Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of a young Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

"I Need You"

I need you, she says. Three words that make your stomach churn. And you drop your work for a brief moment and hasten to her side.

She sits alone at the agreed-upon meeting place. Her face is swollen, tearful, but she offers a wavering smile of recognition. How’s it going, you ask, a false cheerfulness in your tone. And then you admonish yourself for your foolishness. You know the tears and what they mean. You know you must soon descend into her world of darkness and despair. So why voice trite questions?

Her broken words intrude. I just wanted to talk to you, she whispers. Tears rush down now. Her speech speeds up, then falters. You take her hand but it is clenched. Desperate now to penetrate the fog of sadness, you reach out and wrap your arms around her.

You sit intertwined with her, two souls reaching out to one other. Then her words can find no escape, and the racking sobs, the clutching hands, the salty wetness soaking your shirt fill in the remainder of the grim story.

You whisper phrases you’ve used too many times to count. Careless, empty phrases to your ears. I’m sorry, you murmur consolingly, I'm so sorry. Your mind wrestles for something meaningful, something wise. Clumsy words take shape and are promptly dismissed. You know not what to say.

So you offer the only comfort you have to give. You listen. You hold her tightly and say nothing as she pours her anguish into your soul. And your heart becomes heavy with the weight of sadness transferred upon you. Your tears of grief mingle with her own. How did she survive so long beneath that depressive weight? What sort of friend are you, that you did not notice something was terribly wrong?

You sit with her, heedless to what curious passers-by might think. Two young women, wrapped in a tearful embrace. Both wearing headscarves in a public space. And at the end of it all, once the eyes are wiped dry and there is nothing else to say, you reluctantly part ways with her, exiting her world of lonesome despair. There is not much more you can do.

But a seed of sadness takes root within. And the helplessness and the unbidden grief grow uncontrollably. Unable to stay away, you find yourself dialling her number two days later. Without thinking, again the hollow words spill out: How are you feeling, you ask.

I’m okay, she replies.

I’m so sorry I couldn’t do more, you confess, guilt already gnawing at your fragile conscience.

You did a lot. Thank you. I’m actually feeling a bit better.

You're feeling better?!

Yes. Thank you for being there for me. And then the zinger: You don't know what it meant to be able to talk to you like this.

Long after the phone call ends, you ponder her words, puzzled at your perceived role in her gloomy tale. But through your confusion, you acknowledge a strange glimmer of relief. It means the world to you that she asked for your help, that you were there to ease some small part of a friend’s grief. One needs - that is human nature. But one cannot underestimate the longing - the need - to feel needed. The beauty and reciprocity of the human relationship is that the one who gives is often indistinguishable from the one who receives.


  • At 4/23/2005 10:22:00 a.m., Anonymous writer_within said…

    So incredibly well put. You put me in tears with your powerful words of friendship. I have learned from experience that sometimes the best thing a person can do is listen, passing no judgements and giving no advice. This is something that is amazing about female friendships. Men, on the other hand, want to fix everything or tell you exactly what you should do. Women are more nurturing of the process of grief. I am so glad your friend had you to just sit with her and listen.


  • At 4/23/2005 10:30:00 p.m., Blogger Em said…

    Assalaamu alaikum.
    That was extremely moving, yet so amazingly true. Being male, I often miss this kind of bonding with my brethren. Society has reserved strong negative connotations for brotherly friendship of this sort. When I need to talk, I end up calling my own sister who's thousands of miles away.

    Alhamdulillah that your friends are blessed with a Muslimah like yourself.

    Wassalaam, Em

  • At 4/24/2005 09:27:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Thank you both for your kind words. Recently, I've been coping with another loved one's crisis. I felt compelled to express my helplessness. The result is the piece before you.

  • At 4/25/2005 05:56:00 a.m., Anonymous Yusuf Smith said…

    :This is something that is amazing about female friendships. Men, on the other hand, want to fix everything or tell you exactly what you should do. Women are more nurturing of the process of grief.:

    Ah, the generalisations one after the other. You mean men never just listen and women never tell people to "just snap out of it"? People listen to a certain female American radio presenter to be told just that, so I've heard ...

  • At 4/25/2005 06:13:00 a.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Yusuf, I'm curious: Are you saying that statement (which is not mine, anyway) is incorrect, or are you saying there are a few exceptions?

  • At 4/25/2005 10:04:00 a.m., Anonymous Yusuf Smith said…

    As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

    :Are you saying that statement (which is not mine, anyway) is incorrect, or are you saying there are a few exceptions?:

    Well neither, just that Ummhana had come out with a whole load of unqualified generalisations, that men are like this, and women are like that, full stop.

    An awful lot of women, for example, believe that a woman should not stay with a man if he so much as lays a hand on her in anger, even once - "one strike and you're out" is the slogan. Quite a few of them might tell some of the wives you have written about to simply dump them as they were no good.

    And I know from personal experience that some men do know when to keep their (opinion-influenced) advice to themselves.

  • At 4/25/2005 11:28:00 a.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Out of the mouth of one of the most opinionated men I've ever encountered;-) You'd be surprised to hear that I agree with you, Yusuf (just this time though). I was expecting someone or the other to take issue with those statements - you came along and did just that.

    There is a certain art to helping another. One has to know when the other simply needs consoling and when it is necessary to offer constructive advice. There are times when either sex will make bad judgements about what is required of them. Are more men fixers than listeners? I think I've encountered my fair share of both, but others might have different experiences. Would be interested in exploring this idea further.

  • At 5/01/2005 07:08:00 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That's deep, dude. I'm reading it for the 3rd time and it still gets to me. Are we gonna get some more from you soon?

  • At 5/01/2005 02:01:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    D.D., I really don't know at this point. Target date is this Friday. Before then I'm afraid there are no guarantees.


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