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Food For Thought

Once I was traveling to my island from  Eydhafushi in a small dinghy. I was sitting by its side, so I could see the surface of the sea up close. I have seen the sea up close many times before, of course, but that day was different.

Gazing into the deep blue sea, I was suddenly hit with something obvious but also something I had never given much thought: the tremendous volume of the seas and oceans. In simpler terms, the sea has a lot of water. I mean, a lot. Next time you go to the beach or travel by sea, take a good look. Take a good look at a small area from the surface of the sea and try to imagine the volume of liquid beneath, then try to estimate the amount between that area and the next island (conveniently, Maldives is very suitably placed on the earth for this), not that it is easy to get an idea about how deep the oceans can get.

That day, gazing into the deep blue sea, I was reminded of the words of Allah: “Say, “If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement.”” [al-Kahf, 109].

If all the oceans of the world—Indian, Pacific, Atlantic, all the oceans of the world, and not just ‘Kaashidhoo Kandu,’—were converted into ink and then used to write the words of the Lord of that oceans and everything else in this universe, it would be insufficient. Even if another batch of ink similar to that it is brought as a supplement.

Let’s talk about the Qu’aan. It was 23 years’ worth of Allah’s words. For someone reading or memorizing, it sure seems a lot. Indeed, it’s an incredible amount of His Words. But for someone paying to print a copy of it, it doesn’t seem a lot. I mean, it wouldn’t need a lot of ink to make a copy of the Qur’aan. Or, if you were to write the Qur’aan yourself in a notebook, you wouldn’t need any more than a dozen pens, max. Besides, it is just a single volume with just 600 pages. And there are even pocket-sized versions with readable font sizes.

If the Qur’aan can be written with just a small portion of that ink, and the whole—no, but double!—of the earth’s oceans as ink would be insufficient to write the rest of the Words of Allah and His Knowledge, how great do you imagine Him to be? How mighty would He be and how vast His Knowledge would be? No, no one can grasp or comprehend Him, for He is far greater than anything the humans’ minds can come up with, as stated by Sheikh as-Sa’di, may Allah have mercy on him, in his tafseer.

Allah says in another verse: “And if whatever trees upon the earth were pens and the sea [was ink], replenished thereafter by seven [more] seas, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” [Luqman, 27]

A similar verse, but this time instead of two, seven more seas are mentioned further emphasizing the gist of what we are trying to establish here. In addition, another illustration is mentioned in this verse, namely that if all the myriad trees—from the beginning to the end of the world—are used as pens to write the Words of Allah and to enumerate all of His Knowledge, using all the seas and ocean—seven times over—as ink, it still won’t be enough.

Sheikh as-Sa’di commented on the verse from the chapter al-Kahf (after mentioning this verse from Luqman) saying that this is [stated] as a way of bringing around the meaning closer to minds [so as to make it easy to understand]. He elaborated, stating that all these things (i.e. the trees and the seas) are creations and all creations will eventually perish and cease to exist. But as for the Words of Allah, they are one of the Attributes of Him, and none of His Attributes are created, hence there is no limit or end to them. The verse doesn’t mean that if someone comes up with eight seas it’ll be enough. No. Even if all the knowledge of every creation in this Universe from the beginning to the end are combined, it will be—compared to the Knowledge of Allah—less than the amount a bird’s claws pick up after being dipped into the sea is compared to the sea itself. (I hope you got that. If not, try reading it again). Do you know how great we estimate our knowledge to be? Ever heard someone talk about how much information is on the Internet?

Despite all that, “mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little” [al-Isra’, 85].

