No one likes to fall.
And few people would ever choose to drown. But in struggling through the ocean of this life, sometimes it’s so hard not to let the world in. Sometimes the ocean does enter us. The dunya does seep into our hearts.
And like the water that breaks the boat, when dunya enters, it shatters our heart. It shatters the boat. Recently, I was reminded of what a broken boat looks like, of what happens when you let everything in. I was reminded because I saw someone, just like me, fall in love too much with this life and seek to be filled by the creation. So the ocean of dunya shattered her boat, as it had shattered mine, and she fell out into the water. But she stayed down too long, and didn’t know how to come back up or what to hold on to.
So she drowned.
If you allow dunya to own your heart, like the ocean that owns the boat, it will take over. You will sink down to the depths of the sea. You will touch the ocean floor. And you will feel as though you were at your lowest point. Entrapped by your sins and the love of this life, you will feel broken. Surrounded by darkness. That’s the amazing thing about the floor of the ocean. No light reaches it.
But, this dark place is not the end. Remember that the darkness of night precedes the dawn. And as long as your heart still beats, this is not the death of it. You don’t have to die here. Sometimes, the ocean floor is only a stop on the journey. And it is when you are at this lowest point, that you are faced with a choice. You can stay there at the bottom, until you drown. Or you can gather pearls and rise back up—stronger from the swim, and richer from the jewels.
If you seek Him, God can raise you up, and replace the darkness of the ocean, with the light of His sun. He can transform what was once your greatest weakness into your greatest strength, and a means of growth, purification and redemption. Know that transformation sometimes begins with a fall. So never curse the fall. The ground is where humility lives. Take it. Learn it. Breathe it in. And then come back stronger, humbler and more aware of your need for Him. Come back having seen your own nothingness and His greatness. Know that if you have seen that Reality, you have seen much. For the one who is truly deceived is the one who sees his own self—but not Him. Deprived is the one who has never witnessed his own desperate need for God. Reliant on his own means, he forgets that the means, his own soul, and everything else in existence are His creation.
Seek God to bring you back up, for when He does, He will rebuild your ship. The heart that you thought was forever damaged will be mended. What was shattered will be whole again. Know that only He can do this. Seek Him.
And when He saves you, beg forgiveness for the fall, feel remorse over it—but not despair. As Ibn ul Qayyim (ra) has said: “Satan rejoiced when Adam (peace be upon him) came out of Paradise, but he did not know that when a diver sinks into the sea, he collects pearls and then rises again.”
There is a powerful and amazing thing about tawbah (repentance) and turning back to Allah (swt). We are told that it is a polish for the heart. What’s amazing about a polish is that it doesn’t just clean. It makes the object that is polished even shinier than it was before it got dirty. If you come back to God, seek His forgiveness, and refocus your life and heart on Him, you have the potential to be even richer than if you’d never fallen at all. Sometimes falling and coming back up gives you wisdom and humility that you may never otherwise have had. Ibn ul Qayyim (ra) writes:
“One of the Salaf (Pious Predecessors) said: “Indeed a servant commits a sin by which he enters Paradise; and another does a good deed by which he enters the Fire.” It was asked: How is that? So he replied: “The one who committed the sin, constantly thinks about it; which causes him to fear it, regret it, weep over it and feel ashamed in front of his Lord—the Most High—due to it. He stands before Allah, broken-hearted and with his head lowered in humility. So this sin is more beneficial to him than doing many acts of obedience, since it caused him to have humility and humbleness—which leads to the servant’s happiness and success—to the extent that this sin becomes the cause for him entering Paradise. As for the doer of good, then he does not consider this good a favor from his Lord upon him. Rather, he becomes arrogant and amazed with himself, saying: I have achieved such and such, and such and such. So this further increases him in self-adulation, pride and arrogance—such that this becomes the cause for his destruction.”
Allah (swt) reminds us in the Qur’an to never lose hope. He says: “Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against their souls [by sinning], despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful,’” (39:53).
And so, this is a call to all those who have become enslaved by the tyranny of the self, imprisoned in the dungeon of the nafs (self) and desires. It is a call to all those who have entered the ocean of dunya, who have sunk into its depths, and become trapped by its crushing waves. Rise up. Rise up to the air, to the Real world above the prison of the ocean. Rise up to your freedom. Rise up and come back to life. Leave the death of your soul behind you. Your heart can still live and be stronger and purer than it ever was. Does not the polish of tawbah remake the heart even more beautiful than it was? Remove the veil you have sewn with your sins. Remove the veil between you and Life, between you and Freedom, between you and Light—between you and God. Remove the veil and rise up. Come back to yourself. Come back to where you began. Come back Home. Know that when all the other doors have shut in your face, there is One that is always open. Always. Seek it. Seek Him and He will guide you through the waves of the cruel ocean, into the mercy of the sun.
This world cannot break you—unless you give it permission. And it cannot own you unless you hand it the keys – unless you give it your heart. And so, if you have handed those keys to dunya for a while—take them back. This isn’t the End. You don’t have to die here. Reclaim your heart and place it with its rightful owner: