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Teen Perspective, a column on Muslim teen issues

June 2004

Dumbfounded by Death

by Shezena T. Mohammed

Everyday while I drive to school and work on the infamous A1A where all of Florida's rich and famous live along the beach, I pass by a graveyard and look to it.

I'm dumbfounded by death. It's like I don't even know what it is. I think it's just like the level up, or the next phase. Maybe it's like waking up. It's like the waiting room to get to your ultimate destination; you've already traveled the path, and now you're just waiting to get in. Often I think that we should be happy when somebody dies. It's wonderful, their journey is over and now they're just waiting to get in. That's why we bury people so quickly, to either rush them to start getting their reward or rid the world of their evil. And we should just be ecstatic for people who are guaranteed Jannah like martyrs, children and people with Down's syndrome. But us, we're still here on our journey to be judged. I don't know, I don't have clear answers, I just think about it.

A few days ago and for the third time, an unborn sibling of mine has died. I think it was a boy. I'm pretty sure it was. It's a very common thing for women to miscarry. Most of the time the woman doesn't even realize she was pregnant, but that's only if the miscarriage occurs in the very early stages. I think when it's later on and the woman has known for a while it must be much harder for her. I know it is for us.

Sometimes I can't help but think, oh how wonderful for him (the unborn child). He's never been touched by Shaytaan, never tempted to do evil; he is untouched, unspoiled, just perfect. He's never going to cry for his sins, he'll never cause anyone to cry for his wrongdoings. He is purely pure. The only pain he has caused on this earth is just because of his absence. And if you subscribe to the theory in psychology that all through life people are just trying to get to that prebirth state in the womb where it was warm and we were perfectly cared for and loved - by finding a nurturing, 'warm' relationship to simulate those conditions - then his short visit here was the best of anything we have.

My six year old brother asked, "Why did Allah take the baby?" and the room filled with silence and sadness. I said, "Maybe Allah thought the baby was just so good that he didn't even have to go through life and could just enter Jannah right away." After I said that I thought that sounded like something a child might say, but either way, how wonderful for him.

A witch came to talk in one of my class the other day. A real witch, not just a questionable Catholic woman, came to talk to us about her beliefs. One of the things that she said that stuck with me is that everything is cyclical. Although I'm still wondering if she made that word up, I think it definitely makes sense. She said the seasons, the moon phases, the tide, animal's migration, life, death, the weather, sunrise, the dew on the leaves, our blood, populations, happiness, grief, the waves of the ocean, our lives, everything, it's all cyclical. Even the chaos theory, a very interesting theory, says after great chaos there comes great calmness, but it can also go the other way too. It's the calm before and after the storm.

I used to live in Texas when I was a child. Texas is notorious for violent and sudden weather changes. I remember very often playing outside and other kids around the neighborhood playing and yelling when all of a sudden all the kids stopped and it was quiet. Everything was completely quiet and still. No birds chirped, not a dog barked and everything was silent. We felt the strange calmness and we all knew what was about to happen. We would all run inside and just as we would make it inside a huge thunderbolt would crack across the sky and within just a few minutes the streets would be flooded and overflowing onto the sidewalks with rain. It was the uncanny calm that warned of the chaos ahead.

It's something that can be observed everywhere. I don't think there is any aspect of life or the world to which this phenomenone does not apply.

I was watching the ocean on the A1A the other day. The waves come in cycles: only when the water recedes a lot will a big swell come, and if you're in the water that's when you know to stand up or you'll be choking on salt water, and after a big swell comes the water will recede a lot. Then of course you need to sit down or you'll feel like you're going to fall. It's all cyclical.

While contemplating all of this, it makes me wonder, are we always supposed to go through these cycles? Times of happiness, then times of grief? Is it like the never-ending waves of the ocean, or the everlasting cycles of the moon? It won't last forever but it'll definitely be there long after we're gone. Not forever, just your whole life. Will it?

Really, I think, you only go through times of grief because you lost those times of happiness. I think that's the only time grief occurs, even if it was just the thought of what was going to make you happy, and even if you didn't realize the times before the grief were of happiness, comparatively at least.

Adam (alayhe salaam) cried for 70 years for his loss of Paradise. Later on he cried for 60 more years after his son Abel died.

Great kingdoms are built, then they fall. You were once known as Superman, then you become paralyzed. For all the order you try to make, you only end up with more disorder. You find the love of your life, then he's taken away. It'll never end. It all amounts to nothing in the end.

I know a woman who was so in love. She speaks so fondly of him and it was just love all around. They got married, fell in love, and then he died. Great happiness, then great sorrow. The sorrow only came because there was happiness. Every time I think about it, I think being happy must be a risk. It must be, because if you lose it, you will suffer the pains of your loss. I find myself becoming extremely irritated with all these cycles. It just never ends. Fine, maybe not never, but just my whole life.

In a philosophy class I took a couple of years ago when I first started college, the teacher wrote on the board in a column the numbers 0 to 10. He said, "This is your life!" He asked us if we could chose what number we would set out lives at, ten being the greatest happiness we could experience, and zero being no happiness, but also, choosing ten would mean the greatest amount of pain a person could bear and zero would also mean absolutely no pain, what would you choose? He yelled, "Shezena! What would you choose?" As soon as he asked the question I knew what my answer would be and it's never changed since. "Ten!" I answered.

I would gladly give it all to get it all. I would climb a mountain even if I knew I would have to come back down. Whatever the risk for happiness or greatness you might take, it'll be worth it. It may all amount to nothing in the end, but it's not the loss we should be concerned about when it comes to our happiness. It's a risk worth taking and I would take it every time. I think having the thought of this baby in our minds, the love it filled our hearts with while everything was still okay was worth having to go through the pain of his leaving. And how can it get any better than to know that he is not just lost, inshallah in the most perfect of settings we will meet.

Before I used to think that people who still had hope in the most trying of conditions were just fantasizing, being unrealistic. I think I was probably being unrealistic. When Hagar asked Abraham if Allah told him to leave her and Ismail in the barren desert and he replied in the affirmative she said, "If this is from Allah, then we will be okay."

In the most dire of conditions it must be okay if it is from Allah. You should have the most hope then, because if all goes like how it's been since the big bang, you've got the best to look forward to.

Although my family might be at a low right now, I don't think we should be too sad. It's been shown time and time again, after a low comes a high. As I drive I see every single time after those deep recedes there's a huge wave. I can wait for the next wave to come and be thankful I know this one will be gone soon. If this is from Allah, then we will be okay.

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