Roots Before Branches

Once you hit a certain age, which varies from one person to another, you’ll need to sit down with your thoughts frequently. Some life-changing events may lead you to this habit. Some of you may do so because you feel disgusted or annoyed with what happens around your personal circle or life at general.

The truth about life is that no matter how many times you hear wise words from seniors, you can’t truly believe them until you experience them on your own. Funnily enough, you will fall into the same problems, over and over again until you can’t rely on yourself anymore.

I have been a Muslim for my entire life. Being a Muslim means fully submissive to Allah swt, heart and soul. Performing five prayers every day, fasting during Ramadan month and giving alms don’t guarantee that you truly believe in His good plans for you. At least, that happens to me. I need to trip over a million times until I realize my ego and pride have got in the way.

The best news is when you encounter highly difficult trials and tribulations, that’s when He is about to purify you. That marks the moment when you know Him better and move to Him closer.

In my case, I cling to Alqur’an. I read the Book although most of the times, I misinterpret it. I keep coming to it although during devastating heartbrokenness, for instance, I didn’t find an easy way out.

Indeed, reading the Book with sound and genuine heart won’t bring you any solutions or ending your problems right away. But this is where the work of holding of the Book starts coming to fruition.

Alqur’an cleanses your lens for viewing life. Bit by bit, it helps you loosening worldly burdens that felt so heavy that they dragged your feet moving forward in life. The Book invites you leaving small roads that blocked your way leading your turning to Him. And my favourite is the book makes you coming to the roots of everything. Problems and solutions.

The much better news is that the Book strengthens your faith to Him and in turn, He makes you feel confident to wither against all storms.

In my own terms, this marks the moment when you recheck then repair all things that went wrong before welcoming much bigger challenges ahead. The moment is hard to come by. It requires you to contemplate, going back-and-forth and take rest most of the time.

You will then realize how the roots boil down to most fundamental principles that you frequently heard when you were a small kid. Iman, gratitude, taqwa, ikhtiar, tawakkal, ikhlas and sabr. Clinging to each and all of them is super tough but now you know those are the foods for making the roots growing solid and beneficial for others.

By the same foods, the roots will become branches, leaves and fruits that assist you as a truly Muslim according to the Qur’an and the sunah of the Prophet Muhammad saw (peace be upon him).

The good roots will lead you doing positive deeds and in reverse, the weak one will yield negative ones. Greed, jealousy, ego become roots of bad deeds that needless to speak here, how many sub-actions that come out of each.

You probably knew back then and now they become serious stuff after you experience on your own or know from your friends or relatives. At this point, as you make peace with your past, you may struggle to be mindful and present. Time and time again, you work on coming back to the roots of all, both good and bad things.

That may make your daily life is a bit overwhelming but worth of living at the same time. Even that comes back to the principle of mizan, the scale or balance, another lifetime idea from Allah swt. Masya Allah.

Putting on New Lens for My Second Literary Journey

I may haven’t shared in this modest blog that I planned to no longer read any fictions, including classics, that have been so special in my heart. Last year’s devastating heartbrokenness caused me to abandon any reading-for-pleasure thingy that I thought would pain me even further.

I mostly read books or articles about my religion, Islam, and started learning a bit of Arabic language. The last fiction that I read was “The Invisible Man” by H.G Wells that I didn’t review because I don’t quite like the book.

I enjoyed reading books about Islam, to be honest. During some months of total focus on the book genre, I realized I took classic books too much. I need help to stay positive and upbeat about life. Alas, most of the classics that I admire are stories about longingness, realistic romance, poverty, women rights, social values, idealism, materialism and other heavy stuff.

After reading that kind of books for around 10 years, eventually, there came the time when I was forced to review how my reading had affected my soul and my mind so far. And again, frankly speaking, I couldn’t help feeling sorrowful, pessimistic and unenthusiastic about my personal life and the world. I know that I shouldn’t act that way. That no matter how “close” the classics are to real live and people, they are still the works of imagination and prone to subjectivity. The books manifest their author’s opinions, past experiences and critics.

