Sunday, January 1, 2017

Wonder

Journalism students learn that "when a dog bites a man, that is not news" ; “Man bites dog" is news.

A woman called a doctor live on a Moroccan radio program to ask why her three-year-old daughter still sucked at her baby's bottle (even if it were empty!). THAT IS NOT NEWS. Another listener later called to advise that woman to put something bitter in the feeding bottle or on its teat to make it disgusting to the child. He said that he had tried that out on his own daughter when she was three and it worked. THAT IS NOT NEWS, either. But then the man conceded that there arose a much bigger problem. "Now my daughter is 27 years old," he explained. "She is a university professor in a foreign country and yet she still sucks her thumb!" THAT IS NEWS, isn't it? But is it odd enough to provoke wonder in anyone?

So what provokes wonder in us? The Kenyan DAILY NATION excalimed : "It’s a mystery: Africans can’t shoot Olympic arrows!" For the author of this article "it is puzzling that Africa doesn’t dominate archery yet no other continent uses bows and arrows for primary purposes as much."

In The Unique Necklace, Ibn Abd Rabbih relates the story of a tabi'i (follower of the Prophet Muhammad's Companions) who was travelling with some of his students when they came across a drunken man singing a beautiful couplet in Arabic, something like: My heart has become sick with love, But there's no way to reach my love. The tabi'i then alighted from his horse and hastened to write down those lines. Amazed, his students asked, "You write down words said by a drunken man?" The tabi'i replied: "Haven't you heard the proverb that goes 'A pearl could very well be found in the garbage.' Well, this is a pearl in a garbage!"

Somebody was introduced to the Abbassid caliph Harun al-Rasheed as a man of genius who could insert a hundred needles into the eyes of each other in such a way that not a single needle would fall down. The caliph asked the man to show him how he could do that, and when the latter had done that in the most brilliant manner, the caliph turned to his men, and said: "Give this man one hundred dinars and one hundred lashes." Stunned and stupefied, the genius man asked: "Majesty, I can understand why you give me one hundred dinards, but not why you give me one hundred lashes!" The caliph replied: "I give you a hundred dinars for your genius, and a hundred lashes because you wasted your genius on trivialties."

We are all intelligent, aren't we, but do we always put our intelligence to good use?

"And they marvel that a warner from among themselves hath come unto them, and the disbelievers say: This is a wizard, a charlatan. Maketh he the gods One God? Lo! that is an astounding thing." (Sad : 4-5)

As a twenty-year-old student, I was once standing alone, facing our classroom, when a classmate came up to me, and said, shaking with laughter: "On my way to the Faculty (College), a group of little children stopped me, and said, 'Tell us, if you know: does a hen urinate?' You know what, I had never thought about that before!" Now I ask you the same question: does a hen urinate?

We tend to take so many things for granted--small things, I mean. How many times have you stopped to think about the tick-tock of your watch, about that tiny insect that you sometimes find scurrying across the page when you are reading through a book, about the fallen leaves in your garden or in the woods, about the human mind that made all the inventions you're using every day? Like people in antiquity, who wondered at the Seven Wonders and forgot about the million small wonders around them, we still marvel at such big things as the Pyramids and forget to give a thought to small things in ourselves and in our environment.

People marveled at the Montgolfier Balloon, at the first solo nonstop transatlantic Flight in history, at the Airbus A380. They still marvel at the Great Wall of China, at the Guizeh Pyramids, at the Eiffel Tower and Lady Liberty. We still marvel at the breathtaking performances of circus animals and clowns, at the stunning achievements of record-breaking athletes, at the extraordinary talents of our artists (that we sometimes take for gods!). Almost every week, there's a new entry into the famous Guinness World Records. There you can learn about the longest moustache, the thinnest waistline, the tallest woman, the shortest man, the largest cake--all mad records. All that man has been able "to achieve".

When people think of something, they often forget something else--something more important. When we look at ourselves in the mirror, do we think of the mirror itself? When we think of our computer, do we think of the one who invented it in the first place? When we wonder at our (human) power of imagination, do we think of the One Who originated the human mind in the first place? How many of us wonder at the fact that although we have the same father and the same mother, we still are not identical. Even so-called "identical twins" are differentiated by their fingerprints and irises.

