Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Wa salatu wa salama ‘ala Rasulilah
I had finally reached the elevator of my apartment building after a long walk from the markaz in the hot Egyptian sun. I was thirsty, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and after five hours of Arabic class, my head was spinning and I just wanted to get home. The elevator came and I entered, thoughts more about my state of hunger and headache, the walk back from the markaz, and the eight story elevator ride in my head more than anything else. Finally the elevator reached the eighth floor- almost. The elevators here are made so that between floors there are concrete walls. It’s basically: door to level, concrete wall, door to level, concrete wall. It stopped where I could see mostly door, but still concrete wall. Alhamdullilah, no problem, I thought. I’ll just push the door open and take a big step and I’ll make it in inshaAllah. But the door did not open. And it would not open. It was completely shut. I pushed, pushed, pushed until I was faced with the horrifying realization that I was stuck in an elevator in a building with absolutely no type of fire code and no type of emergency plan. I started pounding on the elevator door.
Making dua, I called my roommate. She ran out and tried to pull the door open. Stuck. She tried to comfort me, and I started really feeling the panic. The same air I was breathing a moment ago began to fade away, and I felt complete terror internally as she told me to press the button to another floor. ALLAH Musta’aan, how could I press the button to another floor? With a malfunctioning elevator, I could easily end up facing a concrete wall and find myself completely cut off from human help! I cannot explain how terrified I was internally. The only words I can continually repeat to explain this experience was terror and horror, and a siege of panic. The telephone in the elevator did not work, the emergency button did not light up despite desperately pounding it. I could barely hear my roommate as she called out for me not to worry, and I realized how close I was to death.
It’s as if you’re in the grave- just like you’re in the grave. You can see everything, you can feel everything, except you can’t do anything to help yourself physically. No matter how hard you bang, you can’t get out, no matter how much you scream, no one can help you. You’re just stuck, faced with the shock of your end: a square big enough to fit your body, and your surroundings becoming smaller and smaller, caving in on you as you realize you have not done enough good, you did not repent early enough, you were distracted the last salah of your life, and you still have a mountain of sins to stop doing and ajr to start working on, and a world full of people who you have not yet told you appreciate and need to ask for forgiveness from. Internal, pure terror is the best word I can think of to describe the reality of pushing, pounding, throwing yourself on the only way to exit, and realizing that no matter how much you try to escape, and how much others try to help you out, in the end, it’s just you and Al Haaaqqah.
I was fervently making duaa and Alhamdullilah my roommate said the bawab, or the apartment keeper, was coming. Suddenly the elevator started moving, still to my terror, but by Allah’s great Mercy Alhamdullilah it stopped on the floor below and the people in the nearby apartment helped me out. I went home dazed, still in a daze, and made sujood ash shukr for my life. Alhamdullilah I had cell phone minutes, Alhamdulilah my roommate was home, Alhamdullilah the bawab was there to help me, Alhamdullilah, Alhamdullilah, Alhamdullilah that Allah ‘Azza wa Jal is The Answerer of duaa, and that I was still alive to have that duaa be answered.
My sisters and brothers- I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in a car, blasting crazy music one moment and finding yourself on the road in the next. Or realizing the time for salah is in, and putting it off until the end of the time for salah to perform, or chillin’ with non-mahrams like you’re married, or screaming at your mom when she bore you for nine months and changed you and fed you and wane you and gave her life for you for so long, or despairing in Allah ‘Azza wa Jal [auothobillah] when you know He is Ar Rahman, and in that moment- the sa’a hits, and you don’t have time to repent, your soul is taken in that action, and you feel yyaaa hhhasssraaaaa that this wasn’t a one time slip up, but a lifestyle that only one individual was responsible for, and then facing the reality that that one individual was you. But it’s too late, you’re stuck, you scream and all but the people and jinn hear you, and the Rabul’alameen, the RahmanurRaheem, Al ‘Afu, Al Ghaffar, Al Ghafoor, gave you ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, seventy, one hundred years to just turn to Him and sincerely say, “Ya Rabbi, forgive me.” But you didn’t
As the adhans throughout Cairo are calling the people to Allah in this moment, I urge myself and you not to forget the ease of repentance, how much Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala LOVES for His slave to return to Him subhanahu wa ta’ala, how easy it is to ask for Allah’s Help to get us through the sins we continually commit and keep asking for forgiveness when we slip up again, and to realize that EVERY SINGLE minute IS a new minute where, inshaAllah, we can seriously and sincerely just LEAVE what happened a minute ago, say astaghforillah, make some dhikr to wipe out the bad deed, turn the other direction, and come back to Allah ‘Azza wa Jal.
Not all of us can make an immediate 360 degree turn, but all of us can turn a little bit and keep turning until we’re there inshaAllah. And Allah has made it sooooo easy for us to just say, “subhanAllah”, and find on the day of judgment, insha’Allah ta’ala, that one word of dhikr a means of wiping out the bad that we have done and insha’Allah adding to our good. So let us keep our tongues wet in the remembrance of Allah in these hot days where good deeds are to our akhira as water is to our bodies, and make the intention to make dhikr with every step we take.