My Father: The Strongest Man in My Life

I say this all the time, but never enough times: I love my parents. They are my number one supporters and will always be my role models and friends.

I talk about my mom a lot. All my friends know my mother and have expressed to me how much they love her. Growing up, my mother was never just a parental figure. She was and still is my best friend. Of course, there was a fine line between the two. I have always turned to her first with my challenges and asked for her advice. I also didn’t have the relationship that was distant or strictly just respect and fear of my mother. I have always been able to turn to her with literally everything. If you know me, you know my mother and what kind of relationship we have. AlhamduliAllah, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

As much as I speak of my mom and how blessed and proud I am for being her daughter and inspired I am by her struggles and success of being a mother, friend, educator and follower of her goals and aspirations to soon hold a doctorate in education, she is responsible for only half of who I am today.

I don’t speak of my father often. My father is, and will forever be, the greatest man in my life.

If my mother is the glue that holds my family together, my father is the rope that keeps all of us comfortably and lovingly bound together. Without the glue, we would not be the unified entity my family is now. Without the rope, the glue would slowly begin to loosen, leaving us lost.

You know how when you’re young, you see your parents as your superheroes. Their flaws are hidden and when you begin to see the cracks on the surface, a little hope is lost? Nearing twenty-six years of age, with three younger siblings, I honestly believe I will never lose faith or hope in the unit I call my parents. I understand that perfection does not exist. I stand by these words, with one exception. My parents together, as one unit, are perfection. Through all the ups and downs in any of my siblings’ lives, and theirs, they have continued to stand together in a way that I can only describe as a beautiful blessing from Allah swt. My parents are not only husband and wife, mother and father, but also best friends and their greatest support system and forces of encouragement to each other.

I’ve been trying to find the words to write about my father, and I realized I can only do it through remembering situations in which he has displayed all the strengths that I see in him and pray that I will one day learn to carry.

Patiāla My father…  

Is a loving and supportive husband.

I don’t believe I have ever gone a day without watching my dad show his affection to my mom, whether it’s verbally or through small acts. I wish I could count all the times my dad has spoken of his admiration for my mom to others and my siblings and I whenever she was not in the room. I can only pray to one day be with someone who shows his love to me even when I’m nowhere near him.

Recently, my mother received the California Language Teacher’s Association (CLTA) 2014 Outstanding Teacher Award, and at the end of her thank you speech, she ended by expressing to the packed room of educations, “I want to share a proverb from the Arab culture that says, ‘Behind every great man, is a great woman who supports him to achieve success.’ Today, I am saying that behind every great woman, there is a great man who supports her to achieve success. Without my husband’s love and support and belief in me that I can do anything, I would not be standing here today.” This is the perfect example of my parents’ relationship.

Treats his daughters like both princesses and warriors.

Growing up, I never wanted to be a princess, and no one certainly saw me as a princess. I wanted to be a warrior. My dad sees all three of his daughters as warrior princesses. It’s more than just being spoiled. My dad regularly compliments his daughters, not just in beauty, but for our brains and strengths. When my mother praises me or tells me I’m beautiful, I glow with happiness. But when my father tells me I look beautiful and praises me for being independent and fierce, I soar.

Earlier this week, I came home late from a long day of applying to jobs and working on my writing. I was exhausted and stressed out. I was about to go off about the struggles of finding a stable job when my dad randomly smiled at me and said, “MashaAllah! You look so beautiful!” He made a small dua’ for me and gave me a kiss on the cheek, coming in for a warm hug. It stopped me in my tracks. I looked down to see what I was wearing. It wasn’t anything particularity fancy, but there was my dad telling me how lovely I looked despite the frown on my face. I couldn’t help but smile, “Shoukran, baba!” And then of course returned to my venting.

A few weeks ago, my sister was discussing make-up foundation with my mom. Personally, I have never worn make-up and aside from eyeliner I couldn’t name anything sitting on a make-up counter to literally save my life. Both my dad and I were in the living room, but not actually in the conversation. My dad suddenly looked at my sister and said, “You know, if you didn’t stress so much, you wouldn’t think you needed this stuff.” My sister, already stressed, huffed that my dad didn’t understand. My dad shook his head and turned to me to explain, “I meant, she doesn’t need makeup. She’s beautiful. All my daughters are beautiful.” He stated it as a clear fact, unable to understand how we couldn’t see our own beauty.

