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By Chance or By Choice

I passed my road test last week for my driver’s license. I was relieved, and happy. I had originally gotten my license when I was sixteen, back in Wisconsin. One of the many hats my dad wore was that of driver’s education instructor, and he trained me well. I found that, after ten years of not driving when we lived in Yemen, I still kept my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel and checked my blind spots industriously. I could almost hear him in the car with me. I remembered one time I accidentally ran a stop sign in Eau Claire. Deadpan, my daddy said, “In Gays Mills, we have to stop at those.”

My favorite place to play in Gays Mills. Early influence?

Needless to say, having my license again is a great blessing. We are able to go to be more independent, and not have to bother our family for rides to the grocery store or library. Khalil can expand his job hunt, and if there is an emergency we have the means to get to a doctor or hospital if necessary. We can pick up Ruby, my niece, from school. So many good reasons to have a license, and yet still I feel hesitant and more than a little guilty about it.

Ever since I became an adult and lived on my own with my baby I have tried so hard to live simply and consciously, tread lightly, and be aware and thankful for the blessings that Allaah has given me in this life. As a young single mother I worked at a food cooperative in order to get a discount on the healthy foods sold there. I would ride to work on my beat up old bike with the baby seat on the back. I would literally stock shelves with Mujaahid (at that time, Sheehan) strapped to my back. I made very conscious decisions concerning what we ate, and not just from a health point of view, but from an environmental point of view. I rode or walked everywhere I could and took to heart the reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse ethic. I didn’t “preach” it, but I lived it, quietly and consistently.

When I married, my husband was on the same page as I concerning all of this. There were times we did better than others, but in general we have tried very hard to live in a simple manner, being responsible for our family and the Earth. From the day we first made contact, we dreamed of either homesteading on our own little patch of land here, or living in a Muslim country overseas. We set our sights on Yemen from day one, and knew that the standard of living was very different in that poor country. We felt that all that we did in the present would help prepare us for the future, whatever it brought. Alhamdulillah, when we moved to Yemen it all paid off. Things that were major stumbling blocks for other people were easy for us, due to our conscious decision to live a certain way in a consistent manner. As I once told someone, “We were poor in America, and we are poor here- there’s no difference for us.” But being poor isn’t the reason we live the way we do; rather, living the way we do makes it easier for us to handle being poor.

My little ones were thrilled with these simple homemade gifts.

When I let people know that I had gotten my license, a dear friend reminded me not to drive frequently and to always have more than one person in the car, in order to save gas and cut down on the effects of using a car on the environment. Teasingly, I wrote back, “Don’t worry, I won’t forget my peasant roots- and with all these children I never go anywhere alone!” Later I said half-jokingly to my husband that people don’t realize that we live the way we do by choice, not by chance. After I said it, though, I realized how true this really is, and what a blessing it is in so many ways. I also realized once again how diligent I have to be in this lifestyle. I love how my children are so pleased with whatever they receive, whenever they receive it. I treasure the pleasure we take in the small things in life, and how grateful we are for things that other people take as commonplace, or don’t even notice.

 We have chosen this path, and Allaah has made it easy for us, and every day I am reminded of what a true blessing it really is.

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Dani Greer on March 20, 2012 2:05 am

“By choice” is always so much easier – truth be told, the simple life is so much easier to live. The more we want, have, and do, the more complicated… and for me, unhappy… life gets. It’s an aging thing, I guess.

Khadijah on March 20, 2012 2:11 am

No…I totally agree with you! It made things so much easier when hard times fell on us, as well because we simply weren’t as affected by them. We knew we had made the choice, and Allaah had made it possible for us, and that was, simply, that. So, no, not an aging thing, but a wisdom thing.

Laura/Readerwoman on March 20, 2012 2:29 am

My path has been much the same, although I have had times of stumbling – and my children, both in their 30s, are like Amish children freed from their religion – they don’t practice simple living by choice, or any other way! Ed and I continue to do so though, with 1 car, a tiny house on shared acreage, and the perspective that what we grow or make enriches our life tenfold. Thank you for a beautiful post, which encourages those of us on the same path…

Khadijah on March 20, 2012 10:39 am

What a lovely perspective, and so true. It is good to see the people like you who have done this over a long period of time, and are still doing it, and who understand the value of it in so many ways. Thank you for your comment!

Mai on March 20, 2012 8:58 am

Yes, mashaa’Allah, we live simply by choice. When things are done consciously by choice, they are pleasing in every way and reap rewards as part of worship.

Every time we took another step towards simplicity and earth consciousness, we found that money became less necessary and life was less complicated. We had much more time to focus on beneficial things. We realized that a simple life is key to success – practically, spiritually, physically, and financially.

We are told about the importance of Az-Zuhd, the ascetic life, and the highest level of it being to avoid anything that distracts us from the remembrance of Allah, subhaana wa taala, but it is in taking steps to live it that we see the beauty of it and reap the benefits of it.

Khadijah on March 20, 2012 10:37 am

Alhamdulillah, this was one of the things that drew me to Islaam- the importance it placed on intention and living totally mindfully. Once we started following the path of zuhd, it became easier and easier for us, until now it is hard to imagine any other way, alhamdulillah. You stated this so beautifully, Mai, thank you for such a wonderful reminder and affirmation, my sister.

UmmAbdillaah on March 20, 2012 8:55 pm

Jazaakillaahukhayran for the good reminder, it was very touching for my family and I to read…. May Allaah bless you and your family to meet Him striving on His Path.
Love your sister,
Umm Abdillaah

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Thurayah Stoehr on April 13, 2012 3:11 pm

Dearest Khadijah, It seems that there are only two things that will matter when we leave this earth and that is our relationships and how we lived our life before Allah. Both of these things have everything to do with choices. Yours are … I don’t have words! Nothing is quite powerful enough to describe! I love you! Always, Thurayah

Khadijah on April 14, 2012 1:45 am

I love you too- you always walk in my heart!