Khadijah Stott-Andrew begins her series discussing the highs and lows of moving abroad.
When it comes to writing an article about personal issues, I am the first to admit that it’s a struggle. How much should I reveal to an audience such as this? Do I praise the positives or warn you of the negatives? After several drafts, I have decided that the only option is to be brutally and unashamedly honest.
Moving abroad is not easy. It’s hard work, complicated, stressful and there are many points that have left me sobbing like a baby at the sheer magnitude of what we were about to do. Hijrah is scary; leaving behind your life, family, friends, routine and even your favourite shops can render you full of fear and doubt. I can’t remember the number of times I have broken down in sujud, begging Allah SWT to guide my husband to the right decision and to bless me with the strength and ability to deal with it.
Unfortunately, the battle doesn’t end there. You may find yourself not only having to talk yourself into the positives of making hijrah, but to also ease the minds of those around you. It is not easy saying goodbye to friends and family, and it isn’t easy for them to let you go. One of the biggest challenges I faced before leaving was unintentional negativity from other people.
Commenters started with silly questions about my destination: “Can women go outside?”, “But what are you going to do? Sit around your house all day?”, “Aren’t they a bit extreme over there?”.
They then resorted to campaigns of why I should stay: “Say what you like about this country, but the healthcare is the best in the world!”, “What if you have a baby? You’ll be all alone without your family!”, “I can’t live without Primark me. Aren’t you going to be bored?” For someone already battling with the prospect, questions like these became suffocating. Plus, whilst some people were firing their questions at me, others struggled to hide their disbelief and dismissed my announcement with implications that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, these commentators mean well. They are fully aware of the struggle you are about to face, and many just want to ensure that you have considered everything before you leave. However, what they don’t realise is that once your flight is booked and you’re packing your bags, you’ve already weighed up all the pros and cons and considered your options. At this stage you need comfort, reassurance and positivity.
Alhamdulillah, once the reality had set in for my loved ones, I received just that – comfort from my mother, reassurance from my father and positivity from my friends. I was able to enjoy my final weeks with them as I focused on preparing myself for the challenge ahead.
As Muslims, we believe that Allah’s hikmah (wisdom) is in every situation we face, good or bad. Just sometimes we don’t realise it. The situation placed before me was a tough one – we were informed that my husband would have to go on ahead without me. I would stay behind in the UK with the children until our papers had been sorted, which could take a minimum of two months. On hearing this, I was shocked and nervous. Two months without my husband? Two months without our cups of tea in the evenings and movie nights at the weekend? Now, whilst this gave me a jolt of anxiety, I also felt a pang of excitement – for those two months I could move back home. I could spend some quality time with my parents and siblings before I leave! Here was Allah’s wisdom, masha Allah.
Little did I know, Allah’s wisdom did not end there. Whilst moving back home was exciting and full of fun and laughter, it wasn’t long before I couldn’t ignore how much I missed my husband. I missed our regular routine, I missed our time together, I missed him. And I wasn’t the only one. My eldest son, only 3 at the time, became quiet and reflective, even subdued, and became very attached to any male family members; my son was missing his daddy. All of this became very heavy on my mind and my husband tried to hurry the paperwork along; it wasn’t easy for him either, being without his wife and children in a strange country.
Being a rather emotional person anyway, it didn’t take much to bring me to tears, to leave me seeking solitude with my boys, desperately trying to get the video chat connection working so we can spend some virtual time with my husband. I missed him terribly; so when the day finally arrived when he would fly home to take us with him, I rejoiced! Gone were my fears of starting out in a strange country, gone were my apprehensions about leaving everything behind – I just wanted to be back with my husband and my children with their father.
So you see, the challenges of making Hijrah come before your bags are even packed. Mentally preparing yourself for such a change is a difficult and emotional journey. Each person will get through it in a way unique to them, but here are some points to bear in mind:
- Focus on the bad you are leaving behind
We all choose to make hijrah for a reason. Many of us are not in an ideal Muslim environment. Many of us live in a society that has foundations in complete and drastic opposition to our faith. Focusing on this can give you the strength to look forward to a change, to focus on the true reason why you made this decision in the first place.
- Focus on the good that awaits you
Now, whilst your chosen destination won’t be perfect, it will have a lot of perks you didn’t enjoy in your home country. Keep these in mind, and even research more about the country. Join expat message boards, Facebook groups and read blogs. Find out everything you can about the wonders that await you!
- Make friends
Whilst online, you may find many people in the same situation as you. Chatting to other expats and hijrah-seekers makes the experience seem less daunting and allows you to bounce questions off people who already know what you’re going through.
Talk to your spouse. REALLY. Don’t bottle up how you feel; it’s hard when you feel like you’re on a roller coaster and can’t get off. Chances are, your significant other is probably experiencing similar anxieties to you. Talk through them together and support each other.
Let’s face it, with Allah SWT looking out for you, what’s the worst that can happen? You are doing this for His sake. Anything done with our Creator in mind can only bring good. Just remember, Allah’s wisdom is in every situation you will face. You just have to hold onto that thought and use it to give you strength.
I pray Allah SWT blesses you with the strength and determination to complete your journey to Him, whether physically or spiritually.
This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of SISTERS Magazine.