For a reformed Muslim who has been discovering herself through a combination of Deen and Duniya, it is a little surprising that I would choose this ayat. And I’ll tell you why!
I have lived a privileged life. I have a great family. I have a job that I had wanted for as long as I can remember. I have a good marriage. And I have the means to live a comfortable life.
When you live with so much privilege you learn to live in a bubble. My blog is full of feminism and oppression of women and gay rights and love for humanity and kindness for children but if I told you that I grew up as a classic specimen of privilege, you might find it hard to believe. Yes I was given privilege by Allah but I didn’t use that privilege for others. For the first 28 years of my life I used that privilege to extend my own privilege and create means for myself.
But as with all happy stories, there is an unexpected bump in my story which is actually the event that pivoted my life. While I was enjoying my marriage with a loving man, training in a super competitive internal medicine program and reveling in the miracle of motherhood, my oldest was diagnosed with autism. In a moment, Allah took away the privilege. Every person has a humbling moment. That was mine.
I had many fights with Allah. Many arguments and many sleepless nights. I had loads of complaints. I worried and I fretted. I lashed out and I hated. I became the antithesis of who I was and what I believed in. Where I was carefree, loving, kind and winsome within my means, I became bitter and forlorn. I became angry. And I was the most angry with Allah.
Allah has always been my friend. I had always just had to ask and He would bestow it. The class privilege that I enjoyed wasn’t because I deserved it. He gave it to me. The brains or the physical appearance that I had weren’t because I deserved them. He bestowed them on me. The parents I have weren’t my winning. He chose them for me. He spoiled me like anyone who spoils someone they love. But He tested me like only He can. He tested me with my child.
I prayed that the autism testing was negative. That my child didn’t have it. That this wasn’t really happening. I screamed and cried but Allah gave us autism. He didn’t listen. For the first time in my life, He didn’t listen.
But before this, I had had a flavor of Allah’s test. My dad died a young death and had been sick before he passed away. It was torture to live a life without him. He was, in a way, my rock and the only person whom I called my own for as long as he lived. His death brought my mom and I close. He gave me my mom in his death. My dad had a hugely productive life and death. I made peace with his death very quickly because my mom became my confidante, friend and sister. So Allah again awarded me with a thing better than the thing He took from me. My dad fought my battles but my mom didn’t. She never fought my battles but she gave me the tools to fight them. Her practice of parenting is very different from my dad’s. My introversion is best understood by my mom and she therefore encourages me always to fight for myself and fight for others also. My current day self is my mom’s shaping of my personality.
But autism had no bright side. It was exhausting mentally and physically. It made me cry and be sad. It took me away from my husband. It made me see some close relatives in a brutally harsh light and that wasn’t pretty. All in all, autism made me weak.
For many years, it made me weak and it made me angry. I asked myself “why me” and “what if” type questions. There were no answers.
Slowly, the dust settled. He cleared a path for me. I met a wonderful group of women who had kids with special needs. I became one of them.
My privilege washed off. I could talk more to a woman whom I had no commonality with other than special needs compared to fellow physicians. I could share more with other sad moms who were going through early phases of diagnosis. My privilege washed off. I lost interest in the labels that tagged me. My proudest labels became a “disability advocate” and an “autism mom”.
So you see how autism came to change me? Autism came to change me from an entitled, haughty and benevolently kind woman to a mom who had seen adversity finally close enough to see the good in it. If you’re confused still as to why this ayat is my favorite, let me explain in as few sentences as I can.
This ayat isn’t about the obvious good to me. It isn’t about what would work for us. It isn’t about a worldly advantage. It is about what’s good for our soul and our hearts so it keeps us from hellfire. No worldly advantage can keep us away from hellfire. In fact, every worldly advantage and every superiority that the world gives us has a great potential to get us into hellfire. The fire we spend our entire life running from is actually what we unfortunately make provisions to run into at the same time. Adversity, that we run away from, is the thing that keeps us away from hellfire because it makes us analyze ourselves and our methods and our privilege too.
So Allah tested me with autism. And my test continues. But I’m not angry anymore. In fact, a part of me is thankful that I got close to Him beyond my imagination through autism. So He created good out of something that I saw as so depressing and limiting.
