Growing up I thought that quality was a natural inherent sense in all of us. I would hear things like “follow your conscience” and imagine that inside all of us is some hidden wisdom that will tell us what is good and bad.
As an adult I tell myself that I don’t believe this anymore, but it’s still a deeply ingrained habit of mine to assume that there will be something that stops me from being too bad. Our bodies give us a sense of what is harming us in our immediate physicality. But the cells in our body and the dendrites in our brains don’t have any ability to predict what’s good for us in the future. Or what psychological harm there may be in the long term, or hidden physical harms.
Now the terms “follow your conscience” has taken on a different meaning for me. It’s not the conscience of the little voice I expect to be there to guide me whenever I’m in a confuddle. I’m now trying to find the conscious in me. The awareness when I open my eyes and mind, and drop the automatic filters that block my perception.
It’s satori that I’m seeking. The awareness of the buddha.
When I was told stories of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it was like hearing someone explain Superman to you. I got a sense that there was something powerful and wonderful about the person that is distinctly different from me. I understood that the Prophet faced almost impossible challenges but overcame them through lots of difficulty. And I’m left with a feeling of awe and wonder and almost a fantasy of a man that changed the world.
Yet there was also this chasm, this distance between me and this man that I know that I could never bridge. The Prophet doesn’t feel like a real human being to me. Yes, he faced challenges, but he seemed almost unwaveringly strong in the face of them. While I have a tendency to run away and hide and hope the problem goes away on it’s own or make myself believe that the problem isn’t really that big of a deal. Yes, there were times when he broke down and cried, but it made him seem vulnerable in just the right way as he threw himself at Khadija’s arms. Not like how I break down and cry and snot comes out of my nose and I make pathetic moaning and clingy baby demands from people. He was compassionate, almost seeming like it was just an automatic response that he didn’t have to think or try hard to do. While sometimes I stand there wondering if I should REALLY give that man on the street corner the dollar I have in my pocket or pretend I didn’t see him.
Yes, the Prophet was a way better human being than I am, but that doesn’t help me out very much and all it does is make me feel crappy, resentful, and resigned about the shitty kind of person that I am.
Each of us are capable of both evil and good. All of us have the capacity to do amazing things with our lives as well as destroy ourselves and others around us. And it’s not just a potential for one or the other, but almost like a tug towards them. I have dreams of doing something wonderful one day for myself, my family, and humanity in general. And I also have this yearning sometimes do something really bad. That’s normal and every human being, even you, have that tug of war within yourself.
But sometimes the forces of evil is difficult to fight off and it’s easy to give up and sink into despair.
The Prophet, in the time that he was alive, inspired people to not let themselves sink too low. He was able to bring out the best in people despite the worst that they may feel about themselves or others.
I believe that the Prophet was a man who was capable of showing you how much of a wonderful person you were despite your better judgement. He believed in people more than they believed in themselves. He expected more out of the people around him than anyone ever did. That was true respect, and that was true love.
And I believe that the Prophet accomplished this by showing people not how great he is, but just how much like them he is and how much he has to struggle too and how tough it is for him.
It’s left to me to extract that belief out of the hundreds of different things I’ve heard and know about my religion. I’m glad that I have found those little nuggets of gold and diamonds that makes me feel proud to be a Muslim, but I’m sad that it feels like I’m sifting through a lot of sand and dirt to get at what’s really valuable.
So what can be done about it? My request is that we stop making the Prophet into a super human being. Yes, he was a Prophet of God and that’s distinctly different from you and me. But he was also a man, a human being. And that to me, is what makes me love him so much.
I’m not a very well learned person. I haven’t taken the time to study the histories or stories and I don’t really know that much about the Prophet or the religion of Islam. There are people out there who have, who have dedicated their lives to it, and they have the knowledge that I lack. It is to them that I make my request.
Please don’t be afraid to tell me how much of a human being the Prophet was. It helps me more to hear about the things he struggled with more than to hear about the things he was so easily great at.
Yes I know it’s a cop-out. “If I complain so much, why don’t I do something about it?” But you know what? I’m living my life and I have lots of things going on. And there are those who are living their lives and have things going on that are related to the Prophet and knowledge of Islam. So let me do my thing, and I’m just asking them to do their thing in ways that is more effective to me. If they have suggestions on how I can do my thing to be more effective to them, I’d love to hear it.