It’s been well over a year since I decided to step back from community leadership roles. The peace and quiet has brought me to a balanced state of being that seemed unreachable when I was in those positions. I learned a lot from the work I did and the people I connected with, to which I am indebted, but I can’t help but look back and realize how unbalanced I felt. Sure, I was energized and involved, but I was also reaching new heights at the expense of my own need for solitude. I was never the type to be in any kind of spotlight and I still cringe at the thought of it, so the second I started to feel out of place speaking or conversing too publicly, I got scared and retracted back into my safe space. That safe space being a routine of daily work, family, nature, and personal studies .. Islamic or otherwise, and reflection. A couple months back, I was having cyclical ruminations about what was lost in my life, recognizing that so much had changed. I didn’t have constant meetings, projects, planning, etc. outside of work. I thought to myself that I somehow lost the fire I had at 19 and 20 and 21. The enthusiasm and creativity that fueled my thinking and desire to help my community was barely flickering. Had I really burnt out that quickly? Since then, I’ve understood that it wasn’t that my enthusiasm or motivation is lost, but rather, I was comparing my current normal to a previous point in life that was unbalanced, or perhaps it was balanced for that specific time and place. And also understanding that life in and out of college are two very different experiences.
So here I find myself..
I am ambitious yet introverted. I crave calmness and solitude yet I always appreciate good company or a new challenge. I don’t want to neglect myself but I also know that my most creative thoughts come to life when I am under pressure. The constant juxtaposition between seeking the highs of life while also wanting to just sit or meander or read..
In Surah ‘Ali Imran, Allah (swa) says:
يَوْمَ تَجِدُ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا عَمِلَتْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ مُّحْضَرًا وَمَا عَمِلَتْ مِن سُوَءٍ تَوَدُّ لَوْ أَنَّ بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَهُ أَمَدًا بَعِيدًا وَيُحَذِّرُكُمُ اللّهُ نَفْسَهُ وَاللّهُ
The Day every soul will find what it has done of good present [before it] and what it has done of evil, it will wish that between itself and that [evil] was a great distance. And Allah warns you of Himself, and Allah is Kind to [His] servants.” [3:30]
The use of Allah’s name – Ar-Rauf mentioned in this ayah, right after the statement that Allah warns us of Himself, requires much pondering and reflection.
This name of Allah comes from the root, rā hamza fā (ر أ ف), meaning to be compassionate/kind/merciful. It gives the meaning of having pity, tenderness, of being clement and mild. This is one of those names that makes you love Allah so much.
Think about it .. Allah (swa) sees our situations when we engage in good deeds and sins, and he realizes our state. Compassion is to feel what the other feels and understand their experience at a deep level. Our closest friends are those who understand us and get what we’re going through. Only then do we open up to them and feel like we can be vulnerable. Even at a basic level, when we ourselves see someone suffering and have the urge to help them .. that is ra’fa. Allah is extremely compassionate and wants to help us knowing what we are going through. Allah knows what we miss, what we want, what we’d really like to have.
This beautiful name of Allah (swa) indicates that He not only knows our struggles but he is compassionate towards us because of his knowledge and understanding. In this life, we are bound to make mistakes and sin. Keeping in mind that Allah warns us of himself, we should be alert and conscious of our every action and thought, exhibiting as much control as we can knowing that our deeds will be presented to us one day. Allah even foreshadows how people will express their regret, wishing there was a vast and timeless distance between them and their bad deeds when it is time for judgement. So if and when we fall into a mistake, remember that Allah is Ar-Rauf, especially towards His ‘ibaad. He understands us and knows us in ways that no one else can. If this isn’t heartwarming, I don’t know what is.
Looking at this ayah from a literary perspective, only Allah (swa) has such unique speech where such clear statements that elicit fear and hope are mentioned so closely together.
Alhumdulillah Umrah was such a personal and introspective experience at all levels. I thought to myself that it would be so neat to share what it was like through a detailed post but I quickly realized that no form of expression could truly capture what it felt like to revisit Madinah al Munawwarah, see the Ka’aba, and just have the opportunity to exist for a few days on the lands that changed the course of history. I could write an endless post and it wouldn’t do justice. Nevertheless, a few gems are still beneficial to share :)
- There are so many Muslims who wait their entire lives to make Hajj and visit the two most blessed cities in the eyes of Allah, so when Allah (swa) chooses you and provides the means/opportunity to go .. GO! No vacation spot, resort, random travel experience, etc. can come close to being in the presence of believers in the city of the Prophet (S) and the Haram Sharif. Wallahi nothing comes close.
