my most remotely acceptable things

Sometime I find myself in a place, a condition, which I find acceptable and nice – i am healthy, my loved ones are healthy, life is okay by and large, things are ok. they may even be really great sometimes. laughter and enjoyment. things to look forward to. life can be such that one does not want things to be disturbed or changed much.

And then there is actual change or the beginnings of change. there are changes, big and small. this change leaves me shattered or worried. i was fine with how things were. i am ok with how they are. let them be this way, i say. i can manage this. why is there a change? what is the change? what is the meaning of the change? how do i make sense of my life as something that changes, especially when the change seems to be towards conditions that i find terrifying and unacceptable. they are “remote” or “far” insofar as their beauty and desirability to me are concerned. what is the meaning of this experience of mine? this reality of mine? what is happening and what meaning does it have?

I found myself thinking all of the above as i looked at my aging and sick father watching himself with worry and helplessness as his muscles and movements deteriorate and weaken. as he can no longer eat what he wants to. as i see and sense life moving towards something i feel afraid of – a world where my loved ones would have all gone, or where i would be alone and abandoned and weak and old. i am watching the moments pass by and slowly changing the world i know and the life i have. what is happening. i turn to whoever has made me for help. what if any is the truth in this change? is there meaning and peace of the soul to be found while i experience this change?

And i read in the Quran (17:1)

سُبْحَـٰنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًۭا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَـٰرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَـٰتِنَآ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ

And i hear this:

Free of all/any fault is the one who took his slave during night from a place that the slave found meaningful (and where he found it possible to praise and glorify his lord) to a remote/far-off place of meaning (also a place of prostration but that looks remote to the slave) whose surroundings we have blessed so that we may show the slave from our signs, and indeed he (the lord), is the hearing, the seeing.

I hear in this four re-descriptions of my reality (that i am free to take or leave):

  1. that where i am right now i.e. what i find good and desirable about my world/life right now and the future, about anything or any person, is a glorification and praise and acknowledgement of how beautiful and beloved and desirable my lord is to me. i am in “masjid al haram” if i can see it that way. my life and everything in it and around it is glorifying someone who is our maker and owner and sustainer.
  2. already noted in the first point above, the reality of things is that they are making “prostrations” to the sustainer and lord. so for instance, when i love something or someone beautiful and i love life and happiness and health for them, i am (in the verse’s description) acknowledging and revealing (to myself) that my lord loves for me and my loved ones, life and health. when a person around me wants perfect happiness and health and life for themselves, they are prostrating to the truth (which is the One) that their maker wants to give them (and makes them aware of the need for what he must himself possess): perfect beauty and life and happiness. all existing things and events etc, the verse claims, together make up a massive sacred prostration of which my existence is also a part….if only i would see it that way..
  3. that the changes to something “worse” i fear (in any sense for any aspect of my life) can be re-described as my lord taking me to the “farthest place of prostration”..while i may see meaning in some things in my life, but i am wrong to think that there are those other things and states of being which are “not perfect”…i fear them because i dont see how those events and situations and experiences and states/conditions of the world are also indications about the lord being perfect and without any fault…so that i may find those places and states of being as perfect as well…as telling me about the perfection of my Lord…
  4. that everything in this world is indicating the One who sees – things cannot be as they are unless someone was seeing to it that they exist and who provides for their existence and sustains them…and everything indicates that this one hears their needs and cries…he knows what they seek and need because he gave them those cries and those needs..he gave them awareness of what they need because he has those things…any state of affair that i fear – for example my aging and dying old dad or mother – i can re-read as indicating that the souls are witnessing in their cries that there is the one they want who has the perfections, undying life and perfect beauty that they need…they are seeking Him..they are turned to Him..they are drawing nearer to him..they are indicating His perfections to me through what they desire and fear losing and cry for…so that i can reach the furthest place..a place that seems far to me, and turn it also as my place of prostration..the “night” – and only one real night of despair and honest weakness and helplessness, is enough for me to turn to my Lord who tells me to re-think my “night”…its when i am in the dark that am i ready to make the journey to that farthest place of prostration…the night scares me and makes my “masjid al-haram” not a masjid anymore..its not a place of peace and ease and meaning…the verse tells me: what you think is the “outside” of your place of peace…is also a place of peace…dont be afraid..if you are willing to see me there, willing to see me indicated in my signs, your farthest place, the most remote for you, the most fearful and undesirable, will also become a place where you will see my perfection and find ease and peace and safety in that…

Published by Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh

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