[Adapted from Ahmad, November 1991]
When Fatima's mother finished her prayers, she held her rosary and prayed that Allah would help her daughter who was travelling to Europe to continue her treatment.
Nothing about this trip was easy. It was the first time that Fatima was going abroad, and what made matters worse was that she was ill and needed extensive treatment, having tried hopelessly ever since she had that accident to install artificial limbs in her own country.
Now that the plane was in the air, Fatima sat there holding a copy of the Glorious Quran, her mother's precious gift, in her arms. She began to remember her mother's last words: "Take care Fatima, you are going to a non-Islamic country... Preserve your religion, Allah will make you successful". -"Allah is the best guardian and the most gracious helper"... That is what Fatima found herself saying as she was fixing her veil and getting ready to go down to the airport. They took her to one of the halls, where the rest of the passengers were waiting to conclude their customs formalities.
A few minutes later, Fatima began to feel that the foreigners were staring at her with astonishment. She noticed that their eyes were fixed on her veil and her severed feet. She was very depressed, but she pulled herself together and said: "I have to be patient, for what I might I have to face, in this country, could be far more difficult than these glares. All I can do is to be patient and ask Allah to hold my feet firmly to his right path".
Reassured, Fatima moved to the hospital where she met her nurse, and began to live a monotonous life, with all the medical examinations that she had to undergo. She knew right from the word go, that she had to solve the food problem. She could not eat any meat or pork, so she told her nurse in a firm and straightforward manner that she would eat vegetables only. She was a Muslim and Islam prohibited her from eating any meat that was not prepared in accordance with the religious law (Shariah).
The days passed, and Fatima had by that time already began the preliminary treatment necessary to install the artificial limbs, yet she remained committed to her Islamic dress, amid the astonishment and the admiration of the medical team. Then one day the nurse came and asked her to prepare herself for the swimming training session ' and gave her a bathing suit.
Fatima wore the bathing suit underneath her clothes; she did not ask the nurse for any explanation, thinking that by now, the nurse had understood her Islamic commitments.
The nurse accompanied Fatima to the swimming pool. When they got there, she saw that it was crowded with both male and female swimmers. Her heart started to beat fast, and her face grew pale. It was as if an unknown force was nailing her to the ground. She heard the nurse saying, "Come on Fatima, take off your clothes and start swimming".
Fatima froze in her place. She turned her eyes between the pool and her feet. Suddenly she remembered what her mother had told her: "Preserve your religion, Allah will make you successful".
"Do you think that I am going to swim in front of all these men"? Asked Fatima firmly.
"Why not?" replied the nurse.
"I am a Muslim, and my religion prohibits me from doing so".
"Then let us call the physician in charge".
When the doctor came he told Fatima: "You understand that you are breaking the treatment regulations".
"I can not do anything against my principles and disobey my God".
"But you are under treatment".
"You can find another kind of training".
"You realise the importance of the artificial limbs, in your condition
"It would not be more important than pleasing my God".
"We are not used to see you as stubborn as this, you have been one of our best patients".
"I wish to remain so, if I were only to be exempted from this".
The doctor shook his head. He looked at Fatima with admiration, and what he said next was something she did not expect to hear: "I congratulate you, Fatima. Hold on to your principles, and we will not stand in your way".
He then gave the nurse a new set of instructions, recommending an alternative kind of training.
The strong girl's heart was filled with 'JOY, the kind of joy one feels when he is victorious, or when he overcomes the temptations of sin.
With her artificial limbs installed, and her treatment successful, Fatima went back to her country. In the plane she did not forget to hold the Quran in her hands and read some Glorious Verses.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
"But let those rejoice who keep off form idol-worship and turn to Allah in repentance. Give good news to My servants, who listen to My Word and follow what is best in it. These are they whom Allah has guided. These are they who are endued with understanding".