Thursday, April 12, 2007

Too Busy Thinking

One thing I remember from when I first started learning to drive, was the pleasure I derived from listening to the radio. So many people in fact listen to music and talk while they drive, it's almost second nature. A broken radio or deck was never welcome.

My HS German teacher insisted however that all this listening and busying our minds wasn't a good thing. That we needed to stop, and think. Going for a walk, as an example, would be immensely more beneficial without the accompanying walkman, or mp3 players that we have these days. So since then I have made it a point to appreciate silence, and make the most of it.

I have gone then through different stages in my listening in the car. Sometimes, music played on the radio, be it contemporary or whatever "genre" you want to imagine I might listen to. Sometimes classical music, then I moved up to talk radio and the news a few years ago. My dad pressured me to try audio books but I wasn't interested--I'm still not, by the way. I have tried learning languages in the car, and more recently there has also been some of the above variety, then also some nasheeds upon occasion and even recitation of the Qur'an. (I have a CD of Juz 'Amma recited by Sheikh Muhammad Jibreel.) But more and more of my time in the car has been spent listening to nothing but the engine.

If the song on the radio wasn't one I liked, or commercials were playing, the radio went off. I didn't want to listen to that, and silence has innumerable benefits. Namely, more concentration on the road--never a bad thing. Granted, some of the time I would spend singing which could arguably be worse (concentration-wise) than listening to the radio. But I've been able to chat with myself as well--a thing one can't do in public. I have rehearsed speeches, and conducted theoretical debates in the privacy of my automobile. I pretend I am speaking to someone, and this helps me think. Sometimes I can practice saying the things in there that I am far too cowardly to say directly or upfront. But more importantly I say the things that I need to hear, allowing some deeply buried thoughts to surface for more serious consideration.

And now I need to weigh my consideration, examine my thoughts and test them, decide which should become experiences. I must imagine which lead to success and which to failure. I want to know what I am a person am capable of accomplishing, and what I must do to ensure that potential is not wasted on frivolity. What situation will help me? What circumstances would hinder me? So it is a time for istikhara. As someone reminded me once, it is always a time for istikhara--for when should we not seek guidance and direction from Allah?

A friend has graciously allowed me to borrow a short lecture set on the four scholars, Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam As-Shafi'ee, and Imam Ahmad, rahimahumallah. Last night I was listening to the third CD, the one on Imam As-Shafi'ee and was really struck by one particular story. The question had been raised regarding consensus, the value of keeping with the majority opinion; someone asked the sheikh what proof he had from the Qur'an for his opinion, and he didn't have any proof. The man gave him three days to find such proof. The speaker was describing the imam's appearance after three days, that his feet were visibly sore and he was very worn physically, and had not emerged from his house for three days. He had, by then, found an ayat which satisfied the questioner, but it was his manner of finding it which truly stunned me. He stood, in salat, reciting the Qur'an, until he found it. I can't imagine. I can't imagine standing salat for more than a few hours, as in Taraweeh, and then it was a struggle to just try to listen.

It's said that when Muslims want to speak to God, they pray, and when they want to listen to God, they turn to the Qur'an. The Qur'an is a miracle which in two years has only increased me in amazement. In 14 centuries its beauty has not paled, though I'm afraid comprehension of it might have done so. The more I learn, the more I love it. And then I consider the time it takes me to ponder just one ayat... I can't imagine... going through the entire Qur'an in salat, considering ever ayat and how appropriate it might be to a particular situation... well, I'm in awe, respectfully in awe to such an extent that I can't fully collect my thoughts-->thus the elipses.

And then I can only pray that Allah grants me knowledge of His book that I may implement it in my life.


Aliocha said...


This is a great post!

I am not sure whether you remember me or not, so I'll just remind you that I a Christian (Catholic), who has had few to no contact at all with Islam in real life, but I am trying to know more about your religion. Both because I do believe that the genuine dialogue between Christians and Muslims is one of the most important things in the world right now, and secondly because some things about Islam puzzle me.

What are salat and Taraweed?

A few more questions about Islam: how do you see the salvation for non-Islamic believers? For instance: I am a Christian. Does that mean I am going to Hell?
What are the sources of authority in Islam? I know the Quran is the basis for Islam, but how do you decide on the interpretation of the Quran?

Another thing, have you ever heard of Charles de Foucault?

Aliocha said...


What does Alhamdulillah mean?

Anonymous said...

I converted to Islam from Catholisism 3 years ago. I'll do my best to answer your questions.
1. Salat: Prayer. Muslims salat 5 times a day (Subuh, Zhuhur, Asar, Magrihb & Isya). Depending on which prayer it is, it contains a different number of raka's (individual prayers) and is either spoken aloud or pronounced silently.
2. Taraweed is an additional prayer Muslims perform during Ramadan after the Isya prayer. It consists of either 11 or 23 rakas (individual prayers).
3. Based on my understanding of Al Qur'an, it is possible for non-belivers to go to heaven, but this entails following the path of Allah.
4. All Muslims need to learn Al Qur'an in Arabic to truly understand it. I'm trying my best. Abdul Yusuf Ali has created a good interpretation in English that is adequately foot noted.
I hope this helps.