When I was 20 years old, I made the difficult decision to leave University. Having got there 3 years earlier, I had changed my majors each year trying to rediscover what it was that I was meant to do with my life. From Psychology to Public Policy, each time the majors I choose seemed inefficient to channel my own creative process, thoughts & understanding. Not that I thought I knew everything, but indeed, the education I was receiving had already been streamlined to some predefined mode. Ill-equipped to deal with matters outside its range of permissible factors. Where science cannot deal with the rawness of nature and what it reflects about the human situation, it invents new data and factors it can deal with, dislocated from the natural human experience.
You take a Dog and kill it. Dissect it and study it in hopes that it will share a light on what “Dog” is. But this will only ever tell you what “Dead Dog” is, for the Dog is no longer what it was. “Dog” is also behavior, it is by its nature, what it does. In death everything returns to its base elements until it becomes the nutrients in the soil from which life grows again. What “Dog” is, is nothing more than the miracle of creation unraveling, living, discovering, learning, loving, fighting, biting, protecting, fading & dying. This is what we are.
Being Muslim, already my sense of identity was patterned out to accommodate new ideas but not the notion of what not to think and what not to read. Course material was given to you in small bite-size modules and filtered through a lens of what was academically acceptable to the institution I was studying at. In a way I was there to learn only what was to be an accepted status quo in order to enter the job market. Democracies top down approach. I felt brainwashed and dissatisfied by the delineation of what was supposed to be for me, A Brave New World.
Coupled with a traumatic experience of a hijacking earlier in that same year, added to my disorientation that led to me de-registering from university. I think it is important to mention here, that I don’t personally discourage university education for I see the benefit in it. But rather I encourage self discovery. For the world has a natural disposition to educate you. As the events unravel before you, so you unravel with it. Offering you in vision, a glimpse not just of the world and its event, but you in the world more specifically.
“I’m here now, and I wish to do something.”
I left university that day, after de-registering, and made my way to some friends of mine that I held in very high regard. An architect & the other a business man. They both worked out of a building on the main road not far from the university where I was. I Walked into the office and called them aside to talk to them and tell them what I had just done. I wanted to explain myself, to clarify my position in hopes that they might transmit a wise view on it. “I haven’t done a rash thing” I explained. “I have given it a lot of thought, and I have come to a point where I had to do this.” “I’m here now, and I wish to do something.” To my surprise and great fortune of knowing these two gentlemen, I received no argument. It was decided that they would find something for me to do and that there was a business that they would like to discuss with me.
What followed was a continuous meeting with them to outline steps we would need to take to put this plan into action. What happened by consequence however was that we would meet on a regular basis at a cafe in Woodstock and share a meal with each other. Together at each meeting we would discuss various matters, from the world, life, the Deen, business & politics. In a right, It was an education on its own. On one such occasion, whilst sitting with them over a cup of coffee, I noticed on the wall an abstract painting. The painting itself didn’t fascinate me as much as you would expect, yet I found myself so drawn to it that I continued to look back at it after returning to the men and the conversation. It was a simple blocked canvas without a frame that hung on the wall. I distracted myself with the conversation until it was time to conclude.
We rose from the table to leave, but before leaving I walked over to the painting. I investigated it up and down, wondering why I found it so interesting. To all my efforts, I could not find anything and was about to turn away when I noticed on the side of the canvas block, a line drawn upwards from the bottom. Strange as there was no need for there to be one unless it was a blemish. I came closer to it at a hand space away and realized it was not a line but some finely printed words. As I looked closer I could make out what was written.
“If you want to know the way forward, ask the people in front.”
“How incredible” I thought. What a simple answer to an overwhelming situation. This of-course meant that I had to ask the question, “What do I want?” In all honesty, besides my social upbringing, besides what I had been pre-programmed to think and aspire to, what do I really want? From the very core of my being, soft but audible word was spoken. “SUCCESS” In life, in the Deen, In business, in marriage, in wealth & in character. I want success. What I found strange that occurred after this, was an odd and obvious conversation with myself, justifying that indeed, success was something I could ask for, I was allowed to ask for. I was ok; it was not wrong to want wealth & success, socially or by my own spiritual ascetic leanings. What this publication is about is a self discovery that followed. A re-visioning, of ourselves, of the world, of this inherited Deen. “Repeat after me: It is all, all contained in me. Now I must act. It will be short, but the interim is mine.” (The Interim is Mine, Ian Dallas, pg.155)
I call to mind, Allah’s invitation in His call to prayer, The Adhan,
“Haya alal Falah! Haya alal Falah!”
Come to success! Come to success!