The Man Who Set the Devil on Me and Made Me Find God
Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem (In the name of God the Supremely Merciful, the Most Kind).
As I was becoming a woman, just prior to my ninth birthday, my father, W. A. (Brock) Barnes, informed me through word and deed, in no uncertain terms, that he was a complete failure and no example to follow. To offset this, he introduced me to Bruce Lee; his biography, philosophy and trailblazing excellent work as sensei, mentor and movie star. Dad said; ‘Listen to him – he’s a man. He knows what he’s talking about, and he walks his talk.’
Dad also taught me cricket – to bat, bowl, and field, and the philosophy of the game. He said if I applied the rules of cricket in life, I would not go wrong. Dad didn’t believe in God.
Bruce Lee my childhood hero – the dad I never had
Dad armed me with the most excellent armor known to him. I bear witness; he did his excellent best.
A female growing up with two brothers – six and seven years elder – is no small task. It was a typical democracy – the majority oppressed the minority. Life was tough. Rule of the jungle: survival of the fittest. But God is with the oppressed. I did more than survive – I found ingenious ways to live life to its fullest. I loved, as well as cried, deeply, and indeed, found Joy Inside My Tears. All praise to Allah.
But, a cornered lone animal, fighting for its life with its back against the wall, is far more ferocious and dangerous than those attacking it.
My dad told my brothers about me one day: “Don’t try to mess with her mind. She’ll give you a ‘Bruce Lee flying kick’ and you won’t know what happened to you.”
So dad set out to engrave it upon me – “NEVER strike until struck. But if struck, you know what Bruce Lee does, step up and do it – take it on the full and drive it over the bowler’s head – straight into the grandstand.”
Dad taught me an ’eye for an eye,’ and omitted ‘but it’s better to forgive.’ He left that for me to discover the hard way.
The sands of time never obliterated his relief work. Islam keeps it sheathed – like the Sword of Gryffindor – to be pulled out of the Hat only if absolutely necessary.
Grandma my childhood heroine – the mom I never had
Parallel to Bruce Lee being my hero, my maternal grandma, V.T. Sinniah, nee Asirwatham (Veema Thangamma Asirwatham), was my heroine – literally from the day I was born. My mother, Rani Sinniah (familytreemaker.genealogy.com) and I nearly died at my birth. She bled as my struggles wrapped the umbilical cord nine times around my neck. On the way to the hospital, dad had slammed the Morris Minor front seat against mom’s stomach – a last minute manic effort to kill me before I was born.
My grandma, a well-read, kind, calm, wise and collected soul of moderation and simplicity, with nerves of steel and defiant truth upon her tongue – was a believing woman of the Scripture. She endeavoured to read the Bible daily and meditate. Like Bruce Lee, she also walked her talk.
Grandma was guardian angel, mentor, and sage – the mother I never had. Mater used to grudge the bond between grandma and me. May Allah guide my mother. I was an utter disappointment to her – an alien. I chose to include spiritualism in my life. The Middle Path: Balance. I was a Muslim without anyone’s knowledge – least of all mine – until Allah revealed it to me through His Speech in a book, when I entered my twenties.
My mother chose materialism and denied spiritualism. This is the great divide that’s nearer, rather than farther between us. I didn’t choose to go manic on spiritualism? I chose the Middle Path; moderation; balance.
Some details of my life must remain concealed out of courtesy to my family, but suffice to say, the ongoing war between the two superpowers at home, mom and dad, led them to develop and unleash weapons of mass destruction and use their offspring as target practice, child soldiers, suicide bombers, spies, double agents, defence cover, hostages and so forth and so on, and sometimes, as agents of Trojan Horse peace too. The negatives always outweighed the positives in hideous proportions.
Although my brothers entered family politics and destabilized the situation further, I shied away and scorned it with contempt. I became the voice in the wilderness – my eldest brother, Ravi, called me Zachariah. I’m not sure why.
The combination of Bruce Lee and grandma – honing natural tendencies – made me an independent entity; hard to contend with and near impossible to manipulate – a complete alien to politicians.
I was obstinate when it came to injustice and didn’t think twice to correct my brothers, parents, and certainly, even remind my darling grandma, when she fell into err. I applied the same rigid yardstick on myself and gave ear to correction without ever feeling small. Indeed, I felt big. I was attracted to what was good for me, without realizing it. All praise to Allah.
Yet, I was no different to anyone else during adolescence; temptations swayed me and I thought I knew everything.
What goes around comes around
Unable to be lured into taking sides unjustly, I became a big nuisance to the senior as well as junior politicians in my family. Fear of the alien turned to hatred and soon some decided I was better dead than alive. But it had to be done without leaving any footprints.
Dad’s attempt on my life before I was born, lent justification to a sibling and in-law to conjure the plan and pull dad into it – using material wealth as the bait.
To accomplish the task, they turned to the dark arts and sold their souls to the Devil.
The Devil, (Iblees) arrived one night, from out of the blue, when I was just 19-years-old. It invaded my being and tried to hold my mind hostage and force me to trade my soul in exchange for ‘leaving me in peace and not harassing me.’
It was supposed to drive me to despair and make me sign all properties over to certain family members and then end my life with my own hands. A series of heartbreaking calamities took place one after another during this era and made the prospect of bidding adieu appear attractive, if not the only option.
When I called out to Jesus, the Devil scoffed me; “Jesus can neither hear you nor help you.” I sank into unfathomable depths of despair. Jesus wasn’t God. So WHERE was God?
