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Episode Three: Inside The Therapist’s Office

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Season Two: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Episode Three: Feel The Way

 

“There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me” Omar confessed.

“What’s that like?” I asked curiously.

“Like a horrible nightmare. I live my life pretending to believe in something I’m not sure I truly believe in. And unfortunately, I’m a horrible liar!”

“Why would you lie about your beliefs? You’re a grownup now, and I’m sure you can decide what’s right and what’s wrong.”
“Because I’m confused and I don’t wanna hurt my loved ones anymore. I’m killing them slowly, one by one” Omar added sadly.

 

She sat near the window, relishing the warmth of the sun. Even though she hadn’t said a word, Omar was positively sure she knew he’d been standing behind her near the door just staring silently. She just chose to ignore his presence, like she’s been doing for the past few weeks.

“You look different” Omar finally broke the silence.

“I feel different” Zahra said, still not looking at him.

“I’m sorry for what I did” Omar whispered softly.

“For what? For challenging Allah and nearly getting us all killed?”

“Zoe I know you blame me for everything that happened. I don’t know what to do to make it better. What can I do for you to forgive me?” Omar asked.

“I was angry when I said those things.. I lost my faith for a while but now, I see things differently, and I wish you could too.”

“I do”

“No Omar, you don’t. What happened made you angrier at Allah and more confused. There’s a war raging inside you. You’re asking me to forgive you but you know what you really need? You need to forgive yourself first.” Zahra said softly.

 

Omar turned around and covered his face with his hands. And even though Zahra couldn’t see the tears streaming down his cheeks, she knew her words touched his heart.  

“If you really love me Omar, help yourself.” She said. “You’ll find the card on the table. Please go see this therapist. That’s all I’m asking.”

 

 

“Are you angry at Allah?” I asked Omar.

“I am” He replied. “And I know it hurts Zoe more than anything she’s been through. She’s probably scared I might go to hell”

“Well, no one other than Allah knows who is going where” I said calmly.
“Exactly. Thank you! You just made my point for me. Why create us if He already knows who is going to Paradise and who is going to Hellfire? Isn’t this a form of sadism? Why give me a functioning, logical brain and then torment me for using it to question the unseen? I really want to know!” Omar asked.
“What do you think would have been a better scenario?’

“An obedient creation that doesn’t analyze or go against His will. A creation that worships Him alone and isn’t put through the test of a lifelong search for the truth that might easily end with eternal torture!” Oman snapped.

 

“He already created this type: The angels” I replied. “They do what they’re told, worship Him day and night and have no willpower. And then Allah created humans, and gave them the choice to believe or not, making them superior to the flawless, sinless angels.”

“So you’re saying in the test of life, everyone has a fair chance?”

“Depends how you look at it. When Med-students for example sit for their exams, don’t they all have a fair chance to pass or fail?” I asked. “Or do you think fairness necessitates they all become doctors whether they’ve earned it or not?”

“ No of course not. But students have textbooks to study from and plenty of time to learn and practice.” Omar barked.

“And so do we. The original scriptures of Torah, Gospel, Psalms, and the Qur’an were sent to humankind as guidance. This is why belief in the books is the third pillar of faith; because Allah is fair. He would never test humans without revealing the truth clearly first.”

Omar pondered silently, trying to open his mind to the other side of the argument

“You see, elite colleges and universities expect straight A’s. They expect a lifetime of dedication and perfection. If a doctor, a lawyer or a judge for example makes a big mistake they might lose their license, and their careers and reputations would be ruined for life. But Allah is Merciful and Kind, He doesn’t expect perfection. He expects progress, good intentions and for us to purify our hearts. He expects us to seek the truth, learn from our mistakes, help each other and worship Him alone. And once you read the Qur’an with the humility of a student, and not with the scrutiny of a doubtful critic, the truth will manifest as clear as the shining bright sun.”

“I read it, yet sometimes I’m appalled and confused by all the harsh rules and warnings. Why does Allah have to remind us of His punishment? Why can’t His words all be about good rewards and about spreading love and peace?” Omar asked.

“Do you stop at red lights? Even if no one is looking?” I smiled.

