by Habeeba Husain
Our hearts are heavy in these last days of Ramadan. The Muslim community lost a young, beautiful soul, 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen from Virginia some days ago. After completing the pre-dawn meal with her friends, she was on her way back to the mosque when a man took it upon himself to abduct her, assault her—twice—killing her brutally with a baseball bat, and finally throwing her body into a pond.
This horrifying event gets more horrifying every time you search for an update on the story. A missing girl turned slain victim, the oldest of four daughters who leaves behind a mourning family, community, and Muslim world. Then there were the reports that police are investigating a possible sexual assault, her memorial was set on fire, but no, how could this be a hate crime? It was all an unfortunate incident of road rage—that little outburst of frustration we blame for honking the horn out of place when the car in front of us cuts us off or does not accelerate quickly enough after the traffic signal turns green. That is all it was, some extreme “road rage.” I cannot get into the ridiculousness of merely labeling this incident as such. That is not what I am here to write.
In addition to the pain of losing a precious soul, Muslims everywhere are thinking, “This could have been me.” It brings not only a paralyzing sadness, but also a terrible fear. She did nothing to deserve this. Some articles state she tripped on her outer Islamic garment that caused her to separate from the rest of the group and become the perpetrator’s target. I trip over my Islamic garments all the time, as they are long and loose. To think such a normal occurrence following an innocent late-night outing ended in a teenaged girl’s abduction, beating, and death is both scary and shocking. A girl and her family’s worst nightmare came true—what if we are next?
How can Muslims cope with something as difficult as this. how can the friends and family of Nabra come to terms with what Allah has willed? In these kinds of situations (which are becoming frighteningly more common), I think back to the words Dr. Shadee Elmasry shared at a vigil in 2015 following the murders of Deah, Yusor, and Razan, Our Three Winners, who were shot in their home by a neighbor “because he was upset over a parking dispute.” (Again, I cannot get into the pathetic excuse authorities cited for such a horrendous attack against visibly Muslim youth, but please, notice the trend.)
Dr. Shadee’s outlook on the event brought so much comfort to the hearts of those of us at the vigil, and his message stuck for years. He said when speaking of Deah, Yusor, and Razan, “They were chosen. These people were chosen. They’re victims in this world, but they were chosen for millions of people to be sending du’a (supplications) for them.”
As we mourn the loss of Nabra, and fight the fear we feel, we remember the same message. In this world, yes, Nabra was a victim at the hands of her heartless perpetrator during the final moments of her life. But she was also chosen. Allah, her Lord and ours, chose Nabra to be that person everyone is praying for in these most blessed days of Ramadan. Before the breaking of fast, after every prayer, upon finishing the recitation of the Quran, and during the last part of the night in these final days of the most blessed month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims everywhere are praying for this girl and her family, for their ranks to be raised infinitely, for Allah to reward them immensely, and grant them the highest of the heavens with no account.
We find some comfort in knowing so many are praying for Nabra and that she passed during an odd night in the last ten days of Ramadan. This holds a special significance, as it could have been Laylatul Qadr (The Night of Power), which occurs on either the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, or 29th night of Ramadan. The Quran states, “The Night of Power is better than a thousand months” (Q. 97:3). Muslims are encouraged to seek it out by engaging in worship the whole night—which is what we understand Nabra to have been doing at the mosque prior to ending her night with the predawn meal before beginning a day of fasting. For her to have passed on such a night, and for so many people now to be praying for her—we take those as good signs that she holds a high rank in the sight of Allah.
May Allah grant Nabra Hassanen and her family the highest of heavens, may He bring peace, ease, and comfort to her family and community at this difficult time, may He accept the supplications of the millions around the world making du’a for her during these most blessed days of Ramadan, and may He keep Muslims and everyone everywhere safe.