It is 2.29 am in the east coast of the US as I write this post. I cannot call or text for hopefully all are well and sound asleep. I can hear the Turkish Police warning people with their Bull Horn to go inside, their voices polite but firm. The sounds seem to come from somewhere below at the Sahil ( The Bosphorus shoreline).
I feel like Yusuf (AS) trapped in the bottom of the dark well unaware of his fate and waiting………
I am waiting for word from my family………Someone very close to me has been exposed to an infected person with the deadly virus and has gone into voluntary self-quarantine. There has been a single text from them almost 12 hours ago and then no direct word.
I am waiting and time seems to move like molasses. While one waits to know if the deadly virus has claimed a loved one, it is like slow dying …….
It is not the dramatic dying which comes with a lot of fanfare like one watches in movies or by the bedside of a sick patient.
As a physician one knows what is dying or cardiac arrest as it is defined dispassionately. It is when the patient suddenly succumbs and their heart stops and their soul departs their body. What usually happens next in the Hospital is high drama where tragedy with its sharp edges shreds the lives of the family of the patient who has passed with an irreversible finality.
The event of dying in a hospital is surrounded by so much adrenaline that the true tragedy of grief though leaking at the edges never makes it to the main stage.
Dying can also happen slowly, stealthily but just as forcefully as the one in the Hospital.
Slow dying is at the heart of waiting for news across the Atlantic when all flights have been grounded. The silence of distance, of lack of communication, of hope in limbo, moment by moment can be the slow death of the one who is waiting……….
Today is unique because nothing as far as I know is fait accompli, there are no sirens for a code, no white coats rushing to the room, no deathly rattle, no one around to hold you or comfort you for your loss……..because it is not a loss yet , thank God, and you hope and pray with a fervency that it won’t be a loss.
I stand at the window looking over the serene scene of the Bosphorus and the skyline of mosques and palaces across the water. I pray fervently that Allah will in his infinite mercy let her avoid, and escape the virus.
In waiting I pray that Allah accepts all the years of the Quran that are embedded in her body and soul since childhood and that the Quran will rise within her as a defense to fight off the virus invasion if any.
I pray that all the experiences at Hajj as a young girl who had just lost her brother be accepted in her favor and give her some respite in this world. She had beheld The Kaaba with a smile and patiently went through the grueling times of the Manasik of Hajj.
I pray that the angels that witnessed her Hajj will be commanded to ward off the cruel fingers of suffering and death that comes with this infection. I pray that her children grow up under her wing and that she lives in health and in submission to Allah if granted respite.
Night has fallen in Istanbul and I fall asleep emotionally exhausted by the few facts I have to hang my hope on. There is still no news.
I am deep in sleep and I feel as if someone shakes my shoulder and says …….”get up!”
I look at the phone it is 3 am, Istanbul time. There have been no calls or texts from home in the US. “Nothing bad has happened ” says something in me.
I get up and do wudu and stand on the Musallah.
It is He Subhanwataala who has always been my stalwart support all through my life and has always pulled me out of the well of grief, in the severest of moments and I know He will do what is best for me. Deep within me I know there is nothing I can do to reverse what He has decided and whatever he does do is best for us and I submit to that fact.
I think of Yusuf (AS) in the darkness of the well, waiting……… and I think of Yakub AS as a parent…… not knowing the fate of his child. (12:86)
I am so tired and fatigued emotionally …….. and yet, in the unknown moments of waiting comes hope lightened with positive energy and I feel my spontaneous duas leaving my lips being carried on the wings of the angels.
My prayers in Qiyam become timeless…….. the night ends and the early morning hours roll in and gently and silently the time of fajr is ushered in.
My neighborhood Hodja calls the Fajr adhaan I recognize his tenor and enthusiasm in calling out “Prayer is better than sleep”. His family has adopted me since the first jumma in Istanbul that I prayed in his mosque. His wife has been texting me since the curfew began in Istanbul to see if I need something and last evening sent me soup and homemade borek.
I refresh my wudu and stand in Fajr. The black line has separated from the white at the horizon over the Bosphorus, there is a crystalline shine to the deep darkness of the Bosphorus sprinkled with the lights reflecting from the Blue mosque.
I pray for the Hodja and his family who has been a family for me in Istanbul.
I pray for my loved one who is in self quarantine, and ask Allah to spare her from a bad end. I know that He is All Powerful and He can do anything. I cannot question his Qada and Qadar and I know what is written on the Loh al Mahfouz is written by His: Subhanawataala’s command, but I also know that it can be changed also by His command.
I pray for her children to grow under her spiritual tutelage, and for her to become a beautiful guide for them.
I pray for my family and my brothers and their families. I pray for my two lovely Turkish doctors and their families, I pray for the Shabab ( bright young men) of the Suhbha, who when I ask if they are free, they say “ at your service” They run errands for me uncomplainingly and with a smiling face.
I pray for the young oriental boy who works at the neighborhood grocery store who is always smiling and eager to carry my groceries even before the curfew. He, like me is a foreigner in this country away from his family and is in need.
The Fajr duas continue. I pray for the Shaikh and his family and his mother who raised such a righteous son. I pray for the women of the Fellowship and their children who are cloistered in their apartments also away from their families and I pray for those whose loved ones are sick and ask Allah to forgive us and accept our tauba.
I pray for all those who have asked me to pray for them…….. Thus, the fajr time marches on and dissolves into timelessness…..
Quietly on the wings of the breaking light comes a sense of submission within me that He: Subhanawataala is in control, that there is nothing I can do, and that He Subhanawataala has a grand plan and everything in His plan is always the best for us individually and collectively.
I hand over my loved ones to him along with my concerns for their safety and leave the musallah as the first light of ishraaq touches the Bosphorus.
As I go to lie down for a morning nap to rest my body, the phone rings…………..
It is my brother from the US. He is concerned about the situation. His serious but affectionate and shafqat filled voice, his medical and Islamic knowledge, his genuine concern, and most of all his reassurances ooze with love and care and are carried pristinely and in real-time across the Atlantic, thanks to the WhatsApp line.
His soothing words are like a balm for my aching heart.
He has been taking care of patients with ALS for over thirty years. I understand now why all those dying patients with ALS held his hand and thanked him for his care and why the families whose loved ones had died of the deadly disease supported him and continue to support him with his efforts to find a cure…………
Our conversation ends and I say as the Turks do when parting both to him and my loved one in self quarantine: “Allah Emanet”. ( I entrust you to Allah).
My eyes close and I fall into a dreamless sleep.
Duas needed and requested from each of you. Please send me some LIGHT.