This Boat Called Near and Far
Say: It is only inspired in me that your God is One God. Will you then surrender (unto Him)!
But if they turn their backs, then say: I have warned you all equally, though I know not whether near or far is that which you are promised. (The Qur’an, 21:108-109)
Unaware and Unprepared
Many go through life not knowing their final destination. Many would be confused by what they’ve been told or not told through their ancestral or religious affinity. However, for a large amount of humanity (better known today as ‘consumers’), knowledge about the existence of God, and life beyond the Here and Now, doesn’t really enter their minds or scope of interest. So preparation for what may lie ahead is not as important as where they want to go for their holidays or how to pay their growing cell-phone bills.
So they sail on the ocean of life, not knowing where it will end; or if the end is near or far. Lost at sea, not knowing which direction they’re headed – not even knowing if the boat in which they’re sailing even has a life jacket!
If only they could acquire a map of the future; or a reliable spiritual telescope, they would be shocked. The Last Prophet, (peace be upon him), said: “If a believer fully knew of the punishment of God, none would entertain hope of His Paradise; and if the disbeliever knew the extent of God’s Mercy, they would never despair of gaining Paradise.”
My Life’s Goals
When I was younger, the goals of life were much more earthly – wealth, love, fame, recognition – but everything seemed so far out of reach. The only solution was to work at it. As if I’d known the saying of the Lord of the Worlds:
Man gains nothing except what he strives for. (The Qur’an, 53:39)
Sure enough my striving earned me my giant helping of success. I had a guitar, some guts, a catchy name and a bunch of inspiration. But then I learnt that life don’t run so smooth. There are problems and obstacles lurking everywhere. If only I’d known the saying of the Lord of the Worlds, “And We shall test you with fear and hunger, loss of money and of souls; your health, and your wealth” (2:155), perhaps I could’ve been prepared. But I wasn’t. Then I hit a rock, I was hospitalised, and then I started to think about what lay at the end of the journey. If life can be so short, one of the key objectives: make it through to eternity with enough credits to buy immortal happiness. I began to study spiritual books. One of the lines of a book called “The Secret Path” written by a Buddhist stuck out!
“A person first starts to ask himself who he is, then begins to walk upon the way of light which will bring him happiness, only when he has found the answer.”
The Path Begins
So I ventured out on the road to the light, but the problem was there were so many paths! Christianity, Tao, Buddhism, Astrology, Numerology; all saying something interesting –
“He sends the sun and the rain on the good and the evil; on the just and unjust.” (Jesus: Matthew v.45)
“He who knows others is wise. He who knows his own self is enlightened.” (Tao Te Ching)
“Everything is everything.” (Anaxagoras)
My songs and albums then became my vehicles: “On the Road to Find Out”, “Miles from Nowhere”, “Peace Train” and “The Wind”.
One particular religion was ignored by me. Because of my inherited prejudice; even in my favourite spiritual bookshop I walked right past it: Islam! It was so near yet so far. Till one day I went for a swim in the Pacific – my fame and wealth was wrapped up in my clothes with my belongings, on the beach. Then came the truth – I was mortal and I was sinking – but was I alone? Without ever reading or knowing one verse of the Qur’an I experienced the reality of the following verse:
When a (sea) wave covers them like the canopy (of clouds), they call to God, offering Him sincere devotion. But when He has delivered them safely to land, there are among them those that hover between (right and wrong). But none reject Our Signs except only a perfidious ungrateful (wretch)! (The Qur’an, 31:32)
That became the point of my re-connection with the ever present Lord of the Worlds – I returned to shore with a heart full of gratitude – the Qur’an says, “and when My servant asks of Me I am indeed near” (2:186). Soon after that I received a copy of the Qur’an and from that day on things became clear. The truth was now touchable. But the battle wasn’t over; there was still much to do – I had to change.
Buying every Qur’an translation on sale, I read and read, till I could find no escape from the message pounding in my soul – “Say He is God the One” (112:1). Of course Monotheism sounds so simple, but never did I understand the extent of its meaning till I read the rest of the sentence, “There is no other God beside Him” (23:91).
And then came the most incredible discovery that all the Prophets were belonging to the same religion, known as the natural way; the pure innate faith of Abraham. Soon I had to make a decision. My boat had reached the shore and all I had to do was step off it. I had to change. No, I had to return to my original state, to the child within me.
Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change what is with themselves. (The Qur’an, 13:11)
Time To Make A Change
The process of growing up was the process of becoming. But sometimes you lose that inner light. The truth was obvious, but compromises were always being made to please others. To find that route back to honesty within yourself, is another route to finding Truth and Peace.
Be What You Must
I have journeyed endless miles
Seen many harbours,
Where I took rest awhile
On this boat called ʻnear & farʼ,
To be what you must,
You must give up what you are
Only on a wind of hope my heart sailed
Braving mystic oceans to arrive
Those who do not leave
And choose to stay…
Be you dust; or be you star
To be what you must
Just reach out for what you are
And though youʼve travelled many roads
Thereʼs but one way,
and thatʼs the one you chose
From Sextus the Pythagorean to Imam Al Ghazzali, there is not even the distance of a hair when it is true. Sextus said, “Whatever you honor above all else will have dominion over you, but if you give yourself to the Dominion of God, you will thus have dominion over all things.”