Muslim Perspective: The Obsession with Adnan Syed

Disclaimer: If you don’t know who Adnan Syed is, you might want to click here first.

An NPR podcast has become a global phenomenon with over 5 million people hashing out theories as to whodunit. You’ll find super sleuths on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, all offering their versions of what may have happened on January 13, 1999. Articles are being written; interviews are being sought out, read and over analyzed; people are obsessed. I must admit, I am guilty of my own rendition of what happened that day 16 years ago, but that’s not what I want to bring attention to. I want to look at Serial from a Muslim perspective, and explain how this podcast actually blew me away and humbled me to the existence of Allah’s master plan for all of us.

We all face trials in life, and as Muslims we believe that when we come across hardship, there is a purpose behind it. Some lesson we are meant to learn, or some favor we are meant to earn with Allah (SWT). A way to show patience, discover gratitude and even pave our way to jannah, because all hardships are meant to solidify our emaan. In the case of Adnan Syed, this couldn’t have been more true.

As an average teenage boy in America, doing the things that (supposedly) “average” teenage boys do – smoking, drinking, girls –  Adnan was  a pot smoker who was also involved with the wrong crowd doing things that would put any good Muslim family to shame. And then his life takes a 180 degree turn. He does his hifz and becomes knowledgeable in tafseer. He holds steadfast on to his prayers and connects with Allah (SWT) in a way that most of us can’t even do when we actively pursue to learn more about the deen. I find myself asking: how did he get to this place? What journey did he have to take to evolve and become the man he is today?

For Serial fans, we all know that 15 years in captivity would probably humble the hardest sinner, after all, most people convicted of crime end up turning to God for solace. But what does Adnan Syed’s life teach us about our own hardships? It taught me that God’s master plan is greater than our own. His wisdom surpasses ours, and sometimes our greatest struggle leads us to our absolution. What 17 year old Adnan probably didn’t know was that Allah (SWT) had planned out his life already, and the coming years were going to redefine the person he would become. A journey he may not have been able to take, had he not been incarcerated.

I won’t speak to my thoughts on his guilt or innocence because this isn’t what this piece is about. Judgment doesn’t lie in our hands, definitely not mine. And I’m not adding my theory along with the thousands that are already floating around on line. But I will say this, my obsession with Adnan Syed has reminded me of an age old lesson in Islam. Allah’s plan for us is greater than anything we could ever understand. It is repeated in the Quran again and again, chapter after chapter, verse after verse, leaving it only up to us to reflect.

When I look at the challenges of my own life, I am reminded that they were put in my path for a reason. The universe collaborated to ensure that everything fell into place so I could experience this exact difficulty. So I could feel helpless and broken, and then in that moment, realize that no one but Allah (SWT) could save me. After all, He is the Savior of us all. Then why resist the pain and the sorrow? Why let the problems overcome our ability to rise from them? Adnan Syed’s life changed, and that changed him as a person. And little did he know, it was all destined for him already. I just hope that when he faces the greatest jury of them all, in his aakhira, his connection with Allah (SWT) overpowers anything else he may have done in the past.

As for my fellow Serial junkies, don’t let this be “just another story” you heard and obsessed over. After the hype of Serial quiets down, let one message resonate with you forever, as Adnan said in one of his conversations with Sarah Koenig, “God put me here for a reason.” During your darkest hour, remember that. God put you here for a reason too, you just need to turn back to Him in order to understand the true growth that comes through hardship, and how difficulty can define who you become.

“Nothing can ever reach us except what Allah has destined for us. He is our Master. And in Allah alone the believer must place their trust.”
Surah Al Tawba Verse 51

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