A letter to my daughter.
I often feel lonely. Being surrounded by supportive family and friends is wonderful, but after losing your dad Amr, there has been a loneliness in my heart that I’ve had a hard time filling.
Amr listened to me talk for as long as I needed to talk. He made himself interested in whatever I was interested in. He didn’t ever look away from our conversation in boredom. He didn’t used to complain when I would unknowingly repeat myself, or tell him the same story for the 2nd or 3rd time. If we were watching a movie together, and I paused it to make commentary, he never got annoyed. (And that’s a pretty rare quality!)
After he passed away, that beautiful air of accepting conversation went with him. I was met with silence in my days and in my nights. Until now, I haven’t found anyone who is as non-judgmentally and sincerely invested in what I think and say as he was. Not many people care about my ideas enough to talk about them for hours. No one fills the air with words as sweet or thoughtful or supportive as his. No one makes me feel safe like he did.
It’s a strange loneliness that doesn’t seem to want to leave.
I was recently at a halaqah where the leader asked us to close our eyes and imagine being in the presence of the person who had the most love and mercy toward us. Who was it that we felt the safest and most protected with, and the most unconditionally loved by?
She asked us – how did it feel to be in that space with that person?
The person I imagined was Amr. Still. Even now. And in that moment of reflection, I felt like all my worries were nothing while I was in his presence. I felt reassured and comforted. I felt loved.
Then she asked us – do you feel that same sense of comfort, reassurance, and love when you’re bowing before Allah (swt) in prayer?
And I thought, in all honesty, and with sadness: no, I don’t.
It was at that point that I began to question my relationship with Allah – why didn’t I feel safe and loved and cared for in my prayer? Why didn’t the presence of my Lord and my connection to Him alleviate my loneliness?
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) taught us that Allah’s Mercy towards His believing slaves is greater than a mother’s mercy towards her child:
Umar ibn Khattab reported that there were brought some prisoners to Allah’s Messenger (saw) amongst whom there was also a woman, who was searching (for someone) and when she found a child amongst the prisoners, she took hold of it, pressed it against her chest and provided it suck. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (saw) said: “Do you think this woman would ever afford to throw her child in the Fire?” We said: “By Allah, so far as it lies in her power, she would never throw the child in Fire.” Thereupon Allah’s Messenger said: Allah is more kind to His servants than this woman is to her child.”
No matter how much mercy and love a person has for you, it can never supersede the mercy and love of Allah (swt).
It’s just as a wise scholar once said: “If I had the option between Allah judging me on the Day of Judgment, or my parents judging me, I would always choose Allah.” He had more trust in the mercy of God than the mercy of his own parents.
Do I have this much trust in Allah? Do I trust that He will treat me more fairly and with more mercy and love than any human being ever can?
One of the problems with my prayer was that I wasn’t looking for a friend in God. I worshiped Him because it was required of me, because it would save me from punishment, because it was how I knew to be a good person.
The truth is, Allah (swt) is more than just a deity that commands to be worshiped. He is so much more: “Allah is the Protecting Friend of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light” (2:257).
What do you think of when you hear the word friend? A true friend has to be someone who listens to you, who is steadfastly by your side in both good and bad times, who gives you the best advice when you seek it, who carries you during your difficulties, who comforts you when you’re in pain, who shakes you out of your misery, and who makes you a better person.
Allah (swt) describes Himself as Al-Wali, the Protecting Friend and the Ally of those who believe in Him and follow the path of truth. There is no truer friend. There is no better listener or companion.
I have been trying to incorporate this knowledge into my prayer – to feel that I am in the presence of a Lord who cares about me so deeply and fully, that I cannot even comprehend the scope of that caring.
And because I know that He cares, I want to express myself to Him with the knowledge that He is a Protecting Friend.
Even though I’ve felt the profound absence of the creation who loved me the most, theCreator who listens best, who will have more mercy on me than any creation ever can, has always been here. I can tell Him about my ideas and thoughts, knowing that He’ll never turn away from me. I can ask Him to guide me to the best of outcomes, knowing that He’ll be by my side as long as I am trying to following the path of truth. I can rely on Him to comfort me, to hold me in His every-watchful gaze, and to be the source of everything good and beautiful that will come my way.
Only in those moments of reliance will I feel the safety and love that I crave. Only in those moments will this loneliness that weighs heavily on my chest transform from a reality into a distant memory.
It’s my hope that you will also recognize Allah (swt) as the Protecting Friend that He is. No matter who you have and who you lose in this world, if you have Him, your life will be full of light and hope.
“Allah is the Protecting Friend of those who believe. He bringeth them out of darkness into light” (2:257).
Photo Credit: Jim Makos