Torn. Despondent. Broken. Miserable. Alone.
There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. He had thought he would be so happy once he was liberated from all ‘religious’ shackles. That is what his atheist ‘friends’ had told him: that he would feel totally liberated & free to do whatever he pleased.
At first, he did. He partied, he went clubbing, he sniffed forbidden powders, he drank alcohol. He indulged in forbidden pleasures of the flesh. He ate & drank whatever and whenever he fancied. He slept and awoke according to his desires and schedule.
At first, he enjoyed this new, self-indulgent “bubble”: pretending to believe that there was no god. That the life of this world was all there was. That everything happened randomly, without purpose or cause. That doing whatever he wanted to do, without any restrictions whatsoever, would make him find true happiness.
This vicious cycle of self-indulgence and self-deception went on and on, until he sank lower and lower into a depressed, lonely state. He would see and hear of Muslims praying, fasting during Ramadan, eating only halal, going for umrah, getting married through arranged unions, and starting families. He saw the peace on their faces; the calm in their demeanor. He heard their genuine laughter.
They seemed to strangely be at peace, contented with so little of the worldly ‘glitter’. Each time he met or saw them, he felt a tinge of envy; of regret. There was a time when he had loathed the very sight of them, and called them demeaning names inside his head; not wanting to be caught dead in the same room as one of them.
But all of this was beginning to change. Now, he found himself secretly envying them for their staunch beliefs, firmness in faith, and patience in performing acts of worship. He envied their indifference to worldly temptations and luxuries.
One day, alone in his room, whilst getting ready for another night out with his “friends”, he slumped on the floor instead. He just could not take it any more. He broke down.
Collapsing onto his knees, he burst into tears, and instinctively, between sobs, cried out:
“Oh God! What am I doing…? I am sorry! Please forgive me, and help me come back to Islam…”
Allah says in the Quran:
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful. (39:53)
This is one of the most hope-inspiring and morale-restoring verses of the Quran. Allah reassures repentant and broken sinners to not despair of His mercy, promising them that He can and will forgive all of their sins, no matter how great and numerous they are.
This verse should come as a beacon of hope to anyone, Muslim or not, who has had the “fortune” of reaching the kind of “broken and humbled” emotional and psychological state of mind & heart, which I have attempted to describe in the fictional account above.
The reason why I call this otherwise painful and distressing state, a “fortune”, is because, through it Allah offers a human being the golden opportunity to turn back to Him in sincere repentance, and to start anew in life, by turning over a new leaf.
In such a humbled state, the person feels totally isolated and alone inside, as if they are hollow and empty. They feel like this even if they are amid their group of friends, outwardly having a ball of a time, or with just their close family members, enjoying cosy conversations.
They feel as if something is missing inside, even if they have every possible blessing that they could have ever asked for in life. They do not understand why they feel as if something major and significant is still missing; why their soul still feels so unfulfilled.
They also feel a pull towards practicing Muslims whenever they spot them somewhere, wishing they could have the same faith and piety as them.
They wonder, “Just what is it that gives them the faith, inner strength, and peace that they so clearly enjoy? And why don’t I have it? How do I get it?”
The reason for this emptiness of the soul is the state of their hearts, which have become sealed and darkened because of the pile of their unrepented-for past sins.
Thankfully, Allah’s forgiveness & mercy is much more vast than His wrath. The greatest barrier that usually prevents a sinner who wants to turn back to Allah, from sincerely repenting, however, is the cunning insinuations of Satan. He works hard to dissuade them, by deluding them into thinking despondent thoughts, such as:
How will Allah forgive me? I have committed so many major sins! What’s the point in turning back now? I don’t even remember how to pray. I am not sober for more than half the day. I can never reach the level of piety and righteousness that so many Muslims have worked so hard over years to attain.
I do not even have the strength of will to become even a little righteous again… I left religion once, I will probably give up on it again. How will I be able to hold on to my faith even if I get it back….? Islam is too difficult. My family will not let me change… it’s impossible.
As if on cue, right after the reassuring verse of the Quran above, Allah goes on to invite the wistful and humbled sinner to come back and repent to Him:
And return [in repentance] to your Lord and submit to Him before the punishment comes upon you; then you will not be helped. And follow the best of what was revealed to you from your Lord before the punishment comes upon you suddenly, while you do not perceive. (39:54-55)
Allah encourages the repenting sinner to look ahead, and not let go of this opportunity to turn back to Him, by following what they can from the best of the guidance sent by Allah.
Such a turning point does not come upon a humbled believer again and again in life. It offers a rare opportunity to seek forgiveness for their sins, and to turn over a new leaf.
For surely, Allah will forgive all sins, even if they fill up the skies and the earth!
After all, the longest and most arduous of journeys, which can take a person from rock-bottom to the loftiest spiritual destination, begins with nothing much but a steely resolve, a thin ray of hope….
…and a single, hesitant first step.