Seek the Ordinary

There is a growing frenzy for the ‘extraordinary’ in our world. Appearance has overshadowed the Essence. The god of capitalism is actively creating a parallel universe of false images. Time has quickened its pace and people feel the strain to have to catch up to leave their print. If time were slow or the god of capitalism not fast, people might have some space for the ‘ordinary’ in their lives. Now there just isn’t any.

God intended beauty and happiness to surround man in His world. The commercial god, however, wants mankind to run after them. In order that people seek what they already have, they should be told that they don’t really have it. The commercial god, therefore, makes use of his ungodly satellites to curse people into believing that certain things are devoid of Beauty and certain actions are devoid of Love. And that love is finite and should be selectively bestowed. And that happiness is the sense of fleeting satisfaction that vanishes as soon as you begin to suspect it’s actually there.

I see a dismal situation: Denying the true idea of Love and Beauty to the people of a loving and beautiful God creates a mega-vacuum in the society. This vacuum, in turn, drives all the commercial machinery, allowing it to create even more powerful ones. More convincing illusions are created, more people believe them to be true and more lives are lost seeking the non-existent Meaningless.

People develop a tendency to deny the spirit, deny its exigencies and as a result, there is a growing void in the society that can swallow it up whole. Here, have a glimpse into this void: You see that the corporate culture promotes confidence, boldness and expression. As a result, we are already left with a limited number of shy, quiet and inert people. A time will come when we won’t have any just like we don’t have Caspian tigers, Dodos and Eastern Cougars on our planet anymore. Also, a time will come when digging for the real faces under layers of permanent organic cosmetics will become as impossible as guessing the original contours of a plastically engineered face – thanks to the endless streaming of ‘supposed beauty’ by the ungodly satellites. The worldwide advertisement agency will utilize our left-over originality and plot how to make maximum money out of it. People might move to Mars to get easy land allotments, invent high wattage heat pumps for survival and give birth to Martians.

Human race is on the verge of extinction, people.

Lets find our way back to life. As ordinary people, we can not slow down time or stop the god of capitalism. They will stay and they will do what they will. The only thing we can do is to realize that all the beauty and happiness we really need is by our side, breathing delicately in the most ordinary of the books, faces, streets and shores, waiting patiently to be discovered. If ordinary people seek the ‘ordinary’ in their ordinary lives, extra-ordinary things can happen. A belief in that will restore Life on Earth.

 

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Love grows like weed in your backyard. It needs no water, no sun, and more often than not, its unwanted. Smoke it once and it pumps itself in your veins, in the red gossamers of your bloodshot eyes, in the vaulted archways of your god-damn heart. It fills you up and keeps oozing out until the whole world rolls up and fades away in a distance and nothing, absolutely nothing, is the same anymore!!

My Guide

The Sabres were notorious in the college for running a daunting pace in rigid flight-formation at 6 am each morning (except Sundays), and the rule for the freshers was too simple to be misunderstood – lead us and if you stop, you’ll be run over by us.

I still remember my first cross-country vividly. Merely an eighth grader then, i told my guide that i would literally die if i ran any farther. A strong runner himself, guiding me through the long, snaky track of my first cross-country, he informed me quietly that nobody had ever died running. He was right. I made it. Alive.

The sophomores were appointed as guides over freshmen in their first year as pre-cadets, and though they retired from this responsibility after a year, i continued to look up to my guide for many years to come. There were many reasons for that. Most important of them all being, unlike most seniors, he would not treat me like a bloody junior. Naturally, when you are away from home and parents and a life that’s normal, at an age as tender as twelve, there is a vacuum inside of you so unfathomably great that it draws you into anyone who is least bit nice to you. This explains why i could not imagine running a cross-country without him. Besides, he had always made the ordeal look so easy. I don’t know if he always ran like that but ever since i started to run with him, he ran at a stride manageable for me to match – strong yet magically peaceful. Running with him always meant finishing at a decent place and saving your lungs some suffering.

