{A Bona Fide Deen}

Published in Muftah

We all remember our first days of fasting; the look of pride and elation at finally being able to partake in this very grown up thing, smugly refusing any juice-boxes with a ‘Not today… I am fasting thank you very much!’. Some fasted with great enthusiasm, while I cheated… every chance I got. No one in the kitchen?

Will you look at that… a sambuksa just disappeared… in my mouth.

You’d think I felt some sort of shame. Nope, not even an iota of it. I suppose it was because I shared a very relaxed relationship with the Big Guy. As I cheated and stuffed my face in delight I’d look up at the ceiling and imagine  an expression of bemused affection. Well over time that expression turned from kindness to rage and then straight up hate. Overtime I was bombarded with so many versions of Him that I just became disenchanted and angry. I began to withhold from Him; all my joys, my fears, my hopes, and everything till we became distant strangers. To get a gist of the turmoil I was going through, here is a snippet of an old journal entry of mine;

He feels so far away, almost a void of nothing, no love, hate, just fear. I know I could put my mind to it, pray like everyone, but I would do it only from fear… fear of the dissapointment from my family, fear of the constant nagging to pray… and fear of hell, of His anger. I want to praise Him of my own will, when I feel ready and worthy enough to mutter His words back to Him. I am filthy, filled to the brim with thoughtless arguments, grugdes I have collected against Him, of the countless shit happening to me, my family, fucking humanity. I cannot keep my faith intact becasue I always build it on the base of fear, which within days my supposed pious self crumbles and reveals what I am, filthy and unworhty, unready for the truth. My ears shun Him, my eyes avoid Him, and my body disregards His command to kneel. Even the words I mutter of thanking Him sound useless to me, so untrue to my ears. How I wish I can just abandon whatever it is thats holding me back, be it myself my laziness, grips of the devil… whatever and just overwhelm myself with whats good, the awesomness of undertanding and being Allah’s words, just being at peace with myself. I feel an outrage whenever someone tells me of how they cried while they prayed because of the relief cast upon them, and I sit with myself wallowing in self-pity crying why cant that be me?

I realize that we Sudanese have the trait of bearing and not sharing our misery. We have the unspoken rule of ‘carry your load with dignity and never create waves, only calm and gentle ripples if need be’. As for vulnerability? Thats just a useless emotion. It’s not as if someone sat me down and taught me the ropes of bottling in all negative emotion while masking it with an eerily carefree smile. Because nine out of ten that smile was loaded with unbearable pain, hurt, and just plain rage at everything; myself, my family, my extended family, society, Sudan, friends, people in general, the whole damn world. To actually sit and unburden myself to Him was a burden in itself. To bring down brick by brick the dam I had built to hold all back was daunting and oh so terrifying. That in itself would create violent waves that I am not strong enough to withstand. But with time that load sears and leaves charred marks to your arteries, eroding your sense of compassion, deadening basic feeling, leaving you an apathetic mass just taking up space.

This is what ails Sudan the most. Sudanese can withstand so much that it is beyond reason. We stand with ruler straight backs, make not a sound as we are lashed with injustice, lashed with oppression, lashed with failure of every imaginable government sector, and we only permit ourselves a whoosh of a sigh so as to only create a slight ripple. We are in full denial of the abuse, when it clearly shows on our welted scars.

At one point I came to the realization that I was dying. Dying from all the suppressed vexation. It took me some time to be able to approach the prayer rug because shame is a hefty barrier. But, I let what I could go. Cupped one by one, each coal of wrath; spoke, yelled, whispered, and sobbed to it, and finally doused it in forgiveness. I still have so much to unclog, to reveal a clear path so that I may be able to hold a conversation with God without any inhibitions. My hands are already cracked and bleeding but I continue to take down my dam brick by brick. And I can profess that as a Muslim I am no where near even the half mark. Before you raise your eyebrows, understand that it takes more than just praying five times a day, reading Quran and hadiths etc. steps that are clearly labeled. It is the battle in our hearts that is the hardest test, because what lies there is not unseen to our maker yet we blind ourselves to it. I admit I have much to mend in mine.

So to the people of Sudan, unclog your arteries and face your pain and rage and come to my same realization; it is time for you to cause devastating waves. Let it crash. Let it roar. Let it heal you so that you may look onto tomorrow with a dazzling hope.