Pearls of Peace: An extract from Surah Kahf

surah_kahhfA journey for Allah (swt) – an inspiring story!

This Surah begins with the mention of some youth who lived under a tyrant leader. Because of their community’s deviance from the right path, the youth decided to leave them and sought refuge in a cave. Fearing their community and feeling lost, they prayed to Allah (swt), “(Remember) when the young men fled for refuge (from their disbelieving folk) to the Cave, they said: Our Lord! Bestow on us mercy from Yourself, and facilitate for us our affair in the right way!” (Al-Kahf 18:10)

And Allah (swt) answered their prayer and protected them by making them sleep for several years. One reason for losing one’s peace is being in the wrong company. We see people around us indulging in such acts that are contrary to the Quran and Sunnah, and we don’t see a way out for ourselves. In such moments, we should remind ourselves the story of these strong young men. They migrated for the sake of Allah (swt). Their migration was not for any worldly need, but to protect their Iman.

See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil

This is a powerful statement! Another stirring statement is: garbage in, garbage out. Our brains have the ability to instantly process everything that we come across. If we read or watch filth; that is what is going to come out of our mouth. We will no more be conscious of what words we are uttering or what actions we are doing. Consider for example, you pass by a Masjid and you see people entering in flocks. You have an urge to follow them. You enter the Masjid and you are spiritually uplifted. Now you are with your friends. They offer you a glass of alcohol and you refuse it. They insist you to have a sip. You refuse but they push you. You give in and take a sip. You begin enjoying your drink. What happens next? You are addicted.

A sincere advice

Change your company and reform yourself. Protect your eyes, mouth and ears. Avoid juicy stories and vice. This is why our Prophet (sa) taught us to ask Allah (swt) for beneficial knowledge and protection of our eyes and ears. The youth discussed in Surah Al-Kahf did not just distance themselves from the wrongdoing people but also made Dua. Never leave Dua. It is your connection with Allah (swt) via which you can ask Him for goodness.

It is a mercy of Allah (swt) that He has informed man of both, the truth and the falsehood. Mankind has been given a choice to follow whatever they desire, “And say: The truth is from your Lord. Then whosoever wills, let him believe, and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve.” (Al-Kahf 18:29) Beware these choices have consequences, “Verily, We have prepared for the Zalimun; a Fire whose walls will be surrounding them (disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah). And if they ask for help (relief, water, etc.) they will be granted water like boiling oil that will scald their faces. Terrible the drink, and an evil Murtafaqa (dwelling, resting place, etc.)!” (Al-Kahf 18:29)

Repentance – a way out!

While one is free to pick his path, he is not free to escape the punishment. Every action of man is being recorded in a book, “And the record [of deeds] will be placed [open], and you will see the criminals fearful of that within it, and they will say, ‘Oh, woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great except that it has enumerated it?’ And they will find what they did present [before them]. And your Lord does injustice to no one.” (Al-Kahf 18:49) To save oneself from such an end, one must hasten to seek repentance. Because sincere repentance is the only thing that can wipe out our bad deeds. When you have shed sincere tears of repentance, compete to increase your good deeds. Don’t waste time; because we will be in need of a lot good deeds in the Hereafter. May Allah (swt) bless us with steadfastness in our repentance. Ameen.

How merciful is Allah (swt)?

Not only does Allah (swt) make us aware of the right and the wrong, but He is also willing to forgive our wrongdoings; if we turn to Him. Sadly how ungrateful is man- forever complaining and quarrelling, “And indeed We have put forth every kind of example in this Quran, for mankind. But, man is ever more quarrelsome than anything.” (Al-Kahf 18:54) We argue over Allah’s (swt) commands and Prophet’s (sa) tradition; showing disrespect and ingratitude to both of them. We should immediately surrender to the commands of Allah (swt) as soon as we learn about them.

Are we unintentionally ignoring Allah (swt)?

Allah (swt) tells us to come to the right path. But we turn away. “And who does more wrong than he who is reminded of the Ayat of his Lord, but turns away from them forgetting what (deeds) his hands have sent forth. Truly, We have set veils over their hearts lest they should understand this (the Quran), and in their ears, deafness. And if you (O Muhammad (sa)) call them to guidance, even then they will never be guided.” (Al-Kahf 18:57)

When a person chooses to ignore Allah (swt), then Allah (swt) too is not interested in guiding such a person. On the contrary, the one who loves Allah (swt); He opens his heart to comprehend the beneficial knowledge. Today, when one learns of a football match in his city or perhaps a lawn launch; we leave every other worldly task and run to be the first ones to stand in queue. But when call for prayer is given from the mosque and we are promised a greater reward for standing in the first row with the angels; we sit back and turn our attention to something else. How ungrateful man really is! May Allah (swt) make us of those who run towards doing good. May He not make us of those whose hearts have been sealed. Ameen.

Who is your child’s superhero?

