Has it happened to anyone you know? Ever see the sister or brother who was the life of Muslim activities? They kept the MYNA (Muslim Youth of North America), or MSA (Muslim Students' Association), or Masjid, or Islamic Center going; they were in a hundred places at the same time, working on dozens of Islamic projects, meetings, lectures, bazaars, conferences, conventions and parties.
And then the sister faded. The brother wilted. They no longer appeared everywhere: sometimes, they were nowhere to be seen for fairly long stretches of time around the Muslim scene.
Some said Yasser didn't pray regularly anymore. People said Ameena was distracted, or busy with college work, or was just not interested anymore.
But how could you lose interest, after years of almost full-time commitment? Surely Islamic fervor didn't just evaporate. How come Ameena didn't want to participate in every Islamic activity there was? How come Yasser wasn't in touch with the brothers for long periods of time. Why wasn't Ameena making speeches about giving time to your MSA anymore?
Yasser said he didn't want to. Ameena said she felt like a hypocrite if she made speeches. Yasser said he was busy, he didn't enjoy it anymore, it wasn't the same anymore inside. What on earth did he mean? Wasn't he the same inside? He wasn't replaced by aliens, was he? He still came to the Masjid sometimes, looking down in the dumps and remaining sort of in the shadows. He told Marwa that he felt guilty all the time, that he had stopped doing all the great things that he used to do, and he knew he shouldn't stop, but he couldn't do them anymore, he just couldn't; there was no fun in them anymore. What was lost?
It was too bad, such a waste of a great brother, a wonderful sister. They had so much potential, and now they were just occasional appearances in the Muslim scene, or they said they were sick, or busy, or couldn't make it. From being flaming torches, they were sputtering candles.
Scary, some of the sisters and brothers whispered to each other. How could someone go from that to that? Some sort of demonic possession or what!
Not quite. Yasser and Ameena were the same persons, they had the same fervent hearts, but those hearts were clogged and muffled. Their sins had rusted them over? we wondered. Hm - sort of, but not quite.
In his teens, Yasser had worked really hard to get everyone involved. Soccer games, lectures, Iftar parties, picnics, conventions, study groups. Ameena had been doing even more. Wasn't all of that enough to keep their hearts alive? All of that brotherhood-sisterhood, all those events? Maybe kids needed to do even more?
Maybe. More of a different kind. What was missing from Yasser and Ameena's planners? - A few minutes of Dhikr! Relaxed Salat (prayer), relaxed Sujud (prostration), thorough Dua (supplication).
They had talked and talked, at meetings, at conferences, at parties, to people. They hadn't talked much to Allah, or even about Allah.
Why, after all, they wondered, why are we doing all this? After years of rushing from task to task, from party to picnic, from lecture to study group, they felt empty inside. What's the difference between me and a purely political youth group? I'm working to get more and more of the youth involved, to get more dollars for the Masjid, to get more signatures on the Bosnia letter, to get more people for the soccer game Thursday, and why? To show the power of Muslims? All groups did that. All organizations wanted to look big. There seemed to be no big difference. Republicans and Democrats on campus wanted to do that. So what was so unique about us?
When Yasser was no longer intensively involved in the group, meeting them for lunch and dinner and after dinner, he stopped praying regularly. Ameena wasn't terribly concerned about the sisters' study group when she wasn't there all the time; she didn't seem to be reading much Islamic literature. -Well, she used to read pamphlets and booklets that were about organizations; there wasn't a lot of Tafseer (exegesis), Hadith, or devotional literature. She was just terribly talented, whenever she wanted to make a speech, she knew where to locate all the materials, and her speeches were always funny and inspiring: about how all the kids needed to be proud of their identity as Muslims, how they needed to be involved in all the Masjid activities, because if they didn't, who would? And if they didn't now, how did they expect to do it later, when they were at college, or when they were married?
She used to say these things, then, but now they sounded rather circular: do it so that there's someone to do it. Why, after all, do it in the first place: No one had talked much about that.
