By Asif Khan
Story inspired from a Facebook post by Jiva Akbor, July 18th, 2016.
A few weeks ago, I had one of the most interesting … and memorable flights of my life.
I was on my way to Granada … from Manchester ... sat on my seat at the very back row of
the plane. A lady came and sat next to me.
We were grounded for ages ... so I took the moment to catch up on Facebook. Make my
friends jealous with a ‘I’m off to Spain!’ selfie.
I saw a text from my friend … saying someone had broken into her family house! I was
shocked and wrote my reply ‘Inshaa Allah rabana yashil allykum kul ayamakum’ ... which
basically means … 'may Allah make the day easy for you all'.
The lady sat next to me asked if she could get out. I got up … thinking she needs the toilet.
A few moments later she returned, so I got up again and waited for her to take her seat. But
she didn't move. I looked at her face. She was in sheer panic ... flustered.
I noticed two airhostesses stood behind her ... looking concerned. I smiled to'em and gestured
towards the seat so she could get in ... but she was hesitating. Then one of the airhostesses
said 'You can take your seat ma'am'. But she stood there ... look of fright on her face … brink
of tears. For a split second I thought she had some health issue or something ... but she looked
at me straight in the eyes and said, ‘I saw you write Allah on a text’.
My heart stopped.
I was shocked ... I just said … ‘It means God in Arabic’.
One of the airhostesses said to her ‘we don’t have any other seats available on the flight'. I
couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This lady was actually scared to sit next to me because I
wrote the word ‘Allah’ on a text! … and probably wants me removed from the flight! My
biggest fear ... other than missing my flight ... was playing out in front of my eyes!
The hostess then said to the lady, ‘But you are free to leave the flight if you wish’.
Relief! That I wasn’t the one being seen as 'the issue' here.
But what was bothering me was the state this lady was getting herself into. She was literally
shaking … breathing heavy ... flush in the face. Finally … she got in her seat. I told her again
‘It’s just Arabic for God, you have nothing to worry about’. I wanted to calm her down.
It took her a few more moments … whilst I fumbled … telling her how the message was
written ... to send well wishes to a friend. I told her ‘I’m just a regular girl travelling on
holiday to Spain, born and bred in Huddersfield’.
After about fifteen minutes of conversation I could feel her calming down. I rubbed her arm. I
told her I believe in God, or ‘Allah’, so naturally my conversations often make reference to
Him. She went on to tell me she was Roman Catholic … and we began to talk about our
Before too long I could hear remorse in her tone … I think she was shocked at her own
reaction. She said ‘It’s so scary what the media can make us think … I just panicked’.
What I expected to be a quick three-hour flight turned into the most intense heart to heart I’ve
ever had. I encouraged her to ask me any questions she had … any … and I would try my
best to answer. We spoke more … and I could see she felt regret.
We spoke about our views on current events, the sad state the world seems to be in right now
… and how in effect it’s led to our very real conversation today. We spoke about our
families, we shared pictures of loved ones, spoke about my mum's cooking, her job, my job,
bloody Brexit! Pokemon ... The Bake Off ... about where we wanted to travel ... everything!
… the Olympics!
We talked … and laughed ... and at some moments had tears in our eyes.
When I ordered a bottle of water, she paid for it. And then perhaps one of the most sweetest
moments ever ... she pulled out a small bottle of perfume ... which she told me was her
favourite because it had a picture of daffodils on the lid. And daffodils were her mum’s
favourite flower. She wanted me to have it.
About two hours into the conversation I was actually laughing at what had just happened
between us. Her too! I wanted to understand her mindset. I asked her, ‘So you saw me writing
the word 'Allah' and what was the exact thought in your head?’ and she said, ‘I just thought
what if this was like the last message you’re sending ...’ and I laughed … and with each laugh
I told her we all make mistakes. I encouraged her to converse with other Muslims … to not
believe the scaremongering. I asked her to think for herself … and always through the lens of
I made a friend called Abi … who made a mistake but acknowledged it. I met a lady who is
deep down inside a wonderful human being … who showed me that the fear-mongering
carried out in this world today is very real ... and can make an ordinary person have the most
shocking of reactions.
We hugged and exchanged numbers. I know not all similar situations are as ‘happily ever
after’ … but I have all the love in the world for Abi.