He sat watching one booty-shaking music video after another, wanting to drown his Islamic conscience and despair in the all-absorbing waters of ‘entertainment’. In the intoxicants that he publicly condemned and that he had sworn off long ago. He wanted the voice in his head to be quiet. He didn’t want to think about how sad his spiritual case was and how off the Straight Path he had moved and was moving. He was depressed and that led to his being self-destructive.
He punched a hole in the wall.
He wanted not only to hurt himself physically, but to sin so much that his soul would fry in hell as well. He wanted to bleed and to be mangled, to break in every way. He wanted to feel pain. Perhaps he just wanted to feel.
He was in despair regarding his deen. He saw that he didn’t have the willpower it would take to get himself out of this rut and despite his hoping for divine intervention, none came. What was worse was that he realized that he didn’t ‘care’ enough to really seriously ‘want’ divine intervention to help him. He saw that he wasn’t all as upset about his sinning as he should have been or as he used to be. This was depressing because he ‘knew’ it to be a sign of damnation; that he would just stop caring about being on the straight path. He felt like he was no longer ‘chosen’ and that Allah, Glorious and Exalted, was no longer helping him. He had fallen out of grace. He felt helpless and impotent.
In an attempt to revive some himmah in his limp and defeated body, he opened his writing journal, hoping to find something that he had written in a moment of spiritual peak that could remind him of what he had seemed to forgotten. He had the habit of putting his emotions to paper so that he could examine his states later and learn from them and his book was filled with poems and reminders that he had placed there in case he ever forgot what was important in life. He read a rambling plea he had written last Ramadan.
No one else can hear me
So I know
You are especially listening
You amaze me
You who I cannot touch
Cannot feel but with my heart’s throbbing
Cannot shower with grateful kisses
Desperate and needy embraces
Cannot give to In a moment
You make me drown
The world disappears
My heart’s gaze upon You
My thirst at its peak
Your Name replacing names
Those meaningless sounds I speak
Everything does natural sajdah
Even wild tears fall prostrate upon the leveled dirt
Upon their origin
Watering the earth that made them
Please I want to die like this
With this thirst
My arrogance on its knees
I want to be with
You I want to be Yours
I will be good
What can I do to please You?
If You go then I will lose everything
I am wretched
I will fall back
I will lose this thirst
And will chase these age-old illusions
Will regress for the worst
Don’t let me lose this
Don’t let me be stupid
Don’t let me want anything else
Please Let this last this time
There is nothing else worth wanting
Don’t let me want anything else
Choose me to want You
Choose me to want to give myself to You
Choose me to want to burn in Your desire
Burning like incense above Your altar’s fire
Let my concern for all else be annihilated in my surrender
Let me exist only to please You
To be like he, peace and blessings be upon him, who pleased you the most
To praise You To glorify You To seek You from You.
Don’t let me forget.
I don’t want to go back.
I don’t want to be me.
He recalled the tears that still streaked the paper he held and made the ink run in some places. Feeling homesick, he ran his fingers over the stains. He felt a sudden pang of anger. He asked the emptiness around him WHY he had been let go when he had been so sincere and asked so desperately. WHY did the Creator, who he so lovingly cried out to, not make him of his favorites and keep him on the Straight Path? WHY wasn’t he invited to ‘FEEL’ anymore? WHY was he forgotten and left to live and die amongst the ranks of the heedless? He used to be so good, going to halaqahs, doing dawah on the streets, growing his beard, lowering his gaze, staying away from what was forbidden of the flesh and of the food, and waking for tahajjud. WHY was his heart now made of stone? WHY was he let go?
At that moment something inside of him snapped. He took a deep breath. He threw the conscience and guilt aside. He despaired. He let go.
(47 years, 3 illegitimate children, 2 failed marriages, countless bottles, and various drug addictions later…)
The sun was courting the west outside his hospital room. He asked the nurse to help him sit up so that he could write. She said that he must not exert himself. He said that he had to write to save his soul. Confused but not wanting to argue, she propped him up with a few pillows, handed him a notebook and a pen and left to take an early break.
He had to die knowing what went wrong and what the purpose of his life was–and for that he had to write. Things only made sense for him when the fluid black ink met the flat predictable white of the paper; the arena where he could make the grays in his life into the easily differentiable black and white. Though his wrinkled and knotted hands were weak, mapped with the blue of his veins, his written word was strong and vibrant. He was always amazed by the eternal youth that stared back at him from the pages that his bent and enfeebled body produced. It had been so long since he had actually written Truth. So long since he had actually recognized it. But he felt he had to write, for if he didn’t attempt to find Truth now he would die knowing only falsehoods. He didn’t have time.
