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ZAKIYYAH: A TRUE STORY
By Tara bint Curtis Gregory (Umm Omar)
November 25, 2005
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Zakiyyah was a Moroccan Muslim woman who lived with me for six months. This letter was written to encourage Muslim women not to delay wearing hijab.
“Maybe you will return to Morocco in a coffin.” Zakiyyah’s mother predicted. But this did not deter Zakiyyah from her strong desire to immigrate to America. Neither did the fact that
her mother was bedridden and dying.
I met Zakiyyah and her family on two separate trips to Morocco. She was the youngest sister of my exhusband’s best friend. When she won the US immigration lottery, her family
asked my exhusband and me to host her in the United States. We promised them that we would look after her.
In Morocco, Zakiyyah always wore a jellabah but not hijab. The day we picked her up at the airport, she was not even wearing a jellabah. Since then I had always attempted to
gently advise her of the obligations to wear hijab and don more modest clothing. She would assure me that she would wear hijab after she got married. Her reason for this delay
was so that a brother could see how she really looked without hijab. I tried to reason with her because this was not a valid excuse but she replied that, “It’s in my heart. I always pray
to Allah to guide me.” I warned her that she could die before she ever got the chance to wear hijab. In the end, I knew it was up to Allah to guide her.
Shortly after Zakiyyah’s arrival to the United States, her mother died. May Allah have mercy on her ameen. Zakiyyah was distraught and I comforted her as best as I could.
One morning Zakiyyah related a dream about her mother. She said that her mother was at the top of some stairs, beckoning for Zakiyyah to come to her. Zakiyyah was crying as
she told me that she had wanted to ascend the stairs and hug her mother but didn’t. She seemed convinced that the dream was an important message and she asked me to
interpret it but I had no explanation for her. However I thought to myself, perhaps it was guilt at having left her mother and not being able to see her before she died. Allah knows
Within the next two months Zakiyyah’s older half sister, Farida, died. May Allah have mercy on her ameen. I was particularly sad at her passing. She was deaf and mute but I had
been able to relate to her because I am hearing impaired. The language barrier was never a problem for the two of us and somehow we understood each other. “Insha’Allah she is
with your mother in Heaven.” I consoled Zakiyyah, patting her back.
Three months later I was the one who needed consoling. I struggled to read the news clipping that my sister had emailed me:
Article 1 of 1
LAW & ORDER
St. Louis PostDispatch (MO)
January 24, 2002
Edition: FIVE STAR LIFT
Word count: 752
ST. LOUIS COUNTY
Woman walking to bus stop is hit, killed crossing Lemay Ferry Road
Zakia Bentahar, 32, of south St. Louis County, was killed Wednesday when she was struck by an SUV while walking across Lemay Ferry Road on her way to work. Police said
Bentahar, of the 4100 block of Tanqueray Court, was walking to a bus stop about 6 a.m. when a fullsized Ford Bronco hit her near Clayridge Drive. Bentahar, an immigrant from
Morocco, was on her way to work at the Clean The Uniform Co.
What the newspaper didn’t relay was the SUV that hit Zakiyyah dragged her down a hill before it came to a complete stop. My exhusband had to identify her body and said he
couldn’t recognize her. For a month her body lay in cold storage at the morgue, waiting for her family to raise enough money to fly it back to Morocco in the coffin which her mother
had eerily predicted she would return in eight months before. May Allah forgive Zakiyyah ameen.
What really hurts is that Zakiyyah died that morning without hijab. If you are a Muslim sister reading this and you don’t wear hijab, please take heed. Zakiyyah thought she would liv
long enough to start wearing hijab after marriage. Will you live long enough after reading this story to wear hijab?
On the authority of Abdullah bin Omar: The son of Omar used to say, “At evening do not expect [to live till] morning, and at morning do not expect [to live till] evening. Take from you
health for your illness and from your life for your death.” Related by Bukhari, Hadith AnNawawi #40