If i should speak, p.25

If I Should Speak, page 25


If I Should Speak

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  That day, why had it come to Aminah’s mind just then?

  A moment later, she knew.

  They had learned in Islamic Studies class, the one they attended in junior high school, that leaving Islam was like that, like holding a fistful of sand then letting go, each grain of golden dust representing a good deed of the Muslim and the brisk wind the consequences of disbelief. And just as the wind swept it all away in one gush, leaving the palms of one’s hands bare, so it was with disbelief, leaving the disbeliever with nothing, his works disappearing, vanishing, as if they had never been there. And like the palm of a child’s hand whose fist let loose the sand, so too was the person left bare. A life of work, of sacrifice, of good works, all rendered useless, the painful price to pay for turning one’s back on God. For even if a person had lived a life of Islam, it would benefit him nothing if the Islam was absent at the time of death. For what mattered was not so much how one lived but how one died.

  But that was just it, how did one know? How could one prepare? Who knew the moment at which his soul would be taken, the moment of death? It could come as one reclined on a couch, or decided to go to one last party before pulling himself together and living right.

  It was scary, frightening—chilling—how suddenly it occurred, its unexpectedness being its most prominent and terrifying trait, never ceasing to leave shock, even with one who heard of it each day and knew that one day it would be him—or her. Then why the surprise, the despair? Why the pain? And why did so few prepare?

  At the masjid, Aminah stood in one of many rows of Muslims gathered behind the body of Durrah. As she stood there, her mind wandered, unsure if she belonged…if anyone belonged…behind her friend. But she could say nothing, for doubt did not warrant a verbal confirmation of the state of one’s death. She listened to the imam speak of forgiveness and the hope of Paradise, of great reward. And all Aminah could think about was the body wrapped in white sheets—Durrah, her friend, her poor friend.

  There would be no more of Durrah’s jokes, of her laughter, of her dimpled smile. No more of her “sashaying,” her modeling, or her exhilarating style. There would be no more days of pondering in the backyard on a swing. There would be no more days of inspiring conversations...about anything. There would be no more time for Aminah to even admonish her friend. For Durrah’s days of hope were over, her chance to do better having come to an abrupt end.

  As Aminah left the prayer area, she could not help noticing the expressions, the puzzlement, the confusion on the faces of Durrah’s classmates, of her friends, not because of Durrah’s death, for they already knew of that, but of the fact that Durrah—Dee—was Muslim. Who would have known? They were baffled, troubled, disoriented. For how could it be?

  What a shame, Aminah could not help thinking despite her own sorrow. What a shame that those who knew her well had no idea, no clue that this Dee, the superstar, the beauty queen, the singer, was Muslim. How sickening a reality, and how much more painful her death. They were crying, yes. Aminah had heard their wailing even as she prayed. But what did their tears matter? They did not understand. For what did the knowledge of Durrah’s death do for them now? How did it change their attitudes, their lives? Did it move them to submit, bring them back to their senses and inspire them to fear God? Or was the moistening of their eyes indicative of a selfish sadness, one that cared little of what this all should mean? What did they miss of Durrah, of Dee? Her intoxicating singing voice, her breathtaking smile? Her glittery clothes, her sense of humor? What? And what did it matter, any of it, if they went on with their lives, heedless and careless, only to be like her before long—dead—gone, another period at the end of a sentence, the sentence of life. Another in a long line of periods, periods that did not move its readers to ponder, to reflect, or even care, except to say they missed her, and Oh how sad. But did they really know how sad it was? Or were they blind, their hearts veiled and sealed, they doomed astray, a just recompense for their arrogance, their refusal to submit?

  Oh, what did polygamy matter now, or how Muslim women dressed, or the ruling on music and singing, or the man as the leader, or Islam’s view on jihad? Who cared now? Who would? For now was a time of regret for those who had been lost, contaminated—spiritually sick in the world, in need of a healing that only submission to God could give.

