The year 2012, like those before it, is a mixed bag of happiness and joy; of vexations and amazements. This column will dedicate next week, the last in the year, for readers to share the joys and frustrations of being Nigerian. What experience would you like to share in a 100-word essay (a la Twitter): DANA? Yakowa/Azazi? Otedollars? Pension Fund? That honest guy who returned millions and was rewarded with a national honour? How taxi drivers break every known law and get away? But remember, The Past Is Gone Forever, together with the loot.
Talking about the past, almost five years ago a reader recommended the book ‘DON’T BE SAD’ (in Arabic LA TAHZAN) by Aaidh Ibn Abdullah Al-Qarnee as a phenomenal book. We put up excerpts here from the English translation by Faisal Ibn Muhammad. Five years down the line, we revisit The Past Is Gone Forever and other topics:
THE PAST IS GONE FOREVER: Do not live in the nightmares of former times or under the shade of what you have missed. Episodes of the past are finished with; sadness cannot retrieve them, melancholy cannot make things right, and depression will never bring the past back to life.
TODAY IS ALL THAT YOU HAVE: When you wake up in the morning, do not expect to see the evening. Live as though today is all that you have. Yesterday has passed with its good and evil, while tomorrow has not yet arrived. If you have eaten warm, fresh bread today, then what do yesterday’s dry, rotten bread and tomorrows’s anticipated bread matter?
LEAVE THE FUTURE ALONE UNTIL IT COMES: Be not hasty and do not rush for things that have yet to come to pass. Do you think it wise to pick fruits before they become ripe? Many are those who cry because they see themselves starving tomorrow, falling sick after a month, or because they fear the world will come to an end after a year. Someone who has no clue as to when he will die (which is all of us) should not busy himself with such thoughts.
DO NOT EXPECT GRATITUDE FROM ANYBODY: Do not be dismayed when you find that others forget your favours or disregard your kind acts. Hence do not be in a state of agitation if you give someone a pen as a gift and he uses it to satirise you, or if you give someone a walking stick to lean upon and he strikes you with it. Most human beings are ungrateful to the Lord Himself Who created them and sustains them, so why bother if they are ungrateful to you?
DOING GOOD TO OTHERS GIVES COMFORT TO THE HEART: The first person who benefits from an act of charity is the benefactor himself; by finding peace, by watching a smile form on the lips of another. If you find yourself in distress, show kindness to others, give to the needy, defend the oppressed, feed the poor, help those in distress, and visit the sick.
REPEL BOREDOM WITH WORK: When you find yourself to be idle, prepare for depression and despair, because idleness allows your mind to wander in the past, the present and the future, with all their difficulties. It is those who have nothing to do with their lives that spend most of their time spreading rumours and falsehood. Destroy boredom by working.
CONVERT A LEMON INTO A SWEET DRINK: An intelligent and skillful person transforms losses into profits, whereas the unwise and unskilled aggravates his own predicament, making two disasaters out of one. If you are afflicted with a misfortune, look on the bright side. If someone were to hand you a glass full of squeezed lemons, add to it a handful of sugar.
CONTEMPLATE AND BE THANKFUL: Remember the favours of Allah upon you and how they surround you from above and below – indeed from every direction. Should you take it lightly that you slumber soundly while misery hinders the sleep of many? You have feet? Consider those who have not. Reflect on your ability to reason, and remember those who suffer from mental ailments.
ACCEPT LIFE AS IT IS: The pleasures of life are short lived, and more often than not, they are followed by sorrow. Life means responsibility, a journey wherein change is constant and difficulties are many. You will not find a father, a wife, or a friend who is free from problems. Allah has willed for this world to be filled with two opposites: good and evil. So live according to your reality without always envisioning the ideal life. Accept life as it is and adapt accordingly to all circumstances.
PATIENCE IS MOST FITTING: Only a minority of people meet hardship with a strong bearing and a patient countenance. If you or I will not be patient, what else is there for us to do? Do you have alternative solution? Do you know of any better provision than patience? Those that achieve greatness most likely had to surmount an ocean of difficulties and hardships before finally achieving success.
DO NOT CARRY THE WEIGHT OF THE GLOBE ON YOUR SHOULDERS: Let the earth carry the burden of the things that happen, and do not attempt to carry them. Some people have a heart that is like a sponge, absorbing all kinds of fallacies and misconceptions. It is troubled by the most insignificant of matters, somehow being troubled by all that takes place. It is an internal war that results in ulcers or an increase in blood pressure. This kind of heart is sure to destroy its possessor.
BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE: If you are a seeker of happiness, be satisfied with the looks Allah has favoured you with, with your family situation, with the sound of your voice, with the level of your understanding. In fact, you should imagine being contented with even less than you have now.
PEOPLE SHOULD DEPEND ON YOU, NOT YOU ON THEM: The noble-hearted one works for people and does not allow them to serve him. Therefore, make no decisions or plans that will require your reliance upon others. Stand on your own.
FAITH IS LIFE ITSELF: Those that are wretched, in the full sense of the word, are those that are bereft of the treasures of faith. They are always in misery, anger and humiliation.
DON’T BE SAD: Sadness enervates the spirit’s will to action, paralysing the body into inactivity. The secret of this is that sadness prevents one from action, instead of compelling one towards it. The heart benefits nothing through grief. There is no real benefit in sadness; in fact, Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, used to seek refuge from sadness in this supplication: ‘O Allah, I seek refuge in You from anxiety and grief.”
We end with a quote (dated 960AD) from that great ruler of Islamic Spain, Abdurrahman the Third: “I have now reigned about 50 years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen.”