TWD- Chapter Three: You’ll always make it

Myth: Can’t handle it.

Take this– if you have been whining about your growling stomach or super-conscious about your dry throat.

“Allâh burdens not a person beyond his scope.” (02:286)

The verse is deep even in its literal translation with many implications. Every nafs(self) has its own capacity and every nafs will be burdened and judged according to its aptitude. There is a reason why you were born into the family you did, why you have the education you do, why you are exceptionally good at some things and why you are the person that you are now. Allah has given you all your life experiences for a reason- so you can wield your Excalibur and put yourself to good use in His way; that you exhaust yourself in His cause in every way that you can. There is no perfect time for it nor is there a stage where you attain some sort of an elusive perfection to start. Contribute your bit in your capacity whatever it may be– intellectual, artistic, analytical, vocal or a bit of everything.

Suffice it to say, you can’t back out of your obligations thinking they’re beyond your “capacity”. The verse demands you keep the drama to yourself. If you find any commandment hard to carry out, you can’t opt out of it. Allah knew you could handle it and hence He ordained it. This is the other implication of this verse. So it’s either you weaseling out of tight spots or there’s something wrong with the statement.

For anyone who has suffered physical or emotional trauma, there is great comfort packed behind the words. And by trauma, I mean any life-altering event that metamorphosed you in some way or the other. Lost someone, some thing or lost a part of you…

You were put through your crucible because you could have handled it better than someone else in the same situation.

The greater your strengths are, the greater the trials and greater the reward for your patience. Also, this statement is a snippet from the last verses of Al-Baqarah that were given to the Prophet (pbuh) on the highest protocol denied even to the angels. Imagine the sheer magnitude of emphasis that comes with it. You have your parents constantly telling you to do your chores on a daily basis. Then there is “the talk” that they have on rare occasions in your room- just with you. About anything they deem important. This is exactly the case here. Allah (swt) called the Prophet up to meet Him on the Seventh Sky so He could gift his Ummah the five prayers and these verses—and to let you know that can pull through whatever the circumstances.

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May the odds be ever in your favour

Life’s a little war everyday. Another cup of coffee. And much tapping of feet on the floor to the tunes playing in my head. Over and over again. And drumming in the air. And I wonder if I’ll ever be able to shake it off me. I can literally see my mess here. Scratch that. I can see where I’ve gone wrong in places. And I’ve known all along. But it’s a completely different tune altogether when the world starts falling like rain. Like soft snow. Like little shards of broken glass balled up in white velvet. And you don’t know what hit you. You can either dance in the abyss (which I do) oblivious to the glass pieces beginning to make their cuts. Or you can pick up the pieces and get a move on. I do that too, only after the pieces have become a pain in the- well, all over.
Escapist or a realist. Either way, it’s depressing. To feel things you cannot name. To write of thoughts you should not think. To go waltzing in the twilight zone. To colour the grey areas black or white, a makeshift heaven in your mind and watching it collapse. This is Conscience behind the scenes. A voice you drown when it begins to choke you. No, it is a song unsung, and a part of it dies everyday inside. But this is what makes you- YOU.

    And newsflash- you’re doomed. In every meaning of the word.

وَٱلۡعَصۡرِ (١) إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ لَفِى خُسۡرٍ (٢) إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ

By the declining day, Lo! man is a state of loss, Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance. (103:1-3)

An oath taken by the Time. By the seconds slipping as we speak, that your life is no one-man show nor is there any way out. Unless, we all survive. Together. And make it out of this lair of seductions set forth. Not one lone “victor”. But our community as a whole.
Starting with yourself.
And you are, but a puppet to your conscience or lack thereof. So keep that voice coming strong, even if it depresses you. Breathe in it. And rise. And help others rise with you.

Life’s a little war everyday. “May the odds be ever in your favour.”
Correction. May the odds scales be ever in your our favour.

The Becoming- II

Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie. -John Milton

You turn up the volume. Slow, sad, passionate songs that speak of betrayal and hurt, you sink into them. Or try to. Maybe it’s your conscience you’re trying to drown that keeps nagging you that you’re sinning. Or maybe it’s your own problems you’re running away from. Or it could be the sadistic pleasure that you get from amplifying your own pain while listening to such music- ‘for what passion can not music raise and quell?’

