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Connection in Prayer

Allah, Open the Doors of Your Mercy for me

Reading Time: 8 minutes

During the current Coronavirus outbreak, and temporary shuttering of mosque doors, many of us are reflecting on our experiences with our mosques. For this contributor, a complicated relationship surrounds his experience with his local mosque. Though it may be particularly painful to read during this time, his story is an important reminder so we thought to share it anyway. May Allah ﷻ grant us His grace and return us to His houses of worship soon. Ameen  -Admin

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
اللهم صلي وسلم على سيدنا محمد

Allah, open the doors of Your mercy for me – اللهم إفتح لي أبواب رحمتك

I sprinted across the expansive carpet,
reaching top speed
weaving through legs,
dodging glasses,
(alright, maybe I stepped on a few)
racing a new friend,
before everyone went into sujood.

Twenty years later, I still get grief about those flattened and broken glasses and I make it a point to keep mine in my pocket whenever I pray in the mosque. Still, I would never turn rowdy kids away from the mosque. I have always been a proponent of the idea that children should be allowed to experience the house of Allah ﷻ with joy. I would argue, to anyone who would listen, that every person who worshipped Allah ﷻ in any of His houses should seek to also uplift the children who are in His house. 

The joy I experienced as a child, and my idealism about it as I grew, guided me to join a group of people who sought to serve at my local mosque. I tried to help as they came together to transform a house of Allah ﷻ from a space for ritual prayer alone, to a space that brought people together intentionally; a space that would meet our “community needs”. We wanted our mosque to be a space that would live out all the stories we heard about the mosque in the time of the Prophet ﷺ – a dream of a mosque brought to reality.

Allah, open the doors of Your mercy for me – اللهم إفتح لي أبواب رحمتك

The extraordinary is witnessed – in His house.
Stoic, strong, becomes bent, weak – in His house.
Hungry, homeless, becomes full, housed – in His house.
Harsh, sharp, becomes soft, conscientious – in His house.
Poor, needing, becomes rich, giving  – in His house.
Lost, exhausted, becomes guided, invigorated – in His house.
Looked-over, dejected, becomes sought-after, respected – in His house.

We were living the dream. I witnessed a complete stranger arrive from out of town, go to the closest mosque to rest, ask Allah ﷻ for help, and he had housing before the night was out. I witnessed a man larger than most doorways become reduced to the size of his out-stretched, tear-riddled hands, as he begged Allah ﷻ for strength. I witnessed a friend transform from constantly judging others with a sharp-tongue to someone who guarded his words and spent more time asking for forgiveness from people than judging their actions.

These were gifts from Allah that manifested in the hearts of those who visited His house. This was a blessing that filled my eyes and heart with joy. With each surprising transformation, in our mosque, in His house, I would feel affirmed. Would this happen if Allah ﷻ was displeased with the work we were doing? Wasn’t it the work that He ﷻ blessed that facilitated these transformations? Weren’t these signs of acceptance and approval from Him ﷻ? The dream we were aspiring towards was everywhere to see – a mosque and community modeled after that of our beloved Prophet ﷺ.

Allah, open the doors of Your mercy for me – اللهم إفتح لي أبواب رحمتك

We think:
This is going the way I planned
CLEARLY
it’s a sign that I’m doing what Allah wants …

Where is that in our history?
Musa (as) found his people worshipping a cow.
Hajar (as) found no water through her earnest running.
Our Beloved ﷺ found hate and violence in Ta’if.

We insist:
Allah, prove me right.
The way I want to be right.
My version of right.

I took a leap. I took time off of my employment to work full-time at the mosque – my dream job – during the busiest time of the year: Ramadan. In the months leading up to it, there was a shift in the leadership structure which shook the foundation of the space. Surely though, this was the house of Allah ﷻ, and I had received so much positive reinforcement about all the work we had done before that I knew that what I was a part of must be pleasing to Allah ﷻ.

But my project, the dream that consumed me, was coming undone as each “executive decision” bulldozed the principles and ideals that were part of its foundation. As I spent my days and nights in conversations with people about my dream, I imagined myself like Nuh (as). As I found myself raising my hands to Allah ﷻ in quiet, secluded corners of His house, I imagined myself like Zakariyah (as). I struggled and strove on a daily (and nightly) basis but our dream, my dream, took blow after blow, until it was reduced to little more than rubble.

I realize now, that if I wanted to draw inspiration from any of the Prophets (as), the most appropriate would have been Yunus (as). I’d charted an idea for what Allah ﷻ wanted me to do and followed through. When Allah had put me in the stomach of the whale, constricted so tightly, with acid burning my body, I should have immediately stopped and sought His forgiveness. Instead I wriggled, felt the pain, wriggled some more, felt the constriction, wriggled even more, and started asking Allah ﷻ why I was in pain and why I felt constricted.

Allah, open the doors of Your mercy for me – اللهم إفتح لي أبواب رحمتك

Submit.
Reflect on your state today, and
Submit.
Think about how to improve it, and
Submit.
Run, with hope, from mountain to mountain, and
Submit.
Gather people for the sake of Allah ﷻ, and
Submit.

I couldn’t bring myself to attend my mosque – His house – for some time after that. I attended Jumuah only because I was required to. I made it a point to arrive as the adhan was being announced. Instead of mingling with my fellow congregants after salah, I would sit and read the entirety of surat Al-Kahf – alone. I did this for two reasons, the most obvious – and selfish – was to avoid interacting with people and all the conversations that seemed to be preoccupied with mosque politics. The other – more meaningful – reason was that I realized that my relationship with the house of Allah ﷻ had to find a new purpose.

I was no longer going to the mosque for the sake of manifesting a Prophetic community ﷺ. So, why go? I knew of the endless sayings of our Beloved ﷺ on the blessings of journeying to the mosque, attending it, finding rest in it. I also witnessed all of those exceptional and extraordinary transformations and events take place within its walls. That should have been enough. But I couldn’t answer the question: why should I go when all I felt was sadness and anguish over what my mosque, my dream, had become and what it could have been? 

This question continued to tug at me as I struggled to maintain a semblance of normalcy in my spiritual life – and as time went on, I found that I was slipping away from visiting and spending time in the house of Allah ﷻ. It took several conversations, many hours reflecting, and quiet moments spent in His house asking for guidance for me to realize that I was wrong from the outset. I had allowed my feelings as a child, and the hopes of manifesting them for other children, come before the more essential role that His house should play in my life: a space to venerate and worship Him ﷻ.

When I walked into a mosque, I started to ask questions like: what type of community services can one find here? Are the services meeting the needs of the people in this space? Is the programming aligned so that different themes are being covered and the community is growing in a meaningful way? Is there a sustainable model for donors, volunteers, visitors, etc in place? Is it an election-based board? 

How ironic, because before I asked any of those questions, I would always take a moment before I walked in to say: 

اللهم إفتح لي أبواب رحمتك 
Allah, open the doors of Your mercy for me.

That’s all I need as a reason to go to His house.
That’s all we actually need.

His celestial mercy.

So whether you are someone who has been going to the mosque everyday, someone who hesitates to go, a board member, a donor, a lost soul, an angry community member, an elder, a child, or you have been any and all of these … 

Go to His house.
In it you will find His mercy.

You might find community services.
You might find the A/C unit broken.
You might find children running around.
You might find people who are begging.
You might find a bad speaker.
You might find a broken speaker system.
You might find your soul-mate.
You might find people who judge you.
You might find free food.
You might find stains on the carpet.
You might find everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
You might find nothing you’ve ever expected.

You will surely find the mercy of Allah ﷻ.
You will surely find guidance.
You will surely find inner peace.
You will surely find a connection to Him ﷻ

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1 Comment

  1. Nazia Iftikhar

    All I can say is that I butst into tears.

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