The plan was that my husband would drive to Algeria a week ahead of me and the children, who would then fly there to join up with him. Meanwhile another man put in an offer for the house, with a view to adding it to his list of properties to rent out. So it looked like we had sold it after all alhamdulilah. The night before my husband left, Sarah, my daughter, and I were packing the last few things and we could hear all the voices and accents from the living room next door where the brothers who lived locally had come to say goodbye to my husband. There were, of course, Algerian accents, but also, Nigerian, Pakistani, Chechen, English (an “Essex boy” and a Cockney mashallah!!!!) and Kenyan. They were all so sad to see my husband go as they looked on him as a real brother and there were tears. My husband felt like he was deserting them and was really sad. To this day he left a little piece of his heart with these brothers.
You would be amazed at how much you still have to go through, when you think you have done everything. We had to sort out the utility companies and let them know that we were no longer going to be living in the house, I still had so much to throw out and sort through, and sisters were coming everyday to say goodbye. I stayed up most nights and lived on dua and coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate (Oh those were the days!!!). The last night came and, when everyone had gone out of the house I had one last look around. This had been our home for most of our married life, and where 4 of our 5 children had been born, where we had home educated, and laughed and cried and known so many days of happiness and sorrow and worry and ease. I thought about it all in those moments, but knew that as long as we were a family together, all of these memories would be coming with us, not locked up in a house that, after all was only brick and cement. So I locked the house up and left with just one backward glance and felt only relief that we were, at last, following our dream Alhamdulilah.
“Parting is such sweet sorrow” – what a load of rubbish! It is so painful that you can hardly breathe and the lump in your throat threatens to suffocate you. You can’t eat or drink because your stomach is churning, your head hurts from all the emotion, your eyes feel sore from all the crying, your face is burning with all the tears, and all the words you want to say just won’t come out because your brain has turned to mush. It was so HARD to leave my family and also
the sisters whom Allah had blessed me with and whom I had grown to love so much. It was especially difficult to leave the ones who had no plans to make Hijirah at all yet, or who were not married to Algerians, as I knew they would not be coming to Algeria on holiday. I felt like I had deserted them, but also that my life would never be complete again without them in it. And I had to say goodbye to my daughter, Sarah, who had chosen to stay behind for 8 months to finish her studies. I don’t even want to “go there”. Suffice to say it was one of the most difficult things either one of us ever had to do.
On a Sunday at the end of October, 2003 my friend’s husband drove us to the airport. Although I didn’t normally wear niqaab (the face veil) I wore it in the car because I knew it would make it easier for the brother. I know it’s not exactly the proper Islamic reason for wearing one… but then that’s how I started out wearing the khimar (the head-scarf) in the first place. It took time before I wore it to please Allah. I fully intended to take it off as soon as I got to the airport. I wanted to wear it in Algeria (ironic really when I remember back to my first trip and my fear that they would be handing out abayas at the airport!) but felt that it might give me problems travelling. I was standing in line for the check out when I realised that I had forgotten all about it and was still wearing it. I couldn’t take it off now! There was a man at the check out and I was panicking, thinking I shall have to make a big song and dance and ask for a woman to see my face. Then my friend nudged me and said “look!” And there was a woman at the checkout! I had no problems whatsoever travelling with it and wore it in Algeria from that day on alhamdulilah.
I didn’t feel that sad leaving England, only my friends and the family I had there. But then I had left Ireland 20 years previously and had always looked on England as a stepping stone, although this wasn’t quite the one I had envisaged. Also, I was not going to Algeria unwillingly or just to please my husband. This was a positive step I was taking and I just knew that this is what Allah wanted of me, and so I was happy that I was pleasing Him. I also knew that after all we had been through, He would not let us down – even at the times when it “looked” to our human eyes, like He was astaghfirallah.