  Aminah felt the pull of the car and the hum of its engine as she sat in the back seat next to Sulayman, their parents in the front. Still, no one spoke. But what could they say if they did? Perhaps her father would talk to them later, or maybe her mother, and calm everyone, advising them to just pray for Durrah’s forgiveness, for her soul…

  The drive to the Muslim graveyard was long, too long. It seemed like hours before the car finally came to a halt, but Aminah knew it had not even been forty minutes, having looked at the clock.

  The burial ground was plain, its dirt showing little signs of green, small patches of grass barely visible in far off spots, suggesting the grounds must have been recently acquired. From the car window, Aminah could see the graves, piles of dark dirt slightly raised about ground, the length of human beings, mostly adults, but a few were no more than a couple of feet long. For a second, her heart ached at the thought, small helpless children underground, their little lives over, probably having not lived long enough to even talk, to run, to play. But then there came a reminder, a gentle tug at her brain, her senses, as she realized that there was nothing sad about their predicament, nothing distressing about the death of a child, not the death of a child born from a Muslim womb. For there was no torment, no pain, no stress, and there was not even the need to ask forgiveness for its soul, for Paradise would be his or hers. It had no time to slack, to sin.

  How different things would have been had Durrah’s soul been taken while she was a child, and how much stress would have been lifted from Aminah’s own soul if hers had been taken then too. Then she would not be worrying, fretting over how her life might change, how her views might shift or how her belief may disappear. Or how what was so clear today could be so foggy, even unimportant, tomorrow, Islam possibly becoming a trivial word in the wind, its meaning lost, its beauty hidden and its strength weakened from her heart. That was what she feared the most—being dead before she died.

  Sulayman and their father left the car, leaving Aminah and her mother sitting in their seats, the women uncomfortable with joining the crowd of people that had gathered on the burial grounds, unsure if it were correct, proper for them to follow the people to the grave. But from where she sat, Aminah could see the heavy, lifeless body clad in white sheets being carried to the grounds, its dense weight weighing its carriers down.


  That was really Durrah in there.

  At the grave spot, they lowered her, the weight of the body striking the ground with a thud as it slipped from their grip before they could gently place it down. Then they placed her in the grave, her home for now, the white sheet disappearing underground and the dirt thrown on top of her, burying her, burying Aminah’s friend. Aminah imagined the clumps of dirt hitting the sheet with each toss, each scoop from the ground…

  “Can you imagine?” Durrah’s eyes had widened, sparkled that day, years ago when they were both ten, having just begun wearing hijab.

  They were discussing the grave, having studied in class the angels’ questioning of a person. “No,” Aminah replied, eyes scared. She was frightened at the mere thought, as was Durrah.

  “But can you imagine answering the questions and not knowing what to say? What if you don’t answer them right?” Durrah had asked, awestruck.

  Aminah had not responded, terror having filled her.

  “That’s scary,” Durrah had said that day, gaze distant, hugging her knees. “That’s scary…”

  Chapter Fifteen

  Aminah’s soft voice rang strong, filling the apartment, demanding, as if inviting others to join in, to share in her feelings, to share in her prayer, the last prayer she would pray before going to bed. O
utside, the Sunday night was cool, its breeze gently moving the strips of the vertical blinds, the cool air brushing against Aminah’s cheeks. She had opened the patio an hour before, when she had returned to her apartment and needed some fresh air. She normally did not open the large glass sliding doors because of the rowdy college students who had chosen to hold shouting conversations on their balconies rather than in person or on the telephone. But tonight Aminah was undisturbed by students, not because they were not there, but because their voices had faded in the background, like muffled whispers behind a closed door.