In all His wisdom He gives us tests. They may not look good, but every test is a test of our faith and resilience. Every time we practice faith, we step away from the heat of hell.
So when Allah said “Ask me and I shall give”, He allowed us to ask and so if we ask “Give us what’s good for us” without any qualifiers, He will give us what’s good for us and imagine how good would that thing be that He’d choose for us.
Thanks so much, T. And I agree. In order to achieve a sense of being close to God, being close to humans helps.
I was thinking this morning you are blessed with immense insight. And I sincerely feel that you have the capacity and talent to explain the words of God in a manner that would make great sense. Why?
Because you are fully involved in this world and this involvement is an absolute necessity to understand God’s message. This is the not the case with clergy; it is practically detached from the world (not earning livelihood like common people like us etc. which makes a person wise etc.). The way you explained your favorite ayat is simply amazing. I think you would do a great favor to your fellow beings if a person like you does that. Hope it makes sense. Looking forward to that.
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That’s the most beautiful dialogue I’ve ever heard ❤️
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You know this is exactly what Muhammad did. He did not want to accept second hand God (Traditional God, basically meaning, no God). The thing I admire the most about him is his complete dedication to this venture. He wanted to find and experience God at his personal level.
What else can be more enticing than that? Knowing your Creator. This must be the ultimate joy.
Just like you, I am working on it at my personal level for quite some time now. All I know thus far is that it is the most beautiful aspect of my existence. I will close by sharing Rumi:
Rum said to God: I will not die before I know you.
God responds to Rumi: He who knows me never dies.
Is’t this a great dialogue.
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Thanks for your detailed answer and it made perfect sense. Perfect sense. And resonates with me because I want to connect with Him through myself and not through rituals.
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May I share some random thoughts? I assume I heard Yes, so I am going to. If I assumed wrong, then please do not waste your time by reading the following.
Our life is an individual journey. Of course, we live with people but that is to merely facilitate our individual journeys (or trial of life). In fact, everything we have around us is to make this journey possible. In this journey, the most important point is to identify our final station. How can we do that? Only by giving adequate thought to this matter. Do we do that? I think we know the answer. We are mostly consumed by things which at the end of the day mean nothing. If a person is traveling on the right bus or train, she knows that she will arrive at the final station at some point. Why? Because she has embarked on the bus/train after ascertaining that it is the right one. That is the nature or surety we need to have as regards our bus/train for life journey. How do we do that? I think that is the most important part of our life.
What intrigues me the most, for example, is my Creator, who made me from nothing. I have realized that the more we think about Him and talk to Him, the more clarity we get. After all, He is my Creator. How can He afford to leave me in the lurch. That is not a possibility from a common sense perspective. If we are really serious about this journey, which we must be, then before we embark on the bus, we must ensure that it is the right bus, and that is only possible by building a connection with our Creator. Knowing our Creator.
Sorry for this long explanation. Now coming your point, when you say:
And resonates with me in how I identify more with Allah and love Allah more than my identification with Islam. I would like to know and love Allah.
Your point is absolutely valid. Let me share my perspective.
I am supposed to find my Creator and likewise others must find theirs. Now, I am a different person and therefore my methodology or procedure will be entirely different from others, because no two people are the same. How can I follow in the footsteps of anyone to find my answers. I must do it myself and in my way. Since I am a unique person like everybody else, hence, my journey will be unique too.
Look at Muhammad. He had his own way of finding God. And finally he did. Of course, he spent a long time in this struggle and at the age of 40, finally found Him. I would say that his intensity of knowing his Creator was so strong ………………….that he left no option with God but to send an angel to him to quench his thirst of discovery. I strongly believe that God responds in accordance with an individual’s desire.
Was Muhammad trying to follow some faith or philosophy. I do not think so. He was only looking for the answers to his questions, and the biggest one must be relating to his Creator. It is very clear from his life story and of others like him as well, that our primary goal of life is to find our Creator. Where does organized faith stand in this picture? Nowhere. Correct? Why? Because if my life journey is to find my God, how can I associate with those who attach themselves with a particular philosophy just because they were born in that tradition. Isn’t that right? Just imagine, if all Muslims were born in Christian tradition, wouldn’t they be traditional christians, and vice versa.
So where is that journey in this picture? It is totally missing. Of course, there would be individuals in every community and faith, who strive to know their Lord, but they are not really identifying themselves with any group of people really.
