A Faithful Word

Living in the Light of God's Love

Hesham A. Hassaballa

Hesham A. Hassaballa
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
July 08
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago doctor and writer. He has written extensively on a freelance basis, being published in newspapers across the country and around the world. His articles have been distributed world wide by Agence Global as well. He has been a Beliefnet columnist since 2001, and has written for the Religion News Service. He is also a guest blogger for The Chicago Tribune. Dr. Hassaballa is author of the essay "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the award-winning book Taking Back Islam (Rodale). He is also co-author of The Beliefnet Guide to Islam (Doubleday). His latest book of poetry about the Prophet Muhammad, Noble Brother, has been published by Faithful Word Press. In 2007, his blog, God, Faith, and a Pen, was nominated for a Brass Crescent Award for a blog that is "the most stimulating, insightful, and philosophical, providing the best rebuttals to extremist ideology and making an impact whenever they post."


JUNE 1, 2012 1:37AM

Somebody He Used to Know

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I first heard this song on Saturday Night Live, when Gotye was the musical guest. The song was quite intriguing, with a really cool sound and tempo. When I listened to it more closely, the story of the song intrigued me even further. When you listen to the narrator, you feel for him:

Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it's an ache I still remember

You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I'll admit that I was glad that it was over

The chorus, however, really surprised me because he is still bitter about the break up:

But you didn't have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don't even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn't have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don't need that though
Now you're just somebody that I used to know

I mean, if he was "glad that it was over," why was he so bitter about her making it "out like it never happened"? Who cares, if he was so lonely when he was with her? But, then, I get the other side of the story, and my sympathy for the narrator wanes...quite a bit:

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I'd done
And I don't wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn't catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

Ahh, I think to myself, it seems that he was not that innocent. That he had sins of his own to which he had to own up. But, then, he repeats his bitter diatribe:

But you didn't have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don't even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn't have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don't need that though
Now you're just somebody that I used to know

This exchange reminds me that, whenever you judge between two people, you must hear both sides of the story. And, for some reason, it also reminded me of this story of King David in the Quran:

And yet, has the story of the litigants come within thy ken - [the story of the two] who surmounted the walls of the sanctuary [in which David prayed]? As they came upon David, and he shrank back in fear from them, they said: “Fear not! [We are but] two litigants. One of us has wronged the other: so judge thou between us with justice, and deviate not from what is right, and show [both of] us the way to rectitude.

“Behold, this is my brother: he has ninety-nine ewes, whereas I have [only] one ewe - and yet he said, ‘Make her over to me,’ and forcibly prevailed against me in this [our] dispute.” Said [David]: “He has certainly wronged thee by demanding that thy ewe be added to his ewes! Thus, behold, do many kinsmen wrong one another [all] save those who believe [in God] and do righteous deeds: but how few are they!”

And [suddenly] David understood that We had tried him: and so he asked his Sustainer to forgive him his sin, and fell down in prostration, and turned unto Him in repentance. (38:22-24)

Some commentators have said that this "trial" for David was the fact that he did not hear the side of the other brother; some others say that this "trial" was a reminder of another sin. Regardless, listening to this song reminded me of King David. And soon thereafter - of course - it reminded me of King David's King: the Precious Beloved Lord our God.

Whenever human relationships go sour, it is common that one (or both) may totally blot out any reminder or evidence of their former partner, leading to the bitter complaint of this song's narrator. It is very common for the former partner to be relegated to simply "somebody [he or she] used to know," or in the case of PM Dawn, "one of those corners of [his or her] mind."

Yet, if we were to ever leave the side and path of the Beloved, He would never blot out (or delete) the existence of a previous relationship. He would remain waiting for us to come back to Him. He would give us respite and ample time to come back to His side. It is possible - however sad that would be - that one day we would have God as "somebody that [we] used to know." But, the Precious Beloved would not diminish us to that level. We would always remain precious to Him, no matter what.

And when we would come back, He would remember us just as before, with no gaps, and He would welcome us with open arms. He would greet us with His beautiful, smiling, loving Face, which would melt away any fear or sadness or anxiety that we may have. He would not be bitter or angry that we left or strayed away, even though we may feel terrible at our having left His Beautiful Side. Our Beloved would make us feel so welcome, so loved, so blessed, that we would never think to leave His side again.

That is just how Beautiful our Lord is; that is just how Gracious our Master is; that is just how Majestic our King is. That is why He is the Precious Beloved, and He is someone we should always know, every single day of our lives.

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I'm not sure I think the song fits the religious message. (Or that I understand the Kind David story, because there seems to be something missing - is it that David should have let God made the decision or is it that we don't hear from the 99 Ewe Brother?)

About the song, I'm not clear from the lyrics if the woman kept her distance from the narrator out of anger or out of self-preservation. Failed relationships leave pain in their wakes and she may have had trouble dealing with the pain.

That God welcomes prodigal sons is something that's been made clear, and something for which we should be grateful, though the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son is one that has always left me uncomfortable, because it devalues the son who never left.