  As she prayed, her mind was filled with thoughts of life and its brevity, and death and its abruptness, and how so few caught on. How was it that so many lived life but did not understand? How was it that so many cared about paltry wealth and status, distracted by the passing pleasures of this world? And why was it that Islam had brushed the lives of so many yet so few accepted it? And worse still, how was it that some of those who had accepted it and bore witness to its truth turned away, choosing a life of negligence, negligence of one’s soul? How could a person choose blindness after he had seen the life of Islam? How was it possible that a person could shed tears of happiness, his heart moved by Allah’s Words in the Qur’an and then live another moment and just turn away, the words now halting at his ears, their inspiration unable to pierce his heart, as if a stubborn, unmoving barrier were there forbidding any trespassing to the soul?

  Was that how most Muslims lived, the words of Allah trivial when compared to their life of wealth, status, and petty desires, whether for some sin or an opinion they did not wish to change? Yes, that must have been it, the summary of the Muslims’ downfall, explaining their tremendous failure, why their lives bore little resemblance to the Muslims of old. What was it that the Muslims of today lacked? Sincerity, dedication, faith itself? Was that it? Was Islam missing from the lives of those who claimed it, the entire world suffering from their weakness, the lives of Muslims now the laughing stock of the human race as Muslims paraded the streets as wannabes, fumbling pathetically for an identity, any identity but that of Islam.

  Was Muslims’ weakness so great, so profound, that Islam, the most prized possession one could have in life, was not a source of pride but one of shame? But what was there to be ashamed about, Aminah wondered? That they were to worship God alone and associate none with Him? Did they prefer a life of ignorance, of paganism, of sinfulness? Was that it? Was that what caused a Muslim woman to shed her hijab in preference for sharing her body with the world and cake her face with make-up and rub perfume on her skin, inviting strange men to gawk, to desire, to lust? Was that what caused Muslim men to abandon their responsibilities and sit content in their homes, content because they “did their job,” which was nothing more than carry a sign in protest and shout words of anger, scolding the aggressor for being aggressive? Was it weakness in faith, a lack of belief in the Hereafter that caused Muslims to abandon their religion and replace it with foreign ideas, rendering them free of their obligation to teach Islam as the only path to Paradise and rendering them free of practicing Islam?

  Yes, that was it. And it was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking that the holders of truth abandoned truth in an effort to be more pleasing, more appealing to the compelling falsehood of their time, constantly found apologizing for, if not abandoning, religious mandates that were distasteful to those who did not obey their Lord.

  But it was terrifying too, Aminah could not deny, the possibility of her slipping having always hung over her head. Life was short, and no one knew what tomorrow would bring, piety or disbelief, success or failure, happiness or grief—life or death.

  Had Durrah—Dee—seen it coming? Had she been prepared? Or had she filled her life with “somedays,” thinking she would do tomorrow what she was too weak to do today? Had she even considered, thought, that maybe, just maybe, this would be it? Had it even occurred to her as she dressed that night for the Spring Formal that she would never return? Did she have a clue? As she painted her face and adorned her body, what was she thinking? How wonderful was God or Islam?

  And how had Dee died? In a car on its way to another gathering of desires, of fun. Wouldn’t be back till Sunday? O Lord, she had no idea! She had made her plans, filled her schedule with activity after activity. But none had been her death. Oh, how terrifying that was, Aminah felt, shivering at the thought, to fill your day with appointments and not see the Angel of Death coming to fulfill his.

  Aminah allowed the meaning of each verse she recited to penetrate her heart, giving it life, causing her heart to overflow with love, hope, and fear of her Lord. At that moment she did not care about a soul, feeling ready for anything, prepared to do anything, anything for the pleasure of God. Why should she care about what others thought? What did it matter if others thought it "uncool," unappealing to be Muslim, to worship God as He asked? For they, like she, would one day die and wake in the grave, questions asked of them, questions that only few would be able to answer with firmness. So what if others laughed? So what if others stuck to the false path of their family and friends? Aminah was on a path of truth, and she was not going to give up—at least she prayed she would not.

