Wednesday, June 5, 2013

NYC and Zuhd


I have been off the blog for a while now. I had to attend a cousin's wedding on Memorial Day weekend. The wedding was in New York.

As you can see, there are lots of buildings in NYC. Man-made tall structures. You can have a cricked neck when you gaze up at these buildings. Taking a car into NYC is probably the worst thing you can possibly do. But if you only have 4-5 days to visit a place you're never going to (otherwise) visit, and you have to attend three functions with all its finery and protocol, you'd better take the car and pay extra for parking. Otherwise, subways take soooo looonggggg. Man.

The trip should have had me jumping all over the place "Omg I visited NYC. I saw all the places I'd just read about (and some of which I had no idea)."

But not... really.

I met some amazing people from my mum's family, yes :), that was one heck of a good part about this trip, but somehow, I've lost out on the excitement I normally would have felt, upon visiting NYC, roaming around Times Square at midnight, riding a ghora gari (horse ride) in Times Square, etc.

Why would somebody not have a good time in NYC? Several possible reasons.

1. One's heart is not into all the glitter anymore.
2. One's companion(s) aren't much into the trip so one is all alone in their excitement.
3. One feels bad about all the money draining away into the glitter.
4. One finds something very hollow beneath the glitter and glamour.

I would have been much better off if I had just gotten three weeks off and gone to visit Pakistan again in May and by this time, I would have been back. At least people around me would have been excited about me being able to spend 100% quality time with them 24/7 ! :')

Anyway. What's done is done. Can't turn back the clock, even if I fervently wish I could.

Back to the second part of the title. Or rather, coming to the 2nd part of the title :).

Zuhd. I came across this word when I took a class from an Al Maghrib institute teacher which was called "Fiqh of Chillin' :D. I never wrote about that. I must. I will InshaAllah. There were people among our pious predecessors who had this strange quality called "zuhd" and their students actually asked them: How did you achieve it? Tell us, so we can also practice and achieve this state of being.

Zuhd is best translated as "indifference to this world, this life." The explanation is that one is not the least bit affected by this world and its goings-on. That doesn't mean he doesn't care about issues affecting his life and the life of those around him. But he just doesn't let this world GET to him. So for example, if he loses his job, he doesn't think about committing suicide or get into depression, because he understands that these things come and go and Allah is Al Raaziq. So he calmly analyzes where he went wrong and gets back to trying to get a job again. Doesn't get depressed. If he (or she) doesn't get a good grade, gets robbed on the streets, whatever, he doesn't bow to these events happening in his life.

So what I personally felt in NYC (and America in general) is that Zuhd - if it were on a scale of 0 [no zuhd] to 10 [best zuhd] - is probably somewhere in the sub-zeros. Below 0! Why do I say that?

1. All around me, especially in NYC I saw a large amount of shopping areas, carts, vendors, boutiques, branded shops, piles upon piles of merchandise, being eyed by wistful people who wished they could have it all. It's the same case in any shopping mall in any part of the world, really.

2. Food! On Times Square alone, there are cafes and eateries almost everywhere you look. So when people get a bit tired of spending their wealth on obtaining things they don't need (probably), they can turn to spending their wealth to fill up their stomachs. With the most delicate and awesome stuff you can find. I saw super cool salads, sandwiches, beyond awesome pastries (I have a weakness for them), gourmet coffee, what not. Nobody in that area can ever think about this child:

Source: Reuters: Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files - taken from a Jan 2013 article titled "U.N. unable to get food to 1 million hungry Syrians"

And it's not hard to imagine that. It's easy, in fact. You can get so lost in the people, the excitement, the conversations you hear, the different accents and languages you hear all around you, the colorful displays in shops, and if it's really really cold, why wouldn't you get attracted to the strong scent of gourmet coffee wafting through the air?

But that's what zuhd entails. That you DO think about this child while you are looking at the menu and choosing what to order, you DO remember Allah's Blessings upon you and not squander your money on things that you know will displease Allah. Then, zuhd also entails that if somebody thinks you're absolutely crazy for thinking this way :) [in NYC !!], you smile and let this not affect you in the least.

One interesting point: One who says "I have attained zuhd" , hasn't ..actually. :)

And one of the first baby steps towards attaining zuhd in this world is to control one's appetite, and have control over the nafs which attracts us to the heavenly smells of cheese pizzas, donuts and coffee. I'm just listing my favorites here, I'm sure there are different attractive smells for different people. So as a baby step what we have begun to do is:

1. Eat breakfast really early in the morning (try our hardest to have breakfast before Fajr or after it). Not sleep after Fajr.
2. Have lunch/dinner at around evening time.
3. Snack in b/w if really hungry (which I get :( ..). But the rule of any type of eating is that we eat not to fill up the stomach, but to ease up our hunger. There's a difference yes ...  :)

May Allah Guide us towards attaining zuhd for this world and to sustain what we start out to do. It's not been a week yet. But we have already begun to notice awesome benefits of eating less.

1. We sleep less. After a 4-5 hour sleep, we wake up as if we slept for 10 hours :).
2. We have better focus on our daily work and to spiritual work like salah.
3. We realize the plight of those who go hungry daily and have no choice of snacking.
4. We begin to appreciate the amount of money which went on food supplies :D.
5. We save time! Hours can be spent on a lazy lunch/dinner.
6. Er, weight loss. :$

Well, it sounds really cool and all, but personally, it's not easy. For somebody who loves anything with all-purpose flour in it and it's baked and has sugar too in it, err, you get the picture. So! I'm hoping to stick to this InshAllah.

Please remember, this is not the only way to attain zuhd. But as we read portions of Imam Ghazali's book "Al ihya ul uloom" [amazing read], it dawned on us that this is one of the most practical things we can do to come closer (spiritually) to Allah and purify our hearts for His Sake.

May Allah Help us all, Ameen!


Noor said...

Thank you Uni baji. :)

theDistractedsoul said...

Interesting post :) I have always enjoyed reading your posts