MILESTONES

IJTIHAD

by Mehol K. Sadain

This pandemic has been with us for more than a year now. It has taken a heavy toll on humanity; in different forms and different degrees.

Some lament the loss of love ones and the things they used to enjoy; the company of friends, and places they frequent. They are uncertain when the disease will be controlled, and things will normalize. For now, even with the coming of the vaccines and the start of the mass inoculations, the apprehension that the virus is just lurking somewhere, ready to strike when people start to socialize and drop their guard, still terrifies the collective mind. Uncertainty rankles in our deep unconscious because what we thought as our old, unshakeable comfort zones were yanked from right under our feet, and our world turned upside down. Suddenly, we were not as free, nor as invincible, as we thought we were.

But if we look deeper, all these things we are now missing, are “externals”: things, people, places; and the “limitations” we thought were suddenly imposed on us. When we think back into our past, many of these “limitations” and “restrictions”, used to be our “normal activities” before we adopted all these technological developments. In the past, we or our forefathers, were not fond of going to fancy restaurants. We did not have malls, and theaters in malls, and huge supermarkets with air-conditioning to boot. We did not have jet planes and other means of fast mass transport. And yet our forefathers who are all dead by now (and we who have grown older), somehow made do with what they had, emerged happy and satisfied, and lived a full life.

Why? If we can answer this question, and truly live the answer, then there will be no reason for us to be sad and lamenting.

You see, all these things we have lost or are missing, are actually “externals” to us. They are what we made our world to be. They are not innate to us. What is innate to us are ourselves and what we are inside. And what we are inside is our God-given soul and spirit, the unseen but sentient parts of us. They are the “us” that ALLAH in the Noble Qur’an says will be “raised in degrees” among those who are believers and endowed with knowledge:

“O you who believe! When it is said unto you, ‘make room for one another in the assemblies,’ then make room, and ALLAH will make room for you. And when it is said, ‘Rise’, then rise, and ALLAH will raise in degrees those among you who believe and those who have been given knowledge.” [Surah 58: Verse 11]

In this beautiful verse, “making room for one another” is the accommodation, tolerance and kindness people bestow on each other in life’s “assemblies” so that they can all listen to the message of ALLAH. And when this act is undertaken by the faithful, ALLAH Himself “makes room” for them, which is a figurative speech for expanding their understanding and increasing their blessings. Thus, are they able “to rise” when ALLAH tells them to rise, for they now fully deserve the exaltation or the “raising in degree” that ALLAH will confer on them.

When we therefore, turn into ourselves in this time of the pandemic, we return to the righteousness of our inner selves, and set aside our “externals”.  We emasculate our “externals”, focusing on our inner selves: the ones that fall in line in the assemblies of believers so they may hear the unchanging message of ALLAH. If we think this way, we realize that perhaps this pandemic is presenting us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect with our inner beings, instead of scattering our potentials chasing after our external realities.

We do not have to be extremely religious about all this, although it helps if we already have faith in a Supreme Being. We just have to turn inside, and look at ourselves: how our body functions, how we think, how we age or have aged, and we will realize that we are alive, and we did not generate our lives by ourselves. Someone else did! It is a realization we get as we move inside ourselves, and it is a realization that is rooted and grounded in us, instead of outside us. It is a realization of the meaninglessness of the “externals” and the importance of the inner selves.

This importance is rooted in the capacity of the inner self to connect to a Higher Being, the One whom we realize created our complicated physical body and brain.  We get the magical realization of Someone making things possible, with the magic coming from within us, and giving us that “connection” with God.

It is a “connection” that has always been in us and with us, like an electrical outlet waiting for a plug. We cannot have this when we always look outside. But when we turn inside, we find it in us, as it has always been with us. We just did not look hard enough because we were busy looking somewhere else.

So perhaps this pandemic is giving us ample time to look inside us, so we can see the outlet that has always been there, and we can turn our lives into plugs so each of us can plug in and behold the Light and the Power that we have missed all these times.

This then will be the real milestone in our life. MKS

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