“What’s that like?” I asked curiously.
“Like a nightmare. I live my life pretending to believe in something I’m not sure I truly believe in. And unfortunately, I’m a horrible liar!”
“Why would you lie about your beliefs? You’re a grownup now, and I’m sure you can decide what’s right and what’s wrong.”
“Because I’m confused and I don’t wanna hurt my loved ones anymore. I’m killing them slowly, one by one,” Omar added sadly.
She sat near the window, relishing the warmth of the sun. Even though she hadn’t said a word, Omar was positively sure she knew he’d been standing behind her near the door just staring silently. She just chose to ignore his presence, like she’s been doing for the past few weeks.
“You look different,” Omar finally broke the silence.
“I feel different,” Zahra said, still not looking at him.
“I’m sorry for what I did,” Omar whispered softly.
“For what? For challenging Allah and nearly getting us all killed?”
“Zoe, I know you blame me for everything that happened. I don’t know what to do to make it better. What can I do for you to forgive me?” Omar asked.
“I was angry when I said those things… I lost my faith for a while but now, I see things differently, and I wish you could too.”
“No Omar, you don’t. What happened made you angrier at Allah and more confused. There’s a war raging inside you. You’re asking me to forgive you but you know what you really need? You need to forgive yourself first,” Zahra said softly.
Omar turned around and covered his face with his hands. And even though Zahra couldn’t see the tears streaming down his cheeks, she knew her words touched his heart.
“If you really love me, Omar, help yourself,” she said. “You’ll find the card on the table. Please go see this therapist. That’s all I’m asking.”
“Are you angry at Allah ?” I asked Omar.
“I am,” he replied. “And I know it hurts Zoe more than anything she’s been through. She’s probably scared I might go to hell.”
“Well, no one other than Allah knows who is going where,” I said calmly.
“Exactly! Thank you! You just made my point for me. Why create us if He already knows who is going to Paradise and who is going to Hellfire? Isn’t this a form of sadism? Why give me a functioning, logical brain and then torment me for using it to question the unseen? I really want to know!” Omar asked.
“What do you think would have been a better scenario?”
“An obedient creation that doesn’t analyze or go against His will. A creation that worships Him alone and isn’t put through the test of a lifelong search for the truth that might easily end with eternal torture!” Oman snapped.
“He already created this type: The angels,” I replied. “They do what they’re told, worship Him day and night and have no willpower. And then Allah created humans, and gave them the choice to believe or not, making them superior to the flawless, sinless angels.”
“So you’re saying in the test of life, everyone has a fair chance?”
“Depends on how you look at it. When medical students, for example, sit for their exams, don’t they all have a fair chance to pass or fail?” I asked. “Or do you think fairness necessitates they all become doctors whether they’ve earned it or not?”
“No of course not. But students have textbooks to study from and plenty of time to learn and practice,” Omar barked.
“And so do we. The original scriptures of Torah, Gospel, Psalms, and the Qur’an were sent to humankind as guidance. This is why belief in the books is the third pillar of faith; because Allah is fair. He would never test humans without revealing the truth clearly first.”
Omar pondered silently, trying to open his mind to the other side of the argument.
“You see, elite colleges and universities expect straight A’s. They expect a lifetime of dedication and perfection. If a doctor, a lawyer or a judge, for example, makes a big mistake they might lose their license, and their careers and reputations would be ruined for life. But Allah is Merciful and Kind, He doesn’t expect perfection. He expects progress, good intentions and for us to purify our hearts. He expects us to seek the truth, learn from our mistakes, help each other and worship Him alone. And once you read the Qur’an with the humility of a student, and not with the scrutiny of a doubtful critic, the truth will manifest as clear as the shining bright sun.”
“I read it, yet sometimes I’m appalled and confused by all the harsh rules and warnings. Why does Allah have to remind us of His punishment? Why can’t His words all be about good rewards and about spreading love and peace?” Omar asked.
“Do you stop at red lights? Even if no one is looking?” I smiled.
“Why? Is it because the police give out bouquets of red roses to those who do?”
“No,” Omar laughed, “because I’ll get a ticket if I don’t.”
“But why are there laws and penalties and jails? Why can’t the government give us all a nice pep talk about the glory of peace and harmony and then leave us to our own devices?”
“That’s absurd. You can’t keep order without strict laws.” Omar paused and smiled knowingly. “Okay, I get it now.”
“Just because Allah is Compassionate and Merciful, doesn’t mean He won’t be Just and Fair. Without the laws prescribed by Him, humans would literally behave like animals and chaos would prevail. Those who follow Allah’s commands and those who don’t cannot be equal.“
“But now if I’m skeptical about the Qur’an for example, does that make me a non-believer, even if I believe in God?” Omar asked.
“I’ll answer your question with another question. Do you think if you had seen the sea part for Prophet Moses , or had witnessed Prophet Jesus raise the dead and cure the sick, and denied those miracles saying ‘nah, I don’t buy it. This must be magic or an illusion’, would that have made you a non-believer?”
“I guess so. Denying miracles is a form of doubt or disbelief.”
“Exactly. And the Qur’an is also a miracle. It has baffled scientists, doctors, historians, nutritionists, philosophers, linguists… you name it! The list goes on,” I explained. “Except you can’t take the miracle in slices; say you believe some verses and deny others. If you think about it, belief in the Qur’an strengthens your faith.”
“How?” Omar asked with genuine curiosity.
“You see when you stop your car at a red light, you do so because you fear punishment. It’s more of an obligation. But when you stop your car to help someone in need, that’s a humane action of the heart. Exactly like our religion. It becomes a hollow shell if we just mindlessly perform all our rituals like praying, fasting and reading Qur’an in a hurry. But when you ponder on Allah’s words and follow His rules out of love, that’s the true meaning of humanity. You can memorize every word and carry all the knowledge in your head, but what really matters is the belief and knowledge in your heart….”
“You sound like Zoe. We were having a similar discussion in the car, one that ended badly. Very, very badly…”
“I’m sick of hearing this Zoe! You don’t need to be religious to be a good person,” Omar said, fiddling with his annoying seat-belt.
“I say it because I love you. Just try to open your heart. I know you’ll eventually find your way back to God,” she said softly.
“That is so obnoxious. It’s like me saying ‘I hope you’ll eventually find your way away from God!” How would that make you feel?” Omar complained.
“It’s okay if you have doubts,” Zahra explained. “As long as you believe there is One God and He’s the only Judge.”
“If God has a problem with me not believing in Him then He should take it up with me, man to man. Right here, right now!” Omar boasted.
“I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself for what happened next. How did I challenge the Lord? What was I thinking?” Omar wept. “I didn’t mean what I said. I wanted to take it all back the second the words came out of my mouth, especially when Zoe gasped in horror and went completely pale. At that moment, even though she wasn’t dead, I saw the life leave slowly her beautiful eyes…”
Omar left with a broken heart, but perhaps that’s what also opened his heart for the light of faith to come through. Sometimes the worst heartaches are just blessings in disguise.
“Everyone is blaming Omar for the accident,” Aisha, my next patient said, tensing her shoulders and refusing to make eye contact with me. “The truth is, it wasn’t his fault at all. It was mine..”
To be continued…
What has made you firmly believe in the Qur’an? Share with us in the comments!
If you haven’t read Season 1 of this series, you can read Inside the Therapist’s Office Season 1 for more insight on the pillars of Islam.