بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
“Warning! Flash flood expected in the area. Please attain higher ground if necessary”
This was a text message from my local mobile service provider in Brooklyn, New York. I was in New York that summer as I was taking part in an externship at a clinic and hospital. It was my first time away from home. I was all alone and responsible for everything. I was used to a life of comfort back home with my parents who pampered me and now I was living in an apartment, a one floor walk up with no elevator and taking care of myself.
Hence, getting a text message like this, caused a bit of anxiety. I had recently downloaded “The Weather Channel” on my computer as the weather was constantly changing, from cold to warm, to windy to humid, to light showers, to heavy rain and I needed to be prepared when getting up early to walk and catch the subway to work. There were thunderstorms expected for the next 3 days according to The Weather Channel, but the sun was still out, and so I went to work not worried. I still carried my umbrella with me, just in case!
I reached the clinic. The weather was cool and the air was breezy. It was a gorgeous day. I did not pay much heed to the the blackish grey clouds.
If it were to rain, I prayed it would not rain too hard. But I did hope it would rain a little as the doors of Heaven are opened, and that is the perfect time to make dua (supplication).
After a couple of hours in the clinic, some colleagues mentioned the “clouds as black as night” outside, and I wondered what they were talking about. Some patients had called to cancel their appointment as they said that the weather seemed unpredictable. In Karachi, when we have rain, the streets clog up as our drainage system is poor, so I could understand when people in Karachi would not come to their doctors appointments or when certain events would be cancelled because of the rain. But here in Brooklyn, it seemed quite uncanny. I decided to wait and see for myself.
I looked outside the window and saw blackish grey, monstrous clouds. Each shape was visible as if it was drawn on paper. The sky was filled with shadows and shadows, yet there was no rain. I prayed that I would reach home safely. Being a “Karachi-ite” I was used to roads being flooded up with just an hour’s rain and cars getting stranded on the streets.
I was so worried I asked my Teaching Attending Physician whether the subways would stop working. She told me calmly that the subways would continue to run and “it was only a thunderstorm”.
Nevertheless, I prayed to go home soon. And since Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) listens to those who call out to Him. I got to leave early that day because there were a lot of no-shows on patients. Alhamdulillah!
The walk to the subway and the ride went smoothly. As I walked, I felt as the clouds above me were like water balloons, ready to burst. It was about 4 pm and it was getting darker. The wind was fast and blew the leaves around in every direction on the floor. There were not a lot of people on the street that day. I guess everyone had decided to stay indoors. Who wouldn’t?
As I got off the subway, I had about an 8 minute walk home. I will always remember that walk. It started drizzling slightly. The black gloomy angry clouds still stared right at me. The drizzle had left small dots on the ground. I casually took out my umbrella- not to my surprise though, this was a difficult task as there was so much wind I had to stand the other way just to open my umbrella. I could feel the wind picking up, and I could also see the rain drops become larger dots on the pavement- increasing in size with each drop. I was about 2 minutes from my apartment when I saw a streak of lightening across the sky. This perfect flash of white along with this electrical line, jagged, and dangerous. All I could think of at that moment, was “I don’t want to die”. I was not ready for death, I still am not ready for death.
Milliseconds later there was a loud thunderous boom, just as if it was an explosion It was an enormous sound that no human has the power to control, no one except the Creator. I remember feeling so
small at that point in time with the heavy raindrops beating down on me harder and harder.
I can relate this incident to what I learn from Surah Al-Baqarah today:
أَوْ كَصَيِّبٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاء فِيهِ ظُلُمَاتٌ وَرَعْدٌ وَبَرْقٌ يَجْعَلُونَ أَصْابِعَهُمْ فِي آذَانِهِم مِّنَ الصَّوَاعِقِ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ واللّهُ مُحِيطٌ بِالْكافِرِينَ19
يَكَادُ الْبَرْقُ يَخْطَفُ أَبْصَارَهُمْ كُلَّمَا أَضَاء لَهُم مَّشَوْاْ فِيهِ وَإِذَا أَظْلَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ قَامُواْ وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لَذَهَبَ بِسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّه عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ20
“Or [it is] like a rainstorm from the sky within which is darkness, thunder and lightning. They put their fingers in their ears against the thunderclaps in dread of death. But Allah is encompassing of the disbelievers.
