A while back my family and I went up to the mountains to Lake Arrowhead Village. My metaphorical thinking took me on a fantastic mental voyage replicating our way up the mountain. I give thanks to Allah for the power of thought and imagery.
As we ascended the mountain getting closer and closer to Lake Arrowhead Village, that winding road mirrored the road of life, the life of a Muslim, my life.
Our lives are like winding roads, bending left and right, vacillating between high and low levels of faith , right and wrong, sin and repentance, over-consumption and charity, animalistic and angelic, ignorance and knowledge, pride and humility, blessings and trials, and the small and large defeats and victories in battles with our nafs [ego].
Yes, yes, I know; that road we took was just a road, but the symbolism cannot be denied. That road is like the road of belief, the road of knowledge, the road of love, the road of sabr [patient perseverance], the road of success, essentially, the sirat al-mustaqim, the straight path, though there is nothing physically straight about it.
I remember that about 2/3 of the way to Arrowhead, we stopped at a turnout for a vista of the valley below. While looking down at the desert valley below, I looked to my right and saw the winding road we had conquered so far. I look back now and think about how the turnout was like those moments in life where we stop and reflect on the past trials we’ve conquered. It also made me wonder about being on my deathbed and if I my thoughts will travel the winding road of my life. Will I be content with how I lived? Will I have regrets? Will I still have a song in my heart that refused to sing?
I distinctly recall while ascending the mountain that the road seemed to be never-ending while we traveled it, but it all seemed to have passed so quickly once we had arrived. We live life like it will last forever, but toward the end of our lives, if we are blessed enough to know when that is, we realize that the duration of our life was really only the time span of an eye blink and the length of an eyelash, at best.
Every time we go up the mountain to the village, my vertigo kicks in. Each time, I know the reward for the temporary discomfort leads me to a beautiful day at the lake village with family. So, I endure it in pursuit of the reward of a nice picnic or lunch and playtime in the mountains. Through the vertigo, all I see in my mind’s eye is the deep blue lake water, the trees, the ducks, the birds, and the clean air. My vertigo usually pales in comparison to the wonderful visions in my mind. All of this makes me think about life’s road, the road to liqa’Allah [meeting with Allah], the road to the Jannah [Paradise], and how we may suffer and have trials along the way. Nevertheless, if we keep our eyes on the ultimate prize, we will make it through anything and suffer through anything to achieve it. I mean, do we really think the road to our dreams will be a road of abundant ease? Well, not with us being how we are: a blend of earth and heaven, evil and divine, soul and clay. Whether physical or metaphorical when we are in the Gardens of Paradise enjoying the real qurb ‘ila Allah (nearness to Allah), the struggles of life will be like so minute in the grand scheme of things…just like I never think about my dizziness on the road once I step out of the car in the village parking lot, regain my balance, and take a few breaths. Though Allah’s “Face” is reflected in the ubiquitous mirrors of all existence, won’t we endure all the oscillating events of this life’s journey seeking Wajh Allah (Allah’s “Face”)?
Jameelah X. Medina, Ph.D., is an educator, author, orator, and business owner residing in southern California with her husband and daughter. www.jameelahmedina.com She is also a contributor to I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim, a collection of 40 personal essays written by American Muslim women under the age of 40.