“Is everything okay?”
I heard Maggie ask her dad on the phone. He had been calling non-stop during our session. It was obviously an urgent matter.
“WHAT!” Maggie screamed.
She was snow-white pale when she dropped her cell phone to the ground and froze in place…
Three months later…
“Oh, don’t remind me!” I covered my face. “I was this close to calling an ambulance that day! I thought something horrible had happened” I said.
“I know I’m sorry!” Maggie giggled. “I’m a drama queen! I can’t help it!”
“You don’t say!” Her father feigned a shocked look while wrapping his arm around her lovingly.
Maggie’s whole family was here to bid me farewell before their big journey. It was more of a social visit than a session, and I must admit I was beyond touched to see all of them again; Maggie, her son Adam, her father Mr. Ramzy, his wife Hannah and her mom Lila.
“I was shocked too! I never thought my dream of going to Hajj would come true so soon!” Hannah marveled. “We’re all so very blessed!”
They really were…
Hannah found out her mom stayed away fearing her expensive meds would be a financial burden on her daughter after all she’d been through. But Allah sent Maggie to Lila to take care of her…
Lila kept an eye on her daughter from far and was the reason for Maggie and Hannah to meet. That is how Allah listened to Maggie’s prayers and gifted her with a new sister.
And Maggie’s son Adam was Allah’s gift to Hannah after the miscarriage. Her genuine love for him melted Mr. Ramzy’s heart, and that is when Hannah accepted his second proposal.
Mr. Ramzy later found out about Lila’s kindness to his daughter Maggie, despite what he did! He personally went to apologize and brought Lila back to live with the whole family in his mansion.
And surprisingly, Adam did not quit therapy. He kept coming back to learn more about Islam and gave his Grandpa the idea of starting a charity foundation to help orphans. He is the one who encouraged Hannah to seek therapy, too, and that is how the truth finally came out bringing with it the hope of a ‘happy ever after’. Mr. Ramzy is taking his whole family to Hajj, hoping to open a new page in the holy land of Mecca…
“I’m totally stoked! Mom can’t remind me of how messed up I was or of the hard times I gave her these past few years EVER AGAIN! A clean slate is a clean slate! Everything else is erased” Adam said.
“But isn’t it kinda unfair only rich people get a sinless, spotless, fresh start, just because they can afford to go to Hajj?” Hannah asked.
“I’m not rich and I’m still going, in sha Allah!” Lila, the old nanny said happily. “When the Lord of the worlds invites you to His house, He will make sure you get there!”
“Pilgrimage doesn’t delete your past unconditionally!” I said. “ People going to Hajj must settle their loans, their disputes and make peace with people before leaving, otherwise, they still carry this burden till Judgment Day.
“Exactly! Because you don’t hurt Allah when you wrong yourself. That’s why He erases those sins easily. But when you hurt His creations, it’s between you and them. You better rectify it before it’s too late!” Mr. Ramzy explained.
“You see, this is what the fifth pillar of Islam is all about; it’s a rehearsal for the real thing!” I continued.
“What do you mean?” Hannah asked.
“Going to the Hajj is like a run through or a practice for the afterlife,” Adam said. “You say goodbye, leave your family and money behind, and wear the exact outfit you’ll be buried in. You’re then transported to a different place the same way people will carry you to the grave. And, when you’re doing tawaf around the Ka’bah, you’ll look around and realize you’re just like everyone else. Gone are the fame, the wealth, the style and top-notch education! You’re standing in a public place amidst millions of other Muslims, and yet you’re overwhelmed with how personal this whole experience feels, just like on the Day of Judgment when you’ll be questioned alone about your previous life!”
“Okay, stop! You’re scaring me!” Maggie panicked.
“No sweetheart!” Lila held her hand. “We all need to hear this! How can we prepare for the inevitable if we’re too afraid to talk about it?”
“Have you ever been in love Maggie?” I asked.
“Yes,” She blushed.
“When you love someone, you want to run to them! You want to please them and stay by their side forever. Fear is not in the equation, even when you make a mistake!
