Between Dusk and Dawn…

Some *scribble* *scribble* by Ameera

Monthly Archives: March 2009

Dusk to Dawn

You might have wondered, at some point, why I chose to name this blog, “Between Dusk and Dawn”. It’s not just something that I picked out of a hat, neither was it planned as a mystical name to capture the attention of readers. It’s not the title of any book or sonnet I know, nor any great work of art. And no, there’s no movie by that name either!

Duk and Dawn

The answer is simple – I love the beautiful period of time between the setting of the sun and its next rising. As the sun sinks into the horizon, the sky takes on a myriad shades and hues to merge gracefully into the enchanting, velvety darkness of night. If you step outdoors or look out your window after Maghrib, you’ll find every moment a pleasure – something new to discover and enjoy. The stars peek between the fading brightness, then appear one after the other in quick succession until – before you know it – you’re looking at a masterpiece of art!

The night passes by smoothly, punctuated by the adhaan for Isha’a and soon, it is time for the true purpose of night to be fulfilled – sleep and rest. It’s amazing how, when you observe the creation of Allah at this time, it is silent and at peace with itself – eager to rejuvenate for the following day. Among mankind too, those who have the intellect and the insight to understand this natural order would know that there is great wisdom, the Wisdom of their Maker, in moving with this pattern of night and day. A few hours of sleep at night are worth more than double their measure during the day, as any person who suffers from insomnia, or has to work the night shift will tell you.

However, the most beautiful wonder of all in the nighttime has been highlighted innumerable times in the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet(saw). What is this blessed quality of night? It is the opportunity, the beauty and the absolute joy of being able to turn to Allah in quiet seclusion, with nothing to distract and no chores to perform. We read about Prophets in the Quran who stayed up in worship a part of the night and the Seerah of the Prophet(saw) records how he too prayed Tahajjud, along with his companions. The Quran even specifically instructed the Prophet(saw) to awaken for the night prayer and gave the reason for it too – to be able to worship in Allah without distractions.

O you wrapped in garments (i.e. Prophet Muhammad SAW)! Stand (to pray) all night, except a little. Half of it, or a little less than that (see verse 20). Or a little more; and recite the Qur’ân (aloud) in a slow, (pleasant tone and) style. Verily, We shall send down to you a weighty Word (i.e. obligations, legal laws, etc.). Verily, the rising by night (for Tahajjud prayer) is very hard and most potent and good for governing (the soul), and most suitable for (understanding) the Word (of Allâh). Verily, there is for you by day prolonged occupation with ordinary duties, And remember the Name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with a complete devotion. (He Alone is) the Lord of the east and the west, Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). So take Him Alone as Wakîl (Disposer of your affairs). (Quran: Surah 73: Verses 1-9)

Why the emphasis on the nighttime though? In the last third of the night, the hours of Tahajjud, the night is almost completely silent and at its darkest too. In these hours, if one is awake, the heart very naturally softens towards prayer and worship. It becomes easier to reflect upon ones deeds and wonder about the Hereafter, the accountability before Allah. Prayers are made with sincerity, not like an automaton in a hurry to roll up the prayer mat and run off to study or work. And when the Quran is recited, it is a joy to see how only the Words of Allah ring through the otherwise silent night – something that is not possible during the daytime. Then, as Allah invites man to ponder and reflect upon His Words of guidance, the receptive heart feels the tug and wants to give up wrongdoing and just please his Master through only saying, thinking and doing what He commands. It is this feeling – a refreshment of Iman – that carries the person who offers Tahajjud and Fajr, through the day ahead, ready to face the challenges and tests set by Allah.

Do you still wonder that I love the night? There’s more – I love the merging of night into day and all the changes that herald the rising of the sun. The beauty of the night lingers until the sun lights up the land and then, it’s a different story altogether. For me, dawn symbolizes a new beginning – a second chance to do things differently, re-prioritize my life, and focus on the Hereafter through perfecting my actions and my intentions in this life. Every few days, I try to spend a few minutes just observing the world around me at the time of dawn and I realize that truly in the Statement of Allah is the Absolute Truth:

Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed Signs for men of understanding. (Quran: Surah 3: verse 190)

For those forgo their Fajr prayer and wake up just to drag themselves off to school or work, they lose out on the Pleasure of Allah through obeying Him, His reward and the great joy and peace that the last hours of the night bring. May Allah guide them before the sun sets on their lives to rise on a certain day… but that Day would not be a day for second chances. Arising for Fajr is thus full of blessings – peace, joy, the Pleasure of Allah, avoiding His Wrath and thus, being saved, if Allah Wills, from the Fire. There is no catch to this amazing offer, is there?

