A Little Muslim Woman can leave a Large Impression

Allah looks not at your figures, nor at your outward appearance but He looks at your hearts and deeds.
— Prophet Muhammad SAW

God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
— 1 Samuel 16: 7

 I miss Wafa.

A dozen years ago I met a wonderful woman of faith named Wafa. She was an officer at HMCS Hunter in Windsor, ON. She became a wonderful friend to me and to my wife Catherinanne. Last week came the sad news that our friend Wafa had lost her battle with lung cancer. Since I have heard that news I have been reflecting on just how important Wafa was in my life. This year I completed a Thesis on Interfaith relationships. That document would never have been completed if it were not for the inspiration given to me so long ago by this fiery little Muslim Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve.  She is one of the reasons I am so impassioned to work toward better relationships between people of different faiths.

Wafa Dabbagh was a Palestinian woman. She was born in Egypt. She was raised in Kuwait and later served the Canadian Military at home and abroad, including in Jerusalem. She was an amazing woman. Wafa was the first woman to wear the hijab in the Canadian Forces. She was gregarious, loving, and had a gorgeous smile that brightened not just the room that she was in but the hearts of the people in her company. If you met Wafa and ‘liked her not’ (as Wafa would say) it said more about you and your attitudes than it did about Wafa. She disarmed the greatest of skeptics and cynics with narrow attitudes about women, Muslims, and head-coverings in a uniform. She was a delight. More than all of that Wafa was a woman of intense faith.  She called me on almost all major Christian feasts to wish me Happy Easter, Merry Christmas, and even asked me once to tell her why Pentecost was an important feast in the Christian Tradition.  “Teach me about your Feast day Kevin,” she said with that broad smile. Wafa asked this as she prepared to come to my church to offer the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic as I was having it read in many languages on the Feast day of Pentecost. She said, “I love the words of the Lord’s Prayer and would be pleased to come and meet people of faith.”

Wafa welcomed us into her home, prepared great feasts for us all. She taught me to say Alhamdulillah after finishing a wonderful meal at her house. It means “praise to Allah,” she said, “or if you like – Thanks be to God.” She went on to teach me Inshallah (If God wills it), Assalamu Alaikom (peace be upon you), and many more. I once told her, that I wish I had the faith that she possessed. I told her that she was a powerful witness to me and an inspiration. I told her that Christians have much to learn from her as she provided such a strong witness of her faith to everyone she met. Wafa Dabbagh was a special servant of God’s making and she will be sorely missed by the military community, her neighbours, her faith community, her friends and her family. That being said, those of us who knew her were changed and made better for it. She left a great mark on the world. My world became much bigger after I met this diminutive Palestinian. She was small in stature and yet she left a tremendously large footprint of faith as she left us last week. Thank you Wafa for showing us that humility, good humour, kindness, compassion, and prayerfulness can be such a powerful refection of the Divine. We hope that we shall all meet again one day —- Inshallah.  


5 thoughts on “A Little Muslim Woman can leave a Large Impression

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  1. I read Wafa’s “story” on your FB page the other day and I just reread it now. What a remarkable woman. Is it not amazing what influence and strength one person can exercise.
    I am sorry we never met but through the magic of print, we have met in a wonderful way. Thanks for being such an example and shining light, Wafa.
    Rest in peace.

  2. I only met Wafa at the Hunter a few times when Travis was in Air Cadets. She always was so kind to the young Cadets and always stopped to speak to any parents that were waiting (which as a parent of a Cadet you did a lot). Thank you for sharing her story. You meet people but don’t know much about them.

  3. I met Wafa at the Hunter, and enjoyed many a conversation with her.
    She had a warmth about her that was irresistible- she radiated friendliness
    and a zest for life.
    I feel privileged to have known her, and mourn her passing.
    Thank you for sharing.


  4. I feel bad that I never met Wafaa but thank you for your nice and strong words about her she was a good example for the Muslims women god bless her soul and hope she is in a better place now

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