God said to Moses: "And what is that in thy right hand, O Moses? He said: This is my staff whereon I lean, and wherewith I beat down branches for my sheep, and wherein I find other uses. He said: Cast it down, O Moses! So he cast it down, and Lo! it was a serpent, gliding." (Ta-ha : 17-20)

Don't worry! The chair you're sitting in is a real chair and the thing in front of you is a real computer. Just give a little more thought to those little things around you. If you haven't been doing it already, then try now to look beyond the wood and the leather, beyond the glass and the cloth, beyond the ink and the paper. Think of the source, and beyond the source, of the Originator.

You will not be wasting your time if you think about these things and more. Meditation on a regular basis may help you, one day, prevent depression, and even suicide, if –God forbid!– you suddenly find yourself in a situation where you feel like a fool, when the most obvious things become hard to understand, when your life suddenly becomes a burden, void of any meaning.

Even if you are a believer and perform all your daily rituals with the greatest deal of devotion, that may not be sufficient for you to face up to some emergencies--if your eeman (belief) is not strong enough.

You may probably know the fable about that teacher who was travelling with a poor fisherman in a boat.

"Do you know the name of that star?" the teacher asked.
"No, I don't," said the fisherman.
"Then you have lost half your life!"
The teacher asked more similar questions, to which he got the same answers, to which he replied: "Then you have lost half your life!"
Then a storm overturned the boat, and the fisherman said to the teacher:
"Can you swim?"
"No," said the teacher.
"Then you have lost all your life!" replied the fisherman.

It's yaqeen (unshakable belief) that will enable you "to swim" through a crisis that brings you to the verge of madness. And it's meditation (at home and in the open) that will help raise your eeman to yaqeen. eeman itself needs to be renewed from time to time, and with regular meditation eeman can rise higher and higher. And there are so many things to meditate about.

"How many a portent is there in the heavens and the earth which they pass by with face averted!" (Yusuf : 105)

"And in the earth are portents for those whose faith is sure, And (also) in yourselves. Can ye then not see?" (Az-Zariyat : 20-21)

Meditation will purify your eeman.

"And though thou try much, most men will not believe." (Yusuf : 103)

"And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners (unto Him)." (Yusuf : 106)

Just as exercise rids your body of its "poisons", so does meditation to the "poisons" of your soul.

Meditation about small things –those things that most people don't think about– will give you a light that most people don't have.

"Is he who was dead and We have raised him unto life, and set for him a light wherein he walketh among men, as him whose similitude is in utter darkness whence he cannot emerge?" (Al-An'am : 122)

Once, an American man went missing in Australia. After three months or so, he emerged from the other end of the Australian desert, wearing an ordinary shirt and a pair of trousers, with leather sandals on, and a big bottle of water in his hand. Asked why he had braved such a frightening desert alone and with so little equipment, the man said: "I just wanted to discover God." Personally, I couldn't believe my eyes and ears as I saw those TV pictures, having read about the times when Afghan camel leaders took European settlers through the uncharted deserts of the Australian continent.

But does one really need to go to a dangerous place like the Australian desert to "discover God"? It's true that most probably you won't "find" God in the stadium, in the cafe or in the shopping mall-–because a lot of things will overshadow Him in there. But just go to the woods or open countryside around your town. Go there alone, with no cam, no walkman, no cigarettes. Just go in your jellaba, or jeans, or shorts, or pajamas. Go and sit bang on the ground, and stop TIME for a while. Open your eyes wide, and your ears, and your heart, and you'll see how small you are and how great you are! Small, because you belong to a planet that is just a drop in the ocean compared to the Universe and you are but a drop in the ocean compared to the billions of creatures that live on this planet. Great, because you belong to a species that has turned this once deserted planet into prosperous cities, ever-growing towns, beautiful villages, nice farms and fields, with lots of good people in them –despite all the evil, all the horrors this same species has caused over time.

