“What is the idea that the world to needs to know? What is that core idea that is fresh and unique to you?” That questions just refused to left me. I first heard it when I was watching Chris Anderson’s talk at TED about what makes a great talk, great. I have been pondering about them since then. On and off, of course.
The other night that questions came up again. So I posed them as a question to myself. I waited for a response. It came in the form of a distant memory: of me sitting before the Ka’baah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 2003, asking God for a favor, “Show me how to read the Qur’an. Because I don’t believe that God who is The Compassionate, The Merciful, is as strict and vengeful as they say You are.”
Wow, I didn’t expect that. I didn’t realize how life-changing that moment had been for me.
I was born and raised as a moslem in a country where the majority of the population are moslems. I went through an extensive period of time studying the religion. Some studies were quite strict, but most were thankfully kind.
I must have grown quite restless. I began to question several things. Why there were so much contradictions happening between what I have learned and what was going on around me. Why some teachings felt constrictive. There were times when I even wondered whether I was still a moslem. Yet, at the same time, I was drawn to it. I didn’t want to leave.
So I did the only thing I could think of. I asked that one Being who could respond to my request: “Show me how to read the Qur’an. Because I don’t believe that God who is The Compassionate, The Merciful, is as strict and vengeful as they say You are.”
He heard me, and conformed.
I always thought He responded through the teachers I have met along the way. Those Qur’an study facilitators whose explanations are soothing and sensible. Then I met other teachers who come from different traditions. What a rich experience.
As I was writing this post, I realised something else. The response was much vaster than I thought. He was very precise and thorough in His response. Indeed, He responded to my request.
He – He has obliged Himself to do so, upon my request, out of Love.
Shows – He takes me around to see, He demonstrate, He leads, He teaches me how.
Me – a unique, personal, private experience like no other.
How – step by step, patiently, until the day I understand. “How” can only be learned through experience. The only experience I have is life.
To Read – to recite, to read, to explain, to study, to investigate, to hear, to look – to understand (things as they are).
The Qur’an – The literal meaning of Qur’an, which comes from the root word Qaf-Ra-Alif (to read), is the thing that one reads. The object of reading. What do we read? The whole world, including ourselves.
He said, “We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?” (Qur’an 41: 53). And He is true to His Words.
God, The Compassionate, The Merciful – He, as The Compassionate, The Merciful, is the guide in this journey. The names color the journey. To see this journey as a journey of compassion and mercy, from the perspective of the Most Compasionate, The Infinitely Merciful.
So that is what He has been, still is, and, God willing, will always be doing: to show me how to understand His signs in the horizons and within myself, until it becomes clear to me that it is the Truth.
The way, for me, is Islam, in its widest, purest, most universal sense: surrender, obedience. To keep polishing my mirror, leaving all the space for Him to fill, wilingly being moved, and following.
A beautiful dance with the Universe. And as all dancers know – it can sometimes be a rough path, full of victories and struggles, laughters and tears, ups and downs, and occasional heartbreaks and injuries.
Yet we persist as we feel joy deep within. When we dance, we feel our aliveness. We know no other way to live, nor do we want to live any other way. We know we are unleashing our truth – alllowing the world see our vulnerable, beautiful self. Until that one point during the dance, when there is no more dancer. There is only the dance.
This may sound out of this world and unfamiliar. But it is in fact the opposite. It is practical, simple, and real. It is offering an alternative way of living. One which may be closer to who we are.
Ask Him, and listen to His response.