Many years ago, in my local Muslim community in south London, a Muslim man kept an elderly white English woman in his basement as his slave for his pleasure.
The woman appeared to have some sort of learning difficulties.Her name was Sarah. She used to address every other woman as “Sarah” too.
Sarah had a big white German Shepherd dog. This dog was her only friend.
One day, Sarah somehow she managed to complain to someone about the evil man.
The complaint reached the Muslim community and the women of the community helped Sarah escape from the evil man.
They rehoused her and took her under their wing.
Sarah would go from house to house and women of the local Muslim community would give her food. She started to clean their houses and began to earn an income.
Meanwhile, the big white dog would be waiting outside. Sometimes I would see her outside the house of “Aunty”, my Quran teacher, waiting with her dog while Aunty gave her a few bags of food.
In time, Sarah accepted Islam and Aunty began to teach her about Islam. Aunty taught Sarah about personal Muslim hygiene, how to pray and other things.
Aunty would take Sarah with her everywhere, to Muslim gatherings, conferences, events, dressing her up as if she was her own daughter, even though Sarah was several years older than Aunty.
It was obvious that Sarah had some learning difficulties. She was a simple woman.
This endeared Sarah to others and they began to love her. Wherever Sarah went in the community, she received love.
In time, after years of suffering from cruelty at the hands of an evil man, Sarah began to feel loved. She was now part of a community who loved her and she loved them.
One day, her dog died. Sarah was devastated. The community consoled her.
For years afterwards, she would begin to cry at any mention of the dog.
Sarah would sometimes come to our house, where she would clean a little and my mum would pay her and give her food.
One day she was praying salah (prayer), aloud. My little sister, under 10 at the time, was watching her because she found the scene cute.
“It’s OK, dear, you can look,” Sarah smiled at my sister, in the middle of the prayer.
After her prayer, Sarah sat down and said, aloud, a long list of supplications:
“I pray for Mr. Ahmad’s health (my dad was sick at the time).
I pray for Mrs. Ahmad’s father who died.
I pray for Patrick and Joanna.
I pray for Mark and Catherine and Lucy.
I pray for peace and happiness in the world…”
Hearing Sarah say these words was something quite moving. Most of the names she mentioned meant nothing to us, but they meant something to her.
These were people who she loved, and they loved her, whoever and wherever they were.
One day, Sarah had a stroke which paralysed most of her body. She was rushed to hospital.
I was abroad at the time. My brother went to the hospital to see her, as did many others from our community.
She was lying there in pain and discomfort, unable to move or speak a sound. My brother asked her if she wanted him to recite some of the Quran. She smiled.
My brother began to recite some Quran. She continued smiling, as if she was enjoying it and it was soothing her pain .
Sarah did not understand a word of what my brother was reading. All she knew was that it was God’s words and she smiled to express her happiness at hearing them.
Early one morning, after several weeks in hospital, Sarah died.
It was a Friday. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that any Muslim who dies on a Friday is protected from the punishment of the grave.
Due to some miraculous reason, Sarah’s death certificate was issued instantly and her body was released for immediate burial. The women of the community bathed her in the morning.
Thousands of people attended her janazah funeral prayer, which took place immediately after Friday prayers. Most of these people did not know Sarah.
The Prophet (pbuh) said that if 100 Muslims pray the funeral prayer for a dead Muslim, then Allah will forgive that dead Muslim on account of that.
Many more went to bury her, as a Muslim, in a Muslim burial ground.
After Sarah died, Aunty, my Quran teacher, revealed a secret. Whenever Sarah would earn any money from anywhere, she would give it to Aunty for safekeeping.
Over the years, Aunty built up a small chest of Sarah’s savings.
Whenever Sarah would give Aunty the money she would say, “After I die, please give all this money away in charity.”
And that is exactly what Aunty did.
The late Princess Diana once said, “I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved.”
To this day, no-one knows who exactly Sarah was, where she came from, or who her family was. No-one knew her background or origins.
All they knew was that this was someone who had been afflicted with the disease of feeling unloved. So they gave her love, lots of it.
Sometimes the only thing a person needs, and the only thing you can give a person, is love. They don’t need anything else.
We should never look down on anyone, except to give them a hand back up. Because though they may be nothing in our eyes, they may be great in the Sight of Allah.
May Allah have mercy on Sarah. And may He also give comfort and relief to Aunty, who is at present suffering from cancer.
My story and why I blog can be read here.
Enter your email address in the mailing list form below so that you do not miss any of my blog posts.