Allah mentions in His book that it isn’t only eyes but also hearts that can become blind. Furthering that notion in the 24th surah, He gives the example of someone drowning at sea during a thunderstorm with a giant wave that has slammed over him (or her…) and before he could make his way to the top another comes and pushes him even deeper down to the bottom of the ruthless sea. You’d think by the time you get to this part of the divine painting, you’d be learning from being out of breath or terrified. But no, the depiction is
إذا أخرج يده لم يكد يراها
“When he takes his hand out, he almost doesn’t even see it!”
The deeper down he goes the darker it gets. The greatest horror in Allah’s divine parable is an almost inability to even see your own hand right in front of you. Of all our limbs, the hand is commonly used in the Quran to describe our actions in life.
I was talking to someone recently about their “bad days”, the days before they repented and changed course in life. They told me that even at the worst times, sneaking out of the house, making the way to the night club, right before walking into it, they’d turn to God and say, “I’m sorry I’m about to do this, please don’t let me die here”.
That moved me so deeply. There are people that can be so far from being good, steeped in sin, so many doses of drugs, illicit relationships, filthy environments and all manner of terrible choices later, through all of those crushing waves of darkness that have slammed them deeper and deeper into the merciless ocean of sin, where they are surround only by devices of their own destruction, where every time they even try to come up for air a new set of temptations and forces drag them back down ensuring they will be in so much darkness that they’ll stop thinking about what they’re doing and just do it, through all of that, they can still barely make out their hand and still aren’t completely blind. Some voice inside them still says you need to get out of this. Some part of them can see right past all the make up, all the loud noise, all the animal stares, all the fake smiles, all the mind-numbing thumping of music telling you to “throw your hands up in the air and wave ’em like you just don’t care”, and yet they still care. As weak as it may have become, their vision still works.
Vision is a function of light. In easy English, without light, you can’t see. It doesn’t matter how far the party road you’ve traveled. It doesn’t matter how much darkness you’ve surrounded yourself in. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve told yourself I’m in too deep. I’m as good as drowned, a lost cause. None of that matters. The fact that something inside you can still see the wrong in what you do means there is light somewhere. But where? Where did this light come from and why is this flimsy candle not put out by the drowning sea?
The same parable that describes this depth of darkness will teach you that there’s a light inside you. You keep looking for a good influence on the outside thinking if only someone good would come along and change your life and bring it light, you’d become a good person too. You don’t realize that good person is you. A prisoner deep inside your own self, whose light you’ve been suffocating. You are the greatest oppressor to your own enlightened soul deep in your heart. This starving prisoner should have died by now but Allah is keeping it alive. He ends the ayah,
فمن لم يجعل الله له نورا فما له من نور.
“Then anyone for whom Allah wouldn’t have furnished light, they wouldn’t possibly have any light at all!”
That light inside you is Allah’s biggest gift to you. You’ve been ignoring it because swimming against giant waves isn’t easy. It’s painful, requires you to exhaust yourself and the alternative is so so much easier. Just drown. Just throw your hands up and stop caring. But if you have the strength of will left, He will never abandon you. His rope is always there to pull you up. He’ll also describe it like the anchor of a ship whose giant links in the chain can’t be broken. You will make your way up and when no one around you is a source of light, He will be from within you. The fact that you can still see your hand, albeit barely, is proof that He hasn’t given up on you. It’s on you now. Happy swimming!