A temporary gift by Asmaa Hussein

Book review by Khawlah Najeeb Maan


‘A temporary gift’ is aptly described by its own subtitle: “Reflections on Love, Loss, and Healing.” It is a book that teaches us how to deal with grief and then heal on its inevitable face. It describes the intensely personal journey of the author following the sudden and violent death of her husband that left her a widow and a single mother with formidable anguish. The book is a catalogue of journal entries by Asmaa Hussein in the aftermath of the loss and documents her struggle towards healing. Asmaa uses her faith in Allah SWT to understand and make sense of this loss and its impact on her life. She uses it as a tool to come to terms with it, accept it, and heal from it.

The book begins with a brief introduction of the author, her life, and her husband Amr Kassem. The reader is explained as to why he is a focal point of the book. This sets the pace for what is to follow. The book is divided into seven parts:

1) ?Iddah

This part, written during her mourning period, mostly focuses on her acceptance of the loss and her beginning to feel the solace she finds from her faith. She brings to life verses of the Quran and ah?dith so that her readers truly understand the meaning in ways they could not have imagined before and utilize them in their own life.

2) Love, unravelling

This section mostly encompasses her memories with her husband and the lessons she learnt from him, both during his life and death. Her sharpened realization of the reality of death, the fragility of this life, the inevitability and closeness of the grave dominate her writing.

We ignore the Gift-giver, then when He takes the gift away we become angry and ungrateful as though we were the true owners of that something or that someone. We own nothing. We don’t even own ourselves.”

“Sometimes we need the gifts He gives us and sometimes we need Him to take them away. Perhaps only then will we understand our need and love for the Source of those gifts.”

3) Voices of the oppressed

Hussein speaks out against injustice. Her strong conviction in the terrible end of the oppressors cools the fire burning in her chest. Her prayers and thoughts unite her and every person who has ever been oppressed and give people the courage to step forward against oppression.

4)  Allah’s plans

From the beginning, the reader wonders at the wisdom of Asmaa Hussein and her trust in Allah SWT regarding what has befallen her. However, in this section, she analyzes in detail what has happened to her and discusses the ways in which it has proved beneficial for her. She writes of her unwavering faith in Allah’s plans for the better outcome of what she is undergoing presently as she reflects on the wonderful results of His previous plans.

5) Brevity

The author’s sharpened realization of the nearness of death and the shortness of time every human has guided her reflections in this section.

6) In the shade of faith

Hussein describes how her faith has helped her. She details the things she has found inspiration and solace from such as the stories and personalities described in the Quran. Hussein reflects on the mercy Allah SWT has had on her, being both in times of bliss and sorrow.

The price of paradise is you. You give away everything you have, down to your life, to get in.”

7) Healing

Here she describes how to heal and how she herself is healing. She explains the way emotions such as pain, loneliness, grief, and happiness should be perceived, and Allah’s wisdom behind creating these emotions through her own example.

A general overview:

Asmaa Hussein is a poet. It is her ability to put into words her feelings and thoughts with such sincerity and accuracy that every heart is touched; for navigating the myriad of complexity that is the human brain and picking out the roses while brushing away the weeds of negativity is a conquest. Truly, a conquest. One unique characteristic of the book is the ability to connect with the readers. The reader does not need to have gone through anything like the loss of a loved one but he will still come across words that mirror his own emotions and thoughts he once had. This book is not just to be read by those in mourning, but by anyone and everyone going through any situation. Very few are the books in which readers connect to the author as they do to Asmaa Hussein for she brings out admiration, respect and empathy. Verses of the Quran and ah?dith are used throughout and explained in such a way that the reader truly experiences them. Yet it can be read by a person of any faith and they will end up benefitting them.

The themes of this book might make it sound dark, but it is anything but that. It is the most comforting and hopeful book one could ever read. A blue diamond. A rare and the most advisable read!