Qadr – Divine Decree or “predestination” is the usual English language rendering of a belief that we, Muslims, call Qadr. The idea that your life is not a series of random uncorrelated events, but a highly coherent, beads-in-a-necklace chain of occurrences, each of which are specifically chosen for you by your Creator. Why? Because He knows you better than you know yourself.
If a few years ago, someone had come up to me and given me the description of the kind of person I’d be in 2016, I would have laughed. Who I am today would have seemed so far-fetched a few years ago, it would have been ludicrous. But we plan, and Allah plans; And Allah is the best of planners.
Like many Canadian-Pakistani youth from the 80’s, I owed the bulk of my religious awareness to my mother, who had poured her sweat and tears to ensure that her daughter had both love and fear of her Creator in her heart. It is something I will always be indebted towards her for, and alhumdulillah for that. But when it came to tangible religious knowledge, my understanding barely scraped the surface. I knew how to pray, but didn’t understand what I was saying. I knew how to read the Arabic text of the Qur’an – although in a Pakistani accent – and had read parts of translations, but I was unable to extract the essence of our religion, let alone guidance from it. In middle-school, high-school, and then university, I suffered through an identity crisis trying to figure out what it meant to be a Muslim-Canadian living in the West. For more than a decade, I intermittently yearned to quench the thirst of religious knowledge, but was too tied up in dunya to commit to anything significant. Studying, working, fulfilling my worldly responsibilities; I was what you could say, a part-time Muslim. Praying five times a day albeit without understanding, covering my head only when entering a mosque, listening to random lectures online and joining a few halaqas every once in a while was the height of my commitment to my religion. I felt guilty about it, and the guilt grew after I got married and then again, when I found out that I was having a baby girl in 2014. I needed help.
“What kind of a Muslim mother will I be to a Canadian-born Muslimah? What sort of knowledge of deen will I be able to impart onto her? Will I be able to answer the tough questions that will burn through her mind as she progresses through a wonderfully multicultural, spiritually confusing, life in a non-Muslim country? Will I be able to provide an explanation to her, for the questions my classmates and non-Muslim friends had asked me when I was younger, but I wasn’t equipped to answer – Is the Qur’an really the only true word of God? How do you know it hasn’t been altered? Every religion thinks they are on the right path, what makes you any different as a Muslim? Why are there so many people doing so many bad things in this world claiming to be Muslims? Why isn’t God reprimanding them? Why is there so much misery, and why are so many innocent suffering? If your God is the Most-Merciful, why isn’t He taking action – what is He waiting for!???…” I packed my bag with these and more, and set out in search of answers with a baby in my belly. I wanted her to have access to the truth through me; and as of right now I had no access to it myself. My du’aas were intense, my search, desperate. I was looking for my Creator.
And so Allah tested me by bringing me to the door of our local Alhuda, which was conveniently located 10 minutes away from where I lived. Coincidence, I thought. I know better now. “Should I do this”, I hesitated. While I had entered through its doors before, it had previously only been for Jummah salah (Friday prayer) or some mosque-related event, and never in search of answers. I signed up for their Taleem ul Qur’an course (Study of the Qur’an) which was an intensive 5-days-a-week, year-and-a-half long commitment. “You can’t handle it, you don’t even know how to read Arabic properly”, said the voice in my head. “You won’t even last a week!” – Tafsir, Tajweed, Arabic Grammar, Seerah, Hadith, Fiqh, and more! My heart was beating out of my chest, but I took the leap of faith. No pun intended.
Coming to class that first week was difficult. I sat there, critically dissecting the teacher’s every word and statement. “Is she really conveying the truth? Why should I trust her and this institution as my source of knowledge? Ya’Allah do not let me astray as I am searching for You.” I kept coming, day after day, hoping that today will be the day my questions will be answered. I wanted to believe because of the evidence, not in spite of it. And then one day, the unimaginable happened. Specks of light began piercing through the cloud of smoke – the words of the Qur’an began speaking to me, and I felt connected to my Creator. A metamorphosis began. As the year progressed, every lesson became my personal time with my Allah, listening to the wisdom He had written down for my guidance, trying to internalize it and implement it. I felt humbled, grateful, honored. I felt,… inadequate.
