Life’s Index Cards

A thought provoking piece I came across when digging through some old files.


In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in
a room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one
wall covered with small indexcard files. They were like the ones
in libraries that list titles by author or subject in
alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor
to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very
different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first
to catch my attention was one that read “People I Have Liked”. I
opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut
it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on
each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.

This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog
system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every
moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A
sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred
within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their
content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of
shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder
to see if anyone was watching.

A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have
Betrayed”. The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright
weird. “Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have Told”, “Comfort I Have
Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At”. Some were almost hilarious
in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others
I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger”, “Things I
Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents”. I never ceased to
be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards
than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived.
Could it be possible that I had the time in my 30 years to write
each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card
confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting.
Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To”, I
realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards
were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t
found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the
quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew
that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts”, I felt a chill
run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not
willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at
its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment
had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my
mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see
this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I
yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty
it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began
pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I
became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as
strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly
helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead
against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.

And then I saw it.

The title bore “People that I Have Taught About Allah”. The
handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused.
I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three
inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it
contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the
hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my
knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming
shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my
tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room.

I must lock it up and hide the key.

A night I’ll never forget.

June 2nd, 2006 – around 11:00PM. For most of the families that day was a nightmare of their lives. So was it for my family and me. Initially atleast. Earlier that day, my brother-in-law (fakkAllaahu asra) was arrested along with a few other brothers. We sat at home, in shock, wondering what had just happened. None of us shed a tear, I guess out of sheer disbelief. It was getting late and my little brother had not yet come back from. He’d been out with his friends. So me and my mother went out looking for him. We were just around the corner of our house when a pack of cars stopped at the end of the street and the SWAT team came running towards our house pointing guns at us. We went inside, I closed the door and asked everyone to stay downstairs. Thats when they broke in. The door was open but no. They had to pull off their stunts. Too many movies I suppose. “WE HAVE A SEARCH WARRANT FOR YOUR HOUSE! EVERYONE COME DOWN TO THE FRONT DOOR!!!” when we’re right there, standing right infront of them.

One by one they called us out of the house to be searched. My dad was the first to go. He had been in such a shock (may Allaah bless him and protect him) that after he’d heard about my brother -in-law’s arrest, he’d gone back to his room and started working on his files. And subhaan’Allaah, when he came down, he’d brought his papers and pen with him to the door. So one of them glances at the papers and yells at my dad, saying: “DROP YOUR WEAPONS! DROP YOUR WEAPONS RIGHT NOW!!!” With all those guns pointing at us, what were they expecting my dad to do? Hit them with a pen?

But what they did next infuriated me and my family. They pulled my dad from his collars and he tripped. Then they handcuffed him and took him for questioning. I yelled at them and asked them to go easy on my father because he was already in a state of shock and he has a heart condition. Their reply to me made me sick: “Don’t worry, we know that already. Thats what we have the ambulance for.” Animals.

Each one of us were treated almost the same, except that we were searched by female officers. We had denied to be questioned by them so we were made to stand outside with the babies (neice and nephew) and my little sisters. My sister and mother had been forced to come out without shoes. They waited for my brother to arrive home from work so they could take him away from us too. And so they did. We didnt even get to see him. They took him straight from the street infront of our house to the police station. Initially, they did not tell us but after we kept persisting for an answer, they informed us that he had actually been arrested.

We waited and waited outside in the rain with the children crying and terrified.. while they searched our house. And thats when I heard a distant, but clear and beautiful voice of the mu’adhdhin from our local masjid, just a 5 mins walk away from our house. Mixed with the mercy pouring down from the sky, the aadhaan was ever-so soothing and I knew at that moment that everything was going to be alright. That indeed Allaah is Great and there is no God but He. He is our only source of Help and Mercy, and He alone can deliver us from this trial. Whatever they do to us, they will never reach our hearts where our belief in Allaah is renewed everyday, with every salaah and every du`aa that escapes our lips. And I was reminded of this aayah from soorah Faatir:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنتُمُ الْفُقَرَاء إِلَى اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ

O mankind! it is you who stand in need of Allaah, but Allaah is Rich (Free of all wants and needs), Worthy of all praise.

This trial, as hard as it appeared to be, was a renewal of faith for me and my family, especially my parents. I know that it was painful and it is painful considering that we have been separated from our loved ones, but to imagine what Muslims in other parts of the world go through day and night, and to compare this with the gift of strong will and faith in Allaah that has been granted to us in exchange with the above.. priceless. Its all about how we look at our trials. One can sit and cry, and turn into a zombie, not knowing what to do or one can cry but cry to Allaah for the sins our hands have committed, and take a step forward by closing the gaps between us and Allaah.

“O Allaah, I seek refuge in You for Your Pleasure and against Your Wrath, and in Your Forgiveness and against Your Punishment and in You from You, I cannot Praise You as You can Praise Yourself.

I have surrendered myself to You, I have directed my face to You, I have entrusted my affairs to You, I have compelled my back to refuge in You, in want and in fright of You, there is no resort nor survival from You except (in turning) to You. I have faith in Your book which You brought down and in the Prophet (Muhammad sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) you have sent.”