Read Part One of “Burdened Soul – Getting Cancer Instead of Congratulations” here.
Being completely bed-ridden, it was my mind that kept on running in all directions. It took me back in time bringing forth the images from the past that I deliberately chose to ignore.
I used to be a top achiever during my academic life; this led me to adopt boastful behavior towards others. Despite the advice of my mother to adopt a more humble nature, I ignored all her lectures and chose to enjoy the materialism. My fellow students used to ask me for study materials and advice, I took this as a chance to belittle them and shatter their confidence. My insults often led some pupils into an extreme sense of self-deprecation. I clearly remember how I insulted one of my classmates for her falling grades and predicted that she wouldn’t be able to make it to the finals. I was asked by my teachers to be more kind towards others but I did not take heed. The flashbacks from the past made me examine my attitude and I can now assess the mistakes I made from an outsider’s perspective. It was Allah (SWT) only who bestowed me with intelligence and I took pride in what actually was never my own.
Being highly popular for my good looks was another aspect which added to my high sense of self-regard. Shopping was my only hobby when I was not studying. I would go out to the mall with my friends every other day even though my parents frequently asked me to control my spendthrift behavior. I would insult them and emotionally torture them, accusing them of being inconsiderate of my needs. I worked freelance to earn some extra money and disposed of it all on brand-name clothes and designer bags. My group was recognized for being chic and swanky. In order to fit in amongst my rich mates, I would exceed any limits. For instance, I would switch my cell phone every six or eight months.
A voice from the past reminded me of how I had been insulting my domestic staff through my venomous words. I would never tolerate any of their mistakes. As patient as my mother was, I was the complete opposite. I can still clearly visualise that day when I insulted my maid who was twice my age and she cried right in front of my eyes; I kept on blaming her for stealing my expensive watch while she kept on declaring her innocence.
‘You are paying for your imprudence, Sofia,’ I told myself regretfully. ‘Your Lord has been watchful all through, you ignorant oppressor.’
My days were gloomy and, nights sleepless. Even the most powerful drugs would fail to put me to sleep. My family kept on fortifying me to fight relentlessly but it was the guilt that denied me the ability to confront my disease. I did not have the audacity to fight against Divine will. It was His commandment, His way of punishing me. I had no willpower, only guilt that overpowered all my senses.
I had a few lines reverberating through my mind incessantly. These were from the Quranic lectures that my mother used to play out loud in the living room while she worked in the kitchen, I often argued with my mother for playing these tapes so loudly. I would harshly comment “Let’s keep our beliefs to ourselves, Mom. Why can’t you use the earphones?”
But today, the voice of that qari kept on ringing in my ears as if someone was dragging me back in time. “O Children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes), while praying and going round (the Tawaf of ) the Ka’bah, and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifun (those who waste by extravagance).” (Surah Al-A’raf :31)
I would repeatedly ask my mother to play the recording and the accompanying audio lecture. It felt as if my whole vision of life was crumbling to pieces. How could I, who boasted constantly about my intellect and my beauty be so egocentric as to ignore the basic facts of human life? Certainly, there was more to life than just grades, looks, and exquisite clothing. Me, who took pride in her intellect failed to grasp the core purpose of life, demeaning it to materialistic pursuits. My body that I adorned with such care was reduced to a waste. I was completely bald and my glowing skin was filled with black patches. My friends stopped visiting me when the after-effects of chemotherapy were visible. My plush garments would peek through my closet smiling meaningfully at my desolate state. Surely, if I wore them now, it would be an appalling sight for the onlookers. The allurement that I treasured had dissolved.
“When our signs are recited to such, he turns away full of pride, as if he heard them not…” (Luqman :7) I could also recall the ayah: “Thus does Allah set a seal over the heart of every proud, haughty one.” (Ghafīr :35)
I denied the truth despite knowing it all along. My heterodoxy overtook my sense of distinction between right and wrong. I brought it upon myself while the words of Allah (SWT) were always reaching into my ears but I chose to neglect them. Indeed, this suffering was justified.
Ever experienced traveller on a dark, chilly night; scared to comprehend what comes ahead – a state when you know you have trespassed over some accepted law and the price you will pay cannot be sanctioned. I was the condemned traveller of the road. The agony that I suffered those days seemed to be boundless.
I could not bring myself to view my reflection in the mirror, as the hideous person staring back at me would be one with shaven head and blotchy skin. I decided to donate all my clothes and other accessories to the lower-paid staff and charity organizations. I did not want the burden of my unfathomable past bearing upon me in physical form. The mental affliction was enough to push me into the abyss of darkness.
After ten chemotherapy sessions and two surgeries, I remain here in my home futile and crestfallen. I have understood that all the worldly means I chased were meaningless. My greed and desire to harmonize with society led me away from the elemental purpose of my creation and I regret all decisions I made. My intuition took me to twisted ways and I desire to rectify all that I did. I try getting closer to Allah (SWT) now by listening to His word, calling His names and pleading with Him for forgiveness. I beg for forgiveness from my parents, my servants, and my friends. I wish for Him to work some wonder and bring me back to life; or, end this suffering by any possible means. I believe Al-Fattah can open ways for me that neither I nor the doctors could imagine. He could create ripples in stagnant, dark oceans and I wait for His decree to work; with every second of my life being spent immersed in bizarre emotions of guilt, redemption and failure.
Anoshia Riaz is 25 years old and lives in Karachi, Pakistan. She has two kids, working as freelance writer for some clients and local religious magazines. Anoshia is currently studying Masters in English Literature and also studied Quranic Tafseer and Tajweed from a renowned Islamic Institute.