A Lady Stronger than Steel
A Lady Stronger than Steel
By Dr. Abdul Hameed As-Suhebani
The battle began with a number of thugs attacking the village, burning every living thing including the land. Thousands of rockets and bombs were launched at the village where there was a car repair workshop; the dead bodies were mingled with destroyed vehicles. The raids in the north of the village were merciless as well, sparing no one’s life. Some dead bodies were hung on the bridges, and a headless man was lying in the street. The scenery was even more hideous where a little girl, 3 or 4 years old, was lying on her back legless and lifeless.
However, dear son, and despite the destruction, the people of the village were not afraid. When one of them was severely injured, he would bravely get up and continue fighting; he would also take down whatever plane that came to rescue the injured. The invaders admitted the people’s bravery that one of them said, “Those people are not afraid. It is exquisitely interesting to see how everyone wants to take part in the fight to save their country. This is a disaster for us, however. If we lose 50 or 60 soldiers a day and thousands of them die defending their country, they will still be the triumphant ones since death to them in this form is an act of martyrdom”.
The big number of dead bodies on the invaders’ side troubled them most. In order to hide such losses, they threw the bodies in the river or the desert where nobody is there to witness their actions.
The snipers on the roofs of the houses horrified the invaders. The first would point their rifles at the latter killing huge numbers of their groups. Son, you should know that men were not fighting alone in the battle; women, too, were as brave as their men. History tells the story of a woman who lived in the area where lots of worshipping homes were. Her story is wondrous and dazzling. Her husband died years before the invasion and she remained, an old lady, with her 3 children whom she had raised in the best way possible. A little time before the invasion, her children asked their mother to move her to somewhere safer, but she refused and said, “I am going to stay here so that I cook for you, and treat as many of those injured, who are defending us, as I can”. She would weep and cry while remembering how her children were once young and school students, and how they grew to become university students. She would not let any of them see her while crying, though. At the dawn of one of the scariest days and after the attacks got severer on that side of the village, this woman’s youngest son went to her along with his friends, who have been defending the village together, to ensure her about his safety and said, “Mother, could you please make us food sufficient for 14 of our men?” The mother was so thrilled to hear such request and said, “I will make you whatever you wish, son”. Although her house was shaking due to explosions, she remained calm, standing still. Prayers never escaped her moth; she spent most of her time praying God to keep the invaders away from them. Furthermore, she continuously recited Quran and fasted. She never missed Duha prayer (an extra prayer whose time begins 20 minutes after sunrise and until the time of Dhuhr prayer) despite the terrifying and continuous raids and bombs.
On that day’s afternoon, her middle son went to see his mother and asked her if any of her brothers was home, and that it was urgent they speak to him immediately. In a worrisome voice the mother replied, “What is the matter, son?” Her son responded softly, “Do not worry, mother. It is not a big deal”.
That day, the woman made 200 loafs of bread until she was very exhausted. Her 3 sons joined her for one whole hour during which she hugged, kissed and smelled all of them. Deep down she felt she might never see them again. She said, “I would never forget those kisses so long as I live”. The three sons said their farewell to their mother and returned to defending their village. The strikes got louder, and the bombs fiercer. Days passed and the woman had no information about her 3 children. She went to the streets in search for them, and sat for hours waiting for any news. She would ask the passersby about them, their answer would either be, “Sorry, we do not know them”, or “Yes, we know them, but do not know anything about their whereabouts”. Some others would tell her that they have seen them and that they were fine.
Allah bestowed mercy upon her soul, gave her strength and filled her heart with faith. Although she did not know anything about her children, she was patient and faithful. She continued making food for the fighters and distributing water to them. She would use whatever available clothing, such as curtains and pillows, to treat the injured soldiers. She helped treat 20 injured soldiers who went back again to the battlefield.
One can never find the words to describe the bravery and greatness of that woman. Without having the proof of her true existence back then, such story would have been categorized as ‘fairy’ since no such person exists in real life.
The village was heavily bombarded in order to force it to surrender. How could such place surrender when its people were true believers? How could it surrender when it had a woman like that living there? The mother heard the groans and moans of the injured soldiers near her house. She ran towards them so fast and pulled them to her house, one after the other. She helped the injured and buried the dead in her garden. Surprisingly to her, one of the bodies was her son’s. At first, she was not so sure; she thought to herself, “This body looks familiar”. The night had fallen upon the village and made it hard for people to see their own hands. The young man’s shirt was torn from the back, but the smell felt familiar to her. She ran back to the house to get a lantern, and directed its light towards the body. It was him, her middle son. She could not speak; she froze. “O my son! Why, why did you and your brothers leave me? We belong to Allah and to Him shall we return. Allah suffices me, for He is the best disposer of affairs”. She held his head to her chest and cried. She spoke to him for half an hour as if he were still alive. She went over their memories together since he was an infant. She moved her fingers through his hair and wept, “My son, I, your mother, my son, sleep. Rest, the apple of my eye; rest my son, for you have escaped the Fitna and appetencies of life”. She stood up and buried him under the Olive tree, where he used to study as a young boy. She dug his grave so deep because she wanted it to remain there even after the battle was over.
