[photo credit to clipart]
by Jamilah Samian
It rained gently and steadily in fine drops that beautiful Saturday morning as I arrived at the school hall, an aged but well-kept building. I had no idea then, but looking back, the rain was indeed like an opening act of a drama that warmed the heart, a glimpse of good things to come.
I was early. As was the custom before presenting a talk, I went around to greet the parents and teachers who were already there. Right at the back, together with a couple of mothers, I noticed a young woman, perhaps in her thirties, with a serene smile on her face. She had a faraway look, and as I approached her, she cocked her head slightly to her left.
I offered my right hand. She didn’t respond. I sensed an air of awkwardness among the people around her. It took me a few moments to realize that this lady was actually blind. Instinctively I grabbed her hand and hugged her tight, touched by the fact that she couldn’t have come on her own, yet she took it upon herself to attend my session.
She must have taken a bus or a cab or been driven by a colleague or family member. But the fact that she took the trouble to be there moved me. How many of us would venture out of the comfort of our homes on a much-awaited weekend, just to be told they need to adjust their ways to raise and discipline their kids, to create a successful and motivated next generation?
Later that afternoon, it so happened that I was invited to attend the graduation ceremony of a close family member.
The four-hour long ceremony was about to take place in a huge university hall. I watched the stage as the graduates filed in, followed by the professors and learned folks, every one of them clad in a magnificent, flowing robe. A gigantic screen on each side of the hall made sure the audience could witness the scene in detail at this juncture.
Soon it was time for a speech by the guest of honour, before the presentation of the scrolls began. One by one the students went up, proud to have accomplished their goals. Every now and then, a little applause was heard across the hall from supporting friends and family.
I sank on my seat, a little tired from the morning’s presentation. I was about to doze off when thunderous applause broke out. I sat bolt upright and stared at the screen. Had I missed anything?
“Did you see that?” the lady next to me asked, gesturing towards a young man who had just received his scroll from the elderly Vice-Chancellor, now walking off the stage. The young man had a peculiar gait. “He didn’t have any arms,” she said. She was right. I could hear the emotion in her voice.
We often think of kindness as a gift that we could do for others. Has it ever occurred to you that, you yourself could be the recipient of your own kindness? The blind mother and the armless graduand have something in common: They both decided to gift themselves with knowledge, because they recognize the value of knowledge. Most of us aren’t blind, aren’t armless, yet how many of us would take it upon ourselves to strive and learn what we need to know, so that we could achieve greater heights? The journey to personal excellence is continuous, never-ending. It’s not about being famous, becoming renowned or what-have-you. We do it because life is an “amanah” – a trust from Allah.
As you read this, ask yourself: What is the one thing I could improve by learning to do it better? How to win my parents over, perhaps? Or attend a seminar on raising adolescents because I couldn’t talk to my sixteen-year-old? Or watch a YouTube video on how the Quran can move hearts?
On the authority of Ibn Mas’ud radiallaahu ‘anhu who said that the Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “The two feet of the son of Adam will not move from near his Lord on the day of Judgement until he is asked about five (matters) about his life – how he spent it; about his youth – how he took care of it; about his wealth – how he earned it; and where he spent it and about that which he acted upon from the knowledge he acquired.”
It is dangerous to think that learning ends the minute you have graduated from school or college. Learning is an ongoing journey that only ends the moment you and I close our eyes for good. Knowledge and action are the twins of faith.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself is to have an insatiable thirst for knowledge to empower you to think, feel and act better, to make a difference to the world. Be kind to others, but first, be kind to yourself. Kindness is the miracle that you need to turn your life around. Spread the message!
————————————————————————-[This article was published in page 32, Opinion Section of Alwasat, a bilingual newspaper in Australia. Find the link here: http://issuu.com/alwasat2011/docs/october_2014]