“Umm yes”

“Why? Is it because the police give out bouquets of red roses to those who do?”

“No” Omar laughed. “Because I’ll get a ticket if I don’t”

“But why are there laws and penalties and jails? Why can’t the government give us all a nice pep talk about the glory of peace and harmony and then leave us to our own devices?”

“That’s absurd. You can’t keep order without strict laws…. Okay I get it now.” Omar smiled knowingly.

“Just because Allah is compassionate and merciful, doesn’t mean He won’t be Just and Fair. Without the laws prescribed in the Holy books, humans would literally behave like animals and chaos would prevail. Those who follow Allah’s commands and those who don’t cannot be equal.“

“But now if I’m skeptic about the Qur’an for example, does that make me a non-believer, even if I believe in God?” Omar asked.

“I’ll answer your question with another question. Do you think if you had seen the sea part for Prophet Moses, or had witnessed prophet Jesus raise the dead and cure the sick, and denied those miracles saying ‘nah, I don’t buy it. This must be magic or an illusion’, would that have made you a non-believer?”

“I guess so. Denying miracles is a form of doubt or disbelief.”

“Exactly. And the Qur’an is also a miracle. It has baffled scientists, doctors, historians, nutritionists, philosophers, linguists… you name it! The list goes on.” I explained. “Except you can’t take the miracle in slices; say you believe some verses and deny others. If you think about it, belief in the Qur’an strengthens your faith.”

“How?” Omar asked with genuine curiosity.

“You see when you stop your car at a red light, you do so because you fear punishment. It’s more of an obligation. But when you stop your car to help someone in need, that’s a humane action of the heart. Exactly like our religion. It becomes a hollow shell if we just mindlessly perform all our rituals like praying, fasting and reading Qur’an in a hurry. But when you ponder on Allah’s words, and follow His rules out of love, that’s the true meaning of humanity. You can memorize every word and carry all the knowledge in your head, but what really matters is the belief and knowledge in your heart….”

“You sound like Zoe. We were having a similar discussion in the car, one that ended badly. Very, very badly..”

 

“I’m sick of hearing this Zoe! You don’t need to be religious to be a good person.” Omar said, fiddling with his annoying seatbelt.

‘I say it because I love you! Just try to open your heart. I know you’ll eventually find your way back to God” She said softly.

“That is so obnoxious. It’s like me saying ‘I hope you’ll eventually find your way away from God!” How would that make you feel?” Omar complained.

“It’s okay if you have doubts.” Zahra explained. “As long as you believe there is One God and He’s the only Judge.”
“If God has a problem with me not believing in Him then He should take it up with me, man to man. Right here, right now!” Omar boasted.

 

“I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself for what happened next. How did I challenge the Lord? What was I thinking?” Omar wept. “I didn’t mean what I said. I wanted to take it all back the second the words came out of my mouth, especially when Zoe gasped in horror and went completely pale. At that moment, even though she wasn’t dead, I saw the life leave her beautiful eyes slowly…”

Omar left with a broken heart, but perhaps that’s what also opened it for the light of faith to come through. Sometimes the worst heartaches are just blessings in disguise.

“Everyone is blaming Omar for the accident.” Aisha, my next patient said, tensing her shoulders and refusing to make eye contact with me. “The truth is, it wasn’t his fault at all. It was mine..”

 

To be continued…

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

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Season Two: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Office

 

Season Two: Inside The Therapist’s Office
Episode One

Feel The Love

 

Where on Earth would she get a gun in solitary? I wondered silently, my heart pounding so loud, evidently distracting my brain from coming up with a plan.

“Please, don’t” I pleaded. “Trust me, there are other options!”

“I wish that were true” She whispered sadly, pointing the gun to her head.  

“Noooooooooooooo”

 

 

“I’m sorry! I don’t know why I can’t stop laughing! You must think I’m a terrible person!” Salma leaned back in her chair and giggled. This was her second therapy session and she was still refusing to come to terms with her grief.

“I don’t think you’re a terrible person Salma. I’m more interested in what you’re thinking.” I replied. “Sometimes inappropriate reactions are a sign of denial. Perhaps you’re not fully absorbing what had happened to your best friend” I said slowly.

