2016. That’s sixteen years after the whole Millennium aka Y2k (who even remembers that term?) Fiasco-That-Wasn’t. Babies born in that year are teenagers on the brink of youth now… And I was already an adult then. I lived through what was a momentous time for our generation and then it passed us by and faded into the past. That’s how history is made, I guess.
But not all history fades away, does it? We still remember events and people who had an impact on our present, we keep their memories alive because what they left for us in the world helped us to reach where we are today. What we have learned from their cotributions has left us feeling indebted to them despite the fact that they are strangers to us in all other respects.
When I look at the events unfolding in the current times, I wonder what it is that we will chose to remember and what we will chose to forget. Keeping a memory alive isn’t about recording it down on paper – there’s thousands of books filled with ‘memories’ that no one cares to recall. Keeping a memory alive is about re-living it over and over again until it becomes so much a part of us that we begin to own it on a personal level. Forgetting it would be like forgetting who we are.
I often wonder what memories are important for me to pass on to my daughter. Will it change her life if I forget to note down when she first sat up or started to crawl? Will she feel less complete if I don’t mark out when each of her teeth emerged? Is it important to her self-development to know how we spent sleepless nights wondering why she was cranky and listless only to have her fall fast asleep in the morning after volunteering a polite hiccup of a burp. (How can such a small amount of ‘nothing’ cause so much trouble?)
I also wonder how to pass on the memories or habits I think are important to her – praying, reciting Qur’an, talking regularly to God, giving charity, helping others, contributing to society, exploring, reading! So many things that I want her to learn to do like second nature instead of having to stop and think about when the last time she did them was and whether that action was ‘due’ for some attention.
I realised the answer lies (yes, I know it’s cliché, but then what Truths aren’t?) in how I live my own life. Really. I mean, we say it all the time: practice what you preach, lead by example, walk your talk… but it’s so true that every second of your life is observed by your children and they will learn best what they see you express non-verbally.
The other day I asked my husband why in spite of all my efforts to teach our daughter how to stack a set of rings on a stand, she still prefers to just toss them aside or chew on them, while on the other hand, despite all my efforts to keep her away from phones, she already pokes her forefinger at a blank screen or tries (tentatively) to swipe across it. He was busy reading news on his mobile at that time and didn’t offer more than a curious grunt in reply. Which got me thinking.
My conscious attempt at teaching her a new skill was focused on a few minutes daily, while she was observing our unconcious use of our phones all day long. Wasn’t it inevitable that she would pick the habit that she was exposed to more frequently even though we have never taught it to her or even directed her attention to it?
On that basis then, will she really learn to be concerned about the affairs of the ummah worldwide if I only expose her to it on the news for a few minutes everyday? Will she learn to give up her own luxuries (and hopefully a few needs as well) so that she can give to the less fortunate if we only speak of them once in a while during a crisis?
Will she be able to long for her Imam (atfs) if we only remember him by reciting Dua al-Faraj once a day or Dua al-Nudba on Fridays? Are the weekly acts of worship or the daily ones for that matter enough to make true Muslims – in the sense of ‘Submitters’ – out of us and her? Are these habits that I will be teaching her or traits she can imbibe into her character?
‘Islam is a way of life’. A simple statement repeated a million times over and memorised by every Muslim child. But it’s comprehensiveness and depth is lost on the majority of us.
The challenge is not being a Muslim or proclaiming the faith, it is in actually living the reality of submission every single moment. It in waking every morning with a heaviness in your soul because you are incomplete without your Imam (atfs). It is cradling a sadness in your heart because your brothers and sisters are undergoing unspeakable sorrows and you can find no way to help or save them.
The challenge is remembering that reality is not only about what is happening in the small area of your personal life, but what is happening on a global scale. Reality is about the interconnectedness of everyone and everything and what it means for humanity as a whole.
Most of us live in little shells surrounded by our own comforts and grievances, popping our heads out once in a while to see what’s going on around us and then withdrawing back into those shells. We begin to think that our lives are the center of the world, albeit unconsciously. We are neither conscious nor aware of the constant passage of time and the fact that we are steadily moving forward towards an end.
Every night I go to bed making a promise to myself to be more present so that my daughter will learn to be the same. Every morning I wake up and promptly forget that promise. It’s a vicious cycle that I don’t seem able to break out of. Yet.
However, no one will teach my child the lessons I want to on my behalf. She is my responsibility and guarding her is my priority. If I truly believe that, then I have no choice but to make the changes I need to before it is too late.
Maybe if I can start to be real for my self and my daughter, then I will one day be able to be real with regard to my Imam (atfs) and my God.