By Mahmood Jawaid
It was one of the hottest afternoons in Corpus Christi, Texas, a beach town. We went to the beach to cool off and parked right by the water. After unpacking our stuff, we started to enjoy the waves touching our feet. It was then that I realized that we had camped between two rowdy groups of people. They were noisy and played music loudly.
Well, these were my excuses. My decision was probably influenced by my prejudice. Yes, sometimes we camouflage our bad attitude and feelings with seemingly good and rational excuses. Anyway, we decided to move to another location.
After packing our stuff back in the car, I tried to pull my car out, but it would not move. It was stuck in the sand. At that moment, the same group of people, whose company I had just abandoned, came to my rescue and pushed my car out. I felt embarrassed. A while ago I was looking down upon them and now, a few moments later, I was thanking them for coming to my rescue.
I learned my lesson the hard way: “Never look down upon others.” The reality of the matter is that life teaches us a lesson every moment, only if we are willing to listen. Then it is up to us to learn from it or ignore it.
It was this attitude of looking down on others that resulted in the downfall of Satan. According to the Holy Quran, when God created Adam, he asked the angels to bow to Adam. Everyone did, except Satan. He claimed that since he was made from fire and Adam from clay, he was better than Adam (Holy Quran 7:11-12 and 38:72-76).
Both the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran assert that all humans are the children of Adam and Eve. Science is also leaning toward our common origin. The differences we see among the races is only skin deep.
The Holy Quran reminds us: “O people! God created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other [not that you may despise each other]. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is [he who is] the best in conduct. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted [with all things]” (49:13).
The majority of factors that determine our status in society are preordained by when and where we are born. Thousands of children were born in 1948, probably quite a few on Nov. 14. But none, except Prince Charles, could become prince and heir to the throne of Great Britain, because none of them was born into a royal family.
What is true for Prince Charles is true for all of us. We have all benefited from the status of our parents and the society we grew up in. If I happened to be born in a famine-stricken or war-torn region of Africa, I could do only so much to improve my lot, and that would have been possible only if I would have survived the drought, famine and war.
On the other hand, if I were born in the United States or Europe, there would be lot going in my favor. With some initiative and hard work I could achieve a lot. Even in the United States, if I were born in a slum, the environment whereI would grow up would not only constrain the opportunities available to me; it would also limit my horizon of what I could think of achieving.
Science suggests that 50 percent of intelligence is inherited, while the other 50 percent is nurtured, both of which depend upon our parents. The genes they had and nurturing environment they provided to us played a major role in developing our intelligence.
Yes, it was our hard work, attitude and initiative that have contributed to our success, but we cannot deny the part played by factors beyond our control. We should be thankful for all the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. In the words of Prophet Solomon, we should say: “O my Lord! Inspire me to be grateful for your blessings which you have bestowed on me and on my parents and that I may work the righteousness that will please you: and admit me by your grace to the ranks of your righteous servants” (Holy Quran 27:19).
We should also be thankful to the Founding Fathers, who established a system that is based on liberty and justice and has promoted peace and prosperity in this nation of ours. We should also be grateful to all the previous generations of the United States who strove and fought to deliver liberty and justice for all.
Now the onus is upon us to pass on to our future generation the system we have inherited. The event of Sept. 11, 2001, though traumatic, should not lessen our commitment to ensure liberty and justice for all. This is the sure way to promote peace and prosperity in this great nation of ours.
We should never underestimate the worthiness of others, especially the poor and the weak. According to Jesus: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth,” and “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3-5, 10).
One day a person passed by Prophet Muhammad. He asked his companion sitting with him: “What do you think of this man who has just passed this way?” The companion said: “He is one of the respected men in the community; and by God, if he proposes marriage with any woman, his proposal should be accepted; and if he should recommend, his recommendation should prove effective.”
The Prophet kept quiet. Then another man passed, and he asked: “What is your opinion about this man?” The companion answered: “He belongs to the class of poor. If he goes for marriage, his proposal would not be accepted. If he were to intercede on behalf of any person; his intercession would be rejected, and if he were to speak, nobody would listen to him.”
The Prophet said: “This [poor] man is better than all the persons in the world, including the one whom you have just praised” (Riyadh-us-Saleheen 32:253). Apparently, the poor man was much better in conduct than the rest.
Sometimes it is the poor and dispossessed who make a big impact in society. After all, both Prophet Moses and Prophet David had humble beginnings. But it was Prophet Moses who caused the downfall of Pharaoh and liberated the Jews (Exodus chapters 1-15, Holy Quran 7:103-136), and it was Prophet David who killed the mighty Goliath and later established the Jewish kingdom (I Samuel 17:49-51, Holy Quran 2:246-251).
Whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, we are all like bricks in a wall. Each brick occupies a special position in the wall. Some are in the middle, some at the top, and some at the bottom of the wall. The position of any brick does not make it superior or inferior to other bricks. Each brick contributes to the strength of the wall.
The same is true for us all. In the words of Josephine Gray, “Every gentle raindrop that falls to earth below has a part in making some lovely flower grow. Every golden sunbeam with its warm and cheery light makes some corner of the world just a bit brighter. And so it is with people. Each has a gift to give that makes the world a nicer and a happier place to live.”
Jawaid is a writer who lives in Dunbar.