By: Atiqa Mohsin
In my second last year, my school held a seminar which we were all required to attend. They seated the students at the back, the teachers in front and the speakers around the stage. At this point in time I can’t, for the life of me, remember what exactly the seminar was about. It covered topics like drugs and self-abuse and topics that didn’t relate directly to my life (since, yeah, I’ve done nothing even remotely similar to both).
Towards the end, the speakers chose students and asked them three questions: What is your name, what was your latest achievement and what was your dream goal?
When they motioned for me to join them on stage, I wasn’t aware that they weren’t asking me to be brutally honest. So that’s exactly what I was. I introduced myself and then went on to claim that my latest achievement was that I had found the secret to a happy life.
You can imagine the wonder and shock that met my reply. And I didn’t understand why. When prodded to expand on the statement, I refused. You see, everyone needs to find the secret to happiness on their own.
The basics are simple, I can tell you that: Please Allah ta’ala. If you live a life that is structured to please Him in every possible way then your heart is content, your soul is at peace and you’ll have Him by your side. That, my friends, is a situation of pure bliss.
But the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ are so, so difficult. You must have realized it, at some point in your life. Maybe you’re realizing it right now as you read. Or maybe you have yet to stumble across it.
Take me as an example. As soon as I learnt I could write whatever I wanted to, that’s exactly what I did. I wrote. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Never mind what I wrote was absolute rubbish… fictional pieces that were so out there that they didn’t even make sense. I just had to write.
So when my mom threw out all the copies I had written in, claiming that I was wasting paper, I began to write on snippets of newspapers, on the back of my notebooks, on the sides, on the covers, on the bottom of the page, beneath the margin. I wrote wherever I could, whatever I could think of. You see, even at that age, my mind had realized something I had consciously not. Ineeded to write. It wasn’t just a want… writing, for me, was everything. It was to me what clothes are to a shopaholic or what drugs are to an addict. I could not live without it… imagining a life where I couldn’t write what I wanted to was impossible for me.
I still haven’t mentioned the problem, have I? You see when you find that one thing you love, that one thing you want to work hard in, to excel at, that one thing that begins to define you, it is extremely difficult to let it go.
What if that one thing for you was drawing faces? Making sculptures of living beings? Playing an instrument? Dancing?
Maybe you didn’t grow up in the Islamic environment I did. Maybe no one discouraged you from taking hip hop classes or buying the first thing that popped into your mind. Maybe your family encouraged you when you played an astounding piece on the piano successfully or painted a picture that looked so real, it was as if it would walk out of the canvas. Maybe no one told you no. So let me. Don’t do it.
I think it was more than a decade ago that all my siblings and I were gathered in the kitchen, around my mother (for that was often where we found her; in the kitchen, cooking). I remember each of us discussing our future goals (I had wanted to be an inventor, still do actually) and I remember my sister saying, “Yeah but it has to be with Islam.”
I didn’t understand then what ‘with Islam’ meant until much, much later. You see, when my parents discovered that writing was my forte and my passion, they immediately suggested that I write an Islamic book, that I discuss topics related to religion and that I should try, with my writing, to convince people to convert (revert) to Islam.
That’s what ‘with Islam’ means. Your future goal, your passion, your interest, whatever it is that defines you has to align itself, somehow, with Islam. Painter? Paint landscapes, paint flowers, paint forests, paint for children’s books or for poetry books. Try to find a community that is religion orientated (ISLAM ONLY) like the Muslim show on face book. Want to push your limits? What about a group that delivers aid to countries that need it?
Whatever it is, whoever you are, and whoever you want to be, make sure that your feet walk the path of someone others recognize as a Muslim. You have a title on your back and an oath to live up to it… don’t abandon it just for some cheap thrills in this world. Don’t lose your Jannah. Use your forte to earn it… there is always a way. Think around the norm, think out of the box. You’ll find it… a way to achieve both what you desire along with heaven.
There is no need to reject one or the other when you can have both.
P.S The answer to the third question? I want to own a chocolate factory.