A wonderful post by my friend and guide, Tasif Zaman


Dear Companion,

“Do not build unnecessary walls, because when they eventually fall, you will be hurt”. This was the advice of the elders and righteous related by my Teacher. To be honest, at first, I didn’t understand the advice at all. It was only weeks later whilst residing in the Blessed City of Madinah and being faced by a dilemma that its meaning became clear to me.
Waking up from a peaceful nap in the Masjid, just meters away from the Blessed resting place of the Prophet (saw), I realised my ‘man bag’ was missing. The bag had my phone, some cash (approx. £50) and my debit card inside it. For me, the most valuable item in the bag was undoubtedly my phone. The phone didn’t have any significant intrinsic value; rather I felt more at loss for what was inside the phone. In fact I had gradually made the phone a ‘hub’ of memories: not only did it contain all my contacts but also pictures from travels, my personal reflections and nearly a year’s worth of personal development checklist[1]  all of which had (conveniently) not been backed up. These memories were a source of self-assurance and motivation in my daily life. I had to get the phone back!
There were two possibilities: (1) I had left the bag behind somewhere in the mosque (2) the bag had been stolen. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that someone could steal in the Blessed Masjid of the Prophet (saw) so I decided that I had misplaced it[2] and the [ever-efficient] cleaners had picked it up. Here, however,  here was my dilemma: I could invest the remainder of our limited stay in the Blessed City of the Prophet (saw) either in trying to find the phone or in concentrating on spiritual development.
After a couple unsuccessful of visits to the lost and found office I had a chance to follow up the individual who had stolen my bag through numbers he had called using my phone which my network provider had given me. I, however, decided not to take any further steps. I realised that it was necessary for me to put the phone behind me and develop real attachments.
Whether it is memories (stored in a phone or otherwise), a loved person, the desired academic grades or career, we sometimes make objects a source of our happiness or security. We often create these ‘attachments’ to foster a sense of invulnerability at the expense of something else. How do we know we’ve grown an ‘attachment’? Well, just think about how we react when the object we relied upon lets us down! How do we feel when a person we expected to ‘be there’ for us fails to do so? How do we react when we fall short of securing our academic or professional goals? Many times we feel ‘robbed’, betrayed or cheated. These are and nothing but tests.
I was reminded of the story of a righteous predecessor who was recognised a great Friend of Allah (Awliyah Allah). His house had been robbed of all its possessions during a night. In the morning, the neighbours, having heard of the calamity that had befallen the righteous Wali, paid a visit to him in order to share their condolences and offer support. To their surprise, they found the Wali in prostration (sujood), thanking Allah (swt). Confused, they enquired why the Wali was showing gratitude- he had just been robbed of everything! The Wali, replied: “I am thanking Allah (swt) for two things: firstly that I may have been robbed but at least I didn’t oppress anyone or wasn’t compelled to rob others and secondly the thieves have only robbed something of this world (Dunya) and not from my Hereafter (Akhira).
My first reaction to losing the phone was one of despair and anger – not gratitude. I was even prepared to sacrifice invaluable time in the Blessed City of the Prophet (saw) in order to recuperate it. We are usually weary of being ‘materialistic’ or ‘loving the Dunya’ with more obvious material objects such as money, clothes and cars. But how careful are we with more subtle forms of worldly attachments?
The reality is that we create unnecessary walls. Walls with weak foundations, based on deception and falsehood (in other words, the Dunya) and thus they are bound to collapse. The created can never be the source of our happiness and contentment. They are merely the means. The Creator is the ultimate source.
For me, this highlighted the importance of the Purification of the Inward (Tazkiyah).
The people of Dunya and the People of Allah, outwardly, often look the same. We pray, and they pray. We eat, and they eat. What is different however, is the state of their heart, mind and soul. It is these states that cultivate a person who has the Dunya in his hand but not in his heart. Their reliance and source of happiness and safety is ultimately Allah, the Lord and Sustainer of the Worlds.
Yours Sincerely,
1/11th of a Pilgrim, Tasif

[1] Personal Development Checklist or Plans (PDCs or PDPs) are a practical way of accounting for your daily actions (Muhasiba). A usual ‘Islamic’ PDP will keep a daily record of your prayers (quantity and quality), tilwaat, adhkar, reading, and learning.
[2] I would later confirm that the bag had indeed been stolen. Ultimate proof came when the phone bill for that month was £160. The calls were mainly international calls to Saudi and India made in the two days in-between the phone going missing and the sim-card being blocked.

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