Broken, but not beyond repair

I sat with my Shaykh for the first time in 3-4 months. He asked me right out if I had been losing weight. I guess I had, didn’t even realized. He asked me to check my weight, I went from the mid to high 160s to low 150 in…not sure how long. I guess I’m really sad.

I am very very sad. I find myself sleeping too much, sometimes late into the day, once until 4pm. I won’t let that happen again. I don’t hang out with anyone anymore, I tend to stay by myself, I just go to work and come home. To be honest, I feel like a loser, a bum, a left-behind.

I’m cracked and water keeps seeping in. And yes, the foundation has damage, major damage. But I’m not beyond repair. I still cook for my family, I clean, I drive my mom around when she doesn’t want to, I run errands, I give charity, I work feverishly on a few personal projects. I don’t wallow in my own self-pity (well, sometimes in the mornings and late nights, but not for too long). That’s one thing I don’t like about modern Internet culture, the self-pity. I guess I do it too, but not the way they do it.

I don’t plan on offing myself or anything like that. I try to be strong for those around me. I try to maintain hope that maybe I’ll get out of this predicament. I do things to make others happy.

This pain only makes me feel for others, all people. They’re human beings just like me with feelings and soft hearts. Maybe when I’m out of the darkness, I can help others out too.


I’m back, but I don’t have confidence in myself to stay

I started praying again, been “good” at it. All I do now is go to work, take care of my mom (cook for her, clean, pick up heavy boxes, etc), and write tons of computer code – that’s my only passion in life that is gratified – programming.

I’m not a bad person, but I have a lot of love in my heart. But I also have a broken heart whose injury never healed, and is horribly infected. And that infection will continue to cause me to spiritually stumble, again and again.

I know I will fall again, its only a matter of time.

Examining my Disbelief

Often, believers in God or a religion reach a state where they begin to develop doubts in what they previously held. This is a frequent occurrence and not unique to any particular cult or creed. As is the trend in our modern times, believers dwell on their doubts and this eventually leads to disbelief, either in the form of apathy or atheism. I can honestly say that I have been through the early stages of a similar, painful experience where I have, and continue to, doubt my faith. But, few who go through this ponder over the legitimacy of their own disbelief or its trigger. What caused their disbelief now, whereas they previously disbelief? This question is seldom asked. Instead, they rationalize their doubts through distractive arguments, which serve merely to back-fill their new positions, instead of arriving at them independently.

In this entry, I hope to self-analyze my own doubts, expose its illegitimacy, expound on its temporarily solution, and lament over my inability to find a makhraj (way out) – except with the help of God, for which I hope and pray.

When I am not in a perturbous state, I find myself imbued with the presence of God in all things I do. This attitude is healthy and productive. But when I am made uneasy by the pains of life and am alone with my thoughts for an extended period of time, I develop a feeling of restlessless, despair, and depression. Since I believe that God is capable of doing all things, the complains and petitions go to Allah for relief. But invariably, those prayers are not answered (According to Islamic theology, all prayers are answered, but not necessarily in the way the person desires). At this point, the proper approach is to recognize the wisdom in God’s decision and submit to it. I can personally attest to recognizing profound wisdoms in not having my prayers answered as I wanted, but it took see that. As Allah says in the Qur’an.

وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

…but perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.
– Surah al-Baqarah, Verse 216

But recognizing a wisdom requires submission and breaking yourself. Its not easy to do. Not only that, it can seem absurd. Our Western culture chases material glory and does not create a space for spiritual growth through pain. Absent of being able to recognize that wisdom, the believer experiences frustration and anger with God. Why did God do this? He should not have! Allah says in the Qur’an:

لَا يُسْأَلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْأَلُونَ

He is not questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned.
– Surah Al-Anbiya’, Verse 23 

Frustration and anger of all kinds weaken a person’s rationale and relegate him to emotionalism. Trapped in this state, he may choose to take revenge on God, so he actively disobeys what he previously obeyed, comes to hate God, and ultimately makes the concious decision to disbelieve in Him. In an interview, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan explains this as a deep psychological disorder:

