By Aisha Bhoori
The ambulance was shrieking, and I was the unlucky patient being hurriedly transported to the local hospital. My body lay on a stretcher inside the vehicle, pain shooting through my left arm.
“It looks like a massive heart attack,” I heard one of the paramedics whisper. Not knowing the true severity of my situation, I shut my eyes, desperately praying to Ar-Rahman (The Merciful) to have mercy on His slave.
I impatiently tugged at the oxygen tubes in my nose, wondering when I would be able to escape from this prison the public decreed was a hospital. A cardiologist soon strolled into my room, her brown eyes vibrant with empathy as she laid my chart down on the side counter and turned towards me, exclaiming, “As-salaamu `alaykum1 Aisha.”
Believing her kindness to be merely the facet of a friendly facade, I brusquely muttered an inaudible “Wa `alaykum as-salaam2 .”
The doctor tucked a strand of loose hair back in her hijab and began the arduous task of diagnosing me.
“The EKG was abnormal. We found some…disturbing signs. The irregular rate at which your heart is beating and the atypical electrical activity occurring are typical signs of a very discontent heart. We believe you are suffering from qalb-ul-qasiyyah, a hardened heart.”
With this revelation she looked at me expectantly, but my apathetic eyes merely gazed at her in boredom. I was too tired—too weary—too hopeless to care about the dire condition of my heart.
“Aisha?” she asked, giving me a questioning glance. “This is a very curable disease, you know. I once suffered from it too.”
With this revelation my eyes flickered with mild interest. But even then, I was suffocating under the burden of my despair and believed whatever “cure” the doctor was referencing had ceased to exist.
Understanding my cynical mindset, she began narrating her story.
“I was in a situation very similar to the one in which you are now. I was spiritually lost, wandering about with this immense pain in my soul, and my heart was reaping the effects. One day, I collapsed from the sheer magnitude of helplessness and sadness, and I was rushed into a hospital, just like the one in which we are today.”
I was fully awake at this point, and my eyes perceived the doctor in a different light. Curious as to how she managed to recover from the disease, I asked, “How did you get better?”
A knowing smile played on her lips: “Never forget Aisha—Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says in the Qur’an, “Surely with every hardship comes ease”3 . But to answer your question more directly, I recovered through tawbah4 , dhikr 5 and du`a’ 6 . These three things are the key to maintaining a relationship with Allah (swt). And in every situation, you have to have tawakkul7 . Believe me, when you put your trust in Allah (swt) and not in other people, or a drug or a pill, the results are miraculous; tawakkul is an alleviation of stress and despair. ”
“But I already do all of those things. I pray five times a day too, ” I grumbled. ” And look where I am now.”
“I used to feel the same way,” she responded. The cardiologist’s eyes seemed to see through my exterior into my conflicted interior. “But just think for a moment. Do we really believe La ilaha illallah8 ? I think the problem I had, and the problem our Ummah 9 as a whole suffers from, is that our hearts haven’t born witness to the shahada10 . Our iman 11 is merely lip service; it is neither manifested in our deeds nor nestled in our hearts. Rasulullah 12 ﷺ (peace be upon him) used to make tawbah over 70 times a day. We barely say 3 heartfelt astagfirullah‘s13 a day. How often do we return to Allah (swt) when we know we have strayed off the straight path, and are distant from Him?”
The doctor paused for a few seconds, and then turned back to me, asking a strange question with a seemingly obvious reply: “What do you think about when you pray?”
“Allah (swt) of course, ” I answered, matter of factly. But, seeing her skeptical look, I answered again.
“Well, usually my mind wanders, and I start to think about what my friend told me at lunch, or what I’m going to do for my science fair project, or what outfit I should wear to the party on Saturday. It’s hard to focus on Allah (swt),” I admitted.
“Good. You realize sometimes your mind strays from the remembrance of Allah (swt). It’s a problem that everybody struggles with. And it’s the cause of inefficient salah14 . Salah is meant to be a protection for us against sin—a protection against the ever persistent whisperings of Shaytan (the devil). But, more often than not, it becomes monotonous, ritualistic movements of the body, in which our minds remember everything but Allah (swt). And this inefficient salah leads to a very lost, discontent soul that wonders why it has ceased to feel alive.”
Recognizing the truth in her words, I asked, “How can I start remembering Allah (swt)?”
“Simple. Dhikr and du`a’; strive to remember Allah (swt), and make du`a’. Ask As-Sami` (The One Who Hears) to bless you with the remembrance of Him. And remember it is recorded in a hadith 15 that ‘Whoever does not ask of Allah (swt), he is angry with him.’16 Ask Allah (swt) and expect to be answered, because Allah (swt) loves to hear and answer the supplications of his humble servants.”
By this time I had shifted positions from laying on my back, to sitting upright, my head leaning against a few fluffed out pillows. The telemetry machine beeped encouragingly; my heart was beginning to beat at a more normal pace. I felt as I did after a rigorous cardio workout or an exhausting yet satisfying game of basketball at the YMCA.
The cardiologist was quiet—lost in her thoughts. It seemed as if her speech had ended. Her hand was on the doorknob and she began to open the door.
“Where’s my prescription?” I quickly asked, assuming she had forgotten.
She merely chuckled. “I think I’ve given you everything you need to recover from this disease and have a qalbin salim—a sound heart. Read the Qur’an. Remember Aisha, in the Qur’an there is a healing—a healing that can heal even the hardest of hearts. ”
And with that, she opened the door and exited the room.
- peace be upon you [↩]
- and on you, peace [↩]
- Qur’an 94:5-6 [↩]
- repentance [↩]
- remembrance [↩]
- supplication [↩]
- trust in and reliance on God [↩]
- there is nothing of worship except The God [↩]
- community [↩]
- the testament of faith [↩]
- faith [↩]
- the Messenger of God [↩]
- I seek refuge in God [↩]
- prayer [↩]
- record of the words and actions of the Prophet ﷺ [↩]
- Tirmidhi [↩]