Although my wife often reminds me that believers do not grieve over the past nor worry for the future, I often find myself lamenting the many mistakes I made over the years of my life and the numerous opportunities that passed me by. Sometimes it looks like it might subsume me as I begin to dwell on those experiences that caused me pain or regret. A decade has passed since I set out as a student in London, but sometimes it feels as if it was just yesterday. Sometimes the wounds still feel raw. Those “poems” that some were so keen that I restore arose from a dark period of my life. It is true that light came after darkness, but trouble still followed me.
This May it will be ten years since I embraced Islam, since I embarked upon this journey, and over three thousand days have passed since then–and eighteen thousand prayers. Yet it still hurts that a person I had immense respect for–whose character had been silent dawah for me–came to view my decision to embrace Islam with suspicion and went on to warn my fellow students not to trust me. It still hurts that my landlord accused me of a serious crime after learning that I had become a Muslim. It still bothers me that my closest friends turned their backs on me.
It is seven years since I left my first job after graduation, but it still irritates me that my managers asked me if I mistreated my wife because they learned that she wears hijab. It still annoys me that my colleague sent me the harrowing surviver’s account of an escape from the twin towers of the World Trade Centre shortly before they collapsed–telling me that this would help me understand.
And so I sit here often, lamenting that I did not respond, that I was polite and patient, refraining from asserting myself. I lament that my shyness prevented me from confronting them head on. I regret that things worked out the way they did.
Today, however, I am saying “Alhamdulilah”; today, however, I am grateful. On my return from a meeting this morning I tuned into Vanessa Feltz’s phone-in programme on BBC Radio London, which I was able to pick up all the way until I reached the outskirts of Aylesbury, where the signal died. Amongst the topics being discussed was whether listeners would be truthful to their partners concerning the number of “lovers” they had had in the past, prompted by the case of an eighteen year old girl who claimed she had had intimate relations with at least 50 men in two years which came to light in a BBC programme entitled “Sex… With Mum and Dad“. As people rang in to talk about their sex lives–or rather their past lives–I started to feel incredibly grateful.
Though things have not always gone as I wanted in life, I have to say, “Alhamdulilah”. Alhamdulilah that I was this shy character. Alhamdulilah that I feared my parents. Alhamdulilah that whatever errors I made in my life, they really were of little significance. When I married my wife, she was my first, my only. Alhamdulilah. Over the preceding years many laughed at me, mocked and scoffed, but today I can say “Alhamdulilah” for I saved myself for one person absolutely, and I am not of those people who today lament, “I wish I had saved myself for you.” Alhamdulilah.
Looking back, should I really lament the path that led me here? Should I be subsumed in sorrow? I know the answer now. It is as my wife frequently reminds me: believers do not grieve over the past nor worry for the future.