At times, I feel that my prayers float in a vacuum of uncertainty. Not because I don’t believe Allah SWT has heard them, but because I believe I have not yet let them go. They are still tied to my heart with strings of doubt and confusion. And so begins my internal tug of war; a Lord that is ready to receive, a human that is afraid to deliver.
But that’s OK, because as long as the sky is above me, and earth is below me, my Creator has blessed me with another day, another chance to cut those strings and to let a part of me reach seven heavens above.
Sometimes a void digs so deep into your heart, even a breath becomes difficult. You become vulnerable to the external pressures of this world. Materialistic desires and worldly concerns begin seeping into your mind and soul until the slightest push or the softest wind can break you. This is your spirituality screaming for help. It is starving, neglected and forgotten. This is when you dim the lights, close the doors and lift your hands in prayer and repentance. You have wronged yourself for having forgotten He who has never forgotten you.
We live such prideful lives thinking that we could self-sustain. We may be able to feed our bodies, still under the shade and mercy of our Sustainer. But only He can feed our soul. To Him we belong, to Him we shall return and to Him we entrust our internal chaos.
The sweetness of faith is that all doors may close, except that of prayer. A few desperate words leaving your mouth, as painfully as a portion of your heart being torn apart. The agony of having no way…the sweetness of having One God. He, to whom we belong, to whom we shall return, to whom we entrust our broken pieces and imperfections.
For me, Islam alone is a blessing worth a lifetime of my gratitude. A holistic faith, that provided me with both external and internal support in all aspects of my life. It mended my broken pieces with its soundness and beauty. It embraced my imperfections and tamed my insecurities. It lit me a path of potential and ambition. It taught me to love, to smile and to pray. With it I see a world with seven heavens and beyond. Without it I am a body with a dead soul, a starving spirit, a yearning heart and a weeping mind. For me, Islam is life.
It took me forever to understand why in Islam we must love the Prophet Mohammed SAAW. I couldn’t apprehend why I had to love someone I never met or why it was so essential in my faith. Many had given me theoretical answers to my doubts. They were convincing but dry, I couldn’t feel them. A kind and truly close person to my heart advised me to continuously send my prayers (salawat) to the prophet and see what effect it had on me.
Still in doubt, I decided to give it a try as I had nothing to lose.
It began as a chore. Every time I found myself with nothing to do on the train, or waiting at the clinic, I would force myself to keep sending my prayers to the prophet. I wasn’t used to it yet so it felt heavy on my tongue.
As my tongue grew accustomed to the phrase, my mind began adding rhythm to it and reflecting upon it. Then, in any free time I had between classes or during my commute, I began instinctively repeating the phrase as if it were a constant echo in my mind, “Allahum Masaly Ala Mohammed”. At times when I would daydream and forget, I would suddenly feel an empty and painful void in my heart, as if I was deeply missing someone.
Soon enough, I started seeking comfort in sending my prayers to the prophet SAAW, is if he was there to hear my troubles and cheer me up.
Through his mention, I have grown to love him. My heart has grown to yearn his company, advice and wisdom. He was a man who carried mountains of burden on his shoulders in order to deliver a great faith. The faith that lights the hearts of many till this day. He was a man who cried the nights in prayer, asking for the mercy of his people. He was a man who revolutionized every concept of creed, character and humanity. He is the reason I live Islam in my every breath. If I have ever tasted the sweetness of faith, it was thanks to his courage and devotion.
And so here I am in the constant mention of a man who has touched my heart, although centuries apart, eagerly waiting to meet him and tell him the effect he had on me.
I am Muslim by conviction. I am Muslim by appearance. I am Muslim by the choices that I make and the risks that I take. I am Muslim every step of the way. I have been Muslim since the start of my life, till the present moment and during every phase in between. That, however, does not mean that I did not struggle.
I wear my Hijab and I pray my five daily prayers and people automatically think, she must have it all. She must have been born with the Islam package already downloaded in her system. They couldn’t have been more wrong. It was a struggle.
I have had moments when I questioned my faith, too. I’ve had moments when I was angry at being Muslim and what it made me go through. I’ve had moments of weakness, embarrassment, humiliation, depression. I’ve had them all just like any average teenager or young adult in any average western city. And often, I ask myself, is any of this even worth it.
Of course my hijab doesn’t tell you how difficult it was for me to put it on, let alone keep it on. It doesn’t tell you how many nights I cried in confusion of why I had to be so different. It doesn’t tell you how afraid I am when someone stares at me in the metro or when someone throws a racist remark at me as I am walking through the mall. It doesn’t tell you how painful it is to fit in, or to find the right people to hang out with. It is a silent statement of my submission to my Lord, my love for Him and my obedience to His commands.
I was born a Muslim, but I had to build the conviction in spite of many doubts. I had to build my appearance after many battles with my desires. It was an honest struggle every step of the way, since the start of my life, till the present moment and during every phase in between. But I am proud of what this struggle has made of me. And I thank my creator for every time He has guided me.
Alhamdulilah for every happiness and comfort. Alhamdulilah for what you have taken, you are the Most Wise. Alhamdulilah for what you have given, you are the Most Generous. Alhamdulilah for every challenge, you are the Most Merciful. Alhamdulilah for every accomplishment, you are the Bestower.
Alhamdulilah again and again, always and forever, until my heart is content with the mention of Your names, the Great, the Majestic, the All Glorious…