By Zara Iqbal
Striking a balance between what matters to you, and what matters to your parents
Tuesday the 6th of January. It was my birthday, the day that I crossed the 22 years mark.
Just as I didn’t look any older when I saw myself in the mirror that morning (no white hair), I also didn’t feel any older. 21, 22, 23- what really mattered wasn’t the age, but the fact that I hadn’t done anything substantial in my life yet.
I’d just spent 20 years of my life, living, but I had no fantastic war stories to tell about my younger days. I hadn’t published any books so far – that last draft I’d written when I was 14 was lying abandoned and forever lost somewhere in the downstairs study. My bedroom wall was not covered in certificates or newspapers cut outs from a very full and lucrative teenage (although I’d somehow managed to get my name into the local newspapers a couple of times when I was younger and a whole lot more ambitious).
Would it be ingratitude to God, I wondered, if I continued living my life the way I was living it? Was it ungratefulness that caused me to waste the resources and talent God had given me- and to treat each day as just another day instead of the chance to make a difference that it really was? Was I becoming the sort of person who took everything for granted?
“And he had fruits (in abundance), so he said to his companion, as he was conversing with him: ‘I have greater wealth than you, and am mightier in respect of men’.”
“And he entered his garden while he was unjust to himself. He said: ‘I do not think that this will ever perish,”
“And I do not think that the Hour (of Resurrection) will come, and even if I am returned unto my Lord, I shall surely find better than this a resort’.”
In the past year, balancing a hectic university schedule, family time and my social life (pretend I’m a really popular person) was becoming a struggle; so much so that my mum kept on asking me to cut down on weekend engagements.
To spend more time at home, I’d miss another much needed workshop/Qur’an class/lunch with my old school friends. But the more time I spent helping my mum around the house or babysitting my little brother Adam, the less time I would have to get any of my other work done. There were frequent arguments, tears and frustrated rants to my closest friends over the phone. I wanted to keep my friends and family happy, while at the same time keep my position in the top three in my class. I’d left an ideal volunteer job just because I couldn’t give it the time it required. The tug of war between my relationships and my responsibilities, and my desire to do well at everything became a permanent feature of my life.
In the midst of all this, I worked to strengthen my relationship with God. It was very important to me that I kept sight of my real goals, of Allah’s Mercy and His paradise, especially when I felt most overwhelmed by all that I thought I had to do. Failure was what scared me the most; the thought of failing in this short life, as well as the more frightening thought of failing in the Afterlife…
More than once in the past year, I thought of booking myself some driving lessons. If I could travel independently, perhaps I would get a lot more done. I’d be mobile; surely then I’d be able to make the most efficient use of my free time.
My dad had bought me a blue Mercedes C200 the year I started university when we both still dreamed of the day I would be driving myself to university. He sold it six months later when he realized that that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
The driving lessons simply never materialised, along with the countless other things I wanted to do but couldn’t find time for… It wasn’t that I was not doing anything. I was doing plenty, at least in my own head. But was I really making time for the right things? I had spent 22 years trying to do a little bit of everything. It was high time I ranked my priorities…
“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him; and that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them, but address them in terms of honour.”
It was in the evening, on the 6th of January 2015.
My mum and I sat together at a talk by Shaykh Abu Eesa (from the UK). I’d heard a lot about the Shaykh from my cousin in Scotland – who was a fan- but it was the title of the event that really intrigued me. From House To Home, said the post on a social networking site (i.e. Facebook, duh).
It seemed very fitting that I would attend a talk on the day I turned 22 on the importance of family. And more importantly- that I would attend it with my mum. It wasn’t often that she would stay back to attend an event with me- she usually just dropped me off and went home.
When the Shaykh talked about how, in the Qur’an, Allah followed up worship of Him with obedience to our parents, my mind started turning. I’d come across this verse a gazillion times but I’d never really thought about what it meant for someone in my situation.
From the corner of my eye I could see my mum listening attentively to the Shaykh. She seemed to be enjoying herself, taking small sips of tea out of a white disposable cup. I wondered why I hadn’t made more of an effort to spend time with her like this in the past. From now onwards, I decided, I would actively involve my mum in my life. My parents needed my love, my time and my obedience. They merited the best of me, and deserved to be given priority over other comparatively trivial relationships.
I was 22, and I had not really accomplished anything significant in my life. I hadn’t broken any world records, and I was nowhere near winning a Nobel prize. But I’d learnt a very important lesson- one that I could constantly remind myself about in life.
Success wasn’t all about doing more; rather, it was more to do with accomplishing the things that really mattered. It was high time I set my priorities straight.