March 1, 2004

Peace Within


 There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the
best picture of peace. Many artists tried their luck. The king looked at all
the representations, but there were only two that fascinated him. Ultimately,
he had to choose between them.

The first depiction was of a calm and quiet lake. The lake was a perfect mirror
of placid, pacific mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy
white clouds. It seemed a perfect picture of peace.

The other image had mountains too, but these were rugged and bare. Above was
an enraged sky, from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the
side of the mountain tumbled a furious, foaming waterfall. Apparently, this
was not at all, the required piece of art. But when the king looked closely,
he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush, growing in a crack in the rock. In
that bush a mother bird had built her peewee nest. There, in the midst of the
rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest – in perfect peace!

Any idea, which one turned out to be the award-winning illustration? The king
chose the second one. Why? “Because,” explained the king, “peace
does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.
Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be cool, calm and
collected in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”

The narration above, compels one to ponder and cogitate. We may state that
man?s basal needs can be totted up as the need for preservation, the need
for knowledge and the need for peace and harmony. Since the basic unit of humanity
is an individual human, it is evident that in order to achieve peace in the
outer world it must first be attained within the hearts of all the individuals.
Consequently outer peace, or world peace as you may put it, is a by-product
of personal tranquility and mental satisfaction of individuals that inhabit
it. Thomas Kempis had said, ?First keep the peace within yourself, then
you can bring peace to others.? Some people have a view that peace will
come to them when they control every single element in their lives. Maybe they
are just oblivion to the fact that this is not within our reach. We cannot control
everything in our lives. One must understand the difference between things that
are within our control and things that are beyond that. The concept of Predestination
(?Qadr?) is central to this understanding. On the other hand, religious
scholars and intellectuals are of the view that the tribulation and distress
in today?s world may have a perspicuous cause – we have lost the path
that lead to salvation by missing out on God?s cardinal instructions.

Inner peace is a feeling of calmness and satisfaction within ones heart. But
the delicate question is, how can that be attained? ?Imaan? ?
the true faith in Allah subhanhu wa ta?ala and the collective term for
all those beliefs on which the Islamic faith is based – is the sole positive
and real ground for a person?s inner calmness and rapture. This Arabic
word is derived from the root word a-m-n, pointing towards peace and tranquility
that a believer enjoys in his heart as a result of practicing and bolstering
these beliefs. There must be a total submission to God?s commands; no
half-hearted consents. Real happiness and peace can be found by submitting to
the commands of the Sustainer of this world and by remaining content and satisfied
with His Decree. It is said in the Quran, ?Truly in remembering God do
hearts find rest.? (13:28). ?Dhikr? or ?the remembrance
of Allah subhanahu wa ta?ala? leads to God consciousness, which
persuasively brings forth total submission to His commands. Thereupon, it is
imperative that in order to bring tranquility into our lives we must live according
to His Commandments.

Another significant factor that massively contributes towards acquiring a
complacent soul is ?Shukr? or ?thankfulness? to God.
?Shukr? is derieved from the root word, sh-k-r, and its literal
meaning is ?when a cow feeds on less fodder but gives more milk?.
Conspicuously, it indicates how a believer should be. He should be grateful
to Allah subhanahu wa ta?ala under all circumstances. To attain inner
peace we must look for abundance in our lives while minimizing the negatives.
We must learn to develop a sense of gratitude within ourselves for all that
we have been so lucky to be blessed with. Come to think of it, most of us have
a great deal in our lives to make us blissfully content but unfortunately we
lack the ability to acknowledge and appreciate it. A lot is taken for granted
and many blithe, simple moments in daily life are disregarded and forgotten.
Ungratefulness takes away tranquility from within our hearts. As Melody Beattie
had so rightly said, ?Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns
what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to
order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a
home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace
for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow?. So true!

The station of gratitude (shukr) is considered the best and the highest of
all the stations of faith (imaan). Gratitude also includes in itself the virtue
of Patience (sabr). When we look at the life of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu
alaihi wassalum) we find that there is nothing greater then his patience and
gratitude. He was ?Saboor? and ?Shakoor?. The reality
is that a servant of Allah subhanahu wa ta?ala can be in one of the two
states during his life time. Either he is enjoying a bounty for which he should
be thankful for, or he may be suffering a calamity that he should meet with
patience and forbearance. Muslim states the Hadith: ?Amazing is the believer,
for whatever Allah decrees for him! If he is tested with a bounty, he is grateful
for it and this is better for him; and if he is afflicted with a hardship, he
is patient with it and this is better for him.?

Patience mainly has three forms:
(a) Patience for avoiding the prohibitions and sins,
(b) Patience for acts of worship and obedience,
(c) Patience required in the face of afflictions and hardships.

The Quraan explicitly mentions the finest tools that may be applied to help
ease the effects of sufferings and hardships and those are Patience (Sabr) and
Prayer (Dhikr). It is stated in Surah-e-Bakarah, verse 152-153: ?Therefore
remember Me (by praying, glorifying (dhikr)). I will remember you, and be grateful
to Me (for my countless favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me. O you
who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salah (the prayer). Truly, Allah is
with the As-Sabireen (the patient)?. Allah subhanahu wa ta?ala has
pointed-out the virtues of Dhikr, Shukr and Sabr in this surah and their stately
significance in our lives. One may conclude that ?Sakina? ?
peace and tranquility within the heart ? is a gift from Allah subhanahu
wa ta?ala, and the most essential ingredients that contribute toward a
serene and placid heart are Remembrance of Allah subhanahu wa ta?ala,
Gratitude and Patience. Consequently, a heart that remains thankful and patient,
while in constant remembrance of its Creator, can never lose peace within.

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