Breaking Myself

2010 was not a kind year to me. It was terrible. There wasn’t a single meaningful positive thing that happened to me. In fact, every major goal or pursuit I had collapsed, some were destroyed and ripped away from me. I was left just wandering, literally feeling that there was no purpose in life. The feeling I had cannot be expressed in mere words, you would have to go through it yourself. Imagine if you every objective in life abruptly ended. Why would you wake up in the morning? Where are you going in life? I don’t understand why this is happening to me, how could everything I had in life just vanish?

My handling of it went from bring firm upon my convictions to breaking down. Sometimes both at the same time. With swollen eyes, I would tear up like a little child in front of the Imam of my masjid and go off into an empty corner in the basement where no one could see me to cry into my scarf …but continue my prayers. Or I would not eat for 2-3 days and wakeup randomly throughout the night in sweats while blaming God for doing this to me and “threatening” him with my disbelief and cursing his decree. You were wrong to do this, you should not have done this.

Throughout all of this, I found myself calling out to God for assistance. O God, make all of this hardship go away. Bring me back to how I was before this. Heal me in an instant and compensate me better than what I lost.

Did any of that happen? Was there some miracle cure that came and healed me? No. Nothing. In fact, things grew worse. Where was God? Where was this promised response to our prayers? Are you even there? Do you exist? So now I’m left thinking God promises he will answer our prayers, but he’s not giving me a damn thing. Are his promises true? I’m finding this promise to be false right in front of me. And if he’s not going to uphold one promise, what makes me think he’s trustworthy at all? Maybe the promises about heaven are false too. So what am I working for? Why pray? Why be righteous? Forget it all and do what you want. Screw Islam.

My initial searches for answers left me utterly empty-handed. Most of the people I would ask would give me fruitless responses. What does it matter that I have a lot of material possessions in my life? How is my relevant affluence even related to this topic? I’m not talking about who has or doesn’t have, I’m talking about unanswered prayers to God. Other times, I would find myself arguing back and forth with answers. I know Islam better than most people, so I anticipated the answers, and knew how to respond. This frustrated people, some even called me a disbeliever. The most insulting thing was to be told what I was experiencing was not that big. I wish I could make such people feel as I feel by taking away what they deeply cared about, and then tell them “Is it a big deal now?!”

Here is what this angry period came down to: Nothing that I knew about the world changed. I didn’t come across any new information that led me to a different conclusion. The only reason why I wanted to reject Islam was because the pain was so intense it was clouding my judgement and not allowing me to accept the very same concepts that I could easily accept when there was no pain. I had to “accept” (clinically accept) these things that happened to me, see the wisdom in them, and stay on course. But acceptance meant acknowledging the pain and passing through it. I didn’t (still don’t) want to do that, I want the pain to go away, just go.

There were two bitter pills I had to swallow, each broke me down more than the previous. First, I had to recognize that Islam is not about running away from pain. Pain will come. You cannot pray away the pain. Instead, you have to face it, and let it pass through you. And when it passes through you, it will be gone but you will remain, and be a stronger person who has been through the fire so you are purer than before.

Second was prayer. Why was God not answering my prayers? This is going to sound anthropomorphic, but its not intended to: God is a conscious being, not a reactive inpersonal force that is moved by the causes that affect him. He’s not a slot machine. He’s a thinking being that can choose what to do. God has promised that he will answer our prayer, but not necessarily in the way we want. And that’s so damn hard to accept. What I want is not what is going to happen. A part of this is to recognize that my religion is not focused on the world, its primary focused on the next life. Its so hard to make my focus the next life. Prayers are all answered, but not the way we want them to be.

A part of me becomes cynical about that. I start to think to myself, a pagan could say the same thing, that I worship my idol and he will answer my prayer, just in another way. But I cannot lie to myself and dismiss my experiences with God. I also believe Islam (and Judaism) is a logically sound religion, while others are not. When I’m honestly with myself, my cynicism is not based on reason. I know what I have to do, but just want to run away from the problem and not face it. I think I understand kufr (rejection of faith) now.

This is all so much, so much to think about. I know what I have to do and its so hard. I’ll keep trying and put my trust in God. I expect to falter, but hope to keep my trust in God.