I believe, devotedly, in the Divine plan and timeline by which Allah has intended me to live my life. All I know about faith is that it must be practiced to be perfected, that perfect faith is a pipe dream, and that I am desperately and always in need of guidance.
Years of after-school madrasa and over-zealous aunties and teachers threatening fire and brimstone for every youthful misstep tarnished any love of religiosity. For years, I felt as though forgiveness and guidance were for the select few. I thought that I had to reach an unimaginable depth of faithfulness to even be worthy of being guided. It is deceptively easy to be devastated. I convinced myself – with the persuasive capabilities of an angry teenager- that the Mercy of Allah was beyond my reach.
I’m realizing now that I got the order wrong. To reach faithfulness, to even be worthy of it, all one really must do is want to be guided.
This seems to be a more manageable feat.
I want it.
Which, unfortunately, still doesn’t mean that it comes easy.
Recently, I have begun to do istikhara for the simple decisions and the more complicated decisions and all the ones in between. Often, the decision becomes clearer to me within minutes. A text will come through, an email will bounce back, someone will say something, or a sudden thought will occur to me that makes it seem as though there really is only one possible path ahead.
It is so easy to feel that Allah is protecting and guiding you when you can see how that protection and guidance is happening. It’s much harder when it feels as though you’re not quite sure why things are not working out the way you want them to. I know, in my heart of hearts, that I am living a life that has already been planned for me. I also know that Allah has made dua so powerful that we can quite literally change qadr.
Still, I am not a hopeful person insofar as I don’t often bank on the hope that people will be kind or gentle or generous with me. My hope lies in the fact that Allah will never deprive me of a beautiful life. My hope lies in the belief that for every thing or person I feel I have been deprived of, Allah has planned that which is infinitely and unbelievably better for me. My hope lies in the belief that I am imperfect, that Allah is perfect and that my life may not be what I want when I want it, but it will be what I need, especially when I don’t know what I need.
Despite knowing this, it is so hard to have that hope in the moment, so difficult to be assured. In the minutes after devastation, in the hours of heartbreak, it is so much easier to lie on the floor, staring at the ceiling and asking repeatedly, Ya Allah, why can’t I have this? Why couldn’t this have been easy?
Heartbreak and grief and trauma made me an almost bitter person. The ugliness of people left an acrid taste in my mouth. My heart, once so easily roused in cheerfulness, began to feel rough around the edges. For three consecutive years, I prayed only for a softness that never seemed to come, whispered into the dark night, Ya Allah, turn my heart towards You because it has never felt further away. Ya Allah, strengthen my relationships with those who love me because I feel my love for them being tested. Ya Allah, grant me patience. Ya Allah. Ya Allah. Ya Allah, will there ever come a time where I don’t feel like I am breaking from the sheer heaviness of wanting all that is just outside of my reach, all that seems too far to be real or possible? Ya Allah, I hate to be by myself so please never leave me. Please never let me taste independence from You.
I’m recognizing that faith means believing that you’re taken care of even when it doesn’t feel like it. It means being okay with whatever happens. It also means, sometimes, feeling bitterly and sadly disappointed in your life. Islam does not ask that we forget that we are human, it doesn’t ask us for angelic understanding, or for unshakeable patience. Yaqub (AS) went blind with grief. In his grief, he cried out for his Allah. For my Allah. Younus (AS) found himself, through his own transgressions, in the belly of the whale. Afraid and adrift, he cried out, “There is no god (worthy of worship) except You. Glory be to You! I have certainly done wrong.”1 Allah saved him.
Even in our saddest, loneliest, most at-fault moments, Allah saves us. Allah saves us in a million ways that we don’t see coming. We were not meant to be above pain; we were not meant to walk through this life without getting hurt. This world was meant to test our faith, to test our patience.
What lingers is a reflection from a person I respect deeply: If Allah wants you to have patience, does He give you that patience or does He put you in a position where that patience is tested?
I’m beginning to think that He puts you in positions where your patience is tested, where your love for someone is tested.
How else are you meant to turn to Him?
Except through complete faith that you are a simple, unreasonable, exhausted, aching person who will find solace in the care of Allah, Who will care for you, Who has held your heart through the worst of times. These days, I often find myself drifting away from reasonable thought. My Allah can part the seas, can save men from the belly of whales, can give miracles.
I pray for miracles, now. I pray to be amazed, to have my breath taken away from me by the sheer incredible depth of what Allah might have in store for me. I pray for the strength to have patience, for the patience that I need to be strong. I pray to never lose faith in the Divine plan that has carried me so far, that will carry me through to the end.
1 Surah Al-Anbiyaa’, 21:87-88