“My first thought was, he lied in every word.” I’m tempted to quote Robert Browning about you, but then I would be dishonest. My first thought was always how you honest you were. Turns out I was wrong. Oh so painfully wrong.
The weeks that have passed between my last letter and this one have revealed so much that I didn’t know, it feels like I’ve woken up from a daze to a harsher, sharper, more real world. The reason I waited before writing though is because in waking up, I had to swim through a sea of emotions, the like of which I have never felt before and hope never to feel again.
Betrayed is a harsh word and one I always thought was too melodramatic for real life use. But it’s what I felt to the very core of my being. And anger…such an ocean of rage that I was afraid I would drown forever in the tumultuous waves of red that washed over me again and again and again…
It was only by repeating to myself the words of Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) that anger is a form of madness and “if someone does not feel any remorse after anger, it means that his madness has become fixed” that I was able to find an anchor and drag myself to the shores of sanity once again. It filtered out the anger until I saw the truth for what it was. I never sensed the analogy of the Family of The Prophet (s) being like the Ark of Noah, a salvation from sinking into the depths of the deep, to be as true as I did in these past few days.
But how tired and drained the experience has left me, how worn out and scraped to rawness inside. And how I have wished you were there to comfort and support me, to simply talk me through it. (The juxtaposition of this is not lost on me.)
The fact that you were not there emphasized what I had learnt; a truth I may repeat more than once simply because it’s taking some time to sink it. You lied. With every word and every promise, with every assurance and every pledge…you lied. You said you had lost everything when you left, and I believed you. But – unknown to me – barely a few weeks later you had not just erased me from your life but already replaced every aspect of me so easily, so smoothly, so eagerly that I am tempted to think there never was a gap left in the first place.
I remember you always saying you wanted to leave an impact in my life, add something to my knowledge. This then is what you have taught me: that people will say many things, but mean a very few of them. That words can sound pretty, but mostly echo with hollowness. That at the end of the day, it is the actions of a human being that matter, not the things they say.
But you have also taught me one other thing: not to ever be like you. You have made me determined to never again say anything to anyone unless I mean it, never to lie to another person, never to do to someone else – male or female, young or old – what you did to me. Your lies have made me a better person, because I refuse to make excuses for them.
I have little doubt that much of my current perceptions are still tinged with emotion, but there is always a Right and Wrong in any situation and I have done my best to use what God has made clear, as a measure. I have made a note of every instance where I was the one in the wrong and have already apologized for each – you are my witness to that.
I have blamed myself for being naïve, gullible and blind. I have taken responsibility for my own assumptions on your behalf, for seeing more in you than was really there, for mistaking potential as realized qualities, but… I will not blame myself for trusting you. Trust is a precious gift and I know when I gave it to you, I had done all within my power to first ensure you deserved it.
However, I am only human and must accept that my ignorance is destined to always be vastly greater than my knowledge. It was this sense of being mistaken, of remorse, of shame, of feeling…well, utterly stupid, that I opened the Will in order to write this letter, all the while wondering how I could possibly find words to suit what I was feeling.
And a miracle happened…
Develop patience against sufferings, calamities and adversities. This virtue of patience is one of the highest values of morality and nobility of character and is the best habit that one can develop.
Patience. If there was one thing I needed to hear, one piece of advice, one magic word to prop up the emptiness inside me, it was this. I have fluctuated between anger and abasement, between feeling unfairly done by and a need for revenge (yes, I am ashamed to have given in to the pettiest of feelings). And through it all, there was a sense of restlessness, a need for someone to do something to set things right. The moment I read this sentence, something switched off inside of me. It was as if that holy voice from centuries ago had whispered calm upon the furious waves of the sea of my soul, and sense returned to claim its rightful place in my heart.
Patience. Through betrayal, through pain, through humiliation, through realising that in the months I have spent empathizing with your choice, making excuses for your behaviour and grieving over a unique friendship, you had simply shrugged and gone on without so much as an apology or a show of remorse.
Patience. In the knowledge that you have chosen to go down a different path from the one I had expected you to. Even separately, I had always thought you would chose to go forward. Instead, I have to live with the discovery that you have regressed.
Patience. During the days of disappointment when it finally dawned on me that you never existed, not the you I had in my mind. Or perhaps you did, but you have now chosen to be someone less.
Patience. In realising that I can neither excuse nor respect your decision. That I cannot even respect the person you have become anymore.
But how am I – the most impatient person I know – to ever be able to maintain this quality?
Trust in Allah and let your mind seek His protection in every calamity and suffering. Because you will thus entrust yourself and your affairs to the Best Trustee and to the Mightiest Guardian. Do not seek help or protection from anybody but Allah.
Reading this also reminded me of a factor I had forgotten. For the past few years, ever since I met you, this is something I have always done. I always sought Him out before making any decisions. When I was wary of trusting you, I asked Him to let me know what to do. When you were seeking answers, I asked Him on your behalf (because I knew you never would yourself, but that’s perhaps a story for another letter) to provide solutions.
I did seek His Protection in every step along the way. And while I cannot be completely un-biased about my own views, I’d like to believe that I only took the paths He seemed to direct me to. I might have been really bad at taking directions and reading the signs, or you might have been a really good liar. I don’t think it’s fair of me to make a decision on that count, so only you and Him know the truth about that.
But there has always been someone to do something to make things right. Not just someone, but the Only One and not just something, but The Best Thing.
Naturally, realising that I had turned to God along the way and considering (I’m pretty sure) there were no warning lights or sirens that went off to warn me of your potential hypocrisy, I wondered ‘why?’ Why wasn’t there something – considering how much I looked out for it – to warn me of your duplicity and shallowness, of lack of determination or loyalty on your part. Why was I not able to see that when things came to a head, you would think of yourself first? Why didn’t my Mightiest Guardian protect me from you?
Guess what? God’s Chosen Guides don’t give incomplete advice…
Reserve your prayers, your requests, your solicitations, your supplications, and your entreaties for Him and Him alone. Because to grant, to give, to confer and to bestow, as well as to withhold, to deprive, to refuse, and to debar, lie in His and only in His Power. Ask as much of His Favours and seek as much of His Guidance as you can.
I did ask as much of His Favours and His Guidance as I could. I asked until I was ashamed of my constant demands. And then I asked some more. Unfortunately, in the initial throes of my recent anger, I might have turned to others in seeking help first. But when I did finally turn back to Him, delayed as my seeking out of Him was, He was waiting with open arms.
I have found solace and strength hidden in the randomest of places – in lectures I happen to listen to after weeks of them sitting in my MP3 player, in supplications I decide to read on a whim, in books I have had for months but never opened, in conversations with friends…it’s almost as if He is using the universe to tell me He’s there for me, and has always been, and why have I ever looked elsewhere for a reply?
Ali bin Abi Talib (a) says: “A servant will never savour the taste of faith until he knows that which afflicts him would never have missed him, and that which has missed him would never have touched him, and that the only One to induce harm or benefit is Allah, the Mighty and Exalted.”
Much as I know and firmly believe that it is in His (and His Alone) Wisdom to bestow, I needed reminding that it is also His (and His Alone) Right to refuse. And because He is Perfectly Loving, His refusal is never based on a desire to watch us squirm or suffer. There is always a Greater Purpose. Just like we inject helpless infants with viruses to vaccinate them against disease, God sometimes infects us with weaker versions of great temptations so that we can learn how to resist and always return back to our healthiest state – being with Him.
God Loves me. He doesn’t enjoy watching me hurt, but Knows when I need pain to introduce me to parts of my self I didn’t know existed. The contrast between that and how easily you watched me hurt without flinching makes your claims of friendship and affection seem trite, even when I don’t factor in the lies.
Try to understand my advice, ponder over it deeply, do not take it lightly and do not turn away from it. The best knowledge is that which benefits the listener. The knowledge that does not benefit anyone is useless and not worth learning or remembering.
I won’t pretend I suddenly understand why things played out the way they did, why I have to carry around a bitter taste in my mouth, why your flaws had to be revealed in such a public manner. I will not pretend I don’t feel the occasional burst of anger or that I don’t wish you’d feel the full weight of shame and regret at what you have done. But I do struggle against them and soon I am sure, with His Help, they will fade away and only leave behind the familiar pain that I think I will always carry with me. It will serve as a warning against others like you.
And yet, I must face the reality that He Loves you too. That’s part of the Beauty of His Love – that I don’t need to feel jealous of the fact that He does or worry that His loyalties are split because He Loves us both equally.
I tried to tell you about His Love for you more than once. To share with you the weighted treasures of faith, but you were always looking to be distracted by lighter things that didn’t require you to face uncomfortable truths. I will always regret indulging you in the things not worth learning or remembering.
What I truly wanted was to share with you His Beauty as I know of it, to show you this wonderful path of submission that I am trying to walk on, and take on each adventure with you. I wanted to watch your delight as you discovered Him and unlocked the secrets He has hidden in us and in the words He has given us in abundance. I imagined my pride in watching you grow and the safety I would have in knowing you were there to encourage me to grow as well.
These are some of the things you lost when you turned away. And I am sad for your loss because I have known life with and without them and it is a sorry, empty shell of an existence you have chosen. There is a part of me that cares enough to find a source of concern in that. I am sad that you will never read these letters and know how much I grieve for your loss.
But I can’t halt my journey for you. The One Calling me is far more powerful in His Attraction than you could ever be. Perhaps I’ll look over my shoulder for a while (maybe always?) to see if you decide to come along after all. But I cannot wait for you or follow you, because you’re running blindly towards the edge of a cliff.
Despite everything you’ve done, I know these are choices. Who knows, perhaps you have not destroyed your inner core yet? Perhaps you have not run so far into the shadows as not to be able to come back to the light? If despite knowing you so little, I had managed to see some sort of goodness (unless it was imagined), then how much potential does He Know you have – which was His reason for creating you in the first place? These are not things I am qualified to judge.
I am also aware that one of the most Merciful qualities of God is that He hides our flaws. Without this, we would never be able to leave our homes and face society. I have mentioned nothing in this letter except what you have flaunted with your own actions and words. Things you were not ashamed to hide yourself. This letter is not a precursor to more revelations of your flaws. The things you have said to me in confidence are a trust I will take to my grave with me, because I intend to keep the promises I made.
And so, this is no longer between me and you. I have handed the matter over and called Him in as my mediator. If I am mistaken in everything I have concluded so far, then I believe that He will provide you with all you need to find your way back to Him and a clean conscience. I dearly hope you have the sense to respond.
If I am right, then I’m afraid I don’t yet have the generosity – nor do I think it is required – to simply let what you have done pass. If a wrong has been done, it must be accounted for. I have no doubt of His Justice in settling this matter. Or His Mercy.