Our Little Crooked Apartment

Someone reminded me recently of this that I wrote a few years ago. So much has changed in my life since then and yet some things have remained the same… that simply should not have endured.. I have since, graduated nursing school and trying to take my state board exam to get licensed… then work, get on my feet and upend my house. It has been a long time coming and will be very cathartic. Hope it brings me and my kids the peace we deserve and desperately need. So, here is my lil’ diddy:

I have a home. Not a house; although it once was. It is a Victorian house that has been dissected roughly into two apartments. I rent the upper half with its thickly brown painted woodwork against white peeling walls. The thread-bare carpeted floors lean one way or another, sometimes giving the suspicion that the house will split wide open. The walls wail when the winds do and cry when the rain pours. If it is cold outside, the sweater jackets are donned in the day and blankets piled in the night, while the heater is running our bill to the hundreds. The summer fairs us no better, wearing as little as possible and the fans trying to supplement for the a/c that cannot possible make up for a lack of insulation.
My home is shot gun style house. The rooms run one to the next with no hallway and no doors. With five children, there is no privacy. Each child shares a room with another and the baby sleeps with me. My husband works many hours and sometimes into the time of fajr, so he has resigned himself to take over the living room sometimes for sleep or he simply falls asleep at the masjid after prayer. There is always noise with so many children sharing a small place and sometimes tempers flare and we bark at each other. And there are days when I cringe at the idea of yet another day in this apartment, but there is blessing in such a living arrangement. Closeness of proximity naturally induces conversation. I can say without a doubt, I know my kids; their likes, dislikes, friends, aspirations and any problems they may face. We are not separated by space and doors allowing us to learn how to communicate effectively and forcing us to do so in a manner that is harmonious to family life. Another benefit is that my children know me and my husband; we can hide nothing and therefore they know our positives and negatives. They know that we strive to be our best but are human with fallacies. In such a home, there is truth and honesty. Yet, perhaps the best appeal of such a home is the way it sparks discourse among our family members. We have in-depth conversations in history, science, religion and culture. It allows me to learn from them, for us to correct each other’s knowledge and to guide them to a better Islamic understanding in a non-Muslim society.
My home is situated in a poor neighborhood that the city has forgotten. Every day, I see the two local prostitutes walk on either sides of the street looking for business. I know the names of the local drunks: Sammy and Kit Kat. Kit Kat riles at us Muslims daily of how he is a Vietnam veteran and will kill us all and Sammy is in love with everyone, especially the prostitutes. The drug dealers are apparent as well in our “hood” with their flashy new cars and constant visitors that pull up on the sidewalk just long enough to make their transactions. Amongst all the madness sits the Al Nur masjid and directly across the street is our little crooked apartment. The mosque is so aptly named for such a dark place. It is a light as a reminder of the akhirah, while the neighborhood is an intense concise reflection of this duniya. I thought about moving…we should move, it is a bad place to raise kids. However, if we moved into a nice neighborhood where everything appears straight, we will succumb to the illusion of this life and chase all that glitters in this duniya, leaving off reflection of death and the Day of Judgment. The Quran reminds us of the dangers of the glitter in this life with several ayat:
“Those who desire the life of the present and its glitter, – to them we shall pay (the price of) their deeds therein, – without diminution.” (11:15)
“And keep thy soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face; and let not thine eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, one who follows his lowly desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds.” (18:28)
“The (material) things which ye are given are but the conveniences of this life and the glitter thereof; but that which is with Allah is better and more enduring: will ye not then be wise?” (28:60)
When in a position that we are not happy with, our first reaction is to struggle harder to alter our situation. It is like fighting slip-not restraints; the more we combat them the tighter they become. This was my initial response to moving to our little crooked apartment. I exerted so much effort to not live in this home, not to do without conveniences and made the mistake of comparing myself with others. I was miserable. And since misery loves company, I was making my children feel the same. I would sit at my window to do my studies and watch the world outside and think of all the adversities in living here… it was all there to see. However, I see the masjid there from the same window and on Jummah I watch all my brothers and sisters in deen stream in with smiles and salutations. In the evening, I see the moon in all her phases pass over the masjid. There is beauty in Islam no matter how unfavorable your situation may be.
It is said that Allah straightens His slave’s means as a reminder. In this duniya we need poignant admonishments lest we forget our Creator. This home of ours is a testimonial to our need to stay on the straight path of our Lord. We do not need the flash and pomp of this life to be happy. Happiness is in the peace derived from worshipping Allah in the best manner and seeking His reward in the afterlife. Inshallah t’ala, we will be rewarded with Jannah and there is nothing in this life that can compare to what is in Jannah. I once had a dream, in our little crooked apartment. In my dream, I was praying behind a man that I did not recognize and a voice-which was also unrecognizable-from elsewhere said to me “salamu fi salawat.” I am not an expert in Arabic, but the gist is clear…there is peace in the five daily prayers. I recall that dream every time I feel the need to move from this apartment. I remind myself of this dream each time I feel that I am not satisfied with my life. I savor in all the details of this dream when I feel the ocean of life crashing against my ribs. Peace of mind does not come from things: fancy home, flashy car or even the glimmer of jewelry and the crispness of new clothes. Peace of mind, heart, body and soul has only one source and that is Allah, subhana wa t’ala and to achieve that you must worship Him in the best manner.
I love my little crooked apartment across the street from the Al Nur masjid. It is my solace from this duniya, renunciation of this world and a remembrance of the Day of Judgment. May Allah help me to remember the akhirah and keep on the straight path of Islam…ameen.May Allah make me and my brothers and sisters in deen, of His beloved and patient slaves and reward us with Jannah in which rivers flow…ameen.

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