If Male’ was Madhinah

[Note: before you misunderstand and start throwing a tantrum, know that this post is in no way a comparison between the holy city of Madhinah and the capital city of Maldives (which should be obvious from the title, but the minds of people work weird these days). Rather, my only intention is to give a description of Madhinah from an different perspective that might also make it easy for Maldivians to understand]

Male’ is obviously a very different city than Madhinah, despite both of them being a Muslim city. But that does not mean that all Muslims cities should be one and the same, although it is of utmost importance that there should at least be some similarities that every Muslim city and country should share. Now, one may say that these similarities do exist already, but the focus here is not on just any similarities, but those that every Muslim community, society, city or country should have, but in most cases doesn’t.

Madhinah was the city that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, migrated to from Makkah. The descendants of the Muhaajireen and Ansaar still populates the city, although a lot of people have migrated to it since the migration of the Prophet to this today. It was the capital city of Islamic State (no, not the ISIS) which the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) established 14 centuries ago. The Masjid that he built back than is still here (duh!) and is currently undergoing a huge expansion project.

Unfortunately, today it is not the same Madhinah that was brought up under the guidance of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Those who govern its affairs are nothing like Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) in whose leadership is a great lesson for today’s leaders. Its youth are not like the ones that once asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to allow them to join him in battle despite their young age. Despite all this, there still remains some (or, from a subjective perspective, a lot of) good. However, the aim of this post is not to describe just the good that is present in the air of Madhinah, but just to give a general description of the city and its people, be it good or bad. By no means is this ‘list’ complete. Feel free to suggest any edits.

Ok, then. Enough jibber jabber. Here is how Male’ would be, if it was like Madhinah, presented in the form of bullet points for clarity and because of the love of a certain individual for them:

The Masaajid
• The mosques in the city would be closed (as in you cannot enter to pray) from after one prayer to the beginning of the next, but not without exceptions. They are usually closed after everyone leaves the Masjid, and if there is someone in the Masjid, they will just close the doors and leave. The doors cannot be opened from the inside, but once closed, cannot be opened from the outside without a key. So the last person to exit would invariably lock the doors if he closes it properly. Exceptions include the time between Maghrib and Isha, which is relatively short when compared to other times. I wrote this point inside a mosque, between the said time. Another example of an exceptions is if there is a circle (or let’s say a class) of memorizing Qur’aan (see next point) going on in a Masjid, which happens usually after Asr or Maghrib. In such cases, you might see some masjids with the doors open.
Now, I don’t know exactly why this is the case, but normally most of the people come to prayers on time, so perhaps there is no need to keep them open. Another big exception would be the Islamic Centre, which would be open all day long, except between 11 pm and 3 am, which is the time the mosque would be cleaned. But even then, you can access some part of the Mosque.

• There would be Qur’aan Memorizing Circles held in (some of) the mosques, especially the Islamic Centre. Generally, the participants would be children, but you would not be amazed by the sight of elder people also joining these classes, especially those that would be held at the Islamic Centre.

• The people who misses the congregation in the mosque will almost immediately start a new congregation with a new Iqaamah at the back of the mosque. You can usually hear the Iqaamah as soon as the Imam ends the prayer. One would seldom see anyone praying alone (except the regular Sunnah prayers), even children. They will appoint one to pray as the Imaam and they will make rows behind him. Or if they see someone praying alone, they will just go up to him and join in.

• My grandfather can catch the first unit of the prayer even if he starts walking to the Masjid when he hears the Azaan (because he cannot walk that fast now because of old age—may Allah grant him good health) and the old  people—and this is just a figure of speech—who goes to the Masjid early on would have to wait longer than they do now, because the time between the Azaan and the Iqaamah would be longer. For Maghrib it is 10 minutes, which is normal, but for Isha, Noon and Asr it is 20 and for Fajr it is 25 minutes. If you are in a hurry, that is a long time. But in the city life, it is still not long enough most of the time.

Schools
• Ameeniyya School would still be a girls-only school. So would be any school for girls. Basically, all the schools would either be for boys or girls. Not for both.

