It is not until we lose something, do we realize the true significance of it. It is not until we make mistakes do we realize where we went wrong. Human nature is such, we can’t help but make mistakes. And some people are fortunate enough to discipline those mistakes and better themselves. However, some people are arrogant enough to acknowledge their mistakes. They think of themselves as superior to the rest. And these are the kinds of people who never learn anything in life. Because if we believe that we are right all the time, what do we learn? We are just mere human beings in this journey of life. Along the way, we might get distracted by the beauty of this world. Us human beings, we are uncanny, aren’t we?
We live life as though we are going to live forever, not knowing that death can seize our soul at any moment of the day. And it comes, without warning too. But we forget that there is a life after death also. A life that is our true destination. A life that we prepare for in this Dunya. A life where people will live based on the deeds they have done and the sins they have committed. A place of mercy and a place of wrath. A place of justice and a place of egalitarianism. A place of forgiveness and a place of forgiveness. A place of heaven and a place of hell. A place where our souls will attain pure tranquility, and that is a place where Allah resides.
Eman grew up in the country of the United States of America. Her parents belonged to the upper class, and she lived the kind of life any girl would dream of living. She had a good education and more money than she could ever want. An expensive car and a loving family. What more could she want? She was an auspicious young girl, but there were days when she would wake up feeling a harrowing emptiness in the crevices of her heart. A feeling of self-loathing, a sense of despondency, and desolation. Attending various sessions of therapy, Eman’s psychologists never understood the reason why she felt so. There was a certain feeling of restlessness and despair that resided in her soul as though she was in search of something unremembered and unrecalled. Eman felt as though she was sitting on a sailing ship with no destination. She might have everything she wanted, but her life lacked meaning.
We live life as though we are going to live forever, not knowing that death can seize our soul at any moment of the day. And it comes, without warning too.
The melodious voice of the imam from the nearby mosque filled the air. Eman woke up to the sounds of the prayer being called. She opened her eyes and peered at the clock. It was 3:30 am. The adhan kept going. She tossed and turned in her bed, feeling slightly annoyed because her sleep was interrupted. With a sigh, she placed her pillow on her ears to block out the sounds of the prayers so she could fall asleep. Within minutes she fell asleep but soon woke up to the sound of the alarm turning off. It was the first day of Eman’s University. She hurriedly took a cold shower and went downstairs to her house to have breakfast. Her father sat on the kitchen table, reading the newspaper. When he saw her walking down the stairs, he stared at her for a few minutes monotonously before going back to reading his paper. Their servants decorated their tables with some of the most delicious meals. Eman ate her breakfast while studying her father’s physical movements.
Eman put her spoon down and stared at her father before saying “Is she taking her medications properly?”
He said, “Hmmm.”
Eman stared at the empty seat in front of her as sadness swept over her heart. Her mother, Ayesha, once sat there. The memories of Eman with her mother were very few. She doesn’t remember the last time she sat properly with Ayesha and had a good chat like every mother-daughter had. But Ayesha suffers from a condition called bipolar disorder. Some cases of bipolar disorder are minor. But the one Ayesha suffers from, is severe. Eman doesn’t know when did it all start to happen. Was it when she found out that her husband was having multiple affairs behind her back? Or was it because she lost her baby at birth?
Eman is the only child of her parents. She was supposed to have another sibling, a baby brother. But he died as soon as he was born. And this tragedy struck their house at an immense amount. Ayesha couldn’t bear the loss of her child and started taking anti-depression pills. Her father would spend most of his time working on his business. Growing up, Eman did not spend a lot of her time with her parents. But she wished to. It was her dream to tell her mother all the things that had happened to her in school. She wanted to tell her mother about the things she achieved and the friends she made. But it felt as though Ayesha was waiting for death to take her. She was breathing, but she was soulless. She was restless. She perished. Her heart, joy, happiness, and will to live departed along with her son, whose lifeless body she held in her arms and wept immensely. It was true, grief changes a person. And Ayesha, she was not the mother Eman once knew.
Eman walked the corridors of her University wearing a white coat. With a feeling of excitement filling her heart, she smiled broadly. It was the beginning of a new chapter of her life, and she couldn’t wait to find out what lay ahead of her. Little did she know that her life was going to change forever. On the first day of her MBBS degree, Eman made a new friend named Ahmed. He was a tall boy with deep brown eyes and raven black hair. His gaze was intense, and Eman felt intimidated just by looking at him. He sat beside her, and they started talking. Ahmed had come from the USA and had settled down in Pakistan to study for his MBBS degree. She was glad to see that she made a new friend.
