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!