Image: Edeb Ya Hu – Posted in the living rooms of traditional Ottaman homes to remind the guest to maintain good character with his host and his Lord, by the artist Mustafa Nazif
The reason for my writing today is due to an incident I had at work with a customer earlier last month. I was approached by a lady who was standing in my line waiting to be checked out at the register. Since we were busy, my Pakistani co-worker opened up a second line and started calling customers from my line, to his. The lady asked me ‘how many lines are open?’ I started to explain to her that we had opened a second line as a backup for our main register, but she refused to listen to the ‘whole philosophy’ behind opening a second line, so I said, “Two”. Very rudely, she started to condemn my co-workers style of work, and said he should work according to American standards. She said he should leave his typical work style back in his country. Confused, I simply told her that he was only trying to be nice. The lady continued with her insults until I told her very gently, “I do not appreciate the way you are talking to me.” She said,” I was not talking about you. I was talking about him.” “We’re from the same country” I replied. And once I told her that I was born here, bam. She didn’t know what to say except that I should also know the rules. She said she was the customer so she had to be right. Not to mention how she went on about freedom of speech, and then funnily about how foreigners talk back. Pointless, I kept quiet for the rest of the transaction, but was left in a mixture of emotions and thought.
This woman appeared to have no self-respect. I do not give her full blame, since the society we come from can sometimes be a very selfish one. With such a high concentration on materialism, and the outward such as: appearance (muscles, diet), self-promotion, and independence, such transactions with ugly interactions in our daily lives are no surprise at all. Many of us fail to protect ourselves from internal damage, and fall into accepting external artificial beings invading our lives- whether it is those from the news, celebrities, comedians, musicians, entertainers, or even those scary looking clowns we all grew up with, what message is being portrayed? I personally do not know the answer to this, but there seems to be a common factor playing between them all: Ostentation and Act. Actors act, we take immediate action, and then act up based upon an imaginary image imitated through some fiction novel or story.
Many of us tend to live our lives in accordance with what others want us to live, not how we want to live it. This results in showing off, losing focus, and following a very naive pathway in life. We do not only await the approval of some, but furthermore seek the attention of others. No wonder peace, contentment, and certainty are absent from our souls. Society pulls us into becoming mini-celebrities, living in costumes or behind masks, and becoming characters of ourselves in a movie which was once known as life. That’s not reality, and it’s definitely not swag.
A person who degrades others, or disrespects themselves eventually dishonors God. Dishonoring God comes from a lack of appreciation, ignoring His commandments, and belittling His creation. It is reported that the Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) said in a tradition, “Whomsoever does not thank others, has not thanked God.”
Furthermore, the end result of dishonoring God is being in a state of unconscious of Him. God says in His book: “In God’s eyes, the most honored of you are the ones most mindful of Him.” [Quran 49:13] Notice how God does not specify a color, race, gender, or country in this verse. Imam Qurtubi defines mindfulness as the following: “Adherence to God’s boundaries in His commandments and prohibitions. Characterizing one’s self with what God has asked him to attribute himself with. And leaving what God has prohibited him to do.” Interestingly, this same verse is followed by a series of verses which speak about obeying the Messenger of God, faith, blessings, settling arguments, justice, brotherhood, insulting a people, name calling, repentance, oppression, having ill thoughts towards others, spying, backbiting, and concludes itself with the famous verse on unity, “People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another.” [Quran 49: 7-13]
The Artificial Atom
I have spent some time reflecting on the atom itself, and its relationship to the natural disposition of the human being (fitrah). Despite its microscopic size; to me it sums up the essence of our very existence. My deep thoughts brought me to the following conclusion:
The nucleus of an atom is filled with neutrons and protons, while rings of electrons circulate around it. A neutron is neutral; it does not give out energy. Protons however send out positive energy, while electrons send out negative energy. Take note that it is also impossible for electrons to enter into the nucleus. Similarly, God created us with a natural (nucleus) disposition (neutron) of good (proton). It was Satan (electron) who had sought God’s permission to enter upon this disposition (atom) to destroy it. When entered, it changed the nature of this disposition to a nucleus (nafs) filled with lower worldly desires with now protons (good) circling it. The end result: A dysfunctional atom. Or in other words: a hard, confused, and blinded heart.
Our atoms are our responsibility and our responsibility alone. Our body is what makes us, but it’s the heart that shapes us. This is a trust that God has bestowed upon all of us. None of us will be held accountable for what society pushed us to do, but rather what we imposed upon our own self. The knowledge of society does not exceed the sky, but the believer acknowledges realities beyond the heavens. Build a healthy relationship with your heart.
Hearts are like the sun; they emit rays of our character into our bodies. Our bodies are like the moon; they reflect the light of our heart onto others. Those others are like the earth; the more light we reflect on others, the more we will all grow. The more we grow with others, the more likely we are to raise in rank with our Lord.
And God alone knows best.