‘The proof of your alienation from the divine is that you keep company with those who are alienated from the divine’
-Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller
The Prophet Muhammad (pbbuh) was leading the prayer one day when he made signal to rise from bowing. Upon rising, the agreed upon tradition is to repeat Rabbana Wa Lakal Hamd (Oh my Lord, to you is all gratitude) after the Imam says “Sami’ Allah liman Hamida (Allah hears those who thank Him). So the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbbuh) repeated this but one man added ‘Hamdan, Katheeran, Tayiban Mubarakan fi’. (Gratitude in abundance, excellent and blessed). When they finished prayer, the Prophet (pbbuh) asked as to who said it. The companions were fearful that someone may have exceeded the boundaries of permissible actions during prayer. Eventually the man mustered up the courage and admitted to it. Much to his surprise the Prophet pbbuh said, ‘Indeed, I saw 30 angels all rushing towards you to see who would write down your rewards first’.
This is the power of gratitude.
I don’t get it. Over and over, all religions at their innermost core preach love and purity of heart. Why then are humans hell bent on ignoring it? Why then isn’t the heart the single most important focal point for all human beings? What is this madness that has captivated our attention and diverted us from our hearts and ultimately ourselves? Did you know that before the central nervous system develops in the foetus, the heart is the first organ to form? The brain is not even existent! The CNS is no where to be found yet we still have the audacity to question the heart sciences. No, not the cold, hard spiritless sciences of laboratories but the ones passed on from generations back which are taught by sages and masters to students.
I am often burdened by the immense responsibility I have for my ability to use words to suit the agenda, to stimulate a mood or to elicit a response and when the burden overcomes me, the truth of silence rescues my soul. I apologise now for my past and future words. Forgive me for hurting you, making you think, making you not think or making you roll your eyes, my intention means nothing as grand as it may be if it cannot be received well by you. My silence would much better suit as the chariot.
Scars are my tattoos, I pride myself in them but I don’t go out of my way to get them.
No ink and colour to express myself, feel comfortable in or beneath my skin. I learned this from a more exemplar man. I look at my father’s hands. He’s real bad ass, doesn’t need tats.
The fabric of the earth perfumed with his blood, yes, that olive tree still wails for him. Forty years after he traversed the earth away from it
Because his blood runs through the earth’s veins and when he gently prunes the roses twelve thousand kilometres away, the rose stems bend to him and becomes a bashful girl in the arms of her lover. The soil which nourishes that rose courses through from the olive tree beneath the Cedar Mountains of Lebanon and finds him in an Australian garden.
He treads lightly on the earth like God describes the believers in the Quran. Treading lightly meaning both literally, forward bent, head bowed in shame not of anything or anyone but in awe of God, nomadic movements without foot print and he moves spiritually by not burdening its resources and he is infatuated by Gods beauty made manifest through his creation, thus treating it kindly and with love as one does his maiden love on their first night.
His actions are gentle and loving but his hands have strength and power, the earth, winds, water and fire are summoned and rush to his aid in obedience to God’s promise, “When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hands with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks…..”, simply because he practises what he knows and one need not know much to practise more.
No, he doesn’t have ink stained skin but he has a love stained and scarred heart. He has scars for tattoos and he taught me that they are tougher than ink tattoos, far more expressive, tell a thousand stories more and have oceans of character deeper than a cheap monetary exchange for a murial stabbed into your skin just because you chose so. You can’t decide to have character, you earn it. You can’t buy toughness, you suffer for it.
Want to be tough? Show me the fabric of your soul, the mettle of your make-up, not the bill for your ink.
My father is pure like the earth. A man of knowledge said of sages being like the earth, ‘Dung is flung on to the earth and flowers spring forth’, so too do sages get put through the worst of trials and tribulations, yet only beauty comes out of them. My father is purer, he is the earth embodiment, true to his nature, he knows the land, and it haunts him, always reminding him to come back. His love affair with it is not because of a leisurely hobby like fascination, it’s not on his Facebook likes, it’s because he knows where he came from and he knows where he is returning. He can take life’s blows because he’s already felt the earth’s cry, had the blood of saints and prophets beneath his feet and all he will do is continue to blossom until his time it is to re-join the elements.
My father doesn’t have tats, he has scars, he has soil beneath his nails and he sweats an earthly perfume from his brow. Those men, those women who know this way are few and far between. I implore you, find them, learn from them, eat a mouthful from their hand, lest their state may be passed on to you and you carry on this tradition.
I started by telling you about my scars, but I only have scars because I was allowed to enjoy myself by engaging in my passions, my leisurely activities and hobbies. My scars are lame compared to my fathers. My scars are from play, his scars are from life.
We are raised to believe that scars are ugly, they make perfect skin imperfect. They make handsome features grotesque or feminine soft skin tough and masculine, as if to stigmatise these at polar extremes to one another, unable to reconcile them as being able to exist with one another. Scars are the absolute distilled definition of beauty manifest. They tell stories of work, love and labour. They tell stories of struggle, pain and endurance. The scar on the heart of a person who has loved is not the same as the person who only speaks of love but never had their heart broken and had to mend it again. There is a reason why a scar is a physiological adaptation to stress, and forms the way it does. It makes the area more resilient, it toughens the area making it oblivious to further damage whilst at the same time increases its threshold. The body intelligently knows that to become stronger, it must change its basic structure. A scar is the beautiful and intelligent way the body naturally reforms itself. A scared heart is one that can now take more, love more, feel more, see more, share more, understand more, endure more, persevere more and be more patient. A heart devoid of scars is just an organ. But it takes incredible character and wisdom to allow a scarred heart to remain open and flexible, not closed and tight.
End: part one.