Light Upon Light! – Featured Sister
In my bright blue planner, amidst hastily scribbled homework assignments, e-mail addresses, and scheduled meetings, are the names of the five daily prayers. I’ve been writing them down to check off, the way I check off meetings and assignments once completed. I never used to keep track of prayers this way, but then again I never used to regularly accumulate prayers to make up.
To state the obvious, I am not writing this while in the best of faith.
This past month I’ve found myself suddenly new to everything – new resident of this neighborhood, new student at this graduate program, new rider of public transit… and as a new Muslim on top of that, I wasn’t quite sure how to balance it all. In the midst of these adjustments, I fell out of the habit of regularly checking up on the state of my heart. As a result, I’ve spent the past month not paying much attention at all to this organ which was no longer healthy.
With the complexities of our lives, I figured there may be some sisters out there in a similar state. I am writing this to you because I know the temptation to move from self-criticism to self-deprecation. I know how easy it is to begin to devalue ourselves once we realize we haven’t lived up to what we feel we should be. I have heard friends call themselves failures, which becomes dangerous when they start to believe their “failures” are who they are.
It pains me to hear the things that people say about themselves because I see them so differently. In this world, I think it is incredible that anyone is making the attempt to improve spiritually at all. And if I can see how beautiful they are, with all of my human limitations, imagine how Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) sees them, when He is more loving or merciful than we can even begin to comprehend. Allahu Akbar.
One beautiful thing about Islam is that it teaches us our true value. It teaches us that we have value, that we are worthy of purification, that we are created for perfection. When Allah (swt) loves us, He will show us our shortcomings so that we may improve. But this does not mean we are to hate ourselves and be ridden with guilt. I’ve found that Islam is about hope, peace, and joy. Self-hate and excessive self-deprecation isn’t entirely consistent with this deen.
This morning, after spending the entire night feeling terrible, I began to think about how Allah (swt) created light and darkness. Darkness is inactive – it is only acted upon. Light is powerful. For example, if you are in a pitch-black room and turn on a small light, even if it is under the table, even if you cover it with a sheet, that light would be sufficient for you to see. Darkness does not have the power to diminish light. In fact, the more darkness, the greater the light’s intensity.
“Light upon Light! Allah guides to His Light whom He wills.” (24:35)
This is the mercy of Allah (swt). He created a system in which good was designed to win. There may be equal amounts of good and bad, but good carries more weight. Good deeds are multiplied while bad deeds are counted only once. Light is more powerful than darkness. We are not meant to fail.
I finally realized that it was okay to be in this current spiritual state. It would soon pass. It only takes the tiniest bit of light to illuminate everything in your life that has become hopelessly dark. We were given the advantage. It only takes a little.
Many people will portray verses in the Qur’an as focusing on damnation and punishment, and come to the conclusion that Allah (swt) is harsh. Yet in my life, this has not been my experience. When I deviate so far from Islam that I feel I don’t deserve anything at all, Allah will guide me. While sometimes the guidance has been difficult, it is always done gently. Lovingly.
”Whereby Allah guideth him who seeketh His good pleasure unto paths of peace. He bringeth them out of darkness unto light by His decree, and guideth them unto a straight path.” [5:15]
Today, after all of these morning thoughts, I went to my new internship. I was unexpectedly assigned to a case with a coworker I had not formally met. She happened to be a hijabi. We were discussing life goals and I noticed her ending her statements with “Insha’Allah,” though she had no idea that I was a Muslim. The next time she said it, I also said, “Insha’Allah.” She continued to talk and then stopped abruptly.
“Wait. What?” I looked at her, grinning.
“Wait a second? Are you Muslim??”
As I nodded and laughed at the shock on her face, she began hugging me and announcing that she was going to cry. She had converted almost 20 years ago. We spent the rest of the rest of the day talking about Islam.
I had previously been taking my lunch break to walk half an hour to the mosque, only to feel intensely uncomfortable (to be talked about in another article, perhaps). I felt terrible not knowing where I could pray at work but had as yet lacked the courage to ask my supervisor – I had never before had to discuss religion at a workplace. I mentioned this to my coworker.
“Oh I pray right in the conference room,” she said. “That’s right, just right there in the conference room, Allahu Akbar! We’ll pray together.”
Allah lit for me a little light.