As the plane takes off like a bird from the ground, leaving the world behind, rising higher and higher till the world becomes nothing but a passing sight, some thoughts come to mind. They may make sense to some and maybe not to others. Maybe it’s shaped by our experiences, but come with me…
Our Spiritual Flight
Start off by taking the plane to flight from the runway. We can reflect on this by likening it to our imân. The higher our imân goes, the less we feel a connection to the dunya, this worldly life. It gets relegated to nothing but a mere passing visual image during our flight. This is exactly how our lives in this dunya are in contrast to the Hereafter. A fleeting passing moment as compared to the promised eternity that is the Hereafter.
This makes us take into account our desires and to ask ourselves if it’s really worth it to give in to our nafs, our personal inclinations, just for a moment of pleasure. In retrospect it isn’t even really pleasure. The scholars say that when we indulge in our desires, the so called pleasure lasts but a moment but the weight that bears down on our soul remains till we turn to Allah with sincere repentance.
When the plane takes off towards the skies — just like you go towards Allah— you see that you are met with a lot of resistance. You need to get out of your comfort zone to go towards Allah. You’ll experience a lot of turbulence on the way but be sure that just like the plane has been tested by many authorities to meet rigorous standards before you, the path to Allah has been traversed by the greatest of people ever to walk the face of this Earth. We take lessons from their travel and the advise that they give so that we don’t fall into the pitfalls that they have encountered before us.
Passengers see the pilot and the crew, calm in times of turbulence, and from this they feel a sense of reassurance. We have faith in Allah who charted the flight of our lives, more than the pilot has ensured the safety of our trip.
Far and Near
I’m forced to reflect on the impulsive thought that flying nearly 30,000 ft up in the air, this is the closest I’ll ever be able to get to Allah physically. We need to take into consideration and actually digest here, who Allah is. We are speaking of the Lord of All Creation, the King of Kings, the Nur, Light, of the Heavens and the Earth [24:35]. How honourable such a closeness is. How so? Al-Raḥmân knows that our hearts long for comfort and for being enveloped in His Mercy and Guidance —for if He were to leave us to our own resources, we would surely perish. Out of His infinite Mercy He tells us directly ” فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ”[“For verily I am near”] (2:186). Just reflecting on this ayah would make us fall down into prostration to Al-Raḥmân:.
And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near [qarîb]. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided. [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:186]
Throughout the Quran we see that Allah tells the Nabi ﷺ, our Prophet, you were asked a question so then reply to them with such-and-such an answer. The answer to the queries is given through the Prophet ﷺ. It’s only in this context that Allah tells the Prophet ﷺ,
“When my slaves ask you concerning me, Indeed I am near.” [Surah Al-Ghâfir, 40:60]
Allah did not use the Prophet ﷺ simply to relay the message but rather He consoled us directly by telling us that our Rabb, our Lord, is indeed ever with us. Al-Raḥmân has not forsaken His slaves, nor will He as long as they remain true to His commands and the Sunnah of Al-Mustafa ﷺ.
We rush around —or rather crave— for acceptance, looking for support, condolence, a shoulder to cry on, someone to tell us that yes it’s O.K.; everything’s going to be fine. In all this we forget that our Rabb, He who has put us through this test – a test which He has promised would not be greater than anything that we could bear. We forget the One who put us through this test so that we may be purified of our sins and get closer to Him. He wants His slaves to be qarîb, near, to him and yet we mock this love when we run around seeking an outlet for our hearts amongst the creation while forgetting the Creator, Al-Musawwir, the one who beautifully fashioned that very heart.
70 times greater than the love of a mother, our Rabb warns and yet comforts us with the knowledge that He is closer [aqrab] to us than our very own jugular vein (50:16). Just like He gives sustenance to the birds in the air, He gives sustenance to you in that metal tube shuttling through His skies. May Allah forgive our hearts & souls for being so distant when He himself is so close. Nur ‘ala nur: light upon light—Allah guides to His light whom He wills. [Surah Al-Nûr, 24:35]
The Prophet would often supplicate:
O Controller of the hearts make my heart steadfast in Your religion. [Al- Tirmidhi].
