Islamophobia (prejudice against Islam and Muslims) is on the rise. We see negative media coverage attempting to tie Islam with terrorism almost daily.
Innocent Muslims are being targeted due to Islamophobia. We see it happening all the time on public transport, in shopping centres, restaurants and cafes. Even at the masajid (mosques)! Not only with verbal abuse but sometimes physical as well.
So what’s a Muslim to do? What are the best ways to deal with bullying? How can you keep your cool while also making sure you stay safe?
Below are 11 tips on how to deal with Islamophobia.
Look For Guidance In The Qur’an
Islamophobia is nothing new. Allah even mentions it in Surah Ali ‘Imran in the Qur’an.
You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves. And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah – indeed, that is of the matters [worthy] of determination. Qur’an 3:186
We are promised that we will definitely hear hurtful things from non-Muslims. Allah tests us in the forms of good and bad.
Understand that getting hate is, unfortunately, just part of being a Muslim. It hasn’t changed over 1400 years ago and it will never change.
Why don’t we ask ourselves, are we being grateful for all of the good that has been granted to us despite Islamophobia? Do we allow the hate that we receive from the media and from strangers to get to us?
Are we turning away from the deen (religion of Islam) because of negative reactions from people, or are we using these reactions to draw nearer to Allah?
Do we react with patience or impatience?
Follow The Example Of Prophet Muhammad (Peace And Blessings Be Upon Him)Just because he was a messenger of Allah doesn’t mean that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) didn’t deal with his share of Islamophobia. We can certainly gain a lot by following from his behaviour.
I love this hadith (record of things said or done by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him) about the incident where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was interrupted during his salah (obligatory prayer) by his haters. In the worst way. His reaction though was brilliant.
Narrated `Abdullah bin Mas`ud:
Once the Prophet (ﷺ) was offering prayers at the Ka`ba. Abu Jahl was sitting with some of his companions. One of them said to the others, “Who amongst you will bring the Abdominal contents (intestines, etc.) of a camel of Bani so and so and put it on the back of Muhammad, when he prostrates?” The most unfortunate of them got up and brought it. He waited till the Prophet (ﷺ) prostrated and then placed it on his back between his shoulders. I was watching but could not do any thing. I wish I had some people with me to hold out against them. They started laughing and falling on one another. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was in prostration and he did not lift his head up till Fatima (Prophet’s daughter) came and threw that (camel’s Abdominal contents) away from his back. He raised his head and said thrice, “O Allah! Punish Quraish.” So it was hard for Abu Jahl and his companions when the Prophet invoked Allah against them as they had a conviction that the prayers and invocations were accepted in this city (Mecca). The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “O Allah! Punish Abu Jahl, `Utba bin Rabi`a, Shaiba bin Rabi`a, Al-Walid bin `Utba, Umaiya bin Khalaf, and `Uqba bin Al Mu’it [??] (and he mentioned the seventh whose name I cannot recall). By Allah in Whose Hands my life is, I saw the dead bodies of those persons who were counted by Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) in the Qalib (one of the wells) of Badr. Sahih al-Bukhari 240
Look at the way the situation was dealt with beautifully with utmost tawakkul (reliance on Allah). What could be worse than having camel entrails thrown on your back during salah? Imagine the concern he would have had for his daughter, who witnessed this incident.
Instead of letting frustration get the better of him and taking matters into his own hands, the messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) left it to Allah (may He be glorified and exalted) to deal with Abu Jahl and his companions.
Subsequently, each one of their lives ended in the Battle of Badr and their bodies were dragged and thrown into a well.
Have Sabr (Patience)
Instead of looking at Islamophobia as something negative, look at it as something positive. Yes, you read that correctly.
Let me explain.
Dealing with unwarranted abuse from a stranger isn’t easy and can be a major test for most people. It can be pretty frightening. It can make your blood boil. But don’t forget that remaining patient during trials brings the true believer a great reward in the hereafter.
Look at it for what it is – a test from Allah.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.” Sahih al-Bukhari 5645
Look at it as a golden opportunity to do good deeds.
Keep steadfast in your religion and prove the haters wrong. They want to see you react back.
Show them the true teachings of Islam. Prove to them that Muslims are actually really peaceful people and that the portrayal of us in the media is wrong.
They need to know that we mean well and would never want to hurt anybody.
The best way to convey these things are through our actions rather than our words.
Try To Avoid Travelling Alone
I’m going to be real here. The reason why some bullies who have Islamophobia tend to target Muslim women is that they perceive them to be weak.
They also prefer Muslims that are travelling on their own or sitting isolated somewhere.
You can avoid this by being with friends, family or sticking to areas with large crowds of people. This is especially important for women in order so that they to appear to be less vulnerable.
Sisters should strive to always travel with a male mahram (husband, grandfather, uncle, father, brother etc.) unless there is a necessity to not do so.
Narrated Ibn `Abbas:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A woman should not travel except with a Dhu-Mahram (her husband or a man with whom that woman cannot marry at all according to the Islamic Jurisprudence), and no man may visit her except in the presence of a Dhu-Mahram.” A man got up and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! I intend to go to such and such an army and my wife wants to perform Hajj.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to him), “Go along with her (to Hajj). Sahih al-Bukhari 1862
One of the best ways of dealing with Islamophobia in the form of verbal abuse is to try to minimise your reactions as much as possible. After all, that’s what the perpetrator is hoping for – a negative reaction. Don’t fall for it and give them what they want!
Take your attention off their words by focusing on something completely irrelevant.
You can try slowly counting to ten in your mind or directing your attention to a different person or an object nearby. Take note of its colour, shape, size, is it animate or inanimate etc. This will help you stay calm.
Try to avoid eye contact.
Remember to take deep breaths.
If you have headphones on you, you can start listening to a lecture on YouTube, a podcast, some Qur’an recitation, a nasheed (vocal song with percussion instrument) etc.
You can also try to focus on that ayah (verse of the Qur’an) or surah (chapter of the Qur’an) you’ve been trying to memorise for so long.
Don’t forget the power of dhikr (mentioning) as well. Repeat the phrase ‘la ilaha illallah’ (there is no god but Allah). The beauty of this particular dhikr is that you don’t need to move your lips to say it!
Just ignore them.
You have better things to spend your time and energy on than an ignorant stranger. They will see that they aren’t getting the reaction they were hoping for and move on.
Don’t Insult Them
If you feel you have to say something, keep it personal. Don’t make it about the hater. One of the worst things you can do is start insulting them back. This will only make the situation worse.
Say something like “I don’t have time for this” or “I’m not in the mood to give a reaction” and move away.
And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace Qur’an 25:63
What To Do When Things Get Dangerous
If someone is physically threatening you, make every effort to move toward an authority figure.
Some train stations have PSOs (protective services officers). If you are on a bus you can move towards the driver. See the security guard in a store if there is one. See a manager or a cashier. Get someone to remove the person from the premises.
Or if there is none of those options move towards a crowd of people. Safety is in strength in numbers.
What If Things Get Really Really Out Of Hand?Use self defence. Everyone has the right to protect themselves from harm. You also have the right to defend others with reasonable force if you see they are facing an imminent threat.
