Empty Spaces

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem

The thing about new beginnings is that you have a chance to make them happen all the time. With every new day, month, or year, you can choose to start afresh. You can choose to just start over.

But there’s just something different about a year coming to a close, and knowing that another one is about to begin. A ‘New Year’ just has a different buzz to it. And as the Hajj season came to a close that year, I found myself reflecting over the past ‘year’, in Islamic terms. Contemplating over achievements, goals and losses, and dwelling over events that might or might not have had different outcomes, if I had just done one thing a little differently. I just had to do some reflection.

But, despite that, all I could think was:

Damn, it was a roller-coaster. From way off track, Zee made it all the way to sanity and stayed there. I wasn’t sure how it all happened, but Divine intervention was definitely somewhere on the board. When I looked back, I could believe that it was only through miraculous innovation. And of course, the feeling, even if only fleeting, was unbelievable.

“D’you want anything to eat?”

I looked up from the day chair I was relaxing on, squinting my eyes to guard them from the sunlight.

“Nah, I’m okay,” I said, shaking my head, and gazing outside the patio once again.

It was an awesome day. Just the day that I would usually be inspired to jump into Mo’s pool, but my mood wasn’t exactly conducive to the whole kicking-back-and-taking it-easy thing. I had so many other worries on my head, it was like a volcano of emotions that were just waiting to erupt.

Even food, surprisingly, was the least of my priorities in this frame of mind.  I never thought that I could ever feel that way.

“I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard him say that,” I heard Aasiya telling Mo from inside. “He’s always hungry. There must be something wrong.”

I wanted to chuckle, but all that escaped was a tiny smile.

They wouldn’t understand. No-one could.

I mean, don’t we all think that whenever we’re going through anything? Even though I knew that this was all a test, as each day passed, I could just feel my world crumbling a little more. I was fearful, anxious and basically, just afraid of what lay ahead in the future for me, my wife and my child.

And I knew I was so off-track in my thinking, but more than once the thought had crossed my mind. To me, it was something that crossed our minds often because our faith was so weak.

Why me? Why did it have to be my punishment? I mean, I knew that I was majorly messed up and all of it… But what about other people? What about Waseem? He was much far gone than me. Before he had got on track, he was so lost… So why didn’t he have to suffer all the consequences like I had to? Howcome he didn’t have to get such a major trial to deal with?

The thing was, though in my heart of hearts, I knew my thoughts were ill-founded, Shaytaan had these brilliant ways of making us doubt our faith. It did so to the extent that thoughts of my previous life kept appealing to me, as if that was the only way out. It was actually quite unnerving, but the warnings were all there. He literally ran through our veins, so severe was his influence.

“Bru, are you okay?”

The voice cut through my thoughts swiftly, and I tuned into the present once again.

I nodded blindly, offering a half smile with my iconic wink. Just to prove that there was still part of Zee left somewhere beyond the ambush of pensive thoughts. Deep thinking was like foreign territory for me.

The thing was, no matter how much you had in your life, no matter how many things, and no matter who you filled it up with, there is still an empty space that can only be filled by only one thing.

“You don’t have to act like you’re suicidal,” Mo said. “You’re even making Aasiya worried. And you know Aasiya. If she’s worried, there’s definitely a problem.”

Aasiya was the most undramatic chic I knew. I hated to say it, but she was cold. She barely showed emotion, and when she did, it was always a shocker.

“How’s your vrou?” He asked after a while, curious to know what I had been avoiding all this time.

I sighed, thinking about it.

Farah. The girl of my dreams. Mother of my child. Although she was being positive about the pregnancy and outcome, I couldn’t help but see the underlying battle she fought, as if she was trying to accept the truth of what was happening.

That first day, at the hospital, we talked for ages, and for the first time, I actually felt that we were connecting the way we should be. And though the circumstances were far from pleasant, at least one good thing had come from it. Farah had become someone I could actually relate to, and possibly love unconditionally. Learning to look past her thickening waist line and hormonal body changes was a task, but this situation was something of a blessing in disguise.

Zee was actually learning to look past superficial characteristics, and have a little substance. I was finally becoming something of a man. I might have thought it before, but now I knew that it was for real.

“So you’re gonna be a Dad, huh?” Mo said, adding another whole dimension to the reality.

I paused, because there was something I had missed, all this time. I might have seen it before, but right now, I could actually hear the despair in his voice. It was actually so subtle that I had to look up at him to check if I was right.

