“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah knows, while you know not.” (Qur’an, 2:216)
These are the verses that eventually shaped the very nature of my existence with my Creator and the struggles He gave to fully appreciate and admire His mercy and love.
The Expectation: A year before 9/11, my family and I embarked on this journey because of my dad’s job. My parents were eager to leave their motherland in the hopes of a better future and life for their children. There were whispers among our extended family members that we would never return and would get this thing called a “green card.”
The Reality: Getting a green card wasn’t as easy as many people in my country made it sound. It is a very complicated process and we didn’t realize how stressful and challenging getting a green card can be. It was a wakeup call for my family, including me. The green card would turn into an obsession, a desire, and a fitna (trial) for our souls. It challenged each and every one of us to realize the true meaning of tawakkul of Allah (total trust in Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala, exalted is He).
The Fraudulent Lawyer: Despite the sturdiness of the new immigration laws due to 9/11, our family was progressing with our green card case. It seemed as though there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The lawyer that worked on our case was known for his superior expertise and knowledge with immigration cases. Because of his credibility, our family was optimistic that our case would be successful. We placed our hope and trust in him instead of God. And that’s where we all went wrong.
A few weeks after we obtained our interview notice, we received two letters in the mail. The first letter notified us that our lawyer was arrested and sent to jail. We were flabbergasted and shocked. How could this happen? The second letter turned our world upside down.
It was a letter of denial. Our green card case had been denied. Our lawyer had used fraudulent documents to submit our case without our knowledge. And the US government would not accept our case even though it wasn’t our fault. It couldn’t be. Most of our savings had been spent on this case. What were we supposed to do? This shattered my entire family. I saw my father in tears for the very first time in my life.
My dad was losing his faith in Allah (swt). He was beginning to question God. Why would He do this to us? Why were we denied our green cards when it wasn’t our fault? I also began to question God myself.
Academic Achievement: Despite this setback, I still had hope. I worked hard in school. I knew that anything less than an “A” on my report card would not be accepted. I had to give my parents a reason to continue fighting this battle. And I wanted to be that reason.
I worked really hard to get all A’s. I received numerous honors and awards for my academic success. I was one of the best students in my entire school. And my dad was proud of me. He was so proud of me that he didn’t give up on my dreams. He continued to fight once again.
The second attempt: Both of my parents worked 2 jobs for long hours. They were desperately saving up to submit a new green card case. My mom came home with sore feet and sweaty clothes every night. My dad came home every night at 2 AM.
I would not let them down. I couldn’t, no matter what. I continued to push through high school with my good grades. I wanted to give my parents the hope that they lacked. I didn’t want them to give up. And they didn’t. They applied a second time for the green card with their new savings.
The Setback: I had a list of colleges and universities that I wanted to apply to. I hoped that my stellar academic record would help me get accepted to the schools. However, the setback was financial aid. My family had no money to pay for these schools. I was panicking. I decided to work part time during my senior year to save up for college. But I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be enough.
All of my friends were applying for FAFSA (federal financial aid that is given based on need). My heart lit up with hope again. I was optimistic that I qualified for financial aid because of my parents’ low income. I went to the student center to begin my application. My mind was racing with happiness. I could go to college now. As I started to fill out the application, a question on the form stumped me. “Are you a US citizen or a permanent resident?” I was neither. I didn’t have a green card. And the system wouldn’t let me continue the application. I had to be either a US citizen or a green card holder to apply for financial aid. I was ineligible, unworthy of any aid or help, because of my legal status, which was not my fault. I ran out of the office with tears streaming down my face.
It was the green card again. It was ruining my life. I couldn’t do anything without it. And I hated my life revolving around this document.
The Balcony: I became severely depressed. My life seemed to come to a standstill. All my hard work throughout high school seemed to be for nothing. My parents were having doubts about staying in the US. They were arguing and fighting about whether we should stay in the States or leave. My house seemed like a hell hole and I couldn’t take it anymore. I began to have suicidal thoughts. I wanted to end my life. The green card failed us. I failed myself. I failed my parents.
One evening I opened the balcony of our 5th floor condo. I looked outside. The orange clouds surrounded the trees as the sun was setting in the distant horizon. I felt splashes of rain water on my skin as I stepped onto the patio. I felt the rough gravel of the floor and smelled the freshly mown grass outside. This would be my chance to end it all. I would jump and the agony would end. The green card wouldn’t torment me anymore. It wouldn’t be my burden or my problem anymore. I stepped onto the railing. I looked out into the sky. I knew God didn’t care about my problems. He never answered my prayers anyway. He didn’t grant us the green card. And He wouldn’t care if I jumped.
“DON’T do it. Don’t give up now. Just have HOPE. And HOLD on to it,” someone inside me screamed. Who was this speaking to me? And why wouldn’t this voice let me jump? I was about to jump again. “NO! Believe in Him. He does listen. Just be patient and let Him help you.” I couldn’t get myself to jump anymore.
“He can’t help. Nobody can,” I whispered. It was almost night time. I started to cry. I started to call out for help in the darkness. Nobody could hear it; nobody but Him.
“This is SO hard for me and my family. I want to give them the hope and the strength to fight. I want to go to college to have a better life. But I can’t. We have no green card. We have no papers. We have no money. We have nothing. We don’t belong anywhere. Nobody understands us. Nobody knows our pain. All our du`a’s (prayers)are unanswered. And I can’t take this pain anymore. My life is not worth living. I am a failure and I hate myself. I doubt myself. I doubt YOU. It’s hard to believe that You exist; that You know what you’re doing. But I don’t know where to turn. Help me. Help us. Give us some light and some hope. Ease our burdens and hardships. I beg you!” I cried. Darkness swept the horizon as I cried into the night on the balcony.
The Miracle and the Lesson: I was getting ready for a job interview. I gave up on going to college. I gave up on my dreams. I gave up on the green card. My dad came home with a letter in his hand. There were tears in his eyes. I was afraid that we received a second green card rejection. Something was different, however. They were tears of happiness. He handed the letter to me. I gave him a puzzled look and reluctantly took the letter from him.
I held the letter in my hand and I was shocked. This is the letter that changed my entire life. I couldn’t believe it. SubhanAllah (exalted is He)! I had received a full scholarship to a prestigious four year university and I don’t even know how I received it. As I began to realize the reality of the situation, I shuddered. Could it be? Had God accepted my prayers that night on the balcony? Is He trying to teach me to have faith and hope in Him? Did He really care about me?
All of these questions led to my quest towards finding Allah (swt). Alhamdullilah (all praise and thanks to Allah)! That scholarship letter from Allah taught me something that day. Allah (swt) did not abandon me. He never has. And He never will. The green card rejection taught me the true meaning of patience and perseverance. And verily with every hardship, Allah gives ease.
“Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him.
Allah will grant after hardship, ease.” [Qur’an, 65:7]
More importantly, it truly taught me to believe in Him. I learned to place my hope and trust in the One above instead of the lawyer or the green card. I learned to be grateful to Him for all the blessings that I have instead of complaining about the things I did not have.
“Say, ‘Nothing will we be struck except by what Allah has decreed for us; He is our Protector.’ And upon Allah let the believers rely.” [Qur’an, 9:51]
See, the green card isn’t just a card for me. It was one of my biggest means to get closer to Allah. It was an entire chapter of continuous lifelong lessons from the best Teacher and the Creator of mankind.