A cornered isolated animal fighting for its life with fang and claw is bad enough. A Godless human being becomes a VERY dark animal indeed.
Having stoically followed the Way of the Snake – Never Strike Until Struck; I swiftly took a page out of Bruce Lee’s book – Enter the Dragon, and redirected the force of my opponent’s attack back on them – return to sender – straight over the bowler’s head and into the grandstand.
It was too late: I’d been swift as a martial artist, yet, hasty as an ignorant fool.
I had no peace of mind.
It had been Enter the Dragon Bruce Lee – Fight With (your fatherlord, Firelord Ozai) O’ Hara:
The blow didn’t make them relent and undo the magic (sihr); it made them fear me more and their attacks grew in proportion to their fear. I was no longer Zachariah; I was now The Devil, thanks to their handiwork.
But, I fought back. I set out to find God the Almighty; God the Lord of all the Worlds; God The King of kings; The Giver of Life and Death – the ONLY ONE that could help me rid the Devil in me.
I set out to rectify myself
It was a perfect wave alright! When the various Christian Churches tried to console me with different versions of the same fairytale to no avail, grandma rose to the occasion and ordered:
“Kneel down and pray Sona!
Don’t call on Jesus; address your prayer instead to God – the owner of those descriptive titles, and demand His help. He HAS to help you. He created you and put you in this position.”
I obeyed, and was inspired to try Islam.
The inspiration entered my thoughts thrice and ceased.
I concluded that I was raving mad, felt stunned and sad about it, but soon perked up with renewed hope; if I was mad, then it didn’t matter what I did.
The virtue of madness: use it constructively.
When I asked Muslims about Islam, they shied away and gave me Ahmed Deedat’s address in South Africa and told me to contact him. Hopping mad, I sat and wrote and he replied. He prayed Allah to grant me guidance through his booklets on comparative religion, attached in a parcel. May Allah love him and reward him.
I replaced Bruce Lee with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); for ‘he did not speak of his own will, but by that which was given to him from above.’
After reading the Six Pillars of Faith: belief in Allah, all His Angels, Prophets and Messengers, Revealed Scriptures, Day of Reckoning, and Paradise and Hellfire, and the verse Surah Al Ikhlas – meaning sincerity/ refining/ purity:
Say, Say, “The truth is: Allah is One.
Allah is Besought of all, needing none.
He neither begets, nor was he begotten.
And there is none equal to Him.”
I pronounced the Shahada and declared myself Muslim in 1988 –
Lā ʾilāha ʾillā l-Lāh, Muḥammadur rasūlu l-Lāh (I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah alone, and Muhammad is His Messenger)
I was 20-years-old.
For the following ten years, Islam eluded me. I did not know how to stop lying. Allah says in the glorious Qur’aan;
‘Allah does not guide the liars’
Alhamdulillah, I was able to embrace Islam – peacefully submit to the Will of Allah – after Reverend Wimalajothy, helped me get to the font of truth and falsehood in my mind – through the teachings of the Gautama Buddha:
Buddhist Meditation. May Allah bless him!
I was 30-years-old when, post ‘enlightenment,’ I dragged the obstinate Devil by its sinful lying forelock, and made pilgrimage to Mecca to perform my Hajj in 1999, with the pilgrim’s declaration:
“Here I am at Your service O Lord, here I am.
Here I am at Your service and You have no partners.
To You alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and to You alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners.”
The Devil shrieked and fled – causing a minor stampede, without casualties, alhamdulillah – during the Maghrib salaat (sunset prayers) at the Masjid Al Haram (sacred/forbidden place of worship. As used in Islamic urban planning, the word ḥaram (حرم) means ‘inviolate zone,’ an important aspect of urban planning in Muslim civilization. Such protected areas were sanctuaries, or places where contending parties could settle disputes peacefully).
Here I am today
Listen to the Joy Inside My Tears and read on:
I extol my ‘Heavenly Father,’ Allah Most High (as grandma used to call God), and thank my earthly father, Pater-boy. I could never have done it without you.
May Allah bless and reward three good friends for escorting me to the airport under high security and assisting me on my pilgrimage.
Good things come in threes
‘The rule of Three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_three_(writing)
Of the ‘Unholy Trinity’ (as they called themselves with mocking pride) guilty of having indulged in black magic, comprising a father, son and an unholy ghost, only the son remains alive today.
I have no intention of taking my life and damning my soul. But I am now ready to die in the cause of Allah.
Allah is Greater!
To my father, I say: You taught me excellence. My heart is broken; I’m so sorry you took your life at the rail track. You didn’t find God, but you made damn sure I did. If only, you’d chosen to believe … and made the right effort to look for God –instead of settling for the mediocre – to doubt – and drown in despair…
I forgive you Pater-boy – I couldn’t have had a better father. It’s a pity you didn’t have a better daughter. You told me ‘drive only the bad balls.’ I’m sorry I got my eye to the excellent googlie you delivered.
You taught me well
Please forgive me.
Ya Allah! I seek Your Mercy – please accept this from me.
Descriptions of Allah (Narrated by Yusuf Islam):
Islam Kills Racism – Malcolm X:
My Way Frank Sinatra:
I went through great pains to chase my devils away…
Will you join me chase the Devil of Racism away?
Islam Cures Racism
Muslim by the Noble Eightfold Path –
Hajiani Sara Sona (Brock) Barnes