Thankfulness (1): Free of Want

Bismillah (in the name of Allah)…

Humans are creatures of habit. As you may have noticed my blog posts usually start with some reason as to why I haven’t had a chance to write something recently. Usually it’s med school related, and this time isn’t much different… except that Halo 4 is also a culprit. What’s worse, though, is that I started off being apologetic for not blogging in a week, then a couple weeks, and now a couple months. I suppose that’s just how life goes, but sadly the lack of posts is indicative of a general lack of reflecting time. Now that holiday season is in full effect and school is off, it’s time to change all that!

This post comes as the first in a 3 part series on thankfulness. It’s something I’m sure we’ve all been thinking about since Thanksgiving, leading into Christmas, and most importantly after we survived the “apocalypse.” It’s crucial we always count and recount our blessings, but sometimes we get so caught up in what we don’t have that it’s hard to appreciate what we do have. It’s especially hard when the things we don’t have or can’t have are sensationalized when presented to us. I only became conscious of my desire for more because of recently seeing this:


I’d be really impressed if you were able to tell that this is the Shanghai skyline, but even more impressed if you knew where I saw it. Give up? It was in Skyfall, in a scene that most people probably don’t remember, but one that really defined James Bond in my head. It’s when he gets to Shanghai and is doing laps in a rooftop pool of a skyscraper that basically overlooks this view. In addition to appealing to my love of rooftop pools and bright lights, the scene encompasses so much of why I would love to live a life like 007 – beautiful women, international travel, endless spending. Nevermind that he’s constantly unhappy and always in danger, my mind focuses on what he has that I want. After seeing that scene, my heart was consumed with being able to swim in that pool, having enough money to not worry about 5 star trips, and all the glamorous territory that comes with being an international superstar. It took a couple of days of daydreaming, but eventually after the Skyfall spell wore off I began to ask myself, how much is too much?

I’m all for people struggling to move up in the world and live a better, more comfortable life, but sometimes our desires for luxuries becomes too enslaving. It stretches from always wanting the latest gadget when the one you have works just fine to wasting food to toiling away just to get a bigger or badder car or house or whatever. We often hear how we shouldn’t complain, how there are starving kids in Africa, but that’s usually just a transient feeling of guilt. I think it should be a mentality. It shouldn’t just take a late night commercial showing children so thin you can nearly see through them to render our compassion. There were homeless people on my walk back from watching Skyfall, but I was more concerned with chasing dollars than sparing one for someone truly in need.

Admittedly, it’s hard to always be conscious of what others don’t have and to always be satisfied with what you do have, but at least personally, something has got to change. I think the commercialism in our society is partially to blame, but it’s also in our natures. The best of creation, Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him) said, “If the son of Adam were given a valley full of gold, he would love to have a second one; and if he were given the second one, he would love to have a third, for nothing fills the belly of Adam’s son except dust. And Allah forgives he who repents to Him.”

One of my life dreams is to God-willing have a beach house in the South of Spain (and with their crisis now would be a perfect time to buy!) and while I’m not quite ready to give that one up, I think I am ready to start making small changes to free myself of want. It starts with realizing, like in the quote above, that these worldly possessions will never fulfill you. I know that’s easy to say and hard to live by, but I’ll repeat it so that maybe it’ll stick – worldly possessions will never fulfill you. It’s why the rich can feel hollow and the poor (like those kids in Africa) can be content.

The change always has to start within first and with baby steps, so if you, like me, want to free yourself of want, then I urge you to stop and think about what you want and why you want it. Then think about if it will truly satisfy you. Whether it be a rooftop pool in Shanghai or a new Christmas gift, it never hurts to take a second and reflect.

Happy [free of want] Reflecting,



Why the Nighttime?

Bismillah (in the name of Allah)…

How I Met your Mother fans might recall a season 1 episode in which Ted Mosby (the protagonist) tells his kids what his mom used to tell him, that “nothing good happens after 2 AM.” Though I’ve oft been compared to Ted by my college roommates (henceforth known by their proper name – the stupid trust) and I even played him in a UMD Pakistani Students Association video, I’m going to have to disagree with you Ted, ol’ boy. Sure people generally do stupider things late at night, but if my last 2 semesters of all-nighters have taught me anything – it’s that the nighttime is the right time.

There’s just something special about the very early morning. As my fellow procrastinators know, it’s capable of everything from the most dire sense of urgency to the highest clarity of thought, but there is also an unparalleled peace to post-2 AM. Maybe it’s knowing that everyone else is asleep, or maybe it’s something else… It is narrated in a hadith qudsi (sacred hadith – a narration of Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] that is said to be the direct word of God):

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Our Lord (glorified and exalted be He) descends each night to the earth’s sky when there remains the final third of the night, and He says: ‘Who is saying a prayer to Me that I may answer it? Who is asking something of Me that I may give it him? Who is asking forgiveness of Me that I may forgive him?'”

So late night can be the holiest of times as well, but that’s not all. There’s a famous saying – I live for the nights I can’t remember with the people I’ll never forget (I’m pretty sure Drake isn’t the original author.) I’m also fairly certain this has to do with being inebriated beyond consciousness, but I think I agree. Relax, people. I’m not promoting blacking yourself out, (side note – if any of you fellow non-drinkers wonder what being drunk is like – this study found that “24 hours without sleep or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1%.”) but I still think there is something profound about that often-overused Facebook photo album title.

I’m sure we can all recall a time where we’ve had a very deep conversation after dark (take a second, think back to your moonlit walks, campfires, late night g-chats…) Those conversations aren’t possible in the day – everyone stops censoring themselves as much as the day wears on so the night becomes more real, more natural. In the end, we might not always remember what we said or what we did on those special nights (even if alcohol wasn’t a factor,) but the night allowed us to share those legen- wait for it- dary moments with the unforgettable people in our lives.

Happy [nighttime] Reflecting