In our lives, we undergo phases. And the transition from one phase to another is tedious. And sometimes, in these transitions, we experience empty spaces. There are chances we might slip and fall into those empty spaces, or fill those empty spaces with completely wrong things. So what we need to do is this: Mind The Gap.
Imagine stepping yourself out an underground train, onto the platform.
A moment ago, you were in the train. You knew your destination. You knew where you were headed. But just before you were about to reach there, you checked the approximate minutes remaining to the destination. You checked the map if you were new to the area. A few minutes earlier, you stood up in anticipation. You checked that you had not left behind anything on the seat. You moved closer to the door. And once the door opened, you made sure you step out carefully. You did mind the gap. Because you do not want to fall.
Within seconds, you are now in another realm. Transition over. Fast paced steps, purposeful, focused. That is because you were careful not to get your foot stuck in the gap. Because going down the wrong gap is a whirlpool situation. That one careful step was important.
In our lives, this is what we go through. Transitions. Phases.
In the Qur’an, Surah Al-Inshiqaq addresses humans, telling us that ours is a continuous journey of moving on from stage to stage:
“That you shall assuredly pass on from one stage to another.” (Q, 84:20)
I am forever intrigued and fascinated by the lives of the Prophets (as) of Allah, and the phases of their lives.
Yusuf (as) – from loved and pampered son to a brother deceived by blood to a slave sold in teenage years to a prisoner in a well to a young man to the Prophet of Allah to the ruler of Egypt to the magnanimous brother who chooses to forgive his brothers. Phew!
Muhammad (saw) – from an orphan brought up in rural Arabia in the lap of Haleema to his uncle’s home to a 25 year old young man married to the wonderful Khadija to father of many. And to the cave of Hira – to solitude and connection with Allah and Prophethood. And to being oppressed and persecuted in Makkah, and to being forced to migrate to Medina. And to being a statesman and ruler and general of the forces and husband to wives from diverse backgrounds. And from each chapter of the Qur’an to another – a 114 rungs of the ladder.
Moosa (as) – Plucked from his mother’s lap as an infant, into the palace of Pharoah. Prince of Egypt to one who unintentionally kills a person and flees from Egypt. From a shepherd to the Prophet whom Allah speaks to. And so Allah speaks to him in one of my favourite chapters of the Qur’an, surah Taha:
“….so We freed you from sorrow, and tested you to the maximum; you therefore stayed for several years among the people of Madyan; then you came (here) at an appointed time, O Moosa.” (Q, 20:40)
An appointed time! So yes, there is a time for everything. And in that journey, from one phase to another.
We go from being single to committed. We go from being a child to an adult. We go from being student to teacher. We go from being a daughter to a mom, a son to a father. We move stations – geographically, mentally,emotionally. We change jobs. We go from being thin to fat to thin again. We evolve in our thought processes. We replace one set of friends with another. We lose parents to death. We lose loved ones to separation. And change is not always about loss. It is also about gain. We move up the social ladder. We become richer or more famous.
Every transition is a test. And every time a transition happens, there is “gap”….an interim”void”…..which could be a big one or a seemingly small one. A tiny emptiness, between the familiar and the unfamiliar.
One fills up that void with the wrong things a lot of times. Vacuums suck out the worst in us. Alcohol, drugs, sex, addictions. Letting one get sucked up into whirlpools of negativity or hatred or depression. Or other highs – like pride and arrogance and materialism and undermining others.
And so, what actually was a time for becoming stronger and climbing a rung higher becomes a time of sliding down on that most important ladder – the ladder that leads to self-actualization, of closeness of Allah, of ma’arifat (recognition) of Allah.
We either stop realizing at all that we are doing anything wrong. Slowly, the gap-filling wrong things start feeling right. So much so that we reach a stage where we say “there is nothing such as wrong or right”. Satan, often residing within us, lulls us to sleep.
The other extreme then is that we despair and feel remorse to such a degree that we stop trusting in the mercy of Allah….we feel we are beyond repair and forgiveness. We give up on ourselves….on His Mercy, and forget that the Qur’an tells us in Surah Az-Zumr:
“Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Q, 39:53)
So at times of transition, of change, of movement, watch out. Stay connected to Allah. Gotta be careful to fill the void with the right things, not the wrong. Fill the void with the doing of good, productive, positive stuff. And with zikr (His remembrance). Through the Qur’an. Through dua. And he who holds onto Allah, Allah Will not let him slide into an abyss. Like it says in Surah Al-Baqarah:
“…..whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks………” (Q, 2:256)
So hold on to Him. And Mind the Gap.