by Alveena Salim
Am I thin enough? I need to check my BMI. Should I dye my hair? Should I dye it red or brown? Is it possible to get chemical free hair dye? What’s the difference between the Turkish and Spanish Hijab? I know how to tie the Spanish Hijab, but does it suit my face shape? When was the last time I got a facial and manicure done? Do I even need to get a facial, will it not make me break out? Why haven’t I brought ankle boots yet? Do they look better in brown or black? Will a shorter bob suit me? Or should I grow out my hair this year? These are my thoughts on a daily basis. If I’m not obsessing about my appearance, I’m bogged down with thoughts about work, home or health. Have I marked the math’s assessments yet? How can I raise attainments in reading? Why does my class read everything phonetically? What shall I cook for dinner today? I cooked meat the other day, so should I make something with vegetables? When is the electricity bill due? Did we overuse the AC this month? Have I had enough fruit and veg today?
I wake up thinking about what I’m going to eat for breakfast. I go to sleep wondering what colour hijab I will wear tomorrow. Every day is pretty much the same. However, I did start wondering recently, how often do I worry about the state of Iman (instead of the state of my house). How often do I worry if I’ve had a spiritual boost in the form of qur’an or Dhikr (instead of worrying if I have had my 5 a day). How often do I worry what Allah (swt) thinks of me (instead of worrying about what my boss thinks of me).
When Musa (AS) was told to sacrifice a cow, his people became obsessed with minor issues. What colour should the cow be? How old should it be? What size should it be? This is very typical behavior. We all have a tendency to become bogged down with minor issues and completely miss the bigger picture.
This year I was fortunate enough to go to a spiritual retreat; Umrah. There I didn’t worry about how I looked. I wore a black abayah just like everyone else. I didn’t wake up thinking about my first lesson. I woke up wondering if I had time to make it for tahajud. My day revolved around my prayers in the holiest Mosques in the world. There I acquired a new set of worries. Did I do my umrah properly? Why isn’t my tajweed up to scratch? My memorization of the Qur’an is so poor – will it ever improve? Why can’t I wake up for Tahajud? For once, I didn’t worry about the state of my nails or an overdue pedicure. I had one focus and priority only: strengthening my relationship with God. I learnt more about my self. I developed an empathy for others. I realized that I have a lot of things that I need to work on. I reflected over my past and asked for help for the future. After a very long time, I was completely at peace with myself. I had forgotten about the world and I reminded myself that to sort out my priorities.
We’re not encouraged to renounce the world and to live like Sufi’s. However, the purpose of life is to keep God at the forefront of our thoughts at all times. Everything we do – from what we eat to wear we choose to work should be decided based on the laws governed to us from Islam. Instead of Islam being fitted in during Ramadan or before bed, we should try to live our lives so that our daily life revolves around our Islamic commitments. This is not impossible. By all means we should work. But we should try to make sure that our earnings are halal. Yeah, we should look good. But our dress should be decent and fulfils all our Islamic requirements. We should go out with our friends, but we should curb our interaction with the opposite sex. Of course, we should study and pursue higher education. But we should also make sure that we are spending time memorizing the Qur’an and improving our recitation. Climb the career ladder but also climb the spiritual ladder. Surf the net and spend time watching interesting programs – but also give time to learning new knowledge at your local Mosque.
God has said ‘Remember Me; I will remember you’ (2:152). So whosoever remembers God, will be remembered by Him in this world and in the hereafter. He will have everything and will not be in need of anything. Remembrance is not time restricted. It is associated with all aspects of life such as sleeping, eating, travelling, working etc. However, this is easier said than done, cos we live in a time where our heads are full of whisperings. People today are constantly fed messages about how they should look, act and what they should do. Our purpose of life is subconsciously dictated to us and that’s why we have missed the bigger picture. We are acting like the people of Musa (as). We have completely missed the point. That’s why you will find non beardo’s arguing over the length of the beard, completely forgetting the fact that the beard (regardless of the length) is a must in Islam. Or you will find people who do not dress in a modest way, debating the position of the Niqab (face veil) in Islam.
We need to consciously step away from this culture. The world will never stop spinning. But we need to stop sometimes and remind ourselves of the real purpose of our existence. God has said ‘Do you think We created you in vain and that you will never return to Us (23:115).
Financial concerns, work problems and family politics will always be there. However, if you prioritise God and not sideline your Islamic commitments, everything will fall into place. Seek the pleasure of God and worldly honour, respect, success and happiness will follow you. However, without Him there is no success in this world and in the hereafter. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Obsess less about the minor issues and spend more time on things that are really important.