“Doing any and everything for the chance just to come near So those slaves are always working, doing the same routines Over and over again you would think they were machines Fuelled by a gasoline that you wish you could see Cause it's a long journey to A Sirat al-Mustaqim.” - Boonaa Mohammed - “How to be a Slave”
These words – from a Canadian spoken word poet – came to mind yesterday, while thinking about the routines I’m in this Ramadaan. The month usually flips our routines, but this year, I’ve found it more special because – for the first time in almost a decade – I was actually inspired to comprehensively prepare for it. I set out what I wanted to achieve – what I wanted to try harder in, and a daily schedule, which used to be a staple of Ramadaans in years gone by (but fell away as life overwhelmed my spirit for an extended period).
And, by the grace of God, much of that plan has played out. And I feel better for it. I feel more like my old self – the one who, after coming back to the religion – strove to be better. It was, of course, far easier back then, because we are more malleable when we’re young. And, of course, there aren’t the responsibilities of full-on grown up life – with bills, kids, and a ton of life admin that never stops.
Anyway, so while I have fallen short in many of my plans, I’m still pleased that a lot of it has remained active throughout this month. Alhamdullilah (all praise to Allah). And in this context, that line about machines comes to mind. I thought about how I’ve been able to keep up with certain core activities this month, even when I don’t give myself the amount of sleep I should have. And how, even when I don’t feel the specialness of those moments, I still persist. Because I don’t do it for the feelings. I’m not doing it to feel spiritually elevated. We don’t worship feelings. We worship God. Spiritual elevation is a pleasant side-effect, if it comes.
I’m doing it because I know how beloved it is to my Maker. I know how exalted an act it is in Islam. And especially, how beloved it is to Allah that it is consistent, even though it’s far less effort when compared to the pious people of my community.
Coming back to the ‘machines’ line, though, I realise that from the outside – to people of other faiths, and maybe even Muslims to whom the rituals have always just been cultural habits (and they have rarely experienced the depth of the rituals) – to such people, it may seem robotic. Like we are just mindless machines repeating the same thing over and over again, void of feeling…void of heart and soul.
Yet it is the opposite. Though we may not always feel the spirituality, we are driven by higher purpose: “fuelled by a gasoline that you wish you could see” – that being God’s pleasure.
We were made to worship Him, as God tells us in the Quran. And though that ‘worship’ is far more comprehensive than the formal ritual acts of tongue (prayers or remembrance uttered) or physical action, those rituals still do play an important role, because humans are habitual by nature, and our Maker has prescribed these acts for us as a means of earning His pleasure. And we follow – we comply – whether we fully understand or not.
For me, growing up (and it was the same for many from my parents’ generation and those before them), Islam was taught in a parrot fashion sort of way: memorise what to say and what to do. It was your identity assigned by birth: you are Muslim, and this is what you do.
In some ways, Islam – in that context – could almost be considered cultural rather than spiritual. For the non-scholarly population, there wasn’t much focus on the meanings of those words and acts, nor the deeper wisdom behind them.
But as time went on, and Muslims in Western environments developed further, there has been tremendous advancement in going much deeper into the wisdoms and meanings of the religion. This has, no doubt, been aided by the internet – which has made knowledge far more accessible. It’s also given us connection – albeit virtual – to a vast array of teachers, whereas in the past, we would be limited to those within our locality – whose teaching style didn’t always resonate (and hence was not as effective as others could have been).
So, my kids’ generation – and those who will follow – are far better equipped to understand the religion from an earlier age.
But the pursuit of knowledge is for all ages, and the pursuit of self-purification and improvement is a constant one. Though we can never be perfect, we keep striving until the end, because excellence (ihsaan in Arabic), is a highly commended aspect of our faith.
And so, on we go – trying, and striving, on and on – like machines, because we know it’s all for a higher purpose. And though it can seem tedious – even feel tedious at times – we know that we are working for our Hereafter – our eternal life, which is so much greater than this world we live in here.
It’ll all be worth it in the end, God-willing.
How to Be a Slave
by Boonaa Mohammed
Back in the day they say that I came from slaves,
As though being a slave is something that would make me ashamed
Touché, homie, you would actually be amazed,
To know that we are all slaves, but in what kind of way
I mean, some people submit to cigarettes, smoking 5 times a day
And some people worship money, only to see it go away
Some people put their faith in whatever the weather man say
And some people even pray to the sun,
But I wondеr who created the sun anyways?
Somе people may tell you that life has no purpose
But some people are like pennies, two face and almost worthless
It’s like a gift and a curse that hurts even in between
But even through curses you can find gifts of hidden mercy
From the only one worthy of our serving and fear
Doing any and everything for the chance just to come near
So those slaves are always working, doing the same routines
Over and over again you would think they were machines
Fuelled by a gasoline that you wish you could see
Cause it’s a long journey to A Sirat al-Mustaqim (The straight path)
But becoming a slave is the only way you will ever become free
This world is a prison house; and I’m just serving my time like a G
Locked up in solitaire, what can my enemies to do me?
Paradise is in the heart and servitude is all that I seek
From a place where materialism has become a new religion
Where we always want more before we remember what we were given
Where your children are not safe from the lies on TV
Where role models pop bottles and pose nude for magazines
Welcome to the Dunya (worldly life), where things are not always what they seem
And your reality is more just like a really long dream,
More like a traveller stopping for shade under a tree,
More like a commercial break and you already forgot what you were watching,
Silly rabbit, every soul shall have its taste of death
And to Allah you will be brought right back
How man gets and forgets while he gives and forgives
Yes everyone will die, but not everyone truly lives
On their hands and knees, to the sky begging please
Do what is worthy of Thee; and not what is worthy of me
Ar-Rahmaanir-Rahiim, Maaliki Yawmid-Diin; (The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgement)
If not for your blessings than we would have nothing
So I feel no ways calling myself your slave
No matter what they say, to you alone I pray
The Greatest, Creator, Accounter and Judge,
The Most Holy King who sees all from above
The Wisest, Protector, Majestic, Avenger
The Light and the Guide, Forgiving and Kind
The Giver of Honour, Blessings and Peace
The First and the Last, the Truth, Ever Living
What kind of fool would not want to give him all of their love?
Why be a slave to this world when you could be Abdullah (A slave of God)
I’m a slave for you
I won’t deny it; I’m not trying to hide it
From these worldly tyrants, and these dunya pirates
Please make your slaves united, delighted and excited
Cause all good is provided, for the rightly guided
And if you’re undecided, don’t think you ain’t invited
Because yes I am a slave but no I’m not alone
There are billions of us; you should join our happy home
And bear witness, to the one true throne
Strip your ego down, leave your arrogance at the door
And surrender yourselves to the one true king
May we all remain slaves until we return back to him
Subhan Allah wa bi Hamdihi, Subhan Allah al-`Atheem (Glory be to God and His is the praise, (and) God, the Greatest is free from imperfection)
Wa-Alhumduallahi Rabbil-alameen (And all praise is for God, Lord of all the worlds)