And right there, in his eyes, I saw it.

Sadness. Despondency. That empty space. And a deep yearning for something more.

And, I swear, until that moment, I never thought of it that way. My older brother was married for over ten years, but I never once thought about why there were no kids. I probably just assumed that they never wanted, or ignorantly assumed that they were enjoying themselves as a high-flying couple. I never looked beyond the obvious, to think that maybe, despite everything that Mo had materialistically, there was something out of his hands that evaded him completely.

And then, of course, I thought about how funny mankind is. We live in this world, looking at everyone around us, as if they were so much better off than we are. Like how Mo looked at me now, as if I was so lucky to be having a child, despite the circumstances, I was looking at Waseem just moments before, envying his life and what he had made of it.

But the undeniable fact is that no-one knows anyone else’s story. We can never know what each person has been through, and that’s precisely why we are advised to be cautious when looking at anyone in a light that can ever make us feel ungrateful. The greatest advice that I ever heard is what I remembered right then.

“Look at the people beneath you (in wealth and worldly affairs) and do not gaze the ones above you (in this matter). By this, you will not underestimate the bounty of Allah bestowed upon you.” (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)

And of course, my whole focus shifted because I realised that everyone in life is always wanting more. Discontentment stems from ingratitude, and the more you want, it just never stops.

But when you follow that simple advice, you realise just how much you have. When you turn to Allah and what He can offer, that empty space inside can be filled with more than you can ever imagine.

And I was about to tell Mo that he had no reason to be even minutely envious, because everyone’s battles are just a means of getting us to realise just how temporary our stay here is. That with each passing moment, and each test, another day has gone to pass, and soon, none of it will matter any more.

And yes, there is pain… But there is only pain in partial submission, like what my weak mind had engaged in. When we enter Deen fully, and wholly submit, then only do we get some kind of relief. Then only do we fill that empty space with what needs to be there. Then only do we get to Allah, through Allah alone.

And so, caught up in my world of reflection, I knew that Mo could also do with some insight.

“Life is not meant to be smooth sailing,” I said philosophically, trying to demonstrate my newly found maturity. “Don’t run after what’s out of your hands. Trust Him, and He’ll make the way out. ”

A way out. I know it was coming, and it was like that was just what I truly needed to believe to make it happen. Because no sooner did I say the words, and wholeheartedly mean them, my iPhone vibrated in my pocket, and I took it out hastily to answer.

Seeing Farah’s name made my mouth dry already, and I immediately knew that this wasn’t just a regular call.

It felt like the seconds were hours, and I sat with bated breath, hoping for the best. Was it labour? Contractions? Something worse?

My life was in turmoil at that point, as I hesitated for those few seconds, before touching the screen to answer. Who knew that in a just few minutes I would be racing to the hospital for the final time that year?

Everything was already unfolding, and after the long drought of hope, those empty spaces were on the way to slowly being filled. Sometimes everything doesn’t pan out the way it’s supposed, and sometimes it’s all not as great as we think

But that empty space… That yearning that keeps us restless, and always scrambling around in some kind of search… This need has been put in us by our Creator. And every need created by our Maker, has been created for a purpose. The need to give, receive, and be fulfilled, is created as a driver. A driver that guides, advises, and eventually, that pushes us back to Him.

You see, once upon a time, in a valley where all souls were made to gather, we began with the Lord of the World. We started with Him, and He wants us to come back to Him in this life—even before we come back to Him in the next.

So He puts within us these spaces, and hurdles along our path,  intended to bring us back. Intended for us to find the way out. And intended to bring us back Home.


Assalaamu Alaykum readers. Just a reminder for us to also do some reflection and set some ‘goals’ as the Islamic New Year dawns upon us. Lets’ make it a good beginning at least, and try to follow through Insha Allah. Please don’t forget our Super Sunnahs!

It was narrated from Anas raḍyAllāhu ‘anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him): “The Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) prohibited that a man should drink while standing.” (Qatadah said) So it was said: “And eating?” He (Anas) said: “That is worse.” [Tirmidhi]

We will be doing more eating and drinking Sunnahs Insha Allah.

#RevivetheSunnahofEating

#RevivetheSunnahofDrinking

#Revive theSunnahofSpeakingGood

#RevivetheSunnahofSmiling

#RevivetheSunnahofMiswaak

#RevivetheSunnahofDu’aas

Tweet: @ajourneyjournal

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