By Amirah Mesawi
I’ve always lead a comfortable life. I wake up every morning to the food on the table. I can spend time deciding what I want to wear simply because I have the privilege of being able to choose. I end a long tiring day at university and am able to return to a home where I feel safe and secure.
The absence of such things was something I never thought of. It seemed to me a thing so highly unlikely. It wasn’t that I was not aware of what’s happening around me; I know people are suffering. I know that there are people out there struggling day in day out. But I just never really thought about it. It was pushed to the back of my mind and that’s where it had stayed for a long time.
The old man I walked past on the side of the road, I saw him often. Toothless smile, torn and tattered clothing the size too big for his skinny body, unkempt beard and hair, streaks of dirt visible on his face, the unpleasant air that surrounded him… Every morning I’d rush past him and avert his gaze.
I always used to dread that part of my walk to school, wishing he would not be there, wishing I would not have to see him. And now I wonder why I always felt the need to sprint past him. Surely it wasn’t because of his stench, nor was it because I did not want to give him money, for I did pass him some change, from time to time.
The sad truth was that I felt guilty. I closed my eyes when I passed by him because it reminded me that if Allah SWT had willed it, I could have been the one on the streets. I closed my eyes because seeing him made me feel guilty complaining about trivial, mundane problems in my comfortable life. I closed my eyes to it all, because I felt like the old man was holding out a large mirror to me, showing me the person I was, the person I had become. For I had become a person who compared myself to people who had more, always looking at those who had it better. I had become a person who did not realise the countless blessings in her life. I had become a person stripped from humility and gratefulness. I had become desensitized and numb.
“Alhamdullilah”, a word so full of meaning may have crossed my lips, but it never came from the heart. And this I realised one sudden morning, as I took my usual route to school and gasped a heavy sigh of relief when I saw that, for once, the old man was not there. That heavy sigh, that sounded of relief I had made, triggered something in me and helped me shift my consciousness.
The prophet (pbuh) said: “When one of you sees someone who has been given more bounty in respect of wealth or physical strength, he should then look at someone who has less than him.” To be contented with what you have been given is the key to living a happy life. Always turn to Allah SWT, for your life will be less complicated.
We often get so absorbed in our everyday lives that we lose track of the most important things such as ‘shukr lillah’; thanking Allah for the blessings He put in our life: our religion, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our health, education, shelter, food, safety and so forth. The Quran mentions: “And whatever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allah” (16:53) Being thankful means to use the blessings that Allah gave you in a manner which is pleasing to Him.
So sometimes that’s all it takes: a small reminder to get back on track. A small reminder which, in my case, took the form of a toothless old man at the side of the road.***
Photo of Reuters/Mohammed Salem