When Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) conveyed the message from his Lord as revealed to him in the Qur’an, people recognized it (and still do) as life-changing . It made them question every aspect of their life. Exhaustively! It was an invitation to think critically about beliefs adhered to, traditions blindly followed, and cultures accepted wholeheartedly without questioning. Oftentimes Muslims are accused of over thinking–and it’s hard not to as a Muslim– for the words “mind” and “light” are mentioned over 40 times in the Qur’an. Every verse is an invitation to think ! But again, the Creator of the brain and its ability to think teaches us that even in thought we ought to be balanced. “Not thinking” can lead to misguidance, and “over-thinking” similarly leads to misguidance. We have to strike that balance–and that is wisdom indeed.
“‘No! They say: We found our forefathers on a course, and surely we are guided by their footsteps./ And thus in no way did We send even before you any warner into a town, except that its population living in ease and luxury said, ‘Surely we found our fathers upon a course and surely we are emulating (them) , we are upon their tracks./ The warner said: ‘What! even if I bring to you a better guide than that on which you found your fathers? They said: Surely we are unbelievers in that with which you are sent.'” ~ Qur’an Surat Al Zukhruf 22-24.
I thought of this after reading and teaching Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” to my students. It kept me up all night (if you haven’t read it you should–I’ll attach it to this post). It appeared in the New Yorker in the early 1948, and needless to say it caused quite a stir at the time of its publication. People were so offended by that shorty story that they canceled their subscriptions to the magazine. It also reminded me of the Allegory of the Cave” in Plato’s “Republic”. Below is a nice animated version of the Allegory of the Cave. A little literature helped me understand ayahs in the Qur’an. I love literature!
Click here to watch The Allegory of the Cave
Click here for PDF of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”
Imagine that you had to perform Salaah five times every day but you weren’t told how to perform it? You weren’t given any pointers. No one would have told you what the pre-requisites were. No one told you the obligatory acts either. There is no starting point, no middle, no end. No particular words that you had to recite. You are left entirely up to your own creativity to come up with a way to sustain your attention, interest, and commitment in a prayer that you would have to perform five times a day for your entire life. I don’t know about you, but that would be the most difficult chore for me! I would imagine myself at the time for Salaah to be like a writer sitting in front of a computer screen staring at the blinking cursor on a blank word document suffering from a severe case of word block. Indeed, word block would be my every day struggle. Not once, or twice but five times a day. I know I have witnessed word block during times when I have been put on the spot to make Dua’a in a gathering. I can’t fathom having to be in the same spot during Salaah five times every single day. Oftentimes some argue that Salaah stifles their creative juices, and I wonder if they have contemplated that that is what Dua’a compensates for.
I for one am extremely grateful to Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala for sending down Angel Jibreel Alayhe Assalaam to teach our Prophet Muhammad Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam in exhausting detail how to perform Salaah. Alhamdullilah that I don’t have to ponder on how Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’la wants me to worship Him five times a day. Alhamdullilah that after squeezing the creative juices dry from my brain at home, my job, and other facets of my life I can approach Salaah partially understanding what the Prophet Salah Allah Alayhe Wa Salam meant when he said, “Give us rest with it, O’Bilal.”