Editor's Note: The author wishes to remain anonymous.
The following was written less than 24 hours after leaving the Al-Madina Tazkiyah Retreat held annually in upstate New York under the guidance of Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui. For a previous entry by the same author on the Retreat, please read: "The First 24 Hours: Leaving the Tazkiyah Retreat".
Wandering Seventh Avenue, looking for a sign, I sought natural beauty, a reminder of the Divine. I was a commoner searching for the artist through His art. But where was I less than 24 hours from Camp Fowler that I needed something in His creation to remind me of Him? Whenever is He absent?
There were trees here and there. I spotted the occasional potted plant on a ledge or fire escape. Standing on the cold sidewalk, I examined their every detail. Their rarity made for the absence of richness, yet pointed to the uniqueness of their Masterful Creator. I looked to the sky, trying to keep my focus upwards. It was the clearest calmest space I could find. I breathed in the sight. Again, the grandeur of the Divine rushed to me. But after a bit my eyes fell back to the street. I patiently tried, again and again, to raise them high, and yet they fell back down each time.
I scanned my immediate surroundings for signs, troubled that I needed them in the first place. Why did my eyes focus upon where I was? Why was I even here in the first place? I want to leave to a place of expansive space, fresh air, and spiritual growth. I have told myself such a place is consistent with me as well as my aspirations. Why can’t I leave? What has kept me here, awhile now? Maybe to teach me patience or humility or contentment…
My foot had slipped on a wet rock. I had fallen into the stream. I slid my cold hands into my jacket pocket, when He reminded me of His immeasurably detailed placement and position of even the tiniest thing. It really doesn’t matter what I found, nor why I needed it specifically there and exactly then. What matters is that I did, without any design of my own. I am at best a tool or means of my Creator. I must seek nothing more. So why be distracted by creation, reasons, or rationale. All we need is to know, and better yet to experience in our depths, is a trust that each and every thing, quite literally, is wisely positioned and timed by its Creator for our welfare.
I leaned back against the white car, facing an old brick building that reminded of nothing but simple efficiency. I looked around, taking in the details, wondering still: Why am I here? My gaze was turned inward. And there I was in truth: a parallel of the decayed and deteriorated built environment surrounding me. How much like my heart, and how much like my relationship with the Divine! Perhaps Allah had placed me here to show me the absence of calm and stillness in my spiritual practice, the truth of my character and deeds, and the dilipadated condition of my heart. I am here because this is what I am. I do not want to be here because it reminds of the awfulness within me, much like we are told that perhaps we cannot stomach being alone because of the truth of ourselves. The streets were in desperate need of a good sweeping and repair. The rusted fire escapes were in desperate need of a good polishing. I was here to wring out from me the filth. If I was where I had wanted to be, perhaps I might become ungrateful and complacent. This environment of constant assault afforded ample opportunity to practice gratitude, patience, and control - and thus little excuse for failing. I sighed as I imagined the impenetrable evidence forming against me, and wondered: Would I ever be good enough to leave? Does enough time remain for such an enormous task? How would He restore life? Like this neighborhood, a bit of paint and adornment wouldn’t do. I am in need of a good breaking-in in order to be rebuilt.
By Guest Author , 01 Aug 2016