Doorway into thanks, & silence in which another voice may speak

Hands in Supplication
Hands in supplication, by yaznotjaz

Last night, the Pakistani satellite channel, ARY-Digital, showed the Hajj pilgrims, a sea of white, at Arafat and Muzdalifah. I watched the television while eating dinner, the volume turned up loudly so that the pilgrims’ invocation echoed throughout the house:

Labayk Allahumma labayk, labayka la shareeka laka labayk. Innal-hamda, wa’naimata, laka wal-mulk, la shareeka lak.

“Here I am at Your service, O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Your service and You have no partners. Yours alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Yours alone is The Sovereignty. You have no partners.”

For the first time, I felt a little bit of a loss, a sense of regret that I didn’t make it there this year, that I didn’t push to go after all – or, to be honest, even care to – that I ultimately didn’t end up in either of the two places I thought most deeply about this year, neither Sarghodah nor Saudi.

Inspiration for the following post comes from two entries Baraka posted recently – one on authentic prayer – hers is intimate, raw, and powerful – and the other on Mary Oliver’s poem about praying (from which comes my post title). These first ten days of the month of Dhul Hijjah, and particularly the day of Arafat, are about reflection and prayer, so I thought I should work on addressing God less like my co-worker/gossip buddy/He Who Can’t Get the Weather Right and more like, well, God. Serious stuff. Here we go.

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Dear God, most Merciful, most Compassionate -

On this weblog, I mostly address You as if You’re the rockstar next door, or the buddy I’m planning on hanging out with after work. And the reason for that is because when I think about who You really are – the vast, timeless expanse of Your Being – it hurts my head to reflect on it for too long. I am short, Lord, You know this: Instead of straining my eyes and my mind, I look up only as far as I can crane my neck, look down only as low as I can bend my head, in hopes of remembering You through the things within my limited reach. Let me feel Your presence with clarity, even in the midst of this world that distracts me from worship and remembrance of You, and especially in the midst of the distractions I deliberately create in order to distance myself from you.

Those whom we’ve loved, and lost to death: grant them – grant us all, when our time comes – light and spaciousness in the grave, and another fulfilling life in the Hereafter. May their memories live on within us, and around us. Grant me a reunion, someday, with the grandfathers I never knew and the grandmothers that I only knew in those painful, ailing last years of their lives. Let me find them vibrant and whole, glowing with love and good health. Let me find my ancestors singing those songs and reciting those poems, some of which I heard with my own ears, most of which I didn’t, all of which we never got to write or remember. How is it that You sent us to be born into a tradition of farmers who lived rough lives of poverty and disease, yet sang songs and wrote poetry effortlessly? Let their wisdom and endurance be an example for us.

Give my salaam to Imran. Tell him I said, I thought of you today in the midst of this Hajj season, and I miss you, my friend, even though you’ve now been gone for nearly as long as I knew you. But it feels like longer, and your photos still make my throat tighten, make me catch my breath, remind me of a life lived fully in the service of others, as every life – as my life – should be.

Teach me to be a joy to my parents. No other people probably love me as much as they do; no other people make me gnash my teeth as much as they. For all my frustrations, though, I realize how shattered my life would be without them. Grant me the grace and patience to be the daughter they need me to be. Grant me the wisdom to be the sister I should be. Let us continue forgiving, even after we hurt each other over and over. Instead of silence and tension, may we always find joy with one another.

When the time is right, grant us partners and significant others who are good for us, who are a mercy to us, who are loving and tolerant of our flaws and imperfections. All that is noble in my father (the hugs, the highfives, the singing, the exuberant culinary experiments, the boundless generosity) without the negative (the sulking, the silence, the unyielding “my way or the highway” approach). I ask not for perfection, but for patience, for compromise and compassion, for mutual respect.

