Wednesday, November 30, 2016

On Returning From Exile

Have you ever come across a stage in life where you find yourself out of every conflict ... in an ethereal kind of state. No drama bothers you, no stone causes ripples in your calm waters. You select your battles with consideration, and you fight those battles honestly. You accept the outcomes and embrace yourself for the next day. 
Day after day. 

And, still ... even after adopting the example of flowing clear waters, you still feel the foggy feeling of a silent crawl at the back of your neck. 
It's the feeling akin to the muffled awareness of slowly growing blind in the eyes. The awareness comes with a silent acknowledgement of an impending dark: a dark that echoes in your heart whispering fear of the unknown, unpromising future. 

You understand the panic of a drowning man, don't you?
Now, in your mental eye, super impose this sense of panic over the untroubled ethereal calm mentioned above.

You'll get a muted sense of being eaten away, while still fighting your selected battles with your best mettle, still wearing the aura that Jigar beautifully describes as بیگانہِ غم

The strength required to fight your battles honestly, doubles over with such baggage. The sense of being caught in your quiet personal anguish, while you keep on that mask of a gracious warrior in your day to day dealings, it saps the soul. 

This is the kind of state I was going through. 

Music didn't make much sense. Reading didn't interest. Communication, mostly, seemed pointless. Praying, too, felt like a soulless exercise of the rituals; and this is from where I had first identified that foggy feeling of a silent crawl. There are few parameters that define the native state of your soul. Being out of depth while praying, was my indicator of having steered into a foreign land. 

Ghulam Farid had said:
کیہ حال سناواں دل دا 
کوئی محرم راز نہ مِلدا

Here, even my own person was not a mehram of the state of exile the soul seemed to be going through.

Then one morning while listening to Quran at the car radio, I came across an ayat that consumed that bubble of gnawing discomfort like a strong acid. No trace of it remained.

The ayat, belonging to Surah Hashr, read: 

But those who before them, had homes (in Medina) and had adopted the Faith,- show their affection to such as came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot). And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls,- they are the ones that achieve prosperity.

I listened, savored, and soaked myself in that last sentence. And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls,- they are the ones that achieve prosperity. I basked in it.
You see, all of us - sons and daughters of Adam, are almost always aware of our light and dark sides. We are the only ones, other than the Almighty, who know ourselves. Know, as in the REAL know. So if I know myself, as I think I do, I found tidings in it for myself. Tidings that disintegrated every invisible thread of the thickening web of gloom. Tidings that met me with the warmth of a dearest friend and assured me of having been found. 

Do you understand the mightiness of the sense of having been found?

Have you ever experienced the sense of being lost? Because only then you'd recognize the sense of having been found. 

That night I came across a post by Asmaa Hussein, an author I am ever grateful to Facebook for having introduced me to. The post, it fueled the ongoing resurrection of the soul into its native land. It said:
(For perspective, Asmaa's husband was killed in Egypt in August 2013, when they both were lovingly parenting a nine months old daughter)

After my husband Amr was killed, I approached the Quran with an urgency I had never felt before. I was like a lost traveler in the desert on the brink of death because I hadn’t drunk water in days. So when I took that first sip of water and experienced how it quenched my thirst, I didn’t ever want to stop drinking. The Quran was that sip of water – it quenched the thirst of my heart, it eased the pain and lightened the weight that was pressing down on my shoulders, it made me understand that I wasn’t alone, and that there were generations upon generations of righteous people before me who went through immense trials and who succeeded through their patience and faith.
There were days that I didn’t want to put the Quran down. I didn’t want to stop reading it, not even to eat or to sleep. I stopped watching TV completely. I literally only watched 2 things in the entire year after Amr was killed: I watched Frozen with my daughter (which somehow sneaks into your life even when you’re trying to avoid it), and one episode of Chopped on the Food Network.
I made the decision to cut it out of my life because I refused to numb my emotions with mindless entertainment. I wanted to feel everything. I wanted to intimately know my grief because I felt that without truly knowing it, I could never fully emerge from it. I completely immersed myself in the Quran. While I read it, I felt connected to the rich history of those who were tested before me and who rose in status with their patience and overcame that which had hurt them…
There was Aasiya, who was exposed to torture at the hands of her husband, Pharoah and his henchmen. She cried out to Allah “My Lord, build for me near You a home in Jannah.”
It taught me to ask Allah for the same for my family, a home near Him in Jannah – it taught me about the necessity of tearing myself away from the torture that was inflicted upon my heart in this world, and to set my eyes on the lasting home of paradise.
There was prophet Yunus, who cried out to Allah from beneath three darknesses – the darkness of the belly of the whale, the darkness of the ocean, and the darkness of the night, saying: "There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.” And Allah (swt) responded to his calls and freed him from the belly of the whale, cured what ailed his body, and returned him to his people who, in his absence, had accepted the truth.
It taught me that no matter how deep the darkness in my chest was, how lost I was among the people, and how alone I felt, if I just reached out in dua to Allah, He would hear me, He would see me, and He would help me.
And there was Maryam who gave birth to Isa, completely alone – she was in so much pain that she wished that she was dead, she wished she was just someone who was long forgotten. But instead of reprimanding her, Allah swt sent her words of comfort. It was said to her, “do not grieve.”
It taught me that even though I had my weak moments where my patience crumbled, and when I said or did things contrary to what true patience entails, Allah (swt) could and would forgive me if I actively sought His forgiveness. And it helped me forgive myself, too – because if Maryam (as) had this very human, momentary break in her patience, but she’s still known to this day as the best of all women in humankind, then surely I also still had a chance to patch up the cracks in my patience too.
Allah swt says about the Quran: “O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the chests and guidance and mercy for the believers” (10:57).
Search anywhere and everywhere, but you won't find anything better than Allah's words to soothe your heart and lift your sorrows.
O Allah, let the Qur’an be joy of our hearts, the light of our chests, the remover of our sadness and the pacifier of our worries.

Jazak Allah khairun kaseera, Asmaa.

You know what is the most beautiful thing about exile?

It is that on return, you don't exist outside the state of gratefulness.