The Clothesline

Aug 10th, 2011 | By | Category: Latest, Religion, Social

So many of the Ramadan have passed without benefitting the soul much. This could be a different one. The periodic break from reality is refreshing. Almost musical; mystical. To consistently be able to get up before dawn for Fajr prayers, timing your midday to slip in to the hospital chapel to bow down in prayer for Zohar, to joining a spouse in the post work Asr prayers, to rediscovering the joy of food and drink with sunset and Maghrib prayers and retiring to bed with a rough sketch of the next work day after Isha prayers.

This is not a claim to piety but an expression of amusement of deprivation bringing such content. Breaking away from the “givens” like food and drink is a hint perhaps to the “portable happiness” that human beings are capable of carrying in their very souls. Years ago in school I learnt of the virtues of fasting and could list understanding hunger and experiencing it first hand, understanding that what we take for granted being indeed a great bounty from Al-Ghaffaar (The Great Forgiver) and to bring discipline and subjugate the “free will” to what the Al-Kareem (The Bountiful) has willed for us. Mostly it was to pass the Islamic studies test. The gulf between word and deed registers meaningfully in the proverbial perfection of hindsight. Through the telescopic reach of it I pull out a seemingly random experience.

I watch the clothes being hung on the clothesline by the housemaid. Besides being entrusted with the task of cleaning a house teeming with children, she would also be asked to help with the laundry. I suspect the separate salaries that she would draw from the multiple families in the house served her sanity well. She starts at one extreme of the clothesline, which by evening would serve as a “net” for a badminton match between cousins, often earning the ire of an aunt or uncle for prematurely removing the garments hung out to dry. By the time she would reach the middle, garments of likely equal weight, would make the line sag just by virtue of their distance from the supports on either end. A much less perplexed mind marvelled at this being an analogy of the disparities in life in general. The clothes in the middle, sometimes the same weight, even shade, colour or fabric would be much closer to the ground, at times leaving them much more vulnerable to picking up dust from the floor when a bunch of teenagers would carelessly bundle them in to a corner for the evening sports. Years later, the simplicity of this analogy finds a reminder in the journey through Ramadan. It fits in to an emerging picture of who I am and where I am headed; still hazy but promising to reveal itself in its entirety. A picture that I believed was a complex mix of depictions, themes and subthemes, subtlety camouflaged as the obvious, turned out to be the creation of one master stroke by Al-Musawwir (He who designs all things). Infinitely simple.

The appropriateness of this analogy holds true as I reflect on the clothesline being this worldly life; confined in time, space, means, material, health and the journey lasting just as long as the body holds on to the basics of its physiology. How can some be left kissing the ground while the others sway freely with the slightest hint of a breeze? That too in a world created by Al-Adil (The Just)? I stared hard at the picture for a long time. No answers arrived and none will for many years and I know all too well the perils of claiming wisdom. I acknowledge the limits of my own vision. To sweep that corner of a sleeve off the ground I would need to make the line tauter and with that one simple answer came many others. The ends of this line extend to eternity, weighed against infinity ultimate and universal justice prevails. The Prophet Mohammed Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said:

Narrated Haritha bin Wahb Al-Khuzai: I heard the Prophet saying. “May I tell you of the people of paradise? Every weak and poor obscure person whom the people look down upon but his oath is fulfilled by Allah when he takes an oath to do something. And may I inform you of the people of the Hell-Fire? They are all those violent, arrogant and stubborn people.”

“I would not like to have gold equal to this mountain of Uhud, unless nothing of it, not even a single Dinar of it remains with me for more than three days, except something which I will keep for repaying debts. I would have spent all of it (distributed it) amongst Allah’s Slaves like this, and like this, and like this.” The Prophet pointed out with his hand towards his right, his left and his back (while illustrating it).

In yet another Hadith it is said that the poor will enter paradise 500 years before the rich as they had not been tested with wealth.

As I finally call it a day I hope to dream of the careless laughter as children play around a clothesline that does not sag.


Ahmed Javed

About the author

Ahmed Javed is a Psychiatrist working in the US. He is a “legal alien”, has a valid visa and often wonders if one can reciprocate kindness with the insincerity of not challenging half-truths that hurts all and if one really needs a blue passport to really belong to teachers, friends and colleagues.

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