I love him already, how could this be?
Murmurs and nodding. In the momentary hush, my breath caught at this discovery. I stood trembling as all around me, people with half-shut eyes continued to murmur in low, almost inaudible voices. A call was raised and the congregation bowed simultaneously. As I joined in the bowing, I felt this love expand in my heart, like a rose unfurling its secrets in the sunlight. I felt it rise as I rose, eager in the exaltation of its beauty, and with the warmth of youthful rapture, raise a blush in my face till my eyes glistened with unshed tears.
I love him already, I thought again.
The air in the hall seemed to listen as another call was raised. I voiced the same words along with everyone else, but my breath seemed to struggle to make its way around this glowing thing that had bloomed between my ribs. The words of the prayer formed on my lips seemingly on their own accord, so consumed was my mind by this new discovery; so overcome was I by the greatness of such a feeling.
“God is greater,” we all said together, and lifted our hands in prayer.
What warmth this realization has given me! What comfort, just as resentment was wrapping its cold fingers around my fragile hopes. What newfound energies and joy! Had my Lord given me a sign of my future love to come? All praise be to Him, has He answered my prayers at last? I prayed for this everyday, several times a day, for more years than I would like to remember. Had He listened to even my unspoken aches formed wordless by pain? I bowed and thanked Him with a fluttering heart.
“God listens to those who praise him,” came the cry, after I and the rest of the congregation rose.
My mind was distracted; this I knew. I tried steering it back to my prayer but it clung to this new discovery as a drowning man clings to land. So supreme had reason reigned over me, that it was too blinded by its might to see that my rebellious heart had this secret hidden behind its red curtains all along, disguised as a dream. So cruel and unrelenting was my reason, that if it had discovered this love at any time save for prayer, it would have crushed it with the merciless grip of cynicism until love’s rosy countenance paled to whiteness.
But here, now, while my mind was lulled into the languid respite of meditation, the repressed, seldom heard voice of my heart rose in song.
It sung of loneliness; of cold hands and downcast eyes; of long days that merged into longer nights; of memorized wallpaper patterns and unbroken silences. It sung of longing; of having a universe of love to offer but few to receive it; of wanting someone real and tangible to disrupt an endless cycle of reiterated thoughts; of needing a companion to embrace the warm and overflowing love I have that streams with no destination. It sung of love; of the only kind of love it was missing, the kind that it needed despite having other, familiar ones; of fire; of warmth; of the combustion of everything stale and unused to the fervid burning of rebirth.
It sang for him. For the man I dreamt of but did not know. For the spouse who would one day hold my aching, injured heart and listen to its song. It sang and yearned and cried, calling, with a silent voice, for the one whose company I sometimes felt but never experienced. I let my heart sing and joined its song with my prayers. I prayed for light, guidance, love… and for him. I prayed for his love and his companionship, and while I did, I felt my heart swell with ardency and, breathless, I thought, I love him already.
“By the morning brightness,” intoned the resounding voice at the front of the congregation.
I love him? I do.
“By the night when it is calm.“
I love him, but where is he? Why have I been waiting for him all my life with no sign of his existence save the love in my heart? Why is he still, after so many years of earnestly praying and hoping and trying to change my circumstances, just a figment of my imagination? Is this my fate – my punishment? Has my Lord decreed for me a life of fruitless suffering because of my negligence to His Majesty?
“Your Lord has neither forsaken you nor is He displeased with you.”
Then why are my prayers not answered? Why has this one prayer, this most important thing for me, not been fulfilled? I have suffered so much in this life, but I bore with it in the hopes that things would get better.
“And the Hereafter shall be better for you than this world.”
What more could I want? Yet, there was still the longing for something in this world. I still wanted to experience the lawful pleasures of this life my Lord has so generously created for us. Would I only ever experience love in the afterlife? Would I ever actually meet the love I have been waiting for since I could dream my own dreams? If so, when?
“Soon your Lord will give you that with which you will be pleased.”
