This is part 3 of my story. Click here for part 2! Enjoy and thanks for reading 🙂
Malaika strived to make people laugh because laughter was genuine and contagious. Her pleasantries were well-known and so were her mannerisms, as I would soon discover and come to love. She would walk into the room and announce, “Asalaamualaikum warehmatullahi wa barakathu!” (Peace and mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you) to all friends and strangers. Not to mention, her love of food was unmatched. She appreciated almost anything she could eat with such zeal, it would make one happy just to feed her. I can almost mimic the way she would take her first bite, squeeze her eyes shut, and smile widely while she chewed. And phrases like “Allahu Akbar”, “SubhanAllah”, and “May Allah bless you” were commonplace in her vocabulary; I quickly felt a thirst and need for her company.
I could never point out exactly what drew me toward her, but her personality was outlined by her honesty and sincerity. Her friendship brought me the sort of peace that allowed me to close my eyes and sigh as if, for a moment, all the world’s troubles vanished. It was both effortless and intriguing. Never were our conversations wasted with empty words or worthless subjects. She was simple in a way that I did not know I was looking for until I saw it. Her thoughts were deeply complex and brilliant. She would think and wonder things that I never before heard from another person’s lips. But her attachment to this world was nowhere near as deep. She told me once that she wanted to do philanthropy and I had no doubt that it was true. One day, she asked me to accompany her to class. By the time we entered, the entire lecture hall was packed and we were resigned to occupying two floor spots in the far back of the room. She sat there restlessly for a moment, then stood up and beckoned me to follow. It was confusing for me because I still didn’t quite know this girl, but I was entirely entertained by her behavior. Instead, we wound up at the gym and strolled along the track as she confessed her troubles to me. She asked me something that day that I will never forget, “Why do we have to struggle to enter into Jannah?”.
It was a question that summed up life very nicely, to be honest. Why could we not just enter into Heaven, why the big deal? Humans are rarely the sort of beings to exert and push themselves without some benefit. When we struggle, we truly appreciate the goodness in our life. We feel as if we have really accomplished great things because we experienced the challenges of achieving them. But, the greatest level one can achieve is probably the most humbling position of all – realizing that the good in your life was not due to your own action, but the mercy and blessing of One far greater than you or I. That is not very easy to accept because once you swallow that pill, you see your life as not your own but one that is meant to serve a larger purpose. Striving and struggling to please God, or Allah, is transcending our selfish nature.
The next few months would see my struggle come front and center in a way it never has before in my life. I could not deny I was falling in love with her. Despite my intentions, I felt that crushing love knocking at my heart again. But I was certain of what I wanted now, and it was not a relationship led by desire. I was not looking for anything more than her friendship. The unassailable truth, although it may seem harsh, was that acting upon these feelings could only open doors to mistakes and I was determined to keep them closed. I firmly made and remade my intentions, repeating to myself that the only way lasting goodness would remain in our friendship was if we loved one another only for the sake of Allah.
Essentially, I grabbed onto a rope, closed my eyes, and prayed for my Creator to keep me guided straight. I was too weak to do it alone. And almost as if in answer, my friendship with Malaika brought me closer to Allah. I felt a spirit in my prayers that was barely present before. My heart submitted to the inevitability that revolved around all life in this world and you would think it brought me despair and unhappiness to struggle so, but it didn’t. The spirit of all living things thirsts for truth and purpose. And when you feed it that truth and let it live its purpose, it responds like a plant that stretches and reaches out for its source of light. I swear I felt my heart lift with each moment I spent with her.