Archive for December, 2009

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Prayer – Does it make God change His mind?

December 11, 2009

By: Shazia Yousuf

As a child, I had always believed in intense praying. I believed that I could achieve anything, and I mean anything, if I prayed hard enough. Of course I knew hard work was an essential ingredient for achievement but hard work without prayer was incomplete. A very traditional belief, this is what all of us know and have been taught at home and at religious classes and this is definitely the truth.

However, experiences in life gradually made me to scratch my head and compelled me to think and think harder. For instance, I had always desired to get straight As in O’ Level and A’ Level exams. I definitely worked very hard, I believe, and prayed harder. Yet I never got straight As. Anyways, my faith was strong, and I always believed God must definitely have something better planned out for me.

Other seemingly major, but actually minor events kept occurring in life. My belief remained unchanged. One experience, however shattered me, and left me in total dismay. That event was my mother’s sad demise. It was not sudden. She was ill for over ten years, and gradually deteriorating. But her two month long hospitalization in the ICU was a life changing experience for me. I had been by her side, saw her fighting her pleural effusion, gradually losing her interest in life and finally departing. The doctors made great efforts, the entire family prayed! Prayed in congregation, prayed in solitude, yet none of us could convince God to spare my mother’s soul. The doctors couldn’t save her with their effort and hard work and we couldn’t save her with our prayers and duas.

Maybe the effort was not enough or maybe we did not pray with the devotion that God asks from us. But this somehow did not convince me. I know how I prayed. I know how devoted I was. My mind simply could not accept this argument.

A restless soul within, I started my quest for an answer. I would wonder what God wants from us. Is He actually waiting for us to make Him realize what we utterly need.

I would wonder, when a person is ill, he turns to God in prayer. If the prayer is accepted by God, then the person recovers. Superficially, it seems as if God changed His mind, as if God can be “sweet talked” into backing down from a previously stated position, so to speak. It also seems as if God waits in heaven for our words of supplication, and, if they do not arrive, He wreaks His vengeance and wrath on us.

Furthermore, we are aware that God is an infinite Being who is by definition unchanging; if this is the case, then how can God “change His mind”?

All this somehow made me feel that God does not want anything from us! He has already given us all that He has! He created this universe and made us with all His attributes. He is Generous, Gracious, Merciful, Benevolent, and is recognized by more than a hundred attributes. God is all Love! And, He wants us to imitate His attributes.

God has also given us free will. By practicing this free will it is up to us now to decide which path we take. Whatever good that comes to us has already been given to us by God. Whatever misfortune comes our way is our own doing.

So the question arises, how do we decide which path to take? This is simple! Atonement with the absolute and aligning ourselves with the Divinity opens up the path that we need to tread upon, right in front of us. Sounds easy…right? Well it actually is!

This is where prayer comes into picture. Prayer is an awakening within us. Prayers are heard by the God within us shielded by the perishable body and selfish desires. So, what we achieve from prayer to God is not coming from outside anywhere but from within. When we pray, we pray to no one but to ourselves. There is nobody to listen to our prayers, not in sky or heaven or temple. When we pray, we forget for sometime our worldly affairs or existence. If we come in contact with God, our original form, even for a fraction of a second, our prayers are answered. God listens to us who is nowhere but within us. The guidance comes from within and the harmony in life is regained by aligning oneself with the Divine guidance.

With this concept, I now realize why God did not answer my prayers when I was begging Him for my mother’s health, and I am convinced. I am convinced that prayer is an essential ingredient to success and achievement, but I believe it is not the only one. I am convinced that I can achieve anything with prayer hard work and atonement with the Absolute being, but the reason why I pray is different. I pray because it gives me hope and courage to fight and work my way out of the turbulence and havoc that I create in my life.

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The Paradigm Shift

December 10, 2009

By: Shazia Yousuf

It still feels like a dream…standing right next to ammie’s dead body. My entire self trembling, trying to accept the truth – the real truth…ammie’s gone!

I knew she would not survive, yet it was very difficult to accept this. She fought for two months in ICU against plural effusion but finally gave in. A brave woman indeed! Even the doctors admitted this. The way her body responded to so much stress was unbelievable. But she could not fight for long. Due to renal shutdown and hematoma, the doctors had given up hope. We agreed to the fact that no rigorous medical activity will be performed as it would only hurt the body and would be of no use…as the doctors would say, we would make it comfortable for her…

When the doctors informed us of this, I still had hope. Ammie would be drowsy most of the time. I would go and stand next to her, put my hand on the place where I assumed the hematoma existed and I would recite a verse that Prophet Muhammad would recite for any one who was ill. “Azhab al bas a rabbun naas a washfi anta shaafi…” I had never felt within me what I felt while I read the verses. A connection, a link, definitely something.

The symptoms instead of spreading suddenly started to improve. My brave, strong willed mother started making another comeback. Her blood pressure and renal activity improved. Once again she was moving towards stability. The doctors were amazed, as this was the third time that she started recovering. But they were still not very hopeful, maybe due to their experience, maybe her stay in the ICU had been too long because of which they knew complete recovery was impossible.