Makes sure his children understand the blessings of being strong, fierce, and independent.

Growing up, my dad constantly referred to his children as stubborn and determined. It was a compliment. Being independent and driven to accomplish whatever we set our minds on, was something to be proud of, whether it was for my sisters and I or my brother. Whenever my dad mentioned any strong quality in my siblings and I, he would try to deliver it in a serious tone, but I always saw that smile of his on the ends of his mouth, threatening to turn into a grin. A fierce woman is not to be feared, but to be celebrated. Islam (not to be confused with culture) gave women all their rights, long before the United States or any democratic country. The strongest women in history can be read about in the stories of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from Khadija to Aisha, may Allah be pleased with them. My dad makes sure that both his daughters and son understand the importance of women having rights in Islam.

Believes in the importance of education, especially for women.

If there is anything that my dad has instilled in all his children, especially for his daughters, is that we must go as far as we can in our education, no matter what field we choose.

Without my father’s encouragement and motivation, I knew that my mom was hesitant to go back to school with four children. My dad pushed her to return to her passion of learning. After her M.A., my father insisted that she go after her Doctorate of Education. He knew that my mom has always dreamed of it. During that first stressful semester, my mother decided she was going to quit. At the end of her first course, my dad walked in with a gift for her. He had made a special order for a beautiful hand carved wooden name plate that had her name followed by Ed.D carved into the wood. My mom argued that she may not make it to the end and my dad, with complete confidence, told her there was no doubt about her receiving her doctorate. We would all definitely see her walk across that stage. Sure enough, my mom is currently finishing up her dissertation.

While attending UCSD for my undergraduate degree, I lived away from home. I called each of my parents separately every single day. My mom would ask the basics: have I eaten? Slept? Attended class? My father was quite the opposite. I always called him later in the day because our conversations were always longer. He always remembered the exact exams I was taking and when, despite how many times I wished he would forget so I wouldn’t be asked, “How was the exam? Did you do well? AlhamduliAllah, thank God, is not an answer. Thank God you did well or thank God you did horribly?” I secretly worried when he would pick me up to go home for the weekend only because he found it necessary to turn the entire conversation onto me. I was always the main focus and my education and future was always the topic. Numerous times, he would explain to me that no matter what I chose to do, I had to continue my education and find a stable job that I was happy in to support myself. He explained that when I get married, my husband and I would be a unified team. We must support each other and care for each other as one, even if that meant to financially support each other. It has always been important to stand strong and independent. My education was always so important that he didn’t want me working if it took away from school. School always came first.

Is an open-minded father who encourages and welcomes discussions.

My dad and I don’t agree all the time. With our disagreements come long discussions. He always welcomes a healthy discussion. If one of my siblings or I come in full force with an argument, he listens to our entire side first before deciding on his response. He insists we sit down and hash it out. His reasoning and calculative way of responding to situations is why I always told my dad first when I made large decisions.

When I took on a photography minor, I called my dad. He didn’t understand why I would want to spend time on something that wouldn’t benefit my future. I explained to him I was passionate about photography and wanted to expand on my skills. Despite telling him it would be costly, he said if it would make me happy and I could use it in the future, to go for it. I asked him to not tell my mom so that I could tell her. The instant I hung up with him, I knew he would tell my mom right away. They were a team. I called my mom and sure enough she wasn’t happy I told my dad not to tell her and couldn’t see the reasoning in doing a photography minor. Reminding them both I was still on track to go to law school, they supported me.

When I wanted to switch my major to Literature/Writing at the beginning of my Junior year of UCSD, I told my dad first. He recalled back to when I was a child and showed him the first picture book I had written and illustrated, and reminded me of every school projected that I turned into an illustrated book. He would support me on one condition, that I would sit down and understand that I was taking a very risky step that needed a concrete plan if I still wanted to go to law school. My mom wasn’t happy about it. My last year of UCSD, while my mom was at Hajj, pilgrimage, I called my dad and to inform him I pushed my Literature/Writing to my minor and went back to Political Science – International relations as a major in preparation for law school applications. Again, he supported me but asked for a plan for my future.