• All the schools for girls would look like a house (or more like an apartment building) from the outside. You cannot see anyone who is inside (unless of course if there is an open window or something). The students would enter the school from the outer most door and close it behind them. They would also have some sort of a barrier outside the door  so that no one can see the inside of the school directly even when the door is open. The reason, if not obvious, will be explained in the next point, in sha Allah. The teachers would all be female and no male will be allowed to enter except in, well, exceptional circumstances. My wife related to me of such an incident only a few days ago, where a student fainted at their school, so all the students and teachers were told not to come out of the class and to close the doors of the classes while the medics come and do their business.

• Both the girls and boys would wear uniforms to school (at least all girls would, as far as my knowledge regarding this is concerned). But the girls would wear their jilbaabs (the black dress which covers the whole body including the face) over their uniforms and remove them once they enter the school. This is why you may not see them in their classes. Perhaps their uniforms would be the same (i.e. similar to those in the Maldives), the difference being that they won’t be seen outside the school, the inside of which you would not see either if you are a male. Of course, this depends on whether the students stick to their code of conduct: if they do not—and that happens more often than one would hope—then you can see them lifting their jilbaabs, showing their skirts.

• The traffic problem you face at the end of the sessions? Same.

Gatherings
• Dharubaaruge would have separate entrances for males and females, be it for formal occasions or wedding parties or anything else. There would not be any mixing of men and women in these cases. This would be the generally accepted custom, and how it should be.

• If a family visits another family in their home, the women would be having a separate ‘meeting’. The men would be in a room and the women in another. Even when eating.

• Lemon Grass (and other restaurants) would have an area where people can eat sitting down on the floor and this would be the normal way to eat in restaurants or in homes during gatherings. They place a piece (or two) of plastic cloth (made from a material similar to that of plastic bags) on the floor or the carpet (where you don’t tread or walk on with your shoes, obviously), then place a big plate of rice or the rice itself on this cloth and eat from it. With two to five people sitting around it. All together. From the same plate. Sometimes they wouldn’t need curry, Just rice and grilled chicken would be fine.
I do not know how they eat alone.
Some other points
• The police (or some guys from the Islamic Ministry) would drive around in cars ordering people to pray. They would normally be seen when the times of prayers are near or during the time between the Azaan and Iqaamah. They would also prevent anything that they see happening that is contrary to the teachings of Islam, such as unacceptable behavior between the two sexes.

• People (not all) would look at expatriates with contempt. Same, eh?

• The employees in most offices would drink a lot of coffee (not exactly the coffee you are accustomed to) and tea. And I mean  a lot. They also want you to come back tomorrow, or next week, or a couple of weeks later, and they want you to do this everyday. In other words, come back tomorrow everyday. Get it?

• They would (or might, as in very often) send you on a circle, from one employee to another till you end up where you started, probably because it’s not their responsibility or because they are too busy drinking tea.

• People would be seen on the streets (or around places where more people would gather, such as mosques or shopping malls) selling stuff, ranging from toys to siwaak to thobes, often with a very low quality and cost.

• Many people would brush their teeth with siwaak in public, and this would be normal and no one would be grossed out.

• Sometimes children (about 11 or 12 years old or more) would drive their families to places in cars when there is no male adult at home. This is not because it is allowed.

• Private cars will act as taxis. When you need a taxi, you would put up your hand and wait for someone to stop. Then you both will bargain until you reach an agreement. Else, you will thank him and send him away and then flag another car. Officially, taxis do exist, but they are too expensive most of the time.

Hopefully, this would give you an idea how the Male’ would be if it was like Madhinah, Perhaps more points would be added to this later on.

Your Most Valuable Asset

Imagine this: there is a special kind of bank, which opens an account for you everyday, puts some money, let’s say $86,400 in it and hands you a credit card. You can spend the money in any way you want, buy anything you want, you can do anything you want with that money. The bank will open a new account for you the next day, with the same amount of money, just like the day before.

But, there is one condition. Whatever money they give you today, you cannot take it, or save it for the next day. If there is any money not spent at the end of the day, you will lose it.

