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The Lost Art of Contemplation

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By Irum Sarfaraz

It is surprising how much one can strengthen one’s iman simply by reading between the lines. I firmly believe that one of the reasons many of us find Islam so hard and difficult is because we have forgotten the art of contemplation. So hurried is life with its rat-race and this-race and that-race that there is no time to think anymore. What else is faith but reflection and deliberation? Simple yet so sadly ignored. Here is my little story.

Ever since I started noticing the rising trend for personalized number plates, I wanted one too. But I wanted something that would reflect who I was in thought and person. It took me a long time and I finally had it. QULAHAD…perfect. Say One. Everyone who would see the plate will read it and say One….Allah. It was just what I wanted. I had it on my car six weeks later. Then came the outer border. I wanted something perfect for that as well. That proved to be a more daunting task. I wanted ‘wa makaru, wa makarallahi, walla hu khair-ul- makareen’…and they plan, and Allah plans and Allah is the best of the planners’. Infinite wisdom, humility and the reason for living condensed into one sentence. There was just one problem; it wouldn’t fit. So I was back to the proverbial drawing board again.

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I also decided that since QULAHAD is akin to a code to the non-Muslims, even if they do take Allah’s name while reading it, I should have the outer border written in something that they would understand. But it just evaded me forever. The solution came to me I was working on a philosophy research document and reading about Descartes, the highly influential French philosopher, mathematician, scientist and writer. Dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’ and the ‘Father of Modern Mathematics’, much of subsequent Western philosophy is a reaction to his writings. His most famous statement is Cogito ergo sum or ‘I think, therefore I am’. Bingo! I had it. I was familiar with this quote and for me it held the beauty of a poem concentrated in five words….and plus it would fit perfectly in the limited space too. I was very pleased. I ran the idea past my kids. Though it took a while to explain it to them…. ‘I think, therefore, I am’. Lovely indeed.

I started searching for the best site to go and order this online. All the while, the phrase played like a litany in my head. I was unconsciously contemplating it. Four or five days, I felt there was something not so right about it at all….I think, therefore I am? Somehow I wasn’t so swayed anymore. I am not because I think…I am because Allah created me. I am not because I am able to be anything on my own…I am only as much as Allah had desired me to be. ‘I think, therefore I am’ was suddenly very ambiguous. The only notion that was suddenly clear in my head was why Descartes is the modern philosopher. He has put the thinking of the modern man into five words. You are whatever you strive to be. Your fate is what you will it to be. You become the result of your hard work and effort. And that’s all what you are. Sure religion is something good to have around but God has little to do with who you are; you are what you make of yourself. You are what you think.

And to think I had been enamored by this saying for most of my life. Contemplation had proved to be a savior. So I was back to square one; what to put on the border of the number plate? Contemplation again. Less than a week later I had it…. ‘I am, therefore I think’….Bingo! Of course. Allah has made us ashraf-ul-makhlooqat and bestowed upon us the power of thought, intelligence and reason. He has given us the mind to think about Him, this world and our reason for creation. I am because Allah has created me, my job is to ruminate, cogitate and come to a conclusion about my life, how I am spending it and where it will eventually lead me.

Am I clear about who created me and why? What does He want from me in life? Am I doing the right things in life or not? Am I thinking about the purpose of life enough to figure out what needs to be done, what roads to be taken, what deeds to be accomplished? I have been destined to think and unless I do, I will never know about my creator and what His purpose was in creating me. Things will always be so hazy that I will spend my entire life in a mindless stupor infatuated by sayings such as ‘I think, therefore I am’.

Pretty soon the correct saying will be on my car. Maybe it will make others think a little more deeply about the actual meaning of the phrase. How many will figure out that the words are actually jumbled up a little and that a little reassembly of words can change their entire outlook on life? How many will stay enamored with the original composition? I am however convinced; Descartes was an accomplished man, he just had his words mixed up.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. AnonyMouse

    December 8, 2007 at 4:34 PM

    Wow, masha’Allah, this is an amazing post!
    Aunty, I look forward to many more wonderful posts such as this… :)

    (InexplicableTimelessness, now I know where you get it from! Masha’Allah! :D)

  2. Halima

    December 8, 2007 at 6:55 PM

    The words made me smile, made me think and contemplate! Love it!

    Jazak Allahu khayran.

    • Nurul

      December 3, 2015 at 10:17 PM

      Same! :D I love this so much I literally sat up straight (from my lying down position) towards the end of the post <3

  3. Moiez

    December 8, 2007 at 11:48 PM

    You’re absolutely right! One thing to point out though is the fact that when one contemplates make sure he/she be on the guard for shaytaan to enter into the contemplation and have you go into a tangent of things one should not contemplate about. We seek refuge in Allah from the occursed Shaytaan! Ameen!

  4. kd

    December 9, 2007 at 12:42 AM

    MashaAllah love this post! Hope to see more of Sis. Irum…

    If only we were open minded like this all the time, I guess that would be a most ideal state, the state of perpetual contemplation of Allah. May Allah help us all to succeed in being able to do this. Ameeeen!

  5. Dawud Israel

    December 9, 2007 at 3:57 AM

    Good article. But for some reason I don’t get it.

    I guess different things make sense to different people based on the conditions and circumstances upon which Allah presents them.

    P.S. I have a photograph of a license plate that says “We Lost” which I believe is referring to the loss of Iraq, Afghanistan etc…

    P.P.S. MM needs more posts re: contemplation! :D

  6. hijabhaven

    December 9, 2007 at 6:46 AM

    Assalamu’aalaykum
    I enjoyed this post, masa’Allah. Let us know how it goes with the plate… and your thoughts to follow.

  7. MOM445GIRLS

    December 9, 2007 at 11:15 PM

    SALAAM,

    My dear sister in Islam, as alway you give us a great post, article… MashaAllah and yours just came on time, yes sister (( ‘wa makaru, wa makarallahi, walla hu khair-ul- makareen’…and they plan, and Allah plans and Allah is the best of the planners’.)) I love it …keep it up, and please write more for us…

  8. AnonyMouse

    December 10, 2007 at 1:32 AM

    Re: “I think, therefore I am”

    I’ve come across a couple other common phrases that, when you think about it, don’t seem so right after all.

    For example, I have one of those buttons that says “I love when I’m right, which is always.” But when you think about it… only Allah is right all the time!
    Then there’s “I love my attitude problem”… which isn’t an attitude that Muslims are really supposed to have, because aren’t we supposed to be constantly *fighting* our attitude problems?

  9. Sadiqa

    December 10, 2007 at 5:35 PM

    If I had to be, I had to be! Thinking power is God given, I am to utilize it! All are blessings..to be and to be able to think!

  10. Valentin

    January 7, 2009 at 10:22 AM

    w0pGdtUJC0Yxj

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