Words Zahabiya A.
Ashara has extraordinary meaning for most mumineen and for myriad of reasons. For this piece, I’ll just elaborate on one of the many. Life is filled with compromises and change; there are moments when being in one place means sacrificing being in another – you can’t go to dinner with your best friend because you have to get to a conference your boss expects you to attend. There are moments when making a certain choice over another means you fleetingly glimpse what could have been; just as you resign yourself to what was right, what needed to happen, knowing that the sacrifice was your own happiness or even your sense of self. There are times when the choice cannot easily be made and so you live in a constant state of flux – neither here nor there but some uncomfortable place in between – convincing yourself one way and then the next as the tide turns.
This is life, and it is deeply unappealing. No one wants this. But for nine days a year, I am exactly where I need to be. During Ashara, my mind settles into a unique peace afforded only to a selected few (I would say) on Earth – that exquisite peace when you know you are where you are supposed to be. At first this sounds a little too easy – when you sit in an exam, when you go to pick up your kids, when you sleep in your home, you are arguably where you are supposed to be. But I’m talking in a much larger sense. Imagine if your heart (which wants to weave its way to those it loves and misses, any given time of the day), your spirit (which wants to assert itself within the confines of a life chosen on practical grounds) and your mind (which is the one that seems to tell everything else inside you, where you need to be and why, and therefore has the burden of doubt) were all completely content. When I really think about that, it becomes more and more significant.
This feeling is then made louder and more concrete because it’s shared by all those around you. You sit next to someone you’ve never met, you may never meet again and for half an hour you talk about how they are catering for guests in their home and they get home pretty late every day as they’re at the masjid doing some extraordinary khidmat, but they don’t mind. This is their city, their jamaat, and they’re so effervescent with joy that they are here at this time, to reap from this nemat. You sit next to another person who revels in the wonders that Maula TUS spoke of that morning and sparks fly from their eyes as they talk about how privileged they are to be here. Here – the only place they are supposed to be.
Belonging is a natural human desire, but it doesn’t come easily to me. Maybe it doesn’t come easily to others too. Maybe I get in my own way; I don’t understand what all the elements of belonging are. I also don’t know much. But I know I belong with my Maula TUS and I know it the most, I feel it the most when I sit in front of him. And for those few hours and those few days of Ashara, there is enough certainty afforded to me to make the rest of the year and the rest of this life feel palatable.