The biggest step I took in my life, aside from streaking my hair royal blue in college (yea, that happened), was informing both my parents together that I was applying to MFA programs and not law school. My dad was the first one to support me. I know for a fact, it took some time for my mom to understand my decision and finally get on board. It still makes my heart soar when I hear someone ask my parents what I do and they excitedly explain I hold an MFA in Creative Writing and I’m a writer. My dad was there from step one, even back before I could admit to myself that I would indeed become a writer.

Is the perfect example for his son of what a strong man needs to be.

My brother is very close to my dad, and not just because he is the only son. With four strong women in the house, I know it gets very crazy to handle for my dad and my brother. Growing up, my father has shown my brother through actions the importance of respecting not just his mother and sisters but also every single woman. This has made my brother a close friend for my sisters and I. I see qualities I admire in my dad that are mirrored in my brother. Just like my dad, my brother regularly compliments my mom, my sisters, and I. He doesn’t hold back from genuinely telling us we look good or if not, then he says we look “comfortable”. He constantly compliments our strengths and tells us how much he believes in us and our dreams.

Is the example of a hard working man.

Although I was born in the United States, both my parents didn’t gain citizenship until a few years after arriving in the United States due to the Gulf War. My dad came to the United States as a respectable civil engineer. However, to work as an engineer here, it would take years of learning about the system in the U.S.A. and a large amount of job applications. While trying to find work in his field, to support my mother and I, he started as a carpet cleaner. He then went on to work at a gas station and became manager. During his time working at the gas station, he also worked as volunteer at an engineering company. All the while, he continued to apply to engineering positions. After five years at the gas station, when he couldn’t find work in the states, he tried moving back to the Middle East to find work and bring us there. My mother, siblings, and I had to endure six months without him. Knowing it would be difficult for us to move back oversees after living in the United States, he came back, studied on his own, self-taught himself the programs being used here, took the exams necessary, and finally secured a position with the city of San Diego, where he is now a Project Manager. My dad has taught my siblings about what it takes to work hard and succeed, rising from the bottom to the top.

Is a man of deen, faith.

My dad has raised his children within Islamic principles and morals. After praying Fajr, the prayer before sunrise, I sometimes go downstairs to get a cup of water before getting a bit more sleep. What I have never told anyone, is that I’m not actually thirsty in the morning. I only go downstairs if I hear movement because I know that after Fajr, my dad likes to sit on the couch and read Quran. My mom always tells us how jealous she is of the amount of times my dad finishes recitation of the Quran during the year. If there is anything I want to be jealous of when it comes to anyone, it’s their deen. I don’t mean jealousy in the vicious form, but jealousy in striving to make myself better to reach the status of deen in the people I love and admire for the sake of Allah swt.

My dad constantly reminds his children to put their tawakul, trust, in Allah swt and work for His sake. At UCSD, the Muslim Student Association holds a Grad Banquet for the graduates at the end of the year. A person is secretly chosen for each graduate to speak about him/her. For me, the Grad Banquet committee chose a friend who lived with me for only the last year at UCSD, and we weren’t even roommates. I was surprised at how close we had become. Her entire speech about me revolved around what she referred to as “Haneen’s motto in life”. I was unaware that everyone was aware of my heavy use of the words “InshaAllah Kheir”, or God-willing good, in every situation. It was how I viewed each situation, with positivity and placing my tawakul in Allah swt. This is still the way I am seen now. This was something ingrained in me by my parents, but more so something constantly verbalized by my father.

Deen, and pure intentions in doing everything for the sake of Allah swt, is the first trait I look for in a man. The way that someone holds their deen tells me everything about a person, from the way he holds himself to the way he treats others.

Is quite possibly the most sarcastic and emotionally filled man I know.

If you know me, you know how sarcastic I am, with limits, of course. My father loves to have fun. If he’s not reciting Quran out loud just because he feels like it, you can occasionally find him singing or dancing around with my little sister. Laughter is a constant sound in my house. Growing up, and even until now, when my siblings and I are in trouble, it takes us a few minutes to figure out if my dad is being serious or if he’s joking around with us. I can’t live without laughter and a sense of humor in my life. As Mahmoud Darwish the illustrious Palestinian poet, said, “Sarcasm helps me overcome the harshness of the reality we live, eases the pain of scars and makes people smile.”

