Vigilance

Dear soul,

Once more, it is the week before Ramadan, where by tradition the scheming nafs will summon ideas and plans from deep within, intent on knocking us off course. Be vigilant. Do not succumb to those whispers from within, calling us back.

For a few months we have been moderately successful in taming those nafs. Don’t squander all we have gained in submission to our private tradition. Be vigilant. For if we are not, that seed will grow into a vicious weed, corrupting our fast. Do not answer the call from deep within. Leave the nafs’ contrivances. Close the door tight. Be strong against its petitions.

O my soul, I plead you: stand strong against the scheming nafs — and my eyes, tongue, fingers, ears too. All together: vigilance. Let us not squander yet another year. Leave those ideas and plans.

Overcoming the blues

It turns out that I am probably a workaholic. The blues hit me when I was not working. I often fall sick when I take a day off. Or perhaps that is too simplistic.

Perhaps joining a professionals social network heightened my feelings of inadequacy. Comparing yourself to your peers and friends of old is clearly unhealthy for mental wellbeing and a sense of self-worth.

Perhaps it was a momentary blip, caused by the stresses of lockdown, amidst the rivalries of children, the daily warfare, riots, tantrums and raised voices. Perhaps it was just cold weather and grey skies. Perhaps just whispers into my soul on a sleepless night.

Whatever it was, for now the blues have lifted. I have deleted the networking app. I have reminded myself to be grateful. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. I am learning, slowly, to let go of the past. Trying to hold a better opinion of myself.

One day I will overcome these blues.

Lies upon lies

The lies we must tell to feed our nafs. I shudder now, how my domineering nafs dominated me so completely. Numbed now, perhaps, only by minor melancholy, or an endocrine deficiency deliberately mismanaged in the pursuit of sanity. For years and years I led my own soul astray. Nightly, these recollections keep me awake. I fear my return to the One. I have failed completely. Lies upon lies upon lies. Can reform really obliterate all that went before? Can I repent enough? Can I become sincere? Can I make amends?

“He has succeeded who purifies the soul, and he has failed who corrupts the soul.” 

Quran 91:9-10

Ya Allah, purify my heart. Without You I am lost.

Conversing with yourself

I have conversations with myself all the time, mostly in self-reproach. It is the natural order. In my writing too, I converse away, opening my inner ramblings to passersby, even as daily I almost delete it all.

Continue reading “Conversing with yourself”

Wanderers

I don’t really know where to go, and who to hang out with anymore. But then, on reflection, I realise I never did. I’m just an older, greyer version of the kid at school who would wander round and round the school grounds, aimlessly, alone, pretending to go somewhere, though fully conscious that I was going nowhere at all, for I had nowhere to go, forever the outsider.

Continue reading “Wanderers”

A heavy weight

Every night when I head to bed, a voice within says, “Be quiet.” Speak good or remain silent. Restrain your tongue and typing fingers. As I lay my head on my pillow, these inner thoughts recur: “Disappear. Withdraw.” And each morning when I arise, I ask myself whether today will be the day when I respond to the inner petition: will I find the courage to vanish; to keep my thoughts to myself; to be like the commoners of old who had no reach or influence beyond their village or family.

But then the day wears on, and another voice says, “Express yourself. Speak good. Say what needs to be said.” And once more I am hammering on the keyboard, convinced for a moment that my words are important. That my words must be freed. And for a while it seems to be so. But by nightfall, that inner voice will return, petitioning me to withdraw. To free myself of these burdens. To become the nobody who walks unknown, influencing only his family and close companions.

Day and night, it has become a heavy weight on me, rending me in two.

Reformation

Without fail, every time I resolve to reform my soul, I almost immediately become preoccupied with new matters that do not concern me, which become an obsession, undermining my good intentions. In short, I replace one set of sins with another, and find myself entangled in a completely new web of my own making. It is a constant struggle.

This fool

A compulsion regularly comes over me which insists: “Write!” But in my heart, after all has been said and done, there is disquiet, regret, remorse: my writing betrays arrogance. After the fact, I wonder to myself: would silence not be better for you? Would it not be better not to release these words? Are you not only portraying your ignorance? Would it not be better to recognise your station and withdraw, to unpublish and retire? Each day, these are the thoughts that follow every essay. Am I merely just poisoning my own soul? And yet before I have had time to respond, there comes yet another compulsive urge to write down all that is on my mind. Once more I spill my soul onto the page, momentarily thinking it urgent, as if my words had any impact on the world. And then once more the regret and remorse: what an arrogant, conceited fool.

Exchange

It occurs to me with increasing frequency, that all the words that have been flowing from my fingers of late are merely a substitute for all the transgressions that passed before them. It took me an age, but eventually I fell down in repentance, resolving to make everything right and not return to those wicked ways. I closed the door, though it pained me. But all of a sudden this: opinions, essays, thousands of words. Have I merely been hoodwinked into exchanging one set of sins for another?

Lonesome

I have a habit of burning bridges and sinking boats. My impetuous nature causes me to make hasty decisions. To leave a group suddenly. To delete a hundred files. To speak my mind too freely. To be cynical in the midst of a frenzy of adoration. And ultimately, at my turning away, all my companions turn away too, tired of my abrupt reversals. In the end, there is no love lost: better to abandon the impulsive one and his frequent about-turns, as he burns yet another bridge and puts up another wall. Why invest any more time in our ferocious friend, they ask themselves, when he will ultimately just let us down? My friends have my sympathy: I can barely tolerate myself either.