Call the police. Take note of everything you remember about the attacker. What were they wearing, how tall are they, what did they say, how did they attack, what led up to the incident etc.
Avoid sharing these details with others who witnessed the incident until you report it to the police.
Don’t Change Yourself
Be proud to be a Muslim. Never stop practicing your religion just because of negative reactions from some people.
As long as you are abiding by the laws of your country, you are minding your own business and you aren’t harming anyone, any form of hate or prejudice towards you because of your religion is completely unjustified.
In Australia, you have the right to exercise a legitimate religion (based on the High Court’s definition of a religion). Islam is one of those religions.
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. The Constitution Section 116
Don’t abandon your hijab (covering), or your beard, or your salah for anyone. Do you think that on the Day of Judgement, Allah (may He be glorified and exalted) is going to accept that?
We are all accountable for our own actions, regardless of what other people are saying or doing against you.
And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And if a heavily laden soul calls [another] to [carry some of] its load, nothing of it will be carried, even if he should be a close relative. You can only warn those who fear their Lord unseen and have established prayer. And whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for [the benefit of] his soul. And to Allah is the [final] destination. Qur’an 35:18
We are here to worship and obey Allah (may He be glorified and exalted).
Don’t Take Any Form Of Islamophobia Personally
Letting other people’s hate get to you is what you experience when you take your mind off your goal; when you take your mind off success not only in this world but in the hereafter as well.
At the end of the day, the number of Islamophobic people out there is very small. What you read online doesn’t necessarily reflect what people say in real life.
A lot of people couldn’t really care less about what religion you follow or how you look. As long as you respect them, they will see past it and respect you.
Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
There are plenty of people out there who will love you regardless of what other people think. Cherish these people.
Preparation Is KeyWhen dealing with verbal and physical abuse in the form of Islamophobia, it’s crucial to always be prepared.
Have strategies in place before heading out of the house. You could even take up self defence classes as a way to protect yourself.
Plan your trip – will you be alone or with a group? Is there likely to be crowds of people around? Will there be figures of authority around?
There’s no need to be in a state of constant anxiety and paranoia. But with these preparations in place you can minimise the risk of getting into confrontations with strangers and avoid being in danger.
Once in my life I was gifted and blessed to live in a land where the beauty was hidden under the scorching sun .
In the middle of the brown sand only you will be welcomed by the thin thorny cactuses and tall date trees.
Time to time you will see white sheets of moving creatures when you look closer its amazing to see the sheeps were grazing in the barren land . Its a wonder to see the animals survive in those dark brown heated sand.
I saw the beauty in mesmerizing tall mountains . My heart skips a beat when I saw the mountains covered with different shades,in different layers of smooth sand..
I feel like run towards it.. to feel the beauty to the core of my thirsty heart .
I want to get lost in those sandy mountains..
To refresh my soul......
My legs never comes to a halt, never I get tired when I roam through the streets of my beloved prophet. I feel zenith when I thought that once rasoolullah and his dear companions footsteps touch the soil which I witness through my own eyes.
The beauty ,the tranquility I felt in my mind is a pure bliss. My soul becomes ease with the peaceful serenity which I knew I never get it in this whole wide world.
You may dive into the sea,you may climb up the cliff of a tall mountain ... you may witness the beauty of the sunset when it hide its rays far away behind the mountain ranges ... you may see the gushing pure white milky waterfalls falling with their charming rhythm... all these moments are breathe taking ,a pleasant memory for a certain period time , but when you stepped into the city of madina you will feel unknown emotions ......
you will feel the pleasure of a long lost child running towards his mother.......
A missing piece of puzzle of your life......
The wonderful days I spend in Masjid al Haram was mesmerizing. Far away from a distance you will see the view of jennathul bakki where the prophets beloved companions and the people who created the best nation were buried.. you will see the green dome where my beloved prophet Muhamed (Saw) and his companions next to each other were buried. Then the tall countless gates welcome you to the prophets masjid .
When the sun was rising I witness the beauty while sitting in the floors of haram. I used to ponder the words of Allah (Quran) while tears in my eyes.....
Ya Allah how many times do I have to thank you to give this great opportunity ... where thousands of people longing to come to this place through out their entire life.
In the morning hours its splendid to be inside the masjid. The sun rays beams down through the window shades of the masjid.
Their were Quran circles around every corner. They might be different in colour ..
their language Might differ from each other yet they have sat in one pious mission...
The wisdom of learning the language of prophet.... to give a voice to the mesmerizing Quran... to carry Allah 's words in their hearts .. and ready to carry it to the next generation.
How inspirational ,,,how wonderful their attitudes were.........
The people who visit that place have different dress codes not like the way we see in Makka during tawaf.
Every time this issue kept me haunting and took sometime till the reality dawn to me...
I forgot to realize that their are people among us who take little steps towards the righteous path. No one is perfect in practising the religion , everyone strive struggle hard to get succeed in their own pace.
we are not in the religion which can be forced at others .It takes time to carve the extract to embrace fully with the pure intention towards islam.
As they say we cannot judge a book by its cover similarly we cannot come to a conclusion by the peoples attire or by their acts of behaviour .
These are the simple but amazing lesson I learned the days in haram taught me .
The beauty that our beloved rasoolullah taught our nation which made us a unique community. He took the mission of building up individual people.....
Quran has the guidance and the life of prophet muhamed (saw) being the living example made madina to become the most successful community.The best nation ever lived where their glory echoed far east and the west .
THE LAND OF SUCCESS
THE LAND OF OUR BELOVED PROPHET
HOW DO I REFRAIN FROM FALLING IN LOVE ..............................
MADINA MY BELOVED CITY OF MY HEART
In this article, I will share with you My Journey to Islam. I hope it inspires and gives you a deeper insight into my background.
I recall a happy childhood, each Sunday my mother would dress my brothers and younger sister in our Sunday best for the church. I would always have a bright coloured silky ribbon in my hair to match my dress. At church, I remember it being an upbeat affair very jolly with a loud preacher giving the gospel, loud music accompanied by tambourines and hymns.
I was raised a Christian so God was in my life from the get-go. I am grateful to my parents for raising me with a strong religious foundation, to believe there is a God our creator. Over the years I had questions that started to play on my mind.
My bedroom was surrounded by books. Each time I was given pocket money I would visit the second-hand bookshops and buy books on all types of subjects, I even purchased a Quran, it was written in English, although I did not realise what I had at the time, I kept it purely because of the love and respect I had for books and maybe one day I would get around to reading it.
As well as my love for books I also grew up with a fascination for religion. I chose Religous Education as one of my subjects at school, it was the first time I experienced a glimpse of other religions and beliefs.
During my late twenties, I developed a stronger yearning to know who God was, and why were there so many different religions? I decided to do some research which led me to enrol with The Open University to study a BA Honors Arts & Humanities in Religous Studies. Hopefully, I would learn all about world religion and different cultures, maybe along the way, I would find all the answers I craved. I was so excited, but soon discovered I would have to complete a foundation year before I could touch on any religious subjects so I soon lost interest.