My dad is never afraid to show emotion, from shedding tears when my mom receives awards to expressing to my brother how much he loves him when my grandfather, God bless his soul, passed away. I’m a very private person and don’t show much emotion, other than sarcasm. My dad always has a smile on his face, even when going through something tough. He tries to keep any of his worries away from us, so that we never have to worry.

When it comes to affection, my dad is a big hugger! When arguments have gotten heated between he and anyone in the house, I’ve seen him defuse the tension by just giving the person a huge hug. It’s funny watching one of my siblings try to outrun my dad’s hug and big smile when they’re frowning.

Respected for his love and generosity more then anyone else I know.

When I visited Palestine in fall of 2012, I was treated like a queen. This was not because anyone knew me. Sure, everyone knew my incredible parents. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I knew for a fact – whether understanding on my own or being told by someone – that the royal treatment I experienced – not just by my dad’s brothers and family, but by every single person who knew my dad or even heard of him – was because of the love and respect everyone has for my dad, simply because of his generous heart and contagious smile.

Taught his children the proper way to treat our parents and siblings.

My dad left his parents’ house for college, when he chose to attend university in Egypt. He has been the only one to move to the United States and be so far away. Despite this, from weekly phone calls to actions, his love for his family is absolutely indescribable. When I visited Palestine at 12 years old, I still remember my paternal grandfather, God bless his soul, and his admiration and words of love for my dad. My paternal grandmother, God bless her soul, and her love for my father was so strong that I could feel it enveloping all his children. I will never forget that ever since I was a child, my dad’s calls to my grandmother would ALWAYS begin with, “Asalaamu Alaikum, sitt el habayib”, meaning the mother of all the love.

Years after my paternal grandparents passed away, God bless both their souls, my father still makes it a priority to call my uncles and aunts to check on them and their families. He also insists that my siblings and I keep connections with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of the family. My dad is not the oldest in his family. He is the second youngest of nine children.

I didn’t know my father’s parents well, and truth be told, aside from pictures of when I was a baby living overseas, I only remember meeting them twice – when I was eight and then again when I was twelve, each for about two months. Despite this fact, being raised by my dad, I know that my paternal grandparents were absolutely incredible people for raising the man I call my father.

He is my dad, father, friend, one of the greatest role models, and strongest man in my life.

I have been told that what I want in my ideal husband and the man I want to spend the rest of my life and Jannah, heaven, is too high, even unreachable. Can you blame me?

I asked each of my siblings, “In one sentence or brief statement, how would you describe baba to a stranger or how would you describe your relationship with him?”

Bilal (brother, 22 years old): “My father is so loved by people that meet him that even my friends who have only met him once or twice ask me how he’s doing whenever he’s brought up. He has the biggest heart imaginable and his warmth encompasses more than just friends and family but everyone he comes in contact with.”

Batoul (sister, 17 years old): “Baba is a comedic character with a young soul and a big heart.”

Bara’ah (sister, 12 years old): “My dad is a hardworking and dedicated to what he does. He is caring, loving, helpful, and always stays positive. I love him with all my heart! We are very close. (:”

[I included their ages to signify the different stages they are in life.]

What I have written about my father will never come close to describing how I see him or who he really is, but I felt the need to at least try.

What I’ve been trying to write all along is, Baba, I love you!  May Allah swt give me the opportunity to make you proud and gain your dua’ and blessings, always.

Quran, Surah Ibrahim, 14:41 رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَيَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَابُ

Rab-ba-nagh-fir lii wa li-waa-li-day-ya walil-Mu’mi-niina Yawma yaquu-mul-Hisaab!

41.Grant Thy forgiveness unto me, and my parents, and all the believers, on the Day on which the (last) reckoning will come to pass!”

Quran, Surah Al-Isra’, 17:24

وَاخْفِضْلَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي


Wakh-fiz la-humaa janaa-haz-zul-li minar-rahmati wa qur-Rab-bir-ham-humaa kamaa rab-ba-yaanii saghiiraa.

24. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion, and say: “O my Lord! have compassion on them, as they brought me up (when I was) a child.”