Sunday, April 3, 2011

He Who Withdraws After His Whisper

As salaam alaikum,

A while ago, when I went home, I prayed with my mother for the first time in years. It was strange. We used to pray together when I was a kid. She still prays in English. After I got to college and learned my favorite surat and ayat in Arabic, I no longer prayed with her. Although I learned salat from her, I was impressed how small manners in the way that we pray are different.

Although many would shudder at the fact that my mother still prays in English years after her conversion, I don't, actually. It helped me out a lot that the first I ever heard of the Qur'an was in a language that I could understand, such that certain surat stand out in my mind to this day because I heard them before I was old enough to understand. And I still hear them in my mother's voice, reciting them quietly in the dark room, the guest room that we called the prayer room. This one just came to mind. I usually use Asad translations but when I was little, my mother read from Yusuf Ali.

"Say: I seek refuge with the Lord and Cherisher of Mankind, The King (or Ruler) of Mankind, the God (and Judge) of Mankind,--From the mischief of the Whisperer (of Evil), who withdraws (after his whisper),--(the same) who whispers into the hearts of Mankind,--Among Jinns and among men." (114:1-6).

One of my Muslim friends once admitted to me that she did not believe in Satan. I know several non-Muslims who certainly don't. For them, Satan is an allegorical, mythical entity that, as I was taught about the Biblical version of Adam and Eve in high school, made a bet with God that he could cause the fall of mankind. For my Muslim friend, Satan is used to condemn her actions in this world, to vilify those who should not be vilified. Satan's name is used to create a scapegoat for other people's own sins, people judging and measuring whose sins are greater.

But I feel like denying Satan is falling into Satan's trap. Denying Satan is giving that force free reign in your life.

I don't know how I conceive of Satan fully. I try not to think to much about it, because it is decidedly disturbing which is why I think some people deny it. I just know that, a little bit ago, I felt the force of Satan explicitly in a way I never thought possible before.

Just a little bit after my breakup, I had a feeling, the same type of feeling I felt when I saw B this time last year and suddenly realized that we were going to have a story together, that I was going to end up with him. The same feeling I got in the last month of our relationship when I realized that he would not be the one. A couple of days after the breakup, I got the feeling that everything will be alright, and what I actually want in my life is forthcoming, sooner than I expect, so soon that I shouldn't even worry about the breakup.

I told my mother and I told my best friend recently. I trust this feeling. I know that this is really all the answer to my prayers in sequence. Sometime soon, I don't know when, but what I've always wanted is going to come to pass, and ridding myself of B (or rather, him ridding himself of me) is facilitating it all.

But as I began to really embody this feeling, there was a nay-saying voice within me, the same voice that made me eventually forget that B and I were going to end up together...Satan realized himself as that nay-saying voice for me.

And I recognized that voice throughout my life. It's not like hearing voices like delirium or anything, it's like that "intuition," that reverse gut feeling that one actually has that makes you deny your gut feelings...before anyone thinks I've got schizoaffective disorder in this piece, no.

Gut feelings I think sometimes are God feelings, His reassurance to you. Satan doesn't want you to have any part of that. As soon as I started becoming an adult, I let that voice rule me. I was a beautiful young girl with a lot of potential and a lot of life to live, but I found myself crippled by a voice that told me I was nothing, that I was fat, that God in fact intended me for Hell as my predestination and there was nothing I could do about it.

Fast forward now almost ten years (wow, I'm getting old). I had this feeling that brought me comfort, and then there was that nay-saying voice trying to beat it out of me, so what? So I would mope around for the month after the breakup, so I would fall into the trap of doubting God...

But I fight that naysayer every day. Now that I recognize what it is and that it's a force that wants to see me fare poorly in this life, wants to see me not realize and maximize my blessings on this earth, I will keep it far away from me.

I was just writing an email to a friend about the version of Adam and Eve in the Qur'an, and it just made me think about where we are, how we got here, and how we'll get back to where we're intended to that special state of grace, close to God. God made us, and it goes without saying that he was fully knowledgeable about our tendency toward corruption and violence on earth, as the angels questioned him about his intentions in creating human beings. He told them that He knows what they don't know. He instilled within us the ability to reason and learn, "the names of all things." The angels, who are perfect in their submission to God, bowed to us by His command, except for Satan, who was arrogant. Satan was all like, you created me out of fire, and human beings out of clay...and I'm  to bow to that?

Satan was cast down but asked for respite. Satan, in his continued arrogance, tempts human beings out of their state of grace before God by encouraging us to disobey God, something that we have the capacity to do because of the way we are created. Our tendency to fall into Satan's traps keeps us from that state of grace while we're in this life, but God never leaves us alone, providing for us guidance...(2:30-39).

Satan doesn't want us to even have an approximation of that state of grace on this earth. He comes from in front of us and behind us, from the left and the right of us, as it says in the Qur'an (7:16-17). My mother told me this a while back and I always remember it. Satan is not just telling human beings to be stingy and not give to the poor, or to be physically or verbally abusive, to steal or kill people. It is the force that helps people to spin religion into something oppressive. It helps people make religion hard to practice. It helps people exclude their believing brothers and sisters, all in the name of protecting the faith and retaining a sense of orthodoxy.

That's why the moderate path is so important in Islam. Some people feel safe being more liberal or more conservative, being to the left or right, but Satan lays in wait on either side, no matter how forward or backward we are, he's there, too.

While I can't speak for anyone else's depression, mine was definitely the work of that nay-saying force that succeeded for all of those years in making me feel less than precious creation. It made me (and still makes me) doubt my beauty and doubt what I know God has promised me. It makes me miss out on all that is beautiful about this world and miss out on my blessings, tempting me to stray.

Well, today, I rebuke that voice, I realize my blessings and I realize my beauty and I realize my status as precious creation. I accept the guidance that God has given for me to approximate that state of grace into which I was born, into which we all came to be, and hope that my soul will continue in that state of grace when my time on this earth is over.

The spirit of arrogance will not make me feel less than what I am. I have a lot of work to do, but here's for rebuilding myself.


  1. Reminded me of you

  2. Again I really loved this entry. Made me think about my own intuition and how I ignored even when it was screaming at me!

  3. Why thank you, sis...for both, the link (I left a looooong comment, hehe) and for liking the entry. I find that Allah (swt) is really helping me through this life stage, step by step. Everything that happens now is important. Satan has had my ear for too long, tormenting me with lies and filling me with's time for me to assume my rightful place, the state of grace...

    Let us assume our rightful state of grace!

  4. I also feel that "gut feelings" are messages from God calling us to that which is right and good. Didn't know you were in med school, keep up the good work.

  5. Ify! Yeah, it brings me great comfort to think of gut feelings that way... And yes, I'm in medical school...insha'Allah one year left (since I took a break for public health school)!