When I lie in bed at night, that's when it all hits me. It comes gradually at first, like a soft yet steady hum. Like a toothache, it starts with a dull pain. Soon however, it becomes as if it were a full-fledged headache. I become entangled in its snares before I even realize it. My mind is spinning like a 45 on the turntable of unreality. Thoughts fly this way and that, sometimes crashing into the sides of my head, then returning with even more stamina. And all the while, I lie there, my eyes seeing only darkness but my mind knowing no rest.
Frustrated I throw back the covers and flip on the bedside lamp. The warm glow of a candle illuminates the cheetah motif of the lampshade. My soul feels comforted. The thoughts vanish tucking their tails between their legs. All is seemingly normal. I breathe a sigh of relief and try once again to immerse myself in sleep. I even switch sides for the clean slate effect. But once again, my attempt is futile. It all rushes back the moment my eyes shut and a million vividly disturbing imaginings break loose from temporary cages.
“They don't really like you, it's all a facade.”
“You looked so nice in that picture, I wonder if they thought you were pretty.”
“Why haven't they spoken to you for a while? You must have really done it this time.”
“Stop!” An overwhelming thought suddenly blots out all the rest. “You're all liars! They love me, they're just busy. I know I'm pretty because that boy said I was. Remember him? From Facebook?”
Ah, yes my mind is finally working properly. It has carefully sifted out what I want to hear, the supreme truth of the matters which hinder my slumber. Or at least, what suits my whims and fancies. The rest is simply 'mind junk'. I should have known all along.
Sleep soon overtakes me, but it does not last long. I am suddenly standing in a scene anew. Startled, I take account of my environment. My bedroom has faded away, the comfy pillow no longer cradles my head. The stupor of sleep has vanished and I feel more alert than ever before. The atmosphere around me is one of urgency and the mood is intense. I shudder. I look around and find myself surrounded by faces looking on in awe. I reach out to touch an arm, it retracts. I grab a hand, it slithers out of my grasp. Breaking out in a cold sweat, I too begin to imitate the hushed, anxious crowd. I know where I am now. This is the Day of Judgment.
My mind is once again set to full speed, but this time its thoughts are of a different nature altogether. Each thought consumes the expanse of my mind, first in loudness and then in absolute yelling.
“What have you prepared for this?”
“Did you even try to get ready?”
“WHAT HAVE YOU PREPARED FOR THIS!?”
I slowly become a crumpled heap on the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. I have prepared nothing. Not enough dhikr. Not enough du'ā'. Not enough worship. In fact, the very thought of preparation had somehow eluded me, gotten lost somewhere in a mass of trivial pursuits. That was the one path my mind had not traversed, but which I now so desperately needed. I feel too weak to ward off a last minute whispering.
“I bet THEY will help you.”
Yes, that's it! I had done everything I possibly could to please them during life on the earthly plane. Many a time I had had to silence the voice of reason that would try to stop me. As long as they were happy with me, my life was complete. With new determination I rise and scan the crowd looking for a familiar face. It is no easy task, but whenever I spot one, I rush headlong to it, hands waving wildly. Much to my dismay, I get dismal responses each time. Some ignore me, a look of sheer indifference making them almost unrecognizable. Some walk swiftly away into oblivion in the same instant that I touch their shoulder. Soon, I find myself alone. The crowd has gradually marched away from me, rank upon rank. As my body helplessly falls forward, no longer able to support itself, I recall something. A verse. I had once read it, perhaps a Ramaḍān or two ago when I had ever bothered to peek into the Qurʾān. And as my body falls further and further into the unknown, the crowd still looking on, it flows through my veins, grabs the reins of my mind, pulsates through my heart, and consumes my soul.
“No bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another.”
And then I open my eyes. My head is cradled by a comfy pillow. I bolt upright, gasping for air and looking around. I see the familiar scenes; a curtained window to my right and a nightstand supporting a cheetah print lamp to my left. I rub my eyes and take a look at the bedside digital clock. 4:45 AM. Emerging from the covers, my feet touch the cold, hardwood floor. I shiver my way to the bathroom, turn on the tap, and start undoing Satan's knots, one by one. I slip on my prayer clothes, grateful for the warmth they provide and assume my position on my dark red prayer mat. In the stillness of the night I invoke my Lord. Every body, every face gradually marches away, rank upon rank and I feel myself flying higher and higher. I feel myself radiating light beyond the realms of human comprehension. I am alone, alone with the only One. Stray musings attempt to extinguish my light. But, an overwhelming thought suddenly blots out all the rest.
“Don't think. Just pray.”