Muhammad was born in a traditional religious philosophy but he did not follow it, rather looked for his own. In that process, he did not ever condemn anyone, he was the nicest human being for his surroundings. Right? That is what a true seeker looks like. She would make every effort to find the answers but will not condemn anyone. Once she finds it, she may share it with others, but only those who might seem interested. Not with everyone.
Now just imagine, if Muhammad were not given the responsilbilty of Prophethood by God (to share His message with people), would he do that? I think he might have shared with some people who had interest but he would not have done that the way he did because of his Creator’s instructions. Correct?
Did he identify with any philosophy? No. He only identified himself with God and that is it. As a normal human being, he would not have gone beyond it. It was only at his Creator’s directions that he did things, which he did.
That came to be known as Islam. What is Islam? It is submission before God in a conscious manner. If we use it in that sense, it is totally understandable. And the people who embraced his message during his lifetime, were mostly conscious believers. Of course, there were hypocrites and others as well, but there was a sizable number of conscious believers too.
Do you think the people who claim to be Muslims and followers of Islam have discovered Truth (God) as Muhammad did? The answer seems to be NO. Same is the story of other faiths as well. Let me repeat, Yes, there would be a small number of conscious believers but they would be in every society or community in the world.
This tells us that human beings in general are committing a great wrong by identifying themselves with something which they do not know and have not even strived to know.
Why should I identify myself with any such philosophy? Is there any room for that? I do not think so.
Why should I call myself a Muslim, when people think of a Muslim as a blind believer like other kinds of blind believers. Does it make any sense?
As I said Muhammad never did that. Why should I do that. Just imagine, if Muhammad died without being a Prophet, would he call himself a follower of any faith, in particular with the faith of Meccan people. I do not think so. He was a seeker and he found his answers. He never identified himself with the faith of Mecaans. And he would have died a great death as a common person because he had found the right bus etc.
Likewise, I have come to realize that I must do my best to find my Creator and that is it. I do not want to identify myself with any faith because organized faith is another name of blindness. I do not want to live a blind life or associate myself with blindness. Look at Muslims. All 56 Muslim countries are devoid of basic stable political, economic and social structures. Why? Because they all follow a religious tradition blindly, which has nothing to do with God, our Creator. They do not use commonsense and it is for this reason the weak in those societies are treated like trash. Is n’t that the Truth? Look at the plight of women, who have been subjugated in the name of God since the demise of Muhammad. They are not even considered full human beings. What a sad story. What a mockery of God. Can our Creator do that to His Creation? No way, but Muslims have done that because they are following Islam (an organized faith) which is devoid of God. It is Islam without God.
So, I understand your point to know God, and not identify with Islam.
Did I make any sense today?
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It made a lot of sense. And resonates with me in how I identify more with Allah and love Allah more than my identification with Islam. I would like to know and love Allah. What you’ve written is profound and meaningful and I agree with all of it.
May I share a few thoughts now?
I think we are in this universe to find answers relating to our existence (as I must have stated earlier). Finding one’s Creator is not religion, rather a great bond which makes our life worth living (more than we can ever imagine). Only a person who is in that bond knows its beauty and impact, no body else. In fact, life begins once we have that deep bond with our Creator. Short of it, life is mere drudgery.
What is religion? In my view, it is a traditional perspective of human bond with God. What does that have to do with me? Nothing. I am striving to know my Creator, how can someone else help me? No body can help me in this endeavor. This is an entirely personal exercise/project/endeavor/journey. This is not religion. I must make my own efforts to know Him. The best example is that of Abraham. How he found God is a very interesting story. Likewise, Muhammad. I would say all human beings who strove to find Him, found Him. Did these people give us religion? My answer might surprise many, but not you. I know that based on your writings. The answer is NO. They did not give us any religion, rather I should say this: They were great seekers of Truth or God, and that is all they did for us too. They wanted us to become discovers of Truth. They are symbols of Truth Seeking and that’s about it. Look at Socrates; he was doing a similar thing. Where is religion in this whole story? I do not see that at all.
Once you reach God by discovering Him, then you do not follow any religion, rather you follow God by consciously submitting to Him. What we call religion today is merely a spiritual tradition, which people follow without discovering their Creator. Would anyone using his/her senses do that? No way.
