“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”
― Rabindranath Tagore
― Rabindranath Tagore
All my sapling life, the message of how blessed I am to have been born Muslim was drummed into me. Islam was presented as The End All.
The Final Message.
The Key to Paradise.
The Only Key.
When I was younger I didn’t think too much of the implications of this dogma.
I do, however, recall grappling with ‘Islam’. I attended maktab and everything the Ustaad insisted was Haraam, was simply part of my daily life at home. There was a TV (gasp!); music (double gasp!); my hair was cut really short until the age of 9 and (astagfirullah!) I wore shorts when I swam. With a swimming costume, nogal.
Over time, I became an expert at living a double life. Wearing my ‘Muslim clothes’ to madrassah and being (what I was led to believe) a perfect heathen at home. I was the interloper among the ‘Proper Muslims’, ill at ease in a madrassah class. The chasm between ‘Deen’ and ‘Dunya’ was impassable. I was of The Dunya. To them belonged The Deen.
And then, at 16, I elected to go to daarul uloom - much to the annoyance of my parents. Immersed myself so completely into ‘Deen’ that I became ‘them’. My little monochrome ocean was home. It was where I was most at ease. Handing down judgement on all and sundry, making dua for every wonderful ‘Kaafir’ I met, that they embrace Islam. I even adopted Jamaat work.
All these steps were merely resting places along the way, I now realise. Ghandi, (the racist Indian) once said, “Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.”
Over these last 20 years, I’ve been growing, changing. Systems that I once believed were just and true, now rankle. But through it all, one thing has remained. A Faith. A simple understanding that even when I am distracted, turn my face away, Allah doesn’t.
For the longest time – much of that time in Daarul Uloom – I tortured myself with how unworthy I was of his love. But If he tells us that All of the Creation is his family, surely, I was not excluded?
In my hedonistic struggle for perfection, I failed to realise that To him belongs perfection alone. I am meant to struggle. To stumble. To fall. Sometimes, to fail. And while I judged myself harshly, in turn, I judged those around me just as unkindly. Who knows whether by my ignorance, I turned someone away from his door? Allah forgive me, my arrogance.
Recently I’ve met several born Muslims who have, in their quest for truth, chosen a path other than Surrender. I spoke to an online acquaintance who told of how many youth she'd encountered who have found themselves tested to the point of abandoning faith.While I respect their right to seek the path that makes them most comfortable, I’d be lying if I said that that did not make me sad.
As a weak, sinful being full of failings, I know how deep a well of solace his presence in my life has always been. As someone who remains resolutely in love with humanity, I cannot help but wish that for my fellow beings. All these wonderful people whose ruh, whose soul, is a piece of Divine light blown into them by a Benevolent Rabb.
I’ve met people angry at Him. And this has made me take a step back and ask myself whether I, on some level share their sentiments.
Is He really a vengeful God, sitting in ambush. Eager to punish?
I was then reminded of the Hadith Qudsi where he tells us:
أنا عند ظن عبدي بي
I am to my servant as he thinks of me
How profound a celebration this statement is of man's will.
Faith is a choice. The kind of faith we end up with is a choice too.
A faith borne of love, this is what I want to teach my children. There is far too much fear in the world as is.
The Simple Path
Silence is Prayer
Prayer is Faith
Faith is Love
Love is Service
The Fruit of Service is Peace
― Mother Teresa