By Pakeeza Riaz
She was walking to the masjid that evening with a nearly dead heart, almost dragging herself. Wanting to cry out to Him SWT but not being able to shed a single tear. Willing to pour her heart out but feeling it getting only heavier with every step forward. Walking on that bent path to the masjid with lamps on both sides and yet feeling it getting darker and darker on the inside. Is this what the death of heart feels like? How do you even describe this state of being? Perhaps, as if you were drowning into a deep dark well, just about to hit the bottom. Almost crashed. Experiencing a host of unexplained emotions and vague feelings, she found herself standing in the middle of ablution area. Still numb as anything, she sat on one of those stools in front of a row of water taps. “What on earth brought me to this place?” she thought to herself, staring at the water flowing out of tap and feeling her faith stagnate into a stone-hard entity. It took her a while until she made sense of why she was here. “Maybe it’s time for a spiritual housecleaning”, she heard a voice coming from some abyss inside of her. Nevertheless, she got up and came to the prayer hall, walked to that portion of the prayer rug in the first saf where she used to pray, and started offering her prayer. Till the end, she remained as spiritless as she had started off. But anyhow, the apparent obligation was fulfilled. The ritual was performed. Now another ritual was awaiting her: dua. It was something that she could connect to on a very deeper level. Something she had been telling her friends not to abandon ever in life. But this time around, she herself was feeling too dead to make dua; to even move her hands for making dua, let alone raise them to Allah SWT. “Don’t you have anything to say to Allah today?” the same old voice echoed to buck her up. “I do”, she murmured. But suddenly she questioned herself about what she would say to Him. How would she describe her state to Him when she herself didn’t know where the issue was? Soon she came to know that she just could not make dua at the moment. With this, she felt herself descending deeper into that dark well, feeling even more helpless and dead now. Have you ever seen the dead coming back to life?
Thereupon, she grabbed her bag and took out her earphones. “Qur’an must be able to remove this rust from my heart. It must be able to bring my dead heart back to life.” This was her tried and tested approach when in down times. She went into her go-to playlist: “Q?ri Mishary Bin Rasheed”. Surah Az-Zumar[i] it was that she found herself hitting the play button for.
“Say (on My behalf), ‘O servants of Mine who have acted recklessly against their own selves, do not despair of Allah’s mercy, for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’”
Tears rolled down her cheeks. Did she still deserve to be called “His”? She instantly felt someone pulling her up from the depths of that well.
“Turn to your Lord in repentance, and fully submit to Him before the punishment reaches you, for then you will not be helped.”
He was giving her another millionth chance before sending the punishment. In her experience, the world was never this compassionate. He SWT was indeed different from all, having no exemplar at all. She was being told that today she had time to ask for help. Today the call would be heard and responded. But tomorrow, the door of help would be closed. Just as there is no help after the grader has been run and there is barely any grade change policy.
“And follow (the Quran,) the best of what has been sent down to you from your Lord before the punishment comes to you suddenly when you do not even expect.”
She recounted how she had been displeasing Him lately in every matter. She no longer cared for what He SWT wanted of her. She had stopped being concerned about the permissible and the impermissible mentioned in the Qur’an, let alone looking for and following the best part of it (that which takes one to the level of excellence and piety).
The Q?ri continued to recite:
“Lest someone should say, ‘Woe to me for neglecting my duties towards Allah, while ridiculing the truth.’ Or, (lest) someone should say, ‘If Allah were to show me the way, I would have surely been among those who fear Allah’,”
He SWT knew so well what she was going to regret tomorrow. You know the regret you feel for getting a D because of your negligence and casual attitude towards a course despite the instructor being the nicest? When you could have managed to get an A if you were to consciously put in your effort. Imagine what missing out on Allah’s pleasure and closeness in the hereafter despite Him being THE MOST MERCIFUL and FORGIVING would feel like.
“Or, (lest) someone should say when he sees the punishment, ‘If only I had a second chance, I would have been one of the good-doers.’ No! My verses had reached you, but you called them untrue, acted arrogantly, and became one of those who reject faith!”
Have many times had she regretted for not performing well in courses in the first go, wanting to have a second chance despite knowing how painful the experience would be. The regret is even heavier when you don’t even have a chance to repeat that course. What would be the feeling when one comes to know in the hereafter that there is no going back? That it is what it is, and you have to live with whatsoever you have gathered. She had decided therein that she could not take this kind of regret.
She paused the recitation here. “Flowing eyes are one of the signs of an alive heart”, she recalled this statement which she had read somewhere, while realizing that her face was all covered in tears. She raised her hands for dua, remained like that for some time, and then pulled her hands down when she felt lighter. Now she knew how she needed to fix such a state; by returning to Him in repentance instead of watching herself descend into that well. Being a human, she couldn’t claim of becoming infallible. But she could promise Him SWT of returning back to Him in all her capacity every time she begins to slip away. That in this cycle of sins and repentance, He SWT would be her point of return, not the bottom of some dark well.
She left with a hope. A hope that she now had a rupture in that seal of her heart, a small whole through which a ray of light entered. A ray of hope that she’s alive. That she’s not among the dead.
[i] Translation of verses 53 to 59 of Surah Az-Zumar, Chapter 39 of the Qur’an, has been referred to here.