It was a beautiful summer day when my friend and I decided to walk around the lake near our home several years ago. It was a beautiful lake with plenty of beautiful flowers. There were many people there and everyone was just enjoying the beautiful sights and the beautiful weather. My friend and I wore our hijabs and were covered up. After 30 or so minutes of walking around we decided to just sit on a bench and rest. As we sat there chatting away, we noticed an old man coming toward us. We didn’t know what he wanted or needed. For whatever reason, I thought he was going to start being rude or something.
I was pleasantly surprised when he finally reached where we were sitting. He greeted us and was so nice. He even gave us some nice chocolate and all three of us talked like we were good buddies. We talked about the weather, the beautiful flowers, politics and finally religion. His question as to why we dressed the way we dressed was what led us to the topic of religion. H asked us why we wanted to cover up when we are young and beautiful. “Don’t you want the wind in your hair and on your skin” he asked. So I told him that we covered up for a reason and that was to first and foremost obey Allah and secondly, to preserve modesty. Then he replied with another question; “What if there’s no Allah?” After that question, we spent nearly an hour just going back and forth with him about how Allah does in fact exist!
We would tell him one thing, he would reply with another question. And he kept asking question after question. Long story short, I finally asked him why he did not want to believe because he really didn’t have anything to lose to which he replied “I don’t believe in a God that won’t stop the suffering of the innocent.” He then proceeded to ask us with the most serious tone of voice, “If Allah exists how come he’s not helping the poor babies and children who are getting killed for no reason every day? How come Allah is not stopping men from raping helpless women? Where’s Allah when all these atrocities are happening?!” He went on and on. The man’s heart was aching for the helpless and the weak.
Without shouting or getting angry, we told him that his questions were valid. Because this person was someone with no knowledge of Allah, of His attributes and power and wisdom, I tried to make him see things in a different way. I asked him if he ever went to school or had a job which and he replied, “of course.” I asked him if he just got his diploma in high school or college without ever being tested. And he said, “No, that would be pointless then.” So I told him, this is also the case with Allah.
He tests us all with different things, some war, some violence, some diseases and illness, some poverty and hunger, some childlessness etc. I told him that maybe those people that are suffering are being tested and if they stay patient through their suffering, Allah will reward them in the hereafter or even while they are still living here on earth. For the first time since our little debate started, he fell silent. After some time, he said that maybe I was right and that he’s never even thought about it that way before. That was the end of our conversation with him because we had to leave for salah Maghrib.
That man was 84 years old. From the short period of time we spent talking to him we learned a lot about him. He said he travelled the world and saw many interesting places and met many great people from various backgrounds and faiths. He spoke several different languages because he was educated. I mean I was impressed with how much adventure he had in his life. He even said he studied Islam at one point in his life because he just liked to learn something new. At 84 years old, he was walking and seemed to be enjoying his life. Sadly however, he was missing something important: Islam.
I don’t know if that man is still alive or dead today; I’m not sure if the encounter my friend and I had with him changed him in any way (I really hope it did) however, what his encounter did for me was that it made me more thankful to Allah—more humble—that Allah has given me the greatest of blessings: Islam. I would never trade all that he was given of this life for my faith.