Another sad reality is that our children, as young as seven and eight years old, know the names of the entire football or cricket team; but they don’t know the names of the Prophets and their Companions. These were the people who strove with their life and wealth to spread and protect Allah’s (swt) religion. These were the people who were given the glad tiding of Paradise, and we are not interested in learning about them.

A scary reminder!

Allah (swt) says, “Say (O Muhammad (sa)): Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds!” (Al-Kahf 18:103-104) What a scary reminder! The efforts of such a person are limited to the worldly life only and he has no concern for the Hereafter. When you invite such people to study Quran, learn one verse or a Dua, they come up with countless unnecessary tasks of this world.

While the game is on, we are at loss!

Whose loss will it be if we turn away from Allah (swt)? How many hours does a man spend at his job to get a salary at the end of the month? On average, we spend at least eight hours at work weekly. Then we get our pay cheque. We work approximately for 208 hours in a month like slaves to get that cheque. Allah (swt) offers us much greater reward; not only in this world, but an eternal life of bliss in the Hereafter. Unfortunately, we are too lethargic when it comes to obligatory prayers. How many times have we woken for Fajr before the call for prayer is even given? And how many times have we woken up at 3 a.m. without hitting the snooze button when a football match is on? Those who do wake up, they wake up to get done with it. Let us commit to fall in love with our prayer because we love Allah (swt), and we seek His love and His mercy.

The way we have messed up our priorities, shows how confused we are about our purpose in life. Not only are we confused about our purpose in life; but our worship too. We have strayed away from the path of Muhammad (sa) and invented our own ways of worship; which were neither taught by the Prophet (sa) nor practiced by his Companions (ra). The proponents of innovations say, “Say (O Muhammad (sa)): I am only a man like you. It has been inspired to me that your Ilah (God) is One AIlah (God i.e. Allah). So whoever hopes for the Meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.” (Al-Kahf 18:110) Hold on to Quran and Sunnah and let not Shaytan deceive you.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)

Yet Another Migration

road-201x288By Iqra Asad – Medical student, Lahore

Life is a bridge spanning two eternities—voyaging from one to another; we cannot turn back. We are merely nomads, trudging a treacherous path, taking our homes with us, for no earthly place is our eternal abode. From joy to sorrow, from youth to adulthood, from thoughtlessness to wisdom, from life to death; each migration is a world in its entirety. Each migration is steeped in its own uncertainty. The heart longs to go back, the feet go on, for no force can swim against the current of time. We must go wherever it takes us. From one migration to another, on and on, until we are swept into the boundless ocean of the eternity to come, where our weary souls find rest.

I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew:

Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.

…But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,

What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?

There was a time I, too, believed that there was a way back. That going onward was a matter of choice. That one could flee from the mists of the unknown into the soothing world of all things familiar. Ah, what a fool I was. Life is a strict teacher; it gives the test first and the lesson afterward. And so I learned that at every new port, there is no ship to take you back. You must travel on to seas uncharted. The sea of your passing becomes a sea once known, enshrined in the hallowed halls of memory, one you can recall but not relive. The path onward is steeped in doubt and imbued with excitement. Fear is coupled with anticipation. Remorse blends with wonder. It is a tumultuous ride; once you are on it, there is no telling where it will go. It is taxing but rewarding, daunting but impelling. Weak hearts perceive nothing but the hardship and misery; the strong sense the challenge and the adventure. It took many migrations to strengthen this flimsy heart of mine.

I was still gullible, still swayed by fear and doubt, still susceptible to the winds of change, when she came to me. God breathed the soul of a lily into her rosy cheeks and set the spine of a soldier in her unbending back. Small, sheltered and vulnerable, a tiny bundle of life, I never dreamed that my little bead would grow into a luminous pearl. You know how they say that so-and-so was born with a silver spoon in his mouth? She was born with the feather of intellect in her hair, my lovely little daughter.

Having migrated into motherhood, I assumed all my major travels lay behind me. Little did I know the paths I would tread with my Saria. The paths of experience that intertwined her migrations with mine, until they seemed almost my own.

She did not know migrations were the stuff of life until she experienced her first physical one.

“Mommy, will there be McDonald’s in Pakistan?”

“Yes, Saria.”

“And Pizza Hut?”

“Of course, dear.”

“And school? And TV? And chocolate?” The list went on and on.

“Saria, it’s just like America. You were born there.”

“When we’ll come back I’ll tell all my friends!” The little face glowed with childish certainty. She had not the faintest idea that there would be no going back.

“Mommy, it’s all dirty. I don’t like this country.”

“It’s not that bad, even though it’s not as developed as America, you know.”

“They should tidy it up more.” Settling into the new house, meeting the whole family for the first time, studying in a new school, training her palate to an entirely new cuisine; there was a multitude of new experiences for Saria.

“Mommy, it’s Red Colour Day at school.”

“They didn’t send a note, darling.”

