I miss Sudan. What it did for me. What it meant for me. And I’m feeling so flat these days because I’m trying to chase something that I can’t find here back home in Melbourne. It can only be found in pursuing something solely for the sake of Allah.
We went to Sudan to study Arabic, but I didn’t know that I’d learn so much about myself and my relationship with Allah too.
It was the first time in my life that my closeness to Allah was really challenged. I lived in a bubble in Melbourne where I was comfortable with my level of faith and my way of living. Sudan popped it and forced me to face the truth- that a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.
I thought that I cared about my akhira (afterlife) more than anything else, but life in Sudan brought out an intense battle over my nafs (soul), between my attachment to worldly things and my longing for the hereafter.
The bare and harsh landscape of Sudan was not easy to deal with, but it showed me the reality of this dunya- that at it’s essence, this world is nothing. What I grew up and became accustomed to- the malls, paved streets, and fancy diners, were all just decorations, illusions of grandeur that distracted me so much from thinking about the hereafter. And for me to survive in a place without my worldly comforts that I’d gotten used to, I had to finally let go.
So I did.
I gradually got used to living there. I got used to time moving slowly. I worried less. Living simply freed up so much space in my mind that I found myself thinking about the state of my deen in those 8 months more than I ever have in my whole life. We had open return tickets which meant we could fly back home at any moment, so everyday I had to fight that temptation by renewing my intentions of being here, when I could be anywhere else in the world.
I fought those temptations by constantly thinking about Jannah. I was not thinking about my physical surroundings, I was thinking about what was above me and beyond me. I was gradually letting go of this world. It was a new level of consciousness that made me feel so free and happy. In those moments I no longer existed within the material limits of existence, all that existed was Allah and his kingdom above.
I wasn’t fully aware of this shift in my mindset until I got back to Melbourne. I actually couldn’t wait to come home and get back to my “normal” life. But when I finally returned, things just didn’t feel the same anymore. I look at things I once thought were beautiful and see it’s temporality. I entertain and indulge myself but I get bored soon after. I once thought I’d never leave the city crowned “best in the world” but now I see that it serves a specific function and cannot fulfil all the parts of me here.
So where to now?
Before, I thought I could get by in life with what I knew and that learning Arabic was just an extra cherry on the top. But being exposed to just a bit knowledge and other students who were doing faaaaar more beyond me made me realise that I know nothing. That Arabic should actually be a starting point in my Islamic education. That our standards and expectations of each other in the Muslim community are so low. That I’m in a dangerous position if I don’t act soon.
It was a humbling experience to realise how ignorant and arrogant I have been.
I now know the basics foundation of Arabic and little else, so I need to continue studying the language. This might be short stints to study overseas or using private tutors online and local classes. Regardless of the format, I want to take this idea of being student of knowledge seriously, and place it up top as one of the main constants throughout my life.
How to balance this with other commitments in life like family and work will just have to be figured out along the way. I have no short answers for this, so let’s just see what happens.
Lastly I would like to say that I don’t feel like I chose this path. It chose me. Not because I’m special- in fact I’m a lousy student. It’s because all I have learnt is that I know nothing. I wrote after completing my course that it felt like seeing the ocean for the first time. And once you see it you can’t look away. That ocean is an droplet of Allah’s divine message sent down to us. You want to dip your toes in the ocean, feel the water against your skin, swim in it. The waves crash onto the shore that you stand on and retreat, pulling you in with its force of gravity.
That is what seeking closeness to your Creator feels like. And once you see the ocean, it hurts, and feels so wrong to turn your back on it.
I hope that sharing my reflections will help open a conversation with yourself about what it means to be a lifelong student of knowledge. You will find more on my instagram @yoursisnis