After the person makes his decision, the arguments for atheism become increasingly appealing. The disbeliever uses the arguments as a cover for the real reason he left his faith, not as the primary reason. After all, if his reason was purely intellectual, why did he do so only after a traumatic experience? And why didn’t those same arguments appeal to him earlier? He might read the books of contemporary atheists, or repeat witty atheist mantras without contemplation. But even if this person was intellectually defeated, he would not leave atheism. Reason and arguments have little to do with atheism, just as they have little to do with faith. And because their disbelief is primarily rooted in pain, a common characteristic is to appeal to the pain of others around the world, such as orphans, the destitute, or other disadvantaged people.

I have, and continue to go through a similar experience. In short, a traumatic experience, coupled with seemingly sustained silence from the Heavens has left me bitter, frustrated, angry, and in despair. I don’t know know what to think anymore. Where is God when I call upon him? Perhaps he’s not even there, does not exist! I never outwardly said “I am not longer a Muslim”, but I know I had no reality of faith in my heart, suddenly arguments against faith made sense. As I write this, if there is a God, it is by his divine Mercy that I am a Muslim. I also recognize the profound wisdom in why what happened happened, but it took many years to get to that point.

But this type of disbelief won’t bear to critical examination. It is rooted in an inability to accept the traumatic event, to recognize its wisdom, to recognize that a wisdom does exist. It is buttressed by the spiritual impotence that thrives in a cultural backdrop that urges satisfying one’s every desire and refuses to teach him to deal with deprivation. Thus, the life experiences of the poor and disadvantaged condition them for the pains of life, and force them to rely on God, unlike the rich and privileged who feel self-sufficient and not in need of God.

The next question is, what does someone do who recognizes that his disbelief is primarily the disbelief of pain? This process is very hard, and to this day, I do not have the final solution. However, I can provide some temporary medicines to help you keep your faith afloat:

  • Make a conscious effort to maintain a positive attitude. This means refusing to allow yourself to wallow in depression or despair. You cannot control when it strikes you, but you can change your attitude of dealing of with it. This is the hardest part of the entire process.
  • One of the mental tortures is to dwell on the future consequences of the traumatic event. Don’t do that. You have to change what you are thinking about. Don’t make “plans” or create absurd mental scenarios. This is especially difficult late at night, and I don’t have a cure for that time.
  • Reflect on the negative of what would have happened had the traumatic event not happened.
  • Reflect on the positive things around you. Most people who can read this have infinitely more blessings than problems. But, they just fail to think about them. Your food, your eyesight, your computer, all of these things are tremendous blessings. But few people think about them, most are stuck in the inability to see beyond their limited problems.

My thoughts, please share with me yours…


There is a universal tradition which states that everyone is friendly and kind when times are easy, but a person’s true nature becomes apparent in the face of trials and calamities.

When I am in the presence of some of some people, in all outward immaturity, childishness, and lack of sobriety, I can’t help but see these negative qualities and hope that I never have them. I think that’s not how a person should be, and use that as a rubric to avoid. In that sense, its a positive thing.

But then when a difficulty afflicts me, especially a major one, I see the worst characteristics of myself come out. I see my arrogance, my selfishness, my ungratefulness, my short-sightedness, my small-mindedness, etc. I can’t help but wonder, is what is coming out of me at this moment really who I am? Is this my true exposition?

If so, then I am a rotten person who desperately needs to mature.

What then is the process to change? How does one strengthen his inner soul? The best solution that I’ve come to know is to allow yourself to experience pain, but still hold fast to what you believe to be true, and hopefully when you come out of it you are a stronger person. But I frequently see myself waver and falter. Secondly, given my constraints in life, I am trying to experience the world as much as possible. I hope that those experiences will strengthen my inner character. We’ll see.

This leaves me with a lack of self confidence.

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.