ISLAM AND FREE MEALS

The year was 1980. The car was a brand new purchase from Kuwait city. The driver; a Pakistani fighter pilot. The plan was to return to Baghdad where he was deputed as an instructor with the Iraqi Air Force. The road was a perfect testing surface for his new acquisition. A straight, smooth  ribbon of black tarmac painted across a stark brown sandy landscape with extremely little traffic .

Two hours and many kilometers later, the pilot realized that he had not arrived at the border crossing. Alarmed, he started looking for any signs but did not find any. More kilometers passed before he spotted a 40 foot truck parked by the side of the road. Stopping, he approached the driver to ask him in broken Arabic how far the Iraqi border was. The Bedouin driver did not reply, preferring to stare vacantly at the Pakistani. The Pakistani repeated his question; the Bedouin continued to stare in silence.

As tone of irritation crept into the pilot’s request, the Arab stood up, climbed into his cab and began rummaging around. He dismounted carrying with him an orange which he offered to the lost Pakistani. The pilot refused angrily, repeating his demand for directions. For the first time, the Arab spoke; his voice laden with aggressiveness.

“EAT,” he commanded.

The pilot ate the orange.

The Arab then melted into cordiality. The two strangers exchanged pleasantries and finally the Arab gave directions to Baghdad. The Pakistani was to turn around, go back to Kuwait City and take the correct road to Iraq. This one went to Saudi Arabia.

The pilot thanked the Bedouin and headed for his car. He suddenly stopped, turned around and asked the Arab what the deal was with the orange. Why he had rudely forced him to eat it.

“It is your name, my friend”, he said, “It is your name”.

“I don’t understand,” said the pilot.

“Your name, my friend. Your name was written on that orange. Allah made this orange for you. It was not for me. You had to come all the way here to eat it. Now you can go back”.

In the wild, scorching heat of a forbidding landscape, in the middle of a desert in the Arabian Peninsula, two believers acknowledged a universal belief common to all Muslims across the globe. That Allah is the Provider, the Sustainer, the Omnipotent and Omnipresent. That He has promised his creation that he will provide for each one. That what is meant for one shall invariably be received by him and that if an individual is not meant to have something, it will never come to him no matter how hard he tries.

He will give. He has promised this to Mankind. And therefore, there will be free rides. Undeserved bounties. Disproportionate rewards.

And there will always be free meals. Allah has stated very clearly and categorically in the Koran that He shall provide His creation with sustenance, irrespective of where they are. And He has delivered on His promise. He has sent food down from Heaven. Manna. Man-o-salva. Sustenance has literally rained from Heaven when needed.

And this is what motivates the naïve Muslims, especially the illiterate, uneducated masses. We cherry pick Islam to justify our lethargic and indolent attitudes. We conveniently choose to ignore the many other exhortations of our Maker that make us responsible for being productive, industrious and caring individuals while we are in this world. Quite content to treat our existence in this world as a temporary period of denial and deprivation, we live in the desperate hope of a permanent future where we shall lead a ‘life’ of permanent luxury, reclining on silken couches, surrounded by virgins, in a land where rivers of milk and honey flow.

Not a bad trade, one would agree; a few years of deprivation and misery for an eternity of luxury.

This is why, for the average Muslim, worldly matters must take a back seat to religion.

If the choice is between carrying out my duty and praying later, I must stop working the moment I hear the call for prayer although Allah allows me utmost flexibility of time in saying my prayers.

For me, unemployment is actually a virtue. Food will be provided by Him and I shall have more time to devote to prayer.

I may live in abject poverty and be unable to feed my family but this is ok because He will take care of things.

It is perfectly ok for me to leave my wife and children penniless and uncared for while I pack my bags and take off for religious meetings. He will take care of my family.

A large family is not a problem. I can procreate with gay abandon. Children are His gift and He will provide for them.

I may not have money to meet my worldly obligations but I must find funds for Umrah or Hajj.

I am from Him and to Him I shall return.

All I have to do in the interim is to use all and everything within my reach and power to secure His approval.

I fail to recognize that His approval is almost entirely dependent on how well I spend my worldly life, caring and providing for His creation.

I fail to understand that His approval is based upon my leading a humble, meaningful time in this world.

As a good neighbor.

A good citizen.

A good environmentalist.

A good human being.

I believe that by prostrating myself before Him I shall secure a place in Heaven. Even if I trample upon His creation.

I am oblivious of the rude shock that awaits me.

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