My thirties were the most painful years of my life, somewhere along the way I became totally lost. Emotional pain is an inescapable part of life. I tried so hard to deal with trials and hardships that came in wave after wave. I was trying to deal with feelings of stress, anxiety, panic attacks. I was in an endless whirlpool of gloom and confusion, I completely lost my self and developed a love for alcohol, it became a comfort to me, something I would turn to when the emotional rollercoaster became too much. I found alcohol had the ability to numb out any emotional pain not realizing the consequences and the damage I was doing to myself. It was at this time that I also started to dabble in new age religions, I tried Buddhism and looked into tarot cards and fortune telling. At one point I actually believed I could tell the future.
I got to the point where I had enough of my self-consuming destructive mindset. All my doom and gloom and self-pity, I wanted everything in my life to change yet I was not doing anything about it. One morning I woke up with a strong determination and took pen to paper. I decided to draw up a plan to change my life and stop all the negativity that was harmful and wrong.
I wrote down all the major changes I wanted to make and listed the steps to achieve them.
My career change was to work with vulnerable women. I became a volunteer for a well-known organization in Bristol that supports the homeless to find permeant accommodation. It was at this point that I came in touch with Muslim women who were either my work colleagues or seeking support. I received ongoing training and development, I also started studying and reading again with the focus to help others. Over the years I worked hard until I became the Deputy Manager. I was finally in a good place, happy but not content. It dawned on me one day that God had answered my prayers, everything I had asked for he had given me, the house, the career, new friends, I was truly grateful but there was still something missing. I felt spiritually unfulfilled.
A Month of Contemplation
I was now in my forties. One evening at work I noticed a colleague reading a book, the idiot's guide to Judaism, this sparked a conversation about religion. I briefly scanned her book and researched online and found there were numerous books on the idiot's guide to different religions. I decided to purchase a book on a religion that I had not touched on before.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam
I had a four-week vacation from work so I took that opportunity to relax and read. I was surprised by what I read, it was a real eye-opener. The book was full of thought-provoking questions which led me to investigate certain aspects of the religion such as why did Muslim women cover? I came across a particular image which made me really think and want to know more.
I found myself searching for Islamic programs on the TV. I found nothing until I stumbled upon the Islam Channel. They had just started broadcasting, it was March 2004, back then, broadcasting was mainly adverts and a lot of Quran recitation. Every afternoon I watched a program which taught about Islam, the lecturer was Yasir Qhadi. It was a lot to take in but I began to learn. The four weeks passed, I was ready to go back to work and I was ready to be a Muslim.
Once again, I felt scared, anxious and fearful, am I making the right decision? What will my family say? I remember calling myself stupid, what do you think you're doing? but I took comfort when I saw the thousands of Muslims on the TV that were circulating around the Kabba, I knew then I would not be alone.
On the day I returned to work there were two Muslim women in the office working. I approached the one in Muslim attire. I told her I had been reading about her religion and would like to watch her pray. I am sure she was surprised and taken aback that her boss was asking such a personal request, but she did more than show me how to pray, she welcomed me into her home and introduced me to her family. They all embraced me with such warmth and began teaching me the Islamic way of life.
In April 2004 approximately one month after reading The Complete Idiot's Guide To Understanding Isalm, I took the Shahada (to testify in the oneness of God and in Muhammad the final Prophet.) I was now a Muslim.
Student of Quran
My journey as a student of Quran had begun. One of the first things I craved after accepting Islam was to understand the Quran. My love for books and learning had returned with an immense thirst and focus to comprehend Islam. I researched online and found a free learning platform, Al Quran Wa Sunnah Online Islamic University. Their mission is to bring Muslims from around the world together and teach them the basics of Islam. During my period of study with this university, I collaborated with other students and co-wrote some of the student group presentations.
In the Summer of 2006, I travelled to Leicester to volunteer at the Jimas International Da'wah Conference. There were well-known lecturers from around the globe who came each year to boost the faith of hundreds of Muslim men, women, and families. I met so many Muslims from all nationalities and cultures. I was welcomed by the Muslim community in Leicester, the women embraced me and recognized my thirst to learn Isam and encouraged me to move. I did not hesitate.
I migrated to Leicester in 2006. I formed a great bond with my new friends who were now my sisters in Islam, we did lots of work within the local community, fundraising, social activities and events, offering support to the vulnerable while raising awareness of Islam. In 2009 we established the women's support group Sisters4Islam.
My online Islamic studies continued. I wanted a more detailed study of the Qur’an so back In 2007 I enrolled in the Al Huda's Canada Campus and participated in the online live classes.
In 2011, I enrolled with the IOU, Islamic Online University. I took one subject, Arabic and Reading Made Easy by Dr Bilal Phillips, this course was available on their free website. I found the course simple and easy to follow and would recommend it especially for beginners. In 2014, I enrolled in their BA Degree Islamic Studies which is available on their main site for a reasonable fee.
If your looking to study Modern Standard Arabic which will also broaden your vocabulary and learning of the Arabic language check out Path to Arabic they have a FREE Engage course available.
My Purpose In Life
My purpose in life is to worship Allah alone with no partners. In order to worship him in the correct way, we first need to understand what is required of us. We need to learn the religion as it was taught to the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and his Companions. It is important that we learn from the Quran and the Authentic Hadiths of the Prophet as they both go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other.
I would like to share with you some of the personal lessons I have learned on My Journey to Islam.
I do hope my journey has been of benefit. If you would like to share your journey with Islam, whether you are a convert or born into Islam, the journey back to Allah is always inspiring. I would love to hear from you.
So…I have been an insincere muslim for a long time. I mean I do the things I’m supposed to…I pray, I dress appropriately, I do the mandatory recitation and I observe the special nights. I’ve realized though that I was never sincere in my efforts.
I tried…I really tried but I didn’t feel anything.
And I am a feeling sort of person.
I realized that my mistake was in trying to duplicate the rituals and efforts that I saw people around me perform. Things that I was taught in madressa. I can’t even say things I took away from a Jummah bayyaan because back then, I didn’t even hear the bayaan.
I realized that I was not getting it. I would see grown men in tears at the mere mention of our beloved Nabi SAW and wondered what that was about. I would hear ladies exclaim “Alhamdulillah” at taleem and think “okayyyy”. I just didn’t get it.
Much, much later on in life I realized that I needed to find my own unique way to Him. I needed to find the things that would connect me to him. If I could not connect, I could not be sincere. If Allah SWT expected the same efforts from all of us he would have created us the same way…right? If he created us unique, surely he expected us to find unique ways to reach him?
So I searched and I explored. I explored the Quraan in English. I watched YouTube videos. I signed up for some classes. I found myself gravitating toward people who, strangely enough, were having similar thoughts. I tried to find a way…find my way to Him. I would speak to Him in my head. I would speak to Him when I was having a bad day. I would speak to Him when I was having a good day. When I lost my temper. In the shower. Having a cuppa. When I needed something. When I was happy. I caught myself and wondered if this was normal. Did everyone do this? Was I going a little bit more crazy?
And I realized that it did not matter. It actually didn’t. I figured if I was doing the things He commanded me to and I sincerely prayed for guidance and this was where I got, then surely this was where He was trying to lead me
I will continue to do this until He is not an afterthought…but an every-thought.
