Reflections – End of 2016

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My Note 4, Samsung, a gift from my father, broke a few months ago, as my three year old ran excitedly to show me a new picture of the moon he had just captured. He fell hands down, with the phone in his palm, screen facing downward. I didn’t even have half the reaction I imagine I could/must have had, if it hadn’t been for the peculiar state i was in.

I had strangely made a very deep dua from a tired, broken heart; just before sunset. When we make such a dua, there is a tranquility that is tangible even before the onset of the prayer being answered itself. I was in that state. When I picked up the phone and saw that the screen was blank, I had a ‘too tired to care anymore’ response. The only thought and feeling that surged through me was perhaps there was some huge khayr in this- perhaps it was an answer to my dua.

That may sound crazy to someone else. But that is how exhausted I was. How tired and confused about where I was going and how to come out of this eccentric phase of adult life that I had never felt before.

It was a strange inexplicable feeling that I should not be connected too much to the outside world at this point in time. I felt as if being in this remote island at the corner of the world (literally!) meant that Allah SWT Had Wanted me to be disconnected. It had been His Plan all along. But for two years, I kept trying to look the other way. I tried hard to not accept this Plan. I tried hard to find other meaning, other hidden Plans of His. But it couldn’t be so simple and cliched as disconnecting myself from the world, right?

But, it was not that I wouldn’t have any connection to the outside world. It wasn’t that type of disconnect He had Planned for me. It was something very deep and something only experience itself can make sense of. It is something which needs another time and space to write about. (inshaAllah, someday)

A few hours later, my husband had taken out the old battered, but still faithful, Samsung that I had been using a year ago and had downloaded whatsapp for me in it, as I tended to the little ones.

Everything was back to normal… I was in touch with the outside world, but virtually, so to speak, except that my camera wasn’t so hi-fi anymore, and that it would take me longer to type on this touchpad. At least 4 times longer.

On the last day of an eventful 2016, we travelled North of Okinawa, to Cape Hedo.

This is a spot where people camp out, on a beach enclosed between two capes. We travelled two hours to get to it. I was not expecting much (and one cannot emphasize enough the beauty and benefit of not expecting much). It is exactly when you are, really not expecting much, but at the same time in a state of ‘hoping’ and ‘believing’ in a lot, that you witness some of life’s most perfect moments. Not expecting much is really hard to do – by nature, we are beings who expect things to happen. But not having a well-defined expected outcome of everything really helps in every step of life. Yet, at the same time, we need to be positive; expecting whatever happens to hold something good and beneficial for us to take home as seekers of God, traveling to meet Him.

My first reflection was about what constitutes a perfect moment. A ‘perfect’ moment, is one in which your heart and mind are viewing it as perfect. My heart and mind, being that of a striving believer, only view a moment as perfect when I am able to remember God therein. And this particular trip, not only made us witness Allah’s Majestic Art, but we were allowed to see it in the most beautiful hour of the day, when the sun shone above the bay as we stood atop cape Hedo. I was able to relish it alhamdulillah. I was able to reflect on the reality of things, alhamdulillah, which is something I love to do. It is something I thrive on, in fact. It is something without which I feel like a fish out of the ocean.

The sunlight shimmered on top of the ripples of water. The clouds enveloped the sun, allowing radiant rays of sunlight to illuminate the green hills in the background of the bay. My camera couldn’t capture the colours, and thus my attempt to describe it in words. Without a camera, I can only imagine the time people spent in taking in such beauty. It is moments spent in absorbing such a canvas that can result in any prose or poetry defining it.

ن ۚ وَالْقَلَمِ وَمَا يَسْطُرُونَ

Nuun. By the Pen and what they inscribe (68:1)

My second reflection was on how experience teaches us. I thought about how we have been ‘inflicted’ by the writings of humans in this world. This blessing of articulation could be a curse at times. Some writings are beautiful, and proclaim the beauties of our Lord. Some ugly and reprehensible, darkening our soul. I have been open to such negative influences on my heart unfortunately, in the past few years, but had I not been, I wouldn’t be here to mention it. Because, only through experience we become wise, and only when we make mistakes, do we become experienced. I would never have been so wary of it as I now am. But I know I may make mistakes again. I have to be ever vigilant.

As we watched the beautiful bay bathed in sunlight, we wished to go there – to see this beauty up close. As we drove towards that beach, I was amazed to find two things: up close it was not really so beautiful as the image we had seen from kilometers away. The golden sand was less golden, the sand less fine and full of pebbles. The children enjoyed the sand, no matter how imperfect it was. The baby was asleep in the car, and I found this a perfect opportunity to take in my surroundings.