You have at your hands a sad state of affairs; There were people you had some hopes pinned on. These people mattered but they didn’t quite turn out the way you expected and everything just went wrong. Anger, bitterness and grudges all balled up into a fury and wrecking havoc in your mind. [Coleridge puts it best hence, quoted previously. In my earlier post I had passed on a way to kill these leeches.] Consequently, your parayers get affected, your relationships with other people start spiralling downhill while you’re struggling to tame your own storm. So, then you have this guilt to take care of as collateral damage. It’s a lot of messed up things actually. So you switch on the self-destruction mode. Despair is another way by which Satan attacks. You’re left in a state moping around, dispassionate towards everything and incapable of doing any good- with music pulsing in your eardrums to keep you in a drunken stupor.

So how do you go about picking up the pieces? One of my favorite speakers, Yasmin Mogahed, puts it this way-

“Often what makes us fall into despair is focusing on the wrong things. For example, if we’ve sinned, we focus on the sin, rather than the Most Merciful. If we’re broken, we focus on the break instead of Al Jabbar, the One who mends. If we are in pain, we focus on the pain itself, instead of on the One who removes all pain. If we are wounded, we focus on the wound instead of on the One who heals al…l wounds. If we’re scared, we focus on the fear, instead of the Protector. And if we’re facing a problem, we see the problem, but not the One who can solve it. We see the lion, but not the lion tamer. We see the imperfections of dunya, but not the perfection of Allah. We see the immediate, but not the Tomorrow, the tree, but not the fruit, the thorn, but not the rose. All our pain, all our despair, all our hopelessness, stems from looking at the creation, instead of the Creator. Ask yourself: what is your heart looking at?”
وَيُؤۡمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسۡتَمۡسَكَ بِٱلۡعُرۡوَةِ ٱلۡوُثۡقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَا‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (٢٥٦)
Whoever disbelieves in Tâghût [the Rebel, the Satan] and believes in Allâh, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allâh is All-Hearer, All-Knower. (02:256)
 The bottomline: “Let go of your grudges. Let the bitterness die tonight. Make a decision today that it’s time to move on. And begin again. New, this time. Never forget that what has passed you by was never meant to befall you. And what has befallen you, was never meant to pass you by. Know that sometimes Allah withholds from you, in order to give you something better. Keep your heart focused on Him, and He will take care of the rest. And remember: you will stumble, but that’s part of the path. Keep going. Keep rising, and refuse to give up.”

The Becoming- I

Alas! they had been friends in youth:

But whispering tongues can poison truth;
And constancy lives in realms above;

And life is thorny; and youth is vain;

And to be wroth with one we love,

Doth work like madness in the brain;

Coleridge 

They say something hurtful. It stings. Pain comes first- it’s like a venom seeping in, taking over your senses. Next comes grudge. It’s when you’re writhing in that pain “but waiting for the other person to die”. Noone can see the gashes on  your soul but you, and you like to believe that they will heal with time. Like with every other wound, a scab forms over this one too. A scab of grudges, woven intricately in a way so delicate that it still hurts when prodded. And you think you’ve moved on but you haven’t. The pain is still there, and the wound takes a form so ugly covered by hard feelings- that it gives way to not a new beginning but a scar. A scar etched amongst the many others on the canvas you’re painting your story on. A reminder of painful memories, messes and mistakes. And it’s no wonder that they never leave you. You feel shadowed by them. And in some cases, they even catch up with you in your dreams.

And this is how we go about. We choose the wrong remedy when healing pain and trauma. And grudge is not the solution. It may be gratifying- the many imaginative conversations we have in our heads, with us getting an upperhand in the end, or killing this person a million times over or telling him exactly what a lowlife we think he is or talking bad about him to others… but at the end of the day, the hurt is still there. And the person is there too. Unscathed.

