In my RE lesson last week, we were discussing the purpose of our creation - Why did Allah (swt)create us? was the question. There were various answers of which one was: He created us so he may test us. This was met with incredulity and disdain from one of the students who said: Why would Allah need to test us? Does he not know everything? And an argument ensued. She was not convinced. I asked everyone to think about it and the lesson ended. I started the next lesson with the following story... Once there was a teacher. She was a hard working woman. She loved
her job and enjoyed teaching her students. She wanted the best for them. She
wanted them to be successful in all their ventures. Therefore, she taught them
well and prepared them for life. She taught each one of them how to be a good
student, a good human being; she taught them to be disciplined, to differentiate
good from bad, right from wrong - in fact, she gave them in knowledge, everything
She had mentored her class for such a long time, she had
grown to love them all. She was familiar with each and every one of them and knew
them thoroughly well. She knew their likes and dislikes, their good moods and
bad moods, their strengths and weaknesses - she knew everything that was to
know about them.
Soon their time with her came to an end. They had to move on
with their lives. They came to her and thanked her for all she had done for
them. Then they said: We have been with you for a very long time and you know
us very well. Please give us a testimonial - so we can show people where ever
we go what we have accomplished.
She proceeded to write a testimony of their abilities and
their accomplishments. She examined and reflected on each student - taking pains to be fair and
just as she recorded her assessment of them. After many a sleepless nights the testaments
were all done. Her students came to her and she gave them each their report.
They settled down to read what had been put down on
paper- and very soon they were at her
'This is unfair!' they said. 'Our reports are all different!
You have not judged us equally well. What did you base your comments on? Where is the evidence ? We are disappointed in our results - and
will not accept them!' 'But I know you well.' said the teacher. 'I know exactly what you are capable of and what you are not capable of. What you are very good at and what you are not so good at. The result is based on what I know if you.' 'We can't see that!' said the students. At this point I turned to my class - and ask them what advice they would give the teacher and how did they think the problem could be solved. And sure enough, it was the very Miss Cheekyone who said: The teacher should have given them a test. How can she give them a report without testing them first!?. I smiled, 'You see people need to be tested so there may be reason for reward or punishment!'
Masjid e Kufa – it’s history left me in awe. And it’s future
prospects had me spellbound.
Let me go back a little. Where Masjid e Kufa is today, was
where Prophet Noah built his ark. It is also the place where many prophets and
their successors lived and worshiped Allah (swt). I was thinking about this and
after a bit of contemplation it all makes sense. The Tigris and Euphrates are,
after all, the Mesopotamia – the cradle of civilization – the place where the
human race was evolving: man was changing into ‘food grower and settler’; he
was slowing becoming a thinker. And
therefore, being close to the Furaat, it is quite reasonable that this area was
the focus of visitation for all the Messengers of Allah who came to guide the
people of Mesopotamia, and ease the process of their ‘civilization’. And that makes the place quite historic; I
mean you are sat in a place, and thousands of years ago, to know that great
Prophets sat there contemplating, is quite humbling. And to pray where Hazrate Nooh prayed, or
where Hazrat e Ibrahim prayed, or our Prophet Mohammad (as) prayed (one of his
stops during Meraj) – I felt privileged.
Masjid e Kufa – the place from where Imam Ali ran the Muslim
Hukumat, is a grand building with a massive courtyard in the middle. All
reconstructed and beautiful with marble flooring that keeps your feet cool although
the sun is pouring down its heat in torrents. The ‘Dakkatul Qadha’, or Imam
Ali’s court room where he meted out justice; his maxim: ‘Innallah yamuru bil adl e wal
ahsaan’ (Allah enjoins you to act with justice and goodness) was
printed bold and clear on its walls. This place, with an amazing past and an
even more remarkable future, is the place where the 12th Imam will
establish the hub of his Government. Incidentally it is one of the four places
where we do not have to read qasr namaz: we have the choice of reading the full
namaz. And why not? In a way, it is ‘home ground’ for every follower of the
Ahlulbait (as). Felt a deep sense of belonging. We did our full namaz there – it
was a home coming.
Masjid a Kufa – ‘fuzto be rabbil kaaba’ – the place Imam Ali
was martyred. The mehrab has been done up – glittering and pristine – quite at
odds with the austere simplicity of Imam Ali (as) life and lifestyle. I find it
a bit difficult to associate the grandeur with what we know of our maasoomeen.
I don’t know if I am being obtuse, but a true to life representations of all
the maqams would have been more helpful in giving us the feel of the space and
Did my hadya salaat ….and just sat there ….re-living the
tragedy. Cried a lot ….the tears would not stop. I prayed that I acknowledge
the purpose of my tears – so it’s not only 'eye service'. That my tears were not
only to reflect grief but also make penitence - with purpose: to become an ‘insan’,
to remove from within me the petty flaws that keep me from being ‘civilised’. Incidentally,
in the lecture arranged at the hotel the speaker spoke of the conditions
required for a nation of people to be considered ‘civilised’. For eg: succumbing to anger, back biting,
mocking, ridiculing others, and telling
lies, even the little white ones that are so tantalisingly attractive, show a
lack of ‘civilisation’; and a people can never consider themselves worthy
unless they overcome these weaknesses. Inshallah, we will return cleansed of
any unworthy pretenses. Iltemase dua.
Just came back – to the air conditioned hotel room – at the Qaser
al Dhiyafa – the hotel we are staying at. Sharing a room with Shamuna and
Fawzia. Ah, the comfort of a warm bed in a cool room. It is amazing how one
gets used to luxuries – and how intolerant, impatient and comfort-living we get
as we grow older. All the promises we make our Imam – of how we want to be on
his army – will we be able to keep them at all? After all the followers of the
Imam have to be ready to battle their own Karbala if they want to mean:
ajjilallah ho ta ‘ala faraja’.
Earlier on we were on the bus, journeying from Baghdad to
Najaf: a 4 to 5 hour journey which was getting a bit tedious for some of the
women; especially the older ones. They were tired, flustered and exhausted.
Plenty of ruffled feathers, arguments and accusations. It was funny how all the
good intention ‘ of self purification’ simply dissolved and disappeared.
mundane realities can cloud our mind to such an extent that we are distracted
from the ‘purpose’ of the journey; and instead of elevating ourselves we end up
getting caught in the mire we wanted to actually escape from!
All through the last few weeks I had been so
emotionally charged – just the mention of the word Najaf or Karbala could
unleash the floodgates of tears: so enamoured was I with the idea of my
journey. I’d lived and re-lived a dozen times my forthcoming experiences: my
very first thoughts & feelings; my first words to the imams on entering the
raoza…. I thought this was going to be the experience that would change me. I
would return cleansed. And yet the relatively simple hardships of the journey
and just one sleepless night was enough to show me that to a great extent my
devotion is simply lip service. Not good enough really.