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The waves crashed into the bay water at a distance, and then flowed calmly onto the shore of the beach. I walked forward and stood on one of the rocks. As I did so, I let the sounds be recorded in my heart. The water at a distance, that incessantly foamed into white waves was a constant gurgling, gushing roar. There wasn’t a beginning and end to the wave formation, because waves were being formed at three to four different directions as the water was swept inwards into the bay. The sound this produced was amazing. Incessant. Powerful. There was a second sound: calmer, peaceful. The water that flowed onto the beach did so in a calm and composed manner. There was no foam, no waves, just a constant soft ripple of crystal clear water, flowing over rounded rocks and pebbles onto the shore. The sound this produced was like a fountain: water being poured over something at an unceasing, composed pace. The third sound was that of the chilly breeze blowing into my face – into my niqab and onto my face, rather.

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Photo credits: The Husband. Cape Hedo in the background. (P.S. My husband is not a good picture-taker by my high standards, but I simply loved this picture he took!)

So my third reflection was this: It was an imperfect place, but so much beauty would not even be possible in something that was perfect. Isn’t our own beauty exactly in the fact that we are imperfect? Imperfect; striving relentlessly for perfection. It’s almost like ‘limits’ in calculus. It is ironic how much I hated that topic in my undergrad, and how tough that was for me given that I had always loved Mathematics in all forms before this. Yes, it was this concept in real life too, which I found the hardest to fully comprehend. It has to be an unceasing striving, because we will never reach perfection in this world. But if we stop trying, we will never produce anything. We will be stagnant, unchanging, unimproving pieces of matter, flying in space at the speed of the earth. Marvelous in itself, but nearly not marvelous enough if we consider our beings entire universes in themselves in movement, growing and evolving over time.

My fourth reflection was that I have to see the beauty in the moment myself. No one can ever do that for me. This I write in present tense because it is an ongoing learning experience. In every given moment, I have the option to make it or break it. In the haphazardness of real, authentic life happening, we have to accept the chaos and embrace the pieces that are not fitting – because only when we stop fretting do the pieces ever come into place.

Since my phone camera wasn’t something I was banking in, picture taking wasn’t what I was worrying about. I ‘did’ take pictures as you can see. I didn’t abandon this thing altogether. But I think, as a majority of my attention was directed away from capturing everything on camera, I was able to capture it within my being. So yes, that lesson helped me trust my hubby taking the pic- and then I loved it when I saw it back at home. (My phone screen didn’t really allow me to see what the pictures were turning out like then and there :))

And this was an end to an otherwise horrendous 2016. My fifth reflection was that on hope. We need to keep hoping, despite the despairs of this world. Do horrors and fears of this dunya really mean just that? Is injustice going to prevail? Are they just bad happenings and nothing good can come out of it?

My own time on this island has been of a lot of isolation and pain. I grew years older than the three years I have spent here. But as the saying goes, there is no gain with pain. It sounds very very cliched. But herein, a lot of truth lies. We do not grow older and wise without falling and tripping and hurting ourselves.

It is with this hope I end 2016: that with each difficulty comes the ease of gaining. With each difficulty, comes the ease of learning. With each difficulty, comes the ease of beauty. With each difficulty, comes the hope in our meeting with our Lord.

إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا 

Indeed, with hardship, comes ease. (94:6)

And elsewhere, Allah says:

سَيَجْعَلُ اللَّـهُ بَعْدَ عُسْرٍ يُسْرًا

After a difficulty, Allah will soon grant relief. (65:7)

If only we could remind ourselves during each difficulty, that it is not there to last. That there is a purpose behind it. A reason for it. A way to make it a means of our strength, rather than weakness. If we remember that during the hardship, then we would continue to strive, no matter how hard it seemed to us.I’ve known these verses since a decade, but in my life, I only lived them when I went through hardship, and when I couldn’t see or feel any ease in it. And when I had to beg Allah to help me, I saw how we were fighting a battle within ourselves to reach a state of certainty. It only comes after struggle. ‘Knowing’ a verse is not enough. Living it, is the goal.

يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ

O mankind, indeed you are laboring toward your Lord with [great] exertion and will meet Him. (84:6)

And it is this hope of meeting Him, at the end of this long winded road of life, which keeps us going. It is this hope that overcomes the darkness. It is this hope, which dispels the fears. It is this hope that keeps us striving when we so earnestly want to give up.

And with that we begin the new year, with hopes of striving towards our Lord, and becoming better and growing in all the ways that are good. Ameen.

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