December 19, 2016

Giving Way

It was perhaps a minute to departure. As we rushed to catch the ferry to Hulule airport and i hurried to get the ticket at the booth besides, suddenly i was surprised by two persons from behind pushing their cash onto the face of the girl at the counter. Just for a ticket, while I had to patiently wait aghast, and the time ticking for my tickets to be issued. No worries; this is the “value” driven people of today I thought! Then we boarded the ferry just on the nick of time and we searched for a berth to park ourselves. I quickly placed the two little kids i had with me in the crack of a space between two foreigners who sat uncomfortably watching the chaos unfolding before them while I found my stability standing with my hands on the cross bar of one of the now full-up rows of seats. Suddenly a young lady of south-eastern origin from among the passengers on board gets up to give me her seat.

What a blast from Providence! Perhaps seeing the scene evoked in her a hidden sense of reverence, or was it just my gleaming grey hair? Or was it her value-based upbringing in her culture? I do not know the answer -- but perhaps one of the above!  I protested. “I’m not that old my dear” I said. But she would not have it. She insisted I sit and she stands. I was moved, not because I was happy to get a place to sit for that short 10-minute ride to the airport, but sad that none of the young Maldivians on board moved one bit to give a seat to an old man - even as they sat looking on at this exchange of words and perhaps facial emotions that were observable despite the din of the in-board motor engine. At least the grey in my hair should engender respect if nothing else.

How can we revive some chivalry again or are we too much steeped into this age of equality? -- was the query that ran through my mind. How do we revive the past glory of sharing and caring. Or did we even ever have it then?

Saving grace: As we soon docked at Hulule airport and we all rushed to spill out of the ferry, i felt a tap on my shoulder. “I'm sorry if I offended you in rushing to get my ticket” a voice behind me intoned. I turned around and saw the young man who pushed the money at the ticket-booth girl’s face at the start of our journey. “No worries” i said. “I’m ever so glad you had this to say” my thought continued, thankfully uttering a silent prayer to Allah. So there are those who are value-driven, but the spur of the moment just shakes them out of that civil path sometimes. The great Deceiver is ever ready to grasp even a sliver of a moment! MaashaaAllah! Sanity can indeed prevail if our intention is to be conscious.


November 22, 2016

The internal narrative

The just ended US presidential election was fraught with so much negativity and mudslinging that one begins to question the very process of democracy that is being played out in the world. This is not to say that I doubt the value of democracy. No i just feel that the process need so much reflection and reframing. In this home of the democratic institution  -- so to say -- what transpired during and after the election are events to behold and reflect with alarm. The internal narrative divided a powerful nation – one that was supposed to be the paragon of a democratic nation.
Yes we all live by our internal narratives. And that is where the human personality is defined. But how evolves the internal narrative?

Whether good or bad narratives, the basis is in our past. Both good and bad are the stories about ourselves that we have gathered from the past – those that have been pointed at us many times over and that has slowly got embedded in our subconscious. These have come to define our personality. For instance, when a parent scolds a child, for whatever reason, that he or she will “not measure up to anything”, or any other negative statements whenever their child does not measure up to their expectations. Or when a child’s mischief is given colour by parents or neighbours as the unruly child who is always “bad”. And there can be many other examples of negative stereotyping. In the same vein there can be positive stereotyping also that can get embedded in our psyche as good potential.  

Over time, these repeated affirmations from these familiar sources then become our daily reinforced affirmations too, and soon we start believing these to be true. Now as time goes this weakness or inadequacy does not remain confined to that conditional inadequacy alone but it has expanded – to be our general attitude -- at school, on the social stage, and at the workplace, and perhaps in all our relationships. Negative comments and statements continue to feed this pain within us - so much so that whenever we face daunting situations in life, this pain or fear of incapability kicks in, and we automatically and inadvertently or subconsciously allow it to snowball and affect our attitude to life itself. Imagine how this has grown and this feeling can surface in response to the slightest negativity, or even perceived negativity, of a given context. Like a mirror, our internal fear is reflected in the world around us. We imagine an antagonistic world and so we act with defensiveness. Our social interactions are laced with defensive negativity, and if becomes difficult for us to accept another person’s point of view without being argumentative or challenging. We live in the bubble of our own narrative.

In adult life, these inadequacies surface as personality traits that make or break society. Those with the negatives will attempt to deny these by putting on the airs of the opposite. Weakness is covered in the drape of power and dominance or violence or repression (to cover up the fear of weakness). Negative personalities find expression in the attitude of negation. Most power mongering people are actually those with much internal psychological fear. The tyrants of the world and those with habitual anger and pride and ways of dominance are those that are crying out inside to be seen as capable, but imprisoned in their fear, or jealousy or resentment. They cause society so much damage as they attempt to reclaim the confidence that they so sadly lack.