"Lo! We offered the trust unto the heavens and the earth and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man assumed it. Lo! he hath proved a tyrant and a fool." (Al-Ahzab : 72)

Then raise your eyes to the skies and ask yourself: Does God really exist? Is there really a life after death? Then let the Koran whisper the answer in your ear:

"Qaf. By the glorious Quran, Nay, but they marvel that a warner of their own hath come unto them; and the disbelievers say: This is a strange thing: When we are dead and have become dust (shall we be brought back again)? That would be a far return! We know that which the earth taketh of them, and with Us is a recording Book. Nay, but they have denied the truth when it came unto them, therefore they are now in troubled case. Have they not then observed the sky above them, how We have constructed it and beautified it, and how there are no rifts therein? And the earth have We spread out, and have flung firm hills therein, and have caused of every lovely kind to grow thereon, A vision and a reminder for every penitent slave. And We send down from the sky blessed water whereby We give growth unto gardens and the grain of crops, And lofty date palms with ranged clusters, Provision (made) for men; and therewith We quicken a dead land. Even so will be the resurrection of the dead." (Qaf : 1-11)

"Have We not made the earth an expanse, And the high hills bulwarks? And We have created you in pairs, And have appointed your sleep for repose, And have appointed the night as a cloak, And have appointed the day for livelihood. And We have built above you seven strong (heavens), And have appointed a dazzling lamp, And have sent down from the rainy clouds abundant Water, Thereby to produce grain and plant, And gardens of thick foliage." (An-Nabaa : 6-16)

"Lo! therein verily is a reminder for him who hath a heart, or giveth ear with full intelligence." (Qaf : 37)

Look up at the sun: isn't it the same sun everyone sees everywhere? It's the same moon all people all around the world know –there's no other moon in our minds when we hear someone from another country or continent speak of the moon. It's the same sky, the same stars, the same earth, the same water, the same air, the same human body, the same human soul. So why couldn't it be the same God Who made all these things for us all? Shouldn't we marvel at the fact that people share the same things and yet worship different gods?

"Is not He (best) who created the heavens and the earth, and sendeth down for you water from the sky wherewith We cause to spring forth joyous orchards, whose trees it never hath been yours to cause to grow. Is there any God beside Allah? Nay, but they are folk who ascribe equals (unto Him)! Is not He (best) Who made the earth a fixed abode, and placed rivers in the folds thereof, and placed firm hills therein, and hath set a barrier between the two seas? Is there any God beside Allah? Nay, but most of them know not! Is not He (best) who answereth the wronged one when he crieth unto Him and removeth the evil, and hath made you viceroys of the earth? Is there any God beside Allah? Little do they reflect! Is not He (best) Who guideth you in the darkness of the land and the sea, He Who sendeth the winds as heralds of His mercy? Is there any God beside Allah? High exalted be Allah from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)! Is not He (best), Who produceth creation, then reproduceth it, and Who provideth for you from the heaven and the earth? Is there any God beside Allah? Say: Bring your proof, if ye are truthful!" (An-Naml : 60-64)

"Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth, and causeth water to descend from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you, and maketh the ships to be of service unto you, that they may run upon the sea at His command, and hath made of service unto you the rivers; And maketh the sun and the moon, constant in their courses, to be of service unto you, and hath made of service unto you the night and the day. And He giveth you of all ye ask of Him, and if ye would count the bounty of Allah ye cannot reckon it. Lo! man is verily a wrong doer, an ingrate." (Ibrahim : 32-34)

"Hast thou not seen how Allah causeth the night to pass into the day and causeth the day to pass into the night, and hath subdued the sun and the moon (to do their work), each running unto an appointed term; and that Allah is Informed of what ye do? That (is so) because Allah, He is the True, and that which they invoke beside Him is the False, and because Allah, He is the Sublime, the Great." (Luqman : 29-30)

These are old stats, but they can give you an idea. In 2008 there were in the Arab region around 600 satellite TV channels, and more than 70% of Arab people would sit up to four hours daily in front of their TV screens. Some statistics show that in 2007 these TV channels swamped their televiewers with nearly 630 billion images." What about America and Europe?! How could one "think" with so many images falling like an avalanche over one's mind?

