Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Let us sit down with any ageing person or one crossing over into his mid-50s, and we will sometimes hear of things we did not hear when he or she was 20 years younger. Perspectives change, they say. With passage of time, a lot of times we do not see things or hear things the way we used to when we were younger.
The life of this world, based on a field of test and trial as proclaimed by the Holy Qur’an, more often than not presents us with a variety of choices – some we take and some we may not depending on a host of factors, all of which combine to yield some or another reaction. Families that are supposed to groom and upbring children very rarely realize the consequence of their actions in the lives of their young. After all, when the children are young, the parents are not old either. Let us take for example a common tale told by the elderly today of how they had to hide and make excuses from their parents during their teenage to enter into a cinema hall. When now told, this tale is usually tinged with a humorous pitch where the senior is perhaps trying to make common ground with a young person. For after all, the remark that we then hear from the younger person, is how “with the times” such and such an uncle or aunt is. A lot of the things said thus are harmless, but some have the propensity to carve a new personality out of the younger person who may now stage a similar revolt at a higher dimension, rationalizing that this too is quite literally the same as the example in the tale.
Some parents often remember their own parents with remorse when they wonder why they were treated in such a manner or prohibited from doing this or that. Their children will equally follow suit in complaining about them, and so the cycle goes on. If this is in any way viewed a as conflict, then we could as well lean it to the Conflict theory that emphasizes the role of coercion and power in producing social order.
But a form of conflict that we are regularly faced with within ourselves is that of religiosity versus society. We listen to tens of majalises but then any admonition we get, we pretend it is meant for that guy sitting at the corner – how he must derive a lesson from it. We witness several things but we only take it with a view of redress for others rather than ourselves. And so in a sense, we remain deaf despite retaining the ability to hear. Just like the younger generation not able to understand the older generation’s wisdom, just like the older generation’s obstinacy in making lives difficult for the younger generation, there is a deafness surrounding society that is quite uncharacteristic.
Mathew Henry, an English Presbyterian minister, states “None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.”, reminding us of the stark reality about having ears and eyes but losing the power to hear and see.
In fact, if we just look around and see what is happening, we find the “forbidden fruit” theory taking centre stage. Everyone who is advised not to do something, wants that very thing. We are asked to be modest, but we adore pomposity; we are asked to spend in the way of Allah (SWT), but we prefer doing that as a PR exercise, we are asked to maintain relations and be just, but we insist on being cut off from everyone else and also being very unfair at most times, we are asked to keep away from gatherings that have gossip, alcohol or obscenity, but we claim our social and professional lives take us there and so what we do without that for a living, and the list is endless.
Time is passing, and we are all moving towards the last frontier of life. Is there time remaining for us to repent – only Allah (SWT) knows. Imam Zainul Abideen (AS) in Saheefa as Sajjadiya implores in this manner:
By Thy might , (FAWAI’Z-ZATIK) I find no one but Thee to forgive my sins and (MAAA AJIDU LID’UNOOBEE SIWAAKA GHAFIRAA) I see none but Thee to mend my brokenness ! (WA LAAA ARAA LIKAS-REE GHAY-RAKA JAABIRAA)