This is Day Eight of the 2017 #30Days30Writers Ramadan series – June 3, 2017
By Suroor Raheemullah
Ramadan is a time for reflection. It’s a time to look inward and be honest with yourself. It’s a time to scrub; scrub away the imperfections in your heart and soul. But first you must identify the blemishes and own them.
From last Ramadan to this one, I have had one of the most difficult years of my life. I was tested mentally, emotionally, spiritually and then finally physically. All of this made me recognize one of the imperfections in my heart was arrogance — arrogance that I had control and make things happen, and arrogance that I was better than others.
Things are Decreed
During Thanksgiving break, I went to a khutbah (Friday sermon) in Champaign, IL. The khatib (speaker) mentioned to us that God customizes potential for each person. He mentioned that it’s an amana (responsibility/requirement) to live up to that potential that’s been created for you. Wait, what? I have heard numerous times to “live up to your potential,” but it’s required to live up to my potential?
That is heavy.
There is an enormous difference between trying and requiring. So, I can’t choose to live down my potential? I can’t choose the easy path when I know the other harder path is the better one? It’s almost like your potential is a finish line that God has put specifically for you and you’re always racing towards it.
Does the finish line change as life goes on? Is the point never to reach the finish line but to keep growing your potential so your finish line advances always? How do you know what your actual potential is? Why would God design it this way and dare I say, is this fair?
As you may tell, I have always been a linear person. I can follow paths and roadmaps. You want me to create a strategy or plan of action, no problem. But you want me to live outside a clear path or live in the gray, and you start to lose me. This past year taught me how to live in the gray more and be comfortable with it.
While I was thrown into the gray by force, I realized how much I don’t control the things that happen. Things have been decreed by God before I was even born. I am where I am exactly according to HIS plan. A plan that’s distinctly my own, though it was never defined for me, and one that provides little to no concrete measurement of progress.
I used to think gray meant foggy, murky and unclear. But now I realize it is lightened versions of the black and darker versions of the white. It is a blend that I don’t need to fear, and that walking into it doesn’t mean I am giving up the white or the black but that I am embracing the ability to blend, to evolve and to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
For how long did I need to be ok in the gray? Maybe I didn’t need to confine myself to a timeline like I always did. Being an ambitious, deadline oriented and results driven person, it is hard to not have a timeline. It was my “Let it go” moment and no one said it better than Elsa .
Succumbing to the Dark Side
People often talk about their heart being broken about a relationship (i.e. friend, partner, sibling, etc.). But hearts can be broken by creating a false perfection; a perfection in a person, a perfection in a place or a perfection in a thing. So, when mistakes are made, you fall hard and you fall fast. That kind of pain in your heart is almost unrecoverable or unsalvageable.
As I worked through the pain in my heart, rage was an emotion that started to consume me. I began to view the world from a place of darkness – pessimism, distrust, paranoia. Rage is extremely powerful. It can transform your belief. It can transform light into darkness. It can make you look at everyone with distrust. You can get competitive and combative.
“Why should I help that person who never helps me?” The darkness can take you to a point of hasad (envy). Feeling ill will towards others or things. And then what happens when it transcends from feelings to actions? When you catch yourself talking negatively about things you supported or loved? When you hurt a close friend who has done so much for you because you are consumed with rage and their only fault is their affiliation?
What happens when darkness overtakes your heart? Then everything you see and hear is framed with a dark perspective instead of the one you had before. The power of the dark force is real and strong. Because Satan preys in dark moments, he preys when we are wounded on the ground, when we are alone and when we exile ourselves.
For the first time in a very sincere way, I had a glimpse into how pain can transform your heart and then project that darkness forward. I became the very people who I never understood why they were always harsh or hurting others.
It’s because hurt people hurt people.
This doesn’t mean we pretend like pain doesn’t exist or we spiritually bypass ourselves or we ignore the wrongs people do to us. It also doesn’t mean that people should not be held accountable for the wrongs they do. It just means we always have a choice. I can’t control or expect from other people but I can control myself.
I can choose to have mercy and to show mercy even if mercy wasn’t shown to me. I can choose to forgive even when forgiveness is not sought. I can choose to accept their accountability isn’t to me. So, this Ramadan, think of the pains you have held on to and free yourself (with guided help). If we want His forgiveness and His Mercy, we need to be able to give it unconditionally. Only then will darkness transform to light.
Suroor Raheemullah is the head of health and wellness and global mobility at a global manufacturing firm. She is also a board director at the non-profit Muslim Women’s Alliance, which is focused on developing and empowering Muslim women through mentorship programs, leadership opportunities, financial scholarships/grants, community service and advocating for gender equity. Twitter: @sraheemullah1; Facebook: Suroor Raheemullah; Instagram: @suroor714