Inna lillah wa inna ilayhi raji’un.
“To Allah we belong, and to Him we shall return.”
This phrase never phased me. Not even when someone I knew left this world. I felt sadness as I said it because it is uttered in a time of sadness. This statement that was, and is, quite common among the billions of Muslims in the world. It never spoke to me. It’s not that I didn’t understand it; it’s that I never internalized the true meaning of it until November 3, 2016 and September 3, 2019.
On November 3, 2016, I sat in silence in my neurologist’s office, staring at the MRI scans of my brain and spinal cord, wondering about the strange white marks I saw scattered all over the place. This was a neurologist I was referred to because I was exhibiting inexplicable symptoms in my body that my family practitioner was not able to get to the bottom of. I was numb. Figuratively and literally. I was numb all over my upper torso; I was numb in my limbs; and when my neurologist spoke, I was numb everywhere else as I listened to her say, gently placing her hand on my knee, “I’m sorry Heba, but you have multiple sclerosis.”
I paused for a moment thinking, what even is multiple sclerosis? which quickly turned into, Oh my God, I have MS! Which then turned into, SAY ALHAMDULILLAH RIGHT NOW, HEBA! I practically forced myself to say ‘alhamdulillah’ over and over again. Immediately after, all I could remember was the verse from Surat al Baqara that read, “and give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere who say, when afflicted with calamity, ‘to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.’“ So I thought, inna lillah wa inna ilayhi raji’un in hopes of pleasing Allah. It was somewhat of a childish plea to Allah, “See Allah?! I’m being patient because I love You and I know You have a plan for me!” That confidence did not last long, however. I started to become a bit hysterical as I heard the words, “blindness…paralysis…loss of cognitive abilities…no cure…lifetime treatment…,”and on and on and on. I stopped my doctor from saying anything further, and I left the office, only to return countless more times in the future.
Fast forward to three years later. My husband had a strange bump on his neck. Almost positive that it was just a cyst, we made an appointment to get it extracted. Only it wasn’t a cyst. It was a swollen lymph node that had to be taken to pathology to see whether or not it was cancerous. Here is where Allah humbled us yet again. My friends, don’t ever presume to know or be sure of anything. Allah is the only All-Knowing. Sure enough, two weeks later, we received a phone call referring us to oncology. Upon hearing this, my husband was a bit out of sorts, so I decided to grab the phone from him to take on the burden of hearing the sordid details. I hung up, held both his hands in mine, and told him to repeat after me, “Inna lillah wa inna ilayhi raji’un.” It was imperative to me at that moment to make him say this phrase. I thought of how fragile life was and that truly we belong only to Him. To find out we both have incurable diseases, me with my MS, and him with his incurable follicular lymphoma, was a jolt that shook us both to the core.
My husband and I make a conscious effort to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk when it comes to the trials and tribulations thrown our way. Do we pass with flying colors each time? That would be a hard NO! But I’d like to think we’re getting a “B” grade point average inshallah. The way I see it is we can be bitter and resentful towards Allah (istaghfarallah,) or we can look at the infinite other blessings He has bestowed upon us. We’ve come to truly understand and believe that my MS and his cancer ARE forms of blessings! How could we be angry knowing that everyday we wake up is a day Allah is purifying our souls? For “no fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that,” (Prophet Muhammad pbuh: Sahih Bukhari.) Allah’s own beloved Prophet (pbuh) was afflicted with the harshest of trials, yet he never cowered to defeat, never lost hope in Allah’s mercy. Instead, he held on tight and steadfast to the rope of Allah, and never let go.
My husband and I like to joke from time to time that we are true soulmates as we both have incurable diseases, and that we’ll be receiving chemotherapy infusions together sitting side by side. We deal with what Allah has dealt us lightheartedly because we know that everything from Him is what is ultimately best for us, whether it is in this life or the hereafter. Don’t get me wrong, we have our bad days, we are human after all; but we allow ourselves to go through the motions of sadness, for the ability to feel sadness and to shed tears is a mercy from the Merciful Himself, but then we move onward, being careful not to dwell on what we cannot control. We toss our worries and fears onto Him, He who is capable of everything and anything, and we go about our day, taking care of our three daughters.
This dunia is a beautiful distraction, which will oftentimes steer you in the opposite direction of your true purpose and lead you away from your eternal home. I choose to have the ultimate reliance (tawakkul) on Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, and to always, always live by the fact that we do not belong to ourselves, to this life. This is not applicable only for the deceased, but for everyone and everything in the universe in any phase of their lives, and at any moment, our plans can be shattered, and doors will be closed, but only so He can make room for better plans and more beautiful doors to open . For truly we belong only to Him, and to Him is our return. We just have to decide what state we want to be in when we do return to Him.
Inna lillah wa inna ilyhi raji’un.
**To help find a cure for follicular lymphoma, please make a donation to the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation at www.theflf.org. To aid in finding a cure for multiple scleroses, please visit the National MS Society at www.nationalmssociety.org. If you cannot donate monetarily, please keep us and all those suffering from any ailments, visible and invisible, in your duas. Jazakum Allah khair.
Heba Subeh is an author of an Islamic children’s book series called, Maymunah’s Musings. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, and is pursuing an additional degree in Islamic Studies from California Islamic University. Heba has led and been involved in quite a few halaqas, and has served as a guest speaker on different panels educating the public, mainly non-Muslims, about Islam. She is passionate about our deen, which is what led her to write children’s books, as she 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 conviction. She currently resides in Southern California with her husband of 16 years, and three daughters.