A letter to a Turkish lady in Chicago

To the Turkish lady, mother and wonderful host, Zehra Atcil,

Assalam alikom dear Zehra. It’s been almost a year since we met, and less than a year since we communicated.

This might seem awkward to you, me writing a letter to you on my blog where anyone can read it. I can explain this in brief. The idea of this blog is to write letters, because letters had an impact on my life, I thought that I should start writing letters to myself, family,friends, people I met (even if I don’t know them and they don’t know me), basically to anyone as needed.

It was towards the last week of my two months stay in Chicago as an intern to write my dissertation. I was staying at your apartment while you and your husband and two sons were visiting Turkey.

I was enjoying the company of a small cute black mouse that appeared from nowhere during my first week there, it used to entertain me through its night trips in the hall while making its routine rotations behind the chairs and underneath the folded carpet.

For unknown reason, I wasn’t afraid at all! It went well AlhamduleAllah.

To be honest, I had apprehension of how my last week would be while sharing the apartment with you. That was my first time in life to share a place with a family, I shared it with your relative Asma for 2 weeks, but with a family that would be a whole different experience.

I was worried because I had enough things to worry about at that time; my supervisors,     the dissertation , my flight back to the UK, finding an accommodation again in Oxford, my stressed self, enjoying Ramadan, etc., and there wasn’t any energy left for any unexpected complex human interactions.

With all the apprehension I had, the first few hours when you came back from Turkey were confirming my doubts. That was because you looked really upset and I didn’t know why, then we had a quick conversation that explained the reason behind looking upset. The next few hours were very heavy on my heart, till you talked to me again after checking with your husband and he told you that I wasn’t hiding the mouse-issue from your family, but it was him who didn’t mention it to you to avoid making you panic.

Since that moment, you proved in every way how kindhearted you are, with heart made of gold, and motherhood that floods to even a passer by/stranger like myself!

I remember how you used to check for about 3 or 4 days if I had breakfast before going to the library, and when I come back asking if I had lunch or not.

Then it was Ramadan. You and your husband started fasting according to the astronomical calculations and I chose to start according to the sighting of the moon, which made me start a day later than you. Yet, next day you insisted that I should have breakfast before leaving to the library!

It moved my heart how you were very keen to ensure waking me up to have suhoor every night. We had iftar only 2 days together.

You made me feel at home.

You made me feel that someone is taking care of me, among all the mess I was inside

You made me feel how the ties of Muslims are very strong even if they aren’t related by blood. I’ve also met people who were tied to me only through humanity and were kind and generous, yet the ties of Islam seemed to be deeper.

Last year taught me that you can know the inner core of someone by observing how he treats a passerby whom he’s not expecting to meet again.

May Allah reward you with good in this life and the hereafter, and protect you and your family. Amen.

Please, deliver my thanks and salam to your husband. He was as generous as you.

And please say salam to Aysha , I wished we had a better chance to know each other, and  to Asma, she was a good flat-mate.

I pray to meet you again inshaAllah 🙂

Ramadan Mubarak. (it’s going to be after tomorrow inshaAllah)

With love,

Raghda Rashad Basyouny

The student from Egypt

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