“What is there to absorb? One minute she was a bride-to-be and the next she was lying in a hospital bed circling the drain! And even though she survived, she’ll be living with a disability! She’s actually DISABLED!” Salma paused then cracked up again. “I know it’s not funny! I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I seriously need to stop laughing!”

 

Three months ago…

“SURPRISEEEEEEEEE” All the girls yelled when the bride-to-be walked into Salma’s living room.

“Oh my God!” She covered her face then whirled around to hug her best friend Salma with sparkling eyes full of so much love and gratitude. They called her ‘Supa’, a shorter ‘British accent’ version of her nickname ‘Super Girl’. No one knew how and when she got it, but given her kindness, smartness, talent, beauty and courage, it suited her perfectly. She really was a super girl.

“Tell us about him!”

“Does he have any brothers?”
“I hear he’s the hottest bachelor in the whole country!”

“When is the wedding?”

“I don’t know anything yet!” Supa giggled, her face flushed red. “He just met with my dad two days ago!”

“Girls come on give the blushing bride a break! The groom’s family is having a dinner party tonight, and of course I’m invited because you know, I’m her best friend and all!” Salma teased. “I promise I’ll take pictures and post them on their wedding website!”

“There’s a website?” Supa’s jaws dropped.

“Umm yeah! Now let’s get going. They’re waiting for us in the car. You don’t want to be late and get on your future mother-in-law’s bad side on the very first dinner!” Salma warned.

“Oh my God you know those irritating people who flutter their eye lashes and say ‘I’m so blessed’? Well, I’m one of them now.” Supa giggled. “I really am blessed. AlhamduleAllah”.

 

“I still get nightmares about that car accident. The very same night Supa was thanking Allah for His blessings, she lost everything! She’s in such bad shape, no one is allowed to see her. Why? Why is life so messed up and cruel and mean?” Salma cried.

“It is, isn’t it?” I asked.

“I know I’m not supposed to ask these questions, but I can’t keep it inside anymore! The resentment is eating me up! Why does Allah punish good people and reward bad people? Like in college, the guys who used to drink and smoke and party all night, they were the cool and popular dudes! And the girls dressed in sleazy skintight outfits and had zero morals; they were seen as fun and sexy! And the worst part is good guys fell for them! How twisted is that? I know girls who have done the unspeakable with an array of different boyfriends in the past, and are currently happily married to rich, successful and decent men! Why does God let this happen and then call Himself Fair?”

“So you think if you had loosened up a bit or dressed provocatively, you would have been married by now too?” I asked cautiously.

“I wear the Hijab, pray, read Qur’an and do everything EXACTLY the way I’m supposed to do it! But it obviously makes no difference! I’m still invisible or unapproachable or even unmarriageable and it makes me feel rejected and lonely! I’m not saying I do all of this to land good suitors, but I certainly never thought being on the right path would turn them off either!”

“Why do you do it then?” I asked.

“Because I want to be a good Muslim! I want to go to Jannah! I believe in Allah and love Him but I’m not sure why He hates me so much! And why He constantly tests the believers with hardships and heartaches while rewarding the non-believers with fame, fortune and happiness! It makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs, WHY?! Why does God deny us even the tiniest sources of happiness? Why does He want to see us suffer?”

“Do you believe in the ‘Choco-Purpletine theory’?” I asked.

“I don’t even know what that is. How can I believe in it?” Salma snapped.

“I don’t know either I just made it up. But now, is there a chance that maybe the concept of God is also a fabrication and He doesn’t really exist?”

“No! I firmly believe in Allah and His existence. Nothing you say can possibly change that!” Salma replied.

“If you believe that Allah is Unfair, Unjust and likes to see us suffer then I’m sorry to say you don’t really know Him. And like you said, you can’t believe in something you don’t know. The first pillar of faith is ‘Belief in Allah’. Not just in His mere existence; but also in His lordship, His right to be worshipped alone and in His names and attributes. You say you do everything exactly the way you’re supposed to do it, except it doesn’t mean anything if it’s not from the heart. Like traffic rules, we do them exactly the way we’re supposed to do them. We stop at red lights because we are obligated to do so; it’s the law. Parking on the side to help an old woman or remove a blockage from the road; that’s humanity. Acts with sincere intentions are what purify our hearts and bring us real joy. That’s the difference.” I said.

