I’m just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. I’m a second-year college student studying psychology and a part-time teacher who volunteers with a nonprofit organization and dabbles in art, blogging and photography. Last week however, I got the biggest wake-up call I could have ever received.
Let me begin with last Tuesday evening. I was catching up with my dad because I hadn’t seen him in a while, because of school, work and life. It was during our conversation that he received a phone call informing him that three United Muslim Relief volunteers had been killed. At first, I didn’t understand. My mind was racing with thoughts, I was a UMR volunteer myself. We live in America, I thought, not a war-torn country. These kinds of things didn’t happen here, supposedly. I tried to get more answers out of him, but there were no answers to give at that point.
The next morning, I woke up to pray fajr not knowing how I’d fallen asleep. It was then that I checked my phone and saw the pictures. The pictures of three glowing, cheerful faces: Deah Barakat, Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha, cruelly executed in their own home. I went on to get ready for my morning class, feeling numb and going through motions out of habit, rather than awareness. As I stepped onto campus, the fear settled in. I couldn’t breathe or move and the early signs of a panic attack were beginning. I couldn’t stay on campus surrounded by so many people. All I could think about was leaving.
Next thing I knew, I found myself at the UMR office sobbing in the arms of my best friend. That was when the pain settled in, the pain of losing two newlyweds and a sister. Did I know Deah, Yusor and Razan? No, I did not. I never had the privilege of meeting them. But it felt as if I had known them. They looked so familiar to me, but I just couldn’t figure out why. And then I did. The reason they looked so familiar to me was because they were me. They were my friends. They were just like all the people I knew. Three aspiring students with goals and dreams of making the world a better place by dedicating their lives to helping others.
When the opportunity to attend the funeral of Deah, Yusor and Razan arose, I knew it was something I had to do. It became a moment of clarity within the cloud of chaos surrounding me. It was my duty to pray for the souls of Deah, Yusor and Razan. And so, on Thursday morning at 5 am, two of my friends and I made the four-hour drive to Raleigh, N.C. I had never been to North Carolina, but here I was in a quiet, wooded area at the Islamic Association of Raleigh Mosque. The sun was shining through the clouds as a light crisp breeze fluttered through. There was a stillness to the area, heavy with the silence of loss. We made our way to the soccer field across the street. The masjid was too small to accommodate the number of people who were on their way to the funeral. Blue tarps marked with duct tape lines for us to stand on covered the field, a small stage stood at the front. When I sat down on that crinkly blue tarp I was one of the very first people there. But as the minutes ticked by, throngs of people began to arrive. Quietly walking through the iron gates of the field, and finding their place on the blue tarp. Then it was time. Time for the funeral prayer to begin. Three coffins were brought to the field. One grey, one silver, one white. Deah, Yusor, Razan. The rising sound of “La illaha illa Allah” (there is no God but Allah) echoed across the field. It was at that very moment my vision blurred from the tears that were streaming down my face. This was it. This was the order of life. We are born, we live, and we die. Deah, Yusor, and Razan had lived, painfully short, but fulfilling lives, and now they were gone. And there we were, praying for them as they returned to their Creator.
I looked around me after the funeral and what I saw hit me so hard it brought me to tears. There were thousands among thousands of people on the soccer field. Nearly 6,000 people from all over the country made their way to North Carolina — whether by car or plane — to pray for Deah, Yusor and Razan. I had never seen so many people before in my entire life. And I thought to myself how incredible it was that three lives could affect the lives of so many people, people they didn’t even know.
Deah, Yusor and Razan are the faces of Islam. They embody what it means to be a true Muslim in America. They lived their lives for the sake of Allah and spent their time making a difference in the world by helping others. The responsibility now rests upon us to continue the dreams of these beautiful souls. Deah, Yusor and Razan set out to make the world a better place. And although they are no longer with us and in a much better place now, we can carry on their legacy by spreading love, eradicating hate and dedicating our lives to the service of humanity.
I pray to God to grant the families of Deah, Yusor and Razan the patience and strength they need to get through this difficult time. I pray for all Muslims everywhere who have ever faced the cruel grasp of hatred. And I pray for the human race.
With love and peace,
Your friendly American Muslim neighbor, Doaa Falah.