I’ll admit that I think about death every now and then. The thought creeps into my mind during the day, on the train, in the shower, late at night in bed. This is part of being Muslim – you are taught that your time on earth is brief, that you are but a traveller in this world, so don’t get too invested in material things. Be ready with your bags packed, ready to go at any time.
We are in the midst of a pandemic where thousands have died, thousands more have lost their jobs. People are afraid of losing their homes, people are lining up to receive food, many have lost their healthcare. We are plagued with petulant leaders who through a combination of indifference and incompetence have sent thousands more to their graves.
Even before this, my friends would ask me what keeps me going. What gets me up every morning in a world that seems like its deteriorating by the day. Why not succumb to the overwhelming feeling that we are all doomed and that it is useless to fight back. Accept your fate.
There is a hadith where the Prophet (PBUH) says that if you are in the midst of planting a plant and the end of the world comes, plant it if you can. Many have interpreted this hadith to mean that we are to be working to better things — even when things seem hopeless. As someone who accepts that our time on Earth is short, you know that it does not matter if you do not reach the utopian future you were fighting for. In many cases, if you are religious – you accept to a degree that there will always be danger, there will always be harm in a world designed to be imperfect. Even in an abolitionist future, there will still be some harm — but hopefully, we will have new tools to deal with that harm. It doesn’t matter if you will not live to see the fruits of your labor, what matters is that you tried to get there. Some days our goals may seem within reach, other days they may seem distant and faraway – still we must get up and try.
Even if you don’t believe in God – it is easier to think about things that are in our control, than things that aren’t in our control. We as individuals cannot stop the warming of our planet, we cannot stop war, we cannot stop hunger. But we can join up with others in our community to organize and to assist each other. We can pick an issue, or a few issues, to focus our time and attention on and spend our lives fighting for those.
Being alive is truly a blessing – going through the ups and downs of human emotions; to love and to have been loved, to cry, to shout in anger – these are all experiences we share with each other. Every time I think that I have made peace with the idea of dying; a random muscle spasm in my chest reminds me that I am not. For a split second, I think to myself – am I dying. It is too early, have I done enough? We cannot control the amount of time we have we have on the planet; but we can control what we do with the time we are given.
I hope we will all spend it in service and solidarity. may god bless.