I enjoy speaking with Erida and listen to her views, particularly about how she perceives women and their developing role in our beloved Indonesia.
Miss Erida Pulungan or Ed for short is the most smartest, kindest and genuine person I have ever come across. Edrida was born in April 25th, 1982 as the first daughter of 5 siblings of both parents (the late Mr. Azhari Pulungan and Mrs Dahniar Pasaribu).
She has excellent leadership skills: focused, engaged, and takes the initiative. She has degrees in Management and Economics from North Sumatera University, a degree in Education and English Literature and a Master's degree in Diplomacy from Paramadina Postgraduate School of International Relations and another Master’s degree in Management Social Development at the Faculty of Social and Politics at University of Indonesia.
Edrida used to work at Asia Development Bank as a surveyor, translator and analyst. She was also a researcher for communication with the expert, Jaffrey Kamar.
Communicating with Edrida always brought a special experience for me. Her energetic ways in talking and how she perceives the whole world from her point of view made her unique amongst others. This quality comes from her strong character as an adult woman born and raised in Medan, North Sumatera. In addition to this strength, she can be very emphatic and responsive to help anyone who requires her help. Even more interesting aee her talented skills in writing and publishing poetry. That is why I prefer to call her, Ed The Poetry Woman.
Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, is where she started her career as member of Parliament at the Parliamentary House of Regional of Representative. At the same time, she researched and wrote which made her one of the best Representatives for Indonesia in international events.
She used to work as a Journalist from Medan Bisnis with branding Economic Newspaper in North Sumantera (March-September 2005), including Covering Management, Business, and Financial Analysis and Showbiz. The task itself has made her one of the most influential Young Generation persons from Indonesia and brought new prestige for Indonesia.
Her knowledge about public relations and her love of public speaking made her feel it necessary to share Indonesian cultures to foreign people around the world, consistent with the opportunity she had during her study in Darwin High School. Edrida is always eager for knowledge and learning something new.
She is also the founder of English Debating Competiton in National University. Here are the list of the books that she already written since year 2012-2016 , entitled as follows:
1.AVRUPA GOKLERI UZERINDE SANA EVILIK TEKLIF ETMEK, Lingkar Mata, Publisher 2016
2.DIATAS LANGIT EROPA MELAMARMU, Gramata Publisher, 2014.
3.SEPUCUK RINDU UNTUK AISYAH YANG SETIA, Mahara Publishing.,2014.
4.CINTA MERAH JAMBU, Puspa Swara Publisher , 2014.
5.FIKSI HARI PAHLAWAN, Fiksiana Publisher 2014
6.PANCASILA RUMAH KITA , Peniti Media Publisher 2013.
7. 25 WANITA MERAWAT INDONESIA, Peniti Media Publisher, 2013
8.ANTOLOGI PELANGI JIWA, Mahara Publishing ,2013.
9.101 PEREMPUAN BERKISAH, Woman’S Scrift, Publisher 2013
10.HARMONI, Motivasi Islami, Quanta Elexmedia, 2013.
11.JADILAH TERANG, Penerbit Bogor Publisher, 2013
12.VALENTISIANA, Fiksiana Publisher, 2013
13.AYAT-AYAT RAMADHAN, Erafrasti Publisher 2012.
14.MAMA PAHLAWANKU, Fiksiana Publisher 2012
15. LOVE NEVER FAIL, Nulisbuku.com, 2012.
16. LUNCH INVITATION STORY WITH PRESIDENT JOKOWI, 2015.
Ed believes that happiness comes from being generous and caring about others. Her dreams are to become a part of any project in the world. Her demeanor is appreciated by friends and colleagues.
Many have written about it, Muslim and non-Muslim. It is a topic known to many and a pain felt by even more. While the pain may be dealt with or shared with people differently, it’s intensity is deep for all that go through it generally. Loosing a child is painful, and the one that people haven’t yet seen makes people less sympathetic towards the realization of one’s pain. For a mother, her child is alive from the moment she conceives, way before the delivery time comes.
It’s painful (I wonder if this word even justifies the emotion) – it’s going to hurt emotionally more than physically. Depending on various factors i.e. for how long you tried before you conceived, how far along you were in the pregnancy, etc. the intensity of pain would vary but the feeling of loss is no less for any. While I cannot put in words the emotions felt at the moment of loss, I will tell you it is a deep emotion and you are bound to feel it. Accept it, own it. Once you accept it, only then you can work on how to handle it. I personally have come up with some reminders that have helped me and I hope they will help those who have or are going through this testing time of their lives.
It Wasn’t Your FaultAs humans, the first question that pops up is why and how did it happen? While there may be specific medical reasons for some, for many there is really no answer to why and how. It was simply: bound to happen. Regardless, don’t blame yourself.
My gynecologist once told me and I always remind myself of it: “it is nature’s way of fixing things, only the child who isn’t strong enough is miscarried; so it is something to be grateful for…while it is very painful realize that it could have been even more worse…..for instance, having a child with disabilities.”
Remember: It was Qadar Allah, don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise. (Not even your in-laws!)
Children are AmanahALLAH gives us Children as an Amanah, a trust. They are given to us as blessing and test. While we long for children and once we have them we raise them with our blood, not just sweat, at the end we do all of it for the sake of ALLAH. We simply fulfill our duty of raising good Muslims and we will be held accountable for it in Akhirah. Our children are with us for some time, some are for more time and some are for less. They belong to ALLAH alone. When I was asked about how my pregnancy was going, I simply said Alhamdulillah ALLAH took His Amanah back – it was a reminder for myself while uttering those words to others.
People People PeopleHumans are social beings. While many of us may say it doesn’t matter to them what people think or say, reality is it does, at least with regards to some people. More or less, people DO affect us – especially through their verbal and non-verbal communication.
So, be careful about who you share news of your loss with and when you do it. With some people you rather wait and inform once you are more emotionally stable, that is because of the following two points.
May be – They don’t mean it but still it Hurts: Many people unintentionally (hopefully) hurt the one already in pain by asking questions like “how did it happen?” Or “What did you do?”
May be they do not realize the amount of pain their questions cause because the woman who just lost her baby already feels that it was something “she did” that caused the death of her unborn child. People need to be more sympathetic and wise when dealing with those in such a painful and emotional state.
Don’t Listen To People: some people believe saying that it’s not a big thing helps, well it doesn’t. It just makes you think “you are not supposed to feel what you are feeling,” which is wrong and causes you to have self fight. You are bound to be hurt. Everybody is different, you might find it more emotionally painful than some other sister who went through the same thing or may be less painful than her. There is no right or wrong here. Loss is a loss. So, accept that it’s OKAY to feel what you are feeling.
He Lost a Child TooI wouldn’t say much on this except that please realize that your man has lost a child too. Even if he doesn’t express his tears and pain – he feels it too; his dreams, joys, expectations are shattered too. Just be considerate of that. Stick together, let this testing time strengthen your bond as a couple.
