Our most urgent need, the most important issue, deserving of all our focus and energies, is to love Him. Nobody can teach you this, bring it to your attention, or lead you to it. It’s the condition of your being, the basis of your existence. Without it, you are a shadow. Without this pain, you are miserable. This longing, and you know what I’m talking about, it is what you are. It is who you are.
Allah loves people unconditionally. He takes care of them all the time. I don’t think He stops for a moment to think about Himself or doubts that His love will be returned. The highest good is losing oneself in the other. Loving someone for the sake of Allah is seeing Him there; to see Him amongst the weakest, the poorest, the sick and lonely, the helpless and the orphaned, the most unfortunate of human beings. If you could find it in yourself to love them, to be with them, you’d have found Him.
How many shades of colours does the sky possess? Every time I look, it’s a different sky. Myriad shades of blue, and grey, and the red that filters through the clouds at dusk. It’s clear and it’s cloudy. The clouds just hang there or move softly. What is the ever changing sky a sign of? The silhouette of the mountains and the clouds that hover over them. The rivers and the golden brown sunsets in my mind. The trees. The eagles that flying so serene suddenly turn and go in the other direction. What does it all mean? These sights that the heart lives by? The entire earth is a vision! The mind can’t make sense of it. But the heart knows . You gasp for breath and the lips say Subhan Allah.
When you can distinguish between the desires of the Nafs and the longings of the Rooh, then , perhaps, the spiritual work has begun. You can then choose to identify with the Rooh rather than the baser instincts of the Nafs. It gives you the much needed peace because you don’t have to carry the guilt associated with the constant eruption of these desires and the identification with them. You can, now, calmly observe these thoughts, without judging yourself, and without beating yourself up for thoughts you can’t control.
At a time when the government schools are being criticized for a poor show in the recently conducted secondary and higher secondary examinations, we need to take a closer look at the private schools and how they work. Not that they run in a vacuum. They are a reflection of our society in general and the education system in particular.
The higher percentage of pass outs from these schools in the recent years and the comparison with the government-run schools often results in us overlooking the truth. We never ask how these schools manage to get 100% results. How such a high percentage of students get above 90% or 95%. We are ignorant or just not concerned as long as the results are good (in terms of numbers). We do not ask if all the students are capable enough to go up one level. We do not ask what magic tricks are performed on them so that they achieve good grades. Since our standardized tests mostly consist of a set of questions that need to be answered, we need to ask where these perfect answers come from.
The ready-made material provided by schools and coaching centers comes into picture here. Of course, the students have an important role to play; they need to mug up all the material provided to them to “shine” in the examinations. Well, all the students should get good grades if that is the case, you may say. But it still depends on how good you’re at cramming; and, occasionally, on how much you actually know because when you forget what you had learned by heart, you have to fall back on real knowledge. Or, I’m sure, you’ll give me examples of students who did well in life and developed good skills studying in the same schools. How some students manage to develop their skills and innate potential in the same system is a miracle.
If you are not part of the education system, you may have missed it. But, if you are a teacher, part of the management, non-teaching staff, a student, or an observant parent, you know what’s going on. Well, like all of us, you have either gotten used to it or don’t want to fix it. Nobody wants to put in the effort. The students are happy because we are doing the work for them; teachers, because it’s much easier to hand over the material to the students than to teach them to think and write. Of course, if they write their own answers, they’ll learn important skills like thinking clearly and expressing their thoughts in an organized manner. Real learning is humbling. It teaches you to appreciate the process rather than the immediate outcome. You are vulnerable when you are learning something new. You look deeper to find the sources of your strength within you. But who wants to teach their children that. All they want is money-making machines who when they are talked to, should stay quiet and listen.
Of course, the focus on results is sickening, the worship of results if I may say so at a risk of displeasing those who think they are actually reforming the society by running these schools, the self-proclaimed martyrs for the noble cause of education. And the parents, the innocuous creatures who couldn’t set a foot wrong, they pay a huge sum to the schools. They’ll be disappointed to see their children fail or perform poorly. Obviously, you can’t be so obtuse as to tell them that any honest effort in learning can lead to failure. The schools don’t want to disappoint them because that’s where the money comes from. To counter that, the school management resorts to honourable activities like providing ready-made notes, conducting frequent standardized tests, and curtailing teacher autonomy by micromanaging the classrooms. I’m shocked to see some of these schools claiming to be “Islamic”. Surah al Kahf has a warning for them:
Say, [O Muhammad], “Shall we [believers] inform you of the greatest losers as to [their] deeds?
[They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work.” [18:103-104]
The thoughts flitting across my mind say that I should write them down. I should find a language for them. For my peculiar suffering. For if I don’t, I may not understand myself and the depths of my soul would remain undiscovered, uncharted. Abstract thoughts.
But, I want to write about something real. Something that helps me understand myself. To write it down even if I can’t say it to myself or am scared to tell my closest friends. What is it?
What is the web I’ve woven around me? What is the illusion I’m surrounded by, the oppressive images and perceptions of reality that have yoked me to world leaving me exhausted, each day, every day…With no energy left to struggle with the demons, I give in to the pleasures, the emptiness of my beastly existence, as they distract me from my slow, ongoing annihilation.
There’s still one night and one morning to go. Sleeping during the night, getting up early and going out for a stroll, what a luxury for some of us who work nights! Wake up at six and go to the roadside vendor, have some eggs and tea. I look forward to the pleasure of that moment all week. The cold breeze nowadays adds to the pleasant feeling. Then you walk back to your place feeling calm as if you’ve been meditating all morning. Early morning walks are psychotherapy. But, then, the time flies by and the realisation dawns on you that you’ll have to wait another week before you can wake up at 6, quickly wash your face, and go out into the early morning sun.