I have been told that on the Day of Judgment, a man will be questioned regarding the use he made of the influence given to him by his rank in this world, in the same manner as he will be accountable for the use he made of his wealth.
Having lost one of my parents at a young age I have found over the years that while wealth (to some) may be a deciding factor in many aspects of their lives, something more profound is the way we as individuals chose to interact and influence one another, intentionally or otherwise. A few good words can have such a strong meaning beyond anything that can be purchased and shared. And yet the power of the word is flaunted almost shamelessly as if they are so light on the tongue that words often flow without thought.
Over the years I have felt constrained, limited and restricted. Not because of who I am, of what I have (and don't have), and where I am in my life. Rather, it is a feeling which can best be expressed in the words of a pre-Islamic poet, a Christian Arab whose tribe lived just outside Makkah nicknamed al-Nabigha (meaning genius), who said, "Oh Lord, protect me from being silenced in conversation." Yet it's not just silence which troubles me, it's the impact of the words selected for expression.
|From democratic revolutions spearheaded by Egypt, to terrorism in Norway and the influence of the right-wing, to even struggling to coming to an agreement so as to manage US government borrowings. We as communities never sit static; we are continually looking to find a better balance, an opportunity, a chance to improve.|
We Seek Perfection, But Are We Perfect?
As clichés goes, my best memories are less about where I am and what I'm doing, and more about who I'm with and how that experience is being understood and appreciated. Much of this comes down to attitude, expectation and tolerance. I'd venture to say that we all seek perfection. Sure many will disagree, but take a few examples. If you enjoy burgers, you will want one that resembles that image of a big Mac seen on TV. If you've designed an advert, you want one which will appeal to your target audience. If you're driving a car you want one which is reliable. Etc... It is perfection which we aspire to deliver the anticipated experience, and when we do not receive the ideal we seek an improvement.
So it comes as no surprise that societies change. Attitudes change. Everything changes. Some become rigid and refuse to improve while others embrace improvement as a given.
From democratic revolutions spearheaded by Egypt, to terrorism in Norway and the influence of the right-wing, to even struggling to coming to an agreement so as to manage US government borrowings. We as communities never sit static; we are continually looking to find a better balance, an opportunity, a chance to improve.
This is the real power of the spoken word, and this to me was the message delivered by the opening quote from a letter to a Muslim ruler in the third century AH by one of his political advisers.
There are many Muslims who opine abandonment of this world, suggesting that loving this world somehow takes away from something more meaningful in the hereafter. It is the same mindset which proposes that spiritual freedom can only gained by abandoning all that is around us, often citing statements of Prophet Muhammad, such as, 'The worldly life is nothing but substance of deception', 'The world is a prison for a believer and a paradise for disbelievers,' 'Love of this world is root of all evils.' etc.
To me, they justify their position based on conjecture- quotes and misquotes. In response I opine, how is it that any person can abandon the values of love and integrity which we learn by virtue of living in this world. That is to say, if we didn't live in this world, and we didn't experience the human condition, we would be unable to feel, to understand, to grow. How then can we expect success by abandoning the very things which make us who we are?
|It comes as no surprise that societies change. Attitudes change. Everything changes. Some become rigid and refuse to improve while others embrace improvement as a given.|
Be Effective Person
Further, when I look at the life of the Prophet, I do not see a man who abandoned life, rather I see a man who embraced it with both hands. What he taught was not abandonment but respect. Respect for people, respect for our environment, and a respect for our Creator.
This Ramadan, I pray that I find freedom. Where Ramadan becomes an annual redress to balance our values, its message is not to deny yourself an existence or participation in the life of this world. Rather, the message is the opposite, to embrace the life of this world - this is the purpose of denying ourselves during a period of time, and increasing our spiritual influence, so we can better appreciate what we have. For until such time- as any of us do that- we will never be free.
Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, once said, 'When a servant of Allah says that which is clear and correct, through his words he distances himself from the hell-fire, by a distance greater than what is between the sunrise and the sunset.' May we all be blessed with an improved understanding of faith such that each and every one of us can be free. Amen. Ramadan Mubarak!