Years ago, soon after my conversion to Islam, I attended my first and perhaps only MSA East Zone Conference in Rochester, NY. I had not yet integrated into the Muslim community and being amongst so many other Muslims was a revelation, comforting, and fun. While shopping in the bazaar, I purchased some lectures including Hamza Yusuf’s 16 CD translation and commentary of the ninth century Moroccan scholar Sidi Ahmed Zarruq’s penetrating work The Poor Man’s Book of Assistance.
I’ve listened to the complete set at least 3-4 times, maybe more, and the CD case is beginning to show the wear and tear. The top half of the CD case has completely separated from the rest of the case. A few weeks ago, I started re-listening to the CD set while commuting back and forth to work and school. Sidi Ahmed Zarruq’s keen insight into the reality of the human condition allowed him to tailor his book into practical advice and steps for anyone seeking nearness to God and to improve one’s own spiritual condition. I’ve resolved to listen to the set again, while not driving, so that I can take notes on it.
Last year I purchased a used car, and on one of my first trips after the sale, I went to a fundraising dinner for a local Muslim newspaper. That night, while driving home on the highway, my car began to lose power. I was just barely able to cruise towards and reach my exit. And as I reached the end of the exit ramp, my car died at a red light. Thankfully, a lot of other Muslims live in the area and were also on their way home from the dinner so there was no shortage of offers of help and assistance. It was a little embarrassing but the warm expressions of support were deeply appreciated. We tried to jumpstart my car but it wouldn’t start. Turned out to be a problem with the alternator.
A couple of police cars showed up because my car and the cars of the Muslims who stopped to help me were blocking the left turn lane of the exit ramp. The police wanted us to move the cars but of course my car wouldn’t budge. And just then, a tow truck driver on his way to a different job pulled up in the lane beside me and asked if I needed a tow. I said, “Yes,” and within a few minutes, he hooked up my car and towed it to a gas station near my home. Everything worked out perfectly, I was humbled and thankful for what I saw as providential care and for the social support of my local Muslim community. Throughout, the situation I felt a sense of calm and inner peace, which I attribute to being focused on the larger picture of this life.
Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion. [Al-Hadid 57.20]
When we get angry or argumentative or bogged down in the stressors of life, we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. Life’s too precious and too short to waste on matters that bring no benefit. The only real and lasting joys are in knowing God and in the higher purpose of life to worship him through our actions. Everything else is so fleeting and won’t benefit us in the hereafter. And besides, if you believe in the divine decree, then you know that’s what God has written for you.
Recently, my car has needed quite a bit of work. I had to fix the heater, the left turn signal and tag lights had an electrical wiring issue, changed the brake pads and rotor, and got an oil change. The tread on my left front tire is worryingly worn and needs to be replaced, and I’ve been working with the mechanic who sold me the car to repair my air conditioner.
Tonight, on my way to work, I experienced a bit of déjà vu, as my car once again began to lose power on the highway and eventually ground to a halt. Mercifully, this time, on the shoulder of the highway. Not sure why, will have the car towed in the morning, insha’Allah. But as I waited for a friend to arrive to pick me up, I finished listening to the last of the sixteen CDs in The Poor Man’s Book of Assistance set. Once again, I felt an inner sense of calm and peace and was thankful reflecting on the many blessings in my life.
Among the greatest gifts I’ve received in my life is the gift of Islam and with that an understanding of who Allah is and who the Messenger of Allah is and of the book and guidance found within this religion. Without that, I’d be lost and something small like my car stopping on the road would throw me for a loop. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes, and this life is a journey through constant taubah (repentance) and istiqama (firm uprightness).