As days passed by, and seasons changed, their friendship grew even more. Eman found herself growing fond of Ahmed, and the feelings were mutual. It was the end of their first year, and Ahmed arranged a party for all of his friends to attend. He asked Eman to attend, as well. The evening was full of excitement and joy. When everyone went to their homes, Ahmed asked Eman to meet him by the swimming pool. There, he confessed his feelings to her. Eman felt her heart fill with joy as she held him in her arms. Something good happened in her life for the first time, and Ahmed was the reason why she felt so.
It was a Thursday night, and Eman was talking to Ahmed on the phone. She lay on her bed with her mobile phone, pressed to her ears, and smiled widely. Whenever she spoke to him, she felt happy.
“What are you doing?” Ahmed asked her on the other side of the phone.
“Smiling,” Eman replied.
“Why are you smiling?”
“Because whenever I am with you, I feel delighted and fortunate.”
Ahmed chuckled “Well, Ma’am, perhaps you are in love.”
“If you are in love, why don’t you send me a picture of yourself?”
“You want it now?”
“Yes, now. In that shirt, I bought you for your twentieth birthday.”
“But that shirt is provocative.”
“It is normal!”
Eman hesitated for a moment “I don’t know.”
“You don’t trust me?”
“Then why are you hesitating in sending me your picture?” Ahmed sounded annoyed.
And Eman replied, “Ok, I will send you.”
“Okay, send me the full picture of your clothes too.”
Eman said an “okay” and turned off the phone. She wore the dress Ahmed had gifted her and took a picture. Sending it to him, she waited for his response. He told her of how beautiful she looked. Eman smiled at his compliments and put her phone aside. For some reason, she couldn’t fall asleep that night. Tossing and turning in her bed, a feeling of worry settled in her heart, a feeling that said what she did was wrong. It was almost 4:00 am when the sounds of the prayer were called from the mosque nearby. She took a deep sigh and placed her pillow on her head. Despite the pillow, she could still hear the adhan. Eman took a deep sigh and got up from her bed. A feeling of frustration filled her heart. Despite having everything in life, why was she so unhappy? She placed both her hands on her eyes and wept profoundly. Eman felt hopeless.
The next morning she woke up, and her phone was bombarded with text messages. Eman gazed at her telephone feeling slightly confused. She never got so many messages. When Eman opened her inbox, her heart sank. Ahmed had leaked her picture. With terror-filled eyes, she read the words. Ahmed had posted it on all the platforms of social media and on various sites as well. Her friends had asked her if it was really her or if it was photoshopped. She even got messages from people whom she didn’t know. But there was not also a single message from Ahmed.
Eman did not go to University. How could she? She was so ashamed, she felt like dying. Her father might know about the picture, but he did not tell her anything. He was too busy with the work that he does. But Eman, she felt remorseful.
Weeks passed by, and her mobile phone, she had thrown into the dustbin. Eman now lived like her mother, Ayesha. Soulless and unaware of her surroundings. She was breathing, but she was dead on the inside. However, one night, Eman woke up to the sounds of banging doors. She quickly got up to see where the noise had come from. She was surprised to see there was no one outside her room and even out the window too. With a sigh, she peered at the clock. It was 3:00 am. Wearing her slipper, she went out into the lawn of her house and padded. It was one of those nights when the wind was chilly, and no stars could be seen in the sky. Eman gazed up at the sky. It seemed so dark, just like her life. She didn’t know for how long she kept walking, but she came across the servant’s quarter. Eman stared at the quarters curiously. Their housemaid, whose name was Sara, sat on the grass facing the tree with a cloth wrapped around her head. She sat on a mat, a mat of prayer. When she saw Eman standing, she got up from the prayer mat and said,
Eman went towards her and said, “Wa Alaikum Assalam. What are you doing so late at night?”
“I am praying Tahajjud.”
Eman sat on the prayer mat beside Sara and took a deep sigh. Internally, she felt tired. And walking in the lawn was like a breath of fresh air. She hadn’t even spoken to any human being for the past few weeks. She was starting to feel extensively isolated.
“Why are you praying Tahajjud? It is not compulsory,” Eman asked Sara.
Hearing these words, Sara smiled slightly before replying, “I know that it is not compulsory. But the reason why Allah has given us the opportunity to pray Tahajjud and that too, at night, is because he knows that night is the Time when most of the people have distressing thoughts going through their minds. And Tahajjud is a way of relieving one’s anguish through prostration. It is a way of communicating with Allah and asking him to ease the burden of our difficulties.”
Eman stared at the tree in front of her before replying, “Where does Allah live? In the mosque?”
And Sara replied, “No, my dear, He lives right here,” she pointed her fingers to her heart.
Eman felt her eyes tear up and said, “If He lives right here, why can’t He see my helplessness? Why can’t He see how broken I am? Why can’t He do anything to help me?”
