most heart wrenching episodes is when we have to say goodbye to those we love or be still, attentive and strong, when we are forced to hear others say it. We’ve all had to say goodbye and we’ve all had to hear it.
Grieving over family and friends that have left us suspends us in an emotional limbo of grief, sorrow and yearning. Sometimes it helps to say goodbye to one who is about to die, to make dua and ask for forgiveness for any disagreements we may have had. And sometimes saying goodbye does not help at all. The pain doesn’t diminish, the tears don’t lessen, the cavernous hole in your heart does not mend. Its only time, prayer and patience that takes the sting out of the pain, and most importantly, it’s the unflinching belief we have as Muslims that the Hereafter is True, Heaven is True, that makes this journey full of goodbyes not one that is pointless but one that is meaningful and a means to become closer to Allah. It is this that those without faith cannot fathom. They view all their goodbyes and the swarm of sorrow and grief that highlights each farewell as unnecessary pain, but to the believer nothing is pointless. Our Lord’s Promise is True.
How many goodbyes did our Prophet (saw) experience? Most of these were permanent too, yet his journey was, and remains, the best of journeys. Not only did he (saw) face loved ones dying during his lifetime, but the Prophet (saw) was thrust into the whirlwind of all those emotions we associate with goodbyes -sorrow, melancholy, isolation- from before he was even born. He (saw) never saw his father, he (saw) lost is mother during his junior years and lost his grandfather while he was still a child. Losing his (saw) wife Khadijah (ra) was probably one of his worst experiences, but he did not falter. He (saw) knew this goodbye, this grief would be temporary. Allah’s Promise is True.
Goodbye as a word can be too two-dimensional. Let us consider ‘goodbye’ not just an action, but an emotional crossroad, where we have to navigate ourselves through the farewells, through the longing and sadness, by taking the routes of patience and fortitude; by following the paths of hope and faith; by keeping our eyes firmly fixed on our final destination.
I remember being thrust into this emotional state of goodbye, when I hardly had the chance to say salam or to establish a friendship with some wonderful ladies I met on Hajj years ago. We smiled, shared our prayer mats, spoke in languages we couldn’t understand but we made a bond. We knew we would never meet again during this life so the departure was heavy: a longer hug and words neither of us could understand, but our hearts translated easily – the goodbye is temporary.
There are other types of goodbyes too. When some relationships no longer thrive on mutual sweetness and kindness, when life’s misunderstandings and imbroglios make it impossible to enjoy that same level of friendship and courtesy. Some of life’s fallouts are too real to gloss over with simplistic remedies. Sometimes all we can do is say goodbye and pray that we will be reunited with our estranged loved ones in a place where only peace permeates the air.
I’ve learnt that the world is full of goodbyes… But this is as it should be… Jannah will be a place where we don’t need to say goodbye… A place where my mother and father will be with me always and all my deceased loved ones… A place where no one will experience the melancholy of an absent soul… the longing for one more embrace… the search for one more smile.
‘Patiently, then, persevere for the Promise of Allah is true…’ (40:55)
About the author:
I’m Zaynab Dawood from Lancashire, England. I’m a busy mum of four, a teacher and author. For me there are three delights in life: ibadah, spending time with family and friends, and reading good literature!