Ammie started waking up for short durations, but would not be interested in anything. She would not respond to the nurses or to the doctors. But when I would go to visit her, and when I asked her if she had pain anywhere, she would tell me by the action of her hand that yes there was some uneasiness. With lip movement she would try to communicate with me. I would call her and she would respond by moving her head in my direction…I held her hand…talked to her…told her she was just fine…

The ICU incharge had observed, so she called me outside one day and told me to stay with her as much as I could. She said, your mother does not like any of us, because she’s not responding to us, but I have seen that spark in her eyes when u are there…she likes u…bring her back…talk to her …we don’t know how long she is with us…give her all that u can…

My hopes were high, I still can’t understand why. This was just the day before she passed away. I stayed with her the entire day…tried my best…but then there was a meeting with the doctors…so I had to leave her bedside for sometime. I was very tired…but hunger, tiredness, sleep …nothing mattered…I don’t know where I got all the energy that I had….to keep standing the entire day…maybe faith, hope and wish for some miracle kept me going…

But anyways, Ammie was conscious when I left her. I told her not to worry, I’ll come back in a while after speaking to the doctors. I asked her if I could go and she nodded…and the doctors believed she was not responding…but I spoke to her, she responded to me…anyways…

But when I came back, I just wished I had not gone…her eyes were frozen!…she was unable to close them….i cannot forget the look in her eyes…it was so painful and sad…it felt she could hear me but could not respond… The nurse suggested to put an eye patch made out of cotton without which the eyes would become dry. Ammie was very uncomfortable; her tongue was constantly moving as if she was trying to say something. I tried to understand but it was extremely difficult… I spoke to her…I could feel that she could hear me…I could not stand it and I removed the eye patch because it gave me a very bad feeling…

I tried to speak to her, and I felt she was trying to tell me something…she would move her hand, then her hand would drop as if she had given up…then she would start again…

I then held her hand and started speaking gently to her. Although at that moment I just wanted to cry out loud, but I forced myself to keep calm…and I talked and talked. I spoke of all the fears that my mother could have regarding home, Abbu, my youngest sister…I tried to convince her that they were all doing well…and that they were all prepared…I tried to convince her that we have learned to go on without her…that she need not worry about us….I told her we will all be fine, and I don’t know why I asked her to close her eyes…although her eyes were as still as a stone…and nurses felt they would become dry if they were left uncovered, but tears fell from them as I spoke. And then all of a sudden, it felt as if she was calm. She stopped moving her tongue and lips, as if all her questions were answered, and that she had nothing to ask, and she gradually closed her eyes! My sisters had also gathered around her bed and they were all reciting Ya Sin. I could actually see her heart rate fall on the monitor. Slowly and gradually her soul departed.

I had lost. I could not do anything to save her…When we were bringing her to the hospital two months ago, then also I had convinced her that she will soon be fine…Every day I would give updates to my father regarding what the doctor said about her progress…I would try to convince him that there was improvement and that she’ll recover soon…I was wrong!! Now that she was gone, I was wondering how I would face my father, what I would tell him now…Here I was, standing right next to her….

But Abbu is a man of wisdom…he already had a fairly good idea of where Ammie was heading to…

 I reached home with Ammie….i had always imagined we would do a get together when she gets better. But this homecoming was different…I was greeted by my weeping father, who hugged me and said “You were so brave baita…” Tears ran down my cheeks…but I controlled myself…I was really being brave…

All this while, I kept on thinking…we prayed so hard…everyone did…yasalaamo, Ya Sin, Surah Rehman…what not…but Allah did not respond to us…why?!! Does He really answer our prayers? He is ‘Sami-ud-Dua’ no doubt i.e he hears us, but does He answer our prayers? He did not respond to our prayers. My mind kept on asking questions. What’s the use of a life where one would pray to Allah for something, but that which has to happen will happen? Then what is the purpose of Dua? Why should we lead a life which is full of sorrows, pain and misery? Why not run away maybe into a jungle…like Buddha? Was Allah trying to punish us for something? Or was He trying out Ammie’s patience…but why her…she was good even to those who had hurt her. Infact she would not even let us say anything bad to such people. She would sometimes point out the good qualities of those people and would sometimes go as far as giving justification for the bad that was done to her. So why would Allah give her so much pain?

After a lot of thinking, certain things dawned upon me. My paradigm started shifting…..

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Atonement with The Absolute

December 10, 2009

By: Shazia Yousuf

Every object that we see around us is revealing. It tells us its character, nature and the entire secret that it beholds. Every presence explains to us all that it contains. There is music in every object and in every being, everything speaks the language of rhythm and tone.

A friendly person shows harmony in his voice, his words, his movements, his manner and his thought. An unfriendly person shows disharmany in all his movements, his glance and expression, in his walk, in everything. Every action may show harmony or disharmony – if only one can see it.

You can see from the attitude of a person whether he’ll be your friend or will end up being your enemy. You need not wait till the end; you may see this at the first glance. But you have to have an eye for it and you have to have atonement with God – The Absolute being.

Atonement with God actually means being in tune with the Infinite, in harmony with the entire universe. The Holy people have been responsive to the music of the universe to the Whole Being. Their harmony with the universe was the secret of how they became friendly even with their worst enemies. But this is not just the power of the holy people. This is there in every person to a greater or less degree. Everyone shows harmony or disharmony according to how open he is to the music of the universe. The more he is open to all that is beautiful and harmonious, the more his life is tuned to that universal harmony, and the more he will show a friendly attitude towards everyone he meets. His very atmosphere will create music around him.

To achieve atonement with God, one must purify the body and mind. By making the senses finer, one is able to tune one’s soul with the Eternal Being. It quite simple yet it seems complex. It is only a matter of opening up one’s heart, just like one opens it up for a loved one whose faults and merits are all very well known. Yet one knows how to experience and enjoy the relationship. This is achieved through harmony and love. There is no understanding if there is an element of hatred or bitterness. The deeper a person is, the more there is harmony around him and the more he is amicable and liked by others. It is the lack of spiritual development that makes a person distant and different from others. In this lies the tragedy of life. Such people can never be satisfied or happy with life.

In order to achieve happiness and harmony in life, one has to have a friendly outlook to life. This includes friendship not only with people but with every object and every condition. It is this attitude of friendship that man breaks down the walls of the prison which confines him and thus he achieves atonement with the Absolute.