All right, so this might be a bit difficult, a bit abstract. Maybe you won’t even understand an iota of what I will try to explain—but hopefully, I can express it in words.
Do you know that aching feeling that there is something wrong? That there is something that needs to be fixed? That feeling that there is something missing, something just out of place? It is such a sad feeling—almost devastating. Do you know it?
Hopefully, I can express it in words.
I had that feeling once. Or rather, it was a never-ending feeling, constant, always there. Eating away at my soul, at my sanity, at me. I thought it was normal, that everyone felt this way. This is what they call the pain of separation, right? But separation from whom? And if we reunite, will it be gone? Do you know that feeling, that aching emptiness?
Hopefully, I can express it in words.
It is that feeling that you get when you see someone you absolutely love, and want to run into his or her arms. The craving for a hug that makes all the pain go away. Except, I could not see him. Who was he? Where could I find him? I needed his hug but he was not there to give it to me. No, it’s not that he wasn’t there—there was a barrier between us—keeping us separated. And so the pain of that separation only increased. Is this starting to make sense? Are you starting to feel it within your soul?
I don’t know… I just hope I can express it in words.
It took me time to realize the solution. I had to break the wall, but it takes more than just the power of a hammer. It takes more than the power of a bulldozer. You cannot break the wall by beating it down with anything of this world. It takes tools that are stronger than you can carry. It takes tools that are brighter than you can see. It takes tools that you have never laid eyes on, at least not yet. I stood at that wall for so long. I had nothing, nothing, but my bare hands and naked feet. I stood there, not knowing how to break the wall. So I placed two palms on it, felt its cold, spiritless texture, and began to do the only thing I could think of doing. I banged my head against it. Why my head? Who do such a crazy thing? Well, because my head housed my brain, my `aql, the thing I think with. It was the most powerful thing that I had—or so I thought. And so I banged my head against the wall, hoping and praying that it would break down, crumble, collapse.
But it didn’t.
I began to bruise, to break, and to bleed.
I began to crumble and collapse within myself. I tried so hard, and I just wanted a hug. One hug. Why could I not do it? I looked everywhere for a solution. I looked to the top of that hard brick wall, could I climb it? No, my feet would slip and my hands would blister. I looked to the left, hoping I could see where the wall ends, but it went on as far as my little eyes could see. I began to give up hope, knowing that I could never make it to that man who carried the hug that would make it all better. I gave up hope, so I did the only thing that my body would let me do: I hit the ground on my knees, then my forehead. And then, for an instant, there was peace. And then, for an instant, I could hear a whisper. And that whisper is the one very important thing that I really hope, for you and for me, that I can express in words.
I almost didn’t hear it, because it was ever so faint. You have something stronger. You have something stronger. Stronger than what? What could this whisper be talking about? You have something stronger than the bruised and bloodied head that you have been banging against the wall. You have something stronger. I began to think about what this could possibly mean. What could possibly be stronger than that brain of mine that I had been using to guide me in every which direction? What could it be? And then I heard the whisper confirm my biggest fear: You have your heart. The one thing I did not want to use.
My hand flew to my chest. No, no, no. This cannot be it. This cannot be what I have to use. I decided long ago that this heart had been hurt too much, had been shattered too many times, and it would never be used again. Whenever I used that piece of flesh within, I became vulnerable. I gave it away too easily, to the wrong people, and it never recovered. I began to shake my head violently, tears splattering with every shake. And then I heard the voice, louder this time, and much more soothing: Shh. Settle down. Trust me, this time is different. It only hurts when you give it to the wrong person. Your heart is greater than that. Your heart was meant to contain only greatness, so do not settle for anything less. I breathed in deeply, and let the air out from between my lips. Again I breathed in, allowing the fear and the sorrow to be expelled on the way out. I lifted my head and looked around for the next step. And then I saw what was about to come.
Man oh man, I hope I can express it in words.
It was to the far right; I had given up before gazing in that direction. It was a door, a real door in the brick wall. My first thought was that it was a joke, or maybe some weird mirage. Maybe someone was playing a trick on me. But then I realized, that was my brain talking, so I told it to be quiet. Hush, brain. This is a job for the heart. I listened to my heart and it urged me, ever so quietly, to tread on. I walked to the door with wobbly legs, feeling pain throughout my body with every step. I was so tired. So tired. My brain told me to give up, that it was just too much for my body to bear, but my heart said to keep on, and so I did. I reached for the door, and turned the knob. I turned it to the left, then to the right. It would not budge.
It. Was. Locked.
I fell to the ground sobbing. How could it be locked? How could it not open? What is the only thing worse than having no hope at all? Finally having the strongest hope that something will work, and then having that hope snatched away in a split second. The door was locked. But as I sobbed between gasps for air, I heard my heart once again: The lock. You just need to unlock the lock.
I settled down again, thinking with my heart about what could possibly open this door of doors. I began to think, and to think and to think. And then I heard it, my heart of hearts saying the most profound words I had ever heard: Sali `ala annabi (Say, “Peace be upon the Prophet ﷺ”).
Sali `ala annabi.
And so I did. And as the words came out of my mouth, I did not even have to reach for the knob. The door slid open, and the light poured forth. I got up, and ran in with my wobbly feet and my disheveled look. I saw him there in the middle, smiling, like I knew he would be. I wrapped my arms around him, and he hugged me. He hugged me. A hug that melted every evil thought, every broken heart, every hurtful word, every negative feeling, away. Far, far away. And he did not let go. He just hugged me, and let me cry until I was done. And then I looked at him, trying to see him, but instead only seeing light. And I heard his blessed voice telling me: Now that you have come through the right door, and handed me your heart: rise. Rise to your Lord, and I will accompany you on your journey.
Allahuma salli `ala Sayidna Muhammad wa `ala aali Sayidna Muhammad wa salim tasleeman katheera. Wa salim tasleeman katheera.
(May God send peace upon the Prophet and the family of the Prophet and grant peace, many times over. And grant peace, many times over. )