I had to be a better person, shed my previous skin, detach from my worldly addictions, and live this life as a traveller who has yet to reach her destination. I had to begin demolishing the mountains of falsehood I had built around me. Could I do it? This was the test. It was painful, but I began making changes in my life. Hijab was a major one. Leaving my high-paying spiritually-threatening job was another. Being a better human being, and a more devout worshipper – these are still work in progress…
The summer of 2016 marked the end of the best 18 months of life thus far. It was bitter-sweet, as Ramadan was just around the corner, and what a blessing it was! Standing in salat-ul-lail (night prayer) that month, felt like a gift straight from Allah – the Arabic recited by the Imam, falling on my ears and penetrating my heart as if for the first time. I felt like I had been deaf all my life, and was finally starting to hear… Alhumdulillah. Alhumdulillah. Alhumdulillah.
I felt spiritually awake, my heart experiencing clarity as if never before.
So Allah put forth another test. He gave me the opportunity to go for Hajj, the once-in-a-lifetime obligation upon every Muslim. And the test – whether I would leave my 2-year old daughter behind, the child who had fired this entire upheaval inside of me. Would I be okay if something happened to her while I was on Hajj. As painful as the thought was, I knew the answer was yes. My imaan was strong. And so I took another leap of faith, and went. Alhumdulillah for that. My daughter stayed safe and happy with her grandparents, while I rode the wave of my spiritual apex to the House of Allah. It was the journey of a lifetime, may Allah accept, and I came back from it thinking, “How is shaitaan ever going to get to me now. I feel invincible”. Obviously, I was mistaken.
I realize now, that all the tests that I encountered over the past two years, were not tests but opportunities. Opportunities to get the answers I had been yearning for, doors that I wanted to open, journeys I wanted to embark upon, in order to gather the tools that I needed to survive the real test. Allah gave me what I had asked Him for – all of it. The test, the real test now was what I was going to do with the knowledge and the opportunities I had been given. The real test was the one that began when I returned…
Back to reality. Back to dunya. Back to work.
Back to having encounters with all sorts of people, those you share commonalities with, and those with whom you don’t. Back to situations that test your patience like it’s never been tested. Back to a society where men shake hands with women because it’s common courtesy, and everyone dresses a certain way at the workplace because it’s ‘professional’. Back to a world where a hijab on a woman’s head is a sign of oppression; where atrocities are being committed in the name of God. Where people may take advantage of your goodness, or misunderstand your sincerity for something other than that. Back to the tests of everyday life. Back to dunya. How will I respond?
While I now stand at a very different place than I did a few years ago, I realize that what I have learned is just a drop in the ocean. While I’ve tried to change, there are days when I am able to remember what I learned; and others, when I continue to fail. My shortcomings disappoint me. But this is the nature of life in dunya. My heart, our hearts, will always be oscillating – sometimes we will be soaring will conviction, and other times we will forget. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through this amazing journey thus far, is that Allah – my Rabb – is always there, always listening. And while my belief in pre-destination is stronger than ever, I know now that I must never feel hopeless. My du’aas have the power to change the next ‘bead in the necklace’, by the permission of Allah. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Nothing can change the Divine decree (Qadr) except du’aa’. (Ahmad; Ibn Maajah; at-Tirmidhi) So nomatter what lies ahead, I know Allah gave me the last two years of my life because I desperately asked for guidance. And He listened. And as long as I continue to seek Him… my Rabb is with me.
Unquestionably, through the remembrance of Allah do hearts find contentment and peace. (Al Quran; Chapter 66: Verse 11)
About the Author
Maha is a finance professional, with a B.Comm from the University of Toronto. She is also a student of Taleem Al Qur’an at Al Huda Institute, Canada.