Why is it taking so long? Why am I holding onto this hope after so many years? Is it foolish of me to expect my prayers to be answered simply because I asked? My prayers never seem to be answered when I want them to. I have prayed for so many things consistently for years and never saw their realization.
“Did He not find you an orphan, and shelter you?”
My stomach twisted with shame. Not only was I negligent, I was incredibly ungrateful. Yes, my Lord sheltered me, even when I did not pray for it. He provided me with a canopy of protection when I did not care to ask for it. More than the blessings He has bestowed upon me, innumerable and unfathomable, are the evils he has kept away from me.
“Did He not find you astray, and guide you?”
I was searching all my life for meaning and purpose, and found it with my Lord. I forgot how ignorant and lost I used to be. I forgot how, even when I thought I knew everything, my Lord lead me to more knowledge that both corrected my ignorance and brought me to humility and wisdom.
“Did He not find you needy, and enrich you?”
Everything in my life is a blessing. Everything beautiful and good is from Him. I am blessed, every day – every second – with things I know of and things beyond my knowledge. It would be supremely selfish of me to ask for more, yet… I do. I cannot help but pity myself for not having the one major thing that is important in my life. I do not know why my heart cannot be satisfied with worshipping my Lord in solitude. What is wrong with me? Is this a terrible defect of my human fallacy? My Lord, how do I find happiness in my unhappiness? How do I connect my heart to the love it yearns for?
“So, as for the orphan, do not oppress him.”
I cannot possibly mistreat one who is in the same boat as I. I was once a lost child in need of shelter, and my Lord gave me a home. I was, and perhaps still am, a dependent, but my Lord spared me the indignity of relying solely on human generosity and became for me The Best of Providers.
“And as for the beggar, do not chide him.”
The beggar and I are both dependent on one Sustainer. We both supplicate, consciously or unconsciously, to the Most Generous and are looked after by Him. What I give to the needy is not from me but from Him, for none of what I posses is mine, and I, too, am equally in need of my Guardian’s blessings.
These verses resonate with me, but I struggle to understand why. Something in them stirs my soul, and makes the veil of its invisibility finer. Might this be the key to my happiness? It is, after all, a reminder to be more compassionate, and every act of compassion brings me closer to my Lord. The closer I draw to my Beloved, the brighter the joy radiates in my heart, and consequently, the more compassionate I become.
But after finding peace and happiness, what do I do then? Do I spread it? How?
“And as for your Lord’s blessing, proclaim it!”
All praise and thanks belong to God. This then, is the way out of my depression, and the way to help others out of theirs. First I must have faith that my Lord is on my side and has not forsaken me, that He will reward me soon with that which would bring me joy. At the same time I need to remember that the reward of the afterlife is far greater. I cannot forget his blessings when I lapse into self-pity, and show compassion and kindness to those whose needs differ from mine. And to keep the spirit of hope and joy alive in my heart and in the hearts of those who cry for love, I must speak of my Lord’s blessings, often and with confidence.
I am so grateful, but I still want –
“God is greater.”
So grateful, but my problems –
“God is greater.”
We prostrated simultaneously. Amidst the murmurs, I chided myself for being so distracted. I was supposed to be focusing on worship, but instead I was preoccupied by this discovery of my future love to come. This should have felt like polytheism, but it did not. Why did it not? I lowered my head in prostration, to acknowledge God’s superiority, with this love on my mind.
“Glory be to my Lord, the Most High, and I praise Him.”
Why does this not feel like a detraction from my Master’s worship? I should have been feeling guilt for thinking of another’s love besides His. I rose.
“I seek the forgiveness of God, and I repent unto Him.”
And prostrated again. When I rose for the last time, aglow with this warm, radiant love, I finally understood. It was a realization that calmed me, rather than the misunderstanding that agitated me earlier. I smiled through my tears and concluded the prayer.
It is not his love I felt every time I prayed for love, but His.
(All quotes in bold are from the Quranic chapter “Surat Ad-Dhuha”)