Conversely, it is not too difficult to know that when one is confident and content there is no need to show dominance, for one is fully satisfied with oneself. It is the truth. So a caring society that doesn't have jealousy and resentment to the fellow neighbours and other citizens is the product of satisfied and calm minds. Of course there also are others who in the state of negative mind are unable to to become such power wielding tyrants. They ply their way in other smaller and less significant negativity or they are just stuck in the misery of their narratives unable to get to the front of society just sitting moping and a slave to their negative emotions. And sadly some embracing the negativity as a pain body that has by now perhaps become their companion and friend. They can't imagine life without that negativity and thus their judgemental nature.

Therefore it is so necessary for parents to understand the painful consequence of an unhappy childhood and attempt to make this precious formative stage of our children’s lives joyful and cared for; a time of building their character and a time they will reflect with fond memories. For many parents this will be difficult, for they too have perhaps had difficult childhoods and are perhaps also grappling with the trappings of an unkind past. But with awareness, we will not be unconscious anymore in facing life. 

We can rise above the petty internal narrative and allow the next generation to grow into fearless and confident individuals. Inabilities are a part of any human being just as well as strengths are. As parents we need to promote beliefs of strength in our children for they will be the future citizens. We need clear thinking and confident human being in our nation unclouded by these mental trappings of weakness and negative sensibilities. We need those who can appreciate others and inspire confidence in others and be the responsible human being that Allah SWA created us to be -- the competent vicegerents on this earth.

October 29, 2016

Making a house a home

Perhaps the dream of every family, and it only seems natural that it will happen. But does every house become a home? A casual query from a friend stirred me to attempt this blog.

Beyond the physical, there seems to be an abstract quality that is involved here. The home is not just an enclosure where the family sleeps or spends the day. The physical dimensions are important aspects of comfort, and safety.  But the affective aspects are perhaps more important to consider here -- that quality of mirth and laughter, of food prepared with love and caring, and of its sharing within the family and with friends. Food preparation is a major asset of a home -- as they say, ‘the way to one's heart is through the stomach’.

Nowadays we have very nice houses, many of which don’t qualify to be homes. Very expensive ones but alas with no heart. Home embodies the warmth and security of the space and not merely the sterile dwelling we come to sleep every night. We are thus moved to ask - What has become of us? Million dollar houses but no homes?
What makes a house a home? My friend stuck in the gridlock of road traffic in a foreign country had these thoughts rush through his mind just the other day which inspired this blog. He must have harboured a longing lament or a pleasant anticipation. That longing for home is in each one of us, perhaps deep in our subconscious, but making it eludes the majority of us, especially in these modern times. Many of us don't even have the time to ponder over such hidden thoughts. Our private thoughts are occupied by ones that seek to know where our next dollar will come from.

When my friend posted this on facebook, opinions rushed in from all directions - from sincere to jokey responses. Common among them were the aspects of love, laughter, food and music, voiced in so many different ways. I asked myself, How many houses we live in nowadays have these? The numbers must be dwindling as we note from the stressed out kids in our schools, to the climbing numbers of divorces in our society. Something must be happening that shouldn’t be happening. What about the infectious home based laughter, the food served with love, and the sharing in homely hospitality. Yes, we see these growing in Maldives, but sadly in the wrong places. We see increasing in direct proportion our chatter and laughter with friends of feather in coffee shops and those of facebook on the ubiquitous screen. More of us now have or share our meals in restaurants - forcing ourselves into the fast-food culture even when our culture doesn’t really demand it. 

It is daily fare now to witness our urban office-going crowd thronging the breakfast buffets while neglecting that warm home moment at the breakfast table with the family. And yes, we even meet close friends in the many roadside delis or posh restaurant sprouting in Male, but rarely at the house (home). In most “homes”, there’s no “fire softly burning and (no) supper on the stove”. That warmth that comes from the “closeness” or proximity or intimacy that is made possible by the enchanting environment of the “home” is becoming a rarity. Sadly it is we who have frittered away this warmth with our ways of the world we call ‘development’. Cold and competitive is the way to go our ego says -- to be better than the other person.

Many say we can't go back; then we must accept the inevitable - the further alienation of our society into one that merely lives together physically and mechanically, but are far apart spiritually. A moral degradation that will fuel the breakdown of society as we knew it.  

