We used to bump into each other in the elevators of our University’s Arts building as we often used the top floor to perform prayers. When I moved to a more central location to be closer to campus, I started bumping into you in my building, and the superintendent rightfully thought he should introduce us, as he thought we had a lot in common. May Allah reward him for his insight! We started spending a lot of time together. We were both alone, living in bachelor apartments in this secure Muslim-owned and run building, with a musallah (a prayer hall) in its foyer. Praying jumua (Friday congregational prayer) and tarawih (nightly Ramadan extended prayers) was easy, since we just had to take the elevator down, but to maintain some privacy we’d sometimes go to the Somali mosque (which was quite a ways away, and granted us much needed anonymity, while also keeping the atmosphere cozy and relaxed).
We were both single at the time, so we spent a lot of time together, you taught me tajweed (the rules of Qur’an recitation), we shared recipes, we’d call each other for tahajjud (prayer in the last third of the night, just before dawn), and more often than not broke our fasts, and had suhoor (the last meal before starting the fast at dawn) together. We were, and still are, as close as two women can be without being related by blood. We were so close we made a pact to be completely forthright about any mistake or flaw that we found, because we felt safe in each other’s eyes. We were like mirrors to one another, and whatever we could help improve on, we readily would. We’d read books and summarize them to each other, we’d set deadlines and goals and we’d work together to reach them. We supported each other in every possible way, in faith, interpersonally, academically, financially, you name it, you were there for me, as I hope I was for you.
Then we got married, and we got physically separated by thousands of miles. We kept in touch in every way we could, but we haven’t seen each other in almost fifteen years now. I have never seen your kids, nor you mine, other than in pictures, but they all know about us, and it literally feels like we are aunts to them, or what in the Catholic church they would call God-mothers. Our lives have taken us all over the world, but no matter where we were or how difficult circumstances have been, we kept in touch, by letter, phone, text, phone apps, and email, and whenever something troubles me, or something big is about to happen, you are the first person I think of to share it with. You have been my conscience and “my better half” for the past twenty years, and I so miss your closeness.
During Ramadan especially, you’d be the strong one pushing me to learn more, pray more, do more, and you’d inspire me with your tenacity and steadfastness, your courage and resilience. You believing in me made me believe in myself. We went through an awful lot together in these twenty years, and during Ramadan especially I remember with fondness the ease with which I’d pick up the phone or walk down a few floors to meet you and pray together. I remember the times we would whisper our secrets to each other, and cry in each other’s arms, trying our best to give strength and support. We still do it, virtually, thanks to technology, but tonight, on the first of the last ten nights of this Ramadan, I felt I needed to give you more credit than what I’ve given you over the years, tonight you are in my heart and in my thoughts, along with all your family, and I send you my deepest love, my heartfelt wishes for khair in the dunya and the akhira, and I want to not only thank you (Jazakillahu khairan) for all that you have been for me, but also ask for your forgiveness for the times I’ve fallen short of the great sister you’ve been to me. You are the standard of patience and perseverance I hold up as an example, and I don’t think I’d be half the person I am had I not met you. I sincerely hope tonight is Laylatul Qadr (the night of decree) so that all my well wishes may be immediately granted for you. I love you for Allah’s sake, and you’ll forever be (bi idhnillah – by God’s will) my dearest sister fiddeen (in faith).