I’ve always been the mischievous one in the family. During family reunions, there is always some time spent laughing over my antics. When I was in kindergarten, I remember being ordered to face the wall for a whole lesson because I was being too disruptive.
When Mama brought us to the playground at Pasir Ris Park, it was normal for me to disappear. The next thing Mama knew, I would already be right at the top of the 5-storey high rope spiderweb structure. As I grew up, that mischievous streak stayed. I won’t go into the specific details. Alhamdulillah, being Muslim means that I don’t have to reveal my flaws to anyone. However, I do want to say this – I was always surrounded by people but, most times, I felt like the loneliest person on earth. I started to crave for some sort of tranquility. My heart kept telling me, “Go back, Alia. Go back to Allah” but I was utterly terrified of change. I was also extremely lost and confused.
During that period of time, there were people who used to be really mean to me. Trust me, I am not relating this experience to demean anyone. In fact, I understand that it could be my very own actions that made people would react in the way they did. I would also like to think that they did so with the best of intentions. However, the way they tried to advise me was often really harsh and I would end up feeling like the worst, most unworthy person in the world. The condescending way in which they spoke to me did not make me yearn to be closer to Islam. In fact, it made me want to go in the opposite direction. This should not come as a surprise to us. In the Quran, Allah says, “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you.”
Then, I met her. She had studied in Raffles Girls’s School and then moved on to law school. I remember feeling thoroughly amazed at how someone could be so smart, confident and eloquent yet extremely humble and grounded. She never made me feel like I was not good enough to deserve her kindness and generosity. She never ridiculed me. She was always patient enough to calmly explain more about Islam to me whenever I had random queries. Because of her amazing akhlak, I felt safe enough to trust her. I knew that she was someone who would not use our conversations as ammunition to belittle and mock me.
Alhamdulillah, bit by bit, I started to change. Instead of constantly running after people, I sought Allah, the only one who will always be there. Instead of ‘What would they think?’, the question on my mind became ‘Does this bring me closer to Allah?’
Looking back, I realise this – I learn the best from example. I started to understand why our Prophet is so important to us. If my friend could have such a profound impact on me, what more the one with excellent character? What more the one who was sent as a mercy to Al-Ameen (mankind, jinns, animals, plants and all that exists)?
Through Prophet Muhammad SAW, we have practical examples of how to live life.
Prophet Muhammad SAW was persecuted by his enemies. They tormented him and his family for years and years. When he subsequently held the position of a leader who could order their execution in a blink of an eye, what did he do? He forgave them. Hind had murdered his uncle, mutilated his body and then chewed on his liver. Instead of seeking revenge, what did our Prophet SAW do? He forgave her. Through his actions, we are shown how to treat those who have been cruel to us; we deal with them with compassion.
It is reported that a funeral of a Jew passed before the Prophet (peace be upon him). As a sign of respect, the Prophet stood up. The Prophet was asked, “Why did you stand up for a Jewish funeral?” The Prophet replied, “Is it not a human soul?” (Al-Bukhari) Through his character, we are made to understand the value of respect, even to those who are not like us and those of different faiths.
We are even shown how to best eat, sleep and breathe. When asked by a Sahabah about the Prophet’s manners, Aisha (RA) said, “Do you read the Qur’an? His manners were the Qur’an.” (Abu Dawud) Ma shaa Allāh! Prophet Muhammad SAW did not just spread the word of Allah, he was the embodiment of the Qur’an.
How about us? When we give advice, do we also ensure that we ourselves are setting a good example? Do we really practise what we preach? When someone needs guidance, do we listen with empathy, compassion and understanding or do we listen to rebut, ridicule and criticise?
Imam Muslim narrates that our Prophet SAW said,”Kindness is not to be found in anything but that it adds to its beauty and it is not withdrawn from anything but it makes it defective.” May Allah make it easy for us to be unconditionally kind, humbly merciful and graciously gentle, in shaa Allah amiin.