Trying to give up

Batool Hayder sacrifices something only to realise it was never hers to give up in the first place

“You will never attain piety until you spend out of what
you hold dear…” (Holy Qur’an, 3:92)

The other day, my husband complained to me: “You are always busy doing things for others. You never have time for me.” At first, I wanted to laugh for a number of reasons: it was such a text-book complaint, it wasn’t true because we do spend a lot of time together and most of all, it sounded eerily similar to what my daughter had said that same morning when she told me: “You’re not listening to me. Stop being busy and play with me.”
It’s good to know that I’m needed by those I love, but it’s also a very fine balancing act to actually fulfil those needs. Unlike my daughter, he’s an adult and open to reason. The choice should be simple. However, he has valid needs, hers are sometimes simply whims. So every time there’s an unspoken battle for attention, I have to pause and think about who it is that really needs me.
The sacrifice seems to constantly oscillate and sometimes, it’s hard to figure out if you made the right choice afterwards. However, the one person who definitely ends up losing attention is me. I don’t get to do the things I want to, to indulge in my hobbies, to chill and rejuvenate my social life. Inevitably, that train of thought leads to the ‘poor-me’ place that is probably the most unhealthy state-of-mind a person can reach.
In the past, I am ashamed to admit; I have sulked in this place for a while, whinged a lot and then, because nothing enforces reality like a demanding toddler, forced myself to bounce back into my normal mode. This time around, when the process threatened to begin, something was different.
It all began when I recently started implementing the advice of a scholar and made a point to read a few verses of the Holy Qur’an every night with their translation. I have done this sporadically in the past, but never with the determination to make it from cover to cover. As he promised, with every reading, there has been a lot of confusion, some glimpse of a hidden truth, a slight tremor of promise and always a lesson to learn.
It is also miraculous (don’t you love when that happens?) that most nights, the verses I happen to be reading in some way help with the day that has passed or become relevant in the day that follows. And so, while I was on the brink of yet another ‘what about me?’ downward spiral, I read the verse I have quoted at the start of this article.
‘Spend out of what you hold dear…’ Whenever I have read or heard this verse before, it has always seemed to indicate financial expense. But it can metaphorically apply to so many other things that we hold dear, the most precious of all being time.
Time is the one thing we think we own and need to guard jealously. We all have felt that need to walk away from everything and everyone to get some ‘breathing space’, which really just means ‘some time alone’.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that when I did get that time alone, I wasn’t really ever alone. We all know that God is with us all the time, but how often do we actually realise this fact and acknowledge it? When we have that half hour of solitude to ourselves, it’s actually a half hour we have alone with Him. He is breathing down our neck, so to speak (closer to us that our jugular vein, right?), asking ‘Can you hear Me? Have you finally found Me? Are you even looking for Me?’

“Give that which you love the most: time, interests, love, romance, adventure…”

So these minutes and hours that I was hunting for in a day or a week, even these do not belong to me. Time is a Gift, on loan from God until the day He decides to take it back and me with it. This is the hardest battle to fight, the greatest thing to sacrifice – letting go of this feeling of ownership over something that seems to be so essentially ‘mine’.
But if nothing is mine, not even my time, then how can I feel the need to take it back from those around me? My spouse is considered rizk – a provision – given by God, my child the same. My role as wife and mother were granted by God. Everything He gives has a purpose as well as a benefit, so fulfilling those roles is not only an obligation, but an opportunity to become better.
Paradoxically, everything that I give to my family, everything I sacrifice for them is not mine to give or sacrifice to begin with, it is all from Him. I am simply a medium, a conduit for His Blessings to those around me. The better I am at transferring, the more I become what He wants me to be.
These ideas are easy to think about, to express and put in words. Accepting and implementing them, however, is a real challenge. Logically, I know that everything I have belongs to God, yet my heart still wants to claim things as mine, to possess my identity, to define my Self. I keep re-reading the verse and I want to attain the piety God has promised, yet the simple rule He has laid down for it seems like such a great barrier.
I wonder that we fall in love so easily with our spouses, giving up likes, dislikes, interests, sometimes even beliefs, for them. We allow children to claim our love, giving it to them freely and unconditionally. How strange then that we resist giving up our ego to the One Who Loves us most.
We take such pride in our worldly selflessness without realising that it is all a reflection of Divine Love, that what we do for others out of love, God has been doing for us since He Created us.

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