But yet mercifully there are those with hope. I too venture to say that we can redeem the magic of the home. It happens when we can be trusting and sincere spouses, when we don't allow our egos to use our homes as edifices that display our self-importance and competitiveness in society and we begin to truly see every other person in our community as sisters and brothers. Seems like a lot and a distant trek. But it's closer than we think! It’s within reach, for it only requires something we already have within our control - our mind. Yes, its our mind – mine and yours, no one else's. We must have that much self-confidence and self-will, shouldn't we?  -- to switch our thinking, and then suddenly, the world is a different place. It's like magic!!. It’s that easy to transform our world and it rests squarely on us. Each one of us. Not our leaders, not our parents, or our scholars. On us!  We should try it. But for this we need some eman to begin with. Here too, as a 100 percent Muslim country we in Maldives have that blessing. I would implore everyone to bring added eman into our hearts by redirecting our intentions along the righteous path, and through imploring Allah to first put ‘noor’ into our hearts. Without ‘noor’, faith cannot enter it. Reform begins with this asking.

October 20, 2016

Private thoughts

Life's success is in making connections and through it the flowering of happiness and joy. But for many of us connecting is difficult because of the strength of our opinions that don't budge in our dealings with the other person. Our private thought hold us back many a time to our social alienation and even to destruction. 

What comprises private thoughts? Some thoughts we have are assailable and others are iron cast. For the latter, it would take mountains to move them. Where did all these come from?  Yes, our personalities have a lot to do with these. In fact the most private of our thoughts are what makes for our personality. Our values, mores, and beliefs are all a part of the narration that we uphold of what we are. These are most often ironclad. These come from the heart and so are the deepest held. And  we put them there for good evolutionary reason -  for our self protection. These are narrations that have been suggested to us over and over again in our past from childhood to youth and adulthood, for these to be seen as true in our mind and then neatly conveyed to the heart for safe keeping.

When we are adults those thoughts that have fared most prominently in our lives - through the way our parents nurtured us, the type of friends we've had, or from the things we read or the things that were taught to us by our teachers, all come to form this formless mass of personality that grips us through life. These private thoughts are what we defend with our thoughts and words and action; what we fight for with guns and grenades and tanks and mortars, bombs, aircrafts, and yes, even with our life.

There is also a subset of these private thoughts that get linked to our ego which is the source of our stubbornness and certainly not of our rationality or sensibility. These defensive thoughts and beliefs we form are because of their link to the glitter of life or the selfishness that we harbour within us. These are also private thoughts but which are only linked to context - the context of benefit to us as long as we hold on to these. When the context changes we let these go as if they didn't matter at all and we may even fight on the other side of it where the context seems now more lucrative or beneficial to our ego drive.

But then there are also those thoughts that are not private. These that float in and out of our mind as intellectual curiosities or propositions that will receive rational discussion and dialogue. These are erased when our understanding matures or get transmuted into other subtle variations of positions that are still assailable.
For a society to have harmony we need to elevate our deep held private beliefs to the level of dialogue. The way to do this to relinquish our attachment to our private thoughts and be the non-judgmental observer to the emotions that emanate from our protectionist ego.

When we can do this we will have moved towards dialogue, compromise and the path to common terms. This is the essence of rapprochement. The way to peace and harmony in our society. Islam exhorts us to discuss and find such common ground through ‘shoora’.

The mettle of our belief and our true success in our lives is in the following of Allah’s (SWA) Commandments in sincerity!

October 2, 2016

New Year Greetings!

Dear sisters and brothers in humanity, let me wish you warm Salaam and sincere prayers for your success in the new year. As we negotiate the Islamic new year 1438 let us renew the pledge of being model Muslims; who offer prayers in humility, give zakah in sincerity for the good of those less fortunate than us, and keep our daily countenance reflecting the gratitude to Allah SWA for the limitless bounty He bestows on us in endless refrain even as we take all this for granted and go about our daily existence in heedlessness.

Truthfulness is the basis of success in our lives. Everything depends on it. It is the basis of connection with other human beings. It it is the basis of trust in each other and it is the one prime quality that exemplifies the character of our beloved Prophet Muhammad whom we all are called upon to emulate. That is why he was called “al-Ameen”. Truthfulness is next to godliness is a common phrase we all know. The opposite of this is the quality of deceit, and this is the prime character of the Shaitan and thus he is referred to as the “great deceiver”. We have to clean ourselves from the character of deceit if we are to succeed in this life and in the Hereafter.  And it is not too difficult to know when we are in the flow of this deceit if we can just be aware, because we can feel such behaviour taking us away from Allah. In line with the severe testing we are subject to in this world, all through our lives we are constantly tempted to move away from Allah’s path and with time, without this awareness, we don't even know this is happening, for Shaytan's ways are subtle. This is the trap we need to get out from and in this new year let us make the pledge to be vigilant and watchful of these feelings in us. Without our awareness working in consciousness, we have no chance of parrying the attempts of the Deceiver. He is extremely clever for he has eons of experience in making us humans slip from the path and it's our very conscious resolve that can keep us on Allah’s Path to Jannah.