I am grateful to have finally found, in these last several years, a Muslim community to belong to – the two masajid I love for different reasons, the people and prayers that make those spaces sacred to me. Thank You for blessing me with halaqa sisters who understand the benefits and struggles of being an American Muslim, who love ice-skating (they drag me along) and synchronized-jumping on the beach (they let me take dozens of photos) and scouting for the next meal while leaving “I <3 FOOD" scribbles in their wake. Every bite is a shared blessing, each milestone is something to celebrate together. I pray they remain in my life forever, and that we hold halaqas in Jannat al-Firdaus.

I am sometimes accused of being aloof and reserved – more often than I would like. It is shyness more than anything else. But allow me to understand and be comfortable with my own vulnerabilities. There is no shame in sharing sadness, a broken heart, tears in front of people, laughing at myself, acknowledging my difficulties, asking for help.

Please teach me to be okay with asking for help.

Often, I nonchalantly shrug off the need for remorse, repentance: I’m not a bad person. I forget the myriad ways in which I have wronged You, others, myself. In my pride, I tell myself I have no regrets. But I do have two. Remind me of them constantly, so that I may learn from them to appreciate the generosity, kindness, and open-hearted forgiveness that has been granted me when I least deserved or reciprocated it.

Grant me focus. I fumble and stumble in decision-making. I make up my mind one day; mutter, “F*ck it,” the next; abandon my plans and curve around into another direction on the third. I start too many things I don’t finish. Worse yet, I stick to things nearly to the finish-line, then abandon them at the last minute.

Help me to pay attention when people are conversing with me. Open not only my ears – and You know my ears need help! – but also my heart. And let words come easily to me, so that I may write about You and myself and people I know – and those I don’t – without fearing I will do us an injustice.

Help me to be just, always.

I thank You for the sunshine, for California, for my beautiful, beloved, open-armed Bay Area – my first home, and now, after all those years of packing and moving, still my favorite home. I think “they’ve” got it all wrong; there must be some mistake – Hell must be icy cold, bone-chilling cold, not fire and flames. I would rather not be in a hell of ice. If heaven has snow, let me, at least, feel like it’s 70F. This weather thing – I just can’t stop bothering You about it, I know. I’m not a bossy person, but weather always brings out the dictator in me. You know how the hills and the sky looked on this day? Something like that would be nice.

Thank You for good health, for feet that enjoy meandering walks lacking destination, for eyes that crinkle when they smile. Let my hearing remain stable. More than blindness, I fear complete deafness, but I would preferably have neither. Yet I thank You for the humility and empathy – and the rockstar-red hearing aids and superhero lip-reading skills! – that the moderately severe loss has given me. If there is one thing I am to be tested by in life, this one is easy – let this remain it.

Teach me to be comfortable with who I am. Compliments catch me off guard. Who are they talking to? I duck my head, shuffle my feet, change the subject. You, of anyone, remember who I used to be, who I still am. Years later, it’s the same shyness, awkwardness, and insecurity, just hidden under a more stylish wardrobe and straighter teeth. There are days I feel like a fraud. I am not as pretty, smart, sociable, accomplished as people think I am. But I thank You for always reminding me where I come from, who I come from, who I used to be.

What I am so far, let that be good enough.

And then let me seek to improve myself in the things that matter. Make it easier for me to read the Quran regularly and to perform the prayers on time and with concentration. Grant us all the best of this world and the next, and keep from us all things which will not benefit us. On the Day of Reckoning, let the Prophet recognize us as part of his Ummah, his community, and the general community of Believers. May our parched mouths drink water from his hands.

I thank You, over and over, for the beautiful people You have allowed me to know, the smiling strangers with whom I’ve momentarily crossed paths, the individuals who have moved me through unexpected conversations, those who have trusted me with their stories, the friends You have brought into my life, the family and relatives with which You have blessed me. Be compassionate and loving to them as they have been to me, be merciful to them as You have shown mercy to me.

Hold us all in Your Hands. Permit us to sit at the foot of Your throne. Let the light of Your presence blaze in our eyes, cleanse our hearts, purify our souls.

Help us see in one another what we see in You – perfection and beauty beyond telling.

