Everyday in Jamatkhana, the religious place of prayer for Ismaili Muslims, there is either a Farman (speech of guidance) or, on rare occasions, a Wa’ez (similar to a Sermon at Church) on topics such as spirituality, education, health, service, and life struggles. Last night’s topic was on the reality of relationships and goals we should all strive for, a topic that was entirely relevant to myself and many others I know, and one I felt was definitely worth sharing.
The guest speaker began his Wa’ez, which initially seemed to be about gratitude, with the mention of three parts to expressing thankfulness. First, the importance of saying your thanks out loud each day, because the more you recognize the positive, the more it will come your way. Secondly, that simply saying it is not enough and that feelings of this gratitude should be deeply felt as well. And lastly, to make proper use of what you are thankful for, because used wrongly or not at all, is a waste of the blessing. For example, the Creator has made fire, which can be used to cook food and sustain life, as well as for evil to burn down an enemy’s home. Another example he used was intellect- you can either use your education to make a positive difference in society, or bask in the glory of all your knowledge but do nothing to share it with others, ultimately letting it go to waste. And then, as he began to speak about relationships and families being the greatest blessing in life, I realized the speech was about much more than just gratitude.
Before I get into that, I want to mention another topic he touched on briefly, which was about the deadly sin of envy, told via a story about birds at a zoo. A simple black crow, who had always been fairly happy, one day saw a white duck. He began to become sad that he was not as beautiful as the white duck, but when he asked the duck if he was happy, the duck answered that he used to be..until he met a parrot, who must be more happy since he is more colorful. The two of them went to the parrot to ask if he was happy, only to hear that the parrot used to be…until he met the peacock. All three birds, now deeply unhappy, went up to the peacock and asked him what it was like to be happy. The peacock, beautiful in all its bright feathers, responded, “What is this happiness you speak of? My colors are a curse that have taken away my freedom and kept me in this cage where people come and take pictures of me all day. I have always been envious of one bird- the black crow, who flies free, how happy he must be!” The human tendency towards jealousy is no different than this story- each human being is a miracle of life and trying to fit pages from someone else’s story into your book will make no sense and mess up your own book. Be yourself, the way you were meant to be, and never compare yourself to anyone else.
And finally, he got into what the speech was truly about, which is the importance of love and REAL relationships. The Creator of the Universe has destined a mate for every person with whom to share life and create a family to continue the circle of life. At the beginning of this cycle is relationships. He gave the example of a plane that is shaky during takeoff, which is entirely normal. Any sane person would understand that the plane will stabilize once it’s in the air after a period of time, but only an insane person would jump off the plane immediately. Similarly, when a husband and wife are newly married, their relationship is fragile. It needs love, but also understanding, compassion, forgiveness, and most importantly, patience. Every human being is different so it is necessary to take your time and learn to live with and embrace those differences, rather than quitting the relationship altogether.
He went on to mention Ego as the root of all evil- “‘I’ is the most dangerous word, and ‘We’ is the only solution to it”. A simple apology, saying the word, “Sorry” whether you’re at fault or not, can save the most precious gift of family. But once anger kicks in, the Ego takes over, and words are said that cannot be undone. He pointed out how easy it is to place blame on your partner, but how hard it is to realize that nothing and no one on this planet is perfect, including yourself. He then read an excerpt from the Holy Qu’ran that translates, “Allah created Man in pairs…they are clothing for you (and) you are clothing for them”. When a married couple fight in court or in front of a third party and place blame on each other, it is like they are stripping each other of their clothing in public. It is a core ethic of Islam that a man and wife should never shame each other, but rather, protect the integrity of one another in any and all circumstances. It is important to keep whatever issues occur within a marriage to stay within that relationship in order to prevent long-term and irreparable damage within families and in society.
And lastly, on this topic he mentioned children and the elderly as part of the circle of life. When kids are young, they are innocent, and their utmost need is that of time, love, and affection. In the same way, when your parents are growing older, it is vital to treat them with the same patience and care as that of a child, to forgive easily and spend time with them, and understand that there is no shame in this whatsoever. In fact, it is something to aim for and be proud of, because the gift of life given to us by our parents is one that can never be repaid.
The speaker went on to mention several other aspects of family life and providing his perspective on how to properly handle issues that may arise amongst individuals or families. But in order to prevent this post from being one of my longest ones yet, I’ll spare you all the rest of the details- I think I got most of the important parts, anyways. A final takeaway point mentioned towards the end was the reminder that we all come from and return to the same place and only our soul is eternal. Our time in this life is short, so be grateful for what you have, say sorry often and forgive easily in order to use the blessing of relationships to their fullest, and try to live by the words of my favorite quote from the Wa’ez: