Scrolling down my Facebook news feed, I glance at the clock again. 2:05 pm. It’s been an hour since Dhuhr adhan (the call for the afternoon prayer) went off. Even though I had promised myself this morning that from today onward I’d pray just when prayer time started, I find myself procrastinating. I’m not feeling it yet. I’d sighed on hearing the adhan, deciding to wait a bit longer. Not being able to connect with Allah for so long has been killing me slowly. Going through the motions of prayer, struggling to concentrate only to have my mind drift off and suddenly coming back just before tasleem (the end of prayer). Yes. It’s frustrating. And doing that over and over again, even after resolving to improve? I feel ashamed before my Lord.
Just where on Earth are those days when I used to rush to prayer as soon as I heard the adhan and have a lot of khushoo` (concentration)? Where are the days when I’d be so into reciting a certain surah that tears would stream down my face and my heart would clench in awe and reverence at the Words of my Lord? I love Him so much, yet, I don’t feel it these days. The numbness kills me.
Disgusted with myself, I throw my cell phone on the bed. As it bounces away, I bring my knees to my chest and huddle close, resting my forehead on them. My chest feels heavy with remorse, yet there are no tears. What is WRONG with me?! I silently chastise myself.
Sitting on the prayer mat long after I’ve finished praying, I let my mind drift back to the time when I did not practice Islam. Like so many Muslims who practice, I’m skittish about thinking about those early days filled with acts of disobedience and rebellion. It’s more about feeling ashamed than anything else – ashamed of disobeying my Creator publicly and privately, of being ignorant and outrageously uncaring about it all. Yet the memory of the path that led me to the Truth fills me with awe. How subtly did al-Lateef (the Most Subtle) bring me out of the darkness and into the light! To outsiders, there were all those wild days with inappropriate friends, engaging in activities forbidden by Him, and dressing immodestly. Then one day I suddenly changed. I became “Islam-ised”, as they call it.
Internally however, the journey was beautiful, albeit long. The journey of self-discovery and choices, of disappointments and improvements, of pain and loss, of wonder and love and joy – a priceless journey that led me to finding Him, that led me to loving Him. And as I walk down a memory lane of living wildly and jumping headfirst in disobedience, then slowly learning God’s teachings, and finally following guidance, warmth infuses my heart and cracks the ice that surrounds it. The void in my chest is no longer numb – I actually feel it and it hurts. I know this feeling! my mind screams joyfully. Yearning. This is my heart yearning for God.
You know those Eureka! moments life hits you with out of the blue, by God’s decree? You think you have known something all this time, but suddenly, you know. It’s like you were living in a fog, and all of a sudden it clears, allowing you to see. And only then do you realize you didn’t see before, not really. This was one of my moments. I dig up my cell phone from its corner and open the iQuran app. Scroll down, enter Surah Duha (the Chapter of the Morning Hours), and as I come across the verse I was searching for, my heart clenches and the dam holding my tears back suddenly breaks as my eyes mist over.
وَوَجَدَكَ ضَالًّا فَهَدَى
“And He found you lost and guided you.”
[Surah ad-Duha, 93:7]
Oh my God. Allahu Akbar (Allah is Greater).
You see, I have read this surah (chapter) a thousand times before. Listened to lectures and read about why and when this surah was revealed—when revelation stopped coming down to our Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) for a long time and he was taunted by the disbelievers that Allah had forsaken him. He was so very sad, thinking that maybe Allah was indeed displeased with him. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He) revealed this surah to him at this time; He reassured His Messenger ﷺ of His infinite love for him so beautifully. Then He reminded him of His blessings: of how He took care of him when he was young and provided for him and guided him. So that he reflects upon them and realizes that they are indeed manifestations of His love for him. This is one of the surahs God revealed for those who feel distant from Him. All this, I have known for some time now. But today, I knew something else.
God, being al-`Aleem wa al-Khabeer (the All-Knowing, the Aware), knows. He knows in His Infinite Divine Wisdom that when you look back and reflect on how lost and misguided you once were, and how He guided your heart to Him, your heart will fill and expand with so much gratitude and thankfulness and love for Allah that the tears that were elusive even an hour ago will flow automatically, uninhibitedly. It shows you how far you’ve come and how far God can take you, if only you’d put your trust in Him and follow His ways. And knowing such, He prescribes it in the beautiful surah He revealed to reassure His slaves of His love; of the fact that you are indeed under His Watchful Eyes, under His Loving Care. When you feel disconnected and unsettled, mindlessly drifting away from God, remind yourself of your journey. It will ground you; it will make you see that He has been there for you—with you—all along. All you need to do is let Him help you by following the way He prescribed.
Even your journey is God’s gift to you, if only you reflect.
So ask for forgiveness from God and forgive yourself, but don’t forget. Never go back, but don’t stop looking back from time to time. Because only by remembering your origin—the place God picked you up from—will you be able to recognize your potential. to reap the benefits from the lessons you learned, to be more grateful, and to realize that God is indeed closer to you than anything and anyone else—and feel it.