40 days on. Its hard to register the fact that only 40 days have past since the tragic day of ashura: the most devastating, yet the most beautiful: the most painful, yet the most insightful day the world will ever see. No number of ashura days, no number of infinite Muherrams ever seem to be enough in which to tell of this grief, the beauty of the divine sacrifice. Then, 40 days on, we stand back, as though viewing the tragedy, not so much from a distance, but certainly within the framework of individual perspective. Ashura shook my world this year, (as it does every year), but this time, as I was at home, not working, not travelling, as the country was on holiday and I had no major deadlines to meet, I perhaps connected with Allah (SWT) and my Imam (A.S), with a depth I am not conventionally able to reach during these days, owing to external influences. The Muharram that has past is one I’ll never forget, and just as soon as ashura had past, Christmas came and went, (so badly placed this year), and New Year, and work issues, and health issues, and paperwork, and lawyers: and more and more!! We all have our own realms to keep us busy! But as I reflect on Muharram this year and the lessons it has taught me, one of them surely has to be the need to step back from the complex mesh of duties, long enough to see the needs right in front of my face!! I have a friend; a colleague, for the sake of his privacy here in Blog Land, we shall refer to him as Arif. I have known Arif for a number of years now: though we live on opposite sides of the world, we are close friends, and we try to be around for each other, as much as we can be, keeping in mind the constraints of distance etc! Arif is younger than me, but in our relationship, we have perhaps become more of mentors for one another: (with age, comes some sort of experience: whether positive or negative, its experience none the less!), and he too has skills I have been able to benefit from over the years. Any way, around this time last year, Arif contacted me, seeking my help. Again, to protect his privacy, I won’t go in to the issue: lets just say he had got in to a pretty big mess, far from home, and was looking for some guidance from me. To be honest, I was furious with my friend for being such an “idiot”, (sadly, those were my words!). I was shocked at one who I respected so much, being such a useless, feckless IDIOT! And doing something that I just knew he was bigger than and better than. I expressed my disdain, but offered little in the way of comfort or solution for him. After all, I was busy: I had a marriage to organise, a wedding to plan, journeys to make, jobs to find! My own life was in chaos at that point: and besides, Allah helps those who help themselves right? I figured my friend would either sink or swim, but he’d made his bed, …, what was it to do with me! Well, on one level it has nothing to do with me: every one is ultimately responsible for his or herself, only ever accountable to Allah (SWT), first and foremost. A year on however, I see my friend more and more entangled in his own chaotic web, and now that the dust has settled for Arif and I, the guilt has been able to set in. If you think I should be feeling disgusted, well, I do! I regret not helping when I could have, I regret not being a good listener, the counsellor, the friend, the support I think I am, the friend Arif needed me to be, when he needed me to be there. While we all have our own duties, our own tiny spheres to look after, we are not Islands, nor should we expect others to be so. While we may think that the West allows anonymity and desensitisation, Islam certainly does not! And while we may kid ourselves in to thinking that if our tiny microcosm is safe and secure that we’ve done our bit, we most certainly have not! Now, I’m not expecting that we all stretch ourselves to breaking point, but how many of us really know the impact our behaviour can have on others? Just a word, a smile, a prayer, a piece of advice from the heart, a small gift, an Email, a telephone call! Tiny things that take maybe 5 minutes from a person’s day, yet can mean so much! I often like to think that as a journalist, as an activist and so on, my contributions are valuable, and perhaps, in my weaker moments, I let myself believe they negate the more practical, ground-level responsibilities that I have. When I think about Arif, I don’t like myself very much at all, and on this arbaeen, my response to Arif warrants an apology, and some vows for the future. To Arif: my friend, my brother, I’m sorry I was not there for you. I am sorry I didn’t listen when you needed me the most. While you chose your way, I can’t help but think you’d be in a better place if I’d listened, done something, given you some practical advice. I want you to know that I’m better than that, I let you down and I let myself down. I can’t promise never to make mistakes again, but I can promise not to make this one again. I want you to know that you are strong, brave and courageous. I know that whether you stay in this situation or outgrow it, you’ll be successful in whatever you do with your future. The place you are in now will change your life’s course forever, but this need not be a bad thing: woonds that hurt are lessons learned: and once you’ve let the pain come, ache and go, you’ll dust yourself off and move on, because you can, because you must, and because you are strong enough not to let other people and places and circumstances get you down. I know that as disabled people we often limit our possibilities because of our social conditioning, and because of the boundaries we grow to believe we must exist within. I know that if I had spoken out, you might have come to see that other doors were open for you, but I didn’t, and this is my fault. I want you to know that I’m not mad at you though: who’s to say I wouldn’t do the same in your situation. I could say allot, most of which would be of little consequence now, but just remember: if you need me, I’ll be here: there is a door open: I’ll pray, I’ll help, I’ll do whatever you need me to: I’ll always be your friend, and your sister: and I’ll always believe in you to be the best, to do the right thing.
And to my readers, don’t leave a stone unturned, don’t fail to reach out when others call on you: help, and sometimes help at the expense of your own duties: for you will always get back, what you put in, so give, and don’t fear: for in heeling others, will be your success. If you take any thing from the message of Imam Hussain (A.S), it surely has to be giving for others. Give to humanity, so that next Arbaeen, Insha Allah, you look back on promises affirmed, rather than a garden of forgotten regrets!