Real life is raw, sans glamor… but naturally sweet

Umrah’s Life Lessons #6: Real life is raw, sans glamor… but naturally sweet

Five years ago I went on a luxury haj. We could pray in the hotel, see the Kaba and have it count as jama’a with the Haram. We could make wudu after the athan and still make it to a decent place in view of the Kaba. We had air-conditioned, carpeted tents in Arafat and food fit for a king. We had buses zooming to Mina and back at times that would count for two days, in one trip. Every day we had our choice from an amazing buffet for breakfast and dinner. Every evening we were invited to pray tahajud and listen to a lesson on the roof of the Haram, and our tawaf was video-taped for us to remember.
My first haj, we were abandoned or ripped off by a non-existent group. We (my husband and my 24 year-old self)  performed haj with my fiqh book in hand. We knew no one and had no help. In Muzdalifah we slept in a sleeping bag on the shoulder of the road and we walked to Mina because we had no ride. We were so consumed by trying to correctly perform the rites that every once in a while we would feel dizzy, stop and count how many days it had been since we had last eaten, and find out that invariably it was three. Three days on Zamzam and soft drinks, so we would buy some cheese and bread. After haj we visited my sister-in-law who was on haj from a different country and with a group. She took me with her to buy a roasted chicken, I was shocked. You mean they have food in Mecca? My childhood memories were of my aunts frying meat and preserving it in shortening and buying dried fruit and vegetables to take to the land that had no food. But, that first haj… transformed my life.
This Umrah was in between. It was meant to be easy but we had our age, our aloneness and the sheer numbers working against us. It is always a good idea to be with a group, but the truth is you never know, then, if you are borrowing someone else’s noor or working on generating your own. There is a saying in Arabic, that, what is borrowed won’t keep you warm and even if it does, you can’t afford the price. On your own, the effort is doubled, the moments of incredible spirituality are reduced, but those you do feel are genuinely yours.
When I first put on hijab and began to consciously practice Islam, I weaned myself from the classical music I was addicted to, turned my back on art that was my passion, and steeled myself for a very austere, dry, Quaker-like existence. But I found out that was not to be the case. It was not long before I saw swooning beauty in God’s creation, found Quran could move me deeper than any music, and experienced how prayer could transport me farther than any art.
But today, everything has become a production. We have film producers, news producers, wedding planners, meeting MCPs.  Your ceremonies are interrupted by video-shooters and photographers, your life by those telling you how you should feel, act, dress and live. People have become wrapped up in the wrappings and trapped in the trappings of matters. I know a person who thought up a dhikr kit.  Believe it or not, he was not thinking of making money, rather he wanted to promote the idea of the remembrance of God to others. The kit was to include beads, a cushion to sit on, herbal tea, incense, and a camel fleece abayah. He felt the idea of dhikr had to have a package, an ambience, so to speak, to sell.
So few people today, live a real life. Our lives are cushioned in comforts of all kinds. We carry the voices we love, the songs we want, the games we like, the news we follow, in the palm of our hand with us. We do not taste separation from loved ones anymore – their voices and faces are only a few button clicks or finger-tip touches away. But in real life there is no sound track, no zoom, no pan, no sound effects, no special effects, just plain living – and that is not so bad. That is unless your taste buds have become too gummed up with syrupy goo to discern the delicate sweetness of what isn’t artificial, preserved, enriched, improved or packaged.
Think of the sahabah, the greatest of people. They lived a very raw life, in fact so did the greatest human being to walk the face of the earth, peace and blessing be upon him, and it was ok, and they achieved the most important goal a human being could achieve: Jennah! So how bad can life sans glamor be?
When my children were young and after everyone was asleep, I would stand at the girls’ bedroom, recite ayat al Kursi and blow it over them, then I would do the same for the boys, then for students and loved ones. I would think about how I had daughters and sons, I would think about how my parents were both alive and well and my husband’s parents were both alive and well, how no one was dying of any fatal disease, that we had food in the kitchen and there was no war;  then I would think about the hadeeth, “He who sleeps in safety in his home, healthy in his body with food enough for a day, it is as though he has been granted the whole world.” And I would be overwhelmed with gratitude that would spill into tears.
Remember, if you are quiet enough, you may pick up on the most moving music of the universe…it is called tasbeeh. If you are calm enough you may see wonders those of us in a dizzy rush, miss. If you do not become a slave to pleasure or to thrills, you may feel joy being slipped quietly into your pocket whilst you trudge along on your daily chores. Try it, it’s called living in the raw, and it is not something you need force upon yourself. Only accept living simply or even with difficulty when that happens to come your way.
Read:  Umrah’s Life Lessons #7: Burning passion required to accomplish…anything worth accomplishing 


One response to “Real life is raw, sans glamor… but naturally sweet”

  1. I’ve tried explaining the bottom paragraph, not to mention this whole peacespective, to people whom I love, but they just don’t understand how someone who’s as educated as me could possibly want a life as simple as what you’ve described. Masha’Allah, you have the support of your loved ones in terms of your harmonious way of living. May Allah (SWT) bless you and your family with more, ameen!

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