That’s what Friends are for

A young woman has just come to stay in my home so she could easily get to a wedding where I happened to be also invited. We didn’t know each other well. But my doors were open – because she was my friend Sabiha’s daughter.

July 28, 2023

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Three decades ago, I was considering becoming a Muslim. I’d read books, I’d listened to talks. What I really wanted though was someone to have a conversation with. Someone kind and wise who would help me figure things out.  Despite being a super-busy medical student, Sabiha was that person, there when no-one else was.  She dedicated Friday afternoons to talk through life’s big questions with me. When I was ready to make the statement of faith in front of others, she helped me say the right words. And then she showed me how to pray the way Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad did. While Sabiha and I both felt our special bond of friendship, I always thought she had given me gifts I could never equal.  

Years later, I visited her home, now with a husband and several children in tow. As we exchanged thoughts while on nature walks and then over pizza, this time I was able to share my own tips ranging from budgeting and meal planning, to finding gender equality in marriage, to how to learn the names of the chapters of the Qur’an – the book Muslims turn to for guidance – in both English and Arabic.  

We kept in touch. Moments of friendship found in amongst family life, work, and living far away…

Research shows that for friendship to last, people need to feel like they are getting as much out of the friendship as they’re putting in. Catching up recently on the phone, Sabiha explained she used to love those Fridays way back in our student days – it helped her think through things differently. And the penny finally dropped – even 30 years ago, I was contributing equally to our friendship too.

And now here was Sabiha’s bubbly daughter in my home. Her name is Emaan – an Arabic name meaning faith. And it is both the mutual support her mum and I have given each other, and shared faith in something bigger than us both, that makes me hope and pray our friendship will go on and on.