He wrote for pages, rambling and flowing from thought to thought, recounting petty accomplishments and grand defeats, trying to give himself nasihah as to what he would have done differently were he to be given a second chance. He wrote chronologically backwards (it seemed ironically-just to him), going through his old age first, then his maturity, then youth. Pages were filled. He wrote his way into his twenties. When he started writing about the first time he had ever gotten drunk and woken up lying beside a prostitute, his hand stopped. That year was hard to remember. As he focused and forced his mind to recollect, to wade through decades of murky memories, trying to remember the forgotten, his eyes started filling with tears. His mind played long-buried clips of a young man, innocent and new to serious sin. He watched the man hedonistically throw himself into vice, going from one ‘first-time’ to another. He watched innocence itself die before him and become buried under years of arrogance. He wept, longing for peace, some solace, some reason. His memory achingly brought him back to a night, a single night, which had changed his life.
A hole in the wall.
Mtv in the background.
A book of poems in his hand.
He felt like he was falling from a steep cliff, watching the vivid moments of that night whiz past him at breakneck speed as if they were embedded in the cliff itself that he had fallen from.
He buried his head in his pages of sin and wept with abandon, letting his tears blur the words and causing them to run upon one another, his life resembling one big messy page of flowing sin. It had been so long since he had cried for his own self, for his own state. After a lifetime of running, of sinning and dying, he wanted to stop and cry for himself. He wanted to face Truth and live. He was ready to write a word of life.
After having composed himself he took his now wet papers and threw them into the trashcan beside his bed. He opened his notebook to a fresh new page and started writing, hoping to pick up his life where he had left it. He needed desperately to tell the young man in his memories what he had done wrong so that his older counterpart could learn and be free of the knots and tangles of the past. Inspired, his gnarled hands started writing:
“I know You are listening. You always are. I know what I did wrong. I realize why I couldn’t get out of the rut.
I took no responsibility and used Your Qadr as an excuse. I sounded like a whiny child complaining about how he doesn’t really want to do the task and just wants the adult to do the task for him. I just wanted You to ‘program’ or ‘destine’ me to do good works and to not really have to partake in any struggle myself. This is absolutely idiotic and impossible since I am a human and neither an angel nor an animal. I don’t get ‘programmed’, I get to make my own choices. The one thing that I was given that the rest of creation wasn’t was the freedom of choice, a will. That is the divine boon, the biggest blessing to be had. This is the part of You that You chose to give us and withheld from the rest of Your creation. It is sacred–and with all things sacred comes a divine Covenant. For me to reject the gift of freedom of choice and refuse to acknowledge its existence and importance is an insult to the blessing and to the Bestower of the blessing. It is ungratefulness. The whole purpose of existence was for me to WILLINGLY and WILLFULLY choose to submit to You despite the struggle. If I want Your love I will only be able to reach it by making the deliberate decision to submit and then doing so.
I was so tired of repenting and then sinning and then repenting and then sinning. I was so ashamed of the constant unfaithfulness. So ashamed that I felt that I could no longer face You with my excuses and self-delusions. I thought I was being humble and sincere, but really, it was simple and pure arrogance. When one does not return to You and repent, one is saying that one doesn’t want to bother You and that one can live without You. The truth is, whether I am good or bad, worthy of your concern or not, I have no one to turn to save You. I have no one else to ask from, no one else who will listen or who can do anything. There is no such thing as me being worthy or unworthy of you because I will NEVER be worthy of you. I will always be absolutely and eternally dependent upon Your Mercy and Forgiveness. I will always HAVE to be on my knees, my nose in the dirt. A sinner who recognizes his dependence upon You and then turns to You in repentance is better than the worshipper who feels his good works have made him more deserving of Your blessings.
I never should have despaired of Your Mercy and of Your Wisdom. Feeling damned is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that the more damned you think you are, the more you despair; and the more you despair the more chances there are of you becoming damned. If anything, I damned myself.
I repent to You and turn to You with newfound hope. I realize now that hope is never lost. Tawakkul flows within the veins of the believer and without it he dies, shriveled and colorless. Tawakkul circulates and nourishes the organs of the shari’ah. Tawakkul is propelled forward with every beat of one’s Qalb.
Tawakkul will take me home.
I choose to have hope.
I choose slave hood.
I choose to submit.
I choose You.
Ash-hadu anla ilaha illal-Lahu Wahdahu la Sharika Lahu wa-ash-hadu anna Muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluhu
With those final words his body collapsed, his energy spent and his heart at peace. It had been years since he last felt the meaning behind those words, and now that he felt it again the overall revelation overwhelmed him. He put his notebook and pen down and closed his eyes. He was so very tired. He had had to travel so far and so long to be where he was now–and he knew the journey was not yet over. He had a few long days of struggle ahead of him, and he couldn’t wait to open his eyes in the morning and begin. He knew the sacred covenant–if he put his efforts and intentions into it, Allah, Glorious and Exalted, would give him tawfiq.
For the first time in decades, he had hope. For the first time, he couldn’t wait to live. For the first time he was excited by the prospect of prayer. For the first time he craved the intimacy of dhikr. He had a whole new set of ‘first times’ that he couldn’t wait to indulge in before the end of his life. In fact, every time would feel like the first time.
He closed his eyes and saw the young man smiling back at him. His innocence had been refound.
“The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, though there is good in both. Be avid for that which benefits you. Rely on Allah and do not deem yourself incapable.” –Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) [Muslim, Ibn Majah, and Ahmad]