Monday, July 14, 2008

Thus Began My Journal: November 2005

It is time that my memoirs are shared, for on my Path I went through a valley that I crossed eventually, only to witness others struggling in it, after. It is the Valley of Darkness, for those who re-enter the Path through the side lanes of sin. Perhaps, my words will show light to those who need it.


One night in November 2005, as I lay near oblivious of my existence in my self-imposed solitary confinement in my room, wondering what was a soul like mine - so clear thus far, so fair, so faithful and patient with her own flaws - doing in a situation like this, I cried to Allah from the depths. Through illness, through heart break, through shame, through loss of worldly possessions, I had only gained one thing: the blessing to know these veils had been veiling me from Allah, for Whom I am created.

My seeking had been life-long, but just as it had intensified three years ago, tribulations came. Trials and temptations happened one after another - and I failed spectacularly over the years. A year before that night, my house of cards started collapsing. Truth revealed to me in dreams and reality, but like all doomed, I did not take heed. All through this, I asked myself, "Why am I going where I don't want to go? Why, when I want to say 'Yes,' I hear myself saying 'No!' and when I must say 'No!', I utter 'Yes.'" I was beyond me and beside me.

And so there I was that night, still in fog, still questioning, still crawling, still probing. A little realization had started dawning on me; and it puzzled me. It seemed that everything I was learning was everything I knew before. So what happened? Rather, what is going to happen as I lie here in absolute fear and darkness, but with determination.

Then I got up. The best I could do, I knew, was to record what was happening before I forgot it, because somehow, it was going to mean something, someday.

I reached out for a fresh new notebook I had bought. Its cover said, "Divine Beauty." It has for colored sections for no good reason, except at the bottom of each was a quote. First came the gray colored section with the quote: "You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."

I then picked up my steadfast companion of loneliness: a copy of the Qur'an with lucid translation. I intended to seek an answer from it. I closed my eyes, and focused my attention on the question: "Why is this happening to me?" Then I opened at random, to find my answer. It opened at Chapter 29, The Spider. Here is a selection I copied in my journal:

Verse 002. Do people think that they will be left alone on saying, "We believe", and that they will not be tested?
003. We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.
010. Then there are among people they who say, "We believe in Allah"; but when they suffer affliction in (the cause of) Allah, they treat people's oppression as if it were the Wrath of Allah!
069. And those who strive in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right.

The last line calmed my heart. For even in that dark period, loveless and possession-deprived as I perceived myself to be, I got the promise that I needed most in the world: that I am not astray; and that indeed, Allah will bring me Home.

But I was still unsure whether to all those people whose life path I was comparing mine with at that time, I was inferior in being loved by Allah? Was I, in short, indeed the "loser", the left-behind weakling I had been led to believe I was? Was I right in choosing to stick, weakly and barely as I did and by force of Allah's Will not mine, to the path I was on now? The path that I intuitively felt was right?

"Will I be (more) successful (than [the ones who left me behind]), or any other person who I envy is closer to You?" I wrote the next question in my journal a while later. Then I focused my attention on it, and opened the Qur'an again.

Chapter 41, Ha-Meem As-Sajdah: Verses 33-44.
Selection copied in my journal:

033. Who is better in speech than one who calls (people) to Allah, works righteousness, and says, "I am of those who bow in Islam"? [i.e. "I submit."]
034. Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate!
035. And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint - none but persons of the greatest good fortune.
036. And if (at any time) an incitement to discord is made to you by the Evil One, seek refuge in Allah. Hu is the One Who hears and knows all things.

And with that was determined for me the shape of my engagement with the Other henceforth - until Allah chooses to change me again. My path cleared out to be a path of realizing who I am: a soul whose purpose is to call other souls to Allah, to remind them of who they are, to show them an example through her own practice of virtue, and to declare in the face of acceptance and adversity: "I submit!"

It confirmed that I am not a weak loser. But that indeed my way is the way of patience, of returning injury with healing, of returning illness with kindness, of forgiveness and of seeking Allah's refuge against the only real distraction from this practice that would come to me: my own voice of revenge, my own anger.


Note: Please refer to your own chosen translation of the Qur'an. The Qur'an I use in my daily pondering is Maulana Maududi's Urdu translation. The English translation above is Yousuf Ali's, with my tweaking of the old-fashioned gender-specific pronoun "he" to "they" and "He" for Allah to "Hu" - which is a name of Allah used as an Allah-specific pronoun by Sufis of, I believe, Turkish origin.

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