Meet Sumayyah and Ismail
It’s just after Fajr. The night is silent; the perfect opportunity to read Quran and draw closer to Allah. Then your front door smashes open and the police are suddenly in your home, snatching your laptop, mobile phones, books, even your Quran CDs. This is the first raid. The second time around you’re uncovered lying in your bed but, of course, that makes no difference. They leave with more private possessions and worst of all, your husband. Your front door is left broken, leaving you and your baby unsafe and vulnerable. Overnight your husband’s name becomes plastered across the news and internet. This is what happened to Sumayyah, when Ismail was arrested.
Sumayyah felt broken, she didn’t know where her husband was and sat awaiting his return. Days later, when she was finally informed, Sumayyah’s heart sank. She realized that she would not be seeing him for a very long time and that he would be missing the birth of their first child. Sumayyah looked down at her unborn child; how would she manage the birth, let alone taking care of the baby without him? After a month, Sumayyah could begin writing to Ismail, but it was an agonisingsix months before she was given clearance to visit.
HHUGS called Sumayyah once they heard about the arrest and learnt how she had to endure the trauma of his arrest when Sumayyah was already overdue and so, they immediately informed the local Keyworker of her plight. Just a few days later followed the birth of Sumayyah’s first child, by a painful caesarean. When she went into labour for twelve hours with no one to help her, HHUGS was at hand. ‘At the hospital the nurses kept asking "Are you by yourself? Don't you have anybody? Where is your husband?"’ With no one else to turn to, the nurses called her HHUGS Key Worker. Meanwhile, Ismail only received the bitter sweet news about the birth of his first baby, a boy several days later.
“I was counting the days since I was arrested. I was arrested and then five days later he was born.”
A caesarean takes months to recover from, but Sumayyah had to work hard from the very day of her son’s birth. She was in a state of complete shock; her husband had just been imprisoned and her baby had been born, completely severed from any network of family or friends to help her; topped with a fear of outsiders, she was left vulnerable to post-natal depression. Sumayyah was completely dependent on her husband prior to his arrest, and now found herself anxious around any strangers and lacking confidence as she struggled with English. Confined to a very small room in an old dilapidated property, where she would barely venture out, Sumayyah descended into acute isolation, yearning for any contact with her husband and relying on his calls.
“There were times I did not get to speak to my husband and when I asked, ‘Why don’t you call me?’ He said he had run out of money. I felt so bad... So I tried to save from the little money I had and sacrifice it so I can send him money just to call me for a few minutes a day”.
Meanwhile, the immense pressure his wife was under added to the strain on Ismail; in prison he felt disabled, unable to support her or his son beyond the infrequent and brief phone calls. He wanted to advise her to turn to their friends for support; they had been like family prior to his arrest and Ismail was certain that they would support his wife in her time of need. But the news Sumayyah gave broke his heart…
Ismail told us, “She was feeling really lonely and not knowing where to go and who to go to. The worst was when a family friend we used to rely on, they were like family to us, they said to my wife that she should not call ever again when my wife was going to call them for support. They told her not to go near them or ring them and told her to delete their number from her phone. That was the worst, emotionally this was terrible.”
With the breadwinner now absent and with her own remaining maternity pay coming to an end, Sumayyah was left with no income and suddenly found herself barely able to pay for food and basic essentials. Despite being in genuine need, she was, at that time, unable to claim benefits since she was not a UK resident; neither could she have returned to work, so shortly after giving birth and with no one to care for her newborn son. Her landlord kept chasing her for six months’ rent that she had no means of paying. HHUGS intervention in Sumayyah’s life came at just the right time, immediately clearing the six months’ rent arrears and settling her bills and debts. HHUGS paid for her rent directly thereafter and provided her with a monthly shopping voucher that covered living maintenance and food costs. HHUGS also sent monthly postal orders so that she could send these to her husband and be able to speak to him regularly on the phone. She was also given important support in the form of HHUGS acting as an intermediary between her solicitor and the immigration case.
Ismail recalled, “First and foremost I am very grateful for the help that I received from HHUGS subhanAllah al-‘adhim, I can’t even put it in words. They cleared our rent arrears, sent shopping vouchers, paid for bills and winter clothing. I am incredibly shy to say that I needed anything extra from HHUGS, because what I got from HHUGS to be – subhanAllah, I feel shameful – it would be shameful to say I needed something more.”
