Sunday, January 14, 2007

Life @ the Bottom

I went to Wardah and bought this book that I had been waiting for - Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple. I devoured it all last night.

An interesting quote from the book describes one of the phenomena that we face today :

"Entertainment, absorbed passively, informs them, through television and films, of a materially more abundant and more glamourous way of life and thus feeds resentment. A sense of their own nothingness and failure breeds powerful emotions - especially jealousy and the intense desire to dominate or possess someone else in order to feel in control of at least one aspect of life. It is a world in which men dominate women to inflate their egos, and women want children "so that I can have something of my own" or someone to love and who'll love me."
Personal relationships in this world are purely instrumental in meeting the need of the moment. They are fleeting and kaleidoscopic, though correspondingly intense. After all, no obligations or pressures - financial, legal, social, or ethical - keep people together. The only cement for personal relationships is the need and desire of the moment, and nothing is stronger but more fickle than need and desire unshackled by obligation."

Precisely one of the explanations for the terribly temporary state of the marriages in our society today.

Dalrymple has got it nailed to the post in his observation.

This is what I like about Wardah Books - they do not just sell books that they think can sell, like the all other Muslim bookshops, which is why you find most Muslim bookshops selling bewildering arrays of books that do not make sense.

Wardah Books sells books that challenge the Muslim who walks into their shop.

There are not many titles - but if you want variety, go to Popular bookstore or

Their books are heavy reading - so there is nothing like the pamphleteering Islam that is rampant nowadays - which insults our religion by reducing it to the simplest slogan that can be understood by the simplest mind.

There is a worldwide campaign to simplify religion (all religions, including Islam)so that it can be understood by the village idiot.

The result of which is to re-state the ideas of the great treasurehouse of Islam in terms of childlike simplicities, teaching people to look at religion like children, and behave like children when it comes to religion, which is an absolutely absurd mentality in every other thing in life.

It deludes the idiot into thinking that he knows as much as the scholar, and that the scholar is the real idiot.

It results in the "dumb-downing" of Islam.

In one respect I like Wardah Books and will continue to support them because they stock books that are not about Islam per se, but about issues that Muslims should be aware of in any case. Such as social injustice, animal rights, the influence of media and modernity on the mind, etc.

A Muslim should be thinking not only about how to perfect his practice, but how, by perfecting his practice, he is able to change the world.

We are each destined to be endowed with the light of God, and it is my sincere belief that this light is a trust (amanah) that we should walk in the world with, illuminating the darkness around us.

We receive the light in our hearts but do not shine it on others - how can we explain our failure to fulfil our trust to God and His Prophet on the Day of Judgment?

We say we follow the sunnah and love the Prophet (s.a.w.) but we obsess about the length of his beard and whether he would allow the use of musical instruments, but we forget that he was not sent to mankind primarily for these purposes - his main purpose was to bring the light of Truth and Goodness to the darkness of Confusion and Evil that the world is.

How much do we have in our classes and sermons that teach us that?

Or, for that matter, how to do that?

For me I believe that we have to sharpen our faith in order to make our own lights brighter, so that we can brighten the darkness around us, and not brighten it for our own sake.

That was the core function of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

The brighter we are, the greater our reach will be, and the more goodness will be felt by others in the dark.

With the will of God, some of that light will stay on the others whom we shine on, and they in turn will be the bearer of light to others.

In case you think I just conjured all this myself as a new bid'ah, I am influenced in this by Imam al-Ghazzali himself, and he by the famous Ayat of Light in Surah an-Nur.

The "The glass ... like a shining star" refers to the believer (mu'min).

The believer shines like a shining star.

Who do we shine on?

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