A flashback………………I am a teenager, visiting Lahore, suddenly some relative dies and my Khala has to go to a remote city in Punjab, I accompany her. We have to go to the house of the bereaved. I don’t know any of the people, but they are related to us in some manner. The man of the house in a crisp white shalwar kameez, a flowing white beard and a genial humble manner accompanying a female elderly relative has come to pick us up at the train station. We ride in a Tonga all the way to their house. I am thrilled. For me a city girl, this is exotic. The lady with us wears a black burqa and keeps her face covered with a veil all the way to the house but neither my Aunt nor I are wearing a Burqa.
As we travel through the city I am entranced. The city is just like Lahore, with less cars, more tongas and less trees.
We alight at their house, which is quite large. We enter the Zanaan Khana and suddenly the world of color comes alive, women and girls of all ages are running around, making arrangements, an elderly lady is receiving condolences and intermittently reading the Quran, all voices are a little bit hushed.
We spend three days inside the house, I don’t know when the burial takes place, On the third day more relatives and friends arrive and there is a sudden flurry of activity in the women, sleeping arrangements have to be made for the men who will be sleeping under the sky or in the verandahs, and for their women who will be sleeping inside. I realize that in the hierarchy of relatives we must be special because we are given a dedicated room, with the elder lady in the family. Food has to be distributed to the poor, young men come to the door and get the directions to the orphanage to where the food needs to be taken and then the guests are fed. As a teenager, the days are long and boring. I cannot write in my diary, nor can I talk much as I do not know anyone personally. It is a time of sadness on one hand but the daily activities are laced with a matterfactness on the other hand.
My aunt and I spend three days inside the house, I am going stir crazy, I have nothing to read and unable to go out and have nothing in common with the people of the house or who visit though they seems to know each other. They all seem appreciative of us coming.
As I reflect back, I realize that the external constraints put on me on that visit were so uncomfortable because I was devoid of the inner spiritual world that is needed to make the lack of the external world palatable. I was a fish out of water. Having no spiritual back up, I was lost in these three days of imprisonment.
Even though I am a people person, today I think I can live on a desert island, if I had a Quran & tafseer with translation and some CDs or books about the Prophet and my adkaars and a tasbeeh., and if I was allowed to walk.
The desert island that I spent those three days confined to the inside of the house was so difficult because I did not have the inside trappings needed to be a survivor.
The difference between then and now is that then……… I had no internal world and no inner connection with Allah SWT, and I had to look externally to provide me mental stimulation and psychological satisfaction.
Now, I know that the external environment is finite, meaningless, boring and tedious if one does not have an internal world of Allah within the confines of ones heart and brain.
Now when I am alone or with people I don’t know, I don’t have that desolate sense of loneliness and boredom that I had in those three days long time ago……… stranded inside that house with hundreds of people that I did not know. I had nothing to turn towards inwardly to find peace, comfort and love.
Now after continued strenuous work on my nafs and striving to finesse my salaah, I am beginning to feel I can visit Him (SWT) in my heart, be it in the silence and solitude of my room alone or in a large gathering, while traveling or visiting, where I don’t know any one. I know as I sink on to the musallah, I can look inwards and communicate with Him (SWT) and He (SWT) is always there ready to listen to what I have to say or ask. I carry my internal world with Him (SWT) in it and He (SWT) takes care of the external for me.
How do you cope with the external world?
What do you carry in your internal world?