''We did not search for God when we were children. We took Him for granted. We were at some time taught to say our evening prayers: 'bless my father and mother'. This was done no more unless a thunderstorm made us hide our heads under the covers and propitiate the Deity by promising to be good.
Very early we had a sense of right and wrong, good and evil. My conscience was very active. There were ethical and religious concepts. To steal cucumbers from Miss Lynch's garden was wrong. It was also wrong to take money from my mother, without her knowledge, for a soda. What a sense of property rights we had as children! Mine and yours! It begins in us as infants. 'This is mine.' But at the age of four I knew it was wrong to steal.
Morality lay in the realm of property and sex. Sex was a deeper matter, and in some obscure way had a connection with the supernatural law and God Himself. Modesty at first had to do with our bodies. We used to dress around the big kitchen and if anyone came in, the grocer, the laundry boy, we would back out of the room to hide our nakedness. We did not know why and whatever obscure sense of shame we had may have been connected with that part of our anatomy which was seriously smacked for punishment.''
This is an extract from a book I'm currently reading called 'The Long Loneliness'. It is an autobiographical book written by Dorothy Day who was a legendary Catholic social activist of her time.
I read this part last night and it resonated with me. As a kid, I took God for granted and only called on Him when I wanted something really bad (i.e: when I prayed for a baby brother) or if I was very scared. Other than that, I was pretty heedless. But at the same time, I had a developed consciousness of what was right and what was wrong. I could feel the weight of trespassing a limit on my shoulders whenever I would do something wrong.
When I started secondary school, I was lucky that several of my classmates from primary school also ended up in the same school and some days, after school, I would sometimes go at one of my friend's house who was near the school. Without my parents' knowledge; of course.
We would watch movies. This was not something that was allowed in my household. The only things we watched on TV were the news and occasionally cartoons on the week-ends. We called movies 'filim dad waawayn' and we knew we weren't allowed to watch those. Anyway, so we used to chill at my friend's house and watch american series subbed in french but I knew it was wrong. My conscience was telling me that I was trespassing a limit. And even though at the moment, it was nice as soon as I would make my way home, I didn't feel so good anymore.
I also remember being aware of nakedness being wrong and shameful. As a result, I hated swimming classes with a passion and always tried to hide myself behind people. I also remember one hot afternoon, we had P.E (sports) and we were playing basketball. I was wearing a long sleeved top but it was getting uncomfortable with the heat and sweat. I decided to remove it, bearing my arms as I was wearing a t-shirt. This may seem like nothing but for me it was a huge deal. I knew my arms were not supposed to be exposed like that. I knew it deeply in me but in that moment, I decided to shut my conscious and enjoy that game.
I have so many examples like these of my childhood and teenage years. Heck, even as an adult today. Sometimes, we know we're doing something wrong. Yet, because of the fleeting enjoyment of the moment, we continue just to realise a little later that it wasn't worth it and now you're left with a heavy heart and a torned consciousness. Happens all the time! God help us.
'We praise Thee, O God --
We acknowledge Thee to be the Lord,
All the earth doth working Thee
All ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord
Praise Him and glorify Him forever.
O ye sun and moon, O ye stars in the sky,
O ye winds and hoarfrost, ye rain and dew,
Bless ye the Lord, praise Him and glorify Him forever.
O ye trees and flowers, O ye beasts of the field,
O ye fish in the sea . . .'
Another extract. I find it disturbing when I read works from Christians or highly spiritually endowed people because of how close they are to the Truth and yet, how far they seem at the same time. What beautiful lines describing the Oneness of Allah these are yet, a few lines later.. there will almost always be lines of Shirk following.
Dorothy Day, from the little I've read so far, was a woman who dedicated her life to her religion and to the social rebuilding of her society. She sacrificed a lot as the title of her autobiography suggests but for what? For a God that she loved yet maybe due to ignorance associated partners with Him. I find that so tragic.
In Islam, we are told to prepare for the Afterlife in this life. All our actions in this life will have an impact on the next one. We also believe that the KEY to attaining Paradise is living a life based on a Monotheistic belief. One God with no partners, with no needed intercessors, with no son or wife, with no shortcomings.
I find it tragic that there are people out there who are so in touch with their consciousness & spiritual identity and use it to help people (and they get their rewards in this life, in one way or another) while there are Muslims who are not thinking of being actively engaged with their communities and societies. There are Muslims whose only focus is: today, tomorrow and me, me, me. I'm not trying to blame anyone because this is the way we've been ingrained to think from a young age. But this is wrong.
We rarely see Muslims sacrificing their lives, efforts, money for the Sake of God to help His Creation. I only found out about the national Pakistani hero who passed away maybe 6 months ago (may Allah have mercy on his soul) and the extent of his humanity. Incredible.
I feel like my own life will not be fruitful and useful unless I also sacrifice myself for the sake of God. I want.. actually it's not a want but a need. I need to be useful to others. I must be of benefit to humanity. This may sound a little arrogant but I promise you it's not coming from such a place.
I don't know if it's because I'm the first born of my family but I've always had high expectations for myself. Kinda to set the path for the younger ones and to be a good role model. I've also had close family members often repeating to be to think about what I want to do for the world. And as I get older, the louder these voices become. Likewise, my internal voice is also growing louder 'YOU MUST GET A MOVE ON'.
I'm thinking, thinking, thinking.. I realise that I must become a good person first before I can wish to benefit others. I have plenty ideas but actually getting from theory to practice seem much harder than anticipated. But I know, I just know.. inshAllah, great things will happen and even if they don't.. the intentions are there and intentions are crucial and appreciated by God.
How about you? What can you do to make this world better for others and yourself?