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  #541  
Old Friday, September 08, 2017
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A beautiful day

THE third day of this last July necessitated a visit to Islamabad from my home station Abbottabad. I woke up a little after dawn and set out soon thereafter. It was a beautiful morning. On our way, we found whatever little of the countryside in Haripur is left, bathed in the daylight glory. We considered ourselves blessed as we saw the fields resplendent with ripening corn, cabbage, tomato and a variety of other vegetables.

Quite a few farmers looked engaged in their daily chores, weeding, steadying the water flow and putting up scarecrows to protect their labour of love from the scavenging birds. It was a scene cut out from a landscape described in one of Thomas Hardy’s many novels.

Sadly, the once vast Haripur countryside, fenced by beautiful grey and green hills, is fast disappearing under pressure from the weight of a burgeoning population and their concomitant worldly needs, if not outright avarice.

While thus lamenting our impending comeuppance for defying the laws of nature, we discussed how a substantial population in the cities was denying itself the immense blessings and benefits of the morning life. Ironically, these days it is considered fashionable to spend the night working and socialising, and then consuming a better part of the daytime sleeping till late afternoon.

Islam stresses the importance of morning time.

Morning time, like youth, is robust and bubbling with energy. We all know that in most developed countries of the world, the wheel of life in offices starts when morning is still young.

People in big numbers could be seen scampering to their workplaces as if they were in a race against time. Both in quality as well as in quantity, morning time is particularly productive as far as brainy work is concerned.

At one place in Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’s great gothic classic, the narrator of the story Ellen advises her listener thus: “You should never lie till ten. There’s the very prime of the morning long gone before that time. A person who has not done one half of his day’s work by ten o’clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.”

Written a little less than 200 years ago, the importance of these timeless lines cannot be overstated in our own peculiar situation where we find ourselves battling against the many evils of inefficiency, lethargy, indolence and neglect that have persistently let us down in our quest for development.

Efforts to enforce even a modicum of disciplinarian regime in our government offices have not borne any fruit. The introduction of biometric registration and attendance system too has not produced the desired results as delinquent officials have found ways to circumvent these technological checks on their movements.

The situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is particularly unsatisfactory where there exists a culture that sees government offices function as traditional guesthouses with guests coming in, staying put and then leaving not before ruining the better part of the day. A scientific and rational study of KP’s bureaucracy will unmistakably bring out this fact as one of the overriding factors responsible for the poor delivery of public services.

Islam lays immense emphasis on the importance of morning time in human life. The Holy Quran in chapter 25, ‘Al Furqan’, verse 47, says: “And it is He who made the night a garment for you, and sleep a rest, and made the day like a resurrection.” A detailed explanation of this verse translates into: and it is He Who makes the night a covering for you, and the sleep (as) repose, and makes the day Nushur (ie getting up and going about here and there for daily work, etc, after one’s sleep at night or like resurrection after one’s death).

Birds of all hues announce the beauty of the morning in their melodious voices, singing the praises of nature. In chapter 17, ‘Al Isra’, verse 78, God stresses upon human beings the value of the recital of His name at dawn most emphatically: “Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of the night, and (the recital of) the Quran at dawn. Lo! (the recital of) the Quran at dawn is ever witnessed.”

How, by staying late in bed during the daytime, we deny ourselves a multitude of opportunities offered to us by nature for free. This realisation tugs at us more acutely in the mountainous areas where nature manifests itself most profoundly, but few of us prefer to behold it after having spent the night wandering around aimlessly in the noisy bazaars with our families in tow.

Our salvation, and that of our younger ones, indeed lies in benefiting from the infinite wonders of the morning time that we otherwise seem to be letting go to waste.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Source: A beautiful day
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2017
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  #542  
Old Monday, June 11, 2018
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Root of mercy

ALLAH describes himself as ‘Rahman’ and ‘Rahim’ in the second verse of Surah al-Fateha. These are not just two simple Arabic words. These are the words that describe the essential nature of the One Ultimate Reality. They tell us about the core of the One Supreme Being. That His Being is deeply rooted in mercy, and mercy alone.

