Schools and offices closed early as everyone ran home to their families after stocking up on gas, water, and the essentials. And then it hit. Our house lost its power at around 12:30 am, after teasing us with flickering on and off for about 10 minutes. It was a long night, and we sat and listened to the rain and the very strong winds. The trees seemed they were about to snap in half. We lit candles all around the house as well as our main gas lantern. It was quite a sight! Although we were used to lights going out in hurricane season, the last big-bang hurricane was in '83 – before I was born. We sat in candlelight making Suhur and Iftar, using the propane side grill on our BBQ grill which we dragged into our kitchen. Three and half days later, our electricity thankfully came back. Houston is still not back to normal, and thousands of people are still sitting in candlelight.
Being able to witness this was a wonderful experience for me, as I believe many people can agree. Although the damage and aftermath was unfortunate, I looked at the flipside and saw a great thing come out of Ike. I saw the hurricane as a "self-assessment tool". It allowed me to see where I, as well as others I know, stand in terms of our priorities and our values and a small slice of our character.
Many people were scared, and many people stayed. Of course, nobody is to judge anybody's faith, for only Allah is aware of what is in the hearts of His creations. I recall Moulana saying the night before that, in order to prepare, people think of insurance, and we are to take assurance in Allah's insurance. Together before the night of the storm, we recited Ammai Yujeebo a few times before we all dispersed to go home and prepare for "what lied ahead!"
As I sat home with my family, I felt safe, secure, and at ease. I didn't want to be anywhere else except at home and with my family. What also made the night even more special was that it was a night in the month of Ramadan, and so we were able to spend the night engaging in Islamic discussions, reciting supplications, and preparing for the next day's fast. Many other families were able to do the same.
Being able to sit and reflect was a good self-assessment tool, at least for me. I sat and thought about how prepared I was in terms of if anything were to happen. What if I was in such a bad situation that I would have to leave my home? What would I take with me? Would it be clothing? Maybe my books? My laptop? It was something to think about. What is most important to me? Putting yourself in the situation, what would you take?
I was also able to think about the power of Allah. Hurricane Ike had a diameter of 600 miles. 600 miles! After the hurricane was over, the one thing that shocked me the most was that EVERY part of Houston, south, north, southwest, even a small outskirt town of Houston called Katy, was hit in one way or another. It is amazing how such an event can prove to us how small and little we really are. The power of Allah cannot be escaped or measured. I was also able to realize the beauty of Allah's mercy. Some areas were hit very badly, damaging their homes, streets, cars, you name it. Other places, no matter how close in distance, were not hit as bad.
The morning after the storm, we took a drive around our surrounding area to see how bad the aftermath was. Literally two streets down from us, a huge tree was uprooted and crashed into the brick wall of a home. Garage doors were crumpled, some even thrown halfway down the home's driveway. But a few houses down, only minor damage to the gutters or to the fences. Surely Allah is the Merciful One.
I am guilty of becoming a little impatient and cranky as we waited for our electricity to come back. It showed me that I really do have a lot of work to do on myself. I was getting frustrated with the post-hurricane heat and having no air conditioner in the house. After only two days, I couldn't take it anymore, but after hearing my dad remind me how grateful we are compared to so many others regarding the hurricane as well as around the world, I felt guilty. People live their everyday lives without electricity, without running water, without even a change of clothes – that is reality for many in the world. And what am I doing about it? What are you doing about it?
As Muslims, it is our responsibility, as well as way of life, to be grateful of our position, no matter what it is. In Mishkat al-Anwar, Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) is narrated to have said: "I am amazed at believers, since God will only destine what is good for them. If God makes a believer rich, it is good for him. If God sends a calamity down upon him, it is good for him. If God makes him the owner of whatever lies between the East and the West, it is good for him. Even if he is torn into pieces, it is good for him. There is good in any of God's decrees for a believer."
So no matter what the situation – hurricane, flood, bankruptcy, or loss of a loved one – it is in our creed to be pleased and patient with what Allah has bestowed upon us. Sometimes we need to look twice at our situation and really dig deep to find the good in every situation, because it is there. When we begin to realize that Allah is Owner of the Worlds, we will realize that whatever He wills is what happens. And when we realize that everything He does is good, we will begin to point the finger at ourselves. Only then can we create change in our lives and help ourselves.
Moral of the story: Don't be upset about the nearest hurricane headed your way!