Give Yourself TimeAt that moment when you lose your baby….it feels like end of the world. No words to describe it. It can be very hard to handle the emotions, especially if it was your first pregnancy. A lady who already has a child and then goes through this pain has it totally different, yes it’s still very very painful but her other child/children are a very good distraction (alhamdulillah). Pain is still there, she just has uncontrollable constant distraction around her.
“Time will heal everything,” I have read this and heard it a lot too, it doesn’t mean pain will vanish; rather you will learn to handle it and it will get a more settled place in your heart. And trust me, it happens alhamdulillah.
Also, make sure to keep yourself busy with productive tasks that keep your “mind” busy. It is very important.
Soon you’ll be pregnant again and give birth to a gorgeous baby who will bring lots of light into your life (in sha ALLAH). Don’t lose hope in the mercy of ALLAH.
Hold on Tightly ToDu’a – my personal favorite is the du’a of Umm Salamah, it has done wonders in my life alhamdulillah.
Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported:
I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying, “When a person suffers from a calamity and utters: ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un. Allahumma ujurni fi musibati, wakhluf li khairan minha (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. O Allah! Compensate me in my affliction, recompense my loss and give me something better in exchange for it), then Allah surely compensates him with reward and better substitute.” Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: When Abu Salamah (May Allah be pleased with him) died, I repeated the same supplication as the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had commanded me (to do). So Allah bestowed upon me a better substitute than him (I was married to Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)).
Salah – Shed tears to Him, because He alone controls our hearts and He alone knows the depth of our pain and from Him alone we will get the most needed comfort. Cry in sujood in salah, after salah.
Good Friends – People who remind you of ALLAH. Whether you tell them about your loss or not, just be around people who remind you of ALLAH because indeed they are the good friends that we all need.
May ALLAH help those who are going through this painful test by giving comfort to their hearts and blessing them with good news of health righteous children (aameen).
His provisions had long since run out, and with the horror of a lone traveler in a strange unmarked desert, he realized that he was lost. His hunger was a sharp insistent pain within the pit of his stomach, his thirst a burning desire in his parched and swollen tongue. His bloodshot eyes, devoid of any tears to keep them moist and lubricated, were now a raking pain every time he blinked, and he knew that it would only be a matter of time before blindness begins to set in. The thought catapulted his panic and his instinctive reaction was to spur the camel to a faster trot. He got no response. The monotonous consistent hoof-beats of the beast when they had started out had now been reduced to an unsteady awkward shuffle of its exhausted limbs. He craned his neck to catch sight of any landmark in the horizon ahead, but all he could see was an unending sea of dunes stretching ahead to infinity…
He had been riding for three weeks now, and had survived the last three days without food. The sun lashed at him with the force of an ironsmith’s mallet, leaving him dazed and disoriented. His grip on the riding animal’s reins had slackened, so that his arms flopped lifelessly by his side. His tongue was a heavy lump of flesh that stuck to the upper palate of his mouth, thick and immovable like dried glue. His breathing became an energy-consuming laborious exercise, a croaking sound as he inhaled and exhaled hot air. He wanted to stop and surrender himself to oblivion. He tried to swivel his eyes in their sockets but the pain blinded him and filled the darkness that had begun encroaching on his vision with flashes of bright silver sparks. Within his emaciated body, the turmoil that had been raging incessantly for ten long years was now at its bloodiest, and he was shocked to find that the demons inside him showed no signs of the weakness that was eating away at him. He tried to scream in mortal anguish, to escape from the agonizing questions of the meaning behind his existence that were driving him beyond exhaustion, but the only sound he could emit was a dry rasping one, like that of a saw cutting into wood. He felt himself falling but made no move to shield himself from the impact. The sun-baked hard ground underneath did not cushion his fall, and he lay there immobile, waiting to die…
He awoke from his dead faint to the feel of something cold and soothing falling over him. It moistened his cracked lips and washed over his burning eyes. It continued falling over and around him, drenching his clothes and dousing the furnace of his skin. His disoriented mind struggled to comprehend what was happening to him, until the truth dawned on his tired mind. Rain. He cupped his hands to collect the precious liquid and drank, shuddering with ecstasy as he felt the cold trickle down his tortured throat. He raised himself weakly to sneak a peek of what lay ahead of him, but apart from a dull light low in the horizon, he saw nothing but endless desert.
‘God help me…God help me…God.’ The invocation to his Creator came as naturally as breathing, and he fell back again, completely exhausted. ‘God help me…’ This time the plea was more urgent, accentuated by the realization that the rain had stopped and he had not filled his small water-skin. Inside him, he felt the maddening question to which he had no answer, begin to slowly eat away at his reason, growing bolder with each passing moment. ‘Why do I live…what is the reason behind all this…’ The words stabbed at his intellect again and again, with increasing regularity, like the beat of his heart in its cage of ribs. He knew now that he was slowly surrendering to despair, and his last thoughts of how he had lived for absolutely nothing were cut short as his eyes closed of their own accord and he waited for a lonely death on an uncharted desert to overcome him.
Only then did his failing ears pick a strange sound, unlike any he had ever known before. It was a call, distant and clear, but to whom or what he did not know. All he knew was that it was beautiful to listen to, as grand as it was imposing. His mind shifted to the tiny point of light he had seen low in the horizon, and for the first time realized it had been too low in the sky to have been a star. He raised himself up again with infinite trouble and swiveled his head to stare eastwards. He focused his eyes and his jaw dropped when he finally comprehended what he was looking at. The sun was setting in the gathering dusk, and its fading light caught an imposing structure in the shimmering distance. Pointing to the heavens like a testifying finger, the tall slender minaret of the Great Mosque of Damascus rose majestically from the sea of immense desert that hugged it. Again, he heard the call wash over him in the shifting desert wind, rising and falling like a wave. It was the Muslim call to the evening prayer, a call to success, a call to salvation. Olev Karenin threw himself on the camel’s saddle and rode towards the sound….
The night had drawn a velvet cloak across the sky by the time he tied his camel and staggered onto the courtyard of the mosque, and he stood still, shocked at the sharp contrast of the immediate environment he now found himself in. He was standing in a huge quadrangle almost five hundred by three hundred feet wide, flanked by an arcade of double-tiered arches supported by slender columns. The arch openings in both tiers were of the same size and proportion, a geometrical precision that astonished and fascinated him in equal measure. Guarded by its minaret, the mosque’s imposing dome soared motionless above the rectangular structure, as if suspended from heaven.
On its outer walls was depicted an endless mosaic of an unearthly landscape with trees and their fruits, rivers with boats and elaborately designed palaces and pavilions, a paradise of gigantic trees and luxuriant foliage, and he felt his heart flutter in awe. He noticed that there was neither a bird singing on a tree nor a sailor in control of a boat, and was to learn later that this was due to the Islamic prohibition of representing human beings and animals. He crossed the immense courtyard illuminated by an unbroken rhythm of flaming torches mounted on the arcades, past the fountain of ablution and entered the dim prayer-hall. Even in the low light, he saw that the width of the hall was almost thrice its length and divided into three naves by ancient yet brilliantly decorated stone columns. The marble grilles that covered the windows were a breath-taking example of geometrical interlace. It was a splendid house of worship, built to dominate the surrounding landscape. It’s beauty entranced him, so that for a moment he forgot his gnawing hunger, staring about him like a man spellbound, not knowing whether he was in heaven or yet on earth.