A sahabi (companion of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)) was once travelling with other sahabis in the Arabean desert when he said to them: "Let's sit down and believe for an hour"! These sahabis were all believers, they worshipped God night and day. But that's not like sitting down in the heart of the desert and thinking silently and wondering aloud. The image of God is then clearer, much clearer, and the greatness of God is brighter than the sun, sweeter than the moon in the eyes of young lovers.

So how long will it be before you go to the woods (with no cam, no walkman, no cigarettes), with just a mind and a heart, and two feet willing to go from place to place, and eyes willing to look at beautiful flowers –small flowers– hiding behind small rocks that few people care to glance at? In the woods look at the fallen leaves, and touch them, scrutinize them; look at the insects, look for migrant birds, listen to their twitter, and remember God's words:

"And with Him are the keys of the invisible. None but He knoweth them. And He knoweth what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falleth but He knoweth it, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, naught of wet or dry but (it is noted) in a clear record." (Al-An'am : 59)
"There is not an animal in the earth, nor a flying creature flying on two wings, but they are peoples like unto you. We have neglected nothing in the Book (of Our decrees). Then unto their Lord they will be gathered." (Al-An'am : 38)

"Have they not seen the birds obedient in mid-air? None holdeth them save Allah. Lo! herein, verily, are portents for a people who believe." (An-Nahl : 79)

"Hast thou not seen that Allah causeth water to fall from the sky, and We produce therewith fruit of divers hues; and among the hills are streaks white and red, of divers hues, and (others) raven black; And of men and beasts and cattle, in like manner, divers hues? The erudite among His bondsmen fear Allah alone. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Forgiving." (Fatir : 27-28)

"And thou seest the hills thou deemest solid flying with the flight of clouds: the doing of Allah Who perfecteth all things. Lo! He is Informed of what ye do." (An-Naml : 88)

"What aileth you that ye hope not toward Allah for dignity, When He created you by (divers) stages? See ye not how Allah hath created seven heavens in harmony, And hath made the moon a light therein, and made the sun a lamp? And Allah hath caused you to grow as a growth from the earth, And afterward He maketh you return thereto, and He will bring you forth again, a (new) forthbringing. And Allah hath made the earth a wide expanse for you, That ye may thread the valley ways thereof." (Nuh : 13-20)

"Allah created you from dust, then from a little fluid, then He made you pairs (the male and female). No female beareth or bringeth forth save with His knowledge. And no one groweth old who groweth old, nor is aught lessened of his life, but it is recorded in a Book. Lo! that is easy for Allah." (Fatir : 11)

"Lo! in the heavens and the earth are portents for believers. And in your creation, and all the beasts that He scattered in the earth, are portents for a folk whose faith is sure. And the difference of night and day and the provision that Allah sendeth down from the sky and thereby quickeneth the earth after her death, and the ordering of the winds, are portents for a people who have sense." (Al-Jathiya : 3-5)

"Allah it is Who hath made the sea of service unto you that the ships may run thereon by His command, and that ye may seek of His bounty, and that haply ye may be thankful; And hath made of service unto you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth; it is all from Him. Lo! herein verily are portents for people who reflect." (Al-Jathiya : 12-13)
"This is clear indication for mankind, and a guidance and a mercy for a folk whose faith is sure." (Al-Jathiya : 20)

"And He it is who spread out the earth and placed therein firm hills and flowing streams, and of all fruits He placed therein two spouses (male and female). He covereth the night with the day. Lo! herein verily are portents for people who take thought. And in the Earth are neighboring tracts, vineyards and ploughed lands, and date palms, like and unlike, which are watered with one water. And We have made some of them to excel others in fruit. Lo! herein verily are portents for people who have sense." (Ar-Ra'd : 3-4)

"Who hath appointed the earth as a bed and hath threaded roads for you therein and hath sent down water from the sky and thereby We have brought forth divers kinds of vegetation, (Saying): Eat ye and feed your cattle. Lo! herein verily are portents for men of thought." (Ta-ha : 53-54)

