Breadcrumbs from the Night Journey: The Taste of Darkness

بسم الله

“When God wants to humiliate a servant, He conceals from him his faults, and when He wants His servant to triumph, He shows him his faults in order he may repent and relent.”

Where do I begin? There is so much to say. It has been 3 years, but I’d love to start with today. You know, like old friends do…who can pick up the phone and carry on as if only a day was amiss between them rather than years.

2013 was a rough year for me. I experienced loss…deep mourning loss that hits you to the bones in more ways than one. And I could not speak to you about it. I wanted to. I actually wrote you a soliloquy or two, but I never sent them to you. It was too personal and I didn’t want you to worry. No. It was too personal and I didn’t want you to read between the lines. See me without my smile, without my shine. See me limp. But the truth is sometimes only in pain and suffering do we grow. Sometimes only in loss do we gain. So I lost a few pieces of myself and I bore scars. But I made it through. To you. And now you see me. Tougher than nails. A stronger, more endearing version of myself. A person who thought she had a limp but it was just a crutch, an attachment to this world that I needed to learn to live without. Forgive me for my silence. I was undergoing an education from my Lord. I am still very much so. But am so grateful for it. I’ve never been happier, in general, even with the loss.

I have been thinking of you. I’ve actually started to write to you many times, but I decided against it just as many times as well. You see, since 2013, I’ve been getting lessons from my Rabb on listening…on focusing…on zoning in on what really matters, rather than what I think really matters. On controlling myself rather than trying to control everything and everyone around me. When you’re speaking, you’re often not listening. And in my case, I was a hard-headed wreck that needed to learn some things the hard way. So Allah taught me and gave me a series of midterms. I’m still taking them and trying to pass with ease and class. And just like a baby, I’ve learned to watch and listen before speaking. Only today, has it felt truly right to open up my mouth, mind, and heart to you. And so now I write, I speak. I pray that what I have to say is well-received and a fulfillment of the amana I’ve been given in being able to write something that borders on cohesive and complentative thought.

I was given a homework assignment by a dear sister who has just recently re-entered my life (read: therapist). The last time we spoke (save two weeks ago) was in 2013. She gave me a wird to add to my collection:  reflection. It has been pretty difficult actually to carve out time…just. to. think. Plus, I’m pretty sure that I live on cruise control and auto-pilot on most days. But I try and though I’m not consistent, something is better than nothing. I pray one day I’ll be granted the gift of consistency in fikr, for what better gift does Allah give to a servant than consistency in good?

So I called myself reflecting. She told me that in the beginning, it might be difficult, so she suggested that I write lists of things I’m grateful for. The lists ranged from teetering on first grade rhyme-song to hilarious forced paragraphs about different daily events in my life (like nap time). But today something hit me square on my head…or in my heart.

You see, I started the day by reading the story of Isra and Miraj to my three daughters (oh yes, the last time we spoke, there were 2, now there are 3…). We were going to an event that night to listen to Shaykh Muhammad Al Yacoubi and I wanted them to be keen on why we were leaving our house at Maghrib when we are usually arriving before dhuhr! Plus, it’s family tradition to always reread the story every 27th of Rajab.

And what came to me in reading Leila Azzam and Aisha Gouverneur’s The Life of The Prophet Muhammad (saws) is that the Prophet (saws) traveled both horizontally and vertically in a way that no one else could. In Miraj, he went where no prophet and not even the Archangel Jibraeel could go. He went beyond the Lote Tree to the Extinguishing Light of Allah Most High, where others get burned…where others cannot see…where others do not dare go…where others are not permitted. But he told us, his community, that “Prayer is a Miraj.” He told us that we have the ability to ascend..if we want it, if we focus, if we have the drive, if we mount the spiritual buraq inside of us.

He came back from his Night Journey with 5 prayers, and a reminder of a conversation that happened that night which we repeat at least 5 times daily in the tahiyyat of our prayer.