He heard the slow monotone of a recital from the far end of the prayer-hall and for the first time, noticed a man sitting and reciting from a book with the aid of a lamp by his side. He drew closer to where he sat in solemn concentration and something stirred in his soul as he approached him. He was an old man, medium of stature and straight of back. He wore an old yet clean white cloak around his broad shoulders, his head moving almost imperceptibly as he recited from the text he held with infinite care in his wrinkled hands.
He sensed the approach of the stranger and looked up, and Olev Karenin saw the most angelic face he had ever cast his eyes upon. He did not quite know what he held most dear in that glowing face that was now smiling up at him, putting aside the sacred book with reverence and effortlessly rising to greet him, all he knew was that this must be the old man he had been advised to meet. He extended his slim hands in a warm and genuine show of friendliness, and his flaming white beard made him look like a character straight out of the Old Testament. Olev wanted to pour out the anguish of his troubled soul then and there, but his host would have none of it. Sensing the newcomer’s dire predicament from his haggard weather-beaten face and his distinctly observable ungainly walk, he retreated into an inner room within the hall and emerged minutes later with warm bread and curry. He kept him company until he had picked the last crumbs of bread from the clay plate, then spread out a makeshift bedding and watched over him until he fell into a dreamless sleep. Then the Shaykhul -Ulama of the Grand Mosque of Damascus offered two units of prayer and retired to bed.
Olev woke up to the sound of his host announcing the call to the dawn prayer and heard the first stirrings of life around him as bearded turbaned men crossed the vast courtyard and entered the mosque, greeting him in their native Arabic which he could not understand, but from which he could vaguely discern the words ‘Salaam’ before they hastened towards the Mihrab, a semicircular niche in the front wall of the mosque that indicated the direction of Kabah. He observed these people diligently, like an acclaimed author painstakingly studying the subjects of his essay, and he saw that their rituals were crowned with simplicity and exhibited none of the meaningless gesticulations that abounded within the church vicinity. They washed their hands, faces and limbs thoroughly at the fountain of ablution having already taken off their shoes, then made their way into the prayer-hall and recited the Holy Book, the Qur’an as they waited for the congregational prayer.
The venerable Shaykh Hamiduddin stood at the Mihrab, composed and solemn, a pious man who understood the weight of responsibility one entrusted with leading the prayer bears on his shoulders. He had as though, at the flick of a switch detached himself from the rest of humanity and now faced the Lord of the Worlds, as if this was to be his very last act before death took him away. He raised his hands as one who has willingly surrendered to his Creator, and Olev heard the next words distinctly. ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Behind him the faithful lined up in unison, shoulder to shoulder, toe to toe, so that it was impossible to distinguish the rich from the destitute, the property-owner from the cobbler. They raised their hands to mark the commencement of the prayer, and then a hush descended over the hall of the great mosque, before the Imam’s voice soared again. And when it did, it seemed to the open-mouthed Olev that he was reciting something from an otherworldly source.
It was in a clear Arabic tongue, flawless and unblemished, as if plucked straight from the ramparts of heaven itself. It pierced his beating heart like an arrow and settled there, an inimitable symphony that moved him to an indescribable ecstasy, then the anguish as he felt the arrow dislodge and his joy crumble as soon as the recitation ceased. He stared at the proceedings of prayer in rapt concentration, noting how the Muslims bowed, rose and prostrated all as one body, an unbroken harmony that impressed the foreign onlooker, like ranks of slaves together responding to a supreme order.
He witnessed the congregational prayer five times a day every single day, and he was already seeing a gulf of contrast between the followers of Islam and Christianity. For the former, religion was an intrinsic part of their daily lives, prayer and their daily preoccupations of earning a living were inter-woven, inseparable from each other. Shaykh Hamiduddin rejoined him with breakfast after the prayer, putting him at ease with questions about his native homeland, the well-being of the family and relatives he had left behind and what he did for a livelihood. These questions he posed to his guest in remarkably good English, hence dispensing with the need for a translator, which suited Olev since he was anxious that only the Imam should know the nature of his troubled soul.
And so it was that after their light morning meal, they sat together and he began to relate the terrible ordeal to his host in all its gruesome horrors. His concluding plea touched the revered Sheikh deeply. ‘I want to know why I live. Ten years I have searched and I have found nothing…ten years. I have searched in every corner of knowledge known to me. And I have seen nothing.’ His limbs shook like those of an epileptic, and he was visibly fighting back his tears. His fingers fumbled with his cloak one moment and the floor carpeting the next, a desperate man looking for an answer to still his decade-old disquiet forever.
To be continued…
‘Do you believe in an after-life?’ The question took Olev by surprise, but the more he thought about it, the more he began to understand the rationale behind it. For what was it that he so dreaded about death except what was to come after it? He composed his mind before answering in his typical honest manner. ‘’Yes I do, for it is what lies after death that almost paralyses me with terror, and what I must do now to prepare for it is what I have been seeking all these years.”
Slowly and methodically, Sheikh Hamiduddeen began to explain to his guest, asking him if he believed in a Creator, to which the latter replied in the affirmative. ‘Yes, this is in-born in every human-being; it is instinctive to know that there is a Creator behind the creation,’ the Imam continued. ‘For in the same way that an admirer of a painting seeks to know the artist, one who is left breathless by the vast Cosmos recognizes that there must be a Supreme Crafter behind it. The question is, have all these been constructed for no purpose, have we been created for idle play, or is there a powerful motive behind it? Now I have a concise answer for the question that has plagued you for so long, but I will not give it to you – not yet.’
There was no hint of cruelty in his voice as he said the words to his guest, explaining to him that any answer he might give him would detract from the task he had in store for him, that of reading God’s last revelation to mankind, the Holy Qur’an, to form for himself an independent answer to his all-important question- the reason behind his existence. ‘Any question you have, any…I will be at your disposal,’ he assured him, handing over an old Arabic-English copy of the meaning of the Qur’an. ‘And for as long as you wish, you are my honored guest. I ask God Almighty to guide you in your quest.’
Olev took the book with shaking hands, and in his head a question struck without warning, almost like the whisper of an unseen foe, and his observant host saw his face become pale and ashen. ‘What is it?’ Olev was staring into space, sweating like a man who has labored in a corn-field, and he heard the Imam’s voice again, insistent in its tone. ‘What is it…?!’
‘Something whispered in the depths of my soul, what if I do not find the answers I seek in this book… and then it vanished.’ He looked at the Imam with horror and repeated the question to him. ‘What if I do not?’ Sheikh Hamiduddeen said nothing, opening instead the English translation and pointing with his wrinkled index finger at a verse, motioning for Olev to read it for himself.
“So when you recite the Qur’an, [first] seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled [from His mercy].” (An-Nahl, 16:98)
Even as he read the words, he felt his terror vanish at a stroke, to be replaced by an iron will to study and understand God’s revelation to an unlettered prophet in the scorching desert sands of Arabia. He turned over the first page, applying the brilliant mind that had penned a master-piece novel back in his native Russia to studying the scripture, then to judge for himself whether at the end of his endeavors, he felt extricated from the abyss of his recurrent nightmare. And so he began to recite…
“In the name of Allah , the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.”