Despite the unmistakable rage in her eyes, Salma spoke softly.
“I’m allowed to question, Lilly. Even angels questioned Allah when He created Adam. I just need to know, what did ‘Supa’ do to deserve this doomed fate? Why are good people always pushed to their limit? Look around you. Islamophobia, Muslims being shamed, banned and killed because of their beliefs, people defending and celebrating homosexuality. Cheating, adultery, terrorism, violence and death of innocent young souls have all become prevalent. In the face of all this heart ache and misery, why does Allah expect us to strive to be and do better?”

“Because this is the natural outcome of any strong belief; a constant endeavor to reach your goals. We are all fighting battles of our own, slipping in and out of physical, mental and emotional breakdowns. The few who survive and rise above are the heroes who change the world to the better. Look at the Prophets and companions.”
“Oh d, on’t do that” Salma protested, holding up a palm. “Those are unquestionably incomparable legends.”
“Okay then let’s look at modern day heroes. Martin Luther King overcame oppression because he believed in equality. Gandhi changed the world because he never tired from standing up for justice. 14-year-old Malala survived a shooting and is now one of the strongest proponents for education. These are all examples of people who stood up courageously in the face of torture. Their beliefs were strong enough to make a difference in millions of lives. How much more of a right does Allah, the Magnificent Almighty, have on the believers to stand up for their beliefs?

Allah says: “Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars. (Holy Qur’an, 29: 2,3)

If it were easy, everyone would do it. Everyone would believe in God and be special, productive and successful. But it doesn’t work that way honey. Allah is Fair. This is what you sign up for when you aim for Paradise; being tested, tried and purified. You get what you work for Salma, not what you wish for. Faith isn’t merely a philosophy, saying we believe in one God and doing nothing to prove it. There’s a practical aspect to this concept; one we strive to achieve daily. We struggle, push boundaries, and hold onto ‘unseen’ reality. That’s the whole point. In the face of misery and tribulations, strong believers and heroes are born!”

“So you’re saying Allah allows evil only because good things will come out of it?” She asked, tilting her head.

“Exactly!” I smiled.

“What good could possibly come out of Supa’s disability?” Salma wondered.

“I’ll answer this question soon inshAllah, I promise. An act of God always yields positive outcomes. There’s no doubt about it.” I replied. “Tonight, sit alone with Allah and ask Him to show you. Ask Him for everything you wish for. It’s one of the most beautiful forms of worship, for it gravitates you towards Him even more and strengthens your belief. Because when you make du’a from the heart, you must believe Allah is listening. Otherwise you’re just a crazy person talking to someone who isn’t there!”

“True…” Salma walked out of my office completely captivated, I think she stopped blinking!

She went home that night and whispered a silent prayer.

It had to be silent; for no one knew the secret she’d been keeping from her best friend.

No one knew what happened was all her fault..

 

 

To be continued….
 

Lilly S. Mohsen

The Amazing Race Of Ramadan: The Final Episode

Published On OnIslam.net
July 14th, 2015
This is the original version

The Amazing Race Of Ramadan: The Final Episode

Trophy

Oh man! Does that mean I’m going home after this? No more Ramadan episodes? No more camera crew and filtering out contestants and being asked 237 times a day how many minutes till Maghreb?
Fine I get it. It’s the final countdown, and before I start I’d like to say something to all of our lovely readers who are probably beating me to the finish line: I’ll really miss you guys!

Okay so what would be an appropriate grand finale? Come on people, give me some brilliant ideas and let me take the credit for them!
Wait… I hear something! Call me crazy, but I think it’s a conversation from thousands of years ago. Shhhhhh listen…

“Mary, where did you get this food from?”
“Oh uncle Zechariah, it’s from God. Indeed Allah provides to whom He wills with no limit!”
At that time, Zechariah called upon his Lord, saying, “My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication.” (Holy Qur’an, 3:38)

At that time? Seriously?
I was pretty sure Prophet Zechariah asked God for a child all his life. Why does it say ‘at that time’? Or was it a different kind of supplication….? The kind based on the true belief that nothing was impossible when it came to Allah’s power?

