…it was asked… ‘How I accepted Islam’.
After lengthy pondering I concluded that it may be more appropriate to ask ‘How Islam accepted me’.
The following are various translations of the one Ayat from Allah Ta’ala’s Divine Words:
When Allah wishes to guide someone He opens their chest to Islam.
So whomever Allah wishes to guide, Allah opens his heart to surrender.
So, whom Allah wills to give guidance, He opens his heart for Islam. (6:125)
I believe that Allah Ta’ala never abandons any of His creation, He holds tight to all souls who in unison, when asked if He was our Rabb, replied yes, You are our Rabb. He wishes to guide all of mankind, but due to our weaknesses, arrogance, vanity and delusion of being in control we neglect honouring and holding to the thread that connects us to His Divine Oneness. Once we recognize and confront these hindrances, and wage a perpetual jihad against these and other hurdles, He, Insha’Allah opens hearts to surrender, and thus accepts us into His fold.
I am the oldest of four siblings from the same parents (later to have five half sisters). We were separated from our parents when young, with my maternal grandparents eventually opening their home and their huge hearts to my sister and myself. At the time it was emotionally devastating, but upon reflection true blessings in disguise were showered upon me. And isn’t this what true blessings are? Ones that we tend to initially ignore, overlook or take for granted.
For me, the aftermath of abandonment meant the drive to be independent, to battle emotions and succumb to the awe of the intricacies and greatness of the creation around me; as these things did not and could not hurt or disappoint me. I took solace in the seasonal changes in my grandfather’s lush garden. Dropping tiny polished seeds in neatly drawn furrows. Experiencing such delight when bright green shoots appeared from the loamy soil, which eventually provided simple nourishing meals.
As this small child I had many secret gardens. Well to me they were secret. Different favourite seasonal corners. Places of solitude, hiding, wonderment and dreaming. A red brick chimney was on the shady side of the modest weatherboard house, forming a secluded corner where I would mysteriously disappear. Spring meant the magical unfurling of lily of the valley plants from the muggy black loam. At the time I thought I was the only one to know of this secret, and never shared my hours of crouching spell bound by these delicate blooms and their heady perfume. I felt I was already in Heaven!
Years filled with joyous games in and around what seemed enchanted fruit trees, pretty flower beds, chatty pet budgerigars, crafting, dancing and piano lessons filled a world of austere simplicity in the humble house of my grandparents. A lifetime later I was to realize that these dear souls were living with many Islamic values, but unfortunately without Hidayah.
An inner calm and peace came from the tiny church around the corner. Not so much the physical aspect of it, although it was a tiny quaint building, but a serene spiritual sensation filled my being. Sunday school was the highlight of the week, learning of all previous Prophets, especially Jesus (Isa Alaihis Salam), singing hymns, all instilled a feeling that love oozed from all around me, regardless of the harsh reality of the outward circumstances.
The night sky intrigued me, as did scientific explanations while the world of art and drawing offered a creative outlet. It was a childhood without television which helped to nurture a wild thirst for reading, wondering and pondering. An inquisitiveness that ultimately led to exploring and immersing in studies and journeys of searching for the truth behind all the magnificence I not only saw but felt. It was as though I was replacing the loss of being part of a normal family with things that I chose to perceive as being greater and of more importance.
Every night my grandparents would make us kneel by them, hands pressed together in prayer saying: ‘As I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.’ I felt as if this Lord snuggled into bed with me! I felt He was always by my side, but I was missing the key to Him, the way of knowing Him, the way to belong to Him and to be loved by Him.
Throughout the young adult years I took course upon course in almost every esoteric discipline and every religion I could find. No longer did the religious teachings of the church I loved as a child satisfy my quest for the truth, or lead to a knowing. Eventually, at the peak of a rewarding academic career I could no longer ignore an inner spiritual restlessness. A thunderous knocking on my heart, a constant beat saying that the life I was leading was futile, could no longer be ignored. I resigned, reduced my life to what I could carry on my back and became a traveller, a seeking wayfarer.
