Well, it’s the seventh of the month, and you know what that means…notes from the Rihla! I begin this post with a trip back down memory lane for those of you who are wondering about that yellow brick road over there. Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a musical aficionado. In fact, I view life in some ways as a musical…I’m just waiting for the dancing and singing part, or rather for others to join in :). But until then, I will reflect on some of the wisdom I’ve learned from the musicals I’ve watched…which I promise does directly relate to the notes I’ll share with you today.
Do you remember Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz? Better yet, do you remember her reincarnation in The Wiz? Well, it took Miss Dorothy an encounter with a natural disaster and a bump on the head in two movies to find out that the decisions she struggled with in life–the guidance and direction she sought to help her find her way–were already a part of her innate being. She asked everyone everywhere, remember, how she could find a pretending wizard in order to return home, just to find that the keys to returning home were already on her feet. Home is where the heart is. And as long as the heart is in the right place, the road is easy as well.
Which brings me to Imam Zaid Shakir’s second class on Imam Ghazali’s Forty Foundations of Religion. He began by answering a question from a student which deserves a class on its own–about the ease of Islam versus the actual difficulty that most of us face in trying to practice Islam. For instance, one can always take a minimalist approach–I mean, no one who says “la ilaha il Allah” will remain in hell forever right?…But that doesn’t mean that that person won’t go to hell. It all boils down to this–while Islam is essentially “la ilaha il Allah”, to take certain actions–preventative measures, Imam Zaid called them–helps our chances in attaining Jannah without Jahanam. For how can we be sure that we won’t be dipped into hell for the littlest second (that will actually feel like an eternity)? Are we sure we don’t have the littlest bit of arrogance in our hearts? Or that we’ve properly maintained relations with kin? Are our hearts in the right place? Do we really have our red shoes on?
So Imam Zaid Shakir walked us through the first part of the forty foundations which centers around Allah. And why shouldn’t it? Our path in life–our life in and of itself–is for Allah. It is to Allah and from Allah. And He Exists unlike anything we can conceive–“He is not confined to the limitations of our perception.” He is Far but Near, Hidden but Manifest, First and Last…Fully Opposing Complementary Qualities we will never fully understand. And throughout it all, He is Reality…Unchanging…Unchanging Reality…Al Haqq. It us that are in constant need of change, and constantly sabotaging ourselves. We are all denied the sight that Allah granted rasulAllah (saws) on miraj until we make it to Jannah insh’Allah, and then we will see what Reality is, and the reality that we have been beholden to everyday will forever be changed. We will really see The Truth. And in order to get to the Real, we must be patient. We must be of those who patiently persevere and say “inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun” through the struggles, for everything associated with the believer’s affair is good. We know these three things from hadiths. We must never disbelieve in the power of Allah to make something happen for us. Allah can do ANYTHING. It is us who sabotage ourselves, limiting the qudra (power) of Allah (SWT) with what we perceive to be real for us. Allah is the Bestower. So what if we can’t take up camp in Tarim or be a student at Al Azhar? It’s not for us to decide when and where we are and the best time to do things…truly, the best time is the present. How do we know that we even have one breath left? We can’t afford to wait until the children are grown up and out of college…we mustn’t count on a life that we weren’t guaranteed. Instead, we must ask Allah for tawfiq and to bless the 2 hours, 30 minutes, or 15 minutes we can devote to Him right now today.
You are in the place that you are in right now for a divine purpose. Figure that out. Then accept your limits and focus on the power of Allah–the only Power that matters…which will take you beyond your human limitations to achieve that which you wish to achieve.
These forty foundations of the religion are a path…a roadmap…a plan to help us find our yellow brick road to get back home again. Dorothy said “There’s no place like home”. We say “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun”. Because in the end, the only thing that matters is getting back home…getting to behold Allah, Our Creator and Sustainer, who we once were with in That Beautiful Garden. We must get to The Real–get to “La ilaha il Allah”. What other path or purpose is there? Ease on down the road!