So what might the solution be? I’ve lately been going through this phase- playing hardball with complicated emotions that belong to this “pain” family. I came cross an amazing short video and found my answer there. And it’s this video that inspired this post. I have a lot to write on this. But for now, this will do. More will follow insha Allah and will hopefully explain my mentioning Coleridge poetry too. 🙂

Do watch this 10-minute talk.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D09OymRhLKU&feature=g-all-u

Time and time again…

A couple of days back, I gave the first paper of another demented semester. And it didn’t go as good as I would’ve wanted otherwise. It was easy, pretty much expected and according to the drill we had put up the whole time. So what went wrong? Time. Of all the things that could’ve messed up the paper, it was time. Utterly deluded that I had 3.5hrs to complete the paper, I snailed accordingly, only to be told 15 minutes before time-up that we were supposed to wind up. In my head, I had 45 minutes to kill. So that announcement was kind of a shocker. I glanced at the paper- a good three times and stared the duration (which, like every fine print goes unnoticed) expecting it to change- “Time: 3 hours”. This was definitely one of those moments when I wanted to scream. So all frustration aside, I obviously had to cut major chunks of a question that I knew so well but was compulsory to attempt, unfortunately enough.

“How was the paper” became the most painful question then. I should’ve said it was the easiest ever but all is bad that ends bad, right? I just couldn’t get over the fact that I had missed half of a very important part. If only I had known about the time before…if only the invigilators would’ve told us earlier that time is closing in… if only I could “kill” time in every meaning of the word. TIME yeah. It’s such a cruel cosmic joke.

Anyway, while I was sinking in the aftermath of my own stupidity, I realized how familiar all of it was to a scenario we will be witnessing some time soon.  The D-day. When all of us will be regretting the lost time and reeling from our very abrupt life that would look like a “bubble” as the cliché has it. When we would really wish we could go back and undo our foolishness. Things we were aware of but didn’t do… Obligations that were compulsory but we skipped chunks of them for whatever reason. The regret I’m spiraling into now is nothing compared to the one I would be feeling then. When all of us would be summoned in another realm- to the point of no return, that’s when our lies will catch up with us.

وَأَنِيبُوٓاْ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمۡ وَأَسۡلِمُواْ لَهُ ۥ مِن قَبۡلِ أَن يَأۡتِيَكُمُ ٱلۡعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنصَرُونَ (٥٤) وَٱتَّبِعُوٓاْ أَحۡسَنَ مَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيۡكُم مِّن رَّبِّڪُم مِّن قَبۡلِ أَن يَأۡتِيَڪُمُ ٱلۡعَذَابُ بَغۡتَةً۬ وَأَنتُمۡ لَا تَشۡعُرُونَ (٥٥) أَن تَقُولَ نَفۡسٌ۬ يَـٰحَسۡرَتَىٰ عَلَىٰ مَا فَرَّطتُ فِى جَنۢبِ ٱللَّهِ وَإِن كُنتُ لَمِنَ ٱلسَّـٰخِرِينَ (٥٦) أَوۡ تَقُولَ لَوۡ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ هَدَٮٰنِى لَڪُنتُ مِنَ ٱلۡمُتَّقِينَ (٥٧) أَوۡ تَقُولَ حِينَ تَرَى ٱلۡعَذَابَ لَوۡ أَنَّ لِى ڪَرَّةً۬ فَأَكُونَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُحۡسِنِينَ (٥٨

Turn passionately towards your Lord and submit to Him before the punishment comes to you, after which you will not be helped. And follow 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. Lest someone should say, “Pity on me for I fell short in respect of Allah and in fact, I was one of those who mocked.” Or lest someone should say, “If Allah were to show me the way, I would have surely been among those who fear Allah.” Or before someone should say when he sees the punishment, “Would that I have a chance to return, so that I may become one of those who are good in their deeds.” [39:53-58]

Read the verses again and notice the emphasis on the deadline that is being repeated over and over again. And if you’re smart enough, you would have also noticed that the statements of regret that have been highlighted here are exactly similar to my whines about not doing the paper nicely. “Pity on me for I fell short of time… if the invigilators would’ve kept us updated on the time, I would sure have finished the paper… if only I could control time, I would redo it nicely…”

Regrets are the same, only I was being shallow. The mishaps and blunders that I do on a daily basis, there’s more to them than what meets the eye. They are subtle hints from Allah to take heed and worry about a greater trial which would be similar to the one I just went through, only greater in magnitude and far more serious. Hints on letting go of trivial things and focus on the big picture. It’s when we mope around at small things we get side-tracked.

Tunnel vision, you know. It’s blinding.

