“Whosoever knows himself, knows his Lord.”
How many of us really know ourselves? For sure we are either going to school or university, are working as lawyers or other professionals, we belong to certain cultures and geographical areas etc. And each one of these could define us. “I’m a doctor.” “I speak Spanish.”“I’m a housewife.” “I come from Nigeria.” But is that all we will afford ourselves to? I find that, and I speak for myself, that we run around in autopilot most of the time soullessly categorising ourselves into what are superficial and unyielding depictions. If for example one identifies themselves as a doctor then they simply belong to a group of people who supposedly have expert knowledge of the human body, medicines and are actively involved in helping to heal a person when these systems malfunction. The danger with this is falling into a prearranged role of some sort where we work like machines for the sake of working and lose all the dimensions of being human. We disregard the fact that there is much more to each and every one of us, much more that makes us different and worthy of being ourselves rather than having to belong to a societal category. Each day is no longer about personal development or following one’s internal goals but to wake up on time so as not to miss the ward round, read up enough to pass exams and come home in time to take the car to the garage before it closes. Each day becomes a blind routine filled up with seemingly important empty tasks and errands. So there really is no wonder that we fail to find the appropriate time and means for ourselves and internal goals let alone self discovery.
We are denying ourselves by degrading ourselves to a robotic rank. Every so often the human inside of us kicks in and we feel the need for a ‘break’ or ‘retreat’ to escape from the world we have created. We feel frustrated, annoyed and confused because we have lost sight of where our lives are heading because we’ve been on autopilot for so long, and the longer it goes on for the harder it is to escape; and we keep going round in vicious circles never really doing anything effective to cut the circuit despite convincing ourselves of many a ‘fresh starts’.
Allah says in the Qur’an, “And be not like those who forgot Allah and He caused them to forget their ownselves…”
— Qur’an, 59:19
Remembrance of our Creator and where we came from is essential and completely intertwined with how much ‘in touch’ we are with ourselves i.e. how much we are aware of the internal messages our own selves tell us and how much we value ourselves. Because we have been created for a specific purpose we are like the puzzle piece designed to fit exactly into a specific gap – that is the optimum. So when we are trying to fit into other gaps, our own selves tell us that something is not right through our emotions, such as explained above with regards to frustration/anger/sadness/feeling incomplete to direct us back to the equilibrium. But most of us ignore these and try fighting against them, never being able to fit into the right gap. So we perpetually push to put ourselves into places where we don’t really belong, and the reason we don’t reach the state of being comfortable with ourselves is due to the continuous messages we receive from inside us. By continuously ignoring the cues we fall into a complete denial and permanent state of internal unrest – we forget ourselves. And that really is the worst as it only leads to us spiralling downwards as we devalue ourselves and our purpose.
“We have indeed created man in the best of moulds.”
— Qur’an, 95:4
لَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ فِىٓ أَحۡسَنِ تَقۡوِيمٍ۬
‘Ahsan’ comes from ‘husn’ which denotes beauty; both internal and external. ‘Taqweem’ signifies the assembly of multiple components together in perfect balance in order to stand upright and to perfectly design something to fit its purpose. This is how we have been created. This is the kind of mould we have been designed for. Subhanallah, what a remarkable honour it is to have bestowed upon us by the Creator of all the worls. So who are we to bring ourselves down to the lowly level of an aimless machine? This is what we forget. It is incredible how Allah (swt) points out to us the obvious reality which we deny so often that we are indeed made up of multiple components – mind, body, soul, whatever you want to call it – and that He has designed for these to work in perfect sync with each other. We cannot ignore one and accept the other, because then we do not accept the fact that we are human. This is what being human is. And this is why Islam addresses us as a whole. It is why the Qur’an and Hadith, as ‘religious’ texts, does not just instruct on the means of prayer but also on our education, personal hygiene, family matters, law and jurisprudence, health, food, agriculture etc. It addresses all components, which together make us human. Like a soul cannot exist without the body in this dunya, neither can the body exist without the soul. It just does not work. Islam considers the physical and the ethereal, and we realise this through the remembrance of God.
To find ourselves again, we need to freeze our autopilot programmes. This does not necessarily mean to stop everything we do, but rather to increase our awareness by flipping over our perspectives in many areas such as ‘work’. Consequently, this will allow ourselves to become more aware of life as it was designed to be and form our future actions to be purposeful so that we may regain passion in whatever we do.
“…Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah. For without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.”
— Qur’an, 13:28