Truth seeking exercise has been reduced to Religion by those who do not know God. Evidence? Look at Muhammad’s life; He was such a model or great human being that everyone would fall in love with him because he acted as a true human because first of all he was a great human being (without discovery God) and then once he discovered and established a bond with Him, his character shined like a star. He treated everyone in the same manner, with the same love and affection and never differentiated amongst people. That is what is called discovery of Truth or True faith in Creator. He was an extremely humble man. But look at those who call him their prophet. All these traits are missing? Why? Because the whole exercise of finding God is missing. This is what Abraham and other such seekers did as well. I would say every organized faith has issues like this.
In view of this, I have come to realize that unless we find our own God, we will always allow others to mislead us. And I do not want that happen to me. My journey to find my Creator has removed all kinds of barriers or prisms (from my eyes) and I look at people from all backgrounds etc etc. as just my brothers and sisters. I am saying this in all humility. I think if we really start looking for Him, the concept of religion will totally change. The current concept of religion is totally unacceptable. It is mockery of faith (connection between Creator and creation).
Lastly, when I use my Creator Given faculties after establishing a connection with Him, I will use my faculties in a manner that would not only benefit me the most but also the entire humanity (this is in response to your first sentence).
True connection with Creator removes all biases and ensures they will never ever play any role in our life (response to your second sentence).
We can only love God, our Creator, once we discover Him and likewise that will result in a limitless love for our fellow beings. Why? Because they are creation of the same Creator and I will naturally fall in love with the creation of my Creator. This is natural extension of one’s true faith or bond with God (response to your third sentence).
True connection with God does not let anything negative operate between the true believer and other people, simply because that is what flows from true bond with God (response to your last sentence).
Did I make any sense?
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I don’t want to see everything from the angle of religion. Because that causes bias. At least as I see it. It divides and makes for loss of empathy. So I want to love my religion with all I have and I want to love fellow humans with all I have to. I want religion to facilitate that and remove any judgment that I might have based on being religious.
Thanks. Would you please elaborate on: I still want to maintain my soul connection.
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Thank you. It was bittersweet to write. It is a little journey of my own reawakening. Thanks for your profound words. When I think of Allah, I try to be more pragmatic in my love and more spontaneous in my devotion. I still want to maintain my soul connection. I hope that makes sense.
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Of all your writings I have gone through so far, this one stands out because it talks about the subject which must be the most important concern for any thinking or non-thinking person. I cannot tell you how I felt while reading it. A VERY …….. BIG THANK YOU.
Unless we understand life, we are lifeless. Therefore, once we discover the true meaning of life, life becomes worth living. I should rather say that our life begins when we start understanding it. God talks about only one thing in His message, which He calls the ultimate good. Everything else is merely to test humans. Here it is:
He giveth wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good. But none remember except men of understanding. (2:269)
Wisdom is the ultimate blessing of God. What is this Wisdom? In my humble perspective, it is about discovering our Creator, which leads to everything possible good (meaning of life, how to live, ……etc.)
Once we grasp the meaning of life (knowing and establishing bond with God), then a person in submission (to God) begins to taste God. What else could be better than that? Tasting God means knowing God. That must be the ultimate joy of life. It has to be. Knowing your Creator? It must make us ecstatic. Why would a true believer be prepared or willing to sacrifice everything in life for this bond? We only need this bond with our Creator to live the most beautiful life. For this, we must strive to know Him. He does not disclose Himself to anyone, not seeking Him. Everything in His Universe works on the basis of principles. Therefore, we all are merely simple human beings when we are born, but it is only when we establish a bond with Him that we start enjoying His companionship. What is faith? A conscious companionship with our Creator. It cannot be blind. It has to be the most logical thing to happen in our lives.
I think all our concerns/worries etc. essentially are the outcome of this missing BOND with our Creator. Although my mind is bubbling with thoughts and ideas, but will share some other time. Will finish by saying that unless we address this most fundamental question of life, we will continue to suffer in some form or the other through out our existence. We may have everything in material terms one can imagine, but we will be the poorest and most deprived in every sense. And if we have a solid bond with our Creator, life becomes something, which words cannot explain.
Thanks once again for sharing your life story. May you and your family be always blessed.
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