Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
I followed my brother up a driveway, leading to the entrance of what seemed to be some kind of learning institute. Posters with schedules and Salaah times were pinned to the front walls, and two students clad in Islamic attire were entering. Waseem greeted them as if he knew them, mentioning something about a youth programme, and they glanced briefly at me enquiringly.
“This is my brother, Ziyaad,” Waseem said, introducing me to them.
I nodded at them but they didn’t move. It took me some time to realise that they were waiting on me to extend my hand. They clasped it readily in turns, exuding a warmth that I had never witnessed in anyone that I’ve newly met before. It was unexpected. It just felt so… Different.
We went toward the door leading to a staircase that led to a fully carpeted area. There were tons of people there, and a few were gathered in a certain area, as if gathering for some kind of meeting.
Oh hell, I thought to myself, quite annoyed. Waseem brought me for a second Friday bayaan.
As it is, I never sat for the usual ones, and now he was forcing me to sit for another one, out of choice.
“Waseem, ey,” I said, speaking in a loud whisper. “I cant park here… I’m not even dressed.”
I felt a bit weird to be dressed in my Guess jeans and golfer today, even though I usually prided myself in it. Almost everyone here had on their traditional Friday garbs.
“Just wait,” Waseem said sternly, pulling me aside, his eyes penetrating mine. “It’s not a lecture… It’s a program, boss. Just. Listen.”
I rolled my eyes at him, already bored. Mosque twice in one day?
Nonetheless, I sat put, noting Waseem’s piercing gaze. Unfortunately, my brother had a knack of getting people to do things against their own will.
Obviously, I couldn’t block out what was being said. Waseem moved over to sit close to the crowd, but I stayed back, still not eager. I found myself thinking that maybe it wouldn’t do such harm if I could be a little more co-operative. Just a little.
“So, respected brothers,” the voice was saying. I caught him in the midst of whatever he was saying. “Our next speaker needs no introduction. He has inspired many with his words. May Allah Ta’ala enable us to take the lessons from whatever he has to impart….”
There was a murmuring as I saw some people look up to see this Maulana dude. Since I was at the back, I stood up, trying to see who they were talking about. I could hear someone in front of me talking softly about the kind of man he was. I strained my ears to hear.
They sounded so much in awe of him, that I couldn’t help but scan the crowd carefully to at least catch a glimpse of the man they seemed to be going bananas over.
I mean, I’ve met famous people before. Really famous people, actually. Quite a few of them, at functions that Dad had took me for. I had even rubbed shoulders with them, so I wasn’t rearlly going to start getting all papparazzi here.
But this kind of hype was different. It was a contained, peaceful excitement. The man in question, who I caught a glimpse of now, was the epitome of humility. No bodyguards or huge barricades surrounded him, as he moved forward to shake hands with a few people in the crowd. He didn’t seem to have any chip on his shoulder, but you still could still tell that this guy was special. He was anything but normal.
“That’s the guy,” Waseem said, and I jumped, not even realising that he was next to me.
Did he move back or was I unconsciously moving forward?
“Oh,” I said, trying to sound neutral. I didn’t want to reveal my true feelings, but I’m sure Waseem knew. I mean, if he was impressed with this Maulana dude, then I’m sure he knew I was too.
Maulana dude was talking, and I watched him, just a little sceptically. I wasn’t too sure what he was saying, but something about his tone was so… Appealing. He spoke loudly, but he was in no way condescending. He made people want to listen to him.
“So, brothers,” he said, actually sounding so affectionate. He was speaking with so much of passion. “My message to you all today…. Here.. Now… is to give you hope. If we’ve been messing around, this itself should give us hope. Every brother should leave here, knowing that there is a chance for him. By being here, we have that hope… We have that level of faith.”
His words just sounded so pure… So true. I wondered… How can just a few lines uttered by someone I never knew before already move me?
“We know that Allah Ta’ala will not even allow us to utter His name, had He not willed it. He chooses who is privileged enough to do so. He is the only One who can allow us, even in that greatest time of greatest need, to turn to Him. To converse with Him. To know Him.”
I didn’t even stop at that time to realise that it was only precisely because of what he had said, that I was actually even present here. His very words, just a few seconds before that, didn’t even occur to me at that time. This was obviously no coincidence. It was like every word was aimed at me.