31 thoughts on “Doorway into thanks, & silence in which another voice may speak

  1. Yaz, this was just…. beautiful. I have no words. You’ve moved me, honestly, and I don’t even think I believe in an ultimate being.

    Definitely rocking. :)

  2. you are a beautiful person, a joy to know, Yasmine. this was very touching, and something i needed because this Eid has been feeling like any other day, and that’s a sad thing.

    that’s probably teh first of many compliments you will receive on this post – just so you aren’t caught off guard. ;)

  3. ameen. you’re so open and honest, it’s refreshing to read. and don’t be shy because the other person might also be shy and then you two will never know what awesome people you both are.

    eid mubarak, yasmine =)

  4. That brought me to tears. I love you!

    If late night sessions in the dark on the fouton bring about that kind of reflection, I’m joining you next time!

  5. ameen! please add to your ps to God an exquisite root beer float with which to wash down those fries. and gelato for dessert. eid mubarak, me love!

    and a ps to you: “I am sometimes accused of being aloof and reserved”. who what what in the what now? this is coming from the chick who has made a regular habit of jet-setting internationally to party with friends, some of which she had not met in the flesh until recently? does not compute. error. error.

  6. asalaam alaikum warahmat Allah wabarakatu sister,

    this post touched me on so many levels, from your point about cali although ive never been, to your hearing loss which reminds me of my daughters who wears a cochlear implant, to my lack of doing what i need to do for Allah..and to the duaa that i make for people in my distant family whom i’ve never met…may Allah reward you, grant you forgiveness, increase you in eman, and grant you nothing less than jannah. we all of things we regret, and i am reminded of them yet once again by reading this post…
    it also reminds me of how Allah is ar-Rahman and only He could have given me what I have, yet i am not worthy of it…and others seem to be better candidates. Allah tests us through different means and may He just help us pull through them so we can be done with all of them on a strong good stance of ihsan, iman, and love for Him that exceeds no other…in Jannah forever. ameen.

    may Allah bless you and guide you dear sister…jazakAllah for sharing.

  7. What a beautiful and joyous Eid gift to us all, my love. Your prayer swept me away in its honesty and beauty – left me teary-eyed and moved. Thank you

    May your prayers be answered and may a deep and authentic connection fill your soul and spill over into the world – tangible grace.

    Love,
    Baraka

  8. Thank you, everyone, for all the lovely comments!

    Preeti,
    That you don’t even believe in an ultimate being and yet still found this post moving…well, I think that was the best compliment I could have for this piece. Thank you, buddy.

    Anjum me love,
    Thank you for the beautiful words, yaar, and for the heads-up re. compliments. I’ll work on my compliments-acceptance spiel. Unless, I could just hire someone to be my compliments-acceptor. You know? You need another job, besides the ten thousand things you’re already doing?
    PS: I hope today (and the next two days ;)) bring you that “Eid feeling,” inshaAllah. Have a good one, buddy.

    Editor,
    Thank you for taking the time to highlight this post!

    Yaser,
    I think it’s been a long while since I’ve taken the time to write anything constructive, much less “open and honest.” It’s very personal, yes, but I felt I had to post it that way, otherwise that would have defeated the whole purpose of writing and sharing my ‘authentic prayer.’ I’ve not put so much care into a prayer of any kind for a very long time.
    PS: Eid mubarak to you, too! I hope you’re having a rocking one. =)

    Sof,
    Ameen! For you and me and all of us. =)

    Falsa,
    Thank you for stopping by! Always good to find others who feel the same way. Ameen to your dua.

  9. Bean my love!
    Oh, that fouton is so comfy and awesome! We need to get you a laptop, so we can sit next to each other and IM one another through GMail. ;) Love you, too, buddy boy.

    Aisha,
    yay so nice to see you here! I am SO not teaching halaqa next week. But I hear we’re going ice-skating? *sigh* Remember, you promised me we would have food afterwards, though! =)

    Ayesha,
    I’m so happy your parents got to go on Hajj! I hope all is well with them, and I’m sure you’re all excited to see them back soon, too. =) Glad you liked the letter, buddy.