The question: What will you do with this $86,400?

You spend it all everyday, of course. There is no other way. You cannot let it go to waste.

Something very similar to this happens in our lives everyday. The only difference is that something much more valuable, priceless in fact, is given to us instead of the money and that we act in a very different way than we would have done if it was money.

At the beginning of every day in our lives, we are given 86,400 seconds. 1440 minutes. 24 hours. We will not waste any of that $86,400 but how many of those 86,400 seconds are we wasting everyday?

Indeed, few of us realize the true value of time. It is more expensive than gold and silver. It is infinitely more valuable than money, gold and silver: you can get more money, you can get more gold, you can get more silver, and you might be able get more of everything, but you can never get more time.

If time is lost, there is no hope of its return. For this reason, time is said to be the most valuable asset to any human being.

How truthful were the words of al-Hasan al-Basri, when he said: “O son of Adam! You are nothing but a number of days, if a day is gone, then a part of you has gone.”

Indeed, our time is our life. How we live our life is how we live our time, how we live our days. When we waste time, we are wasting our lives. When we waste our money, we are only out of money, but when we waste our time, we lose a part of our life.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “There are two blessings which many people do not make the most of: good health and free time.”

If one of us were to think about his past life, starting from his birth or maybe from his oldest memory, to the current time, for example tonight at 9:30, his train of thought would not go too far. Rather, he will see a hazy and a fuzzy beginning and the past days and years will look as if it was just one day, passing by just like a liquid flows on the ground.

We might not sense or understand this feeling now, but we will surely sense it on the Day of Resurrection, when we are waiting for the judgment to be carried out.

Allah says in the Qur’aan, Soorath Yoonus, Chapter 10 verse number 45: “And on the day when He shall gather (resurrect) them together, (it will be) as if they had not stayed (in the life of this world) but an hour of a day.”

He also says in Soorath Tha-Ha, Chapter 20, verses 103 and 104: “They will speak in a very low voice to each other (saying): “You stayed no longer than ten days”. We know very well what they will say, when the best among them in knowledge and wisdom will say: “You stayed no longer than a day!””

He also says in Soorath-uh-Naazi’aath, Chapter 79, verse 46: “On the Day they see it, (it will be) as if they had not tarried (in this world) except an afternoon or a morning.”

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said, speaking of regret about time: “Regret for wasted time should be deep, for time passes quickly and it is difficult to make up what you have missed.

Time for the worshipper is a time for worship and reciting portions of Quran and words of remembrance, and for the devoted Muslim it is time for turning to Allah and focusing on Him with all his heart.

Time is the dearest thing to him and he would feel very sad if time passes without him doing what he is meant to do. If he misses time, he can never make it up, because a second time has its own duties. So if he misses time, there is no way he can bring it back.”

He also said: “If he spends his time in heedlessness, idle entertainment and false wishes, and the best of what he spends his time in is sleep and idleness, then his death is better than his life.”

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “I would hate to see any one of you idle and not doing anything to help himself in this world or in the Hereafter.”

Dear Brothers, don’t think for a second that we will not be questioned about our time. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “A person’s feet will not move on the Day of Resurrection until he is asked about his life and how he spent it, his knowledge and what he did with it, his wealth and how he acquired it and spent it, and his body (health) and how he used it.”

Imam Ibn Aqeel ah-Hanbali said: “It is not permissible for me to waste an hour of my life even when my tongue is not busy with memorizing or debating with others, or my eyes are not busy in reading. I would think even when I am resting or relaxing, so I would not get up without an idea to write down. I limit the time I spend eating as much as I can, to such an extent that I choose a few crumbs and follow it with water rather than bread, because bread takes more time to chew, so as to save my time for reading or writing down some useful ideas. The best thing for the wise man to save is time.”

Time is a strange thing. It is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who are in pain and fear, too long for those who grieve and too short for those who rejoice.

May Allah help us stop wasting our time and bless us in our time.