  Her voice cracked as she recited from God’s Words what meant:

  Until when they come (Before the Judgment Seat), (God) will say: ‘Did you reject My signs though you comprehended them not in knowledge, or what was it you did?’

  As she recited the words, Aminah reflected on the people, some who were Muslims, who proudly lived only according to that which they claimed to understand. Haughty and arrogant, they turned against definitive proofs, refusing to humbly submit to God, filling their brains and wetting their tongues with opinion after opinion, question after question, frowning upon those who blindly obeyed their Lord. What a shame they were, Aminah thought, a shame to the human race, their foolishness too vast to encompass in words, their actions like that of a wayward child who only obeyed his parents in those commands with which he agreed, in his ignorance thinking his disobedience was a mark of wisdom, while he was the laughing stock of the sane world.

  And the Word will be fulfilled against them, because of their wrongdoing. And they will be unable to speak (in plea).

  See they not that We have made the night for them to rest and the day to give them light? Verily, in this are signs for any people who believe!

  But did they heed? Did they reflect upon the signs? Did they submit?

  And the Day that the Trumpet will be sounded—then will be smitten with terror those who are in the heavens and those who are on earth, except such as God will please (to exempt), and all shall come to His (Presence) as beings conscious of their lowliness.

  How magnificent it was, God’s wisdom in how He planned things. He let the arrogant wander the earth lost and confused, filling their lives with choices and opinions that opposed His command, their state of arrogance preventing them from bowing down, they too haughty to accept truth. But that same arrogant person, the same one who averted his face in disgust when called to the religion and command of God, would come on the Day of Judgment in a state of humility, submitting to God. But his submission would come when it was too late to benefit from the surrender, for his life on earth had been the only time to do that.

  But did not the arrogant see that their life was short, that when compared to the grave and the Day of Judgment, this life was nothing, its brevity pathetically insignificant in comparison to the Hereafter, yet the deeds committed in it determined the abode of a soul? The Day of Judgment was akin to 50,000 years in this world’s terms, and this time frame did not even include the time spent in Paradise or Hell, a time immeasurable for humans, as there, there would be no death, the bliss of Paradise and the torment of Hell ongoing, never to come to an end.

  When viewing matters from that perspective, who would dare to not submit, and who would dare to sin? Was it worth it to succumb to temptation for a moment when it could have everlasting results? Would that moment of pleasur
e be worth it when more than a lifetime of consequences awaited? Was it worth it not to be Muslim due to fear of family and friends when tomorrow you could wake in the grave, family and friends nowhere in sight?

  You see the mountains and think them firmly fixed but they shall pass away as the clouds pass away: (Such is) the artistry of God; Who disposes of all things in perfect order.

  For He is well acquainted with all that you do.

  And how many lived their lives, conscious that everything would soon pass away? And how many fewer lived their lives oblivious to God watching and the angels recording, God well aware of everything that they did?

  If any do good, good will (accrue) to them therefrom, and they will be secure from terror that Day. And if any do evil, their faces will be thrown headlong into the Fire, ‘Do you receive a reward other than that which you have earned by your deeds?’

  For me, I have been commanded to serve the Lord of this city, Him Who has sanctified it and to Whom (belongs) all things.

  And I am commanded to be of those who bow in Islam to God’s Will.

  And to rehearse the Qur'an. And if any accept guidance, they do it for the good of their own souls. And if any stray, say, ‘I am only a warner.’

  And say, ‘Praise be to God; Who will show you His Signs, so that you shall know them, And your Lord is not unmindful of all that you do.

  Aminah completed her prayer after nearly thirty minutes. While praying, she had spent extra time reciting and reflecting during her standing and stayed long in prostration. Her heart was filled with humility and hope, her tongue moving with supplication after supplication, praying for her soul and the souls of her family, praying that none would go astray. After she finished, she sat silently, her mind focused, her body humble, tears still glistening in her eyes, her mind drifting to Durrah and what she must be going through right then...

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