The Perfect Storm

Assalamu Alaikum Everybody,

Thank you to all who continued to read and comment during my unplanned hiatus. I am so sorry for not publishing your comments in a timely manner.

So, why the hiatus you ask? Scholarly studies? Marriage? Travel?

No.

I simply hit a rough patch and did not want every blog to be a depressing complaint. While I appreciate the support from all of you and the encouraging words you have always provided, it simply did not feel productive for me carry on in that manner.

Looking back, it was the perfect storm. A new country, a new job, a new religion, and trying to start building friendships and connections again. But that wasn’t all if it.

I was going through all this change after the two most exhausting years of my life during a long and depressing winter, and with none of my usual crutches – no booze, no partying, no dating. And even when looking for new friends… no more developing social circles around vices.

I felt stuck.

What is a girl – or very young middle-aged woman in this case – to do!

I prayed. A lot. Mostly though, I spent a lot of time just talking to Allah (swt). And with friends. Trying to figure out how to get unstuck.

I’ll be honest, there were times when I did not think I would ever move on. I couldn’t feel the connection with Allah (swt) or anyone in my life. And there were times I felt I was losing the very few people with whom I was still close. I did not feel like my life had a purpose or that I had a future on the path I was currently on.

I thought maybe this was Allah’s way of pushing me to do something radical. Quit my job and move back to California. Give everything away and teach English in some remote part of the world.

And while those are perfectly fine options – it felt like running away. I needed to face… well, face something. I wasn’t sure what it was.

One of my friends told me that a classic part of real change is giving up. Not giving up hope or not making an effort. But rather it is about letting go of old parts of your life so you can move in a different direction. And it is only when you really let go and grieve the loss that you can see the options available to you in the next stage of your life.

Alhamdulilah. Allah seems to not only know what lessons I need to learn but when I need to learn them.

And boy have I learned a lot!

The most important thing?

I am not in control, Allah (swt) is. — Big shock right? Okay …. Perhaps this is a very obvious lesson and one you have already mentioned in your comments, but for a control freak like me – this is VERY challenging.

I was trying to control everything, including outcomes and people – and as I cannot really do that successfully – I was unable to move forward.

Now I am feeling more hopeful than I have in years. Because with Allah (swt), anything is possible. He has no limits. Where I have nothing but limits.

I don’t exactly know what the next stage of my life will be.

I leave that to Allah. (And a LOT of prayer. I will always have some control freak in me.)

Starting over….again

About a week ago I watched a short video online giving a summary of the Qur’an in two sentences. The first sentence is “Accept Allah as master and accept yourself as slave.” This is a really tough one for me because I don’t like to think of myself as a slave. Everyone – even in the most dire circumstances – wants to feel they have choice and self determination. But I think this idea of accepting yourself as slave goes beyond our historical concept of the word. For me it is about not just worshipping only Allah, but accepting the tests you are given in life and learning to embrace your own path. Sometimes choice is about how you react to something and how you learn from it. Which is very easy to write, but very hard to do.

Just after I watched that video, I read a blog from a woman describing one of those days where you just want to mourn your losses and shut out the world. However, she ends on a beautifully positive note describing a nice cup of tea and giving it ‘another try.’

I highlight these pieces as I feel a little bit like the rug has been pulled out from under me, that the bottom has fallen out of my life. The specifics of what has happened are not important, and to be fair it is something I probably knew in my heart to be true and even right. But it is different to think something might be the truth compared to actually confirming it.

Bottom line, I feel like I am starting my life from scratch again. I have absolutely no idea where my life is headed, personally or professionally. And I don’t know where to start. Honestly, I am just too old for this.

But I know I have a choice. I can choose to accept that this is the path that Allah (swt) has given me and embrace it. I can choose to give it another try. I can choose not to be angry at my situation, and not to throw people out of my life because they are not going to play the role in my life that I wanted them.

So, where to I begin?

Let there be noor

I have been thinking about the concept of noor —- light, and what it means for people to have noor. My understanding is that it is a certain light that emanates from a person when they have a close connection to Allah (swt).

I am not sure I have seen exactly that, but certainly the person who introduced me to Islam has a certain presence. That something that makes you know there is something more to that person than meets the eye – and it is different from simply charisma.

I would never presume to say I emanate light, especially as I am struggling with so many things just now, but I had a very strange experience the other day. I had an all day work meeting with a colleague in London, visiting various customers. I had never met this person and would not normally work with him. I was having the meeting in order to learn more about this particular part of the business.

My colleague was clearly a Sikh. Not an uncommon sight in London. What was strange is that he almost immediately began speaking to me about more spiritual matters rather than work.

As a reminder, I do not wear hijab at work. I am covered otherwise, but no hijab. I look like any other Western career woman and am quite senior in my organisation.

Though I was a bit surprised, I had no problem talking to him about such things. I learned about the personal crisis he went through that made him realise the importance of God in his life and his decision to become an orthodox Sikh. I learned how that led to meeting his wife and getting this job. It was a wonderful story.

At the end of it he stopped suddenly to say that he had not really told anybody else in the company that story, and did not tell that many people about the personal crisis he went through. He did not understand why he decided to tell me, other than I seemed to him like a woman of faith. And then he asked me if that was true… was I a woman of faith.

I told him that I was a Muslim.

He was thrilled and began to tell me about the similarities between Sikhs and Muslims. (I must admit, for all the reading I do on religion, I do not know much about Sikhism.)

It was a very enjoyable day.

But I wondered, what made him begin that conversation with me?

Has that ever happened to you? Has someone simply known you were a person of faith without any external signal? Do you think he would have told anyone that story that day and I just happened to be there?

Do you do think a relationship with Allah (swt) can visibly transform a person? (Beyond simply a change in personal style.)

If so, what does that mean?

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