Verily, the Muttaqûn will be in the midst of Gardens and Springs (in the Paradise), Taking joy in the things which their Lord has given them. Verily, they were before this Muhsinûn .They used to sleep but little by night [invoking their Lord (Allâh)] and praying, with fear and hope. (Quran: Surah 51: 15-18)

O Allah guide us all towards You, Your Worship and give us the Tawfeeq to performs acts which You love for us, and the Tahajjud to come closer to You. And O Allah, make us consistent in our amal and accept our meager deeds from us. O Allah, save us from the disgrace and humiliation of the Day of Judgment through your Mercy. O Allah, we are not such that we deserve anything but it is your Mercy alone that can guide us, enable us to do righteous deeds, earn your pleasure to protect us from the Fire! O Allah, shower us with Your Guidance and Your Mercy! Aameen!


Patience: Is it possible?

It is easy to talk about something or make tall claims without having experienced the situation we’re so confidently declaring our opinions about. In times of ease and comfort, when the going is good and the prospects are bright, it’s not difficult to say that I would certainly remain thankful and patient if unpleasant or trying times come my way. Then again, we learn from our experiences and realize the true meaning of all the theory we’d been learning.

I’d like to share one such experience here, which taught me a lot about how to practice effectively what I learned in theory. Very recently, I was single-mindedly focusing on something I dearly desired, a matter of great personal relevance. I hoped and hoped I would be blessed by what I desired such that I started weaving great ideas and dreams into the hope. Alhamdolillah, I remembered that Allah(swt) knew best what was good for me and I modified my ‘hope’ to include an additional line – “if it’s good for me”. I prayed that if what I wished was, in Allah(swt)’s Knowledge, not good for me at all, then let my wish not be fulfilled and further, that I may remain satisfied with not getting what I wanted.

Then, I discovered that this specific wish of mine could not be fulfilled and in one tiny moment, all the dreams and hopes came crashing down. It was a very crucial moment for me, a “test” as I’d later realize upon reflection. How would I react to this verdict? What would be my response in the moments following immediately? How would I deal with the emotional baggage? If past experience with “crashing dreams” was anything to go by, I’d probably go into a depressive state, crying often and lamenting in silence and aloud about how pathetic my life really is and that my joy, as I wanted, could never be realized.However, the guidance of Allah(swt) through the Knowledge of the Quran and the Sunnah is truly a miracle that needs to be experienced in the most testing times of your life, to realize how precious it is. I could not be so calm and natural had I not the guiding light of Allah(swt) to take me through this trial. Thus, I want to share this serene calm with you because I know every person has to go through such situations in their life… the best solution is to be prepared for it.

  • The first reaction: It’s difficult, oh yes, but shut the lid on those swear words and expressions. Allah(swt) looks for our reactions the moment we encounter the trial – will we remain composed and utter only words that please Him? Or are we going to collapse in a bundle and forget Him entirely?

    The Prophet(saw) said, ‘No doubt, patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.'”  (Sahih Bukhari)

    Alhamdolillah and SubhanAllah, as well “Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhee Raji’oon” are the most beautiful words that Allah(swt) wants to hear from us.

    Salamah narrates: I heard the Messenger of Allah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam say, “Any Muslim that says when a calamity befalls him that which Allah commanded him: To Allah we belong and to him we return. O Allah reward me in this calamity and give me better then it – (any Muslim that says this) Allah will grant him better than (that which he lost).” (Sahih Muslim)

  • The moments following: I find this the most difficult part because here’s when the reality starts to sink in and the analysis begins. And this is the fork in the road, I discovered – if you choose the road of despair, you will end up in Despair Land but if you pause to take the road of Patience, with Allah(swt)’s Help, you’ll be in Peace Land very soon. I felt sad, which was a natural emotion and not contradictory to the concept of Sabr (patience) but I remembered that Allah(swt) had merely answered my prayer when I had asked for my wish not be fulfilled if it was harmful for me. It was a moment to thank Allah(swt) for averting disaster from my life and even though my weak heart was sad at not getting what I wanted, I knew I had to try and focus.I quickly made Wudhu and performed a Sajda (prostration) to Allah(swt). Feeling shaky and trouble still, I opened the Quran and read the first Surah that I saw. I recited the Quran, read the translation and reflected on it for a while, all the while trying to stay positive. Abu Suhayb ibn Sinaan narrated that the Prophet(saw) said: “How amazing is the case of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this characteristic is exclusively for him alone. If he experiences something pleasant, he is thankful, and that is good for him; and if he comes across some diversity, he is patient, and that is good for him.” (Sahih Muslim)
  • “Seek help in patience in prayer”:

    “O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salât (the prayer). Truly! Allâh is with As-Sâbirin (the patient ones, etc.). ” (2:153)

    This ayah just came to my mind and, Alhamdolillah, this is just what I needed. Vowing not to cry or even dwell on what had happened, I did try to distract myself and, as Sabr entails, not let the distress show on my face. However, when I went to offer my Ishaa prayer I truly realized how important it is to seek Allah(swt)’s Help directly and clearly by letting all the emotion flow before him. Yes, I let some tears flow but Alhamdolillah, without sinking into negativity, which would be wrong. Satan does whisper negative thoughts, some of which even go as far as blaming Allah(swt) for not letting us have our way! Yes, such thoughts strayed into my head as well but Alhamdolillah, with Allah(swt)’s Help I cut them off as soon as they appeared. Crying is okay but keeping the focus on the positive by asking Allah(swt) for His Help in facing the test He set me so that I may pass with flying colours is what is important.

