“How do we get rid of the dark thoughts that are inside us, Mama?” “How do we remove them from our mind?” I was having a normal conversation with my daughter when she started this discussion. I was a bit surprised by her question. “I often think of frightening images and negative things and I feel so scared. I do my regular dua too but still it doesn’t go,” she said. I wondered what a child might be scared of. Could it be demon-like images that might creep up as nightmares or negative thoughts that might incite her to become a bad person? I wondered what the problem might be.
As a child, I was always scared to watch frightening images or movies or read scary books lest the images return as nightmares, and often they would. I can confidently say that if there was such a thing as a World Record for the most number of nightmares, I would’ve broken that record, subhanAllah.
As I grew older I was told that in order to end these persistent nightmares, besides the regular dua, I needed to give them an outlet. I had to unscrew the bottle that was holding them in, and boy was that a scary proposition.
Whether we are scared of real life trials, or we fear the future or we’ve simply concocted fears as a result of too much exposure to scary fictional characters, I can tell you that facing your fears is scarier than living with them. However, this is something that we must do to free ourselves from the darkness that does not allow a soul to heal or absorb any khair. It’s only logical because your soul is so busy toiling against the negativity that resides within, that it hardly has any room to acknowledge any khair.
My daughter’s simple question helped me untangle some complex feelings. It had been decades but despite art therapy (being a visual artist), thinking things through, reasoning and un-bottling my fears, I had still been living with many of them. Over the years I had pulled them out and faced them too, which was a horrible experience in itself and a topic I choose not to touch upon here. However, what I did not understand was why, despite going through this excruciating ordeal, these fears still raised their ugly heads every now and then like sinister silent serpents.
I told my daughter, “Imagine a vessel that we keep on filling with rubbish. Eventually, it begins to rot and stink, and then the rubbish starts rotting the vessel too. Do you think if we add fresh and pure things to it the stink and rubbish will go away? Even if you spray perfume on it, it will just have a superficial effect, which will be taken over by the foul smell. So what do you need to do to remove the bad odour?” Although I was asking my daughter, it was as if I was reasoning with myself. “Remove the rubbish and clean the vessel and replace it with good and pure things,” she said. That answer was all I wanted to hear. It was there all along. I just wasn’t working hard enough towards it.
Sometimes we need to confront the fears that we are holding on to, even though we’re scared they might consume us if we come face to face with them, and let our soul heal, bit by bit. Allow the course of events to happen, follow your intuition and ask Allah for guidance with sincerity. Absorb the khair little by little and feel the mercy of Allah encompass you. This mercy was there all along because He says in the Quran that, “Indeed with hardship there is ease.” This implies that ease always accompanies hardship even though we’re too preoccupied to notice it. When we allow the khair to seep in like rain, our soul will be rejuvenated by the mercy of Allah and we will learn to breathe again.
Unlike in a fantasy world, we will still have our share of tests in this life but what will hold us up in the midst of these tests will be our tawakkal, which will eventually dominate the fear that used to reside within us.