This opening formula he saw at the beginning of every with the exception of one Chapter of the Qur’an, and he began to realize that the Creator of the grand universe was not a Divine Wrath seeking placation, but a Lord abounding in Mercy, the depths of which were fathomless. He read like a man possessed, and he had not gone far before he began to suspect that maybe, just maybe, he had stumbled upon the answers to the questions that any rational man tired of being idly carried along in the waves of a meaningless life must someday ask himself.
For the more he read, the more it dawned on him that no mortal could have penned those words. They were written in a style he had never seen before, spoken in a voice that saw into the very soul of mankind, gentle yet commanding, stern at times yet full of compassion. Its core message, devoid of the mind-bending inexplicable acrobatics of the bible, was an unyielding monotheism, an invitation to worship One God, the Creator of Everything. Of the messiah Isa son of Maryam he read the following:-
“The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded.” (Al-Ma’idah, 5:75)
‘Would I experience the same feeling of awe if I were to read the Quran in its original Arabic?’ he once asked the revered Sheikh. The latter smiled in his usual warm manner. ‘I think you would experience it a hundred-fold. For the Quran is only the Quran when it is in Arabic. Translated into any other language, it becomes just that, a translation. A pale shadow of the splendid original.’ And so under the tutelage of the great scholar, Olev began to delve into the mysteries of Arabic grammar.
He found it tough going, but it was his indefatigable host who encouraged him to strive harder. ‘A straw house with an iron door,’ was how he had likened the learning of the Arabic language and grammar. ‘Difficult to enter, but once inside all is ease.’ The iron-willed Olev persevered, and in three short months, with rapidly increasing fluency, he began to recite the Quran as it had been revealed – in its clear unblemished Arabic, free from all corruption.
The result enchanted him, awakening in his soul an overwhelming feeling of..…he searched in himself the meaning of what he felt. He knew that the utter dread he had experienced when he first held the sacred text, the trepidation of what the Owner of life and death had to say to a sinner of his like – he felt these fears melt away to be replaced by something else, an emotion inside him that almost compelled him to clutch at his chest to prevent it from escaping, like a glow of fire warming a man trapped in a freezing snow-storm. He knew then that it was love, a deep over-whelming spiritual attachment that a lost mortal who begins to see the truth has for the One who guided him to it.
‘My Lord, where are you? Give me a sign; show me that you know of my predicament .’ It was the ardent plea of a man desperate to assure himself that his Creator sees and hears him, that his entreaties are not going unheeded. He wiped away the fountain of his tears and read the next verse of the still-open copy of the mushaf. And when he did, he found the answer to his supplication etched on the faded page.
“And He is the Irresistible, above His slaves, and He is the All-Wise, Well-Acquainted with all things.” (Al-An’am, 6:18)
At a stroke, like a flashing lightning-strike that illuminates all around it in its brilliance, he realized that within the scripture he held in his trembling hands lay the indisputable answer to his decade-long quest…the search for the meaning of life. It’s Author, he now affirmed beyond all doubt, was far from indifferent and aloof when it came to the destiny of the creature He had fashioned with His own Hands. Nay, He was Guardian over him in every waking moment of his life, and when sleep overcame him, nearer to him in knowledge than the very lifeline of his jugular vein. His statement for the reason behind existence was as simple as it was profound:
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Adh-Dhariyat, 51:56)
Imagine a man seeing him-self condemned to a horrifying death by an executioner’s axe, envisioning himself tied up and prepared for the inevitable death-blow, a hood slipped over his frantic eyes as he hears the rasping of iron against iron, knowing that the sound of the axe being sharpened is the last thing he is destined to hear. Imagine for such a man to suddenly open his eyes and find himself in a warm bed, unfettered and free, that his vision of only a few moments ago was a nightmare that is no more. Such was the relief Olev felt. That indescribable feeling of horror that had been his constant companion for ten torturous years had vanished, to be replaced by the conviction that the One who held his life and death in His Hands was overwhelmingly Merciful, that even he could dare to hope for mansions in an eternal garden, if only he submitted to his Creator.
“Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”” (Az-Zumar, 39:53)
And submit he did. He summoned Sheikh Hamiduddeen and the mosque cleaner as witnesses two days later, and pointing a wobbling index finger towards heaven, took the plunge of faith. ‘I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah , and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah .’ He stood under a starless sky that night in prayer, still as a marble statue, his eyes half-closed, his lips moving silently as he recited the sacred verses he had committed to his quick memory, a man in stark contrast to the disheveled unsettled soul that had crossed the mosque courtyard nearly six months ago, a man now in solemn conversation with his Creator, a man completely at peace with himself. The quest was over….
Olev gripped the reins of his mount tighter as he spurred his horse to a gallop across the flat expanse of desert flanked on either side by towering mountains. He looked about him and began to see things clearly for the first time in his life. The canopy of heaven high above him, the earth stretched out under the hooves of the galloping beast, the mountains planted firmly in the earth…he saw in these the unmistakable finger-print of a Grand Creator. He thought about his terrible ordeal in the desert, on the verge of a thirst-crazed death, when out of nowhere it had begun to rain, and again on the brink of despair when he was certain that he had lost his way, it was the sound of the call to prayer that had revived his failing strength.
He looked up towards Heaven and around him again, and with a jerk of the reins brought the beast to a complete standstill. He composed his thoughts now, putting into words the important question that had been playing on his mind. ‘What do I do with my life now?’ His mind went instinctively back to the Qur’an, and from it he drew his answer. ‘I worship my Creator, I believe in Him and work righteous deeds. May God guide me to the right path. Ameen.’ Armed with this resolve, he spurred his horse again to an even faster gallop. And in that mad rush over barren unbroken desert, with a froth of sweat bubbling from the speeding stallion’s heaving white flanks and it’s pounding hooves kicking back a stream of dust and pebbles, Olev felt his heart open up to the beauty of Islam, an ecstatic feeling he was destined never to forget. He began to weep, but they were not the broken tears of a man who sees himself encompassed by an inescapable doom; they were the tears of a man who feels the fetters of Hell falling away from his unbound hands, a man who has finally found the salvation he so desperately craved.
And even though he did not know it then, he was riding, straight as an arrow…towards Makkah.
What has he lost, who loses the whole world and finds his Creator, and what has he gained, who gains the whole world and loses his own soul.
Like a giant carpet, the Arabian desert opened up before him. He stared out at the vastness of the expanse ahead of him, appalled at the very thought of having to cross this endless stretch without the help of an experienced guide. He was a curious spectacle, this dishevelled sixty-year old with his hastily donned Arabian attire, for he was no Arab, despite the flaming white beard that lent him an almost likeable look. Yet, there was something in his eyes that spoke of a far deeper sorrow than the prospect of crossing a hostile desert alone. It was a deep-seated unending fear, one that assaulted him relentlessly and against which he had no control. It tormented him by day and haunted his nights; he had turned to anything and everything for a remedy, and sought every facet of knowledge known to mankind to find an answer that would still the raging inferno that threatened to consume him.
