A Tribute to the Greatest

Bismillah (in the name of Allah)…

As I lay awake in this deep of night, I know that in just a few short weeks I won’t be seeing 2 AM anymore. Unless, of course, I’m on night float. But in these remaining late nights I want to pen down some of my thoughts. If you’ve tried to access the site in the last year, you may have noticed that it required a password. Frankly, I’m a bit ashamed to say that I censored myself out of the fear that this site might somehow affect my application to residencies. Though the content here is not very objectionable, I still ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the potential risk. I had previously prided myself on being candid in a public forum in the hopes that it may inspire others, but somewhere along the way I lost that. I succumbed to cynicism in conjunction with the opinions of others, but now it’s taken the passing of a giant to force me to 2amreflect once again (cue theme music)!

When I was in elementary school, I had to do a project on a famous influential figure. I am not sure what prompted me at the time, but I chose Muhammad Ali. I remember checking out a book about him (back when books were still used to do projects) and being fascinated by just the course of his life. Here’s a man who changed his entire identity, including his name and never looked back or backed down. As a kid I couldn’t begin to understand the ramifications of renouncing war even in the face of jail time and even worse the potential end of your career. But he did it as he did all things – with grace and a whole lot of flare. Moments like these are what make me look at my own life and wonder what I could give up for what I believe in. I’m reminded of the prayer of the Prophet (S) after he was stoned and insulted in the city of Taif when trying to deliver the message of Islam, in which he said,

‘…O Lord of the weak and my Lord too. To whom have you entrusted me? To a distant person who receives me with hostility? Or to an enemy to whom you have granted authority over my affair? So long as You are not angry with me, I do not care…’

This other worldly mindset is what sets great men apart – the willingness to sacrifice so much for something bigger than yourself no matter the obstacle. It’s what made Muhammad Ali so special. There have been plenty of amazing athletes, but only one is the greatest. And it’s because he was the greatest in and out of the ring. It’s because he recognized that all the accolades he gained in boxing didn’t define him, but the way he treated people that spoke volumes.

So I can think of no better tribute to the man that he was MashaAllah (by the grace of God), than to try and learn from his example. There are so many facets of his life to choose from, be it his physical prowess, his steadfastness against racism and injustice, or his preaching of good character. Whatever it is I urge you to not just read or listen to the words, but really act as he did so that he may continue to live on.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon, surely we belong to God and to Him we shall return.

Happy [greatest of all time] Reflecting,
Naj

Thankfulness (3): Gratefulness to Positivity

Bismillah (in the name of Allah)…

I was scanning through my two previous thankfulness posts to see if I’ve gotten any better at freeing myself of want or showing gratitude to my parents, and it seems I’ve still got a long way to go. Since it’s the blessed month of Ramadan, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection and I am a little upset at just how much I’ve allowed myself to be engrossed in corporate culture. I’ve always held the belief that people are a lot like sheep, (especially since the prophets before us were all shepherds in their own right) but it’s a very humbling (and humiliating…) experience to recognize how much of a sheep you really are. The realization came for me when talking with a friend who was describing a terrible Adam Sandler movie where he played a guy and his twin sister, and then I so aptly pointed out that it was called “Jack and Jill.” Just the fact that I knew the name of that movie (thankfully I’ve never seen it) made my heart hurt a little. To think that the knowledge of that movie might stay with me the rest of my life is a bit sickening, but only a small example of the kind of trivial ordeal we are faced with every day, be it from movie companies, team iphone, team android, or a whole slew of liquor companies. So again, I need to reiterate to myself what it means to be free of want, and renew my intentions to try and achieve that goal, insha’Allah. And as for showing gratitude to my parents, that’s always something I can work on.

Okay, now I’m going to stop and take a deep breath (join me if you want) – innnnnnnnnnn and outttttttttttt. Sorry, but I needed a bit of that internet venting time before I could wholeheartedly delve into the third installment of Thankfulness [APPLAUSE NOW]. It’s been a long time coming, but my blogging process has now become sort of a cross between having a good idea and waiting for a divine moment that crystallizes that idea. For this particular post, it was a video I watched recently in combination with a video I watched months ago when I first came up with the thankfulness idea. But before I show you these videos, you have to decide if you want the good video first or the bad video. I’ll let you watch either one first like a choose your own blogging adventure. I highly suggest watching the videos – they are 20 min total, but will make for better reflection experience… and they are great videos.

Good video – It’s a TED talk and I know seeing 12 min is a turnoff, but I promise this one is especially worth it.

Bad video – Only 8 min, is a social experiment, and pop science… what’s not to love?

Hopefully you have just finished watching both videos, but if not I guess try to keep up? I’ll address the bad first so we can end on a good note :). The thing that blew my mind was that in the monopoly game, the natural tendency for us humans is to feel like WE deserve more success and respect when we are more materially successful, even though the position of power was dealt by a flip of the coin. It’s especially poignant in the game because richness vs. poorness is directly linked to chance, but in life sometimes what separates social classes is simply circumstance. Were you born rich or poor, in essence, is a question of chance because we have no control over it. Even for someone who works for their money, they undoubtedly were bestowed good circumstances because I’m sure there are plenty of people who work hard but still haven’t been blessed with opportunity. The more dangerous outcome to that sense of entitlement, however, is that if you feel like YOU are entitled to more because of your material success, it’s very easy to start to think that others don’t deserve as much if they aren’t as successful. But isn’t it amazing that the “poor” person was found to be significantly more generous? SubhanAllah, materialism can be a poison, especially if you are not grateful… and oh what a great transition into the good video!

So we have the bad news, which simply and hyperbolic-ally put is that corporations are evil, money is bad, and that rich people are kinda jerks. But to borrow from the TED talk, dwelling on these will only further the pattern of negativity we’ve trained onto our brains. The better move is to do away with the negativity and to be positive, and as it turns out it is a solution to both the problem of not having enough and the apparent problem of having too much. That simple solution is gratitude. It is the path to positivity and as Shawn Achor laid out, the path to much more including better results in all facets of life, including work. The act of acknowledging the blessings we have is monumental! It’s a protection from despair and greed, and the essence of every world religion as I understand it. There’s a reason it is such a lauded quality, just think about it. Who are the worst of people? For me it’s those that don’t say thank you. If I held the door open for you and you brush it off like I didn’t do anything, that’s kind of grounds for me to hate you (just kidding… but not really.) It’s in our nature to love people who show gratitude to us, so why have we forsaken it from our own lives?

In the Islamic tradition, the word kaafir, which is commonly translated to disbeliever or infidel, also carries a meaning for ungratefulness. It comes, however, from the root meaning to cover and was commonly used to describe how farmers would cover their seeds with soil. It follows, then, that the one who disbelieves is as the one who is ungrateful, in that they both cover their hearts from the blessings and truth of their Lord. I implore you, whether religious or not, to not be one of the people who covers themselves from seeing all the blessings they have. For me personally, I am trying to adhere to the advice in the TED talk and every night before I go to sleep I try to think of at least three things I am grateful for. I encourage everyone to try the same, and at the very least even if I never cease being a sheep, at least I’ll be happy to pasture.

Happy [positive] Reflecting,

Naj

P.S. Shoutout to #3thingz for the knowledge in the last paragraph, you will all come to know what that is one day, God-willing