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When Love and Worship Collide

From the Journal of Renee

I returned from the masjid to my college dormitory room late Saturday night, shaken and moved.  I glanced at the clock.  It was three minutes after ten. Where had the time gone?

I slowly shut my eyes, hoping to digest everything better that way. I let the events of the afternoon, evening, and night wash over me.  I hoped to analyze my reason for unrest as I had earlier concerning my faith. 

It was Yusuf’s poem, I concluded, that affected me most. As I recalled his monologue, I felt a storm of emotions that I couldn’t give name to.  I could think only of the lyrics to a song I’d heard Courtney playing over and over when my parents weren’t home.

I felt all flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd

I felt he found my letters, and read each one aloud

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I prayed that he would finish, but he just kept right on

Strumming my pain with his fingers

Singing my life with his words

Killing me softly with his song

Years later, I learned that these were the words to the song “Killing Me Softly” that I heard Lauryn Hill singing from my sister’s stereo, though I have no idea who wrote these words originally.  But, at that moment, it didn’t matter.  And I didn’t care.

All I knew was that these were the only words that could give name to the emotions I had felt as the young man I’d met at the “Ask About Islam” table stood on a portable stage in the basement of a local masjid.  I couldn’t remember his name—they had said it when they introduced him.

Naturally, he had not been the only performer.  But he was the only one I remembered so vividly. 

Weeks later, when I attended another Muslim event with my friend Sumayyah, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Yusuf was one of the performers.

When the time for his performance grew near, I was taken aback by how packed the seats became all of a sudden.  I was impressed.  Apparently, he was well known in the area.  I was grateful to Sumayyah for reserving our seats early on.

I was speechless by the time Yusuf finally stepped onto the stage.   I barely noticed the three men seated at the rear of the platform, the one in the middle holding a small drum. 

But after Yusuf reached the microphone, their voices resonated in a harmonizing tenor above the gentle beating on the drum, reminding me of native music from South Africa. Yusuf wore a long white thobe that lifted and clung to him slightly with the wind, revealing his athletic form beneath the thin fabric. 

I was offended that Sumayyah thought I wanted to marry him.  That was the furthest thing from my mind.  I only wanted to talk to him on the phone and get to know him better.  But I couldn’t escape the stinging pain I felt in my heart upon realizing I didn’t even stand a chance at attracting his attentions.

The Reality of Submitting to Allah

The reality is that, as we strive to submit to Allah, there will always be other distractions, especially from the opposite sex, as we can see in the case of Renee in the excerpt from my novel Realities of Submission.

Clearly, Renee’s trips to the masjid and Muslim events become so meaningful to her largely because she has the opportunity to see Yusuf and enjoy his presence.

However, what is dangerous about Renee’s fascination with Yusuf is that she does not necessarily want to marry him, and even the suggestion of marriage offends her. She openly admits that she only wishes to talk to him on the phone and “get to know him better.”

Unfortunately, Renee’s mindset reflects that of many Muslim youth in today’s world. For too many of them, the masjid represents less a place to draw closer to Allah and more a place to draw closer to the young man or woman who has captured their affections.

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About Umm Zakiyyah
Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost. To learn more about the author, visit ummzakiyyah.com or subscribe to her YouTube channel.