Hala Shah, a 21-year-old Muslim senior at New York University, is currently celebrating the month of Ramadan and sharing her weekly journals with Beliefnet. Each week she will write about what Ramadan is, what it means to her, and memories from past Ramadans.

Dear Journal,

Eid Mubarak! Happy Eid!

Sitting in front of my computer, squishing marshmallows between my teeth as I tap on a's, p's, and k's, I am happy to be eating during the daytime again, yet sad, almost depressed, that Ramadan is over.

As my husband, my fellow students at my school's Islamic Center, and I all scarfed down crepes filled with Nutella, strawberries, and bananas, I glanced at the Crepe Creations logo on the box my fork was feverishly stabbing in: it is a painter's palette. And I thought about how we are all painters of our lives. Over the month of Ramadan, my soul was painting pinks, baby blues, limes, and golds. With each new stroke--each new good deed, each new prayer for forgiveness--a vibrant color replaced a black or gray streak in the painting. My soul was cleansing itself and painting what it imagines Heaven to be. But with Satan released, this painting is again vulnerable to spoiling black hues. How will I keep the blobs of paint on my palette pure and my painting unspoiled? How will I keep Satan from taking buckets of black paint and dumping them over my fragile creation? The answer is simple, yet larger than life since the answer is in God.

Satan cannot bring the paint buckets out unless I first offer the paint and bucket. Each stroke is inspired by either good, or bad intentions. It is my own hand that brushes radiant light onto my painting. And, unfortunately, it is my own hand that brushes darkness onto it. Satan is only the inspiration behind the black shades. How thick the black strokes are, how fat the blobs, how scattered the splatters, depends on me. Everyone is bombarded with evil whispers, especially now since Satan will be trying to make up for lost time. But whether and how much these whispers affect me is up to me and to God. When I was little, I would recite Surah Al-Nas when I was scared, in a dark room, imaging ghosts breathing down my neck. Although I didn't really know what the Arabic words that trembled past my lips meant, I certainly felt their impact. I felt that the only thing keeping me safe in those moments was my prayers, not how well I hid under the covers, how hard I closed my eyes, or how prepared and braced I was to have to jump out of bed and turn the lights on at the slightest sight of something suspicious. Even then I realized that nothing would help me except God. As Brother Khalid Latif, NYU's Muslim Chaplain, delivered the Eid Khutba this morning, he emphasized the very same principle. Only through a constant connection with God, a constant plea to Him to keep my painting pure, can I expect protection from Satan. And Satan will use all the tricks in the book to manipulate and deceive. He will even tell you how to be a better Muslim, a better person if it means getting away with some other bad deed, as Brother Khalid explained in a Hadith about how a thief (Satan in disguise) - in order to avoid being taken to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on account of his misdeeds, and thus be free to go to someone else to deceive - told a man how to protect himself against the very thing the thief was: evil.

Last week I overheard a conversation between some Muslims students on how one can tell if it is the Night of Power. They wondered, is there a special feeling, a sign? They arrived at the general consensus that it is different for each person, and not everyone will necessarily experience what they believe is a sign from God that that was the Night of Power. At the time of that conversation, I have to admit that I was skeptical of receiving a sign from God. And I still am. All I know is that on the last odd night of the last ten days of Ramadan, I received a dream--one that I believe came from God--that changed this Ramadan and Eid--and, in fact, my life.

As I pause to tell you this story, my fingers hover over the keys, not knowing where to begin, how to possibly recount all the images and emotions of that dream. I received a similar dream earlier this year - equally real, equally profound. Since it was about the same thing as this dream from just last night - Judgment Day - I will retell parts of it as well. While I can't describe all the details, all the messages and images woven in, I can tell you some of its general messages. In the first dream, I see the world after the Day of Judgment has passed and the actual passing from this life to the next is just a silent moment of prayer. Yet in last night's dream, I went through the Day of Judgment. I watched the moon bounce around in the sky, dark clouds blowing by faster than I had ever seen, and heard lighting bolts shatter glass. In both, the moment takes me by surprise and it takes me some times to realize that, yes, this life is ending, this is Judgment Day. And in both, my husband is at first with me, but then he either disappears or I push him away as I desperately scream "God is Great," and "There is no God but God."

In both dreams, as I am passing from this life to the next, I truly believe that this is it, this is my last chance to praise God, my last chance to show Him who I am, my last chance to prove myself. I feel the regret of having not worked harder in life to be good, to constantly think of God and thank Him for His blessings. There is nothing else more important in these moments than God. Everyone drops out of the picture and it is just me and God. In both, I arrive in what I at first think is Heaven, but then realize is not. It is not Heaven, but not Hell either. It is a middle ground. In the first I can even see Heave across a black body of smooth water, its lights shining from a distant shore. The point of all this, I believe, is that God is reminding me that Heaven is not a guarantee for anyone. I have to work to get there and not just in the last moments. I do not want to feel immense regret in my final moments. But I do know that no matter how hard I work, I will feel just as helpless. When everything from this life is stripped away, then do I realize that just God, and only God is going to decide where I end up. Perhaps God is saying, Hala, you are on the right track, certainly not without a mansion full of blunders, but at least with the right intentions, but you need to work harder. You need to keep the end destination in mind at all times. And you need to thank Me and seek My guidance at all times, every second of the day. It is in your hands. I am here to help you get to Me, if you just try.

Was it the night of power? Was my dream really from God? I would not be surprised if one day I found out both to be true.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad