Saturday, November 29, 2008

End of Act Two

I went for hajj for the first time in 1994. I was still young, having worked for a short number of years, and blew my bonus on the hajj package. Hajj was a natural;  continuation of my life journey up to then, I had learnt praying, fasting, zakat, so hajj was a must.

Since then, to me, there is something about going to the Holy Land, more than just an act of worship or obedience to God. I could not place it until stumbled on it when I was reading a few weeks ago. 

Hajj is a returning. We do not go to hajj, we return. We return to the navel of God's earth, around which all circumambulate, like water down a sink. We kiss the hand of God on Earth (the Black Stone is described as such in a hadith by our Master). We chant, "Here I am, Allah, in response to Your call". And we shed our outward trappings accumulated in our life's journey up to that point, shed our clothes for the pristine ihram; we have our hair shaved off, just like when we were born a long time ago, and start afresh. A new lease of life. 

A new Act in the play.

After my rebirth from the first hajj, I underwent Act Two of my life. I bought a home with Mrs Mudpie, had 3 sons, went through a recession, earned a lot of money and prestige and lost all of it. Learned what were the true things of value. Learned that money is the most desired but least important thing in the world. That kindness often comes from strangers, and the stranger is no more than just a tool of God's infinite Destiny, so I should try my best to be that stranger to someone else as much as I could. I learnt that mastery and obedience of rules and regulations alone do not make a saint, and then realised that ignorance and disobedience of rules and regulations alone do not make a sinner.

Things happened that tested the Me in Act Two. At the start of this Act I had a great confidence in my religion, and I believed with all my heart that the Quran and Sunnah were the only 2 pills that we needed to take everyday before bed, and all the world's headaches would go away. Slowly, things happened which made me re-consider that position.

Now I realise that the Quran and Sunnah are just slogans thrown by people to justify whatever it is they want to do. Suicide murderers can do it all the time. It made me search for new directions. 

Sufism and traditionalism were the obvious contrasts to literalism. However, I found weaknesses in them as well. Sufism is too tied to personality cultism - the shaykhs have too much influence and too little mission beyond their circles. I did not see them as possibly becoming a force of change for the world today. Traditionalism was initially attractive due to its high level of intellectualism, but that is also its failing at the same time. In a globalised and flat world, ideologies cannot take popular hold if it cannot be mass marketed in easy sound bites.

So now I have reached the end of Act Two. At which point I return to God and will try to kiss His hand. I will journey to visit my Prophet at his house in my full Malay traditional costume, with my children in tow, and introduce them to him, and we shall all ask for his forgiveness.

Act Three - where will it bring me?