It struck again. The tremors felt from the neighbouring country’s quake shook buildings and people’s confidence, set off a panic button and had people out on the streets. Employees were let off early, confusion spread when news of aftershocks were reported, tenants of high rise buildings didn’t want to go back home, and there was a buzz around the city in general. Everyone was talking about it.
As exciting as it may seem to have something like that, out of then ordinary, happen in our ordinary lives, this was the first time I had experienced such strong tremors firsthand.
Initially, I didn’t know what was happening. I was sitting on a wheely chair and thought it was just my head – dizzy again. Apparently quite a few people attributed it to being dizzy at first..!
But then my mother called me in panic because the mirror in her room was shaking visibly. I still didn’t think much of it – that mirror shakes easily! It was only when I approached the window and looked out, and saw the building shaking in respect to the road that I actually felt the ground beneath my feet move, and reality set in.
Before we could figure out what to do though, it was all over.
In hindsight, there were lots of lessons from it: realising the power of our Creator and how helpless we are against it, coming to terms with how unprepared we truly are if death overtakes us, that this was a Mercy from our Lord so that we may get closer to Him.
What struck me the most though was that at that moment when the ground was shaking, my mind was blank. Absolutely blank. I couldn’t manage to summon up the shahadah or dhikr of any sort. Was there a du’a? I couldn’t remember.
And that scared me more than anything. If these words were not the first ones on my lips, I had a major problem.
A friend of mine was telling me her life story, how she found out she had cancer and the process she went through. Before she found out, she was something who attended halaqahs, lectures, classes. She wasn’t just sitting at home and wasting her time. Anyone in that situation would think that if calamity struck, we’d know what to do – it’s all a trial, we have to have patience, etc. Common enough knowledge. But when she found out that she had cancer, she went blank. She was in a crisis but she couldn’t connect with her Rabb. She might be in a life-and-death situation but she felt nothing. She just managed to pray her fardh but that was it. And listening to her then, I wondered what I’d do if it was me.
Because we hear all these stories of how people truly connect to their Lord in hard times, and we think we’d be one of them because, Alhamdulillah we are making the effort to learn our deen.
When we have trials in our daily life, yes, we do turn to Allah more, ask du’a more sincerely, stay in sujood a little longer, wake up a little earlier for tahajjud.
When something as big as the possibility of death strikes though, and we don’t know what to do, we have to realise that we have a looooong way to go. We need to pull up our socks, tie our shoes, hoist on our backpack of supplies and start walking. We may not get to the end before we get mowed down in the middle, but at least we kept walking.
Shaytan deceives us into thinking we’re in a good place in our lives, that we have collected a nice pile of good deeds, we are currently engaged in other deen activities too, which is all well and good. We can never ever think that that’s enough though. Because the moment we do, we stop striving, stop working hard enough to get to Jannah.
We spend too much time thinking about what other people think, what we want to do ten years from now, and having fun in this life. What nobody thinks about is: if you were to die, right now, at this very moment, would you be ready to go?
When I was small, I used to think that when we die, the shahadah would automatically be on our lips. I didn’t understand why some people couldn’t say it – we are all Muslim, how could they not know it? More recently I found out that that is true only if you live your life accordingly. You die as you live, so everyday should be a preparation of that final one. And when the floor shook and realisation struck – that what could you do when the ground could crumble under you? – I knew that I was nowhere, and had to get moving.
Alhamdulillah, it is the truly the Mercy of our Lord that He gives us moments like these to pull ourselves together in this life, so we can work harder for the next.
We cling on for the moment and sigh in relief watching it pass, but how do we know which moment will be our last?