How Do We Ask?

‘It’s not what you say it’s how you say it’. I guess many have heard this phrase before. There’s a difference between mumbling a request half-heartedly and then wondering why it was never answered and it’s a totally different thing when you feel every word without even saying it, knowing that with those silent screams of desperations and those helpless tears falling down your face, God will never, and I mean NEVER, let you down…

When Prophet Zechariah made a du’aa, he started by telling God his story. He told Him how he was growing old and his hair was turning grey. How his wife was barren and how they still both desperately yearned for a child. As if God didn’t already know that! But that’s the beauty of submission… it’s talking to Allah like He’s your best friend… Explaining to Him what you’re going through as if you can see Him. Certain and 100% convinced that your prayers will be answered, and then searching for the blessings that God has definitely lifted you up with while you were down on your knees begging for help….

Why Do We Have To Ask?

I’ll take one for the team and ask the inevitable question: Why doesn’t God give us what we want right away without having to ask? Isn’t He the Most Giving? Why does He put us in hardships to start with? Isn’t He the Most Merciful?
(Whoa I think my heart stopped there for a second at how brazen these questions sounded. You guys owe me big!)

Volumes could be written from the Qur’an and Sunnah to answer these doubts and queries, but I’ll just mention the one that makes my heart melt…

Did it ever occur to us that God loves to hear our voices…? That we are so dear to Him to the point He inspires us to supplicate, then rewards us for it. He then rewards us again by giving us what we want. He then inspires us to be thankful, then rewards us for that, too. He then inspires us to share the joy by giving out charity, puts those in need on our path, then rewards us for that, TOO! He then inspires us to encourage others to ask Him like we did, then rewards us for that, and in the end, when we meet Him on Judgment Day, we find all the above stored for us with the ultimate reward of Paradise….? Wow!

Is there perhaps a chain reaction of out-of-the-blues-blessings that starts with a simple, genuine plea from the heart…?
Yes, I think so too….

What Do We Ask For…?

Don’t look at me! I don’t know!
Yet…There’s a force dragging me away from my laptop and bringing me down to my knees… Come kneel next to me… lower your head and raise your hands… and just open your heart to the One who owns it…

My Dearest Most Merciful Lord….

Where do we start…? How do we thank You for every beautiful thing You’ve given us and every scary thing You’ve protected us from….?

How do we call on the One who says “Indeed I am close…”

How do we talk to the One who knows our inner thoughts and forgives our worst mistakes…?

But we have no one else to go to… My Lord we stand by Your door, needy and desperate, and even if you don’t answer right away we will keep begging until You do… There’s no where to run but to You my Lord…

Some of us come to You sad and damaged… we beg You to heal our broken hearts…

Some of us come to You sick and helpless… we beg You to take our pain and suffering away….

Some of us are lost and confused… some of us have fallen and failed too many times… and we beg You for guidance and support…

Some of us are scared and lonely…. And don’t know how we’ll survive another day… we beg You God to fill our lives with love and warmth…

Some of us are poor and can hardly make ends meet… we beg You to open for us the doors of wealth and success…

Some of us are ashamed… humiliated by what we’ve done or how we’ve gone astray… we beg You to give us a sign we’ve been blessed with Your forgiveness…

Some of us are desperate…. Oh God each and every one of us is desperate for something only You know of and only You can provide….

Bestow Your mercy on us my dear Lord… life is so hard sometimes… so grant us the patience and the will to stay on the right path and help us….

To the One who says “I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me” (Holy Qur’an 2:186)

This is our poor and humble supplication, and from You is the Best and most Greatest response….

The race has come to an end, and we don’t know if You’ve accepted us or not… if we are worthy of Your blessings or not… We don’t know who’s been saved and who’s lagging behind… All we know is that our only hope is Your everlasting mercy…

And today we ask You… please…

Please… look at us today… don’t let this Holy month pass by without admitting us into your eternally blessed servants… we don’t deserve it, but my Lord, You’re the most Merciful and the Most Giving….

Lilly S. Mohsen