Thoughts by the Ocean on Mother’s Day

Some things are written from the heart, so that when you put pen to paper, you know where to begin, but not where you will end.

Dedicated to all the mothers I have known and been inspired by.

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I am sitting at Nungwe beach on the coast of Zanzibar, overlooking the turquoise blue waters of the Indian ocean. The ocean is calm, and it stretches out across the horizon. Scattered across it, mostly in shallow waters, are small fishing boats (or dhows), belonging to the local fishermen.

It is a soothing, expansive vista, as only a sight of nature can be. It is a nice privilege to be able to press the pause button on life, and take a break from the ceaseless bustle of London. Sitting here, I try to refresh my mind, akin to a vessel pouring out its contents into an ocean. However, as I do so, I notice that one central thought that remains with me. And that is of awe at the work of God, and the beautiful and complex world that He has created for us. As you look at the white sand, the calm blue water, the children running across the beach, you cannot help but ask: who put all this together?

The answer is plainly obvious, and it is that supreme power which we cannot see, hear, or smell, but Whose infinite incidence is all around us, manifest in nature’s intricate construct. It is also what the Quran reminds us of in Surah Ar-Rahman (The Merciful), which describes the multiple natural bounties bestowed upon man:

“The Most Beneficent (Allah)! Has taught (you mankind) the Qur’an (by His Mercy).
He created man. He taught him eloquent speech.

The sun and the moon run on their fixed courses (exactly) calculated with measured out stages for each (for reckoning, etc.).
And the herbs (or stars) and the trees both prostrate.

And the heaven He has raised high, and He has set up the Balance.
In order that you may not transgress (due) balance.

And observe the weight with equity and do not make the balance deficient.
And the earth He has put for the creatures.

Therein are fruits, date-palms producing sheathed fruit-stalks (enclosing dates).
And also corn, with (its) leaves and stalk for fodder, and sweet-scented plants.”

And then asks, “Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinns and men) deny?”

It is nature which sustains man, and which each generation must hold in trust for the next.

Gazing at the sand, I am also reminded of a short story that my mother once read to me. She had had the story framed and hung up on the wall of my room when I was a teenager. It was titled, “Footsteps in the sand.” It was the story of a man who had a dream. He dreamt that he was walking along a sandy coast at the end of his life, as imagines from his life flashed across the sky. As he looked back, he saw that there were two sets of footprints in the sand, one his own, and the other belonging to God. He noticed that at the most difficult points in his life, there was only one set of prints in the sand. This made him sad. He asked God, “God, it seems that at the most difficult points in my life, You had left me all alone. Why?” God answered, “My dear child, I would never abandon you. It was at those moments that I carried you.”

I feel eternally grateful to my mother for introducing me to that story. For so many reasons, it is one that will always stay with me.

And so, as my time here draws to an end, the last thought on my mind is that no matter how severe the challenges of life, we must have faith that Allah will never abandon us, and in this great quest for the meaning of life, and the right balance, we can always look to Him for guidance and courage.

For now, Khudahafiz.

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