By Heesha She, New Age Islam
05 June 2018
Muno was in the hospital, by Resha’s side. Resha’s condition was fast deteriorating. The cancer had eaten up his insides and the doctors had announced that he would probably die within the week.
A glimmer of a smile quivered on Resha’s lips as their eyes met. It was as if Resha was saying to Muno: “Don’t at all feel sad for me. Please don’t look so glum! You won’t believe how glad I am that I’m going very soon! I’ve almost finished playing my role in the world-drama!”
Muno nodded his head and smiled back—a sad smile—as if to say, ‘Yes, dear. I understand.”
Muno had never been so close to a dying man before. The thought struck him that this was the last time he would ever see Resha, who had been his colleague at office for several years. It felt surreal.
Muno didn’t want to burden Resha with his presence much longer. It isn’t good to compel a dying man to make polite conversation, he thought. He stood up to leave.
But he couldn’t just leave like that, could he? He had to say something or the other to Resha while parting. But what? He had never addressed a dying man, and so he didn’t know what to do.
Of late—after many years of chaotic, ‘no-limits’ living—Muno had begun to take God seriously. He had even started praying and spending time at places of worship and retreat centres. He hadn’t told anyone about this though. Who knows what they might think or say if they came to know? He was petrified that they might rake up his past (especially the reckless sex life that he had revelled in till God rescued him). “You did all sorts of things all these years, and now you’re posing as so pious!” he could imagine them mocking him.
As Muno was taking leave of Resha he was seized by the urge to tell him: “God bless you dear. Spend as much time as you can now thinking of God. Pray to God to forgive you for your sins. God will take care of you. Your last thoughts before you leave the world should be of God. They say that your life in the hereafter is shaped by the last thoughts that you have before you depart from here. So, try to think of God now, and nothing else.”
But Muno forced himself to resist the urge to utter these words. Instead, he muttered, with false cheerfulness: “I’ll go now. All the best, Resha. Hope everything will be fine.”
Some days later—this was after Resha had died—Muno’s mind turned to the events of that day at the hospital. He was ashamed at his behaviour: offering those meaningless words as sham consolation to his dying friend. What had prevented him from saying to Resha those things about God that had come into his mind as he was parting from him, words that might have been of invaluable help in Resha’s journey to the other world?
“It’s because you are just too embarrassed to take God’s Name”, a thought came into Muno’s mind.
That was absolutely true, Muno at once admitted. Although he had faith in God, he rarely talked about God with others, even when he wanted to. Sometimes, as in the hospital that day, he felt a deep urge to refer to God in his conversations, but he held his tongue.
To Understand Why, You Need To Take Into Account The Following Facts:
· No one in Muno’s family ever spoke about God. The only time the word ‘God’ was mentioned in the house was not in reference to God, but as an expression of extreme, generally negative, emotion (as for example, when Muno might say: “Oh God! I’m late!” or “Oh God! I hate Maths!”, or when Muno’s mother might scream at him: “Oh God! I’m fed up of you!”, or when Muno’s father might exclaim, ‘I swear by God I’m not lying!”). You might not have been wrong if you said that things like money, fame, power, sex, food or ‘having a good time’ were the gods the family (Muno included) actually ‘worshipped’—because these were precisely what they lived for and what they regarded as of ultimate value in life.
· No one in Muno’s family prayed. (As a child, Muno’s mother had taught his siblings and him a set of prayers, which they recited before meals. But this practice had stopped not long after it had started).
· God wasn’t mentioned even once in Muno’s conversations with friends and teachers at school or later, at university—over a period of around 25 years. And mind you, Muno studied in what were regarded as some of supposedly ‘top-class’ institutions.
· In all the jobs that Muno had held, not once could he recall a single conversation with colleagues or anyone else where God was referred to (other than when someone claimed that faith in God was a sign of ‘alienation’ or ‘false consciousness’ or some such thing).
Muno and the people he was surrounded with had completely exiled themselves from God, you see. Their abandonment of God was so total that in the circles in which Muno moved if anyone were to take God seriously, he or she would be branded as:
‘Depressed’ and in need of psychiatric help.
Belief in God, these people insisted, was ‘sheer escapism’. Only ‘pre-scientific’ or ‘pre-modern’ people took God seriously, they claimed. If challenged, they might even had said in their defence something like this: “According to a recent survey, many scientists in the West are atheists, and so, God is a myth”—as if the beliefs and practices of some self-appointed ‘experts’ in some distant part of the globe were the standard for the rest of the world to compulsorily follow.
Given the milieu in which Muno had been brought up and lived, it wasn’t surprising, he told himself as he reflected on his behaviour at the hospital that day that he hesitated to talk about God with others. He didn’t want to be mocked or thought of as strange or worse for doing so.
“Well, then, your fear of what people might think of you if you speak of God is stronger than your professed love for God”, Muno told himself.
“That’s true,” Muno hesitatingly admitted. “It’s something that I really need to think about.”
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