Quite often, we tend to forget about the bigger picture. The other side. The Hereafter and its consequences. Our minds get so entwined and intoxicated with this Dunya that when a trial shakes us out of this deep slumber, we are quite frankly gob smacked, confused and stunned. Like cold water smacking our faces into reality. To remind us that this Dunya is purely an examination ground for its inhabitants to be thoroughly tested. It’s not a playground for the heedless and thrill seekers. Or the followers of lust and gluttony. Although many do perceive it this way. Perhaps we all get distracted by the pomp, the glitter and the shiny lights. And perhaps we all need that wake up call every so often. A loud ringing both devastating but inevitable. Like the test we now faced.
Perplexed, stunned and scared were a few of the reactions that were pulsating through me, making my heart pump sporadically that rang loudly in my ears. Like the sound of dangerously hot bubbling water.
What had my Sister just said?
To hear of someone questioning the existence of Allah is worrying enough. But to hear of someone saying that they woke up one day and just ‘couldn’t feel emaan or understand who Allah is’ was terrifying. As if someone had dissected that part of the brain where the precious knowledge about Allah was stored. Like a silent thief in the night. I asked my Sister to explain a bit more and to describe what she felt but, she was coming out with jumbled phrases.
‘I just can’t feel it anymore. I can’t feel emaan.’
‘What do you mean, you can’t feel emaan anymore? How can it just go? That doesn’t make sense!’
‘No…you don’t understand. I can’t explain it myself…it all just feels gone. Empty.’
I just sat there staring at her, almost annoyed. This just didn’t make sense at all. How can someone just lose- Aha! I know what this is.
‘Look, it’s probably just low emaan. Everybody feels a bit numb every now and then. Or maybe your heart has hardened a little so you’re finding it hard to feel things. You just need to pray more and read more Qur’an. Watch, this empty feeling will go.’
There you go. I had solved the mystery. And feeling quite satisfied with myself, I left the room as I was late for work. And partly because I wanted to get away from the whole situation. It was very unnerving. And somewhere deep down…I still wondered if this really was just the hardening of the heart or low emaan. Could it be something else? If you have seen my sister’s eyes, you would have equally felt the shiver that I felt. Because when you looked at her eyes carefully, it was as if the light had gone from them.
As if you were looking at a lifeless mannequin.
Some weeks went by and there was still no improvement. In fact, my Sister began to deteriorate both physically and mentally. She started experiencing aches and pains in her body. Constant headaches. Bloatedness. Family and friends began to notice that something was very wrong. I mean who wouldn’t notice a silent person sitting in one place for hours, as if mourning something that they had lost. What was going on inside of her mind? How could she have changed so quickly?
What had she lost?
“If only I could explain to them what I was desperately trying to say. If only I knew myself why I couldn’t feel the most precious feeling in the world, emaan anymore. How do I explain that everything that I had gathered and learnt about Islam and the very reason for my existence…had vanished. Blurred. So now I felt no need to exist anymore. I felt like a hypocrite. A sinner. Mental. Crazy. Insane. Delirious. Hallucinating a vacuum of nothingness that was sucking at my intellect, my consciousness and my emotions. My mind was disintegrating. Maybe I had some brain infection? That could explain the sudden pain and illness I suppose. Or maybe it was some mental block? Or maybe my heart really had hardened so much that I couldn’t feel anything anymore. Maybe Allah was punishing me because I had taken my religion for granted. I just didn’t know anymore. Over and over, my mind raced through every possible reason, frantically searching for its lost components. When I tried to read Qur’an to find answers, I would just see the terrifying ayaat about hypocrites and the punishment of the Hellfire. As if they were meant only for me. Then there were times where I could only believe in the Angel of Death and that he was searching for me. Hunting me down for my sudden wave of disbelief. Or hypocrisy. Some days I could just believe in the Hellfire as if its sparks and flames were already touching me. But, some days I couldn’t believe in anything at all. My fear and confusion grew with every day. In fact, I couldn’t even differentiate between night or day. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I could barely breathe. I couldn’t even think about my children anymore. All I could think about was this numb confusing feeling, this emptiness that overwhelmed me. This frustrating, terrifying absence that had engulfed me whole.”
We debated atheism. Discussed Islam. We researched scientific miracles, the history of the Quranic revelations and the story of Adam Alayhiswassallam. Anything that may act as a cue to perhaps trigger off a memory that would unlock all of this confusion. The way a dam lets loose water that is desperately trying to escape.
But nothing helped.
Perhaps this was an illness I thought to myself. Could it be depression? She certainly looked depressed. So I booked her an appointment and took her to the Doctor’s surgery. As I sat in the waiting room, I noticed a young girl playing with a puzzle. Giggling and laughing, showing her parents her work of art. I smiled wondering how had life passed us by so quickly, leaving us to deal with the problems of life that made us feel so old? Or maybe I was just tired. I glanced at my Sister, wondering if she was also thinking the same. Turns out she hadn’t even noticed the girl. She was staring into her hands. Was she searching for answers there?
When we were finally called, I was quite apprehensive. What exactly were we going to tell the Doctor when I didn’t understand it properly myself? But my Sister managed to describe her symptoms quite easily. That she was feeling down, confused about reality and unable to feel certain about her religion. Feeling pain in the right arm and leg. Tension in the head. Feeling suicidal. I was shocked at that one, but I didn’t show it. I guess I had to be the calm assured one.
