Nothing is more humbling than learning of one’s own faults through the noble behaviour of another. A recent trip to Turkey was an extended lesson in humility. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with generosity and hospitality that reminded me of stories from the seerah. I felt closer to Allah (SWT) just being around my Turkish brothers and sisters. They made me want to be a better person. I returned home inspired, determined to address my shortcomings, and determined to become a more dutiful servant of Allah (SWT).
I had travelled with a group of other Muslims, while my loving husband, who could not take time off work, graciously agreed to watch our children. I felt a little guilty about his sacrifice as I made du’a in the dim light of the Blue Mosque and glided along the Bosphorus, the horizon filled with minarets reaching to the heavens. I was content, my mind filled with dhikr and gratitude that Allah (SWT) had blessed me with Islam.
Shortly after returning from Turkey, our family left for a holiday at the beach. Some years, we do not go on holiday at all, and here I was going on two holidays in one month, alhamdulillah! We were having a wonderful time, doing all the things that our family loves to do, and I was glad to be back with my husband and children. Yet, I felt like something was a little off. Whatever it was, it was barely perceptible, and I could not even explain it to myself.
One morning, as I walked along the beach alone, listening to the crashing waves and bubbling surf, I realised what was wrong. All pleasure in this life is tainted with remorse – the remorse of separation. No spouse, no child, no sunrise, no ocean of tranquility can soothe the pain of separation from Al-Wahid. Hearts rest only in the remembrance of Allah (SWT). And just as the song is heard in silence, the longing for reunion is found in separation.
And, suddenly, I felt okay. It occurred to me that nothing in this life should leave us completely satisfied because we are separated from our Creator. The Prophet (SAW) said, “The world is a prison for the believers and paradise for the disbelievers” (Muslim). This is not our Paradise. And we are to act in this world accordingly: “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller” (Bukhari). Our home is elsewhere; our home is with Allah (SWT).
Verily, the Muttaqun (the pious) will be in the midst of Gardens and Rivers. In a seat of truth, near the Omnipotent King. (Al Qamar:54-55)
In Surah al-Tahrim, Asiya, the wife of Fir’aun and one of the four best women who ever lived (see Tirmidhi) supplicates, “My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise…” (At-Tahrim:11) This should be a du’a that flows generously from our lips.
Even the Sahabah (RA) felt this separation. Hanzalah (RA), one of the Prophet’s (SAW) scribes reported,
“I met Abu Bakr (RA), he said: “How are you O Hanzalah?” I said, “Hanzalah has become a hypocrite.” He said, “Glory be to Allah, what are you saying?” I said, “When we are in the company of Allah’s Messenger (SAW) and he reminds us of Hellfire and Paradise, we feel as if we are seeing them with our very eyes, and when we are away from Allah’s Messenger (SAW), we attend to our wives, our children, our business, most of these things (pertaining to life hereafter) slip out of our minds.” Abu Bakr (RA) said, “By Allah, I also experience the same thing.” So Abu Bakr (RA) and I went to Allah’s Messenger (SAW) and I said to him, “O Allah’s Messenger, Hanzalah has turned into a hypocrite.” Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “What has happened to you?” I said, “O Allah’s Messenger, when we are in your company, and are reminded of Hellfire and Paradise, we feel as if we are seeing them with our own eyes, but when we go away from you and attend to our wives, children and business, much of these things go out of our minds.” Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your paths; but Hanzalah, time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time should be devoted (to prayer).” He (SAW) said this thrice. (Muslim)
In Turkey, I was immersed in the remembrance of Allah (SWT), my thoughts much less distracted by the mundane intrusions of daily life. Those opportunities do not always arise. The key, though, is to recognise our distraction and feel the loss that inevitably comes with separation from the Most Beloved (SWT). This pain will encourage us to draw closer to Allah, to remember Him (SWT) more often. This pain is good for us.
All journeys begin with expectations. I expected to travel to Turkey. Instead, I journeyed deep within myself. Alhamdulillah.
May Allah (SWT) lead us to the straight path and shower His blessings and peace on Rasulullah (SAW).
J. Samia Mair is the author of two children’s books, Amira’s Totally Chocolate World, and The Perfect Gift published by The Islamic Foundation. She is a Staff Writer for SISTERS Magazine and has published in magazines, books, anthologies, scientific journals, and elsewhere.