By: Syeda Hafsah Bokhari
What's love? Like, what love really is? As in the feeling, and how do we develop it? How is it the only thing we sometimes think about? How does it suddenly and unexpectedly consume most of our short lives? How is it that this love --- the feeling that everyone wants to feel and wants everyone to feel for them--- is something we, most of the time, do not treasure until it’s too late? And most importantly, how is it that we neglect the love of the one being who loves us more than anyone else in the entire universe, who loves us more than sixty mothers? I believe that love is only of two types, the types that will never leave you disappointed and never cause you sadness… love for Allah and love for the sake of Allah. Every other feeling that we call love is just obsession.
I learned a lot of things, not in my life, but, from my life. We are not given a good life or a bad life. It's up to us, to make it good or bad. Life teaches us to make good use of time while time teaches us the value of life. And yes, indeed, it did teach me to make good use of my time.
I was living as a carefree adolescence, oblivious of the reality of life, when it took a stomach-churning turn, making me realize, in the harshest way possible that this world is not a permanent place to live in and life itself is not permanent. I’d completely forgotten that!
There are some incidents in your life that you can't forget no matter how much you try to force them out of your mind. There are these incidents that take place in your life and turn you into someone you thought you'd never be. This incident which I'm about to narrate might not sound special but it left a great impact on me.
I was to turn twenty that night. All my teenage years had been spent doing nothing worthwhile. My daily routine included hanging out with my friends all night, disrespecting my parents, smoking cigarettes and drinking. I was a failure in school and I didn’t care what my parents were going through. All I cared was for my life to be full of fun, entertainment and relaxation because ‘you only get to live once’ and so I wanted to spend every single second indulging in this world's luxuries and enjoying life.
That night, as usual, I came out of the house after a heated argument with my parents over something trifling and went for my motorcycle, parked in the driveway, to spend yet another night with my friends.
We were a group of three best friends, all completely well aware of each other’s lives. A fourteen-year old bond of friendship that could never be broken. One of us planned to celebrate my night at the seaside, have a great dinner along with some cigarettes and the rest of us agreed. So according to the plan, we met at Husain's place (the wealthiest one of us), at ten at night, had our dinner and took off for the seaside in his car. An hour's drive left us on the road adjacent to the boundary of the sea. We were still on the road, one of us driving and looking for a place to park the car while the rest of us looked outside at the vastness of the sea and the number of people out there having fun. My watch was striking eleven, an hour left to announce the twentieth year of my life, when we realized that we had forgotten to buy drinks and according to us how could a birthday be celebrated without a single sip? I offered to walk back to the market we had just passed (since I wanted to stretch my legs) and pay for the drinks as it was my birthday and they were a treat from me. The rest would find a parking place and wait for me. I stepped out of the car and hadn’t gone very far when I heard a loud crash followed by an ear splitting bang. I whirled back to see the collision. The newly-bought car of my friend was a total wreck. The bonnet was severely bent and dented, a few shards of glass were stuck in the frame of the windshield, the doors of the car hung open. I ran at top speed, sweeping people aside with my flailing arms. It was the deadliest accident I’d ever seen. The car had collided with a jeep probably coming at full speed from the opposite direction. It lay with its wheels towards the sky, smoke and fire billowing out from under it. The jeep had hit a nearby lamp post. I couldn't move, I couldn't blink, I couldn't breathe. I just stood there, paralyzed. I don't know how much time passed until an ambulance came, until some people started putting out the fire. My vision was blurry from silent tears, and my mind hazy. Hours passed, and I was still standing there, a silent spectator to the now dying fire from the explosion. I saw some people opening the doors of the car and taking my friends out, with whom I spent fourteen years of my life. I watched in utmost horror as the charred bodies of my friends were hauled out of the car. I didn't want to look but just couldn't tear my eyes away from the gruesome scene. I couldn't recognize the bodies being taken out and laid down on the ground, without an ounce of life. This triggered something inside of me and I finally collapsed, unable to believe, unable to accept the reality in front of my eyes. Voices of them laughing, crying and joking, images of them smirking, playing, grinning flashed through my mind. How will I ever be able to forget all this, I thought. How can someone talking to you be gone the next moment? Why not me? I wondered. Why wasn't I in the car and died with them? Dying would have been easier than bearing the loss of my friends. What had happened? Had death escaped me or had I escaped death?
