Black to light

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Imam al-Baqir (A) said:

“There is a white spot inside the heart of each believer. Once he commits a sin or repeats it, a black spot appears inside it. In case of the persistence of sins, the black spot increases gradually in size filling the entire heart with blackness. When this happens, the owner of such heart never returns towards goodness, and this is what God meant in the verse:

‘Nay, but that which they have earned is rust upon their hearts.’

– Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 73, p-361.


I am a black heart.

Darkness is what fills my soul. Each day, as I wake up from the sound of keen sighted birds, soaring towards higher suns, I gaze towards their hovering life, wanting to catch a reflection of the rising sun’s rays on their striking feathers, but darkness is what fills my soul and so my eyes cannot see light.

Imam Al-Baqir (as) said:

“There are three kinds of hearts:

The first type is a reversed heart which lacks feelings for any sort of righteous deeds. Such heart is the heart of an unbeliever.”

Every morning becomes the repetition of a play, all too familiar. I am walking on an icy plain. Each of my steps disturbs the bewitching silence of the north. I can feel the thin layer of ice cracking under the weight of my darkened soul, while my eyes (or what remains of them) are blinded by a thick fabric I had woven myself. I am moving forward, waving my hands like the child I once was, playing an innocent game where I had to find my siblings hiding in the house, all of that, with eyes closed.

And as I make my way on this desolate land, in the absence of any light, any hope, any clue, I somehow know that I cannot settle for this existence. I must move on, I must carry on, for settling here would mean death. Not the ‘death’ which we all have been promised to taste, rather the death which coincides with the absence of a life which we all have been promised to experience.

I am a black heart. Still.

Almost everyday, but not always in the same way. There are days when I am so entangled with my dark side that I cannot differentiate between darkness and my heart. And there are days when I can instantly separate darkness from the absence of light, such that darkness in itself doesn’t seem to have a reality of its own, rather that it has taken the space left empty by the true owner of my heart.

There are even moments when I am the least black in my blackness. Moments so unexpected and brisk they never fail to catch me off guard. Whenever they occur, they seem to emanate like a prophecy, from a higher realm, but at the same time, always leaving a deeper and more perpectible mental remnant of themselves, as if to make sure I would not question their fleeting reality, like the fragrance that stays long after all petals have fallen.

And in those quiet, somehow hardly moving times, I can consciously grasp my dark side and acquaint myself with its feeble and fleeting nature but in a way that I cannot really articulate in words and perhaps even less comprehend in thoughts. When the trance vanishes and I am again left battling my way in the many folds of my darkness, a bittersweet realization strikes me: I have lived a lifetime shrouded in my darkness’ somehow comfortable misery and yet, I know that there is more eternity within me than the transient hollow it had fed me with thus far.

The hadeeth continues:

“The second type is the heart which contains a black spot in which a war is being waged between the truth and falsehood, and whichever becomes victorious will take over the heart’s control.”

I am black heart.

But today was different. I was still lingering in these endless icy plains, battling my hands in all directions, as if to deceive my soul that I was somehow aware of where I was heading. But amidst the repetition of a passive existence that had become all too familiar, I felt a spark wavering in my vicinity whose presence I was most uncertain of. I did not know where it arose from, and more importantly how my darkness had been able to feel it.

‘My eyes were blinded, and my heart was dark’. And yet, there was a spark; and the more I tried to get my soul accustomed to its warmth, striding towards where I thought its sound had come from, the more its quivering oscillation was turning into a continuous beam of light.

I am still a black heart.

But it seemed that not all black hearts are the same. My tone of black had changed. I was now consciously black, which is perhaps the least black one can be. I was still dying, but I was now aware of it. And that had made all the difference. I was still battling, still panting, floundering against the wind with my fingertips in order to hang unto that beam of light, but now, I had a purpose, and that purpose gave me what I had unknowingly searched for all along; it gave me hope and a reason to survive another day.

I am (not quite) a black heart.

But not entirely. My core was shaken. It only takes a raindrop to ripple through an entire ocean they said. It was hard to believe, but it was true nonetheless. One drop against an entire sea. One spark against decades of darkness. Numbers didn’t matter, just like size did not. What mattered was the essence. Motion had always trumped stilness, and light, light had always outshined darkness.

I am (not really) a black spot.

But that is not my reality. There was enough light for me to have an intrinsic knowledge of where I stood. My eyelids which had been resting for far too long on their self erected tombstones were now peeking through the fabric, which in turn had become thinner, and more permeable to light. I was feeling lighter, despite not quite flying yet. I could sometimes feel the grass, under the melting snow. And for once, in the longest of time, the peculiar absence of fragrance winter had effortlessly carried in each of its folds, had now vanished, giving way to subtle and transient scents of life.

I am (not quite) light (yet).

But I am not darkness either. I am the constant swaying of my desires oscillating between hope and despair. I am part light, part absence of light, such that my reality changes every day, if not every minute, with each and every choice that I make consciously (enough). There was a battle taking place within myself. Thoughts clashing against each other, actions constantly fighting over the throne of my existence. And amidst the deafening concert of their clashing swords, I stood calmly on a hill overlooking my past, present and future. And then I knew where home was.

Home, I thought.

Home is where I choose to become what I wished. The place where one is able to carry on towards higher realms of existence. Home is where the battle is won for the sake of one’s own self. Home is where one ought to be at any given time in one’s life, such that one’s home today would be different from one’s home tomorrow.

And when I turned back overlooking the icy valley which I had just crossed, I heard the sound of keen sighted birds, soaring towards the setting sun. And as I gazed towards their hovering life, wanting to catch a reflection of the dying sun’s rays on their striking feathers, a silhouette of their flock was now peacefully floating over the sun’s horizon such that their flapping wings kept bringing me from darkness to light.

I kept looking at these birds until they disapeared in the clouds. And when I was left alone with the sun, I knew my exile had ended, for I had now reached home.

For Home is and will always be, that one place when hearts ascend from darkness to light.

The hadeeth ends:

The third type is the conquered heart in which there is a lighted lamp which is never going to be turned off. Such a heart is the heart of a believer.”

(Bihar ul Anwar: Vol 70, page 51)

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