  • Keep asking Allah(swt) for what you want: I did this too and this is what helped me the most Alhamdolillah! I cried a little but I again prayed to Allah(swt) and asked for something even better than what I had been aspiring for, something He Knows is out there somewhere. I asked for strength to bear with patience what He had decided for me and tried to remember to thank Him again and again for averting trouble from me.

  • Remember the great favors of Allah(swt) on you: This is something which made me realize just how a “bad time” can be so beneficial that it can create a special bond between Allah(swt) and His slave. My Iman had been weak for the past few weeks but, as a result of this situation, I reflected properly on just how much Allah(swt) loved me. The very fact that I was imploring Him to bestow patience on me and offering my Ishaa prayer was because He had chosen to guide me towards His Way. There are many who are unaware of the very existence of Allah and many more Muslims who, despite being born into Islam, are unable to experience the fruits of their faith. Such reflection brought on a wave of gratitude and positivity which felt like a warm glow within me.

  • Don’t dwell on what happened: Again, impossible as it may seem, there is no joy or solution to be derived from pointlessly dwelling upon what happened. “Ifs” and “buts” may offer alternative scenarios to dream up and think upon but they are oftentimes a trapdoor to despair – and such despair that keeps worsening, making return to normalcy increasingly difficult. I was tempted to dwell upon what had happened and even make up theories as to the “why” of the situation but Alhamdolillah, I was able to find distractions.

  • The hope of tomorrow: Even now, as I calmly write this,  some part of my mind tells me that my optimistic hopes and prayers to Allah(swt) are not going to bear fruit but that’s a natural fear after being bruised. However, to say that “good” will definitely not happen is a great allegation on Allah(swt), Whose Mercy and Bounty have always given me better than I had ever dreamed. It’s only my limited and narrow vision that makes me forget all the good outcomes of such situations in the past and doubt the importance of “hoping again”. This is crucial – believe in Allah(swt) and leave your matters to Him, to be fulfilled in the right manner and at the right time, as He Sees fit.

  • Pray for the reward of Sabr: Patience at the first stroke of the calamity, putting on a happy face when you’re sad and consciously putting a lid on the negativities is no easy job but when done for the sake of Allah(swt), His Pleasure and rewards makes the monumental task seem easier with every passing second.

    And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fuits, but give glad tidings to As-Sâbirin (the patient ones).” (2:155)

Writing this has further lessened the feeling of sadness in my heart and strengthened my resolve Alhamdolillah. This is the first time I was ever able to, by the Might of Allah(swt), to exercise patience in the right manner and this experience has taught me exactly what is expected of a Mo’min when confronted with a trial. It’s going to be a dynamic state, I know, because the heart keeps turning and changing… and so, the effort must continue untill I am able to fortify myself properly. It’s going to require conscious effort and most importantly, the Help of Allah(swt), to get on with my life… but then, who said we would be handed Paradise on a silver platter? =)

Allah says in the Qur’an:

Alif, Laam, Meem. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say, “We believe,” and will not be tested? Indeed We tested those who (lived) before them.” (Qur’an 29:1-3)

Yes We Can! (Alhamdolillah!)

It is with great pleasure that I write these words, mere hours after my last post.

The PM played his role in the crisis and announced in an address to the nation that the Judiciary will be “restored” and notifications for that matter will be issued today. All arrested lawyers and political workers will be released today. While the technicalities need to be worked out, especially the appointment of hordes of dubious judges in the past two years after the deposement of Ch Iftikhar, the mood indeed is one of jubilation.

Three  great achievements of this movement, for me, have been

  • The next person who wishes to pressurize the judiciary will think over it a hundred times before doing so, for he would know how the nation would react towards him for his action.
  • the people of Pakistan have realized that they can make a difference if they raise their voice. The Long March has of course been called off as it’s main purpose has been fulfilled and the people are heading home with a renewed sense of confidence in themselves as a nation.
  • several important personalities in the Government and the in the administration have resigned in protest to the wrongdoings in the past few days – this was rarely, if ever, seen in Pakistan’s history. Yesterday, the police also refused to obey the command to fire upon or arrest the unarmed and peaceful protesters in Lahore – a clear indication that they dared to think independently and remain true to their oaths as protectors of the people.

May Allah(swt) guide the people of Pakistan, particularly its leaders, to justice and equity and make this event a new dawn in our troubles history. Ameen!

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