It had all begun in his native Russia, following the publication of his masterpiece novel titled The Fields of War. The reception had been phenomenal, never had anything like it been written before by the hand of man, and the praise that followed was unprecedented. By all accounts, at the age of fifty and with a work of that magnitude to his name, Olev Karenin was assured of immortality in the annals of literature. Wealthy, physically fit and boasting a huge circle of influential friends, he had only to sit back now and enjoy the financial rewards that would inevitably follow. And yet, it was then that the nightmare had begun, and it would engulf the author and turn his life in a completely different course.
For, as he laid back savouring the praise of his work from an adoring public, he began to ask questions. Yes, I have written a book, it is going to be a best-seller, I will be famous and richer than I could ever imagine. And then what? I will become the most famous author in all of Russia, possibly the world. So what? Death will knock on my door and I will be gone. What will become of me…how will all that I have amassed, my wealth, my books, my fame, how will it help me. These were the sort of questions that stabbed incessantly at his intellect, so, over time he knew he could no longer ignore them. He sat down, strangely silent, isolated from the people he had known for half a century, and thought slowly but logically about these questions…questions that had suddenly burst out from their hiding places and stood facing him, demanding real answers.
He turned them over in his mind, a mind that the profession of writing had over the years honed to a formidable brilliance. Yet when he finally raised his head to clear his thoughts, he could only come up with one conclusion. That after fifty years of living and making money and writing, he had done nothing meaningful with his life, he had achieved nothing. The conclusion astonished him, a shock that hit like a hammer blow into his soul. At first, he thought there had been a gap in his thought-process, that the results were simply too horrifying to be true. How could it be that his life was meaningless? Was not his name on the lips of every citizen, was he not the most sought-after author in the motherland? Again, the same question that had closed the door of his happiness struck him…so what? How will it help you after your death? He couldn’t fathom an answer. He buried his face in his hands and began to sob, an anguished cry that drove him to the edge of an overwhelming fear, one from which he knew he could never escape.
It was the death of his brother that heightened this gnawing fear into near-panic, for he had seen what he himself utterly dreaded. He had seen a brother who had never understood why he lived, and much less why he was dying. It was a catastrophe he resolved must never befall him. And so he sat down again, strangely still now, and framed in his mind the all-important question. Why do I exist? What is my purpose on this planet? He turned away from his novels and his writings and threw himself, body and soul to finding the answer. He did it not halfheartedly or out of idle curiosity, but like a man crazed by thirst desperately looking for water, like a dying man seeking salvation.
It was to the respectable field of science that he first turned to find the answers to the questions that were eating away at his sanity, the question of the reason behind man’s existence, what on earth was he supposed to do while alive to guarantee him safe passage when the catastrophe of death took him away. He studied science in predatory detail, using every ounce of his intelligence to deduce a comprehensible meaning. He was astonished at his findings. For all its advancements, the subject offered not an iota of the answer he so desperately needed. It’s shortcoming was plain to see for anyone studying it. It offered not the why behind existence, but the how of matter and it’s behavior. It’s language, so grave and assuring to the uninitiated layman, crumbled to dust when presented with the all-important question. Karenin felt the world around him darken, and it plunged him into despair.
He studied philosophy next, pouring over every book he could lay his hands on, and by the end of his labors, his disappointment was tangible. Every philosopher talked in a language to make himself look smarter than the previous one, yet all their ‘wise’ sayings amounted to nothing. If he could have laughed at their foolishness, he would have. But with every passing day, the certainty of death became more crystal clear, and he still did not know why he was living.
He turned in increasing desperation towards what he had always thought to be the lot of the fool, the recourse of religion. And he felt the first inkling of a joyous release when he discovered that religion did indeed try to make sense of the reason behind existence, and like a drowning man clutched at this straw. He determined to revive the faith of his parents who had been Christians, and began attending church sermons and prayers. He tried to explain away the meaningless rituals that plagued the church vicinity, but his intellect, even under the weight of the worries that burdened him, rose to protest. Three in one…how could they be one. One was All-Conquering, Ever-Living, the other a mortal who ate and drank. With growing uneasiness, he began to observe the actions of the adherents of this faith and could hardly believe his eyes. Watching their daily life, one could not tell between them and a self-professed atheist, for religion played no central part in their lives whatsoever. With infinite complacency, they went about their daily lives like the rest of the godless masses under the guise of Christianity. He went to church one Sunday and observed the gesticulations and words the priests mouthed to their congregation. ‘This is the flesh and blood of the Messiah’ said one, holding a plate of bread and a pitcher of water and proceeded to partake of them. He was the very picture of contentment.
Olev’s false sense of the hope that he had held when he first embarked on Christianity vanished like a candle-flame in a storm. Around him, the darkness grew more intense. The disturbing questions that had occupied his mind became a twisting furious tornado in the deepest crevices of his soul, more violent than any battle ever fought on planet earth. His heart, his soul, his intellect, these were the battlefields that the cruel war in his breast was being waged upon. He felt the first prodding of insanity begin to take hold, and with renewed panic realized he was no closer to finding the truth than when he had first started out. And it was in this desperation that he raised his hands and began to cry out uncontrollably. He knew then that it was the last recourse he had, for after ten years of frantic searching, he had unearthed nothing. ‘God help me, I can do nothing anymore except perish. Help me… help me.’ He repeated the words like a dying man reciting a sacred text. His exhausted mind could register nothing more, only that he was calling onto One Powerful Creator who held his destiny in His Hands. And then his broken spirit could endure no more and he fainted…
”Go south, old man. To the great mosque of Damascus. A venerable old man there will help you. If you are searching for the truth, you might find it there. Go south old man.” He had no recollection of who had said these words, only that in the dark abyss that he was drowning in, they were like a rope thrown to him. And he decided to seize it. He made the torturous journey through rough waters on board a ship first on the Black sea and through the bottle-neck of the Dardanelles where Europe and Asia come so close they almost kiss, and finally into the Mediterranean and the Red sea. Armed with the scantiest of provisions, he had rented a camel and now stood facing the forbidding desert ahead of him.
On the other side, horizons away, lay the great mosque of Damascus and the old man he was to meet. He wanted to turn back, but he knew the demons inside him would never give him any peace, unless confronted with the truth he was seeking. He drew a deep breath to steady his resolve, sensing that the One who had caused his existence would reveal the reason behind it to him. ‘God help me…. I have no one else left,’ He tugged at the reins of his camel and the slow unsteady plod of the beast began, the start of the journey where what was at stake was nothing short of salvation itself. He thought about the consequences of failure and for a moment, the thought threatened to crush him into despair, but he felt the burden lifted from him as if by an invisible force. He straightened his back and gripped the reins tighter, his eyes now more alert and focused, his ears tuned to his surroundings.
And so he rode, a lone man on a single dromedary, on a burning scorching desert under a merciless sun, through swimming light….
(To be continued)
About the Author
Suleiman Athman is an accountant from Kenya and is currently studying his Bachelor's degree with the Islamic Online University. He enjoys writing and in 'Inspiring Guests of HA' he presents a 3-part sequel. May Allah accept from him.