To Teach

Once my mama asked me, ‘When you grow up what do you want to be?’
I answered that I wanted most of all to be a doctor, to help humanity.
She nodded approvingly and her face lit up with joy.
She said, ‘That’s what I’ve always hoped and prayed that you would be.
But not just any doctor. What I want for you is something more.
A doctor trained to cure the souls as well as physical ills,
Who attends to the lifeless with the unfailing remedy,
The life-giving waters, not just with medicines or pills.
Your well-trained hands will sprinkle over all created entities
The Elixir meant to alter the most moribund condition.
Looking to the example of Dr. Muhajir and Dr. Asdaghi,
Witness, their every breath was spent as heavenly physicians,
Attending to the human race, encompassed with afflictions,
Languishing on sick beds of separation and self-delusion,
In need of the All-Knowing who recognizes their disease,
His finger on their pulse, till they are freed from the confusion
Of conjurers that enmesh them in divisive therapies.
That’s the kind of doctor I hope that you will be.’

Then I marshalled up my courage and said ‘There’s something else I’d like to be.
I’ve thought about being a soldier, to protect us from the enemy.’
She said, ‘I’m not opposed to that, in fact I would agree.
But the soldier I have in mind needs more than just an arsenal
To do battle with the infringing force of darkness and despair.
You’ll need the breastplate of His love, the banner of His Name,
A tongue that’s sharper than a sword, a heart that’s courageous
Like the lion, for you’ll need to attack those blood-thirsty wolves
That stalk their prey with appetites, unpitying and rapacious.
Mounted on your charger, any battlefield to serve,
A fearless warrior, a flame of fire to all His enemies.
Your source of courage and power, the promotion of His Word.
If you are overtaken by the swords of adversity,
You will never waver, knowing His love will conquer all,
That the onslaught of the legions of resistance has no power,
Neither Nimrod nor the Pharaoh nor the desert tribes combined.
Tens of thousands of your foes, closely leagued, will finally cower.
Individually you will vanquish every flank, left and right
Yet you’ll never be alone, accompanied by The Hosts on High,
Equipped to conquer east and west with their invincible might.
The battle will continue and fresh recruits will be enlisted till
The fortress walls be broken down, unassailable blockades shattered.
As you march in serried ranks, the hosts of ignorance will abate.
Armed with the power of truth, their forces will be scattered.
Then all ears will hear the clarion call of victory resonate.
That’s the kind of soldier I hope you’ll want to emulate.’

Feeling now as if I were completely unprepared, I said,
‘What if I just try to be like you, a teacher instead?’
She smiled and looked at me with a sparkle in her eyes.
She said. ‘Alright, but as you know the hours are never easy.
The preparation is painstaking, with little time to rest.
First of all you teach yourself, delve into the writings.
You will memorize the passages and prayers that you read.
You will make a special effort to find their inner meaning.
To put that understanding into practice you will need
To array yourself with virtue, be enkindled with His fire,
Learn the history of the Faith, know the Bible and the Qur’an.
Be responsive to the institutions, carry out their plans,
Uphold the laws and put in practice all the exhortations.
Then you will be ready for the mightiest endeavor.
Your heart now independent, your resolution strong,
Your thoughts at peace, your love for God a shining constellation
To lead the peoples of the world to the Most Great Horizon.
You’ll understand the guidance and refer to it continually,
Survey the possibilities and proceed systematically,
Gather together all the people, but especially the youth,
Elucidate the arguments, provide them with the proofs,
With patience nurse your spiritual child to full maturity,
Instil in him the longing to arise, independently,
To quicken other souls, be unrestrained as the wind,
That no sight of desolation or the trappings of prosperity
Can cause him pain or pleasure or disrupt his magnanimity.
This will become the dominating passion of your life,
Not just to be a teacher, but to be a master builder,
Building whole communities, like nothing seen before.
Not an easy job, it requires extended effort and
The intention must be pure. Yet the plan is sufficient,
For it breeds opportunity. It’s uncannily efficient.’

I said ‘Mama, I’m not sure I can be any of those three,
Not a doctor or a soldier or a teacher, if I tried.’
She said, ‘You can, you could be all three of them combined.
And you know He will be with you, ready at your side.
Every eye has been enabled to recognize His signs.
All ears have been created to hearken to this call.
From any reticent heart He’ll cause the words to flow.
Our silence would be dire, they won’t hear anything at all.
Teaching is the greatest gift, the way to touch all souls.
This priceless privilege won’t allow a moment’s hesitation.
His mandate to proclaim this Cause should be our major goal.
If we wish to achieve His pleasure we must be valiant and arise
To give, not a spoon-fed palliative to tranquilize their lives,
But the prescription that will vivify their souls and galvanize,
Through the power of His Word, these newly planted seeds.
Surely you’ll achieve the most commendable of all deeds.’

‘But Mama, look at me’, I said, ‘I’m not up to the task’.
She looked at me and closed her eyes and then she asked,
‘Are you only thinking of your smallness and your frailties?
Big changes don’t occur from one day to the next.
Daily efforts must be made, He only asks we do our best.
Try to fulfill unflinchingly the duties you’ve been given.
Forget your limitations, the battle will be won.
The mystery of eternal might vibrates from within you.
A speck of dust will be converted into a blazing sun.
A sorry gnat will find itself transformed into an eagle.
A tiny ant shall be empowered to stand up to the elephant.
A dewdrop will become an ocean, powerful and regal.
So don’t you worry, darling, in time you will see
The promises fulfilled, you can be anything you choose to be.’