Holding Fast

6 08 2011

Obstinate physical unwellness.

Doctors: explanation-less.

Medications: useless.

Surgery.

I find it very ironic that I suffer from digestive problems. I mean, amongst my family and close friends, my nicknames are “vegetable soup” and “zucchini” because that’s what I eat 90% of the time, either because they’re fat-free or because I am sick in my stomach.

How much power/control do I really have over my own body?

O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allah), Who created you and those who were before you so that you may become the pious. Who has made the earth a resting place for you, and the sky as a canopy, and sent down water (rain) from the sky and brought forth therewith fruits as a provision for you. Then do not set up rivals unto Allah (in worship) while you know (that He alone has the right to be worshipped). [Al Baqarah (The Cow): 21-22]

O mankind! Verily, there has come to you the Messenger with the truth from your Lord. So believe in Him, it is better for you. But if you disbelieve, then certainly to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. And Allah is Ever All-Knowing All-Wise.  [An-Nisaa’ (The Women): 170]

O mankind! Verily, there has come to you a convincing proof (Prophet Muhammad) from your Lord; and We sent down to you a manifest light (this Quran). So, as for those who believed in Allah and held fast to (depend on) Him, He will admit them to His Mercy and Grace (i.e. Paradise), and guide them to Himself by the Straight Path. [An-Nisaa’ (The Women): 174-175]

“Worship Allah.”

“Believe in Allah.”

“Hold fast to Allah.”

Okay. I pray 5 times a day. I fast.

I used to think “holding fast” to Allah meant to pray day and night and to renounce daily life. I used to think it meant quitting people and things. Above all, I used to think it meant turning off your mind. (More on how wrong I was on this in another post insha’Allah.)

I didn’t understand.

I realize how pitifully wrong I was. Holding fast to and worshipping Allah doesn’t mean living your life praying in the mosque. It means doing, doing so much. It means living one’s (everyday) life with the belief that Allah is the only God, the only Divine. It means believing with conviction that He is the only one with Ultimate Limitless Power. It means understanding that He is the only One who can save or harm. It means knowing He is the only one who can grant or take away. It means seeing Him in everything all the time. When one becomes truly convinced of this, one “redirects” all of his/her emotions and actions. One puts his/her true hopes in Him. One resorts to Him for help. One truly relies on Him. One fears His Anger. One observes Him in one’s life, actions and words. And, above all, one loves Him and through this love, loves everything and everyone else. This belief in Him and His permanent presence with us becomes the foundation for one’s life.

And this is the cornerstone of Islam; it is what one says on converting to Islam.

“I testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger.”

Meaning?

“I acknowledge that He is the only deity, He is the only one worthy of worship. I acknowledge that Muhammad is his messenger sent to show me how to worship Allah.”

I have always wondered at how simple it is. Why is this the only requirement for converting to Islam? Why doesn’t one have to pray, for example? It’s as simple as that: one sentence. Why? Because it reflects a belief that rests deep in the heart and mind. It is not about actions that people can see.

Of course, one will fear other people and events; we are human. Of course, one will love people and things and one will resort to others for help. It’s a part of life, but then everything is different. How much would I fear someone who is really, at the end of the day, helpless? I mean my former boss (who used to make my knees tremble) can do absolutely nothing to harm me that Allah has not already ordained. And if Allah has ordained that I will be harmed in a certain way, neither my powerful boss nor anyone else on this earth can stop this harm from coming my way. So, with this belief in and reliance on One, these negative feelings become only traces because one finds an unexplainable calm in being with the King of Kings, He to whom “belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth.”

Someone once put this in very simple terms for me: “Imagine that you are working in a company where you have ten bosses. You want to please them all. You worry about pleasing every single one of them, varying and contradictory as their demands on you may be. You are torn. Your time and energy are distributed amongst them. You feel lost and probably conflicted because they probably don’t all agree; each wants different things. Now imagine that you have only one boss to please.”

