Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)
One of the most common sights on Kenyan roads, for instance, is haste. At any time of the day, if one were to drive down any busy street or avenue, one would be astonished (well not quite so if you had already driven in Mumbai, Karachi, Rome or Tehran in that order!) at how hurriedly drivers attempt to cross lanes, get into main roads and speed even for very short distances while hooting aimlessly. Initially, it was just the menacing PSVs (Public Service Vehicles fondly called the Matatus), then taxis followed suit, and more recently, we even witness Driving School tutors driving on the pavement on the wrong side during the morning rush hour, for instance.
So, finally we have the root cause of accidents on these roads as originating from untrained, unprofessional, ruthless tutors who must be coaching their interns in trying to reach somewhere quickly rather than properly. The result? Half proficient drivers, who in their later years fail to understand why the government keeps blaming poor road ethics on the drivers, whereas in actual fact (there goes the buck), the real problem is the road condition!
While on roads, another interesting sight is to see hasty drivers navigating through the pothole ridden Mombasa-Nairobi “highway” (single-lane highway, I mean). Despite the clearly visible signs of dilapidated road surfaces, open cross wind conditions, and fast oncoming traffic, it is amusing to see that drivers still rush through in trying to reach Mombasa in four hours or less (a 490km stretch approximately, but not conducive to 100km/h speeds due to adverse conditions). If you ever happened to ask one of these drivers about the insanity, they would tell you “Oh my car suspensions are “tropicalised”, an advertising buzz word used by Motor Kings Marshalls (Peugeot) and D T Dobie (Nissan) since the 1980s in seducing motorists towards buying their cars.
Now, to a reader stashed away in some ice cold, marooned state of the US or Canada, why would reading all this be relevant? The above citations are simply illustrations of how enslaved urban life has made us into believing in individualistic hopes and aspirations such that we have lost the patience to wait for its occurrence. We not only rush through our lives with intense speed, but are also many times engaged in acts of worship that lack velocity. How many times, for instance, we officially whiz through Dua e Kumail on a Thursday evening without attaching any remorseful submission in our recitation because of “school tomorrow”, “insecurity”, etc while we gleefully charade through the night attending parties or gatherings of a social nature, or even (for some of our progressive youths) religiously attend night clubs and discos? And secondly, in relation to the title appointed for this article, were we really in control why would we use the advertiser’s selling message as a biblical guide rather than our god-given common senses?
And while the Kenyan examples of social anarchy are symbolic of life in almost all major cities of the world, its true interpretation is in our continued alienation from what was originally the purpose of all creation.
At this juncture, let me introduce a well-known concept of “Control”. This oft-repeated word is defined in many different ways such as: “to check, or verify, and hence to regulate; to call to account, reprove; to exercise restraint or direction upon the free action of” (Oxford). In other words, control is a process that brings about desirable or intended conditions. It is meant to exercise a positive influence on events by not leaving things to chance or hope, and which “seeks to bring about a set of definable, recognizable conditions which confer some advantage or benefit not at present possessed, and which are preferable to present conditions.” These preferable conditions are therefore desirable, and the controller controls with the intention of bringing them about. Scholars enumerate the following route to achieving such a goal: First, to have knowledge of the objective to be reached; then, to have the knowledge of the progress made; later, to compare objectives and progress made; and lastly to introduce corrective action if the progress towards the objective is unsatisfactory.
Well, one need not be overwhelmed by the concepts introduced, because whether we have understood this or not, we all, consciously or unconsciously engage in this form of behaviour most of our lives. When we work hard to climb a corporate ladder or to entrench our business against competition, what are we doing? We will plan our way intricately taking good care of all threats and utilizing all opportunities. We are, in effect, controlling.
As Muslims, our goals should be definite. The primary aim of our being is to be able to acknowledge Allah (SWT), thereafter to understand Him through His creations and lastly to praise and salute Him for His Greatness. In so doing, we must be in a position to control our own lives so that the desired results are achieved. And also, while we are going through the three stages, we will invariably be faced with living life as it were, and this too will be a remarkable component in achieving our ultimate goal.
When we start following the road map planned by another person, whose goal is most certainly different to our own, we would never be able to achieve our own goal. The pleasures of this life engaged illicitly in, are simply positive responses to the manipulations of materialist regimes in diverting us from divine recognition. This, by the way, is their scheme, their plan. When they constantly bombard press and media with nudity and obscenity, they are in fact, treading through a planned out series of actions designed to spark off rebellion from man towards His Lord. And why do they do this? Because, for them the material profit derived from liberal lifestyles represents dollars and cents, power and control. Period.
The question that we must now ask ourselves is whether we are really in control? Are we following the path that we must for attainment of our goals or are we simply pawns in a grand conspiracy of treachery staged by the agents of Satan, who are, day by day growing in numbers and in acceptance? It is for each one of us to understand and answer and ponder.