"Who hath created seven heavens in harmony. Thou (Muhammad) canst see no fault in the Beneficent One's creation; then look again: Canst thou see any rifts? Then look again and yet again, thy sight will return unto thee weakened and made dim." (Al-Mulk : 3-4)

"Say: Have ye thought, if Allah made night everlasting for you till the Day of Resurrection, who is a God beside Allah who could bring you light? Will ye not then hear? Say: Have ye thought, if Allah made day everlasting for you till the Day of Resurrection, who is a God beside Allah who could bring you night wherein ye rest? Will ye not then see? Of His mercy hath He appointed for you night and day that therein ye may rest, and that ye may seek His bounty, and that haply ye may be thankful." (Al-Qasas : 71-73)

"Let man consider his food: How We pour water in showers, Then split the earth in clefts, And cause the grain to grow therein, And grapes and green fodder, And olive trees and palm trees, And garden closes of thick foliage, And fruits and grasses: Provision for you and your cattle." (Abasa : 25-32)

"This is the Creation of Allah. Now show me that which those (ye worship) beside Him have created. Nay, but the wrong doers are in error manifest!" (Luqman :11)

"Hast thou not seen that Allah, He it is Whom all who are in the heavens and the earth praise; and the birds in their flight? Of each He knoweth verily the worship and the praise; and Allah is Aware of what they do." (An-Nur : 41)

Yes, Allah is Aware of what you do: while you are there, alone, in that part of the woods, or countryside, He will be watching you:

"And thou (Muhammad) art not occupied with any business and thou recitest not a lecture from this (Scripture), and ye (mankind) perform no act, but We are Witness of you when ye are engaged therein. And not an atom's weight in the earth or in the sky escapeth your Lord, nor what is less than that or greater than that, but it is (written) in a clear Book. Lo! verily the friends of Allah are (those) on whom fear (cometh) not, nor do they grieve. Those who believe and keep their duty (to Allah), Theirs are good tidings in the life of the world and in the Hereafter. There is no changing the Words of Allah, that is the Supreme Triumph." (Yunus : 61-64)

Then remember God's words to you, Man:

"See ye not how Allah hath made serviceable unto you whatsoever is in the skies and whatsoever is in the earth and hath loaded you with His favors both without and within? Yet of mankind is he who disputeth concerning Allah, without knowledge or guidance or a Scripture giving light." (Luqman : 20)

"And walk not in the earth exultant. Lo! thou canst not rend the earth, nor canst thou stretch to the height of the hills." (Al-Isra : 37)

"O man! What hath made thee careless concerning thy Lord, the Bountiful, Who created thee, then fashioned, then proportioned thee? Into whatsover form He will, He casteth thee" (Al-Infitar :6-8)

"Is not the time ripe for the hearts of those who believe to submit to Allah's reminder and to the truth which is revealed" (Al-Hadid : 16)

And if you don't yet know God, then let Him introduce Himself to you:

"He is Allah, than whom there is no other God, the Knower of the invisible and the visible. He is the Beneficent, the Merciful. He is Allah, than whom there is no other God, the Sovereign Lord the Holy One, Peace, the Keeper of Faith, the Guardian, the Majestic, the Compeller, the Superb. Glorified be Allah from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him). He is Allah, the Creator, the Shaper out of naught, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifieth Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise." (Al-Hashr : 22-24)

Wouldn't you love to hear these words said to you at the last moment in your life, when you are about to be buried and forgotten:

"But ah! thou soul at peace! Return unto thy Lord, content in His good pleasure! Enter thou among My bondmen! Enter thou My Garden!" (Al-Fajr : 27-30)

Then, keep in touch with God,...

"And be thou not of the neglectful." (Al-A'raf : 205)

...and keep thinking of this:

"Hast thou not seen how Allah hath sent down water from the sky and hath caused it to penetrate the earth as water springs, and afterward thereby produceth crops of divers hues; and afterward they wither and thou seest them turn yellow; then He maketh them chaff. Lo! herein verily is a reminder for men of understanding." (Az-Zumar : 21)

Mohamed Ali Lagouader




No comments: