There’s plenty of excuses for not writing, but that’s all they are. Excuses. There’s plenty I’ve wanted to say, so many times and then simply not said (read ‘written’). Perhaps in typical ostrich-fashion, I have hoped that ignoring the issues will make them go away and that I will then be able to live life normally. However, life is no longer normal. Not for any of us. I don’t think it ever will be.
I watch the world a lot these days. I feel like an observer, seeing the way in which people live out their lives and wondering curiously at how they manage to do it and whether there is something wrong with me for not being able to do the same things.
It is the month of Ramadhan and people around me are laughing, enjoying the atmosphere of spirituality, cooking, sharing food, breaking bread together … even looking forward to (and shopping for) the Day of Idd already. And me? I feel disconnected.
I have never felt less connected to God then I do now. When I recite the verses from Dua al Iftitah and say:
My Lord, You call me and I turn away from You
You show affection to me and I show hatred towards You
You display Your love for me and I do not respond
as though I am above You…
I feel as if I am truly living these words, passing every day in oblivion of what is expected of me as a Muslim, as a submitter, as an abd – a slave. Where in my life is a reflection of Islam? I pray out of habit, not attaining the heights of ascension that salaah is supposed to bring; I fast, but spend my day distracted by chores from seeking Him out; I give charity, but selfishly, in order to protect my family and wealth. Often these days, I am faced with my own ingratitude, my hypocrisy and I am afraid to face my Lord at the end of the day, and more so at the end of my life.
I watch my daughter cry when she is hurt or afraid, when she wakes up in the middle of the night and reaches out for me, soothing only after her hands have found my face and her nose has nuzzled against my neck and even as I comfort her, I am painfully aware of all the children in the world at this moment who are afraid, terrified, facing horrors that adults would not be able to handle, children who are reaching out and crying for a familiar face, a soft hand, a loving heart…and grasping at empty air or worse, at an enemy.
I sit to eat iftar and complain inwardly at the hours I have had to stand in the kitchen and then find I cannot eat, because I know there are women who have nothing to feed their families except rotting or stale food that they have had to spend hours scavenging for and I cannot give my food to them or bring them to my table.
I step aside and watch myself, amongst my family, my friends, my community – I watch us distracted by the ongoing Euro or watching tellie to pass the long afternoon hours, waiting for a meal we are assured will come. I watch us as we moan about how the hours are dragging past. I watch us as we pass our time chatting, laughing, having fun, wondering where to get the best deals on Idd outfits and every time I blink, I see the starving, the oppressed, the martyred, the slaughtered, the maimed, the forever-grieving, watching us back.
Most days, I feel so helpless that it seems to me I might be bordering on the brink of a depressive sinking. There so much I am not doing that it seems like there is a massive height to scale and barely enough time to get started.
I wonder why it is that we are so easily misled, so smoothly deterred from our path. The sirat was never promised to be easy or to be flexible. It is straight and narrow, the Truth allows few detours if you want to toe its line. We will not get anywhere if we are already starting to allow compromise on issues like hijab or things that Islam has clearly categorised as haram or halaal. Getting confused at such a basic level only indicates how much work we have to do in terms of educating ourselves with regard to Islam and the School of the Ahlul Bayt (a).
The world will not get better or change without the coming and the help of the Saviour (atfs). He is the True Muslim, the Sincere Submitter and it must shatter his heart that he is prevented from reaching out to those innocent children, from helping those weeping men and women, from bringing justice and eradicating injustice; prevented from restoring the balance that only he can…by us.
By our unwillingness to begin to act, to behave like Muslims, by our laziness to walk the talk, by our selfishness in wanting to follow Islam on our terms or on terms that will make living life in the present world easier for us. Where is the depth of feeling for humanity and oneness with the ummah that motivates one to action, to sacrifice?
We all think it in vogue (excuse the term) to speak volumes about Husayn ibn Ali (a), about his sister Zaynab bint Ali (a), of his family and companions. We talk of women role models and the sacrifices of Fatimah bint Muhammad (a) or her mother Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (a). But that’s all we do. Talk. Post. Tweet. Like. Comment. The easy, click-a-button stuff.
These people sacrificed their lives…figuratively as well as literally for the Truth. We can’t even put on a jilbab or refrain from putting on make-up in the name of Islam; in fact, we get defensive at the mere suggestion that hijab may have nothing to do with fashion. Do we really have it in us to give our loved ones for the service of God if we can’t even give our loved things or simple habits / opinions for His Pleasure?
Until we learn that we are here to serve – both Creator and for His Sake, His creation – we will keep living in this bubble that we are actually waiting for the re-appearance of our Imam (atfs). We are not the ones waiting. Those who are suffering in whatever corner of the world they are in, those are the ones waiting.
We are the ones setting up obstacles on the path for their salvation.
If we find ourselves looking forward a little too eagerly for Idd, perhaps we should take a few minutes as we consider the henna-stain designs we want to trace on our palms* to think of the women whose hands are being stained with the tears and blood of their children, their spouses, their very own hearts. Not just to think, but to then consider what action we can take to ease their burden, because their pain is (or should be) our pain and we would never sit back and allow these things to happen to our own.
Even if all we find ourselves capable of doing is praying for them, let us not append their needs at the end of our general requests because it’s ‘the right thing to do’. Let us at least pray sincerely, imagining the faces of those we love in those situations so that our supplication to God stems from a deep, desperate place within our souls and pierces the Heavens with intensity.
*Remember the back of the hands are off-limits if you’re going gloveless.