The years kept rolling by and we gained enough seniority to be allowed to run independently from the flight formation. So we often broke off in the start and ran ahead. And so did all the elites of the college. Though our paces had gained greater strength over the years, somehow we still fell short of what was needed to be the top-notch elite. Over these years, i noticed one thing though: running with Azeem had grown increasingly easier – almost effortless. I never told him that though, out of his reverence and besides, there was some kind of comfort in running by his side, so i let the things the way they were running on the track.

One morning, when i spotted him running in his usual, favorite place – the geometric center of the broken pack, i hastened towards him, matched his stride and fell into the blissful meditative peace that he always carried about himself. That morning, my legs felt like freshly greased hinges, though – too fluid, too runny. A couple of wannabes blasted past us. I felt my adrenaline surging so i asked Azeem if he could pick up the pace a bit. He struggled but didn’t sustain it. Assuming that he did not want to run any faster, I asked if he would like to increase the length of his stride at least. He looked at me, gave me a subtle nod, opened up his legs and soon he was flying. What else could i want! I opened up mine and before long, we were overtaking the elite of the elite. I almost felt like a raven gliding – effortlessly navigating a step behind him through the throng, overwhelmed by the joy of our newly discovered speed.

The track had a rigid hierarchy firmly established by years of cross-countries which had taken place on it and though upsets kept happening, they were often very small and everybody generally finished where they had been over the years. Now imagine you manage to destroy that revered hierarchy and are being gaped at by boys in total awe. It was euphoric. It didn’t last long, though. Azeem slowed down to a slog, all of a sudden. When I looked at him questioningly, my worst fear materialized: he was grimacing in pain. The only thing he said to me was: keep that pace.

When I broke off from him, it almost felt like i was betraying the camaraderie of several years. But disobeying him was out of the question. I told myself he had wanted me to do this. So i gained my focus back and ran really hard. That day, for the first time in my life i caught up with Zargham – the most furious runner of the college. Though he sprinted away in the final stretch anyway, having reeled him in from such a lead was some feat!

Azeem had seen the duel from behind and was really happy about it. He said he always knew i had it in me. I asked him angrily why he had slowed down, and that i couldn’t fathom he too had limits. He laughed and said, all flesh and bones had.

That day on, he never ran with me.

But you hear that, Azeem? I call you my guide still!

Mother God

Though God is an ethereal spirit with no sexual connotations to its gender, the debate over His “actual” gender has passionately raged in the recent decades particularly in the wake of the rise of radical feminism in reaction to the timeless patriarchy that had reigned supreme. The reason i am writing this is that this debate is not distant, irrelevant or academic, it rather dictates how we perceive God in our day to day lives, defines our faith and how we act under its influence.

The most prevailing understanding of the gender of God is that God is predominantly a powerful masculine figure. This understanding possibly originated and strengthened over centuries in attempts to explain the attributes of God being Strong (Qawi), Subduer (Qahhar), Avenger (Muntaqim) and Compeller (Jabbar). Though there are other equally important attributes like Jamal (Beauty) that are the prototype of femininity but since these scholarly attempts were made in patriarchal societies so it is not very surprising for male-chauvinistic interpretations to have made their way into the sacred religious texts passed on to later generations. This partially explains why today, we refer to, and more importantly understand, God as a watchful man-guard over the universe though theological descriptions leave sufficient room for alternative explanations.

The question remains: Is God REALLY a watchful man-guard or is He more of a compassionate mother – the love of whom envelops the universe?

Islam has a distinctive edge over other religions of the world in that its Holy Book i.e. Quran has survived literally intact for centuries under conflicting and sometimes, even battling Muslim governments after the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Karen Armstrong brings to our notice a commonly recited but strikingly overlooked piece from Quran i.e. the very Bism-illah-irrahman-irrahim.

…Nor was God distinctively male. Each recitation began with the invocation: “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate (al-Rahman) and the Merciful (al-Rahim). Allah was a masculine noun, but the divine names al-Rahman and al-Rahim are not only grammatically feminine but related etymologically to the word for womb(!)

It must be a shocking revelation for anybody who recites Quran on a regular basis. In the very tasmiah, God uses one masculine and two feminine names for Him(?)self, which although does not prove that God is predominantly feminine, in the very least points to the fact that God doesn’t want this side of Him(?) to be taken any lightly.

I was scrolling down a forum when i found this gem posted by MariaS.

Some people may say when huwa means “he” and “it” and hiya means “she” and “it” then why is God using huwa if hiya and huwa both mean “it” as Allah says : Qul huwAllahu ahad [Say he is One and Alone]? Answer: In A’rabic grammar, there are certain rules and criteria for feminine gender: 1) If it is feminine in nature like ummun [mother], ukhtun [sister]. 2) If the word ends with an A’rabic word ‘ta‘ like mirwaahatun [fan]. 3) If the word ends ‘badha Alif‘- an A’rabic letter. 4) Pairs of the body like yadun [hands], a’inun [eyes]. As the above criteria are not getting satisfied, by default Allah uses huwa-it.

I am not concluding this piece because i understand that people have different opinions. I do not intend to “establish” anything here neither do i feel the need of doing it nor do i find myself qualified for that. It’s just that i am going through a spiritual crisis where invoking God is, as i see it, the only way out and invoking a mother God feels much easier and more natural. Besides, I feel it’s really important for us to see God in the universe. The watchful man-guard is hard to see, the compassionate mother is hard not to.

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P.S. In case this article interests you, there are some links that i would like you to check out.

Islam and the Divine Feminine

God’s Feminine Side Is Plain to See (slightly offensive but makes the point anyway)

Shekhina: The Feminine Aspect of God

Also, in case you are into literature, Paulo Coelho, in his book “By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept”, makes an overwhelmingly beautiful case for the feminine God.

جواب شکوہ

یہ خط ‘ ایک ساتھی لکھاری کے خط “تمہارے نام” کے جواب میں لکھا گیا ہے۔

ابھی کل ہی احمد ملنے آیا۔ بڑا ہو گیا ہے۔ بالکل میرا ناک نقشہ ہے۔ بس آنکھیں تمہاری ہیں۔ ثمینہ دفتر سے رات گئے لوٹتی ہے۔ وہ آیا تو گھر میں بس میں ہی تھا۔ اور تمہاری دو بُھوری آنکھیں۔ رات کھانے کے بعد ایک عجیب سوال پوچھنے لگا- ‘کیا آپ کو اب بھی امی سے محبت ہے؟’ میز پر سکوت طاری تھا۔ پھراس کا سوال ہمارے بیچ دلدلی مچھر کی طرح بھنبھنانے لگا۔

یاد ہے بچپن میں ٹائم مشین کے بارے میں بہت سوال کرتا تھا۔ کہنے لگا پاپا اگر آپ ٹائم مشین سے پچیس سال پیچھے لوٹ جائیں تو کیا اس بار خود کو بدل سکیں گے؟ مدتوں بعد اس کی زبان سے یوں ‘پاپا’ سننا مجھے بہت اچھا لگا۔ تم تو جانتی ہو رات کا کھانا سگریٹ کے بغیر میرے حلق سے نہیں اترتا۔ میں نے حسبِ عادت میز پر سگریٹ سُلگا کر ایک کش لگایا۔ نجانے ایک دم اسے کیا ہوا’ ایک جھٹکے سے اٹھا اور یہ کہتے ہوئے چلا گیا کہ پاپا آپ کبھی نہیں بدلیں گے۔ میں نے اسے روکا نہیں۔ تمہیں بھی نہیں روکا تھا۔

‘سوچتا ہوں شاید اس نے غور سے سگریٹ نہیں دیکھا ہوگا۔ مارون بہت مہنگا ہو گیا ہے’ اب ڈپلومیٹ پیتا ہوں

اپنا اور بچوں کا خیال رکھنا۔

On Norms, Freedom and Equality

The following essay will probe the nature of social norms, the problematic relationship between the perceived social norms and the ideals of freedom and equality, and finally, if and how the resolution of this problem is possible.