“That guy who’s regretting something he’s done,” he was saying, looking around at the crowd. “I want to speak to you. I want to appeal to you, my brother. We know how appealing western ideologies seem when you’re in the mix. When you’re caught up, it always seems to be the best to fit in… To go with the flow.”
That was me. All of me.
“My friends, don’t get me wrong. I’m in awe of you. I’m in awe of youth today who can restrain themselves. Allah knows, brothers, it’s a great jihaad. I can’t imagine what you guys are going through now. The challenges that you’ll are facing. The temptation of drugs, alchohol, zinaa… You know it all. You know you shouldn’t be with that girl, but you’re battling to fight your urges. You shouldn’t be taking that fix, but you think you need it. You’re convinced that you do.”
I was all ears by now.
“Bright lights, pumping music, goosebumps and heart pounding,” he said, his voice sounding sinister. “Yes, my friends. But when you come down, and your head is screwed back on, on that pillow in the darkness of the night… Everything is a just a waste. The emptiness that awaits afterwards is traumatic. But you can make a choice, my friends. You have the choice to change. At any moment… At any time in your life, you have that choice. You can decide and you can say; this is not how I’m going to end my story.”
And then… Then he told us of a true story… A story of a young guy who came from a background where life was pretty much on the right track. A pious guy, you would say. And he was thrown in the deep end, in a secular system, with the freedom of it at his feet. And he did what anyone would do, given that.
He committed the ultimate. He got caught up one night after a party. He gave in to Zinaa, and went through with it, out of pure emotion.
At this, my breath quickened, as I re-lived my own experiences. As I thought of my life, not that long ago.
My heart literally burned at that moment.
But the difference here was that he lay there, afterwards, filled with regret. Filled with remorse. He knew he needed to make amends. He had betrayed his Lord. And so he set forth, back home, in effort of this… Wanting to seek some guidance on the matter.
And my inner being, somwhere beyond my soul, literally ached as I listened to this guy speaking, with tears in his eyes. He was actually sobbing as he told us the story, in awe of this youngster who came back to the path. Who made it happen for himself. He didn’t let his sin drag him deeper, but let his pain become a means for change. He let his sin be the reason he changed.
So, immediately, the realisation hit me. I always had this perception that these things, this kind of belief, was only restricted to certain people. ‘Piety’ was only for a certain breed of people.
There was no way that a person like me, who had done so much of wrong and had so many grievances, could ever actually invoke his Lord. I always had the notion that my turning to Him would probably be like a joke. Like, the angels listening to me would probably laugh in my face or something.
But, I was so wrong. I was so misled.
Because, if it was true… If only the pious can go to Allah… Then where do people like me go to? Where do we go?
“Indeed, the regrets of the sinners make Allah more impressed than the piety of the pious. Make a choice to be the cream of the crop… To be the best of the lot. Do good deeds… Cancel your sins. Allah loves those tears of the sinners. It will cleanse you. Your Creator wants to know where you are headed and why you have left Him. Return to Him in a beautiful and amazing way. “
The crowd was dispersing as the Du’aa commenced, and I walked out, finding it all too much at once. My mind was in over-drive. Over-loaded. Uncomprehending.
So much of information, so much of chance. Thrown at me all at once. I wiped my own eyes, looking out onto the tarred car park, with no-one in sight.
“You okay?” asked someone, and I turned around to see Junaid, standing next to me.
I nodded, pulling out a cigarette to light it, eager for a distraction.
“Waseem’s looking for you,” he said, not making any other attempt at conversation.
My brother suddenly appeared, scrutinising me relentlessly.
“What?” I asked, annoyed.
“Come meet him,” he said, moving his head toward the entrance.
I didn’t really want to meet the guy. I wasn’t sure what it was but somehow, I felt like this Maulana guy could probably see right through me.
I shook my head, not budging. I needed to go home.
“Just come, he’ll be leaving today,” he said again.
Waseem’s insistence was getting to me, and I finally snapped, getting fed-dup.
“Why the hell is it so important?!” I snapped.
Waseem didn’t answer straight away, but just looked at me kind of blankly.
“Because,” he said, looking slightly awkward. “He’s the guy I want to arrange my Nikah.”