He sustains the entire cosmos by mercy, and mercy alone. He is neither weary, nor tired of feeding and nourishing His creatures. Every moment, varied and complex life forms are sustained by Him, through His boundless mercy.

‘Rahman’ and ‘Rahim’ are translated as merciful and compassionate. The Arabic root of words ‘Rahman’ and ‘Rahim’ is ‘rahm’, which means to ask for mercy, to have mercy, and to pity. The word ‘arham’ is a plural noun of ‘rahm’, which is translated as kinship in English. That means also the extended network of blood relationships. The word ‘rahm’ also refers to womb of mothers, which is a place of conception, sustenance and growth of human embryo. Besides that, foetuses are nourished and protected by the womb due to biological programming of mothers by a sense of ‘rahm’ (mercifulness, compassion).

He sustains the entire cosmos by mercy, and mercy alone.

Around the womb, the entire network of kinship and blood relationships are interwoven and defined. Incidentally, these close blood networks are sustained by mercy and compassion born out of the womb of nourishment. The Quran also speaks about taking care of consanguine ties, which constitute the basis of the human social system. Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) has also persuaded Muslims to care about the well-being of close blood relations. Mercy and compassion are thus biologically programmed into the human self.

Hazrat Muhammad has said that the mercy of Allah is greater than the mercy of a hundred mothers. That means the rahm of Allah is boundless and infinite. Everything known and seen as well as unknown and unseen is nurtured by the breath of divine mercy. All creatures are interconnected with the root of divine mercy in an infinite network of kinship and togetherness. All creatures and systems of life are in reality sustained by the Sustainer of the Worlds (Rab ul Alameen), and hence come to exist in profound kinship with the Divine.

This complex cosmos can only be sustained by an infinite merciful and compassionate Creator and Sustainer. The multiplicity and complexity of the world systems imply the existence of a Supreme Being, without which the complex systems cannot endure and survive. The root of divine creativity is none other than a perpetual, permanent and eternal state of mercy or rahm. In the Quran, Allah says that His mercy contains everything (in this universe).

In Surah al-Rahman, Allah further communicates the depth and range of his mercifulness. First the very name of the surah tells us that this kalam (revelation) is from Ar Rahman — the merciful and compassionate. That He revealed the Quran to Hazrat Muhammad out of His sheer and boundless mercy. That means that the Quran carries waves of acoustic peace when you listen to it, and beyond that the words, symbols and discourses mentioned therein also speak about infinite divine mercy.

It means that the Quran is a cure and panacea for ailments for those who have faith in divine mercy. That it was the endless mercy of Allah that led to the design of life and birth of man. That it was due to the divine attribute of mercy and compassion that man was bestowed with the gift of speech and language. That it was plain and simple mercy that man was endowed with the gift of writing and communication by the symbolic system of language. That it was through language that man can preserve and convey knowledge to posterity.

By means of language, lamentations and prayers are communicated to the Almighty. Words of mercy invoke Allah’s compassion. The signs and symbols of language are an authentic means of reaching and interacting with the divine space of mercy.

Ar Rahman and Ar Rahim pervade every inch, dot and moment of existence. The plants grow and are sustained because of this boundless merciful divine energy. Man buries a dead and lifeless seed in the depths of the dark earth, and look what emerges after a few days — a green sapling looking towards the sky, showing submission to divine mercy. There is a manifest mizan (balance) between the heavens and earth. The proportions, dimensions and sizes of physical objects lead us to wonder about the hand of the merciful and compassionate Maker.

None of the heavenly objects — be it the sun, moon, planetary system and beyond, the luminous galaxies — can escape this inherent cosmological conformity and order. The prevalence of the cosmic order is nothing but the expression of divine mercy.

The writer is a cultural psychoanalyst.

Source: Root of mercy
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2018
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