Osoul Taha is a 22-year-old Palestinian-American Muslim Nursing Student who is an activist and works with a number of organizations. She was born in Ramallah, Palestine and moved to New Jersey at the age of seven. She is in her senior year of college and works as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). She also works with Smile for Charity, a non-profit organization that helps members of the community.
This story is part of “American Muslims”, a photo series created by Carlos Khalil Guzman, a photographer and activist based in NYC. The project is dedicated to capturing the diversity of the Muslim community in the United States. We will not only be sharing the images from the project, but each image will be accompanied by a personal and unique story to show our shared humanity. To read more about Osoul and the rest of the faces from “American Muslims” click here.
What was the happiest moment of your life?
I think the happiest moment was when I learned to truly and whole-heartedly love myself through all my flaws and my mistakes. Learning to love yourself gives you so much strength. Knowing who you are and loving who you are gives you the upper hand, it gives you the power and the ability to acknowledge your flaws but love them, to admit to your mistakes but learn from them. To be able to love who you are and confidently say “I love who I am and I wouldn’t want to be anybody else!” is an incredible feeling and once you’ve accomplished that, I feel like you become invincible, you become so shielded from people’s negativity, from the “perfect image” of what today’s society wants you to be.
Saddest moment of your life?
When my grandmother passed away. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s. She raised us; she was basically our second mother. She did everything for us, we were her whole life. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it was very tough on all of us and it became a battle for the family. She suffered for about 4 years and On December 9, 2015 I was sitting in my Microbiology class and my oldest brother called and I couldn’t answer so I texted him to see what he called for and he replied “Osoul, It’s grandma, she’s gone.” And everything after that was a blur. I remember calling him on my way to my grandma’s house and begging him not to let them take her so I can say goodbye. It took me four months to build up the courage to visit her grave and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and regret not spending more time with her. She was our rock and it really shook all of us. May she rest in peace.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
I don’t want to choose one person because really my family in general has been my biggest influence, my biggest support system. My father may Allah (swt) reward him endlessly for supporting me, he never let me give up. He always says, “You start something, you better finish it.” There were so many times that I went to him crying because of nursing school, because of academic stress or from work or really from anything and he always made sure that I left with the biggest smile on my face. He always had the right words to say to make me see and understand how important it is to follow your dreams and accomplish your goals in life. He always pushed me to be my best. Whenever I wanted to give up he gave me the push I needed and I can’t thank him enough for that. My mom, I can’t even begin to explain how much she’s done for me. I really don’t know where I would be without her. She always put me first, she always knew if I was sad, mad, happy, annoyed etc. She knew without me even saying anything, and she knew how to fix it. Her love and her support and her comfort are absolutely unparalleled and I’m so thankful to have her by my side to love me unconditionally and to support me in every aspect of my life. My 5 amazing brothers who have done everything in their power to give me an amazing life, they always motivated me to be the best ME I can be. They never asked me to change who I am, my goals or my dreams, they simply supported me and for that, I’m so grateful. Having a support system like them has been the number one reason I’ve made it this far. Alhamdulilah Rab El Alameen.
How would you like to be remembered?
Loving, happy, patient, faithful, caring, compassionate, understanding, hard working, adventurous and optimistic. I want to be remembered as someone who was so happy that it emanated to those around me. I want to make a difference; moreover, i want to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to touch lives and give people hope. I want people to remember me as someone who gave them hope and happiness. Someone who allowed others to see their true beauty, their inner beauty, their worth. People are truly magical, inside and out, and it saddens me when they don’t see that. I would hate to live an “auto-pilot” life…I want to be in full control of my life, I want it to be amazing in every aspect; I don’t want to look back and regret not doing so much. So live life to the fullest, love yourself more than anyone ever can and be patient with yourselves darlings, life is as amazing as you can make it out to be so take control.
What made you want to pursue nursing?
To touch lives. To be a part of the healing process. To be able to give someone hope again, to help someone recover and be at their best. It is so rewarding. Usually when people walk into a hospital, they can’t wait to walk out, but for me, it’s home. I never felt like I belonged like I do when I’m in a hospital. Have I faced discrimination for being a Muslim woman? Of course, countless times unfortunately. However, I have never faced any discrimination or any obstacles when it came to wanting to be a nurse, or working in a medical field.
You work with various community organizations, how did you get involved with them?
I honestly have many active friends and I always tell them to keep me in mind whenever they hear of an open position or whenever they need an extra hand. I make sure to keep an eye out for new volunteer positions or organizations that might need help. As cliché as it sounds, volunteering and giving back gives me purpose and I can sleep at night knowing that at least I am trying to help in every way possible, in my own community and maybe one day I can travel and help around the world.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of giving back to your community?
Being a part of someone’s story. Being the reason someone smiles again, being the reason someone has hope again. It is so rewarding and so unparalleled. Nothing can compare to seeing the smile on someone’s face when they regain hope because of your efforts and your help.
How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
وَيَمْكُرُونَ وَيَمْكُرُ اللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ
“… But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners.” (AlAnfaal: 30)
Before I begin, I just need to say that although my life hasn’t played out the way I planned it in my head, it is absolutely amazing in every way possible because Allah (swt) willed it that way and has it all written out for me and why would I want it any other way than the way Allah (swt) planned it for me? With that being said, my life, in no way shape or form, has turned out to be the way I thought or dreamed it would be. I thought by the age of 22 I’d already be a registered nurse with my BSN, and have accomplished so much more but life took a turn and the experiences I have encountered so far have been invaluable and I’m so thankful that life turned out the way it is. Alhamdulilah.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life?
Like I mentioned before when things don’t go as planned, life turns out to be unexpectedly beautiful. If there are two things I’ve learned throughout my life, these are the power of persistence and perseverance. When things play out differently than imagined, what is really important is to never give up and to continue to carry on and fight through whatever obstacles have gotten in the way. From my experiences I can tell you this, don’t give up when things don’t go your way. Trust in Allah (swt) or whatever higher power you believe in, and trust that things will eventually work out, all you need to do is be the best you can and leave the rest to Allah (swt). Don’t ever give up the will to fight for what you love and be sure to give it your all.