by Um Talhah
Even as I made the turn I was not paying attention. In fact I had not been paying attention in a long time. I'd been ignoring and procrastinating and dawdling and had been simply heedless. The mechanic had warned me on my last few visits. He had even explained it in simple words and terms for me. Don't get me wrong now, I had every intention of getting my beloved car fixed. After all, I depended on it to get everywhere and my daily routine demanded I had to have a very dependable car. It is just that, ahh….
So now I was here, my car had broken down and I was terribly stuck in something I could not quite label, perhaps it was the remnant of last week's flooding. Whatever it was, some fluid was seeping up through the car floor and for the first time in the past few months, I seriously regretted my dillydallying and wished I had listened to at least one of the many who had advised me to take better care of my car.
The severity of the situation started sinking in: I was on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere trying to find a junk yard that had some pieces for my exhibition. I hadn't replaced the batteries on my GPS in time and was forced to use the obsolete paper map (thank goodness I'd left that in the car). Even if AAA agrees to come (the membership expired just 2 days ago and I always renew it albeit late, so they shouldn't hold it against me, right?) would they get here in time? And if I didn't get help soon enough, my car and most likely I too, were bound to sink in whatever this slimy stuff was, for it was stretched as far as I could see!
I promise I will pay more attention. Please let me get out of this mess. I don't wish to die this way.
As if by a miracle that could have only been by the true God, one of those monster trucks pulled up at the dirt road where I should have been. The men who came out of the truck must have been athletes as their muscular bodies were just too obvious. One of them pulled out a bull horn and called to me.
“Don't worry; a few other people were stuck here within the last week. We can get you and your car out safely but we have to work fast. We have about a half-hour or less. We need your consent before we can help you though. Find a sheet of paper, write in big letters that you agree to accepting help from us and waive any damages incurred and hold it outside your car window. We'll take a picture and then we can begin.”
The men, very professional in appearance, started setting up all sorts of gear by their truck. Now they were just waiting for me to sign the 'waiver' (legalities of life in the USA!). I looked at my watch. Half an hour sounded like a reasonable amount of time. Before I could even begin looking for a sheet of paper big enough for them to see, my cell rang. I had answered my phone even before I realized it. Some telemarketer wanted me to switch to their services trying to convince me it was the best decision I could have made in my life! I tried being polite with him and it took me some time to convince him I was better off without his company's services.
Then I was back to looking for a sheet of paper. We don't carry around sheets of paper with us anymore. But then I remembered I had a cardboard box in the trunk and if I could get to it from the back seat, I could use one of the flaps. Just then the guys at the junkyard called: they were getting ready to close and wanted to know if I was coming. I had spent quite some time finding the part and didn't want to lose it. I tried explaining to them I was stuck somewhere close by and as soon as I was free I'd come to pick it up. I moved to the back seat and opened the access panel to the trunk. I could see the box but I'd have to find my cutter to cut away a flap. Since the trunk was closed I could not open the flap to easily tear it.
Right then my agent texted me asking me about a seat that had suddenly and luckily opened up on one of the flights I had wanted for my vacation next month. I had to tell him right away to grab it. He wasn't at the desk; I had to dig up his colleague's number and call him. I looked in the glove compartment and then remembered taking my cutter out just the previous night. Leaving from my kitchen I had seen it sitting on the table and had told myself conveniently that I'd put it in the car later. Though I wanted to, it was useless to lament over it.
Before I knew it, my best friend was on the phone asking me if we were meeting for lunch the next day. As I described my miserable situation, my normally very sensible friend refused to believe me. Only after I took a couple of snaps and texted them did my friend believe me. A long ranting and babbling of offers of help followed which made me feel very happy, but I had all the help I needed right here only if I could sign the waiver in time.
I had reached the box but it was too big to be pulled through the narrow gap. I regretted not putting my cutter back in the car again and struggled with tearing up a flap. My phone rang again and I knew if I didn't want her calling me repeatedly, I'd better answer. My mom wanted to know if I'd be stopping by for dinner. As I told her I wasn't sure, she sensed the anxiety in my voice. Explaining my situation to her and calming her down took up my next few moments. I had lost a few precious minutes by now.