The next morning, she passed by some soldiers near her house and asked them about her other sons. They stuttered and hardly managed to reply, “O, our dear aunt! Pray Allah to keep you patient, for verily Allah will not suffer the reward of the righteous to perish”, they then recited to her, “But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, Who say, when afflicted with calamity: “To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return” [Al Baqarah: 155-156]. The mother prayed Allah that moment and asked for patience and reward; the deeply rooted faith in her heart made her certain that whatever Allah brought to her was better than life and its pleasures. She knew that the reward for dying in the name of Allah was the greatest of all. The battle was one again so fierce and hard; the mother went back to treating the injured, and burying the martyrs in her garden. She described those times saying, “I slept for four nights on sand smelling my son’s scent. I slept near him like a mother does with her living child. I kept doing that until we were forced to move to nearby camps. I was later on told that all graves were moved to the public cemetery”.
Her journey of patience and steadfastness reminds me of the story of another woman who was as patient and as strong. If this woman’s story had not been cited, it would have been considered a product of imagination. The following story should be the beam of hope for the desperate who fail the test of patience before it begins. This lady had a heart of steel; despair could not find a way through. A reader cannot but shed tears while reading about what happened to her. When the enemy attacked her village, the villagers left their homes to defend their families; one of those villagers was a son of hers. A bullet got through his head, from one side to another. Her son had to be treated or he would die. The villagers sent him for treatment in the city where he was operated on and got better. Her son, then, decided to return home and join the fighters in defending the village. All the doctors advised him not to go back since the road was very long and hard, and that he could bleed on the way. Salem, the woman’s son, insisted. On the way, he felt so much pain, fainted a couple of times, and bled. The doctor accompanying him demanded that he return immediately. However, it was Allah’s will that Salem died. He bled to death. Salem bled to death. When Salem’s body reached the village, the people carried him on their shoulders; his mother then saw him, their faces met and she collapsed in shock. She would remain in one of the rooms for long hours crying over the death of her child. Despite the grief that ate her from inside, she stayed strong and patient. Later, she received the devastating news of the death of her other son, Khalid. A little boy ran towards Om Salem’s house screaming, “They killed Khalid”. Another son was killed. The woman’s other son was killed, too. She froze, incapable of saying anything. She stared at a girl sitting in that sad house, her daughter. She was staring at her daughter. Few minutes after the people left Khalid’s body, she stooped to him and hugged him one last time. She said while crying, “Go, my dear son. I shall never forget you. You will always be mentioned in my prayers. Peace be upon your soul. I am alright with whatever Allah has written for me. Alhamdulilah, all praise to Allah, alhamdulilah”. She repeated the last phrase 3 times so to teach the whole world that women’s power of patience is the most powerful of all. After the killing of Salem and Khalid, Om Salem went to one of her neighbor’s houses for an urgent matter. She was expecting the death of her third son, Jaber, at any time. She did not, however, want him to die without having got married first. Jaber was betrothed to a fine and kind young lady; soon after, he got a beautiful baby girl ‘Aisha’. Such beautiful name is that of the Mother of the Believers, Aisha bint Abi Bakr As-Sadiq, the wife of the Prophet Peace Be Upon her.
The thieves continued searching for Jaber everywhere, killing whoever stood in their way. Om Salem was a brilliant woman; she covered a hideout in one of the rooms making it look like a wall. Jaber and Saleh, his younger brother, hid in that place. Everyone left the house, and the mother was on the roof to keep an eye on things. Out of a sudden, she saw a big number of thieves coming towards the house. She remained calm and went to the barn from where she released a cow and started milking it so to keep her feelings of fear away from the enemy. They got inside the house and started looking for him. They got to the room where he was hiding with his brother. One of the men started knocking on the wall because he suspected that something was behind that door. He took out two booby-traps and was about to plant them when the mother ran in quickly in terror; she was about to lose two of her sons.
She jumped at the thief and started hitting and punching him. Then she lifted him up, like a bag or so, and threw him on the ground until he fainted. Two of the thieves were watching the fight in surprise. They could not imagine how a woman was capable of doing so much to a man. She tried to fight the other two; however, the one guarding the door shot her in the hand. Her two sons, who were hiding, realized how serious the situation was. They got out from the hideout and were joined by their third brother, Fawwaz. A fierce battle took place during which the three brothers showed matchless bravery and strength. They taught the thuds a lesson. Because the latter felt defeated, they used dynamites to bring the house down, and so they did. The three sons died. Two bodies were found near a big berry tree. Their faces beamed like a source of light; and the third body was found in the river, smiling. Such story can never be forgotten. A woman; so brave, so patient, so strong; lost five of her children. She must be remembered; she must be honored. Her story has to live on – and it will.