Allah puts forth a parable: a man belonging to many partners disputing with one another, and a man belonging entirely to one master. Are those two equal in comparison? All the praises and thanks be to Allah! But most of them know not. [Az-Zumar: 29]

A couple of days back, I was praying in congregation with soooooo many people. As the imam was supplicating, we all stood listening to the supplications and saying, “Ameen.” As the imam prayed for relief, mercy, guidance, forgiveness and endless other things that touched our hearts, people began to cry and tears began to flow. It struck me then: We are all standing here, making du’aa, hands raised, each with his/her own individual life, conditions, problems, needs, requests and tears. Standing amongst the women, I was aware that each of them was standing there with her own story, source of desperation and sore spot. We were standing next to each other, yet ignorant of one another’s lives. Yet, He knows and can hear each and every single one of us, aware of the needs of each, aware of the best way to relieve each. I felt safe.

So, as I sit here and wonder that I find myself unable to do all the great things I had intended to do during this blessed month, as I wonder why my physical ailments are timed in such a sensitive time of the year, I find myself thinking “to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth” (including my body and my health) and “Allah is Ever All-Knowing All-Wise.” So, for the first time in a very very long time, in spite of my pain and inconvenience, I am convinced that this is for the better; I just don’t see it, yet (like so many other things that I thought were bad for me but turned out to be good). I am not angry. I am not resentful. Most importantly, I am not frantically and helplessly seeking help.

Alhamdulillah.





From A Single Person

3 08 2011

O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women, and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of the womb (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you. [An-Nisaa’ (Women):1]

Presenter: “Why does God mention that He created us all from a single person? How is this relevant here?

This statement reminds us that at the end of the day, we (all humans) are kin: black, white, Asian, American, European, Australian, young, old, men, women, rich, poor. We are all equals. We need to remember this and we need to remember that God can ALWAYS see us. He is watching, completely and perfectly. So we fear Him in our treatment of one another by being compassionate and kind.“

I had to stop here. I connected this verse to the different forms of discrimination I had both witnessed and experienced both in my country and out. Once it’s the color of my skin. Then, it’s the way I dress. Then, it’s because I am Muslim. Then, I am not as rich as . . . . or as elegant as (what/who?). Then, it’s because I am a woman. Then, it’s because I have my own ideas and mind. Then, it’s . . . .

If we all come from one father and one mother, how can we be so cruel towards one another? How are we so easily able to hurt one another and actually feel and believe that we are superior to others? How can one group/person believe that they are innately better because of their color, beliefs, nationality, financial status, or the way they dress? Where do people get the (insert word here) to judge and violate one another?

Where do these “standards” that we find ourselves mistreated on failing to meet come from? The Creator Himself, you know, the one that manufactured all of us, didn’t set any of these standards that result in “us” and “them” and all the atrocities that follow.

I was translating for a pair of foreign young women a few months back. These were very beautiful and very strong young ladies. One night, they were travelling between cities here and called me from their taxi and asked me to speak to the taxi driver and explain that they did not want to stop for rest.

Me: (Faking my “I am so tough, you better watch out” voice.) Hello? Do you know where you are taking them? They want to get to their destination tonight.

Taxi-Driver: (Completely disinterested in what I am saying and interrupting me) Yes, Yes. I know. I know. Just tell them. There’s an apartment where they can rest. It’s available.

Me: I just told you! They don’t want to rest.

Taxi-Driver: I know. I know. Just tell them there’s an apartment where they can rest and sleep if they want.

Me: Did you hear me?

Taxi-Driver: Yes. Yes. I know . . . (And the cycle went on).

Me to the girls: (Shaken) Look, try to be very firm and serious with him. Shout if you have to.

One of the girls: Yes, Yes, I know. I understand. He and his friend want to sleep with us. They think they are entitled. I just wanted to make sure I got my message across to him.

The next time we met, they talked to me about how much insulting they endured as guests in my country, how many Muslim men thought they were entitled to “ravage” them since they weren’t Muslims, how others had point-blank told them, “You will burn in Hell because you are not Muslim.” Where on earth does this come from? Isn’t this another form of discrimination that we Muslims complain about when it’s practiced against us? Everywhere you go, it’s “us” and “them.” And somehow, “us” are always better than “them,” and “them” simply deserved what they got.

I guess this verse shows that not only is this NOT Islam, but God directs the call to all, Muslims and non, to remember that we are all kin and to treat one another accordingly.

The verse that comes next talks about protecting the rights of the weaker among us: the orphans:

And give unto orphans their property and do not exchange (your) bad things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by adding it) to your substance. Surely, this is a great sin. [An-Nisaa’ (Women):2]

Again, compassion.