No one had emphasized - the way they emphasized Islamic work - how important it was to do things for the sake of Allah. She realized that now. So did Yasser. But even "doing things for the sake of Allah" didn't have a resounding ring to it. Allah seemed very distant; how could you do things for the sake of someone you didn't know?
It was like, you needed some acquaintance's help badly, and you suddenly realized that you hadn't taken the trouble to get close enough to them, so that you could work with them to improve the situation.
They knew it was important - and fun - to hang around their Muslim friends, and they did. That was wonderful. It brought them to meetings and lectures where they saw things and felt things. But when they went home, they wanted to go back, and they couldn't seem to take some part of that feeling with them. Couldn't it be with them all the time, when they were alone, when they were praying - so that they could pray really wonderfully, and not feel so darned EMPTY now. Some of the brothers and sisters were like that: they prayed and they really prayed. Like they were talking to a really close friend! But Yasser and Ameena hadn't felt that. They envied the ones who had, but they sort of just stood outside and watched enviously. No one had talked about how to do it.
No one had talked about how to make that feeling last, that high, that enthusiasm which they felt at a youth meeting, at an Imam Siraj Wahhaj lecture, at a sisters' and brothers' convention, - it wasn't there now, it didn't last forever, but now it didn't even visit occasionally. Where had it gone? It was like a childhood haunt that you missed for the rest of your life.
What Yasser and Ameena had been doing was great. No one could take their place. But they didn't know, and no one told them, that you can't be always giving, giving, giving, and never run out. You can't act like a superhuman force that always produces output. You need some input.
You need time alone, with some Dhikr that gives peace and a sense of continuity to you. When you're young, you don't think you need anything, and you maybe think that you shouldn't need anything. But you do need to give nourishment to your soul, while your body and soul struggle through Dunya (this world) and Akhira (the Next Life).
Yasser was right when he said there was no fun in Islamic work anymore. His heart was still struggling to produce, but it was shriveled inward because it didn't get any nourishment.
No remembrance of Allah, which is a source of life when our own resources dry up. No conversation with Allah, except when he really needed help to get the convention done right. No talking to Him about the emptiness, about fear, about how he really needed His help at ALL times. How he was never on his own. It wasn't Ameena's strength or Yasser's motivation that were keeping the work going. They were tempted to think that they really were fantastic the way they carried the burdens on their youthful shoulders, but they knew that wasn't decisive.
Especially now. Yasser and Ameena were shadows of their former selves, but the other, younger kids had come forward and taken over. (Rather sad that they were not indispensable.)
Allah sure has His ways of letting people do His work. If not Yasser, then Ameena, if not Ameena, then Samir; if not Samir, then Nura, and on it went. He didn't really NEED any of them to do anything.
Considering that, Ameena pondered, it was pretty wonderful that He had let her do it. For a while. Rather a pity, at the same time, that she hadn't made wise use of what she'd been given. She shouldn't have squandered all her time, work, effort, resources on outward work. It wasn't that work that was the objective after all. All that was left in the end was Allah and the fact that He didn't really need anyone to do His work. He could bring good out of any situation, could inspire anyone to do His work, the way Nura had changed, from a flighty, indifferent sort of person to a dedicated activist.
Yasser knew, too, that he hadn't saved anything for this time of need. He had used up all his enthusiasm on producing outward results. When the youth leaders talked about the necessity of spiritual work, he nodded and thought, when I'm older and have more time. Sure, it was important, but right now, the annual convention was important and it took up all his time. Next week it would be Islamic Awareness Week, and he needed to be everywhere. He didn't have the time to go sitting for hours on a prayer-mat, or take out Dawa-time for self-evaluation - which was darned scary and uncomfortable anyway. Plus, that was probably more of a girlie thing, wasn't it? Surely it wasn't as important as Dawa, or as the MSA magazine, or the Iftar preparations, and the guest speaker's arrangements?
Plus what did people see? They saw what the convention hall looked like, the meal arrangements for the Eid party, the number of guests at the fundraising dinner. Wasn't that most important?
What do you think, teen reader?
How important is it to build your relationship with Allah, your knowledge of your own soul and its strengths and weaknesses? To remember Allah and ponder on His creation.