“Not this one. My real school. The one in America.”

“Saria.” I took her hands in mine, pulled her close. “This is your real school.” She stared at me uncomprehendingly for a moment, then drew back roughly and shrieked, “No, it’s not! It’s not, it’s not, it’s not!”

“Saria—”

“We’re not staying here! I can’t live here! I can’t!”

Can’t. Won’t. Isn’t. Not. Bitter words of revolt punctuated her speech in the days to come. It took a long time for acceptance to sink in, and that, too, riddled with grief. It was her first brush with reality. It readied her for all the journeys life would lay at her feet in the years to come.

“Mama.” Saria had shed her American skin and slithered quietly into a native one over the years. “Look at this.” Her fingers caressed the material of a pair of shorts she had unearthed from the depths of her closet. “I can’t believe I used to wear shorts. Mama, can you believe, I used to wander around the house in a vest sometimes.”

“That was a sleeveless shirt.”

“It was almost a vest. Mama, I used to have arm-wrestling matches with the boys in my class. Imagine!”

“You were in primary school.”

She sighed. “Water fights. I can’t have those anymore. I can’t run. I can’t shout. I can’t…Mama, I can’t do anything now.”

“Saria…”

“I’m suffocating.” She clutched her head. “I’m trapped in this ridiculously huge cage. I want to be free again.”

I sat down on the bed next to her and ran my fingers through her hair. “Saria, I can’t run either.”

“Only because you’d trip over your own feet!”

“Really?” I tugged at her sleeve. “Let’s see it then, my girl.” Saria sat up straight. “Last one to the gate is a rotten egg!”

We rushed through the house in one blur of motion. Saria beat me to it. She clutched her side, panting. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes were shining.

“You still have to take me to buy a new dress!”

“Oh, I thought there was nothing you could do now?”

Saria smiled.

She was a born philosopher, she of the feather of intellect. With the years her theories evolved from childish prattle to actual sense. Sometimes she surprised me with her thoughts.

“Mama,” she would say, in tones suggesting she was talking of the market rates of celery, “You know what I think about suicide?”

“No,” I would reply.

“I think people take their own lives because they don’t want to move on, and they keep trying to go back.”

“Back where?”

“Into the past.”

“I thought it was because they couldn’t see a way out.”

“That too. There’s always a way, though it isn’t necessarily out. There’s no such thing as ‘having no choice’. There’s always a choice. Even if it’s between braving it out and killing yourself.” She lapsed into silence.

“What are you thinking?”

“That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

“What?”

“Letting go.” She moved her head away. “It’s hard. Letting go of the past. Accepting that you can’t get it back again.”

“Saria…”

“That’s it, isn’t it?” Her eyes were filled with tears now. “We had to let go of Ami.”

“Saria.” It was a sigh. “She is in a much better place than we are now.”

“I know.” She looked straight at me. “But that doesn’t make it any easier, does it? She’s not coming back. We’re not getting her back again. She was my only living grandmother.” Her voice broke.

I had to speak evenly so my voice didn’t follow suit. “Saria…one day…”

“I know, I know, we’ll see her again. That’s nice and all, but that doesn’t make it stop hurting.”

I did not say anything. It is hard for the one who migrates, and it is hard for those who are left behind.

“Mama,” Saria went on. “I used to think moving here from America was hard. But Mama…Ami told me, when Pakistan was made, and she migrated to it with her family, they had to leave all their things behind. Everything they knew. Their house. Their furniture. Their belongings. Their relatives. They had to let go of so much. When they reached Pakistan, they didn’t go straight into a new house like we did when we came here. They had to wait while everything was sorted out. It wasn’t easy. It couldn’t have been…” I did not interrupt her. “Mama, just think, if they hadn’t migrated here, we wouldn’t be here. We could be anywhere. Mama, if they had been killed on the way, you and I wouldn’t even exist!”

“Don’t say that.”

“Just think about it. It’s enough to give you the shivers.”

“It would. My little girl can’t even bear to part with her Barbie dolls.”

“Mama, that was ages ago.”

Was it ages? Even ages seem to pass by in the blink of an eye. Time is a torrent, and it carries you along so fast you hardly get time to latch onto anything before it has slipped out of your hands. Saria, my Saria, is leaving me now. She will leave me and enter a new life, a new home, a new family, a new existence. She is borne away from me on the tides of matrimony. The house will ring with her laughter no more. No more will she pinch my cheeks and tease me in that characteristic way of hers. It is…yet another migration. A migration to top all migrations, a migration that seeds so many more. And so on the cycle will continue, every new path leading on to so many more, paths upon paths, twisting and turning out of sight. This is the road that has been, is, and will be, trodden by humanity into the mists of infinity, until all the drops coalesce and flow into the eternal destination, beyond which there are no more migrations.

This short story was one of the finalists in A Life-Changing Experience, a story-writing competition organized by Hiba Magazine