“You know your beloved will forgive and embrace you with all your imperfections!” Hannah continued with tears in her eyes. “Those who truly love Allah , crave this meeting because they know Him! They trust in His Mercy, Kindness, and Compassion!. They spend their whole lives fixing themselves in preparation for this meeting… He is all that they think about! Death is not scary when you’re craving to meet the Beloved…” Hannah said.
Now it was my turn to well up! I couldn’t believe how far along Hannah had come! We were all mesmerized and so proud of her!
“What if you’re not ready?” Mr. Ramzy asked.
“I believe the ones He personally invites to visit His House will come back transformed after this overwhelming rehearsal for the Hereafter. This whole experience will definitely compel us to start getting ready!” Lila replied.
“Hajj is a spiritual journey more than anything! It’s a shift in perspective that will change your life forever!” Hannah smiled.
“There’s captivating beauty in strong foundations. The first pillar of fully trusting Allah leads to the second; the desperate need to connect with Him through praying. This bond waters the love inside of us for Him and His creations, leading to the third pillar; Zakat, in which helping others makes us happy. It also takes us out of our comfort zone into the outside world, and that’s when we need ‘taqwa’ or protection to prevent us from going astray, which is done through fasting, the fourth pillar of Islam. Ace all of that and you’re ready for the final pillar, the gift of rebirth…”
“And we will all be as pure as newborn babies! That’s so cute!” Maggie giggled and everyone laughed.
“So trust, connection, helping others, prevention and then you’re reborn and ready to meet your Lord!” Adam recapped.
“And it goes the other way too!” I challenged him.
“Yes! When you experience the purity of rebirth, you’re more determined to develop a shield with fasting to protect yourself from sins. This will pull you towards the goodness of giving charity, and once you see the joy on people’s faces, you’ll run back to thank and connect with their Creator through salah, and that bond will strengthen your faith and trust in Allah more and more!”
“Perfection!” I applauded the bright young man. “But why is ‘salah’, the second pillar of Islam, considered to be the backbone of religion and without it nothing counts?” I asked.
“Oh, I know this one! Because many people can’t fast, or have enough money to give charity or go to Hajj but everyone can pray!” Maggie said excitedly.
“Because praying combines all five pillars in one!” Adam explained wisely, “You recite the shahada every salah. You take time away from work to pray; the time you give up instead of using it to make money, which is zakat for yourself. And during salah, you abstain from drinking, eating and other worldly desires like fasting. And finally, you face the Ka’bah, which is like a spiritual journey to Hajj. See? Five in one!”
“Oh, Adam! This was amazing! Whoever raised you did a wonderful job!” Maggie hugged her son and everyone one laughed again.
“We better get going! We have taken up so much of your time!” Mr. Ramzy addressed me as he got up to leave.
“Well, it’s my pleasure, sir. I hope you’ll remember my loved ones and me in your dua, in sha Allah!” I smiled.
“Any pearls of wisdom before we go, Lilly?” Hannah asked softly.
“Yes, please! Give us one final advice on how to be happy and prevent heartache!” Maggie pleaded.
“If you’re on a flimsy raft in the middle of the sea, would you be scared when the waves get high?” I asked.
“Terrified!” They both replied.
“How about if you were aboard a grand ship?” I asked again.
“We’ll be a lot calmer!” Mr. Ramzy added.
“Life is like an unpredictable sea!” I said. “Controlling or even avoiding the high waves is practically impossible! The sea will never settle, and the hardships will never cease. All you can do is to build a stronger ship. The same waves that might flip the raft will hardly affect you!”
“The farther the destination, the stronger the ship must be” Lila added.
“And we’re aiming for Jannah! We need a ship with super powers to get through this life!” Maggie joked.
“Once you keep your eye on the purpose, distractions won’t interest you, Maggie! Obstacles will be challenges and mistakes will become valuable lessons!” Hannah said.
“Like a poor man who discovers he’ll receive his inheritance of a billion dollars in a year!” Mr. Ramzy explained. “He will stop wailing and complaining about the same dire circumstances because there’s something to look forward to! That’s the beauty of Islam… There’s an ultimate goal, and all the hardships in this life actually bring us closer to it!”
“But how do we build a stronger ship to survive a storm?” Adam asked.
“With strong foundations,” I smiled, “the five pillars of Islam…”
How did this series help you view life more productively? Share with us your thoughts in the comments section below.