I was in a time crunch. There won't be daylight for too long. The thought of being stuck in the dark started to creep me out. I glanced out the window. The strong, skilled men were completely ready, waiting for me. It wouldn't take them too long to rescue me, I assured myself. My phone rang yet again and though I had decided not to answer any more calls as a habit I answered, only to realize it was a call that could have very easily waited. I struggled with the flap. It took much longer than I anticipated. Finally, I tore up a flap and wrote down the words. Before I held it up for the waiting rescuers to see, I glanced at my watch and to my horror only five minutes were left.
Where had I wasted the entire twenty-five minutes? A deep remorse and regret engulfed me. I could see the men looking at their watches too. They seemed extremely sorry for me but they needed my help in helping me!
My dear fellow Muslims, we are all driving the vehicles of our actions, hoping to make it to Jannah. The good deeds we do keep us on the track of Jannah, but sins we do intentionally and otherwise make us deviate from the path to Jannah. Our vehicles become stuck in the mess of our bad deeds. Just as improperly kept vehicles break down and keep us from reaching our destinations in this world, our sins and not adhering to Allāh's commands keep us from reaching our goal of Jannah. Allāh , the ar-Raḥmān and ar-Raḥīm, sends us favorable opportunities that can help us get back on track, on our way to Jannah and His Pleasure again just like the strong, able men in the ordeal were there to free my vehicle and to set me back on the road. Ramaḍān is such an opportunity: the shayāṭīn are chained, the gates to the Fire are closed and the gates to Jannah are opened.
Allāh makes it easy for us to stay away from bad deeds in this month. He facilitates doing good deeds and freeing ourselves from the fire in this month and especially in the last ten nights and even more especially in the last five odd nights. Allāh frees more people from the Fire in this month than in any other.
But, does merely witnessing a Ramaḍān guarantee forgiveness for us if we do not take proper steps to benefit from it? Throughout the Qurʾān and aḥadīth of the Prophet we are reminded of the importance of actions along with belief. Even in the aḥadīth informing us of the benefits of Ramaḍān, the Prophet used words that describe actions, e.g. 'whoever fasted', or 'whoever stood praying in the nights of Ramaḍān', etc. instead of saying 'whoever witnessed' or 'whoever was alive in Ramaḍān'.
At the beginning of Ramaḍān, each one of us was given thirty days (or less, if Allāh decided that we die before the end of this month) to rescue ourselves from the Fire through the benefits of Ramaḍān. But time is swiftly passing in these last days of Ramadan exactly the same way it was while I sat in the car waiting to be rescued.
Are we busying ourselves with matters not so important and ignoring the most crucial task at hand of liberating ourselves from the Fire? Are we doing what I did as I neglected the most vital job in the car and busied myself with things that could have waited? Let's take heed now. We must set our priorities right. I ended up remorseful for not setting mine right. Which actions would we still be willing to do if our lives truly depend on them?
As I sat there in my car wishing to be rescued I knew Allāh had sent me help. I had no doubts in the expertise and ability of those strong men. And they were truly completely capable of and willing to rescue me. Yet they were not able to help me without my action. I had to work to secure their assistance.
Likewise, the plain fact that Allāh has blessed us with another Ramaḍān is not going to save us from the Fire if we do not take proper steps to qualify us for the guaranteed help. Let us free our vehicles from the mess and head on again to the road to Jannah.
P.S. The purpose of this article is not to highlight proper steps and ways of maximizing the benefits of the last nights of Ramaḍān. Alḥamdulillāh, we are blessed with scholars who have painstakingly done that. I will simply include the links to two very beneficial yet very short videos:
Preparing for the last 10 nights by Sh. Yasir Qadhi:
How to make your 24 hours a day into worship by Saiyyidah Zaidi: