I DO NOT have to imagine that I’m doing a life sentence in prison. Unfortunately, though, that is my reality for the moment. All praise is due to Allah, and I still feel I have been blessed even in my misfortunes. Allah has guided me and safeguarded me through Islam to a way that is right. And through Islam, He has eased my burden, pain, and suffering!
Islam has provided a means for me to maintain a dignified existence under these conditions. I now live for Allah’s cause. Being in prison you have to live under such strenuous conditions and deal with many different (non-Islamic) types of people, many with no moral character at all. And because this life is my reality, “ifs” will not change the events that have already taken place—although miracles do seem to happen sometimes as we develop faith and awareness. However, it’s more about staying in the moment of truth and remembering that even this moment belongs in my spiritual journey.
Before I dared to put Islam into practical application in my everyday life, I had to slow down and ask myself the following probing questions: Are you deeply fulfilled? Do you feel your life has a clear sense of purpose? Do you see your place in the great scheme of things? Do you have confidence in the future of our society? And the answers that I came up with, at the time, were frightening! I was very unsatisfied with my status during that phase of my life! Most of us expend a tremendous amount of effort in many directions. But towards what end? What task have we come into the world to accomplish?
Each of us has a path of struggle, through countless illusions and compelling temptations. So each of us has essential choices to make. Each of us is called upon to choose good over evil, love over hate and generosity over selfishness, time and time again. And each of us will reap the consequences of each choice. No time, culture or popular sentiments can ever alter these basic truths.
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So do we trust a growing modern notion that life is chaotic, random, and morally neutral—with no greater significance than whatever we ascribe to it? Or do we choose to trust the compass of the Prophets, that life has a profound meaning, and each one of us can reach a lofty status? If so, it makes sense to familiarize ourselves with some of the classic maps and rules of the road, to make sure we are on a path that we believe to be right and good for us.
Islam and the Sunnah (lifestyle) of our beloved Prophet Muhammad has provided such a way of life for me. It has been my guide to success.
Through Islam I have found my purpose in life. So many people spend an entire life time searching for a purpose, and many never come close to finding completeness or satisfaction. True happiness is internal, not external. It comes from taking responsibility for the things under our control and learning to embrace even the unpleasant things that are out of our control. And because the very purpose of life is to be happy, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.
If we search outside ourselves for the meaning of life, we never tend to find it. But if we look inside for the meaning in life, it’s always waiting for us, right here in the present moment. In my own limited experiences, I have found that my greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion—which I have learned from the religion of Islam. Islam has given my life a different meaningful purpose and has given me the strength to cope with all the obstacles I have had to encounter.
The teachings of Islam have now become the ultimate source with which I govern my life. They have also helped me become more mindful about how to shape and mold my children’s lives.
The teachings of Islam help us become more thoughtful, and thoughtfulness helps us develop equanimity. Thoughtfulness is at the core of our spiritual work because we want to have conscious choice over what we do. To work deeply and naturally, spiritual practices require time, commitment, and patience. But the ultimate challenge and testing ground for all ideals is our day-to-day life.
And when we have reached this level, then our lives become a seamless whole, and every moment becomes our conscious practice. We accept life and life accepts us, and the fears, worries, and internal bickering of a lifetime go away. Getting to this level is not always easy. But the joy and gratitude inherent in this spiritual awakening surpasses any other kind of payoff that life could possibly offer.
Therefore, if I’m not blessed to be freed ever again and imprisonment has become my destiny (All Praise is still due to Allah), then still, I just pray that He increase me in knowledge and understanding, so that I may be able to accept this as my fate! I also pray that He increase my knowledge so that I may make a positive impact on the multitude of people, mainly Muslims, whom I will encounter during my stay in this ungodly, man-made “Just-Us” (justice) system; that I may be able to influence them to become better people, better Muslims, and more pleasing to God!
The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We only need to hear the voice of faith within us and obey it. There is guidance for each of us, and by fully listening we shall hear the right words and see the right signs! Signs, after all, are for the conscious mind.