As I embarked on my most important dawah trip to Mexico, I began to reflect and think of my past three outreach missions. “Why was this the most important?” I asked myself, “I am traveling with the least amount of luggage and alone.” The answer was that I was going in order to call my elderly grandmother to Islam, while she lay on her deathbed, and it would not be easy. Seeing my family in distress and emotional would be hard, as well. I booked this trip exclusively for her, my “Abuelita,” my grandma. She requested to see me, and I took this request as my last opportunity to convey the message of Islam to her. As I was flying over the Gulf a Mexico I prayed for the Almighty to open her heart and make her last words be the best words, words of tawheed.
It’s been quite some time since I became Muslim and I have been tested in various ways but this was the first time Allah was testing me with death. Death always seems so distant until you are actually experiencing it. As a convert, death is even more frightening, and one of our biggest challenges is losing a family member who does not embrace Islam. I am reminded of our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, when he called his uncle, Abu Talib, to Islam, but to no avail.
Today I am experiencing this with the possibility of losing my grandmother who took care of me from the tender age of 3 months until I was almost 5 years old. In previous visits we sat and had several conversations but due to her age I have always dropped the conversation to avoid upsetting her. I have made tons of du’a and asked my Creator to help me with the best words to say to her. Again, this trip was different because I was not carrying 10, 11, or 12 pieces of luggage full of donations for the Muslims in Mexico, nor did I have a group of volunteers. In the past I would come to visit my family a couple of days at a time before visiting Muslim communities to either provide them with Islamic material, give a talk, or help restore/rebuild a masjid. However, I feel more blessed to be able to have a one-on-one conversation with this wonderful woman who unconditionally cared for me.
Upon my arrival, I broke down so see her so weak, thin and with oxygen; it was devastating to say the least. I was advised by an aunt to step out, wash my face, and come back. She told me that she needed me to be strong and not crying, so I did just that. When I came back to the room I noticed a huge poster of the virgin of Guadalupe, a depiction of Mary, the mother of Jesus, that is revered and even worshipped in Mexico, and of course, I was a bit bothered by it because I saw it as an obstacle to my mission.
My grandmother woke up and when she saw that I was there, she smiled and asked me to come close. I hugged her as always, so tight and with all my might. She yelled and said, “You are going to break me!” We both laughed and gazed at each other. I told her I love her and that everything was going to be okay. She asked about my son and I told her he was fine and at school. I told her, “I am here for you, to care for you without interruptions, just me and you.”
My visit was short but seemed long because of the quality time we spent together. I got a chance to feed her, bathe her and throughout all that we had several conversations about the oneness of God. A sister from the Mexico City community named Nabila joined me to offer her support, the best gift Allah sent my way, mashaAllah. With her help, we were able to speak to her and the rest of my family about Islam. Also during her visit we gave Shahada to a local young girl whom she ran into on the bus on her way to see me. By the third day of my stay, while Sister Nabila and I had stepped out, the poster of the virgin of Guadalupe had been removed from the wall.
The last night I spent by my grandmother’s side I asked her if she believed in God as the Almighty and sole Creator and she said yes. I asked her, “Who is Jesus?” She replied, “A messenger of God.” I asked if she believed he is the son of God, to which she replied no. We tried covering the second part of the testimony of faith but she was overwhelmed. She asked me to leave it at that, since she had never heard of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Upon returning to the States I asked the local imam about the incident and he informed me that due to her advanced age (104) and condition, it was enough and Allah knows best.
Today I sit here so grateful for the opportunity to complete this mission and the opportunity to see my grandmother on different grounds. It was wonderful to spend quality time with her even though I missed my son so much, as I had never been apart from him. I had also never seen my entire family so united and willing to hear what I had to say. Everyone asked tons of questions and for once, after all these years, I felt their acceptance and love. I ask Allah to guide our families, to give us the wisdom to convey the beautiful message of Islam, to shower them with the sweetness we have been blessed with, and to allow us to see one another both in this life and the next. Ameen.