God’s perfection is enough

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Perfection is around us all.

In the lines, textures and crevices.

In the ripples, winds and shimmering particles.
In the fluffy skin of the creatures floating above,
In the slippery specks between our toes,
Perfection is everywhere, but not inside us, never within us.
But that’s all right. God’s perfection makes us bearable.
HIS perfection is enough.

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Something smells and unfortunately, it’s us.

The Angels have descended. The blessings are ready to pour forth. Forgiveness is all set to grace the lives of many. It’s Ramadan. A holy month that is more than just keeping away from food and drink. A month where we are essentially required to sniff inside. You know, pull back the collar, lower one’s nose and find out where the smell is coming from. In most cases it’s coming from us. And of course, no surprise there. Or so, will vouch God, and countless researchers and psychologists minting money off of self-improvement methods and books.

So what are most of us reeking of? Stench of anger, impatience, jealousy, potty-mouthing, back-biting, deceit, immorality and the works.  So does the stench go away this month? Not really,at least not for most. But for some, it does  tend to fade away in the background, like it’s coming from the neighbour’s backyard. Of course this is at times also a mind game, a delusion making you think you succeeded in controlling your anger, or managed to walk out of a full gossip session 101. Until, you didn’t and fell back on your knees, grovelling at the mercy of the relapse monster. Yet, all’s never lost. For a few blessed ones, this precious month makes all the difference. People who find and safeguard the spirit and emerge as permanently upgraded humans  after the thirty days.

In Pakistan, a lot of what happens in Ramadan has to do with food. What to eat at Sehri/Sahoor time, what to gorge down at Iftar, and what to fantasize about in between. The few remaining hours are perhaps spent in quick recitations of the Holy Quran, doing Zikr on ornamental garlands (tasbihs), charity, listening to Quran lectures,and acutely believing that we are in fact the holiest of them all. And that this month is a proof of our self-serving, piety. And why not? The smell is always coming from the other person. God forbid, it should ever grace our floral scented sweat glands.

But that’s the thing. As a country, we are always smelling. The skunks never leave. No matter how much we try to hide behind our bleached cloaks of Ramadan, we won’t be able to hide the bloody stains that spill on our streets, taunting our beliefs, spitting on our righteousness. Pakistan’s much respected, humble and bear of a talented Qawwal (Sufi singer) Amjad Sabri was brutally shot yesterday . The whole country and anyone abroad who has ever heard of him is in pain, shock and unbelievable anger. The usual suspects line up. Terrorist organizations, zealots and the lot. The heart doesn’t really care who did it. Frankly it won’t make a difference. But the ‘why’ always scratches and pokes and nags! Why, oh, why, oh…

Credits: Express Tribune

We mourn. Just like we mourned our late governor Salman Taseer, who too was shot over maniacal and distorted beliefs several years ago. Yet we do nothing about the putrid, rotten, forsaken whiff of decay that our noses breath, day in and day out. It’s because our senses are shutting down on us. Nothing looks the same, or smells the same, let alone feels the same. We stand helpless, looking up, and feeling low, extremely low.

Ramadan has never been more important in our lives than it is now. But who will revive its spirit in as dead a society as ours? Who will shake us out of our psychosis of lavish Iftar and Sehri parties, all-day sleeping marathons and ‘I’m fasting because everyone is’? Surely the death of a renowned and respected individual is not enough. Surely many more will have to die.

As our nation hums Amjad Sabri’s legendary ‘Bhar de Jholi Meri Ya Muhammad….’  [Roughly translated as: Fill my barren existence Dear Muhammad (PBUH)] with melancholy and watery eyes, here’s hoping and praying that Sabri left with a full ‘Jholi’, because his people, his country, left him deathly barren.

 

 

 

 

What do I tell my children about God, life and His creations?

How do I explain to the little inquisitive minds about man’s barbarity? And that it knows no bounds, understands no limits. Just like God’s mercy knows no bounds, and understands no limits.

How do I tell them that there is one God? And that anyone who believes in a higher power is looking at the same sky, praying to the same heavens. Whether standing, sitting, with hands folded or open, eyes open or shut. Yet in the mind of one believer, the other is always unworthy; One method of prayer is correct but the other is an abomination; One Book is light but the other is confusion; One language is enough but the other is inadequate; One skin color is perfect but the other is impure. I am right, but you are wrong.

How do I make them understand that all religions preached by Prophets from the past said the same thing, in different words, under different circumstances, but essentially sang the same tune? Yet still, everyone claws at each others throats because one doesn’t like the sound of the other.

