Life is unpredictable. But I always thought I could predict what was going to happen next. It was only six days ago. I was driving home with my friends, Malik and Omar. It was Halloween night. We had just watched the movie Saw 3 at the recently refurbished theater at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santo Monica, CA.
It was 11:46 p.m. when I glanced at the clock on the dashboard and realized I hadn’t made Isha. But I didn’t say anything, so as not to upset the mood. Just three hours earlier, I put off the Isha prayer until after the movie. Now, I was running out of time.
I only lived 26 years. My 27th birthday was exactly two weeks away. I always imagined I would live long. At least until age 60. It just wasn’t imaginable that I would have such a sudden, unexpected death. I had graduated from the University of Southern California three years earlier with a degree that means absolutely nothing right now. Shortly after, I landed a job as a marketing director of a major clothing company. Aside from the usual life problems, I was living a normal life.
My girlfriend of four years was starting to pressure me into us getting a place together. I knew I wasn’t supposed to have a girlfriend in the first place, but I enjoyed her company and friendship. I wasn’t ready to give that up. I used to always tell myself that eventually I would marry her. Plus, what would these few years of living a sinful life mean by the time I got older?
My job, my girlfriend, and my life-long friends took up the majority of my time. It seemed I never had time to offer salah. I hardly even had time to sit down and eat. Offering salah was always something that continuously bugged me. The more I postponed my salahs, the more it irritated me. I did give an effort to keep up on my salahs. But for the last two years of my life I gave up. I pretty much stopped making salah altogether. I never made it home in time to make salah that day. Saw 3 was a walk through the rose garden compared to what I was about to experience. I was doing 85 mph on Freeway 10. At 12 midnight, 85 mph is not considered speeding. Omar flipped through FM radio stations searching for a song he liked. Malik had fallen asleep in the back seat. I began to doze off too.
I used to hate when that happened. I shook out of what seemed like a 10 second snooze. I tried to keep my eyes open, but again I dozed off. Omar screamed, ‘HEY!’ It was too late. The car struck the center divider and spun back into the flow of traffic. An oncoming car hit my door. That car was also hit by another vehicle. We finally came to a halt somewhere in the middle of the freeway- a hundred yards from the spot of the collision. I didn’t feel any pain. I was just dizzy. I heard Omar and Malik moaning, as good civilians tried pulling us from the wreck.
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I wasn’t rescued until the fire fighters arrived. It was quite a task recovering my battered body from my totalled car. Breathing became difficult. The fire fighters huddled around me and frantically applied device after device. ‘He’s not gonna make it,’ I heard one of them say. I ‘m not gonna make it? How? I didn’t feel like I was dying. I felt nothing. My heart started pounding. I was soaked in sweat and blood. I saw Malik standing over the top of me with tears in his eyes. ‘Don’t quit on me’, he told me.
At that time, I knew it was over. I started to cry. The fire fighters moved him away as they made the last attempts to revive me. I died. An angel came to me and removed my soul. I watched him fly away with it in disbelief. ‘How could you? I’m not even 27,’ I pleaded. ‘It’s time,’ he told me and left. Two minutes later they pulled a white sheet over me. Omar and Malik, apparently doing better than I, pulled the sheet back to look at me one last time. They cried their eyeballs out; I had known them ever since I was 13 years old and had never seen either one cry. It was a depressing sight.
The ride to the morgue, until then, was the worst experience I ever had. I was alone. It was dark and cold. I missed my mom. I missed my brother. I missed my sister. I wished I had spent that last night with my family instead of with Omar and Malik. I worried what my mother was going to do when she saw me in this state. I was ugly. When we finally arrived, I was placed in another cold room with dozens of other dead people. I missed my family so much. Every so often, a family came in to view their dead. I always thought it was my family, but it wasn’t. Hour after hour passed. No mom. No dad. I started to cry again. Then one odd hour, I recognized voices. My father walked in with my mother in his arms. His face worn from stress. Hers, wet with tears. They just stared into my eyes and cried. I stared back. I wanted to tell them I loved them. I couldn’t. I wanted to hug them. I couldn’t. Mom stroked my bloodied hair and left.
I was to be buried the next day. When my parents left, it hit me. I never made Isha! My heart jumped out of my chest. I owed Allah a salah and failed to deliver it to him. I had hundreds of missed salahs over the past two years. Now I was about to face Him. I felt powerless. For those of you who have never experienced guilt at death, there is not a worldly feeling that amounts to it. It is guilt and sorrow at another level. I tried getting up to make Isha, but I couldn’t move. It was over. I had no second chance.
Then I began to think back. I never knew my memory was so good. I had more than enough time to ponder as I was awaiting my burial. I literally remembered every single salah I missed and the reasons why I missed them. Most were laziness, procrastination and neglectfulness. I knew I was in trouble. I wished they would take longer to bury me.
My girlfriend paid me a visit. She was a devil. When I was alive, I saw her as a pretty angel-my pretty angel who loved me and would do anything to make me happy. If I had the ability, I would have cursed her and demanded her to leave the morgue. She put her hand on my forehead. I allowed her to do that for the past four years. Now that I was opposed to it, I could do nothing about it. The devil cried for hours at my side. She just would not leave. I felt cheated. I felt like she pulled a prank on me for the past couple years of my life. I hated this devil! She was ugly! She smelled horrible! She finally left. As she walked out the door, my heart was filled with fear and anxiety.
The funeral was simple. My body was washed. I didn’t seem to care that my naked body was exposed. My worries far surpassed my desire to be modest. I was wrapped in three white sheets. About three hundred people attended my funeral. I was saddened not to see my mom at the funeral. I wished she came to see me one last time before they put me in the ground. I never knew so many people cared about me. Many just stared at the tightly wrapped figure in disbelief. Others cried and cried some more.
The mass prayed for me. Thousands of individual prayers were made. They asked Allah to have mercy on me. They asked Him to forgive me. I wanted to pray for myself, but I couldn’t speak. I was helpless. I was carried to the hole in the middle of the barren desert. The people followed. It seemed like slow motion. I didn’t want to go. If I had 24 bonus hours, I would pray non-stop. They lowered me into the ground. The anticipation was eating away at me. I had surely failed life.
I thought back on everything that I had worked so hard to accomplish. I earned a college degree. I had a well paying job. I spent hours and hours in the weight room ever since I was 16 years old developing my body. I had a pretty girlfriend who loved me. In that life, that was a badge of honor. But as they were lowering me into this grave, which seemed like it took forever, I realized that I couldn’t use any of those ‘accomplishments’. If only I had been that dedicated to making salah five times daily, I would have been at peace right now. Instead, I am a nervous wreck beyond anything you all can comprehend.
Dirt fell in the hole. Darkness overcame my new home. The last shovels of sand filled the grave. Everyone sadly walked away. The graveyard started to empty. Family by family. Mine was the last to leave. The attendant left. By nightfall it was just me. All alone.
My wrapping was soaked in sweat. I nervously awaited the angels to come and question me. They finally did. My final judgement has not been reached yet. I am now waiting for judgment day. Still lying here, alone, as day comes and night falls. Soon, I will meet Allah Himself and He will decide whether He will forgive me or not. I can only lay here, wait and hope that The All Forgiving, The Most Merciful, forgives me and does not punish me. I hope. That is all I have right now. Hope.
Courtesy: Al Jumuah Magazine.