Imagine the huge weight of fear, responsibility and anguish that was alleviated when HHUGS entered her life and opened the doors of a safe haven. Sumayyah puts it quite simply:
“The moral support and financial support are key elements, basic necessities for a person. When they don’t have this, you collapse. HHUGS has been very helpful to me and my family. We feel you have uplifted us at our lowest point, may Allah reward you for all your support. HHUGS eases the burden of being a single mother. I know that someone cares and wants to help us... May Allah reward those like HHUGS who have helped me. Your service is excellent, Masha ‘Allah”
After Sumayyah told her keyworker about the trouble she faced trying to visit her husband, HHUGS immediately began to help. HHUGS provided her with accommodation for the visit, to lessen the strain of the long journey. This became a regularly occurrence, with HHUGS helping to provide such visits, encompassing a 160 mile journey each way, once a month. Engulfed by sorrow in prison, Ismail would cling to the hope of his wife and new born child visiting him. So he was relieved to hear that HHUGS would be bringing his family to see him and ensuring she was comfortable with their newly born child whilst doing so.
Ismail narrates: “I was worried about how they were going to support themselves. How are they going to come to see me when I was so far away, without any financial support? But a driver came all the way from London toup north and picked them up from there and that continued for a while and I was really appreciative for this. Eventually she got to know her way, so HHUGS would reimburse her train ticket. They would arrange for a place for my wife to sleep over as she usedto come on the weekend, then sleep over and on a Sunday she would go back. HHUGS used to support the whole process of prison visits, from when she was going to and from the prison. Alhamdulilah the visits made me feel remembered – it made me feel human again, it boosted morale when you’re low and isolated.”
The beginning of 2013 was meant to herald the end of Ismail’s case but to their surprise, he was rearrested for immigration reasons before this day came. Eventually in October 2014, Sumayyah’s husband was released. Ismail continued to suffer without his family. He had tasted the sweetness of freedom, but his happiness was short-lived. Although he had been released from prison, he was placed in a city 200 miles away from his wife, where he knew no one and his license conditions meant his movement was severely restricted. Rather than recovering from the social isolation he felt in prison, Ismail slipped deep into depression. Instead of being enclosed behind bars, he was trapped by his own emotional state, exacerbated by his license conditions.
“I felt happy initially, I was really excited. I expected my life to get back to normal, I wanted to work and see my family, I had high expectations about my release. But then I was released far away from my family, it was a sweet and sour victory, I was happy I was out of prison but I was feeling depressed because I hadn’t been reunited with my family. I was also isolated from my friends, I felt I couldn’t even mention my real name to brothers. Everything was new to me, I didn’t know how to deal with it, like my tag, the hostel - and I thought, have I really finished my sentence? You’re treated like a second class citizen.”
HHUGS stepped in, not just to support Ismail financially, but to provide him with the emotional boost he needed. They sent caring and approachable brothers to go and see him, who had dinner with him and kept him company. HHUGS would often call and text to make sure he was well, listen to his concerns and provide him with guidance.
“Alhamdullilah for the sincere brothers from HHUGS, who were serious about helping me when they could see I had problems. The regular contact, especially spiritual guidance, just finding out how the person is doing, that means a lot. Whenever you phone I feel really good – it makes me think that somebody remembered me.”
To reunite their broken family, HHUGS would pay for Sumayyah to visit her husband for a few days every month by covering her travel and hotel expenses.
Ismail told HHUGS: “I used to get very little and it didn’t suffice for my well-being so it was impossible to save money and support my family to see me. So HHUGS arranged this, when my family used to come and visit me they weren’t allowed to sleep at the same address so HHUGS would arrange for them to stay in a close by place for a few days..”
After a prolonged and painful battle, with support from HHUGS to cover the legal application fees, Sumayyah and her husband were finally granted Asylum Status and were reunited permanently when Ismail’s license conditions eased. HHUGS continued to support the family with a small amount of shopping vouchers each month to make up for the shortfall in their income. Until recently, when Sumayyah and Ismail’s application for state benefits were accepted, they immediately informed HHUGS that they were no longer in financial need and instead, began to offer their services as volunteers.
Although this simple couple underwent mountainous obstacles, their marriage only became stronger. Whilst struggling through their individual challenges, they managed to unite and meet each other in a place where they could slowly start moving forward, together. HHUGS couldn’t change what Sumayyah or Ismail were enduring, but they could offer a helping hand throughout their testing time, to make sure that when they fell, they would quickly be picked up again…
As Ismail reflected on his journey, “It is through His mercy that I was introduced to you... when the world seem to fall apart on me and my pregnant wife… For the last two and a half years we’ve been together, we have felt nothing other than comfort, consolation, satisfaction and above all companionship. Right from visits, calls of motivation, financial support, escorts, advice to moral support. - all these have a priceless tag on each and I beseech Allah to repay you all in this world and in the Hereafter, Ameen. May Allah ease all your affairs… Allah will endlessly help those who help in His cause.”