It has been a heavy week for me. A week full of reflections and gratitude.
My father would have turned 64 on the 10th. Not a day goes by that I don't remember his character and love. I've been trying to understand, whilst reflecting on the past, the idea of love. It's been 5 years. There are many stories I can share about the life of my father and the various lessons I drew from them. But I wanted to share some thoughts that I haven't before.
As a teenager, I was presented with a heavy trial. While many kids my age were out socializing and experiencing conventional rights of passage, I was entrusted with taking care of my sick father. His health declined quickly as his illness progressively took away his ability to do everyday things. My mother and two elder sisters were out earning and providing and I was often left at home as his caretaker.
I had to give him his medication. I had to clothe him. Make food for him. Feed him. Bathe him. Help him use the bathroom. Clean him. Help him to stand. Help him to sit. I would hear my name hundreds of times a day called throughout the house. I'll be honest. I hated it. I wish I could say I soaked in every precious moment of service because I understood the gravity of such actions, but I can't. Because the truth is...
I didn't understand how or why it had to be my father who was made to suffer. I didn't like how I couldn't do things like other teenagers because I had such weighty responsibilities. I would often wish things could be different, that I could be like everyone else. But God had other plans for me. My heart was to be shaped by responsibility.
I remember leaving the house for just 2 hours and returning to find my father lying on the bathroom floor sprawled in a state I would wish upon no one. With saddened eyes blinking slowly, his head rested on an outstretched arm. He had been waiting for someone to help him. Moments after I left, He had simply tried to go to the bathroom because he really needed to. He couldn't make it in time. So those saddened yet beautiful eyes of his blinked slowly for most of those 2 hours...patiently enduring.
My father suffered from hepatic encephalopathy. In other words, the poor functionality of his liver caused bad blood to flow to his brain and consequently put him in a state of utter confusion or dementia that would last anywhere from 1-5 days. He would emerge from his confused state thinking only a short period of time had passed when in fact it had been days.
On one particular night, he had slipped into his confusion and I was not made aware of it until I walked into his room and saw him attempting to inject himself with a crooked needle. On another occasion, he fell directly onto a pair of scissors. My mother held him down as I pulled it out him. He screamed in pain, but he could not be made to remember the incident.
He sometimes missed important life events, like birthdays or weddings. He would often ask forgiveness and sometimes weep for not being around even though his absence was by no fault of his own.
I've taken various lessons from the life of my father and there are many I could share. But this post isn't really about him, or me. It's about love.
I used to hate that God put me in such a situation- that I had to look after my father in such crazy ways. But when I look back now, I realize that one of the doors to understanding true love is, and always will be service. We must be in service of the ones we love. It is incredibly easy to profess love by the words that escape our lips.
But living those words is entirely different. This understanding changed my life completely. It impacted me most with my faith. Many days and nights I would profess my faith. I would speak of God and good actions but do the opposite. I would be void of any depth or reflection. My faith had no limbs with which it could walk, run, or work. Love and faith aren't actualized until we lose ourselves in service to them. Many other ideas work this way; Justice. Peace. Mercy. We speak of these words often, but they must be defined through action. It is not enough that we may simply profess. No. We must act.
And here we are in the month of the birth of The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
We, as Muslims, claim to love Him. He who spent his life in the service of His Lord by serving His creation with the best of all gifts, Islam. He continually does his part. But where are we? Do we know him? Do we know his story? Do we know of his trials? Or do we instead take little snippets from the hadith and Quran and in half thought out attempts to uphold and address our own egos or personal dilemmas, completely ignore the fact that in his ﷺ life, personality, character, and love, are the answers to all of our problems? If we truly knew this and acted upon it, the world would be in a very different state.
But please allow me to clarify. The point of this post wasn't to shame or discourage. It was to inspire. The world is in the state it is in for a reason. It gives us a seemingly infinite number of opportunities to do good every single day.
There are a million things being said in every moment. There are a million lessons to be learned. But we just have to LEARN to listen.
You are closer now in this moment to your death, then you ever were. And in a second, a moment closer. We must use this time wisely. Don't be afraid to learn you were wrong for being the way you once were, but rather be inspired to find truth.
Be sincere in your search for reality. And as you crawl towards God, witness Him running towards you.
Think of the people you love- The people you want the best for. And be the person they deserve. And if right now, you want to learn to love yourself and be who you need to be, then that's perfectly fine too. Be the best you can be, for your own self to be in the service of God. To be in love in all truth.
These reminders are for me before anyone else. Forgive me if my words were flawed or incoherent. I simply wanted to get some thoughts off my chest as we are in the month of The Prophet's birth and the birth of my own father as well. All praise is due to God who took my father away after having given me all those beautiful days with him. All praise is due to God who allowed me to witness his pain and my own so that I may recognize that no void of mine will ever be filled by the love of finite beings but by the love of the creator Himself. All praise is due to God who taught me to love Him by loving people. All praise is due to God who sent the Messenger ﷺ, by whom all doors to understanding Him are made possible.
I have not passed any tests. I can only hope to continuously learn from and be forgiven for my many mistakes. I love you, Dad. Thank you for all you've given me in life and death. On the final day, I hope to see God's Beloved, Muhammad ﷺ, so that I will have the hope of seeing you once again. And to God's Beloved...my words could never adorn you as you deserve to be adorned. But rather it is you who adorns my words as you see fit. May Gods peace and blessings be upon you.
Dear God, allow their glances to meet in the world unseen.
Attached are two pictures of my father about a month before he passed. There was no veil between us, and the emasculation my father felt throughout his illness was palpable. However, it seemed that as time went on, he understood more about himself and his suffering than any of us did. His repentance and hope turned his emasculation into gratitude. And with this, he found reasons to smile, leaving the rest of us confused...but forever in awe.
Peace be with you all.
May you all have a blessed mawlid.