If you're anything like me, a simple experience like getting lost in transit is nothing to shrug your shoulders about. It may be paranoid thinking, but a little reflection never hurts.
As Muslims, we are aware that accidents are not really accidents. We know that we are being tested when we encounter a bump in the road. So some of us reflect quite a bit; wondering where the wisdom of Allah is in this moment of trial. But of course, we are only human with limited cognition and capabilities and any conclusion we come up with will obviously be incomplete. But we ponder and reflect nonetheless; trying to find a conclusion which gives us ease and increases our iman in Allah (swt).
The other day, I was on my way to see some friends in a new location about an hour away. It was quite some time since I've been out of the home. With the cold weather and extended family time, I thought it was time to get away for a bit. As soon as I left the home, I felt bare - similar to the way a student might feel when they don't wear a backpack. I needed a few minutes to get used to the sun hitting my face and the cold winter air. I had figured out my trip the night before and had no doubts it would get me to my destination. So, while I was on my first bus, I remained vigilant, on the edge of my seat awaiting the specific intersection. As soon as I heard one of the streets on the intersection, I requested a stop. I got off the bus promptly, expecting a smooth transition between this one and the next.
However, suddenly I had found myself alone and in the middle of nowhere. I looked back at the bus, I contemplated getting back on while turning my head and inspecting the area. I can see the highway in front of me. On my left is a road extending from the highway. And to my right was a long trail that appeared endless from where I stood; with some wild bushes lining the trail. I could not see further than these growths, since they stood on a hill that hid what was behind it, although I was sure it was empty farmland. Before I knew it, the bus was no where to be found, it went off into the unknown.
Here I was, a woman alone. This is the 21st century, I thought, I can use my phone to call someone to come get me. But no one picked up. Now, I was completely alone.
Then my mind started playing games with me. Racing thoughts of worst case scenarios started swarming in my head; someone appearing out of the bushes and taking advantage of me. Or a car pulling up and abducting me. Then where would I be? What use of anything I've ever done be then? What can save me if I'm without anything of protection? What will if my life is saved?
I felt the need to act quickly and make a decision. All I need is civilization. I needed the best option at finding people, I thought.
But to my left was no use. So it was inevitable that I blaze the path I was afraid of the most. My heart was beating loud and I could hear and see my breath from the cold air. My extremities were freezing. I began to run.
I ran and supplicated. Perhaps it was an overreaction and irrational fear, but at that moment, I couldn't risk pretending that everything would be okay. I had to remain vigilant and I was alert and ready for anything. I thought, at least there were cars passing every now and then. I could jump in the middle of the road and stop one if someone tried to do me harm. Thoughts still racing. At that moment, I didn't give one thought to how ridiculous I looked. People's opinions of me were the last of my worries right now, I thought.
Suddenly, in the distance, I saw the first sign of life; a the tip of a building, then lights, then the sound of life. Alhamdoulillah. The adrenaline rush subsided. I found the second bus and was back on the path again. Sure of the destination, but at the same time not so sure. I realized now that the room for uncertainty was under Allah's mercy and He alone possessed knowledge of it. I needed Him for this ride. As sure as I was initially, I needed Him for the things I thought I could count on the most. Because once we've given ourselves full control, then that is when we must be the most weary. Because it is merely an illusion.
Some might say that from your nerves, you panicked and got off a stop early. And that I should have just paid better attention. But the heart knows what the mind cannot comprehend. And in that moment, I could not have predicted that I would be lost. I realized that this whole experience was one big metaphor for the straight path (sirat elmustaqeem).
The straight path is comfortable. It is only natural. For we wouldn't be pure from birth if not. It calms the nerves and leaves one with ease. But Satan has promised that he would sit on that path:
[Satan] said, "Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path."[7:16]
So as Muslims, we cannot expect a smooth sailing. What happens when we are led astray from that path? In my story, finding my way back was not as hard as I believed. Similarly to the way Satan leads you away. You commit one sin and feel lost, Satan tells you you're a hypocrite and not a true Muslim and that you shouldn't bother returning to the path. But the path is there! Just shake off his whispers and you'll see it right in front of you! Use your heart and let your gut feelings guide you back.
I could have just as easily walked into nothingness that day. What does a believer do when he finds no path to return to? Or worse yet, when he doesn't believe in the existence of a path at all? He will surely be lost and his illusion of being free from a path will cause his demise. Just as I've been lost from civilization and my only source of survival for that moment, the non-believer and the one who has been led astray will find no food or shelter for his heart. And it doesn't matter how many people are in his company. If they are all lost, then there is no use for them. They will only lead him further away from his natural calling.
Find the strength in Allah. Know that your humanness leaves you vulnerable to the turbulence that comes from this world. You cannot dodge all the trials and you cannot also guarantee yourself a smooth ride. Accept that the only way back is from His guidance. Use your heart and Satan will be left fuming.
"And do not sit on every path, threatening and averting from the way of Allah those who believe in Him, seeking to make it [seem] deviant. And remember when you were few and He increased you. And see how was the end of the corrupters."[7:86]
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