The lightning almost snatches away their sight. Every time it lights [the way] for them, they walk therein; but when darkness comes over them, they stand [still]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.”
[Al-Qur’an – Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 19-20]
I think back that I had winced and crouched down at each loud obnoxious thunder threat. This is exactly what the hypocrites do when a thunderclap comes, but to them it is not a thunderclap, but a command that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) wants them to follow. To imagine the hypocrite wincing and crouching down and trying to sneak away from that command, much like I was trying to do from the actual thunder, seems scary almost!
To have an argument with Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and to disobey Him, to me seems unquestionable. But not even to have a literal argument; just to read the Qur’an and not follow its commands, is a disagreement in itself, and an argument nevertheless. And I have done that many a times, only now, I
pray Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) lets me remain guided and does not take away that guidance.
I ran up my apartment steps, struggled to find my key, and struggled even more to close my umbrella, getting wet in the process. I got inside, and felt safe, and sighed a sigh of relief when another bolt of lightening crossed the sky with that milesecond of white and this time, the bolt being so close to me, as if diagonally travelling across the sky and to my door step, and then that voluminous crack of thunder, as if the sky was going to fall down on me.
Nevertheless, I quickly shut my windows as I had left them open, and shut all the electrical appliances, the air conditioner, the fan, the stove, the microwave. As rain is a time of acceptance of dua, I prayed for myself. I prayed to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to forgive me for all that I had done wrong. I prayed for Jannah and for my family. The fact that I was alone made it worse. There was no one to hold on to each time I jumped with the booming thunder and no one to vent to about my feelings of fear from the lightening. This was one of the moments in my life when I realized, there is no one else who could have helped me in that situation but Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).
أَوْ كَصَيِّبٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاء فِيهِ ظُلُمَاتٌ وَرَعْدٌ وَبَرْقٌ
“Or [it is] like a rainstorm from the sky within which is darkness, thunder and lightning.”
[Al-Qur’an – Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) – 2:19]
There was a lot of rain that day, a lot of streaks of light, a lot of flashing, a lot of cracking, a lot of noise. Not because of the neighbors, not because of the trucks or men building. But it was the power of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). This was His magnificence and His grace.
I could never have thought that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) would have actually described His creation of a thunderstorm in the Qur’an and use it as an example. It is such a strong example, such a painful and excruciating one. On top of it all was the reality of the thunder, which now I can relate it to being the threat of punishment.
That thunder will and always has reminded me of the Day of Judgement and of death. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows when I will die, but that feeling of not being in control, was punishment enough. Alhamdulillah, my area did not flood, but I will never forget that one day. The day I actually had fear in my heart. The day where I could not protect myself; the day I had utmost fear. To everyone in Brooklyn, New York it was only a thunderstorm. But to me, it felt like it came as a reminder. A reminder that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) is the one who rules everything, and He is the one who knows everything. I remember being extra good that day. I don’t want to be one of the hypocrites!
I sat very still that day. I was mesmerized not because of amazement, but because of fear. Now I know what happened that stormy day was a wake up call for me. Maybe I was and still am a partial hypocrite, but I want to change, I want to better myself. “And if Allah wanted, He could have totally taken away their hearing and their sight.”-2:20 So, as Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) is all forgiving, He may give the hypocrites a second chance, and still give them guidance, still show them the light. And I hope that He still shows me the guidance and helps me better myself. I am not perfect, but I don’t want to be a hypocrite. And I don’t want to be deaf, dumb or blind!
I could not even fall asleep during the thunderstorm, and I watched it far away sitting on the sofa staring out the window as it lessened, the thunder becoming less loud and the lightening less frequent, its electrocuting fluorescent light decreasing, and its bolts disappearing. Alhamdulillah, I am so grateful for being alive, for the storm rolling over and most of all for now having the ability that it was a reminder for me that. Man is in essence a helpless creature. And really…
إِنَّ اللَّه عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“ Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.”
[Al-Qur’an – Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) – 2:20]