We never know, of course, when our chances will cease. I have just seen the CCTV footage showing the moment when a car driven by a drunken driver sped through red lights at a junction and ploughed into the car in which my brother-in-law was travelling the Sunday before last. The speeding car hit the rear passenger door and killed my brother-in-law’s best friend, who happened to have swapped sides with him on this one occaison. Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we return.
As the years pass by, there is always a part of us that wants to look backwards, to reminisce about a life we have left behind now. We travelled up to North Yorkshire this weekend to visit my parents and I had in mind to take a detour to Hull on our return: to remember old friends, revisit old streets and see how much has changed. We didn’t get to go there as it happened, but I did realise another desire of mine: to return to York mosque.
We left the Rectory half way through the morning on Monday and made good progress back past York and towards the M1. We had travelled about 30 miles and were about 10 miles short of the motorway when my wife suddenly remembered that we had forgotten our coats. She insisted on going back for them since they are all we have to protect us from the cold through the winter and my asthma medicine was with mine. Grudgingly I took the next slip road off the bypass, crossed the bridge and headed back in the opposite direction. We had travelled for forty minutes already and I was mindful of the 200 miles still to go ahead of us, but it was the only way.
Alhamdulilah for that. Though perhaps I was irritated as I counted an extra sixty miles and another hour added to our journey, I can only say Alhamdulilah. This time, setting off for home once more I gave more thought to the nagging within which asked me to revisit that old mosque of mine. I don’t know how many times over the years I have told myself that I must pop in to whisper salams, but it seems that I was never able to. Alhamdulilah; had we not forgotten our coats we would never have returned perhaps.
I am so glad that we did. We arrived there in time for dhuhr prayer and just before a lovely gentleman arrived to open up the doors and let us in. Last time I visited, the mosque committee was raising funds to build an extension for women and the growing community at large. As I skirted the small building I wondered if they had ever realised that goal, for it was a long time since my last visit. It was only after standing in the prayer hall for a couple of minutes that I realised just how tiny the original mosque had been, recalling the tight dimensions of those Friday prayers I had once sought out so keenly.
I realised that it was eight years since I last visited and yet this kind man somehow remembered me. He greeted my wife with salams, opened the prayer room for her and switched the amplifiers on without any intervention on my part (we have to specifically ask at my local mosque). His warmth and beautiful nature reminded me what I so loved about that modest little mosque as a visiting stranger almost a decade ago. Although I was travelling, I just had to do dhuhr with them and stay for a little time in that now slightly bigger mosque before our long journey onwards.
My brief return made me so happy and it was alhamdulilah-for-forgetting-our-coats all the way home. Alhamdulilah that Allah gave us a second chance. Thinking about it now, it seems a rather fitting parable for our lives.
O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.
Hadith Qudsi reported in the collections of Tirmidhi and Ahmad.