Let this year be the beginning of our salvation!

August 2, 2016

Which road shall I take?

This is a question we ask ourselves daily from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep again. This is natural if we are to do anything. When we want to eat something or talk to someone or we go out or take a trip somewhere by land, water or air, we on our own have to take decisions. There is no one always to ask or guide.

As a child we had an adult to show us the way. But as adults we only have ourselves. That is the meaning of us being an adult; that of being able to make our own decisions. But for this we need to become wise. And wisdom comes from being aware of our every experience in life and having learned lessons from these. All these add to make for our wisdom. Awareness knowledge and experience all rolled into one.

So when we get out into this world which is essentially in our waking time, every step we take is about making decisions. When we are asleep we are not in this world; this world of our five senses. When awake in this world of form, we are required to take decisions. To the extend we are trained or oriented to taking our own decisions will determine our path to success in this life.

There are two paths; that of Allah SWA and that of the Shaithaan. Allah SWA has made it abundantly clear in the Quran that Satan is our sworn enemy and we should not follow his footsteps. Yet many follow it. Why?  Firstly we don't know that we are following Satan. We feel we are just following our heart. Things that make us feel excited (maja). All maja things are bound to land us in trouble in life sometime or other. We enjoy that for a while but the downside of it catches up with us and it becomes an addiction. Addiction means we have no control over that emotion. So we are not living a life of steadfastness which we are supposed to do as adults. What this really means is that we have not really matured even though we may have physically arrived. In a way we are just as we were as children when our parents guided us to the things they felt were good for us. As an adult with an addiction, it is shaitaan holding our hand leading us to where we seem the joy is. Secondly, our taking this path of shaitan is a conscious decision. We are deluded into negating our Creator and so in such a context this world seems all we have and thus our prevailing paradigm is hedonistic -- “why not enjoy every moment”?

We need to know and be convinced that this is the wrong path. The moment's pleasure will entice us for more and soon a type of numbness will take over. No more it is the pleasure that moves us, rather it is the habit. In the thick of the resulting unconscionable emotions that flow in us, we surrender to the dark powers that have now become the guiding hand.  We don’t even know or care to know when we are in the trap. Money sex and games lead us down this road to the trap of addiction. Allah SWA has warned us so cogently and specifically in the Quran, and the Prophet’s ahadith give us further attestation to the folly we are following. Yet in this world we are enticed by Satan, and thus Allah tests us of our resolve. Are we mettle enough to be allowed into Jannah or just having to be only fit as fuel for Jahannam?

This world throws in so many distractions for us to make us slip form this straight path of Allah. In the past of a few decades ago, these distractions as specific and diverse avenues may have been sparse, yet the emotions that rallied us around Shaithan were the same; wealth, sex, and the fun and games of this world. The new entrant in this 21st century to this enticing plethora of the great Deceiver’s tools is the internet. It has taken away the controlling thread that parents and teachers and caretakers have had in the past. Now there is no control of what a child, youth or adult have access to, and soon sadly, we too, who are to lead, also lose control and become slaves of Satan. Once we are in Shaitan’s control we are no more gently coaxed but harshly commanded to follow.  Surah Baqara shows us how delicately Shaitaan lured our first parents to the forbidden tree. He didn’t force them but enticed them with gentle coaxing until they were in his trap. In this world, their progeny is still being pursued by Shaithan unrelentingly to make them, that is us, slip from this path. The unfettered access to shameless gossip, gory games, and mind-numbing voyeurism on the social media and internet in general wreak unimaginable consequences to the young and receptive mind which will shape the insensitive and emotionally stoic personalities of tomorrow. Even though each of these minds may not go around creating senseless mayhem in society, they are however laced with emotions that are far from compassion. Society will ultimately assume this collective consciousness that will colour the character of our communities; emotionally depleted or incapable human beings that do not see anything but themselves as the purpose of being. In their equation, the other person doesn't matter. That is how the war games and the hideous characters of the internet games and Playstation culture mould our children's mind.

So do we as parents and caretakers just swallow this orchestrated social design of this great Deceiver as the new path of development we must take? Or begin rethinking the heinous crime of not being responsible for the trust Allah had given us in bringing up our children as caring and socially adjusted and helpful citizens of tomorrow.

It is very easy for us to be just flowing with the tide of development and lapping everything it offers. That means we remain dependant to those in competition with Allah (shirk), and blind to the real purpose of this life which is to worship Allah SWA.

This path of Allah that we have the choice of taking will lead us to happiness and joy in this world and in the Hereafter. The satanic path can only give us this world at best. Some survive to even die in affluence and seeming happiness. But the majority are doomed to suffer even in this world and sadly The Garden of Delight, a remote and distant dream.

Which path will you choose?