I walked up the stairs along with my daughter Nour in the poorly lit corridor. I entered the room shyly and in broken Arabic greeted all the sisters in the room. A family in this Syrian village had invited me for dinner and I looked forward to such invites. Not only because I finally got to eat well-prepared food but also because I met new sisters in such gatherings. Some of these sisters and their stories in this war-ravaged country astonished me, and some ingrained themselves in me, forever changing me.
After we had eaten, a sister brought in a frail man and gently sat him against the cushions on the wall. I was struck by the noor emanating from the sister’s face. I stared at her in wonderment of why her face lit like a bright light. The brother had a white beard humbling resting on his face and the softness of his face resembled that of a child.
She fed him soup, and he barely moving, swallowed slowly. I assumed that this must be her frail father she is taking care of, though he looked too young to be her father.
When I got home, I couldn’t forget the sister and the brother. Coincidently, I found myself at her house few weeks later as we were passing through the village. I noticed the brother again in her house.
“Umm Muhammad, who is he, the one you take care of?”
“He is my husband. He wasn’t always like that. In the 80’s my husband was part of Muslim Brotherhood, he was an active da’ee and a hafidh al Qu’ran. When Bashar’s father released his relentless force against the Muslims in Hama, my husband was arrested. I was left with three young children. For nearly a decade, I had no idea if he was alive or dead.
“One day, he was home. Just like that. But he had been tortured severely, he was beaten ruthlessly, electrocuted, and made to endure all sorts of psychological torture during his time in detention. Even though a year after his release, I was blessed with a son- his health started deteriorating every year. And today, he has lost all normal function. He doesn’t remember his children, he doesn’t speak at all, and he can barely comprehend anything around him. So I feed, bathe and take care of him as a child”
I couldn’t believe how much this sister had borne. A decade without a husband, and now have lost her home, her wealth and are refugees on the border of the country. Though her husband is now finally with her, he is not her companion in the loss and pain this war has brought her family. He can’t help her or their children nor even comfort her.
“SubhanAllaah, sister, how did you manage all these years?”
“I chose Quran, the words of Allaah to accompany me. I read Quran every single day, each day increasing in the amount I read. I found a teacher to teach me tajweed. And subhanAllah by the time my husband was released, I had memorised the whole Quraan and had raised our three children in his absence”
She got up to head for the kitchen and prepare the afternoon meal. I heard her reciting Quraan the entire time. She brought a tray of rice and soup. After we ate, I asked her more questions about her life.
“My 16 year old was shaheed few months ago. The son that was born after my husband’s release”
She said this with a smile and you could not find misery in any corner of her eyes.
“Would you like to see what happened to him? They caught it on video”
She pulled a laptop and searched his name on Youtube. She showed me the picture she took of him on the day he went out for the protest. In the video a young masked man is seen dragging an injured man on the street. But as soon as he brings the man to safety, he is shot and falls flat on the pavement. Her son was killed saving another. As this mother watched the video of her son getting shot, she did not wince, nor tear up. Rather she smiled, as if watching the moment she was given an award.
“Does your husband understand that his son is now killed?”
“No, he has no understanding. I buried my son and sat in his grave and asked Allaah to remove all grief in my heart and He did.”
This is why this mother’s face endeared me to her. Her patience, her tawakkul in Allaah, her love for the Quraan and her struggle and sacrifice in the path of Allah was inspiring.
“There is one time though, my husband does speak”
“Oh, when is that?”
“I recite all day, reviewing a juz or two a day. No matter where in the house, I am reciting- if I make a mistake, he speaks up and corrects it.”
I felt hair on my arms stand up in amazement of their faith. These are the sisters in war that we do not hear of. We hear of misery and pain but we rarely hear of the sisters who are backbone of resistance, who are an inspiration not just to other women but to the men in their path.
This story was shared by sister Umm Nour as a recollection from her time in Syria .