Reflection by Maryam J. Mathieu
During the drive to Camp Couchiching for the annual SeekersHub Toronto retreat, all I could think about was what questions I could ask the scholars to help me figure out how to make hijra into a new life. For years, and especially since I converted to Islam a year and a half ago, I’d obsessed about where I want to go, besides where I am, and what I want to do, besides what I’m doing.
I thought the answer to my happiness and my salvation was just around the corner. I believed that somewhere else is where I needed to be in order to be who I want to be and do what I’m meant to be doing. I felt like the friends and community I yearned for were somewhere else, and the work I longed to be doing was something else. I believed that in order for me to be happy and beloved to All Mighty Allah, I needed to go find that community where I belonged and that work for His sake that I longed to be doing.
My mind turned and turned on these questions, but within hours of arriving at the retreat, that changed. In one of the very first lectures, before I could think of the right questions or find the opportunity to seek counsel from any of the scholars, the questions I couldn’t even articulate were answered with finality, Praise be to God.
In his lecture from the Hikam of ibn Ata’illah, Shaykh Ahmad Saad warned us of the barriers that prevent our hearts from waking up to hear All Mighty Allah’s Call and the Messages He Sends everyday to Guide us on our Journey to Him. One of these barriers, Shaykh Ahmad told us, is the danger of attachment to states, the belief that another state of being, whether it’s a place or way of living, is the key to our happiness and salvation.
Rather, he explains to us, the state we are in at the moment is the state we are meant to be in, and yearning for another state, believing it is the key to our happiness and salvation prevents us from achieving that very happiness and salvation. Our mission is in the moment, and we need to trust All Mighty Allah to bring us to successive beautiful states while we focus on navigating the terrain He lays at our feet and heeding His Guidance as we travel terrain we can only see with our hearts.
As Muslims, we understand that this life is temporary; it’s a bridge between worlds, and we’re travelers on a Journey to our eternal Home, insha’Allah. And as Muslims, we know we’re traveling together. We’re on a sacred caravan through the worlds, and we have a responsibility to help each other on this Journey. We are instructed by the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) to feed each other when we’re hungry, support each other when we’re weak and protect each other when we’re in danger. Our strength is in community, and it’s in unity and coming together to guide, protect and shelter each other from the ravages of the dunya that our success in the akhira, both individually and as an Ummah, depends. The question is not, who do I want to be helping on the Path, but rather, who has Allah put on my Path to help?
Being at the SeekersHub retreat, I realized that my mission as a Muslim is to be where I am, on the terrain that All Mighty Allah has placed me. I need to be here with excellence, and while I’m focusing on what is at my feet, I need to put total trust in All Mighty Allah to Guide me to the next state I am meant to be in, God Willing. I realized also that retreats like this one, and like the Al Maqasid retreat I was at just a couple weeks prior, are oases on this Journey. I may not be where I long to be, but here are the people I love all gathered in remembrance of The Most Merciful, preparing to return to their homes to do His work, God Willing.
As Muslims, we all recognize this Journey, on some level, but it is easy to forget our mission and the responsibilities of the trusts that All Mighty Allah has put in our care. We get transfixed by the kaleidoscope of our fears, desires, conflicts, jealousies, resentments and other fleeting impulses meant to divert our gaze from the Face of Allah. In the daily grind of life in the dunya, our internal map becomes shredded and worn out and our compass, our heart, becomes unbalanced. We focus on our own needs, or the needs of those we love, rather than focusing on our neighbors’ needs and our community’s needs. But this retreat reminded me that we’re all in this together.
That’s why retreats like this one are vital to us, as individuals and as an Ummah. They are an oasis on the Journey where we can pause from the frantic pace of life and have our scholars help us repair and update our maps while they help us re-calibrate our hearts. The Qur’an with the Sunnah is our map and our hearts are our compasses, and without both in working condition, we are lost.
These oases are also a place to meet up with fellow travelers and seekers who remind us of what it means to be a Muslim. They offer the kind of companionship that is the promise of Islam, but which is so often lacking in our communities, so much so that we can forget it even exists. I’ve begun to meet friends at these retreats who I hope will be reminders on my Path and who I pray will be my neighbors in the akhira, God-willing. It’s also an opportunity to drink deep from the Spring of faith and prophetic guidance, which we will need for the next leg of our Journey, before we reach the next oasis retreat.
So as my map was filled in and updated, my compass calibrated and my heart warmed by the fire of companionship with gentle and soft-hearted Muslims, I’m reminded of my sacred mission on my Journey. I’m given renewed faith and energy to undergo the trials and tribulations that are the nature of the Path through life, because it’s not where I will end up on my Path that is important. Rather it’s where I am now that matters, and my sacred mission is to navigate the terrain at my feet with faith, patience and excellence, and to trust Allah to take care of the rest. Ameen.