Humor me! Get ten pieces of Lego or any stackable items and build a simple tower by stacking one piece on top of the other.
Now take the tower apart and start over again, except this time I would like you to start in the middle. Take the fifth piece and suspend it in the air using absolutely nothing at all and then start adding pieces below it and on top of it. What? You can’t do that? Oh, that’s right, gravity, laws of physics and every ounce of common sense says that you can’t start a simple building of Legos from the middle. Dilemma!
Well, it might be because I am not an engineer and hence obviously not an expert on how to build stuff, so why don’t you Google engineers in your area and call them for advice? Maybe they have a way of starting a building from the middle.
No luck here either? Puzzling!
OK, you know what, now I am intrigued by the concept of starting in the middle. If we can’t do it in the rigid physical realm, as we’ve learned from the above example, then maybe we should look into the less “structured” intellectual realm. Do you have a child or a relative that is of school starting age? I would like you to take that child to a middle school and insist on him/her starting there. If you don’t have a child I would still like you to call a middle school and ask if a 5 year old child can start there. Out of luck here too? Astounding!
Alright fine, I’ll stop being silly. But let me ask you, would you consider the above two examples as signs or ayat from Allah? Allah says in Surat Ali-Imran:
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding” (Qur’an, 3:190).
So, would you consider common sense, laws of physics, gravity, and engineering sciences as ayat worth pondering and reflecting upon? There is a majestic beauty in the order of things that leads an inquisitive mind and a believing heart to the conclusion that there is an omnipotent God. Hence, they are called “signs.”
But the reflection doesn’t stop there. Allah says in Surat Al-Jāthiyah:
“And He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth — all from Him. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought” (Qur’an, 45:13).
For people who give thought!
So when you ask yourself, “Why did my child not grow up to be a good Muslim?” look back at the first example above, as silly as it may seem, and think. Laws of physics and rules of engineering dictate that you can not start a building in the middle. You have to build the foundation first: pour down the concrete first and then build. If your child does not see you praying at home, or only sees the masjid (mosque) on `Eid or only hears the Qur’an in your house when someone has passed away, then why are you so surprised that your child is not leading an Islamic life? Do you expect the couple of hours in Sunday school to do the trick?
Or when you tally up your deeds in a moment of self awakening and you think to yourself, “Man, I have done some real bad stuff and I got to shape up but it’s just too hard to be a good Muslim. I have to change so much,” walk down the street and look at the most magnificent building you can find and realize that this building is such because it has a solid foundation. Start with the basics. Establish your salah (prayers), build on it, and the rest of you will become magnificent.
Think about the second example. Can you start a child’s math learning journey with Calculus? So, why is it then that when a new Muslimah comes to the masjid, the first thing she hears is “You are wearing nail polish!? Your wudu (ablution) is incorrect and your salah is invalid!” Or she is pounced on, hands in her face shoving a couple of loose hairs back under her awkwardly fitted hijab (veil).
Look around Allah’s creation and ponder beyond the existence of a creator. You are, alhamdullillah (all praise to Allah), Muslim, so you know that Allah is there and you believe in Him. Take your reflection on His creation to the next level. Every single aspect of life, whether living or inanimate, is an ayah (sign), and every sign carries a direction. Open your heart and mind and reflect upon such signs and you will find your way insha’Allah (God willing).