“That is because you never asked Him to.”
“That is absurd,” Eman felt anger fill her veins and stared down at the grass. Warm tears fell from her face as she whispered in a broken voice, “Why is life so unfair? Why can’t I be happy, even for once? Every time I feel happy, that happiness is taken away from me.”
She sobbed hard, and her housemaid patted her back before replying, “The reason why He gives you nothing but sorrow even in the name of love is that He wants you to get close to Him.”
“Close to Him? How?”
“Do you believe He would even listen to someone like me?”
“Yes, He responds to the call of a sincere caller.”
“But I am not sincere. I am a sinner. I have never prayed, not even once in my life. And I expect Him to listen to me?”
Sara nodded and said, “Your name itself means faith. Then why do you worry about what anybody else thinks?”
Eman took a deep breath and wiped her tears with the hymn of her shirt. Moments passed by, and silence enveloped them like a thick blanket.
Sara broke the silence by saying “You know Eman, He forgives too!”
And Eman gazed at her with hazy eyes, “My soul is polluted. My entire being is polluted. I have never done good things in life. I have been rude to people and have committed sins that are far worse than your imagination. Do you think that His gaze will fall upon a being like me?”
“Yes. Perhaps this pain you are going through will be the way you will find God. Perhaps through these circumstances of grief, you will fall in love with the beautiful religion of Islam. Perhaps through these moments of desolation and hopelessness, you will find your love for Allah.” As soon as Sara said those words, the call to prayer was heard from the mosque nearby. The adhan continued, “As-salatu Khayrun Minan-Naum.” When the adhan was finished, Sara turned towards Eman and said, “Do you know the translation of the adhan?”
Eman said, “No!”
It means that “God is great. And we should hurry towards success. Because prayer is better than sleep.”
Eman remained quiet.
Sara continued, “The reason why people pray is that they find the contentment of heart and peace of souls in doing so. Real success isn’t materialistic. Money is necessary to sustain life. But if you don’t have prayer, what do you have? If you have prayers, what else do you need? Our hearts are created by the Almighty in such a way that they can find rest in no place other than with Allah. Because with Him lies our everlasting abode. Neither does the love of Allah hurt nor does it betray. That is why He inflicts us with pain. But He never inflicts more than we can bear and with every hardship, He has promised us human beings ease. Not once but twice!” When she gazed at Eman, she realized that she was crying.
Eman said, in between sobs, “Can you teach me how to pray?”
And Sara smiled “Of course.”
With a sigh, she got up from the grass and followed Sara into the bathroom. Sara showed her how to do wudu. With each stroke of water, Eman could feel her body shiver.
Sara lay the prayer mat on the cold grass and turned towards Eman. she wrapped a chaddar around her head and said: “This is compulsory while praying.”
Eman nodded, and Sara smiled.
Sara said the words out loud “Allahu Akbar”.
And Eman followed her. With every movement, every bow, and every prostration, Eman could feel her goosebumps on her skin. What was happening to her? She didn’t know. All she knew was she was right there, at that moment, following Sara and praying to Allah for the first time. As Sara took her salam and finished her salah, she put her hands up toward the sky and whispered silently. Eman didn’t know why, but she followed the actions of Sara too. As she sat there, in the stillness of the servants quarters and at the crack of dawn, she felt her heartache immensely. She couldn’t put her pain into words. It was the first time she was making dua, and that is why Eman did not know what to say.
With a deep sigh, she said these words silently “Please forgive me, God. I may have been disrespectful and I may have been disobedient. But right now, my heart is torn in two. And I have no place to go except to you. They say you forgive, even if our sins are as vast as the ocean. I am in no form a good person, I have made mistakes. But don’t you think this much punishment is enough? I deserve so much worse than what happened to me. Every time you called me, I ignored you. Every Time you called me towards the path of success, I neglected it. But now, I regret every single chance I lost of coming close to you. And now, as I sit on this prayer mat, I am begging you, please forgive me!”
As Eman said those words, she opened her eyes and saw the sun coming above the horizon. For the first time in her life, Eman felt a wave of calmness and serenity pass through her body. It was a feeling she craved to feel all her life and now she finally did. It was possible only through getting close to God. Seeing the sunrise, she knew that it was a sign from God that her hardship shall be eased one day. It was a sign that the sun will rise from her darkness and she will be okay.
Eman Khalid is a published writer and editor as well. She is an English Language and Literature Major living in Middle East (Kuwait). Her work has been published in various magazines such as Litlight, The Meraki Magazine, Khwabeeda, and The bureaucrat’s magazine. She also has a deep passion for art, literature, and poetry. Her stories have been featured in various anthologies as well. When she is not writing, you would find her taking long walks at the beach and stargazing too.