You will die. And so will I.

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I remember this line from “What’s eating Gilbert Grape” once in a while. The young character of Arnie  played by a 19 year old Leonardo DiCaprio is mentally disabled, but in a moment of innocent clarity, he cheerfully proclaims that “I can go any time you know.”

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So true.

Any one of us, right this moment, could die.

Poof.

Out like a light. Or a candle. But this heart-stoppingly critical notion hardly ever bubbles up to the surface of conscious thought. Maybe we deny our own deaths to ourselves so that we can carry on with our everyday lives without a sense of tragedy and fatality, as a self-preservation mechanism. But pondering our inevitable end is not all gloom and murk. There are benefits to this morbid meander.

If you stopped to think, at least once a day, that you will die, possible someday soon, what would you do differently? Would you go ahead and give your baby that extra snuggle? Open the door for that stranger? Wear your favourite hideous, but comfortable, jersey for all the world to see, testing whether it really matters what other people think? Would you pray salah on time and give more charity?

How long is a human life? We don’t know how long we will live, but on a good day, when you’re feeling optimistic, a long lifespan of an average human could be around 90 years. There’s an excellent couple of articles by Tim Urban on his blog, Wait but why? where he measures the span of a life in winters, summers, baseball seasons (and some other metrics). Seriously, just click through and read the two articles, the first being Your life in weeks, and the follow-up called The tail end.

In The tail end, Urban invites you to consider your current age and weigh it up against your potential 90 year lifespan. If you’re 28, that means 28 summers enjoyed, with just 62 summers left. 62 more springs, winters and autumns. If you’re lucky.

If you eat pizza once a week, that’s around 3224 pizzas left in life.

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But that isn’t the most notable thing. The part about relationships is the bit that will get you thinking. If your parents are 30 years older than you, that’s 32 years left with the folks, if they’re also lucky to live to 90.

But – you spent most of your time with your parents before the age of 18. Like, 90% of your days were spent with them when you were a kid. That time decreased when you started school. That time is probably much less now if you live away from home.

So even though you may not be too close to the end of your life (but really, only Allah knows about that) you may be near the end of the time you spend with some important people in your life.

Urban says “It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end. It’s a similar story with my two sisters.”

Therefore he offers 3 takeaways: live close to the people you love, prioritize, and make an effort to spend quality time with people who are important to you.

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It’s a new year, and that means five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes of 2017 to fill up, to live in, to enjoy or squander. The choice is ours.

By the way, Leo DiCaprio got his first Oscar nomination for his role in Gilbert Grape, but only last year, after 5 more nominations and after over 20 years did he finally win. I wonder how much that statue means to him.

Anyways.

All this to say: be good. Or better.

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The impoliteness of modern weddings, but you just can’t say no

I hate weddings.  Really I do.  I didn’t even want one but somehow got hoodwinked into having the whole shabang, white dress and all.  Walking in to a Nazm, tons of cute flowergirls, teary-eyed family and oily biryani.  All of it.  The best part of my wedding was honestly the flowergirls.  If it wasn’t for them I think I would have made a serious plan to find the next Istimaa and gatecrash it with the Husband (well, at that time, future-husband).  But even Husband says that one of the things he remembers about our wedding is the huge smile on the face of dearest Nuhaa, the oldest of our flowergirls, as she came gliding up towards him.

The fun part was dancing around with them before the reception and watching their excitement as (their) big day approached.  I’m glad they didn’t actually employ the method taught to them by my cousin Raha, which was: take one step, stop, wave, say SubhaanAllah.  Then second step, stop, wave, SubhaanAllah.  And so on (her intentions were well-meaning: we were trying to get the girls to not just sprint down the aisle).  Anyways, the point was well-made because they somehow managed to have better aisle-walking-rhythm than me.

But anyways, all those wedding-avoidance issues aside, the bigger problem is having to attend so many, especially when I don’t know anyone there (bride and groom included).  What business do I have going to a wedding where I don’t even know the couple??

Well, the hitch in my plan to avoid weddings for ever more is that one of a Muslim’s rights over you is that if they invite you to something, you’re supposed to accept (unless it’s Haraam of course).  You could make a technical argument that a “mixed” function is Haraam but who am I kidding, that won’t really fly in my situation.  My only other option is to really live under a rock, become a secluded hermit and hope that anyone planning on inviting me to anything notices my disappearance and leaves me to live happily in my cave made out of books and chocolate.

Recently I came upon a new wedding survival tip (who knew I would even need this tip?): that is, eat before you go, no matter how inviting the menu may sound.  Or take some snacks.  For some reason, brides plan their weddings for months and the whole family spends much time going through all the details, only for the occasion to start 5 hours late.  They take fashionably late to a whole new level.

These weddings, meh!

Okay I’m the anti-bride, but not without some reason.  Because when it’s all over, everyone will gather to do the post-mortem…brutal, scathing, was-the-food-hot-enough-and-the-hospitality-overflowing?

Nikaah is important.  Just do it.  Buy some akhals, feed the family.  Done.  Happily ever after.

Why write?

I read somewhere that to learn about something, you should write about it. That forces you to study your subject and make logical sense of it.  You have to be able to make it coherent in your own mind first, if you want to convey it to others.

The search for knowledge is prized in Islam.

Islam, family, books, reading, learning, traveling…are some of my loves.  I am a student of Islam, of life, of the world.  This is my quest for better understanding.

Khalid Baig in his book First Things First (2004 p 308) quotes the following hadith:

“Seeking knowledge is the duty of every Muslim.” [Ibn Majah, Hadith 220]

He then explains the kind of knowledge that is referred to, with another quote:

“The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets (peace be upon them).  The Prophets do not leave behind an inheritance of gold and silver; they leave behind the inheritance of knowledge.  Whoever acquired knowledge, acquired a lot of wealth.” [Tirmidhi, Hadith 2606]

We may have masters degrees in law (something I am currently pursuing) but without the correct Islamic knowledge, it means nothing.  He says that we may be the “educated-illiterate class”.  Apart from having knowledge, we also need understanding.

I have been noticing my own imbalance of secular versus Islamic knowledge and am realizing more and more how important it is for me to shift the balance toward knowledge of Deen.

Wouldn’t you want to acquire the wealth of the Prophets?