It was narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said: “When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.” [Muslim]
This hadith lingered in the back of my mind as the man you would call my father stood on the front porch of my childhood home calling me, “Whore!” in the predawn hours of one of the last ten nights of Ramadan. Nearly ten years later I still remember that night vividly as it was one of my many realizations that this man was in complete control of the agony he inflicted upon us. Any excuse that could have been made for him he quickly extinguished leaving behind nothing but the bitter taste of smoke in the air.
Returning home from the masjid after late night prayers with my mother I, along with many of our neighbors, listened to the accusations he laid against me. A pimp would have had more manners. I was forced to leave that home forever that night.
In retrospect I realize that all my prayers were answered that night, in the last ten nights of the month of mercy. The many times my forehead touched the ground as a child, the silent prayers, the desperate pleas—they’d all led to this one moment that rid of me of this man’s company forever.
As a child, it was a constant struggle to separate my father from my desire to practice my religion. He made it next to impossible to enjoy prayer, reading Quran, Ramadan, wearing hijab, going to the masjid, and so many other things that should be encouraged and nourished in an adolescent.
Ramadan especially will be a month that will forever remind me of some of the worst days of my life. Fasting from food and water and at the same time, movement, sound, and interaction with one another to ensure no one disturbed the man upstairs. Breaking fast together always resulted in someone crying through their meal. No one dared leave. And so your tears would run and your appetite would flee but you would continue to eat to prevent his hand from reaching your face again.
It is unbelievably hard to push forward against negative associations and be able to enjoy your faith when it has been so tarnished by the past. I’ve seen firsthand how much damage actions done in the name of religion can inflict upon someone’s soul. The sensitivities, the illogical reactions, the everyday triggers of past memories, these still persist to this day.
I wonder if they (abusers) know what they do to a child, a human, a person when they inflict this type of torment. Even as an adult, free and thriving (Alhamdulillah) I still live with one toe (if not foot) in the doorway of my childhood.
I thank God everyday for bringing me to a point in my life where each Ramadan, each Eid, is the best one yet. I am grateful for being able to appreciate the sweetness and simplest pleasures that a peaceful home life can bring. And I pray that I will be able to fill my children’s lives with beautiful memories not only of this blessed month but of my beautiful religion as a whole.
The earthquake of that life ended long ago but every once in awhile, even ten years later, I feel the ripple of an aftershock beneath my feet.
Originally Posted on ProjectSakinah.org: Project Sakinah: Aftershock
Photography courtesy of collaboration between Deda Photography & SAlborno Photography.