It’s not just the big problems that are supposed to jolt you back on the track. For if you think enough, your whole life is a calling. In moments of happiness, in sorrow, in pain. We need think out of the box. The box of silly things we hold on to and refuse to let go. Things do not matter as much as we make them matter. We tend to clutch at the apparent demise of whatever-it-is-that-our-life-so-depends-upon and forget the real thing. The one we’re all hardwired for.

Isn’t this life but a preparation for the Hereafter?

So I guess this is what it means to learn from mistakes. I made sure to check the duration and other instructions in my next paper. 🙂 And of course, trying to not err in my other responsibilities. Though I’m far from being perfect at them, but I’ll keep trying. Don’t want another run-on with regrets. Especially not on D-day. It sure is a horrible feeling.

The Awakening

It’s been more than a month since I last posted. My longest ever. And I still feel alien. If you’ve ever felt like having the life sucked out of you, soul-less, lost and disoriented for reasons you can’t really explain to anyone- then this is where I’ve been lingering for a while now. To the zombie land and back. Well, not totally back. I’m still stuck half in the pit and struggling. And the soul wounded with gashes that time alone will heal. God only knows of the turmoil that had raged inside. The scars of which got etched on the physical being, then the world wonders if everything is all right.  A battle between lust and conscience- and when you find yourself losing it, the weight of it sinks you down. So it has been like that lately.

But as long as conscience lives, the war is not lost. I’m stirring from the blow- looking around at the wreckage rendered by the hellstorm of misery that had crashed inside. And pulling myself back together again. Of course, you can’t just do that- tell yourself to get over it and watch it happen.

قُلۡ إِنَّمَآ أَعِظُكُم بِوَٲحِدَةٍۖ أَن تَقُومُواْ لِلَّهِ

“Say, I exhort you to one thing, that you rise up to God…” [34:46]

It begins when you give up to the circumstances. Surrender to your own weaknesses and stop pretending that you’ve got it under control. That it’s all fine when you could hear the alarm bells tolling from the very beginning. You go down on your knees and wring your heart out to the All-Knowing. Any befallen calamity that makes you turn to Him is a sign that He doesn’t want you straying in the dark alleys. He pulls you back to the ground. “And the ground is where humility lives. Breathe in it. Only to come back harder.” And that’s when you rise. The soul awakens. Repentance only makes it stronger. And free from the shadows that had been gnawing at it from the inside.

The Twilight Zone

We all have dark secrets. We all have emotional turmoils raging inside. It’s like everyday we’re fighting these great battles in total silence. And sometimes it gets kind of hard to keep it all buried deep down- you have this strong urge to let it all out. And there’s always this one person in your life who you turn to, who understands and who’s always there.

I lost myself a few days back. I’ve been spinning in a twilight zone- between what is right and what I like. At dusk, everyday, I would look up at the sky, look back at another day I wasted- I would shake my head, sigh and would silently tell myself to start over the next day. That next day never came easily. I’ve been looking for a way out all along- to end the guilt that was weighing me down. My will had weakened, my vision fogged up, and that drive to choose the right over wrong was fading away. I did not know who to turn to. I did not know who to talk it out with. A part of me was scared. I definitely did not want to go back to my old days robbed of reason and conscience. And a part of me had this lay-it-back-and-let-it-be attitude…enjoy the moment, make amends later. Oh, Satan’s sweet whispers…

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُواْ لِى وَلْيُؤْمِنُواْ بِى لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

“And when My servants ask you, (O Muhammad), concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me (by obedience) and believe in Me that they may be (rightly) guided.” [Al-Baqarah, 2:186]

This is how I found my way back home. And it wasn’t my soul-person who I turned to. I’ve always found this a bit overrated though. I mean, it’s really nice to have a particular someone to share your vibes with- but no one can always be there for you. No one can always read you right. You just cannot share everything with this one person. There are certain things you’ve bottled up inside yourself, things you cannot tell but you need them to be sorted out. So pray. Pour your heart out- the guilt, the anguish, the fear…let it all out. Let your heavy heart pull you down to prostration. And believe that Allah (swt) is watching over you. Believe that He has the power to set things straight. Stay obedient to Him and you’ll be guided right- you’ll know what to do.