First, i will dissect the colloquial term of “social norm” in order for us to be able to understand it better. In the very term “norm”, there secretly hides this repulsive and scrupulously unsupported assertion that humans, in certain situations, are supposed to act in predefined ways, to the effect that all uniqueness is ultimately labelled aberrant, and individuality virtually curbed. Granted that there had to be some sort of generic code of action in order to protect people’s freedom from the remarkable uniqueness each one of us is bestowed with, why then did it have to go on and curb the very thing it set out to protect us from, as it happens with the social norms? Moreover, if there had to be such a thing as a norm after all, why then did it have to be defined by the society anyway? Because to me, it only seems to suggest, in simpler words, that everybody is the slave to everybody else, obeying unquestioningly the orders (or norms) without needing to understand the rationale behind them which, not to mention, is non-existent more often than not.

One often hears this complaint that genuineness no longer exists in our world and that artificiality has permeated the minds and hearts. You might first question how one defines genuineness. Even if one is not able to articulate it, one often has a clear idea that nature is genuine. Jean Jacques Rousseau, in his Discourse on the Arts & Sciences, employs the very same construct i.e. nature as that point of reference from where he projects criticisms on Enlightenment – the modernity of his era.

The problem of modernity is that, with all its virtues, it inevitably brings along inequality and takes away the freedom of the masses. Rousseau puts this blame on the two wheels of modernity: arts and sciences. Allow me to illustrate this more clearly by stating the reciprocal statement: Without arts & sciences, equality and freedom would prevail. The most visible of the signs of modernity at work is the birth of sophistication in mannerisms due to which certain more natural ways are qualified to be crude, and once the modernity is victorious, what was natural and hence rampant now exists in the periphery, and the concept of social norm is invented to safely label the crude (or natural) as deviant in order to eradicate it.

Is there a solution to this rapid artificialization of human race? For Rousseau, the answer to this question is a yes, but only if we return to Nature. Thinkers have launched blisteringly sarcastic criticisms on him for having tried to reverse modernity and push mankind back into the Middle Ages, but his solution makes a lot of sense to me. That is, when i recall that Hadith in which Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) implies that Nature is Islam. But i think i need to do a lot of thinking over it before proceeding any further.

Whore

It’s fashionable to write about prostitutes these days. Men generally write because they want to be looked upon as compassionate beings, capable to view the misery of prostitutes above and beyond their own assaulting nature. Women write because they have a continuous need to be hailed as feminist warriors. Nothing else seems to catch as much public attention on the media. Clerics write fatwas, reporters about raids on brothels and all this drama interests an ordinary man very much.

Teenage writers are perpetually on the hunt for such hot topics to get noticed so I, once one, jumped the bandwagon and began a story with: Once upon a time, there was a whore.

I knew the opening line was good and the content could not be a problem as i knew reasonably enough about the prostitutes from Hollywood and hearsay. But then i found myself confronting the question if that would be honest to ascribe the character of glamorized fictional prostitutes to the genuine character that took birth in the opening line. Then i asked myself if i could state the facts. More importantly, if i knew the facts. Even more importantly, if i could put them down while not trying to tip-toe about the taboos. These rather unlikely questions brought me some insights that i felt i should share.

It’s really easy to create literature and make a seemingly intelligent drawing-room talk when maintaining contact with reality is not a constraint. One might even get some applause but not knowing the difference, one ends up turning a prostitute into a whore that way. At the end of the day, i don’t feel it’s a good bargain. A quintessential writer, you may disagree, creates all his characters from first-hand experience. The technical difficulty in creating a prostitute’s character, however, is that one, in our conservative society, most likely never has an experience with a prostitute and therefore all one’s ‘observations’ and details about one are actually only speculations based on hearsay, and hence lay invalid.

I read the opening line back and though hard it might be to trace them earlier, it was replete with insensitive inaccuracies. I realized there was no “once upon a time” because every conceivable story about a prostitute is already cliched. Secondly, there was no such thing as there was. The story ran in the present – in the very moment that ticked by. Thirdly, i was not sure if “whore” was the right word for a woman who left her bastards every night to be able to put food on their table but only managed to produce more of them in the struggle.

I backspaced and the words disappeared fast until i was left with a clean sheet staring back at me. I absently typed “whore” at the top again and flinched; old habits died hard. I backspaced once again and this time, not knowing why, I typed “human” instead. It felt better. Acknowledging the humanness of a downgraded human fellow always makes you feel better somehow.