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The Missing Link: A Clear Focus

Payaam-e-Maghrib

, by SYED HUSAIN PASHA

Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai!
(Iqbal)

This is the missing link in much of human beings’ search for identity and direction in today’s world. And in a sense it has always been. Their search for what I call focus.

Instead of proudly owning up to our identity as the slaves of Allah, throwing ourselves at his mercy and in exchange receiving from him the gift of both worlds, some of us feel uncomfortable by how Allah describes us in the Qur’n. Some of us prefer to throw ourselves at the mercy of human beings just like us and yet often receive from them in return nothing but rejection and humiliation or little to minimum wages for our toil and sweat.

Focus, focus, focus!

That is what human life is all about: a clear focus. And that is what Islam is all about. And that is what the difference between Islam and non-Islam is all about. And key to having the right focus is putting Allah first – and last and in the middle and everywhere else.

For, the equation is quite clear: Allah made you and the world in which you live. And he made everything you have and own and use in this world. And that includes your family, job, business and everything else.

So, the right thing for you to do is to put God Almighty over and above everything else you have.

Everything We Have Is a Gift from God

You must understand that it was God Almighty who gave you these things – whatever things you possess and think you own, including your life, your family and all your worldly possessions. And they are all gifts from him to you for a certain limited period of time. And that, as a result, he can take them all away from you whenever and however he chooses.

And the fact is, he always does: God Almighty always makes you return and surrender every little thing he gave you. Sometimes he does it during your own lifetime in this world. But he most definitely and unfailingly does it every time you are about to depart this world.

Just look at the way the healthiest and fittest ones among us end up. Those blessed with the best of health and longest of life end up the oldest, the most ailing and decrepit, the weakest and the most dependent and helpless. They end up returning their gifts of youth, energy, health and independence, and finally life itself, to where they all came from – God Almighty.

So when you die, you go to him alone, with every single one of your worldly possessions and connections left behind. King or commoner, pauper or prime minister, no one escapes this fate. If we had any sense at all, we would understand this fundamental fact about human life and prepare for it.

Dealing with Our Human Predicament

So, here is how you deal with this predicament that you are in. The fundamental human predicament of being a slave on Allah’s plantation earth with seeming mastery over your fate and your surroundings but in reality being entirely at the mercy of your maker and master. The supreme predicament of appearing to have everything, but in truth and in reality owning nothing.

You must, mentally and theoretically speaking, return everything you have to its rightful owner and master – God Almighty. And then receive all these things back from him as a gift and a blessing. Lease it all back from him.

When you do that the only logical thing for you to do is to dedicate everything he gives you to the supreme task of seeking his pleasure and serving him. That is your way of saying “Thank You!” to him. And it is part of your lease requirement.

And it is also in fact the smartest thing you can do. For he says that the more you thank him the more he will give you. Hear him say that in the Qur’n in his own words: wa la-in shakartum, la-azeedannakum.

That is why the Prophet, Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, says Alhamdulillah is the finest form of Dua that a human being can make. How could it not be? You keep saying Alhamdulillah and Allah keeps giving you more. You pocket what he gives you and say Alhamdulillah and he gives you even more. And so on … ad infinitum … forever and ever. What a Du’a indeed.

Inviting People to Allah: Reuniting the Creation with the Creator

There are many ways to thank your master. One is to simply say Alhamdulillah – which is the best way of saying “Thank You!” to God almighty. But the higher and the more comprehensive way to thank Allah is to love and fear him in his heaven and to love and serve his creation right here on earth.

That is what Islam does. It takes the best and makes it even better. Only God can do that.

Human beings, on the other hand, often tend to do the opposite. They take what is better and all too often make it worse. Look at what they did with slavery. And with all the animal species that have become extinct or are on the verge of becoming so. And look at what they have done with our land, air and water.

In other words, the best way – and in fact the right way and the only way – to truly and properly thank God Almighty is to do what he created you in the first place to do. And that is to make a concerted and focused effort to reunite an alienated and estranged creation with the creator. To let God’s will be done right here on earth as it is done in heaven, as a well-known Christian prayer puts it.

The purpose of your creation, the Qur’n tells you, was so you will serve him; invite everyone else to serve him; and manage and run the affairs of his earth according to his commands and instructions for the benefit of all of his creation. That is why he made you in the first place. Hear the Qur’n say it: Wa maa khalaqtul jinna wal insa illaa li-ya’budoon. Paraphrase: I created you for no other reason than to serve me.

That is right. That is where it all begins – and ends. The all-out and relentless effort, both organized and individual, to bring every one of God’s lost sheep back to the fold of God’s love, mercy and service. Everything else is filler in the middle.

He gives you a family, because you would need one in your work. He gives you a home, because you need shelter – a place to live – when you work for him. He gives you a career and a job and a business, because you need all those things to be able to do your work for God Almighty better and properly.

What is more, he is so kind and generous that he makes your pursuit of all these things – your career, your family, your home, your entertainment and leisure activities, your every worldly human need – count toward your service for him. He does that when you decide to put him first, acknowledge him as your true and only master and decide and dedicate yourself to work for him.

Clear Focus vs. Random Acts of Virtue and Goodness

That is what it means to have focus. And to have Islam.

And being a Muslim means having the right focus – having a clear and sharp focus on life and its responsibilities and on your own role in Allah’s world. Islam is not random acts of goodness, virtue and piety, even though Allah does not allow even an iota of good to go unnoticed or unrewarded.

Islam, therefore, is not a little bit of namaaz here and a little bit of hajj there with a lot of free and idle time in between, even though namaaz and hajj and fasting and zakaat will forever remain the pillars on which Islam is built. But who ever told you that the pillars, no matter how strong and big and ornate, are all of the structure?

Pillars are a part of the building, not all of it. The only place where you see huge columns standing all by themselves are ancient ruins – a state of dilapidation to which most Muslims have returned Islam in recent times. I mean many of the good, “observant” Muslims, not the bad ones. Because they have held on to the pillars and abandoned the whole superstructure that the pillars are put there to support.

Being Uncomfortable with God’s Terminology

If God’s choice of words and expressions – like when he refers to us as his slaves – makes us unhappy or uncomfortable or embarrassed, then we have a serious problem. What it is telling us is that we are forgetting who our real master is, God or other people like us. And when we put pleasing people above pleasing God, we are in for a lot of trouble.

How clearly Allah tells the people-pleasers among us – those who seek to please our fellow-humans even when it may involve displeasing God, our master: A-yabtaghoona ‘indahumul ‘izzah? Fa-innal ‘izzata lillahi jamee’aa. Paraphrase: Do they seek honour, dignity, recognition and power and position from people? Surely, Allah is the one where all honour, power, position and dignity reside.

Against this background, a Muslim is simply a person who acknowledges his true master, God Almighty; comes to terms with his true identity as God Almighty’s slave on earth; realizes his role as being one of serving God’s other slaves on earth and inviting them back to their master; and thus throws open the gates of peace, blessing, joy, comfort and wellbeing – for himself and for all the creation of Allah.

That is who a Muslim is and that is what a Muslim does or must do. What a glorious way to live!



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