    Bajiiiii,
    Yes, thanks for the reminder! I’m putting in a special request for rootbeer floats from The Diner in DC, and gelato from Berkeley’s Gelateria Naia. I’m sure God will have heaven well-stocked by the time we get there. =) As for this part:

    who what what in the what now? this is coming from the chick who has made a regular habit of jet-setting internationally to party with friends, some of which she had not met in the flesh until recently?

    Hahaha! Good point! Thanks, my favorite Robot Monkey Pirate, I feel much better now. ;)

    headmistress,
    I am so glad that this post moved you, and that you took the time to comment. Thank you for stopping by. I hope I see you more often ’round here. =)

    Suhaa,
    So much to say. I might just have to drop you an email. Would love to know more about your daughter’s experience with the cochlear implant. One thing I’ve always missed is having a community based around my hearing loss – I know nothing about what such experiences are like for others my age. Thank you so much for your beautiful, reflective comment, and ameen to all your duas!

    Baraka,
    Thank you, beautiful lady, for inspiring me with your post. I’m so far gone in abandoning the salah, it’s ridiculous, and although I’m good about duas, even those become rote and meaningless because I don’t pay attention to what I’m really saying. I find dua is much more meaningful to me when I’m reflecting on the moment at hand – “Thank you, Allah, for how sunshine-y it is today, and how blue the sky looks,” or “Please keep my parents safe and healthy; they’re feeling so old right now.” Spur of the moment, personal duas work best for me, and writing this post was such an amazing experience. I don’t know where all these words came from; a lot of it has been bottled up for a long time, I guess. I’m going to have to do this more often. Thank you again!

  10. as-salamaualaikum….

    subhanAllah…may Allah give u jannah….

    That was amazing to read….words that come from the heart affect the heart..

    your humble duas…

  11. I love you Yasmine ~ I have never met you in
    person but your big heart shines in my flickr stream
    with your thoughtful loving comments ~
    you see and feel so deeply but always from a place
    of love ~ this post made me weep but in the
    best way ~ because with people like you in
    this world God knows there is hope:)

    (hugs)

  12. this is all what anyone could ask for, you sumed it up amazingly and it made me think that what was the last time i was thankful, because i never forget to ask for more.

  13. GREAT post. Eid Mubarak.

    I will probably come back to read this again because there are a lot of thoughts and I want to take them in and remember them… very good sentiments that are pushing me off into my own thoughts on similar topics. Thank you.

  14. Salaam Dearest Sister Yasmine :)

    Ameen! Ameen! to your heartfelt and achingly honest prayer. What a wonder you are :) I loved your candor and poetry, your hopes and dreams, and all the shyness and and pride we each battle each day. It brought out the little girl in you, and the woman :)

    Eid Mubarak to you and your family :) May Allah grant all your prayers, including hot fries :)

    Ya Haqq!

  15. oh yasmine. you expressed all those feelings into words so nicely, and you kept going. the title, the words, the prayers – this was truly beautiful, and im at a lack of words right now as to how to properly convey what this meant to me, but thank you.

    can’t wait to meet you at RIS inshallah :) xoxo

  16. Salam Alaikum Yazzo:

    This is one of the most beautiful posts I have ever read, and really the blurker that I am, I have read some. It ranks right up there with that other post of yours which I read on one of my very first visits in yazzoland over three years ago, the one that got me hooked, the one dedicated to your mother – only this one is even more beautiful.

    Your post has given me so much to reflect on, as I am sure it has given to others. Ameen, Ameen and Ameen to all your duas.

    I really am tongue tied… it does not just look it :)

  17. I almost never drop comments, however I looked at a few of the remarks on this page
    Doorway into thanks, & silence in which another voice may speak.
    I do have a few questions for you if it’s okay. Could it be simply me or does it give the impression like some of these comments come across like they are left by brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are posting at other sites, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could you make a list of all of your social community pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

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