Last Friday, I went out with Ros, her parents and Nysa to look for abayas. You see, I’ve grown to love wearing abayas to work, especially on days when I’m too lazy to iron my shirts. When we reached my favourite shop, I was thrilled to see a plethora of beautiful pieces with intricate embroidery, elegant crystals and beautiful lace. I got so engrossed in choosing abayas that I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings or the people around me. After that, we started bargaining with the salesperson relentlessly until we arrived at a reasonable price. I walked out of the store with a few plastic bags and a huge grin plastered across my face.
“I want ice creammmm…”
“Hot fudge sundae?!?”
We skipped all the way to Mcdonald’s. At the cashier, I unzipped my bag to retrieve my phone. I wanted to ask Firdaus if he wanted anything. Suddenly, a group of women crowded into me. I looked back agitatedly. ‘Why did they do that?’ I continued trying to call Firdaus. Then it dawned on me that something may not be right. ‘Oh no, did they take something?’ I rummaged through my bag and my wallet was gone. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. It happened so quickly that I was stunned speechless. I had lost money, debit cards, driving license, Singapore NRIC, Iqama and KAUST ID. The wallet itself was a gift from Firdaus and I love it immensely. Ros and I retraced our steps back to the shop, just in case. The salesperson who had attended to us saw me.
“What’s the matter, sister?”
“I lost my wallet.”
With the most sincere look of concern on his face, he immediately started searching around the shop. It wasn’t there. He kept apologizing even though it wasn’t his fault. I felt really touched. La ilaha illa anta subhanaka inni kuntum minal zalimin. Allah has blessed me with so much. Why was I bargaining so incessantly with this man? Getting a good deal before that seemed meaningless. We headed to the bus that was bringing us back to KAUST. Alhamdulillah, Allah made sure that I was with the most gracious earth angels. Aunty, Uncle, Nysa, Ros and even the bus driver were sweet and sympathetic. They knew I was famished and bought me a meal for the trip back.
On Sunday, which is the first day of the week here, I informed Government Affairs what happened. Because I didn’t make a police report within 24 hours, they explained that I would have to pay 1600SAR for the replacement of my Iqama. I won’t lie. I felt feeble and glum when I heard that. ‘No Alia, don’t go down that road. Allah is looking out for you.’ I knew that the pain in my heart pointed to my attachment. It was showing me how I can draw closer to Allah. The money was my Ismail. Allah was reminding me that my heart is meant to be filled by Only Him. I can’t lose what was never mine. Nothing belongs to us. Even the air we breathe must be exhaled. I persuaded my heart to remember what it already knows. I reminded myself that this test is from Allah SWT. Allah decrees nothing for His servant except that it is good. When I deal with it with sabr and remembrance, Allah is giving me the opportunity to be closer to Him. Instead of whining and complaining, I pondered on what Allah SWT wants me to learn from this. I went straight to the campus mosque. After praying, I remembered our Prophet Muhammad SAW and quietly recited in my heart, “Allaahumma rahmataka ‘arjoo falaa takilnee ‘ilaa nafsee tarfata ‘aynin, wa ‘aslih lee sha’nee kullahu, laa’ilaaha ‘illaa ‘Anta.” which means “O Allah, I hope for Your mercy. Do not leave me to me even for the blink of an eye. Correct all of my affairs for me. There is none worthy of worship but You.”
My colleagues consoled me, shared my workload, gave me chocolates and offered money. They made jokes to make me laugh. Alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli Haal. When Allah takes away what you didn’t expect Him to take, He will give what you don’t expect Him to give. He gave me amazing people to comfort me and bring me through my difficulties. Haneen, who sits beside me, looked at me with full empathy and said, “I’m sorry, Alia. May Allah replace it with something better.”
Right at that moment, my phone rang.
“Waalaikumussalaam. Is this Alia Abdullah?”
“Yes, this is Alia.”
“I’m calling from SAMBA Bank in Tahlia. A taxi driver just returned your wallet.”
Lā ḥawla wa lāquwwata illā billāh. I was so taken aback that I couldn’t speak. I did not expect that at all. I passed my phone to Adel to talk on my behalf. A few hours later, I was in Firdaus’s good friend’s car on the way to Tahlia Centre. I was racked with guilt. It’s the exam period now and I know that all the students are extremely busy with revision. I thanked Salim profusely. His simple response was, “Don’t worry about it, Alia. Firdaus is my brother.” Emotions started building up inside my heart. Why is everyone being so nice to me? I glanced out of the window and saw a road sign. It said “Allahu Akbar”. I burst into tears. Indeed, Allah is the Greatest. He’s our Protector. He sent these beautiful souls to help me. He led me from the depth of darkness to light. He pushed the clouds of worry away.
I eventually got my wallet back. There was no money left but all the cards were intact. We even managed to grab a bite at a Hijazi food joint before heading back to KAUST. That was the first time that Firdaus and I had eaten tamis bread with dubbah ‘arabi, foul medames and spicy omelette. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah.
Losing my wallet made me realise that my heart still needs a lot of work. I know that I could have responded better than I did. I’m still learning. Only when we stumble can we rise higher than before. I’ve failed a thousand times but His Mercy still remains. Our flaws will never be greater than Allah’s love. Having said that, I want to share an inspiring story that I read in Vizier magazine a couple of years ago. There was once an affluent merchant. One day, when he was delivering a lecture, some people interrupted him and broke the news that all the four ships carrying his goods had sunk. The man paused for a moment, said, “Alhamdulillah,” and continued his lecture. After a while, the same group came rushing in again. They updated him that they were mistaken and that his ships hadn’t sunk. He paused, said, “Alhamdulillah,” and continued his lecture. His reaction piqued his students’ curiosity. They asked him why he said, “Alhamdulillah,” in both situations. The man explained that when he was first told that his ships had sunk, he paused to examine his heart. When he found that it was unmoved by the loss, he expressed gratitude towards Allah. When he was told that the news was wrong and that his ships were fine, he paused and examined his heart. Again, he found it unmoved. Thus, he thanked Allah. His gratefulness wasn’t for the gain or the loss. It was for the fact that his heart was not attached to the gain or the loss. Subhanallah! Unlike me, he held his material wealth in his hands but not in his heart. He understood that the greatest wealth is not visible. The best treasure is the richness of our souls. May Allah open our hearts wide, give us Hidayah and strengthen our Iman, in shaa Allah Amiin.