As I frustratedly try and stuff another box of barely used toys, unused cutlery sets, read and re-read books, into our already packed garage, “There’s no more space” is what runs through my mind. The occasional catharsis of donation does feel good, but there always seem to be more stuff that I can’t get rid of partly because something in the back of my mind says, “what if I need it some day?” That’s when the unwanted box of things joins the others on the top shelf collecting dust! This time around though, the big brown box made it out to the curbside en route to its new home.
Shrouded in memories of our recent ziyarah in Morocco, I reminisce how my life has changed in subtle ways in every aspect, like the decision to give up the box of excesses that would otherwise have sat on the top garage shelf. In Morocco as we visited the “saba’t ur rijal” (seven men) of Marakkesh, I was struck by the visit to one maqam in a most personal way. Each of the seven saints were undoubtedly amazing men and I left every one’s presence with something that changed me from the inside. The first mausoleum we visited of the wali (friend of Allah) Syed Yusuf bin Ali drove home the point of how little we really need in this life. After spending precious moments praying in their masajids, supplicating to the divine, and familiarizing ourselves with their eminence, we were blessed in this case with the ability to go underground into his room of seclusion (khalwa). This is where he is buried after spending 30 years detached from the world; the tomb atop being just a marker. The room was no more that six feet by eight feet with a low ceiling of about seven feet high. A small light bulb dangled from a wire by the end of the overused wooden stairs and shed light on the walls worn out with time and words. His grave sat in the middle of the room: small, thin and covered in a green cloth. We learned that this sage and saint lived outside the city walls of the Medina (old city)because of leprocy. This literally meant away from people, civilization, protection and distraction- completely in the care of his Lord. He was a man whose body was being consumed with disease while his soul was being consumed by the love of his Creator. Reaction to tribulation is of two types: sabr and shukr. Sabr (patience) is a form of “bearing it” without complaint and awaiting the end of the tribulation. Shukr (gratitude) is thankfulness for things could be worse. Shaykh Yusuf bin Ali was in a state even higher than that. He was ecstatic at his tribulation because it drew him closer to his Lord!
Being so close to his grave perturbed me as I became cognizant of our bodies’ insignificant needs and our nafs‘(self) insatiable desires. As I sat in his presence washing my face with uncontrollable tears, I thought of all that I will leave behind as I exit this world. Will I leave behind a host of things for my loved ones to sort through grudgingly? Am I distancing myself from my Lord’s blessings by putting so much of the world between me and Him? Do I really need those boxes of things sitting in my garage waiting to be used “some day”? If truly all I need in the end is a six feet by three feet piece of land and a whole lot of Khair (good), then perhaps I should start gathering some by giving the boxes of things to those who can use it, not some day but everyday.
As I was de-cluttering and organizing, thinking of Shaykh Yusuf Bin Ali I picked up to put away the translation of Shaikh Abd Al Qadir Al Jilani’s, Futuh Al Ghaib. So I flipped through for a glance and landed on these lines: “ When Allah The Almighty gives you wealth, and you let your preoccupation with it distract you from obedient service to Him, He makes it a barrier between you and Himself in both this world and the hereafter.” Here I was thinking about an issue and like a divine sign this cemented the answer in my heart. I don’t need any other assurances that less is best in order to focus on the Giver rather than the gift. May Allah accept my actions and purify my intentions.