Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Day 11: Girl Talk

I've just come out of an intense and raw 'sharing our feelings' session.

I've never been a sharing person. Or a girly-touchy-huggy-feely person. I find it very hard to express my feelings face to face, and I've always been the person rolling my eyes at people crying and going 'what on earth are they crying about?'

But this session was different somehow. It was different because we weren't talking about our friendships or our problems in life, but about our relationship with God. It was private and emotional and almost fragile to talk about—you know the butterfly emerging from a cocoon? It has to struggle for exactly the right amount of time or else its wings won't be strong enough to carry it. That's how I feel talking about today's session, like I'm walking on eggshells. I either do it right or else I fail completely and make something that was so special seem so awkward and stilted.

I can't believe how open everyone was and how willing they were to put themselves 'out there,' and I'm sure part of it is because they were influenced by the genuineness of the people we've met, who literally stump you with their sincerity. In real life, you would never share so much of yourself with anyone who wasn't a true life-long friend, let alone people you've known for a week. Partly because of the fact that it's simply 'not done,' but largely because of self-preservation. Because to make yourself vulnerable and voice your fears out loud takes tremendous courage, to entrust your feelings to another person who may cradle them just as easily as trample all over them.

It's even more difficult when it comes to religion, which is such a taboo, controversial and loaded topic that people have chosen to ignore it completely. The moment you start speaking about religion you can almost see peoples' eyes shutter and they look away, desperately trying to find a way to extricate themselves from an uncomfortable situation.

We were asked to state our intention for the rest of the Dowra, and why we came. And Subhan Allah it wasn't until I began formulating my thoughts and articulating them that I fully realized what I was feeling. And in honor of the girls who were so much braver and honest than I was in detailing their perceived faults, I'm going to share something with the world:

Sometimes, I look around at everyone with me in this house and think 'what on earth am I doing here?' I feel that I'm acting out a role—that deep down I'm not really at all spiritual or religious. I know what iman is, and I can see it in people, but I just feel that I haven't tasted it myself. I feel that the outward manifestations of religion—like praying and fasting and hijab—are the only religious aspects about me. I see people crying when they listen to a certain story about the Prophet (PBUH) or Allah, and I wonder why I'm not moved, and why my heart seems to have hardened over the years.

I definitely know that I want to be one of these people, and that's part of the reason I'm here—I keep hoping that some magic wand will pass over me and turn me into one of those serene people who seem to 'glow' with inner light. But unfortunately, so far I'm still the same old me, surrounded by all these incredible people.

But then I think to myself that at least while I'm in the midst of these people, I might absorb some of their goodness by osmosis. And if not, then perhaps I might be 'swept away' in the middle of them, that even though my heart may not be actively engaged in dhikr or making du'ua these actions may be accepted by virtue of the people around me. I think of the Hadith where Allah tells His angels to forgive the sins of everyone sitting remembering Him, even the person who was there for a completely different reason or didn't want to be there; that He'll forgive him too simply because he was in the presence of those who were truly good at heart.

So I'm that person on the fringes, who wants to get in with the good people though he himself isn't one of them. I love those great people and aspire to be like them, and believe in the Hadith that says
"The human is with those he loved [on judgment day]."

So I'll just hang on to their coattails and hope for the best.

We were told today that Tarim exposes you. Not just to others but to yourself. And it's true. Every passing day I am more and more disgusted with myself. I see how the people here lead their lives, wasting not a single moment, and how I waste months and months with vapid, useless things. Things I think I can't live without, but that I haven't missed at all since I've been here. To us, people whose work and activities define who we are, the people's lives here seem empty. And yet, they are fuller than we could ever aspire to have our lives be.

So why I came here. To be honest, the biggest reason was self-reflection, maybe even more than knowledge. To separate and dissociate myself from all the mundane, time-consuming and trivial aspects of my life that eat away so much of my time. To focus on the reason I was created. To take a time-out of my busy busy life and see where I want to go from here. To figure out if the path I'm on, and what I'm doing with my life, is the best I could be doing. To figure out why I feel that with every passing day my faith is getting weaker and that spiritually I've never been lower though nothing has changed in my behavior. To 'collect' as much hasanat [good deeds] as I could. To analyze the shortcomings in my character and how to change what I can. To improve my Arabic. To figure out my intentions in my actions, and why they are so mixed. To meet people like myself. To meet people so much better than I am and to realize what a long way I have to go. To etbahdel shewaya (roughing it) to strengthen my character.

At the end of the session, we were told to reflect on the fact that we were chosen not only to come here, but to come here with the people living with us in the house. That we were going to get a chance to experience a unique bond of sisterhood, loving each other purely for the sake of Allah. And although something in me groaned a little bit at the supposed clich├ęd-ness of it all, another part of me smiled wistfully.

Today's quote: The experience here makes me feel like the seven dwarves rolled into one. The heat makes me like grumpy and sleepy especially. I feel that you got stuck with me here, and that you're all so much better than I am. I'm scared to go back home and not have this aura of spirituality that everyone who comes here has when they go back to their homes, and to have people ask "wait, wasn't she in Tarim? My roommate Choclit, who was the bravest one of us all.

1 comment:

Nielfa Hanifa said...

Habib Umar left Cape Town today after spending the last few days in Mawlid celebration... now that we know we won't see him today, my husband and I can't help feeling lost.

I've started reading your blog a few weeks ago and I this post resonates with me so much, where you ask, "what on earth am I doing here?" and longing to feel "moved".

Spending these last few days listening to Habib Umar speaking from his heart to my heart has left me with an inexplicable feeling of wanting to do more in the path of Allah ta'aala, for Allah ta'aal and to increase in my love for our beloved Prophet SAW... to BE one of those people as you say.

Insha'Allah, my longing is for my husband and I to visit Tarim to do the 40 day Dowra as well.

I envy your experience and long that the love Habib Umar has left my heart to never go away.