I remember climbing into bed at around 11PM on December 31st, 2019. I didn’t do anything remarkable that night, I wasn’t really celebrating the beginning of the new year, but I was so incredibly happy in that moment. I stirred at midnight, briefly woken by the cacophony of fireworks, and then I fell back asleep, smiling. You see, this was the year I was going to graduate with a first class degree. I had a grad scheme lined up. And the icing on the proverbial cake was that, for the first time in a long time (maybe ever), I was talking to someone who I really connected with.
Everything was falling into place at exactly the right time.
Sitting here, recalling this moment over six months later, I don’t even remotely recognise that girl.
I’m a planner. I plan for everything. I have a back-up plan. I have a reserve plan in case the back-up plan falls through. But I was completely unprepared for what was about to come.
I would be taken by surprise by the situations which were about to unfold, but, more importantly, I was not at all ready for the deep, intense, inner turmoil that would come with them.
In essence, the plans I had made, the plans I had worked for, unravelled, one by one. It was all there, in the palm of my hands. And then it wasn’t. My family and friends were asking me questions that I no longer had any answers for. In these moments, my ears were deaf to explanations of ‘Qadr’. I had lost all notion of ‘Tawakkul’. I thought these concepts were ones that I had internalised, characteristics of excellence which were rooted in my heart.
Instead, I realised that my heart, unbeknownst to me, had become consumed by dunya. And I hadn’t even noticed. Not until it had all been taken away.
Sleep would elude me, more often than not, and I began to realise something in those precious, early hours of the morning. On the search for some answers I realised something invaluable, something I had vocalised countless times before but something which I never truly understood in my heart. I never really understood the true meaning of ‘temporary’. Not really. As I turned to the Quran for guidance, I felt my heart sink as I discovered that the warning from my Lord, the warning of that which is temporary, had been there all along.
‘…Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses (to Truth)…’ [3:140, Yusuf Ali]
Humans, by our natural disposition, seek that which is permanent. In order to fulfil this need I had created the illusion of permanence in everything temporary around me.
In all the noise of the world I had started to become fixated upon creation, I had started to forget the one real reason I was here, to worship my Creator. In my pursuit of a temporary illusion I managed to overlook the One source of permanence. I had looked miles across the dessert, yearning for what was really a mirage, while the whole time I had been standing next to a well. I thought about Yawm al-Qiyamah, about waking up from all of this, as if waking up from a dream. I thought about whether the things I had been chasing were the things that I really wanted to define me. The answer for me was no, absolutely, categorically not. There was only one real definition that mattered to me. To be defined as a slave of Allah. Everything else, the whole world and all its contents, were a means to this end. Sister Yasmin Mogahed, author of Reclaim Your Heart (which is a phenomenal read, Allahumma Barik) epitomises the nature of this purpose in a beautiful reminder, she tells us:
Your life is nothing more than a love story. Between you and God. Nothing more. Every person, every experience, every gift, every loss, every pain is sent to your path for one reason and one reason only: to bring you back to Him.
It is perfectly okay to seek the blessings of this dunya, in fact the blessings of this world are something we should all strive for. But we should never confuse the means with the end. And if this happens (as we are, after all, created forgetful) and our Lord reminds us through removing that which we have become attached to, remember that He removes in order to replace. The removal, the reminder, is a blessing, calling you back home. Always, always, remember that, ultimately, the place for dunya is in the hands, our hearts are reserved for a higher purpose. Our hearts are firmly reserved for the only One worthy of worship, Allah.
‘And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me’
[51:56, Sahih International]
I guess I’m really just a young muslimah who doesn’t really know what she’s doing (but she’s doing it anyway).