All of a sudden everything felt meaningless, life seemed meaningless. Our goal… enjoy life as much as you can because you only get to live once… made me laugh. I laughed and continued laughing, hysterically, watching and hearing the sirens of ambulances, white cloths put over my friends, them being lifted up and put in the ambulances. The doors closing and then the ambulances driving away. I laughed till they were out of sight. I felt no strength in my body, I was unable to get up, unable to move a single muscle. I saw people coming towards me, telling me to get up and go home. I shouted at them, telling them to leave me alone, to let me be.
The short hand of my watch was continuously ticking away, just as the short hand of my life had ticked all the past years and now seemed to have stopped, the cells must have gone dead. And I had to buy new cells for the hand to continue its ticking. I saw people leaving, one by one and soon there was no one in sight. The atmosphere was quiet and still, not a single sound could be heard.
I lay there all night. Time flew by and I saw the sun rising from the ocean. I didn't want to get up, didn't want to leave.
Sitting on the foot path, my mind replayed various clips from the twenty years of my life, pausing on several occasions and resuming and replaying lots of parts. I realized our belief was wrong, the so called goal of our life was incredibly stupid. Now I was given a second chance to live. What to do now? I got up finally, there was no looking back hence I walked ahead. I changed my destination, I changed course and I changed my goal.
When we are born, azan is given. When we die, salat is offered. That's how short life is… the time between azan and salat. Hence spend it according to the teachings of Quran and Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم and worry about your next life, not this.
I reached home but something was unusual. The gate was wide open and I saw a lot of slippers and shoes at the front door. There were sounds of crying and wailing from inside. My heart skipped a beat. I ran inside and saw people sitting on a white cloth withtasbihs in their hands. I turned around only to see my sister crying bitterly, my brother and father with swollen, red and puffy eyes, talking to each other. Where was my mother? I wanted to ask but no voice came out. I already knew the answer but I didn't want to believe it let alone accept it. Someone had given her the wrong news that I had died with my friends. No one paid any attention to me just as I had never paid any attention to them.
I went to my room and locked the door behind me. I wondered if it was enough or was there more to come?
Soon the house became quiet. Everything was quite and peaceful again. I was scared, scared of my own shadow now. How would I be able to spend the rest of my life without my mother and without my friends? I curled up in the corner of my bed. I wanted to leave this place, I wanted to go somewhere, where there was no death. A tear came rolling down and I screamed. I cried and screamed at the same time, suddenly realizing what I'd lost. All night I spent crying and screaming till my throat began to hurt badly.
Allah had given me a second chance to live. Allah… how many times in my life had I remembered Him? Had I died and He had asked me what I'd done with my life what would I have said? I had no answer. I faced the kiblah and bowed my head in repentance. All day I stayed in my room and asked for forgiveness which I hoped would be granted to me as He is Most Merciful.
Loving Allah is the ultimate aim. Having attained the state of true love for Allah, each stage that follows is one of longing, intimacy and contentment. Each stage comes only after true repentance and perseverance.
The love of Allah is a light, if you are without it, you're in an ocean of darkness as was I. When it comes to who we love then is not Allah (most exalted is He), even more deserving of our love and adoration than anyone else, even our own selves? Everything that comes from Him to His servants directs us to love Him. His giving and His withholding, the good fortune and the misfortune that He decrees for His servants and His abasing them and elevating them, His justice and His grace, His giving life and taking it away again, His compassion and generosity towards His servants’ wrong actions, His forgiveness and patience, His response to His servants' supplications… all this invites one to worship Him and love Him only.
“Is there anyone calling Me so that I may answer his prayer? Is there anyone who is asking of Me, so that I may grant his request? Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness so that I may forgive him?”
How then can our hearts not love Him, the One who--- and no other than Him--- grants rewards, answers prayers, pardons mistakes, forgives sins, veils wrong actions, dispels grief and drives away sorrow?
He alone, is worthy of remembrance, worship and praise. He is the most generous to be asked, the most liberal to give, the most merciful to pardon, the mightiest to assist, and the most dependable to rely on. He is more merciful to His servant than a mother to her baby. He is more pleased by the repentance of a penitent sinner than a man who is overjoyed at finding his riding beast with all his provisions still on its back after he had gotten lost in a barren land and had given up all hope of survival. He pardons and forgives even after He has been disobeyed. And yet the rights which are due to Him are the ones which are most rejected and neglected by us.
Realizing that I’d been given a second chance to live my life I turned towards the Quran and Sunnah. I’d been granted all the necessities of life, all that I’d ever wished for without obeying my Lord, my Creator, my Allah but now I had to make it up. And it is sajdah to Him that I never want to get up from. I want to remain in the same position forever. Don't all of us wish to do so too?