3 years ago, I wanted to go to Makkah for my graduation trip. I was going through a difficult time because I knew I wasn’t going to practise law, after spending 4 years in law school. I was feeling lost and I thought that being in Makkah would help me. However, I changed my mind. I thought ‘I can go for Umrah when I’m older. Why should I go there when I can travel to Europe with the same amount of money.’ Astaghfirullahaladzim. How warped was my thinking back then? How many times have I put Allah second in my life? How can my heart not hurt thinking about that?
Last year, while I was preparing for my wedding, the thought crossed my mind again. I felt a strong urge to make the Makkah trip a reality. I would wake up in the morning and my first thought would be ‘How do I make this happen?’ The feelings were so strong that I couldn’t ignore them. During lunch, I decided to speak to Firdaus. I told him that I really wanted to do Umrah by the first year of our marriage. Firdaus’s face changed. You see, he was at a crossroads of his life. His 4-year bond at work was ending and we weren’t sure what was next. Should he stay? Should he leave? Should he do his masters or find another company? We were still figuring things out together. Firdaus smiled at me and said, “In shaa Allah. We will see how it goes okay?” I know Firdaus really well. When I mention a plan that is beneficial, he would try his best to make it happen. However, he’s also excellent at managing expectations.
For some reason, that answer shattered my heart. ‘Is this trip going to be postponed again? Why didn’t he say yes?’ Then, it hit me. Firdaus can’t make this happen; only Allah has control over our affairs. Everything is from Him. I went straight to the musollah. I remember praying and crying in sujood. I pleaded with Allah to allow me to visit His house. I begged for a way for me to be at the birthplace of our Prophet Muhammad SAW. I asked Him for a chance see the Kaabah in real life. I told Him that I knew that He is Al-Hakeem and trust Him to decide when and how to answer my dua. Just like that, I felt utterly relieved. The burden was lifted because I had surrendered my sadness and all my broken pieces to Allah.
Less than a year later, Firdaus got accepted to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Alhamdulillah. I remember how excited he was while he was breaking the news to me. He informed me that the campus is just 2 hours away from Makkah. With widened eyes and a huge smile, he said, “Alia, with our visa we can go to Makkah and Madinah anytime! We can even go for Hajj!” For a moment, I couldn’t breathe. The emotions in my heart were so overwhelming that they escaped through my ever-flowing tears. I was so stunned by Allah’s Generosity and Mercy that I spent many nights crying myself to sleep. It’s true – when a servant raises his hands to Allah in supplication, He becomes shy to return them empty. We just need to trust Him completely.
“Labbayka Allaahumma labbayk, labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Inna al-hamda wa’n-ni‘mata laka wa’l-mulk, laa shareeka lak (Here I am, O Allaah, for ‘Umrah. Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty, You have no partner).” So there I was in Makkah, a couple of months later. You know what? I can’t even begin to describe how I felt when I saw the Kaabah for the first time. You really have to come here and experience it for yourself. During Tawaf, my heart felt moved to look right. I saw a man. He was glancing at the Kaabah, wincing and then turning away. He repeated this 3 times. Glance, wince, turn away. Suddenly, he burst into tears. While trudging on, he buried his face in his hands and cried. I started sobbing too. I recognised the pain in him. I recognised the incredulity. I recognised how he must be feeling. I thought ‘Oh Allah, You heard my pleas. You invite me to Your house even though I’m so flawed. You choose to bring me here although I’ve made so many mistakes. You are the only one who loves me unconditionally.’ Although I didn’t get here earlier, I wouldn’t want to change anything. Allah’s timing is perfect; He’s never early or late. We are exactly where we are supposed to be. If I had done Umrah for my graduation trip, I’m not sure I would revel in the experience as much as I did.
We are not perfect. We are a combination of all the lessons we’ve learnt from our mistakes. We have fallen and gotten back up again. We have hurt people but we have also loved them with all our hearts. We are works-in-progress. I’ve come to realise that my past experiences are pure blessings. Only through these heart-wrenching experiences did I realise how silly I had been. They made me realize that I can rely on none except Allah. No one will ever love us more than Him. I’m still struggling, just like you. Every day is a test for me. Every day, I have to consciously remind myself to be the best Muslimah possible. Like me, I know that there will be times when you feel unworthy. You feel hopeless. You feel like you have failed. You feel like everything is just a waste. I want you to know that nothing is ever wasted. Every experience shapes you. Every experience makes you grow. Every experience is from Allah, and He is Most Compassionate and Most Merciful. As long as your experiences guide you towards Allah, I want us to have faith that everything that happens to us is ultimately good for us. Trust me, it still baffles me that He answered my prayer. We keep stumbling but Allah says, “… and My Mercy embraces all things.” [7:156] If we only knew how beautifully Allah has carved out our journey, we would cry out of gratefulness.
The most amazing part is that Allah is closer to you than your jugular vein. Allah is always ready for you to return back to Him. Our Prophet SAW said, “Allah, Blessed and Exalted is He, says, ‘O son of Adam, as long as you call on Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and think nothing of it. O son of Adam, even if your sins were to reach up to the clouds in the sky, and then you were to ask for My forgiveness, I would forgive you and think nothing of it. O son of Adam, even if you were to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, and then you were to meet Me after death, not worshipping anything besides Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as the earth.’” [Tirmidhi]
You just have to keep striving.