Signs of Al-Musawwir Up in the Clouds
Since we bought up Allah’s name, Al-Musawwir, the One Who Fashions Forms, reflecting on the creation of Allah from a bird’s eye view just leaves one spell bound. We are encouraged to travel and reflect on the signs – the ayat that Allah has created for us. These signs are like speed breakers for those who care to pause and reflect. When life gets in its mundane yet fast flow, we fail to take in the world around us. Our focus becomes only Me, Myself and I. These ayat of Allah help re-energize the withering souls, and they water the hope of the dead heart. They soothe those worried by the dunya —for if Allah can plan and sustain such intricate designs of nature, then surely, He has something much better planned for us, since He told us that He created all of this stuff and made it subservient to us. Allah says:
It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth. Then He directed Himself to the heavens, [His being above all creation], and made them seven heavens, and He is Knowing of all things. [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:29]
Seeing lightning strike at the cloud level is just something else. It is like the list Ibrahim عليه السلام went through in the beginning of his search for truth [6:74-79]. Generally, we just see the flash of lightning and the roaring sound of thunder. We see the destruction it causes and the awe it inspires for those with a heart of reflection. But up here in the clouds, it just looks like a little spark of electricity that might fly off when the electrical sockets aren’t in proper repair.
It’s really an eye opener for those who call upon the angels, and worse, call them the Daughters of Allah [16:57] who have the power to aid them. From here we can see that if this lightning and thunder [13:12-13] is the charge, shepherded by Angel Mika’îl عليه السلام, then just how Mighty and Powerful is our Lord!
Sitting Tight in Turbulence
Wallahi, reliance on Allah – tawakkul— is such an amazing thing to reflect upon, but we have just reduced it to a mere chapter in books. Take a look around the plane. You’ll see so many different types of people with their own unique stories and lives. Everyone on the flight has their lives intricately designed and planned by Allah.
Now imagine this plane going through some turbulence. The pilot announces on the speakers that we’ll be undergoing turbulence but not to worry as it will be over soon, just fasten the seat belts and sit tight. This is coming from a man whom we haven’t even met; yet just because he’s the pilot of the plane we trust that he knows what he’s talking about and we’ll make it through safely. Contrast this with our lives. Allah has told us that we will be going through turbulence in life. All Allah asks us to do in this situation is to be firm and follow His commands. This is The Creator, not just of a plane but of the entire existence. So it is incumbent upon us to develop complete faith in the plan of our Rabb.
This is embodied in the words of our beloved Nabi ﷺ as reported by Amîr Al-Muminîn, ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab رضي الله عنه who reported:
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
“If you were to rely upon Allah with the reliance due to him, then he would provide for you just as he provides for the birds. They go out in the morning with empty stomachs and return full.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī]
Another of the great signs of Allah that we can reflect on here is the Night Journey and how Allah took His Nabi ﷺ from Makkah across through the sky to Jerusalem and from there upwards to Jannah. Allah tells us in the Quran,
Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from Al-Masjid Al-Haram to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing. [Surah Al-Isra’, 17:1]
Despite so many years of human advancement and technology, we still stumble and unravel “facts” which were presented to us by our Nabi ﷺ centuries ago. This should humble us, shaking us away from arrogance and ignorance regarding the power of Allah.
Assessing the Hubris of Powerful Rulers and Our Rightful Status
1,400 plus years have elapsed since our beloved Nabi ﷺ walked from Makkah to Madinah —and here we can go from Madrid to Madagascar in the period of just a day, thanks to multiple technological inventions leading to modern transportation! We should try and reflect as to how Allah has allowed us to be in a time where we have such ease.
Qarûn [28:76] had to carry keys to his treasures on the shoulder of slaves, yet today we can just carry around a small plastic card that gives us access to millions. Pharaoh had asked out of arrogance to have a tower built so high that he could see the Lord of Musa عليه السلام [28:38]! Today, we just need to look outside our windows to see skyscrapers trying to tear through the clouds. Again, if we travel back in time, the people of Thamud built palaces inside mountains [89:9], and today we build untold numbers of towers that pierce the skies. All I’m trying to say here is that today we have technologies and inventions that we take for granted whereas such things were the epitome of human accomplishment and luxury for the nations of the past.
We should be humbly thankful to Allah and in awe at His blessings, for we shall be accounted for what we do with all of this. So then, when you’re flying in a technologically advanced metal tube so high away from the ground —where we might be tempted to strut around out of human self-importance and arrogance— that is where we can actually feel just how powerless we actually are relative to the immense overriding control which belongs exclusively to the Kingdom of Allah.