Image credits: Sameen khan

How do I explain man’s kindness? A small number of people who make the world go around. These are life’s real heroes who restore your faith in everything that is good and blessed. These are people who make the real difference.

How do I tell them about life’s unfairness? But that there is nothing more fair than death. There are things we will never understand because we don’t have all the facts. That’s why we are the worst of judges.

How do  I explain that life is more grey than it is black and white? There is always an exception to the rule, an anomaly that stands out like a blister. Everything is as simple as we live it to be and as difficult as we think it to be.

How do I tell them that everything is disconnected  when looked from our eyes and that nothing ever really makes sense? But then that’s why we look up and within; For signs that show the connections. For dreams that tell all.

How do I tell them the importance of coincidences, flukes, luck and whims? Those are life’s miracles, our own magical moments, where God leans over and whispers.

How do I make them realize that they might spend their entire lives juggling such unanswered questions? But then maybe that’s what matters the most. As long as they ask, they will continue to look for answers. And as long as they don’t stop looking, there will always be hope.

 

Short Story: Spilt milk

‘Baba! Rida isn’t listening to me! She spilled all her milk. ‘ My son repeated himself almost four times but I couldn’t hear a word. Tears welled up as my children’s blurry faces screamed in front of me. Everything  was incoherent. As far as I was concerned, my world had stopped rotating. The sun refused to rise. And gravity had pulled a disappearing act.  Their mother, my beloved wife, was alone in the hospital, fighting a death sentence. And here I was, cleaning up spilt milk.

I dropped off the children at a distant relative’s house because my wife was in ICU. The city was humming with life. Whereas I felt as dead as an autumn leaf crushed under a heavy boot. Traffic was slower than usual. I saw happy pedestrians crossing the street. Mothers pushing their strollers with smiles of exasperation. The lights turned green and I didn’t budge. The car behind me didn’t honk. As if a sign from above, this little act showed respect for my feelings. Thinking that a rude honk could tear open a heart already on the verge of dying.  The world showed me sympathy. Their eyes brimming with pity. I didn’t like any of it. I didn’t want any of it.

My car pulled up in the crowded parking lot. At home I wanted nothing but to rush to the hospital. And now that I was here, my legs turned to steel. My hands became numb. I couldn’t move. The thick air inside the car gave off faint whiffs of my wife’s favorite perfume. I opened the dashboard and found her comb and her pink nail polish. I always made fun of her fetish for nail polish. Ever since the children, she never got time to put on nail polish while getting ready to go somewhere. Once the kids were buckled up in the car, she’d take it out of the dashboard and apply it on her hands and feet. Every time I made an abrupt stop, she’d give me her infamous look. Eyebrows furrowed, a suppressed smile and wide open black eyes that made me burst out laughing. Who in her right mind would put on nail polish in a moving car? Only she had a plausible answer for that. She always had an answer. Almost always.

I closed my eyes and pressed my forehead on the steering wheel. Faint sounds of ambulance sirens and voices bounced off my ears. Tears rolled down like lost streams of water with no ocean to merge into. I was a man. I was not supposed to cry uncontrollably. I was not supposed to shake with fear and bang my head against the bathroom mirror. I was not supposed to do a lot of things. Yet control was the first thing to disappear like soul from a dead body. I opened the door without looking and suddenly I heard a scream. I jumped out and saw a small, bald child crying at his bottle of chocolate milk spilled on the floor. ‘I am so sorry I should have looked before I opened the door.’  I bent down to help his mother clean up. She apologetically said it was not my fault, as if it was her fault her son was crying. The child was pale yellow like a wilting sunflower. My heart jumped as I saw his sorrowful eyes. I could have done anything for those eyes. After cleaning up I asked the mother if her son was all right. ‘Nothing a little medicine won’t cure, right Sam?’ She lovingly hugged her son, but her eyes betrayed the truth. He was far from ‘all right’. But she was with him and maybe that’s all that mattered.

I went back into the car and took out my wife’s nail polish. I felt a bit better. What perfect timing as I smiled looking up at the feeble ray of sunshine peaking through overpowering clouds. Maybe the child’s pain made it acceptable for me to lessen my pain. As if his anguish sucked in some of mine. I pressed the elevator button and made a solemn prayer to God. To give me the strength to make her smile. To give me the ability to be the best father. To give me the power to make every minute of our lives matter.

 

** This story is inspired by a true incident. I hope and pray that Allah gives health and strength to the concerned family. I also pray for cancer patients and their families suffering all over the world. Only Allah can give them the needed strength to fight such a monster. Amen. **