Reflection isn’t easy if it’s 45 years of your life and you’re trying to summarize everything in a tiny, tiny article. My mind goes not too far and not too deep, it lingers around the obvious – life’s too short to get too invested.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, the average age of the people of my Ummah (my followers) is 60 years. Divide 60 by 3 and you get three phases of your life, two decades long each. At 45 today, I’ve spent two of them entirely and another 25% of that third phase already – what’s left isn’t much and isn’t enough.
Think of anyone you know from history – legends, leaders, great men and women – people who passed away more than 70 odd years ago, chances are, they’ve spent more time dead than they spent when alive. Many have turned in their graves for some lifetimes over, and it’s very sad once you realize that this would be you, some point in time.
Being dead is an eventuality; if one can keep that in focus, life becomes much easier than what it is for most people.
Turning 40 was scary for me, not that I was 40 that day, no, it was because I had once exclaimed to two of my closest friends that, given how life is today, it’s tests and harshness, I would probably be dead by 40. I had said this when we were all playing cricket in my room, back in Askari Apartments 4, and I was about 20 years of age or thereabout. They were both a bit sad to hear this, and I never regretted saying it for one bit, and not at all because they were sad or anything. I only felt that living in a more dangerous, ruthless world meant that life would end abruptly.
We lost our dear school friend Faisal Munir in 1994. I consider that as one of the most painful moments of my life. I’m not sure about other friends, but Faisal was my best friend – most loving, caring and a huge teddy-bear kind of guy. We spent time together doing crazy stuff when science exhibitions were held at our school, or when we simply went to have steak at PDO.
That trip for steak was a nerve-wrecking experience. It was his idea, and I was scared to death…and I never knew he was going to unleash this scare on me. Moments before one of those wide speed breakers approached, he exclaimed, ‘Hold me tight at the belly!’ I may have pleaded, shouted, screamed ten times to have him not do it, but that was it, we were airborne in a couple of seconds at the back of his motorbike. I had simply survived that first jump, not knowing that another speed breaker was heading our way. Once I saw it, I knew what he was going to say, so I just grabbed him tight and prayed! As the motorbike landed after that second jump, the back tire had wobbled, and for a split second I thought we’d fall. We didn’t. The steak was tasty too!
When I turned 40, I was like DAMN. Did I curse myself into some form of spell – having said that I’d die at 40? I don’t believe in all this, and I never thought I had — still, once you say something absurd like this, it can come back to haunt you. The human spirit to live and endure is undying and it keeps us wanting to go forever.
Isn’t that the ultimate goal of science today – to figure out a way to move human consciousness to a livable system where we can continue to live forever? This is a valid scientific problem, and it’s interesting. If everything is material, as scientists love to believe (us Muslims don’t), then there’s a material reason and possibility to simply transmogrify into digital beings.
Nonsense. Any digital existence so designed by humans, or artificial intelligence, will be void of age, pain, suffering, disruption, the daily challenges of life and the question of conscience and morals. I’ll be more hopeful of artificial intelligence throwing a realistic challenge at us in terms of design, but most such artificial ‘intelligence’ relies on human-designed models of understanding – yup, so far we dictate what AI must do and how. Ever wonder why Youtube Ads and suggestions are so stupid?
We humans are good at conjecture, especially in areas of thought where we have zero understanding. Allah Subhana Wa Taala gives us a clear answer:
Every soul shall have a taste of death: and only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the fire and admitted to the garden will have attained the object (of life): for the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception. Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently and guard against evil then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. Verses 185 and 186 of Sūra 3: Āl-i-‘Imrān, or The Family of ‘Imrān
I’m 45 today. I was born at around 6:00 AM on July 18, 1976 and it had rained like the devil all night in Karachi. My second Mamu (uncle), who was with my parents, says that they drove through heavy, crazy rain to the hospital with broken wipers on his windscreen! Baree Phuppi (my older aunt), who has passed away, told me the story of that night almost every time we met. She used to say, “Jis din tum paida howey thay, waisi barish Karachi main kabhee nahee pari thee (the day you were born, that kind of rainfall had never happened in Karachi).”
The mysteries of life, it’s trials and tribulations, it’s challenges, it’s nuances, it’s many, many hurtful moments, it’s beautiful bright days, it’s rain and it’s grandeur, it’s staring in our faces, it’s rewards, it’s miracles, it’s friendships, it’s never ending stories and it’s wanting us to crave more of it, is only a sign that we’ve been put here, alive, in this wondrous, rebellious, spinning, big, blue ball – to see, to believe and to praise the name of the One, Allah Subhana Wa Taala, whose Face we seek to See one day. – إن شاء الله
That’s my ode to life. What’s yours?