I used to secretly cry at work because I didn’t want my family to see how disturbed and down I felt about what was happening to my Sister and how it was affecting the whole family. The most painful thing was the ‘not knowing’ part. Because if I knew what it was then I could fix it right? Then maybe I wouldn’t feel so incredibly helpless. And subhanAllah this reminds me of how Merciful Allah is. That He did not leave us alone on this Earth without giving us clear signs and instructions to follow. Even when Adam Alayhi Wassalam was created, Allah Subhana Wata’ala taught him the names of everything. Likewise, Allah did not send down trials and tribulations without also giving us directions to the cure and solution, as a Mercy. And I prayed deeply for this Mercy…
After twenty minutes and an awkward discussion, we walked out of the surgery with a prescription for antidepressants. Was it really that easy to obtain them? No blood tests? No hard evidence needed? You just tell the Doctor that you feel ‘low’ and they give you the magical pill? (excuse the pun). Can our problems really be solved with a dose of tablets made up of chemicals that have very long names?
The reason I was worried was because antidepressants are extremely addictive. They work by affecting the central nervous system and when you stop taking them, you can suffer withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, panic attacks and fever. But, most Doctors won’t really tell you that. Every medicine has side effects, it just depends on how desperate you are about feeling ‘better’. It’s sad to note that some people who are afflicted by Magic end up relying on antidepressants, thinking that they have depression. Because they aren’t knowledgeable on this topic, they struggle to differentiate the symptoms of depression and Magic. Both can be very similar. This is the mistake that we initially fell into as we were of those who knew nothing about Magic. Is ignorance not the root of all mistakes?
We headed home, feeling hopeful that we had found the cure to my Sister’s strange behavior. But I had a very bad feeling about these pills; I was never comfortable with chemicals going into the body. And so I told her not to take them and instead we could focus on therapy and counselling. You know, take her mind off things, make her happy and give her things to look forward too.
Allah Subhana Wata ‘ala Has Created so much beauty and harmony in this world, if only we could stop and see it. Happiness isn’t so far away from us you know, it’s us who choose the path full of distractions, tension and sadness.
As Muslims we are told not to despair and not to sit back and expect things to solve themselves. And I certainly wasn’t going to. I had full faith that Allah Subhana Wata’ala surely would help us if we made a small effort ourselves. So I began taking proactive steps to fix this problem. Since at the time I thought my Sister was depressed, I began a routine of taking her out to visit friends, going out for meals, getting her to help me with art projects. I even got her to join the Gym as I knew the benefits of exercising. I was hoping it would release some endorphin in her and make her feel happy again.
But it didn’t. Day by day I watched her deteriorate more and more, correlating with my feeling of helplessness.
We began to search for other explanations as her symptoms was more to do with Islam and not feeling low due to life or an adverse life event. I thought perhaps she was suffering from extreme waswasa. An excessive amount of Shaytanic whispering can cause you to doubt your faith, making you paranoid about acts of worship and completely confuse your mind about the simplest of things. It seemed to fit my Sister’s behavior. This seemed to fit more appropriately than depression so we tried to find ways to fight this waswasa. Remember I said I don’t like to give up so easily? I just couldn’t allow my Sister to deteriorate because of some evil Shaytaan. We tried repeating the Shahadah again and again. We tried writing the Shahadah out in English and explaining every word. I even tried reverse Psychology. Islamic talks. I even tried physical force once.
Yes really. One evening, I began to lightly push my sister on the shoulders hoping to trigger a reaction. Because she had become that emotionless. My voice grew louder, telling her to just think properly, to fight back. To snap out of it. I was trying to help her and partly myself. By releasing some tension. It had affected me more than I had realized. See this is the thing with Magic, or any trial as a matter of fact. It affects the whole family because it’s a test given to the slave needing to exercise patience and it’s a test given to the close onlookers needing to react correctly. Do they offer support? Do they sacrifice time and help the afflicted person? Do they also turn to Allah and seek repentance?
Finally my sister responded saying ‘Yes, I will fight this. I will!’. But, it didn’t sound so certain. I ignored this anyway. Because I began to feel so drained of it all.
And because I was suddenly going through something very strange myself.
It started off as a normal day but, I was in an extremely mood. No, not just a bad mood but I felt an intense feeling of sadness. I wasn’t sure why I felt like this but, I blamed it on the stress with my Sister. Or maybe hormones. By evening it had gotten worse. I just sat in my room with a sudden rush of such grief inside of me that I was on the verge of wailing and crying out in pain. I sat staring out of my bedroom window, crying profusely. Clutching my stomach in pain. I didn’t know why it hurt. In fact I had absolutely no clue why I was crying. I just felt excruciating psychological pain throbbing inside of me. Pumping through my heart, sliding up my throat and finally gushing out of my eyes. I guess the situation with my Sister had really got to me? That’s all. I was just releasing some of the stress. I tried not to think much of it. I mean, what else could it be? After I had calmed down enough, I wiped my eyes and carried on as normal. Tears have many colors. And mine were as dark as the darkness of clouds heavy with rain. But, there are times when it’s best to hide them away to protect others. Because I tended to be the one who held my family together. And I couldn’t break down now, especially when my family members were going through difficult calamities.
I had my Sister to worry about. Not to mention my Mother whom I had recently found out was afflicted with Magic. I had lacked in making Ruqya water for her because of what was happening and-
I gasped. Could it be? SubhanAllah, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that my Sister could also be suffering from Magic. Could she? Because it was something that happened to other people. But it seemed to make so much sense now. And it was in that moment that I could see the Mercy that I was asking for, had come. And it was exactly what I needed when I myself, was feeling so despondent. You will notice that this is the Beautiful Sunnah of Allah. He, Subhana Wata ‘ala, rushes towards us with ease when we feel like we have crumbled to our lowest, most desperate point. He gives us this ease like rare pearls from the bottom of the ocean. Just to tell us ‘My slave, I won’t let you drown in this difficulty. I will Lift you out so you can breathe again’.
To be continued, in sha Allah…
I look forward to your comments below 🙂