By Umm Ibrahim
The ever-alert guard slides open the gate, and my chauffeur-driven car glides in smoothly to a view of lush green grass, and all the colors of spring in bloom. I step out and look around at the gardeners busy working away in the sun.
“I have to leave in 30 minutes again.” I instruct the driver.
Opening the front door, I make a mental list of all the things I need to do in these 30 minutes, before I head to my friend’s place. It is simply a list of all the orders I need to give.
I dial the maid’s extension and the maid responds on the first bell.
“Come inside please. I need to get my clothes ironed.”
“Ji, baji.” She complies obediently.
In less than 2 minutes, she’s inside. I hand her the clothes, and ring the chef’s extension. I tap my fingers impatiently as the bell rings 6 or 7 times. I’m getting irritated.
“Where on earth is this man?”
He picks up the phone and I can sense the hint of drowsiness in his voice.
“Did I wake him up from his afternoon nap?” I wonder.
I give him instructions to fix me a quick snack. After 10 minutes, the clothes are ironed. The maid is given new instructions to clean up my messed-up room.
The bedroom phone rings. It’s the chef: “Food is on the dining table, Madam.”
Too lazy to go downstairs, I say, “Tell the butler to bring it in the lounge upstairs.”
Everything is working like clockwork. After satiating my stomach, I decide to get some shut-eye before heading out again. It has been a long day.
The ringing of my mobile phone shakes me up.
“Where on earth are you?” It’s my best friend.
“Oh sorry…I just took a nap for a few minutes. What’s the time? Oh 4 pm. It’s been an hour. I’ll be there soon.”
I hurriedly get dressed and head out. The driver is waiting, standing next to the car. I realize he must have been there since the past 45 minutes.
“Have you been waiting for long?” I try to mumble an apology.
“Not at all, Madam. That’s my duty, Madam.” He replies.
Before stepping into the car, I notice a flowerpot of withering petunias. I call out to the gardener. He looks up from the weeding and comes hurrying. As I point out the flower pot to him, he apologizes profusely, and immediately gets to work fixing it.
I step in the car and lean back. The guard, ever-alert, opens the gate and the car slides out.
I don’t have to lift a finger to do anything. Well actually, that’s just an exaggeration. I do have to lift a finger. In fact, I have to lift a phone and order around people to get any chore done.
My life has all the trappings of making me a spoilt brat! Raised in the lap of luxury, I admit that I sometimes find it difficult to keep my heart humble and to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. If it wasn’t for the eye-opening realities that the Quran teaches me, I might as well have been an arrogant, annoying little Ms. Stuck-Up through-and-through. I know people who envy this lifestyle. If only they knew: prosperity is a test so veiled that very few pass it as compared to adversity!
The servants sometimes surprise me with their efficiency. There is the occasional inefficient one who gets in, but gets kicked out soon enough. In a military environment, the servants are specially trained to be disciplined and obedient at all times.
They have entered into an employer-employee relationship where they know their duties and job timings and requirements and stick to it religiously.
Take the driver- I could order him to come at 2 am to take us to the airport- he would do it without so much as a squeak.
But what about me? I find it difficult to crawl out of my cozy bed when my Master calls me for Fajr.
Take the chef- He makes what we ask him to, when we ask him to (and eats the same too).
But I often give precedence to my own choices as opposed to my Master’s.
Take the guard- he keeps vigil at the gate all night.
How few, almost non-existent, are the nights when I actually stayed up all night, just for my Master.
Take the maid- she just listens and obeys to all we say.
But me, pathetic little me? Sometimes I choose to ignore what my Master says, sometimes I openly defy it, sometimes I look for loopholes.
I suspect the servants do what they can when I am not looking. When I’m not home, they might be lounging on my sofa, watching TV! But at least, they would never do it when I’m watching. Because they are forbidden to do so. Because it displeases me.
And what about me? I disobey my Master while He watches me! I dare to defy him while He observes and records.
I can never imagine these people openly disobeying me openly. They are just servants.
And who am I? I am not just a servant. I am a slave. A Slave of Allah. I renew this contract every single day with the words: “Iyyaka Na’budu” – You alone we worship; You alone we enslave ourselves to. But do I really accept being a slave? Do I really know my duties and job timings and requirements? Where is my humility and submissiveness that is due before Him? Ahh! How true is the word of Allah:
“Surely, man is to his Master, very ungrateful.” (Surah al-‘Aadiyaat, ayah 6)
From our servants, our employees, we expect nothing short of 100% obedience. Say, if they are late, they might get excused the first day, told off the second day, and kicked out for good the third day.
And we ourselves are slaves of Allah. But we feel proud of the occasional obedience thrown in between persistent acts of disobedience! Whatever we do, we think we are good slaves and our Master must be pleased with us. No, scratch that. The real problem is: We don’t accept that we are His slaves! The way we spend our lives is as if we are the masters of our own lives and we can do as we please; as if Allah’s job (Na’aouzubillah) is to just make things go smoothly for us whenever we call out to Him (such as when the going gets too tough for us to handle on our own).
No! He is the Master and we are the slaves. Accepting this role happily will put our lives on track. Yes, He is a Loving and Forgiving Master. But He is the Master- all the same.
Pondering over who He is and who we are changes the definition of sin. It’s an entire paradigm shift. And we are so messed-up. We need an entire paradigm shift. It is as our pious predecessors said:
“Don’t ever look at the smallness of the sin you are committing, rather realize the magnitude of the One you are sinning against.”