By Mahmood Jawaid
My friend S. K. passed away after a protracted illness. "Indeed we have all originated from (the breath) of God and to Him shall we return." Indeed he did. It is not fair to call him my friend. He was my 'Murshid' (that is what the disciples of Sufis call their master, meaning the one who guides).
I neither knew him, nor knew anything about him when I moved to Houston about 21 years ago. Even when I came across him in parties, I did not pay much attention to him. He was a quiet type of a person. What would I gain by sitting around a person who won't do much talking? I was always interested in having some lively talk that I was not going to get from him.
Things changed when he came to our house for dinner. He was one of the guests among many. I still remember vividly. The dinner was served. I happened to sit next to him. I had no choice. There was no other place for me to sit. As usual I started eating without paying much attention to him. But as I was eating, I began to notice that this calm and quiet guy was not quiet at all. Before placing a morsel of food in his mouth, he would thank God many times. Now I was paying attention to him. Indeed he continued to do so with each morsel till he finished his food. Yes, we all praise God at the beginning and at the end of our meal, but not with every morsel.
I have been reciting the opening chapter of the Quran, which starts with the praise of God, in every prayer ever since I learned to offer prayer. But it has always been a motion I go through. I never internalized the concept behind it. Every now and then I would say rosary (33 times 'Glory to God,' 33 times 'Thanks to God,' and 34 times 'God is the greatest'), but it was only to make sure that I complete the count of 100. Did I really mean what I was reciting? My mind would be mostly somewhere else. Here I was sitting with a person who had internalized the meaning of thanking God. He was thanking God at every breath. Isn't that what life is all about? Isn't the true meaning of the Quranic term 'Kafir,' usually implied for infidels, is the person who refuses to thank God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us? Doesn't the Quran say "If you are thankful to Me (God), I will give you more?"
Since then it became my practice to sit next to him whenever I met him in parties and watch him. Watch a unique creature of God who was bent on thanking God every moment he could find. It was also his habit to thank God while waiting the signal to turn green. I could almost hear the angel of death saying to him, "O You the satisfied soul! Come back to your Lord. Be well pleased with yourself and God is well pleased with you," The Quran (89:27-28). May God bless S.K. He taught me something I can never find in books. No, he never gave me a discourse on the Quran or on the nuances of Islamic Jurisprudence. He taught me by his example that every breath we take is a gift of God and we must thank Him for it.
Jawaid lived in West Virginia until recently. He now lives and writes in Texas. He has authored books and articles on religion and can be reached at mnajaw...@yahoo.com.