Accepting Allah’s Limits and Provision
From the ground we gaze at the amazing canvas of the sky and its magnificent clouds. But these are the very clouds you’d wish to avoid on an air trip as they cause potentially dangerous turbulence. Not everything that we admire is good for us at any particular instant of time. Allah is the Best of Planners and He knows exactly when to give us what we need, NOT what we want. Allah tells us,
But perhaps [that] you dislike a thing and it (is) good for you; and perhaps [that] you love a thing and it (is) bad for you. And Allah knows while you (do) not know. [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:216]
We can admire what blessings others have that we don’t —but what we don’t know is whether we would actually benefit if we had that same blessing; rather, what is a blessing for someone else could have led to our downfall. So, it is wiser to appreciate what Allah has given you and make a du’a thanking our Rabb for his innumerable favours.
Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنه reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)said:
“Look at those who are beneath you [for comparison] —and do not look at those who are above you— for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing [given to you by] Allah.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
Welcomed Back Home
We touchdown home and are welcomed and embraced by our mothers. Despite what might have happened in the past, no matter if you’ve been gone for a day or a year, a mother will embrace you with the same love. Reflect on this now.
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab reported:
Some prisoners of war were brought in front of the Prophet and a woman was among them who was breast-feeding. Whenever she found a child among the prisoners, she would take it to her chest and nurse it. The Prophet ﷺ said to us, “Do you think this woman could throw her child in the fire?”
We said, “No, not if she is able to stop it.” He (ﷺ) said, “Allah is more merciful to His servants than a mother is to her child” [Al-Bukhari]
The Door of Return
It’s NEVER too late to turn back to Allah. He is ALWAYS there for us to turn to. All we have to do is ask, it’s as simple as that. Our Sheikh, Ibrahim Nuhu حفظه الله in his commentary Riyaḍ Al-Salihîn said,
“From the uniqueness of Islam is the door of return. You can make a return at any moment. All the things that we mentioned here of the big sins like adultery and others will merit a sin and that sin will be multiplied further EXCEPT for those who turn in repentance to Allah.
From the goodness of tawbah [repentance] is that the first thing that happens is that the sin is forgiven. Secondly, you are further rewarded for turning in repentance.
Some people don’t even know that they are sinning or how many times they’ve done wrong. They are living, swimming, sleeping and waking up in sin.
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.”
Israf (from أَسْرَفُوا) means to exaggerate. Like some people say, there is hardly a sin that we did not commit. Of course, there are many that they didn’t commit, but it’s a way of showing how many they have indulged in.
How it works is that for every sin that is committed and repented from Allah adds in place of that a reward instead. This is an incentive from Allah to those who wrongly think that even if they want to come back to Allah, they will not be accepted because they have committed so many sins. There is no such thing as too many sins that cannot be forgiven. No matter how far out a person has gone, as long as they turn back to Allah, they will find Him ready to accept them back.”
Anas bin Malik Al-Ansari, the servant of the Messenger of Allah narrated: Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,
“Verily, Allah is more delighted with the repentance of His slave than a person who lost his camel in a desert land and then finds it [unexpectedly].” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
In another version of Muslim, he said:
“Verily, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than a person who has his camel in a waterless desert carrying his provision of food and drink and it is lost. He, having lost all hopes (to get that back), lies down in shade and is disappointed about his camel; when all of a sudden he finds that camel standing before him. He takes hold of its reins and then out of boundless joy blurts out: ‘O Allah, You are my slave and I am Your Rubb.’ He commits this mistake out of extreme joy.”
In closing his remarks, our sheikh reinforces the concept that the invitation of Allah remains open and generous:
And your Lord said, “Call on Me, I will respond to you.” [Surah Al-Ghafir, 40:60]
And from somewhere above the Arabian Sea, I thank our Lord:
I searched for home in the deserts of Arabia, in the arched doorways of India, in the rainy slopes of Malaysia yet they all turned me away as another traveller. Amidst all this a light shined beckoning me away from this darkness of travel. In the land of al Mustafa was I given shelter. A shelter and nourishment for both body and the soul. Here was the court of the Seal of the Prophets who sealed away my worries and opened his Masjid to embrace each and every one who proclaimed La Ilaha Ilallah.