Married and widowed young, coupled with suffering from a terminal illness, pushed Zainab Hussein to the brink of taking her own life but a chance act saved her life.
She shared her life story with Saturday Magazine.
“I was born in Kariobangi in Nairobi’s Eastlands. My father was a Muslim Somali and my mother, a Kikuyu from Thika. I am the sixth born in a family of ten children. My mother was later to convert into Islam and we were all raised as practicing Muslims.
From a very young age, I loved praying and going for Madrasa. I was very prayerful and I would even lead prayers. I loved God.
However, this did not sit well with my father and one day, he sat me down and told me that what I was doing was haram in Islam because in that culture, girls and women are not supposed to do so.
I don’t even know how to start the story of my life because it is one that is full of pain and perilous episodes. Growing up, I was a very reserved girl, I loved my space and was very careful with my own life. I just loved my space. I was also very naïve.
I finished my secondary school at 17 and immediately joined a college in the city. However, my college journey was never completed and I ended up getting married at a young age.
There was this young man who was a friend of my brother-in-law. He was a Somali from Mandera. There was a day I went to visit my sister and he saw me and apparently he was love-struck. Before long, he approached my father and requested that he marries me.
My father was a man who brooked no dissent and one day when I came back from college he informed me that I would be getting married soon.
I did not understand why my father had come to this decision yet I was still in college. Forget about the fact that I did not even know who my husband to be was. This is the way of my dad’s people and I had to obey. I was naïve and still a virgin.
I came to meet the man later and he introduced himself. He was a police officer. We got married and soon we had our firstborn, a son. Unfortunately, our second-born, a daughter died soon after that.
At the tender age of 23, my husband passed on after an illness and I became a brand new widow. Confused, jobless and with nowhere to turn to, I packed my meagre earthly possessions and went back to my parents’ house in Kariobangi estate, Nairobi.
A year after moving back to Kariobangi, I fell very ill. The doctors diagnosed me with a terminal illness. The next five years of my life was all about battling illness. I thought I was going to die. I started asking questions, why me? At one time I was admitted to hospital after suffering another bout of sickness. I reflected on my life and realised that all the lofty dreams I had had come crashing.
I, therefore, decided to end it all by committing suicide. In my thinking, this was going to end all my miseries because dead people feel no pain. Then a strange thing happened. Just as I was finishing my plans on how to end my life, a nurse by the name Jane came to my bed and gave me a cassette player and told me to listen to a certain tape.
It was a story of a lady called Catherine Backstar. Jane also gave me a book written by Catherine titled “Prepare to meet your God.”
The book was talking about eternal life. It was talking about hell. With the benefit of hindsight, I can now say that God knew I was also tired of living but once I had heard the tape and read the book, I started refocusing on life and fighting to live. God used Jane to make me realise the importance of staying alive.
Then there was Sophie another nurse at a nursing home in Mathare slums. Sophie sacrificed so much. She decided to take care of me. She took care of my bills and told me never to worry, and that whenever I fell sick all I needed to do was to go to the nursing home, or call her to send somebody to pick me from home.
She would discharge me after any admissions and drive with me to the supermarket where she would buy me food and other basic requirements.
I would spend months on end in hospital, but she would never stop taking care of me. She was simply an angel from God. By this time, I had become a Christian and I depended on God, I told myself I was going to hold on to Jesus and believe in God. So I began praying.
And all of a sudden, the thoughts of death disappeared and I resolved to not die. I started to believe in life. I said I want to live and declare the goodness of the Lord. I felt better.
With the new lease of life, I knew I had to start all over again because I had been given a second chance. Although I was doing well health-wise, deep down I had a longing for someone to share my life with.
I prayed for a good man in my life. I needed somebody I could rely on and a shoulder to cry and lie on. I needed a man I could come home to and share my experiences and get support from and pray together, a loving man who would not judge me but accept me for who I am.
My prayers were answered and in April of this year I got married to my husband Bishop Hoseah Mbugua.
Meanwhile, my baby who I have traveled this journey with, Idris Ibrahim, is now a lawyer practicing in Nairobi.”