In high school, when people would ask me what religion I was, I would usually say, well, I’m Muslim, but more by name than by practice – meaning I don’t pray five times a day, I don’t fast during Ramadan, and I don’t really observe most traditional Muslim holidays. But I do believe in God and since everyone in my family is and always has been Muslim, then I am Muslim, too.
And then during my freshman year in college, three of my grandparents passed away, one after another, in the course of just nine months. From then on, I started to wonder if I could really believe in God after all, if I could ever be sure that there is Someone looking over us with only our best interests in mind when there is actually so much pain and suffering in the world.
I became very sad and my parents became very concerned. And then one day, my mom asked me to go with her to visit a Sufi teacher that she had recently learned a lot from. I wondered, Sufism? Are you joking? I tried to tell my mom that I’m not really into this mystical business. But with some convincing, I went, and I’m still thankful that I did.
We didn’t travel to the mountains or to some other remote location to meet with the Sufi teacher. I actually met her in a family friend’s home, and she was anything but the esoteric figure that I had imagined. She looked like a mom, and in fact, she had kids my age. Perhaps her most distinguishing features, though, were her poise and her commitment to her faith.
She spoke to me for a few hours, and her message was simple – you are the reflection of God. Find yourself, and you will find God.
I hope that I never forget these words. These words have taught me that maybe we are met face to face with difficulties in life in order to get to know ourselves a little better through each of these challenges.
It is these challenges that help us find our way and help us carve our path, because each of us is here on a journey. And within each of us is a message. To find yourself is to uncover that message, to learn about the truth that lies in you. To find yourself brings you closer to those around you and strengthens your connection to the world.
They say that in life, nothing is certain, nothing is forever – times change, people change. And as we get older, we will change. But a part of us will always stay the same.
So continue to find that part of you and you’ll find the light that will guide your way, even in your darkest hour. And as you see this light, you’ll see that you and those you love – the people in your life – are the reflection of God.
And as we set out to go into the world to make the changes we want to see, we will no doubt see and feel pain. After all, there’s war, poverty, disease, and even death. But stand tall, stand proud. And remember to stay true to who you are, because you will be the difference.