My travels took me to some of the most remote corners and highest peaks in the world, questing, searching, letting go. Attempting to allow the soul to submit more and more with each step and each experience as it wept, begging for the One.
Peace finally flooded my being when Allah Ta’ala pierced me with His poignant arrow of Hidayah while in an isolated village in Indonesia, Alhumdulillah! The Akhlaq of villagers living in abject poverty in flimsy bamboo huts exuded surrender with hearts that were alive to Islam, SubhanAllah!
The search was over but the journey had just begun…and continues to this minute and will continue till the last breath.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud RadhiAllahu anhu reported that when the Ayat above was revealed, the Sahabah RadhiAllahu anhum requested the Beloved Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam to explain the meaning of Sharh al-Sadr, the opening of the heart for Islam. He said: ‘Allah Ta’ala puts a light in the heart of a believer through which his heart opens up for the perception, understanding and acceptance of truth.’ The Sahabah RadhiAllahu anhum submitted: ‘Is there a sign which will help recognize the person who has such Sharh al-Sadr?’ He said, ‘Yes. The sign is that Akhirah and its blessings become the object of all his desires. He avoids uncalled desires and fleeting enjoyments and starts getting ready for death before it comes.’ From Hakim in al-Mustadrak and Baihaqi in Shu’ab al-Iman.
And this is the essence of the focus of my journey now…
Rabbishrah li sadri
O my Rabb, open my heart.
May Allah Ta’ala guide us all, opening our hearts to surrender, Ameen.
I am reminded of a liberating exercise that Southern Muslimah (whom I greatly miss!) challenged her readers with back in 2007, who in turn found the poetic formula here,
If you don’t know where you’re from, you’ll have a hard time saying where you’re going.
…it was asked…where are you from?
I am from a shiny black salty spread, from Vegemite and Arnott’s Teddy Bear Biscuits.
I am from the foamy frothy steam of fresh milk squirting from cows and goats udders.
I am from the aroma of eucalyptus, the kookaburra laughing high in the silvery gray green gum trees amidst a sun burnt land.
I am from fossickers of gold and hoarders of fossils and thrifty grandmas stooped over smoky wood burning fires making damper; from Emily, Lilla, Emma, Vera, Matt, Gebhard and Lars.
I am from horses’ panting breath snorting in crisp early morning fogs, while kangaroos jump and bash through the bush and rabbits steal tender young shoots from the veggie patch.
From cabbage patches where the stork delivers new babies and roosters kiss hens to create eggs.
I am from ‘pseudo-in-name-only Christians’ who shoved the children off to church while guardians bogeyed–or whatever. Alhamdulillah, little did they know that God is the best of Planners…instilling a love of stories of the Prophets and a quest for TRUTH, eventually leading to His most blessed gift of Hidayah.
I’m from Tambo Upper skirting the pristine High Plains, settled after migration from Viking lands, adopting the cuisine of the sweet delicate pavlovas and lamingtons.
From grandpa’s forbidden woodshed where fearful tales of bats flying into long golden tresses becoming entwined forever, were told as threats. Of his nearby beehives emitting the heady sweet smell of their ceaseless working. And from the other Pop, the practical joker who would attack us with ‘little fleas’…tiny pincer-like pinches, biting squirming, squealing bodies.
I am from pungent smelling peppercorn trees festooned with psychedelic caterpillars, gawky kids scrambling around rock pools chasing crabs, fantasizing in mirror-like reflections, rewarded for ‘good’ behavior with a thick syrupy chocolate milkshake.
From a heady concoction of old fashioned trademarks of honesty, simplicity, contentment with little, and yet lots of hand-me-downs; unpolluted challenges born long before the idiot box preyed on innocent hearts and souls. Where respect, gratitude, creativity and happiness danced with loving smiles…all this and more from surrogate parents; selfless grandparents.
…where are you from and where are you going?
All good is from Allah Ta’ala whereas mistakes are from this humble speck. May Allah Ta’ala Bless all readers, bringing you all closer to Him and His Rasul SallAllahu alaihi wasallam. May He accept our humble efforts and grant us the capacity to be good and do good. Ameen.