Imam al-Ghazali once said,
“The tongue is the counselor, the mind the interpreter and the heart is what is affected.“
Ghazali’s words present a succinct way of conceptualizing our relationship with the world around us. We are surrounded by various stimuli (including events, people, statements… etc) that, due to our interpretation of them, causes an internal reaction; a reaction that initiates a feeling and subsequent behavior. What matters more often, almost more so than the stimuli, is our interpretation of it. For example, the rubbing of a tree branch along the side of the house. Is is it the wind, or a person outside the home? Whatever you believe it is, will cause you to feel a certain way and behave in a way that may reinforce your interpretation. This is especially apparent when one has a misunderstanding about others, and then treats the person based upon this wrongful assumption.
Often times incidents we consider negative are actually due to misunderstandings; maybe through blowing it out of proportion, not placing it within a more broad perspective, or seeing it as falling short of unreasonable standards. Sometimes we don’t know how we should interpret something, and we find ourselves confused or mentally exhausted.
At this time we might seek the help of another; hoping they can help put things in the right perspective. In many instances this may work and we may start to see things in a way we had not before, a way broader than we had previously conceived. Or, we may find ourselves still stuck with our skewed perception.
There is something I am extremely passionate about… something I quit my job last year for and packed my car up and moved to Detroit in one day for… something I spend 80+ hours a week on to make a success… something that is my life until 2011: Bilal’s Stand
Bilal’s Stand, (in case you haven’t heard), is a seriously good Sundance-accepted award-winning film by a young, talented Muslim, Sultan Sharrief. Sultan is a close friend of mine and after he got into Sundance and realized this movie could go somewhere, he asked me to come out and join him as his business manager. After reflecting and praying on it, I decided to go for it. Why? Because I realized the best way to counter the rising tide of Islamaphobia was to be found in media – in Muslims gaining control of how we define ourselves and how Islam is perceived by the masses through the television and movies they see.
One day a man approached the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and asked whether having trust in God meant that a believer should not tie their camel (to prevent the camel from running away). The Prophet, peace be upon him, said in reply, “Trust in God and tie your camel.” Of the many lessons that can be derived from this is that while we have complete trust in God, we must also take the means He has provided for us to obtain success in this life. The same is the case in protecting one’s self and one’s property.
Just last night I experienced something that made me think of this man and his question. There have been near my home several car burglaries so I made sure to make my roommate’s car (that I have been left to manage in his absence) extra safe. I removed anything from the vehicle that might tempt someone to break in to steal it. I hid the GPS unit, put some items in the trunk, and even moved all the quarters and dimes that inevitably pile up out of sight. I then parked the car underneath a street lamp, and, of course, locked it.
I was sitting in the library preparing for class when the director of our Islamic chaplaincy program walked in with a worried look. He informed us that someone had requested a Muslim chaplain from our school to attend to a patient in the intensive care unit; and he was looking for volunteers.
I had never attended to a person in a hospital before as a chaplain– only as a son– and I did not know just how to proceed. However, I was interested in helping. I asked one of the fellow students who had more experience than I if he would go with me; and a third volunteered. Part of me was nervous, while I was scrolling through my mind and heart to find everything that I might say or do to help the family that called us to their aid.