Guidance : A Gift From Above
The boy was suffering inside…
It starts out with a spark
For you to see the light in the dark
Deep inside your heart
A pulling of your thoughts apart
Coming from a place of higher learning, he was bombarded by many foreign ideas that challenged his core beliefs. Feminism, pluralism, secularism, liberal humanism, atheism, skepticism, existentialism, deconstructionism, relativism, Marxism, utilitarianism, hedonism. All his life, he thought that as he went higher in the system, it would tell him the truth, the way the world worked and the way he should live, the true meaning of life. It's been years of barely surviving inside, the battles of his beliefs, coupled with the battles of his ego and desires. It didn’t help that the world was hypersexualized, and over-commercialized with the objectification of humans for capitalistic entertainment, filled with an image driven self-identification, destructive cultural Marxism legitimizing homosexuality, and everything metaphysical and spiritual was explained away by the analytical schools devoid of God, positivistic world views that claim empirical inductive studies of the particulars is the only way of attaining universal truths.
Pushing your soul to the Divine
Treading that gentle line
Between life and death
To mention God in every breath
Just having to think about the various terminologies and jargons in his head made him feel like vomiting. Thinking of their implications in the world at large is another black hole altogether. He couldn't function anymore with his friends. All he could see was the libertine, political social justice causes which many engaged in while ignoring the real issues. Many of his other friends drowned while trying to swim the vast and deep ocean every night on their own, by their own efforts and own intellect.
It seemed like a lost cause...
A mad rush to buy all the books
To avoid the judging looks
Why am I unsettled you say?
What is the true meaning of each day?
He closed his eyes, to black out the thoughts that were flashing in his head as he sat down in the crowded MRT heading home. But as much as he could, there was no way of removing that feeling of dread, that his life had no meaning, that God is dead like what Nietzsche said. Recently, the boy has been dabbling in existential philosophy like Heidegger, Kierkegaard and even Sartre but their answers to give meaning always excluded God, something he felt that he could not accept. Looking at the state of Muslims was even more depressing. Factionalism, fanatical reformists, fear-mongers, Islamophobic responses, killings and violations of basic human dignity. Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS, terrorism and genocides? Was this the Islam that he was born in? Was it always like this? Is human life and dignity that cheap?
Whispering a prayer, full of desperation, he murmured "O God, show me the truth as truth and show me falsehood as falsehood, and give me answers to clear my doubts, O God the All-Knowing." Shortly after, his prayer alarm on his phone vibrated, Maghrib time was nearing. The boy decided to go to the nearest mosque at the next MRT station. The mosque was quaint but had a strange familiarity with a kampung feel.
As you approach the Sacred
A teacher will appear, fated
Ready as you are in sincerity
To bring you closer with purity
After his Maghrib prayers, he sat down musing about his life wanting to do nothing for a while when suddenly, he could smell a beautiful fragrance around him. He saw a man sitting by the side of a pillar wearing an imamah and donning clothes like they were out from the eleventh century. He had a glow on his face that no one else saw. Just when he realized something was out of the ordinary, that man faced him and smiled kindly at him. With that, everything else disappeared.
It was only both of them now.
It was at this very moment, the boy felt a sense of tranquility, a peace that cannot be expressed. Cool tears dripped as he gazed upon what he could only describe as angelic. The man stood up, walked calmly and sat close in front of him. He said, "You prayed for an answer to your doubts, ask now for it will be answered!" The man then smiled again and placed his right hand upon the boy’s head.
Imam Al-Haddad, Imam Al-Ghazali
Assistance and Guidance, you see
Books that revive you from the dead
Knowledge and light as they are read
The boy immediately felt as if his burdens has been lifted from the cool touch of the man's hand. He suddenly felt compelled to ask the man, "Tell me how do I get close to God? I feel very far from Him."
The man was silent for a while before he spoke. When he opened his mouth, it seemed like pearls were falling out of his lips. "O my son, you must first get to know your Lord, who you are worshipping. You must embark on this journey of seeking knowledge. I see you have a desire of acquiring this knowledge, a sincere longing and passionate thirst for it. But up till now, you have never possessed it.”
The boy was amazed, how was it possible that he never had any knowledge before? He replied the man softly, "I think I have knowledge... I've been learning all my life, I got top scores at PSLE, O Levels, A levels in both secular and religious subjects. I even have a scholarship in university. Am I not knowledgeable enough?"
"O my son, this knowledge is not on pieces of paper, this knowledge is what gives you benefit for your soul, illuminates your heart and is a cause for your salvation in the Hereafter. If you aim to seek knowledge to compete, to show off and to chase after the debris of this world, you will destroy yourself, your religion and your eternal life.”
Upon hearing this, a sense of guilt overcame the boy, “What should I do then? I’m lost. What about all the theories I’ve learnt from the philosophers? Don’t they tell something about the truth?”
“O my son, do not worry about the theories and the philosophers. Relying on them will only lead you astray. What is most important for you to do now is to make a sincere intention between you and God that in seeking knowledge, you want to gain guidance, not simply the transmission of information. If you do this, then glad tidings be to you. The angels will spread their wings for you as you walk and the fishes in the sea will ask forgiveness for you as you strive.”
“Please tell me then, how can I start? What is this guidance?” exclaimed the boy eagerly.
“O my son, you should know before all else that guidance, which is the fruit of knowledge, has a beginning and an end, an outward aspect and an inward essence. There is no way to reach the end without mastering the beginning, just as there is no way to discover the inner essence of it until you have arrived at an understanding of its outward.”
“Be a man who seeks knowledge to make it his provision on the way to the next life and intends by it nothing other than the countenance of Allah Most High and the home of the Hereafter. If you do this, then you will be of those who succeed.”
“Here I am going to point you to the ‘beginning of guidance’ for you to see where you stand and determine what your heart intends. Immerse yourself in the oceans of this knowledge if you find your heart receptive. But beware of the deceptions of Satan who will trick you into searching for knowledge to satisfy your lower self that commands to evil. You will be pulled into the abyss of destruction if you do that.”
Then comes the challenge to test
To see if you will persevere to best
Your nafs, the devil and the world
And they’ll never leave even till you’re old
“May God give you a truthful teacher to teach all these to you...These answers are enough for you my son. Goodbye.” The man stood up and walked away through an open door in the wall of the mosque.
“Wait! Don’t go!” The boy shouted. He wanted to ask more, to clear more of his doubts.
Patience is the path that will release
One in adversity and in ease
Remembrance of God is a cure
And praises upon the Prophet, add more
Suddenly the adhan for Isha’ prayers was heard. The man was nowhere to be seen again. But the cool touch of his hand could still be felt on the boy’s head. Was the boy dreaming all this while? Was it real? Who was that? Who knows for sure? It was over before he knew it.
What was more astonishing is that on the boy’s lap, there laid a copy of a book with a black cover. The title of the book was “The Beginning of Guidance” by The Imam, Abu Hamid Al Ghazali.
Tranquility and serenity in your heart
Seeking knowledge constantly in part
Before you turn away again
Before you say this is all in vain
The boy immediately picked up the book and kissed it. The beautiful fragrance was still there.
Give yourself a chance to be good
Before your body is mixed with wood
Come and walk this path together
We’ll abide in eternal happiness forever