Mercy

 

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Winter is truly upon us here in Cape Town. After many months of anxiety and panic about our prolonged drought, we finally have rain. In recent weeks, we’ve been counting down to “Day Zero” – a point some 60-odd days into the future where our dams would be totally empty – with no stored water remaining.

Small-scale emergency measures were initiated – such as aquifer drilling and the building of a small desalination plant. But neither of those would provide much relief, nor would they be ready fast enough.

But last Tuesday night brought what was touted as Cape Town’s worst storm in 30 years. In anticipation, schools and some workplaces shut down for the following day. There wasn’t that much rain, unfortunately, but the wind was very severe – causing much damage across the city. Rain levels varied in different places, and importantly, the catchment areas finally got decent amounts coming down.

And since then, we’ve had rain almost every day. Our dams are starting to rise again – ever so slowly.

It’s from the mercy of Allah that we’re receiving such generous early Winter rains while in this month of Ramadaan. The climatologists feared that good rain would only come later in Winter, but here we are – not even 2 weeks into the season – and it’s been very positive. Alhamdullilah.

Many Muslims have gone out, numerous times, for Salaatul Istisqaa (the communal prayer for rain), in recent months and weeks. Other faith groups have also held prayers for rain – while the atheists, agnostics, and other sceptics have mocked us – calling for the ‘rain dance’, and putting the drought down to climate change alone.

But for every natural phenomenon, there’s a cause behind it. Science can say how something happens – the mechanics of it – but it can’t explain why.

In any case, I’m just extremely grateful that the weather is positive. Last Winter didn’t really feel like a Cape Town Winter, but so far, this one is bringing back that old feeling again.

The widening circle

Ramadaan is rapidly moving towards its conclusion – with tonight being the 17th of 29 or 30 nights. I’ve felt spirituality in patches. Not as much as I would like, but still – far more than I would at other times of year.

I’ve felt more peace within, this month. At home, too. Yes, there’s the whiny threenager who is ever so demanding these days; and the temperamental seven year old – who inspires monumental levels of frustration and anger when she’s in one of those moods…particularly when she’s antagonising her little sister. But they’re not so bad.

When they aren’t being difficult, they’re an absolute joy – to be honest. The younger one has always been amazing, and since I’ve been taking the older one to school this year, we’ve really become much closer than previously.

I’ve gotten more writing done – in the form of a second article for AboutIslam.net (the first is here). It’s actually the first time I’m getting paid for this type of writing, so the extra income is very welcome – Alhamdullilah. I remember all those years ago, when my dream job was to write for Islamic publications – yet I knew there wasn’t much chance it could be a sustainable gig. Maybe I was wrong. With these opportunities now, I’m maybe getting a start in the world of getting paid for your passion.

The irony, though, is that I have far less time and inspiration than I did a decade ago. Back then – and in the years after that too – I’d write so freely on these kinds of topics. Ramadaan, spirituality, Hajj….and it would all be for ‘akhira points’ – merely wanting to add value to people’s lives. Help them, in some way, through my writing.

And now, I’m getting to do the same thing again – but with worldly remuneration too. Though I hope that won’t diminish the reward in the Hereafter.

I’ve also taken on a position of responsibility within the complex I live in, and that’s been surreal at times. A 5-hour AGM, followed by controversy, politics, and contentious meetings – none of which enabled me to actually get to the work of making a positive impact to the place. The demands have been high, and nothing is settled yet – but I value the opportunity to do something to improve the lives of my neighbours…this little community of ours. It’s weird to be in somewhat of a leadership role, but I actually feel relatively comfortable in it.

I’m the youngest of the group given this responsibility, but I don’t feel out of place. I don’t feel dwarfed by the age or experience of the others. I feel I can add value and make sensible, productive contributions insha-Allah. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

But the whole setup is just a bit messy due to historical reasons. And though I sometimes feel like giving up – because it’s more or less a fight against elements of one controversial figure. But I know that would be wrong. It would allow the injustices to continue, and the people who voted me in would be let down, because they would lose a voice – a position of influence – which they really need.

In a separate initiative in which I’m involved, I was surprised that – after one meeting – the organiser supposedly wants me to manage the project. In that case, again, I didn’t feel out of place among senior people with so much more wisdom and experience. Yet I also didn’t let myself feel flattered, because I suspect there’s probably no one else that can / wants to shoulder the responsibility of leading the project…and with me being ‘new blood’, he thought I may be willing. I don’t know if I’ll do it now…but it’s just interesting that these 2 cases came up in such quick succession.

As I said in a previous post – it feels like I’ve finally become a grown-up. And perhaps these scenarios are external circumstances showing me that this is indeed the case.

Whatever happens, though, I just hope I can balance things and not let them overwhelm me. For so many years, I’ve been overwhelmed merely by life admin and situations relating to just myself and my family. And now, it’s like my sphere of concern is growing wider…yet the stress I was under in the past is no longer as high.

Maybe it needs to catch up, though. Maybe the crash is still coming. Or maybe – just maybe – it’s proof that when you go beyond your own narrow concerns, and seek to serve others, Allah removes the psychological burdens that so weighed you down when you were in your own bubble.

10 days of freedom

I’m blessed to be taking some time off for the end of Ramadaan. With a public holiday coming up, it means I’m off for the final 10 days (and then a couple more beyond).

I wrote, last year, about my mini-I’tikaaf ritual. And although I now can make the full commitment this year (i.e. to stay at the masjid in those 10 days), I still won’t. I still don’t feel ready…or worthy, to be honest.

So, insha-Allah, I’ll do my own mini-I’tikaaf again – spending a few hours at a time in what I hope will be solitude in the masjid. I have a lot of other life admin to tend to as well, but I’ve made the conscious decision to not let it take up too much time.

I need to feel free. I need to enjoy my time off in the best possible way – in the best month. I don’t want the burdens of using time away from work to do other work – personal “work”.

I just want to soak in as much of the Ramadaan spirit as I can – free of responsibilities and psychological burdens. I will, of course, still spend time with my family insha-Allah. But I’d like to dedicate those few hours each day to simply be alone with my Lord.

No pressure. No expectations. Not even a checklist of religious good deeds to ‘get through’.

Just space. Mental space to just be.

My greatest moments have come in times like that. My most intimate moments with my Creator. And I want to get back to that. My soul needs it.

Not simply an escape from life. But a journey to He Who is most important to me. A re-alignment, internally, which I need…because if I can get back on track – to the spiritual levels I had 10 years ago…or on Hajj…then insha-Allah I will be far better equipped to succeed in all the tasks and challenges laying ahead…both within my own bubble and in serving others.

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