In my Masjid, the Khateeb mentioned two stories that were very touching and emotional. They were the Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens) Lives: one man and one girl. Both go through the same trials (concerning the types of friends they had), but the outcome is different for both of them.
These are the words of the Khateeb, Imad Tibi, who is the principal of Al-Huda School in College Park, and these are his personal experiences. These are not the exact words but they convey the same meaning altogether:
“In a Masjid I used to attend, I would pray Fajr there and over time, one would get to know all the people that would pray at the Masjid for Fajr. One day, somebody joined us for prayer and seeing that we could not recognize him, we saw that he was a newcomer to the Masjid. After the Fajr prayer was finished, he was seen heading towards the library and he was pacing the different shelves looking for a certain book. One of the community members approached him and said, “Normally, we don’t allow people in the library at this time, but seeing that you are here and looking for something, please tell me what it is that you are looking for and I will try my best to assist you”. The man said, “I am looking for a book on prayer”. The community member then showed him the correct area where to find the book and said that, “When you finish reading the book, please remember to bring it back.”
For the next few days, he started coming to the Masjid and overtime, he had conversations with the other community members and he started to get to know everybody better and the relationships became more personal. One day, the man told his personal story and mentioned it to the rest of the people.
He said that before, he came to America and after seeing its glamor, he wanted to be like the people here and be friends with him. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong type of friends to be around, and so, he started doing what they were doing. They used to go to parties, and he would join them. They all had girlfriends, so he also took on a girlfriend. They used to drink alcohol, so he started to drink alcohol. Over time, the situation became even worse because one of his friends came up to him with drugs and said, “Here are some vitamins.” He asked, “Don’t vitamins normally come in pills and you digest them through the mouth (instead of the nose)?” His friend said, “Don’t worry; this is a new type of vitamin.”
He became addicted to the drugs (I’m guessing he found out later that they were drugs). One day, at 3 pm, he and his girlfriend were in his apartment taking drugs and suddenly, he couldn’t breathe. He started to panic and as a result, his girlfriend also started to panic. She did the first thing that came to her mind – she called 911 for help. The ambulance came and took him to the hospital. Alhamdulillah, through Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala)’s Mercy, the man survived that ordeal. From that day on, he repented and said that he would mend his ways, not go back to his former self, and strive to become a good Muslim. I sometimes see him, now and then, and I see that he has become a good Muslim. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) gave him a chance to repent and he took that chance and acted upon it in one of the best manners possible.”
The second story is almost upon the same lines, but the outcome is more tragic.
“I used to be part of a Sunday school that the Masjid had. In that school, I would teach and I would also pick students up in a van for parents that were not able to drop their kids off. On that van, there would be a girl that was attending the Sunday school. She was in 9th grade and so she was basically entering High School. Her parents were conservative Muslims and were good people. However, she also had bad companionship (just like the man) and she would do many things that weren’t good. However, I thought to myself that at least she is still attending the Sunday school, which was a good sign that she was still learning about Islam and might change.
Sadly however, she continued to be with her bad friends and started to imitate their actions. One day, she went with her friends to a party to hang out. At that same location, a person came in with a gun and started shooting at the members of the party. There were two victims of that shooting… and the girl was one of them. She, just like the man, was rushed to the hospital. Sadly however, they weren’t able to rescue her and she passed away. Instead of driving her to school, I was now praying on her (his voice was breaking at this point)…
All I can imagine is that if she was to rise from her grave and stand in front of us, what would she say? Would she say to follow her former path and to submit to our whims and desires? No…”
All of us can recall an incident in our lives when we were close to being heavily injured or even killed but it was by Allah’s mercy that it did not happen. In those incidents, what is the feeling that we feel? We feel that we have been given another chance by Allah to improve ourselves. Imagine if you knew that you would die the next day. What would you do? You would constantly be reciting Quran, making Duas, praying to Allah, and trying your best to reform yourself before the inevitable moment was to come. One of the beautiful statements that Ali (radhi Allahu anhu) had once said was, “It wouldn’t make a difference if I see Jannah (Paradise) because I wouldn’t love it more. And even if I see Naar (Hell), I wouldn’t fear it more.” Basically he is saying that if Paradise and Hell were right in front of him, he would not be able to increase his Ibadah in the least. Subhanallah!
I conclude with this – before you fall asleep for the night, remember to yourself that there is no guarantee that you will wake up the following day. Our souls go to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) during the night and then come back before we wake up. It is through His Mercy that it comes back and that he gives us another chance to become better. On the Day of Judgment, there will be people that will cry, “Oh Allah, please return us back to the Earth so that we can do more good deeds to enter Paradise”. But sadly, it will be too late by then. Make the best of this short life so that you can enjoy a life of eternity by the Mercy of Allah.
May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) make us among the people that use our oppurtunities wisely and May He make us among the dwellers of Jannatul Firdaus. Ameen…