I admit that I was too much absorbed in the books that let them taking hold of my views about life in general. The heartbrokenness somehow refreshes my thought to finally coming back to read fictions, and of course, classic books, again. Do you know what?

At first, I felt so afraid of reembracing Victorian Literature for the dry wound would bleed again. And poor me! There were moments when I felt I wanted to really leave reading fictions for good. I wanted to ignore the book type because I said to myself the book genre was no good for my life.

During such time, I read printed books, as well. I even thought about dedicating my whole life for reading non-fiction. I resumed reading “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari. But I dislike the book. Not because I don’t yet accustom for reading non-fiction but the book isn’t well-organized. Too much information in such an overly crowded structure. I don’t know if I want to finish reading it or not.

And then there comes this COVID-19 outbreak. It has been almost two weeks that I have been working from home. Since the stay-at-home campaign was launched early March 2020, I thought of coming to read fictions. I missed being glued in very decent novels by Thomas Hardy or George Eliot. I missed getting lost in beautiful, artsy writing styles of Victorian writers. And yes, I missed imagining how peaceful and sociable life back then. And ah! the dress, the gown.. How I adore lace, pastel colours and a long skirt that make female characters in the book genre so graceful and ladylike, LOL!

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

So, last Saturday, I affirmed myself to shop briefly. Of course, I went to Kinokuniya bookstore at Plaza Senayan shopping mall, here, in Jakarta. I couldn’t help myself grabbing a classic book to help to go through yet another week of the stay-at-home period.

I wanted to unwind from getting connected to the internet while couldn’t step outside my room that I rent. Sure enough, I can read abundant articles and stories from my smartphone or laptop but doing so can’t release my mind and put me at ease. Reading printed books can only do that.

I thought of buying one of Sherlock Holmes series. Mind you! After the break, I have decided to limit reading books on fiction. I won’t read about romance anymore and all things that look gloomy and depressing. I couldn’t think of laying my choice any better than to read books about mystery, detective thingy and fantasy, much like Gulliver’s Travels.

And the bookstore offers so many versions of Sherlock Holmes. To my delight, it was easy to choose the Sherlock Holmes options, depending on my budget, LOL! But then, I am not really into Sherlock Holmes, by the way.

I couldn’t resist the temptation of glimpsing into other books, which of course, by famous Victorian writers. So, my eyes caught Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens. I haven’t heard the title. I intended to buy the book after I read the cover text which says the book tells about greed.

Greed, hmm.. Why did the theme suddenly pop up in my head during the coronavirus time? No topics can’t fit today’s pandemic better than this one. When I was looking at the title, my eyes moved to the book next to it.

Voila! It was Our Mutual Friend! Oh my God! I was looking for the book for years until I forgot it. I smiled, then grinned then relieved. I couldn’t find any better companion than this title. I didn’t want to grab it right away for I wanted to greet my friend long enough before officially embarking the second literary journey.

“Oh, you! So happy to see you!” I said to myself at that time as if the book could speak!

I brought it to the store’s cashier section and now, I am on page 200 something. The book is also about greed on money which really suits my search. No need to worry about coming to bleakness because I have Alqur’an as my wise reminder.

My daily reading routine runs like this: at the morning, I will read Alqur’an or listen to its interpretation by ustadz Nouman Ali Khan. After that, I read Our Mutual Friend. Sometimes at night, I continue reading the novel or reading a book about the History of Islam.

Such a packed and fully-loaded reading stuff but I’m happy that I keep myself productive and occupied with positive things. I always, always remind myself to keep reading at balance. Make the activity stands equal between Islam and fiction.

For now, I’m glad to tell myself that I don’t have to leave fiction, especially classic reading, again. I come to it with a brand new perspective and genuine love as I always feel.