- I will never forgot the absolutely impeccable adab / manners, generosity, and humility of all the people who helped us throughout our journey .. from the airport, to the hotels, the bazars, streets. InshaAllah, never want to forget them in my du’as.
- I thought long and hard about the du’a to make upon seeing the Ka’aba this time, and I eventually decided to make as sincere of a du’a as possible for Allah (swa) to make me one of His chosen people, and among those who truly thanks Allah (swa) because of the many mentions in the Qur’an of how few people thank Allah. May Allah accept the du’a and make us all among His chosen creation, whom He uses in the path of good works. Ameen.
- Being in Madina, the realization that every part of Madina has shifa’ .. the water of Madina has shifa’, the dirt of Madina has shifa’, the air of Madinah has shifa’. <3
- One’s love for the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) skyrockets in his city. The seerah comes to life :)
- Hearing Sh. Budair (hafidhahullah) recite these exact ayaat in salah in Madina was quite possibly the most memorable salah I have prayed to date! The ayaat + the significance of where I was standing and the meanings of each word he recited.. Allahu Akbar.
- When we are extra cautious about our gaze, Allah (swa) provides a special type of halawah / sweetness in one’s ‘ibadah that is felt and experienced deeply.
- Seeing the mountains and dry lands in Saudi, one develops a visceral connection with the challenges our Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) faced and the Sahaba. Leaving their homes, traveling long distances over some of the most difficult terrain, it’s as though they were not made for this world and only had their eyes set on Allah’s promise and pleasure. On the way to Makkah, I thought to myself .. “wow, there is really no other reason a person would visit here except to for the sake of Allah!”
- We had the opportunity to see the well ‘Uthman (radhiallahu ‘anh) bought for the Muslims. It’s really incredible to think of how many times ‘Uthman (ra) had the blessed tawfiq and opportunity to be told that he was guaranteed Jannah. The number of times he used his wealth in the path of Allah without hesitation and his overwhelming mahabba for Allah and His Messenger (saw).
- We also passed by the exact location where Rasulullah (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) planted the palm trees to free Salman al Farisi. Reflecting upon his boundless love and energy to support the believers in times of difficulty..
- Seeing so many believers making intense du’as at every moment, every hour of the day, seeking only from their Creator and putting their trust in Him, renews one’s Iman immediately. We had a lovely opportunity to make du’a in Madinah while it started raining and just seeing everyone raise their hands for du’a standing anywhere outside.. you can’t help but feel strong. When we know Allah exists and He answers the call of His believers, we should never feel weak.
- Almost everywhere you go, you hear people making dhikr, sending salwat/peace and blessings upon the Prophet. This is something you miss so much upon returning home, but remembering that experience of being in a constant state of dhikr can help us stay connected to it.
- One of the new reciters I heard in the streets of Madina has now been on autoplay since returning .. Sh. Khalid Al Jalil
Ultimately, I realized that I really don’t have any special a’maal / actions that would signify me, but I do have a desperate yearning to become a person who does actions to earn Allah’s pleasure and to be mentioned in the gatherings of angels .. but to reach such a status, I have such a long way to go. Also realized that there is really no reason to get caught up in this world when we have the most amazing promise from Allah (swa). What’s there left to fear or worry about when we know Allah (swa) exists and He is everlasting? Nothing. Allah is always, always with us no matter what (amazing reflection when standing upon Mt. Thawr and thinking of the three nights Abu Bakr (ra) and Rasulullah (saw) spent there), and even though our beloved Messenger (saw) is not amongst us .. we should live our lives as though he (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) is amongst us. Every sunnah is so near and dear to Allah because of the love He has for His Messenger and we have to revive his sunnah in our lives for barakah to exist. May Allah (swa) help us all to earn His pleasure and to make Hajj and Umrah with ihsaan. Ameen.
– Fi Amanillah-
P.S.: When packing for Umrah, pack LOTS of sabr. :) (corny but important)
CAN NOT WAIT!!!! Alhumdulillah Allah answers the call of His believers when they call upon Him. I have no words for how in awe I am of Allah’s name – Al Lateef.