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Random thoughts

April 2, 2018

Life lessons through rich anecdotes


April 2, 2018

Newspapers nowadays are full of reports on politics, cricket and about the pathetic condition an average Pakistani is living in. We hardly ever see or hear anything good about the country or about the betterment of the life of the common man.

The Supreme Court and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) have become very active, and rightly so. Many seemed to be under the impression that they had a free hand and were not accountable to anyone. And now there is a campaign against these important institutions. It is always the same story – those with vested interests are most vocal in their opposition. Unfortunately, the whole public system in our country is a mess, from our schools to hospitals, to roads, sewerage system and the garbage collection system. Let us rather turn to more congenial things.

This is about ‘Hajr al-Aswad’ or the Black Stone, set in a silver frame in the Khana-e-Kabah. We, Muslims from all over the world, kiss it when we go for Umrah or Hajj and perform the ‘tawaf’ (a ritual that includes seven circumambulations of the Kabah). Our Holy Prophet (pbuh) had also kissed it when he performed Hajj. When Hazrat Umar (RA) was performing the ‘tawaf’, he stopped in front of ‘Hajr al-Aswad’ and said: “I know that you are just a stone and no more, but since our Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) kissed it, I am doing the same out of respect to him”.

In 317 AH, the ruler of Bahrain, Abu Tahir Sulaiman Qaranti, raided and occupied Makkah. The people became so afraid that they did not perform Hajj that year. Nobody could go to Mount Arafat to perform an essential part of the Hajj rituals. This was the first (and the last) time that people could not perform Hajj. Abu Sulaiman removed the stone from the Khana-e-Kabah and took it with him to Bahrain. Later, Caliph Muqtadir Billah Abbasi made a deal with Abu Tahir Sulaiman and gave him 30,000 dinar to return the Black Stone to Makkah. This happened in 339 AH.

The caliph sent a learned person, Mohaddis Abdulla, to Bahrain to fetch it. According to Shaikh Sayuti, when Abdulla and his delegation reached Bahrain, the king organised a reception for them in which the stone was officially handed over. At the reception, the king asked one of his courtiers to bring the stone. It was an aromatic, black stone wrapped in a beautiful soft silk cloth that was handed over to Abdulla. A wary Abdulla said he wanted to test it first. It was to pass two tests – it should not sink in water and should not heat up when put into fire.

He placed the stone in the water and it immediately sank. When he put the stone into fire, it became too hot and shattered. Abdulla then proclaimed that this was not ‘Hajr al-Aswad’. The courtier then brought another stone, which also failed to pass the two required tests. Abdulla said he would only accept the real stone. When another stone was brought, it neither sank nor heated up; Abdulla proclaimed it to be the real stone from ‘Jannah’.

The king was very surprised and asked him how he knew these things. Abdulla replied that they had heard that this had been said by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself, to which the king said: “Your religion is very strongly based on traditions.” Abdulla placed the stone on a weak camel that took it back to Khana-e-Kabah. This was in contrast to the reports that came when the king was taking the stone to Bahrain; in ‘Tarikh Makkatal Tibri’ – courtesy Maulana Ysair Habib Sahib – it is stated that many camels (about 40) had died on the way.

This inspiring story is related to the famous tennis legend, Arthur Ashe. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to have won the US Open and Wimbledon (in 1975), and who became the world’s number one tennis player. He died of AIDS after he was injected with infected blood during a heart surgery in 1983.

During his illness, he received many letters from fans, one of them asking: “Why did God have to select you for such a bad disease?” His reply was as follows: “50 million children started playing tennis; 5 million learnt to play; 500,000 learnt professional tennis; 50 thousand came to circuit; 5 thousand reached Grand Slam; 50 reached Wimbledon; 4 reached the semi-finals; 2 reached the finals and when I was holding the cup in my hands, I never asked God ‘Why me?’. So now that I’m in pain, how can I ask God ‘Why me?’ Happiness keeps you sweet; trials keep you strong; sorrows keep you human, failure keeps you humble; success keeps you glowing; but only faith keeps you going.

“Sometimes you are not satisfied with your life, while many people in this world are dreaming of living your life. A child on a farm sees a plane fly overhead and dreams of flying; the pilot on the plane sees the farmhouse and dreams of returning home. That’s life! Enjoy yours; if wealth is the secret to happiness, then the rich should be dancing on the streets, but only poor kids do that. If power ensures security, then VIPs should walk unguarded, but those who live simply, sleep soundly. If beauty and fame bring ideal relationships, then celebrities should have the best marriages.”

Although Arthur Ashe physically died on February 6 1993, he is still spiritually alive in the hearts of millions of people.

Corrigendum: In last week’s column, our moving from Berlin (Germany) to Delft (Holland) was mentioned as being in August 1964. This should have been August 1963.

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