When I had to reverse my car

By Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwi and translated by Hala Akram and Aisha Akram

There is a large population of South Asian Muslims in East London. Situated near Whitechapel station is the London Muslim Centre. I have taught numerous courses here and even now, give lectures from time to time. In 2006, I taught the Muwatta of Imam Malik for several months. This class was once a week and I would drive from Oxford and back; Due to London’s traffic, the sixty-mile route would take between an hour and a half to two hours.

I once drove into a street near the mosque, there were cars parked on both sides. Only one car could pass by and any oncoming vehicle would have to wait. As I had entered the street first, it was legally my right to pass through and other oncoming vehicles should wait for me. I was half way down the street when a group of South Asian youth sped towards me and stopped in front of my car. I had to arrive at my class on time and this new hindrance troubled me. I stopped my car in the hope that, as I was legally entitled to pass first, the young men would reverse, however, they did not.

After a while, one of them came to me and demanded that I reverse my car. I replied that as I had entered the street first, it is my right to drive through. They then said as it is their neighbourhood, I will have to reverse my car. Despite how weak and illogical this argument was, I had to surrender as I did not want to argue, nor be late for my class. So, I reversed my car and the young men drove through, triumphant.

I was not harmed by a few minutes of humiliation and disgrace. I arrived at my class on time and taught with my usual demeanour. On the other hand, what did these young men gain other than a hollow victory? It only increased their arrogance; they did not become closer to fulfilling their goals or achieving success. I did not think to take revenge on these young men or display my superiority over them but rather, I made it my focus to fulfill my goal. From this incident, an important reality became clear to me: that there are two kinds of human beings or societies.

There are those who have a true purpose in life. In order to achieve this, they plan and continue to struggle until their goal is actualised. During this time, they face difficulties, are sometimes wronged and deprived of their rights. They do not make it a matter of their dignity or ego. They do not engage with their oppressors. They know that the joy of life is in suffering. When they have accomplished their goals, they will be so overcome with euphoria that they will forget their suffering. Every stage of their journey is dear to them. Temporary defeat and humiliation does not weaken their spirits or ambitions, nor does it affect their love for the journey and destination.

On the other hand, there are those who do not want to know their destination, and even if they do know, they do not plan for it, nor do they make any effort to achieve it. It is not easy for them to walk on the straight path. They seize the resources and successes of others, and achieve their temporary goals illegitimately – they consider this their success. In the name of their power, they occupy someone’s land, house and property. Despite their incompetence, they attain a position, rejoice in it, walk boastfully on the earth and show their superiority to all creation. The laws of the universe do not acknowledge this false success and crookedness. The end of such people and such nations is only humiliation and failure. History is full of examples of these unfortunate people.

Additionally, there are wronged and weak people, on the back of whom, their oppressors have built palaces of happiness. Amongst the oppressed are those who weep over their circumstances and complain of their oppressors to everyone; in doing so, adding to their humiliation and disgrace. There are some whose goal is to seek revenge from their oppressors, and day and night, they are consumed with revenge.

On the contrary, are those oppressed people who learn lessons from these temporary defeats. They keep their goal in mind, planning properly and earnestly, setting out on their journey. These types of people strive to avoid arguments with their oppressors and not be discouraged by their happiness. They patiently pursue their goals; for the pursuit of their goals is more valuable and non-negotiable. This perseverance gives them the light needed to turn all darkness into camphor. They indulge in such goodness that they pay no attention to the temporary success of their wrongdoers. Their heart is not ruled by any tyrant; even in their apparent weakness, they feel the freedom that the rulers of this material world cannot snatch away.

These are the people; whose every step heralds the defeat of the oppressors. They continue their journey with patience and perseverance. The one who is strong and full of breath does not fear danger; they know that the hawk never tires from flight, and falls. Ultimately, they attain the status that Yusuf (peace be upon him) gained from the monarchy of Egypt and that of the Noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in the form of the conquest of Makkah and the never-ending series of conquests. These are the people who see life as a test and their goal is to succeed in this test.

Disclaimer: Translations have not been checked by the author and represent the work of the translator