Yesterday, word suddenly reached me that someone close to my neighbour, a good friend of ours, had left for his heavenly abode. Since the departed had been ill, this was expected, nevertheless a sad time for all his relatives and friends.
A kulkhani was quickly organized at the Foundation, which I had to rush to attend, and my neighbour sponsored the iftar there. As I tucked into my generous portion of food, I wondered - how lucky was the brother who had passed away?
There is no custom of an eulogy in Islam, but so many of his friends and relatives who had come to the mosque spoke of how he had made a positive affect on their lives. They were not just being polite - one could see they truly shared the pain and grief of the family - yet held genuine affection in their eyes. Many had taken time out of their busy schedules to drive to the other part of the town just to pay their respects, and eagerly rolled up their sleeves and shared in the volunteer duties that sponsoring an iftar entailed.
They say the proper way to come into this world is for you to be crying, but for everyone else to be smiling. If, on the other hand, if you can leave this world with a smile while everyone else is in tears, as you are eager to meet your Lord, you have done well.
What matters to our Lord, I realized, is the intention behind our actions. Yet for others, our actions speak a great deal. All the lives that this man had touched, and changed in a very positive manner, spoke of a very philanthropic man who didn't hesitate to do the right thing, to share a bit of the blessings that Allah had given him.
Today, as I look around, I see that many a times, our actions do not jive with our words. Yes, Islam is a beautiful religion and yes, Islam does tell us to behave well with our neighbours, treat women with respect, never harm or discriminate based on ethnicity, never to lie or cheat in our business, to always educate ourselves and seek knowledge, to welcome the birth of a daughter with equal joy as that of a son, to not turn our eyes away from the suffering of others and to wish for others what we wish for ourselves.
Yet our actions do not match these ideals. We are eager to recount how the Indonesians accepted Islam not under the sword but influenced by the behaviour of the Arab traders - yet today our adaab - our manners - leave a lot to be desired. We are proud of our ancient scientists and philosophers, yet today we stifle education for half our children and freedom of speech is a defunct concept.
Yes, some of the problems are not ours, the Western world does provide blanket support to many a dictator in the Muslim world, but others are in our hands. We can all improve our personal behaviour to be an example to our neighbours. We can all contribute to welfare programs run by our community centres.
We can all be a positive influence on our society. Let's hope this Ramadan can bring forth a few of the jewels amongst us to light.