The other night, I dreamt that my family was in Pakistan.
My grandmother, brought back to life, was urging me to pray.
She handed me a tasbeeh and told me to show it to my grandfather,
transforming my acceptance of the beaded string into a promised prayer.
After some time, I settled down and tried to pray, but
I couldn’t remember the words I was meant to say.
I started over and over again but I couldn’t concentrate.
My mother soon joined me, wanting to guide me.
She was gentle at first, but she started to get frustrated–
how could I have forgotten how to pray?
When I told my mom about the dream,
she told me it was a sign to talk to god again.
I knew she was right,
but the truth is, I was afraid
that god had given up on me,
just as I had given up on god
so many times in the last year.
2021 was a tumultuous storm of sorrow and
religion had failed me at every turn,
allowing hardship to consume my family and everyone around me.
I was buried so deep under the weight of my grief
that I believed tragedy had taken root and blossomed over us,
as if it were a seed burrowed beneath our home.
In January, a senseless act of violence almost took my father’s life,
leaving him and my family in ruins.
We found ourselves tangled in the mess he made of his own life
and everything we had worked so hard for,
dreamed our whole lives to touch, fell away from us.
Our father’s karma became our karma,
leaving us to assume the consequences of his recklessness.
Amidst it all, god and I played tug of war,
testing how long I could hold on for
before I let faith slip from my fingers for good.
The storm reigned above us for the rest of the year,
some days darker and louder than others.
In the fall, death finally touched us,
and with it came a breach in the universe,
as if the sky had finally cracked open with the intention to swallow us whole.
In my sorrow, my anger, I doubted god more than I ever had before.
All I could do was ask why the clouds refused to clear,
why the violence wouldn’t stop, even when I prayed,
even when I believed religion could be the answer.
As easily as the world crumbled beneath my feet
so did my faith transform in and out of itself, in and out of doubt.
Anger made it easier to grieve, to displace the pain onto god
and demand explanations for the misery knowing I can’t control them.
The onslaught of new year reflections allowed
December to cling to the suffering that towered over us,
to the tree of tragedy that had burst through the foundations
of our already unsteady home. It wasn’t until someone recited
Sūrat Ash-Sharh to me that I remembered: “with hardship comes ease.”
A fire started inside me, sparked by hope,
by the possibility that my relationship with religion could be
restored, reconciled, healed.
It was an olive branch offering leading me back to god,
the opportunity I waited for all year
to learn, to understand.
What I now know is that humans were created to persevere,
to keep loving beyond our losses, through adversity.
Even when we cannot recognize our own reflections,
we still find a way back to ourselves because
the body and the mind cannot exist in a continuous state of unrest.
There is a baseline of being we always return to
with a brimming collection of reasons to survive.
While nothing can ever replace what is gone,
life still manages to fill us up in new and adoring ways.
Thus, enters ease,
dressed as moments of peace,
as the acceptance of loss,
as the love that keeps us safe when we are hurting,
as the moments of joy that push us to keep going—
ease is all the small ways god bleeds hope into our lives
acting as the world and asking us gently to stay,
to be still, to remember who we are.
Over time, I’ve come to know that some questions cannot be solved by us.
In fact, not knowing is what makes life worth living—
wouldn’t the world lack meaning, lack wonder if we already knew everything?
Our pursuit for answers, our endless desire to touch divinity,
it is why we continue to exist and love with our entire being.
We don’t know what we aren’t ready to understand.
Despite the anger and searing pain of heartache, we will be grateful
for the day we do receive the answers we need
because by then it will finally be enough to heal.
Knowing we have found people to love in this world, people we
love enough to mourn, and that is all we need
to believe in destiny and trust how justice is fulfilled by the hands of god.
My first dua of the new year begins with an apology
and ends with a promise.
I see the moon has finally come out of hiding,
burning bright and once again, greeting the tides.
The forecast cites clear skies and I know this year,
the tree of tragedy will fall without tears to water it
and that the world around us will again fill with light.