The Whirlwind Phase
It wasn’t long until I was overwhelmed by confusion and gripped by turmoil. A whirlwind raged inside me. It required all my inner strength and resolve to steady myself in the face of this storm. I remained, for some time, suffering from a deep crisis of faith and intense anguish. Doubting those immutable religious and cultural constants of one’s life is like having a volcano erupting inside of them. Your instincts and senses rebel against you taking the audacious step of doubting the foundation of your identity and worldview. But it is a necessary step in order to build a new identity and a new mentality, for doubting is the path to truth. “For he who does not doubt has not looked, and he who has not looked does not see, and he who does not see remains blind and confused,” as al- Ghazali said. (16)
Oh, how my hopes were dashed! All the prayers and worship and devotion and piety for the sake of God and seeking His good pleasure…All of that did not succeed in getting (if such an expression has any meaning) even a glance of acknowledgment or the slightest attention from Him. For it seems that He (Glory be to Him) has bigger things on His mind than the concerns of these human insects that crawl on the surface of Earth. Greater than the troubles of His faithful servants, who Iblees excluded from his seduction and snares when he said, while addressing God in His glory, “By Your power, I will definitely seduce them astray all together, except Your sincere servants from among them.”17 They are the ones who God (Glory be to Him) warned him from coming close to and from inflicting any evil upon: “As for My slaves, you will have no power over them.” (18)
Even in regards to those devout servants, of which I was one, for whom God had promised: “There shall be no fear upon them, nor shall they grieve,” in thirteen verses (19), it doesn’t appear that He (Glory be to Him) cares about them or places any value on them. That is, of course, if He even knows they exist. The waffling commentators say that this promise applies to the next life, and not this life. This is because this life, in God’s sight, is not worth the wing of a mosquito! If that is true, then does that mean that God ignores them in this life so that they die of hunger, when He said: “There is no creature on Earth except that its sustenance is upon God,” (20) and, “Is the reward of good anything other than good?” (21)
From that time, while spinning in the tornado of doubt, and after having believed that all past successes in life were due to God’s blessing that He had favoured me with, for which I must give gratitude and praise, I began to look at my successes as being the result of my own efforts and struggles to achieve what I wanted and accomplish my aims—which God actually had nothing to do with.
His (Most High) saying: “Say: ‘My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer.’” (22) The apparent reality is that He (Glory be to Him) does not care about the earth and those on it. Perhaps He hasn’t heard of it amongst the billions and billions of planets in that vast space that has no beginning or ending. He has other business and concerns that we can never hope of comprehending, and which have nothing to do with our trivial pain and suffering. They are much more important than the troubles of Hajj Saeed Khamkham, Abu Qasim al-Tanbouri, Umm Ghuntous, or Sayyida Halima. What does He care about these frogs and insects that never stop croaking, and who fill Earth with screams, as though they are important creatures? He has other things that concern Him.
Woe to my foolishness and stupidity! Oh, my idiocy! How naive I was for allowing fairytales to eat up my life and the flower of my youth! Oh, my grief at a life spent with a loved one who could not care less for me, who not even for a minute knew that I existed! Oh, perish and curses! How did I not discover that and come to my senses, except when I am at the door of old age? What came over me? What remains of my life to experience the joy of my existence?! Would that I didn’t know that! Woe to he who knows the truth! Blessed are the ignorant, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens!
Worse than that: in my effort to save the special relationship between me, the deceived and last to know, and the beloved who I could not bear to part from, I came up with all sorts of excuses for His indifference and disregard towards me. Sometimes, I would explain it as a type of toying and teasing, because He wants to test me and see the extent of my love for Him. When I looked at it this way, I saw every misfortune and closed door as God’s way of testing those He loves. So every time He blocked me, my love for Him increased to the extent that I began to feel intense ardour for every misfortune, and passion for rejection! I just could not believe that He would just ignore me, or worse still: that there was actually no- one listening, and I was just talking to myself. Thus, I fell for the myth of “it is a test.” It is that myth that religions keep repeating and relying upon to blackmail their followers and train them to acquiesce and submit. What else could I do? Did I have any other choice?
In short, how foolish I was when ardently struggling to rationalise and philosophise the afflictions and misfortunes that befell me! Every day, I was trying to discover a new wisdom and meaning behind them. This philosophising seduced me. I immersed myself in thikr and worship to try and cling on to my faith in my Lord. I renounced myself to hold onto my Lord. I was addicted to the liquor of my Lord. Ah! What was wrong with me and this need for my Lord? How much anguish I endured for the sake of my Lord! Oh, woe is to a life spent with my Lord!
Alas, for so long I tried to philosophise and justify adversity in the typical and intellectually-lazy manner of believers around the world. I employed all my philosophical skills—and oh, how philosophy is good at that! It is good for its history of searching for truth and indulging in explaining the truth, and it is full of defense of the absurd, the ridiculous, the nonsensical, and full of sophistry. Just the same, I also employed all that I possessed of expertise, sophisms, and mental gymnastics to rationalise the calamities that befell me, to try to extract the maximum amount of wisdoms, warnings, and lessons from them. Whenever I suffered an adversity or was wronged or struck by grief and depression, I used to rely on prostration, supplication, and seeking refuge with God, and calling on Him to the extent that it has left a mark on my forehead that time has not erased.
I used to always take comfort in the stories of the prophets, the messengers, and the pious. I would say to myself, “Disaster returns man to God,” for the believer is tested with affliction, and I would recall His saying (Most High): “Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe,’ and they will not be tested with affliction?” (23) I recalled His saying (Mighty and Glorious is He): “Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. Who say, when afflicted with calamity, ‘To God we belong, and to Him is our return.’
(17) Surah Sad 38:82-83 and Surah al-Hijr 15:39-40
(18) Sura al-Hijr 15:42 & Sura al-Isra’ 17:65
(19) See: 2:8 & 62 & 112 & 262 & 274 & 277, 3:170, 5:69, 6:45, 7:35 & 49, 10:62, 43:68, 46:13.
(20) Surah Hud 11:6
(21) Surah Al Rahman 55:60
(22) Surah Al-Furqan 25:77
(23)Surah Al-‘Ankabut 29:2