Astaghfirullah. And I had the nerve to think that I should commemorate Isra and Miraj on the 27th of Rajab. I should commemorate it everyday–in every prayer! Every prayer is an anniversary and reminder of that conversation between The Most Loving One and His beloved, and we recite it everyday in our tahiyyat. Every prayer has the potential to make us ascend..if we’d just let it, let go, and let God. I mean isn’t that what “Allahu Akbar” means when we begin our prayer? That we are leaving the world, that we are mounting our spiritual Buraqs on our prayer rugs, that nothing else in this moment is most important than prayer? That we will focus because God truly is The Greatest and is Most Deserving of our attention and intention than anything else?

A picture I received from a whatsapp thread–yes, I have a lot to learn about copyright but it looks like the artist put their name in the background. By the way, to really make this picture real for me, we need to add two other kids in there, and one should be climbing on top of that table to get the phone, with another either fussing or fighting with one of the three. But to be fair, maybe the child on top of the table is actually reading a book, though in a perilous and precarious position.

Foolish me. I never leave the earth and ascend. On my prayer rug, I think of so many things. I hear the kids–I look up, I check and see if they are doing something mischievious. I use “Allahu akbar” as a warning and reprimand–saying it out loud and in different tones to warn the children of the potential trouble they are going to get into during or after prayer if they continue in their wayward ways. I haven’t left it all behind. Not at all. Allahuma maghfirlee. Maybe one day, I’ll learn to ascend…to fly…to leave it all behind and really mean “Allahu akbar” when I say it. Allah is Greater than anything or anyone else. At least Allah gave me this glimpse, this clarity of how I sabotage my own prayers and forget Him when when I’m supposed to be remembering Him. I fool myself into believing that I intend prayer. But what I really intend is to maintain the look…the tradition…the ritual of prayer by going through the motions with an absent heart and mind. May Allah protect me from myself–I would do well to recite the second to the last verse of Surah Baqarah that was revealed during the blessed night journey as Prophet Muhammad (saws) entered the Divine Presence. At the end of this ayah is the statement, “To Thee is the End of all journeys.” What other journey, then, matters, than to the Goal?

So the first step of change is not being in denial. I affirm that I mount my prayer rug, rather than my personal spiritual buraq and I slam myself right back down on the prayer rug. Though I aspire to do more. It is a dark, miserable place an station, but sometimes it is only through darkness that we can see and experience light. Prophet Muhammad (saws) left us breadcrumbs in his hadiths for us to find our way back home. And in his night journey, I have found a particularly delicious morsel. Alhamdulillah. I hope it was scrumptious for you as well.

Today, I am grateful for Isra wal Miraj and the fact that its anniversary happens everyday, every time I hit the prayer rug, not only on the 27th of Rajab. I appreciate the lessons and gems contained within it that I was able to experience in reading to my children and just pondering and thinking about the story with them. Thank you Allah.

To my readers,  I didn’t leave any breadcrumbs to the home of my heart for you–definitely not like the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (saws) did for all of mankind, and not even at the level of Hansel and Gretel in children’s stories. I ate them all up myself, like the pigeons…except they know how to fly, though no one pays them any mind in urbanity. Forgive me, but believe me. There were so many times that I opened up WordPress to dial your number, to treat you to a word or two from my travels in life (and by travels, I mean horizontally as well as vertically in my soul and mind). But we believe in qadr–divine decree. It wasn’t meant to be. And I can’t even even tell you when the next time will be that we will communicate. But I will try. I will do what I can do. I pray it can be monthly, but don’t hold me to it. I haven’t been on my miraj yet. And I’m dying to go. I need to become a better version of myself and improve. I need to climb some more stairs. I need to listen…before I act. Soak up liquid in my sponge before I can be squeezed. Again, I haven’t been on my miraj yet. But I’ll never stop trying. InshAllah. And now I know that every day, and virtually any time, I can commemorate the night journey whilst in prayer. InshAllah, we can journey and ascend together, through the darkness of night into the Light, with scrumptious breadcrumbs for all.


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