When Tomorrow Comes
Issue 64 January 2010
The last decade was vividly played out to me on a video at my grandmother’s funeral. As we mourned her passing and celebrated her life, my uncle played a video of her 90th birthday. For those that follow these pages, you will know that we celebrated my grandmother’s 100th birthday and then mourned her passing a mere few weeks later.
I watched the screen as family history played itself out before my eyes. My Nana was not the only one who had passed away; many others in the video had died in those 10 years. My daughter gurgled on the screen, newly born. Now she stood beside me, a young lady quite grown. My son, chubby-faced with curly hair, danced with glee on the screen a mere four years old. Before my eyes now there stood a teenager almost as tall as me and offering me his support. Teenage cousins smiled with youthful exuberance on the screen; and now they stood, men with babes of their own in their arms.
Mother, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends: the screen displayed so many others who were in the room. But each of us had moved forward ten years. Grey hairs had replaced dark curls; some that walked tall then now needed sticks; tiny babes crawling in the film competed with tiny babes crawling in the room.
The screen and the room danced together, as more history was played out with more films from decades further back, each film showed some of the same people through the years. “100 years have come and gone so quickly,” Nana says in the video, “and I have seen so many changes in that time.” It was a decade that had for all of us in that room passed in the twinkling of an eye.
The newspapers, and indeed this very edition of emel, will show you this past decade as played out in the public arena. But that arena is mere theatre, with politicians and celebrities as the leading actors on the stage. These ‘big stories’ are a backdrop to our lives. The real decade is played out in each of our homes. Our family history is the reality which is close to our hearts. And when we reflect on our own personal decade and of those whom we love, the passing of time will be so apparent; the changes so stark and clear.
“Three score years and 10,” was the lifespan my grandmother would always quote me from the Biblical Psalms. Seventy years to live your life, or as the Psalms continue “80, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” Or 90 years or a 100 - it does not matter for “100 years have come and gone so quickly,” as my grandmother had said a few weeks before her passing. How many years for each of us, and what will we do in that time?
The Prophet Muhammad said, “Live in this world as a traveller who has stopped for shade under a tree.” His saying is a similitude for our time in this world, a period of temporary rest. The Qur’an talks of this world being “as an hour,” the Hereafter being our permanent home.
And there, in the Hereafter, we must recount our time on Earth. And what will we show? It won’t be the hours in the office. It won’t be the money we gathered. It won’t be the trinkets and pretty things of this world which we will bring forward to our Lord. It will be our deeds. How we treated one another. How we loved and cared for our fellow travellers in this world. How we faced every new day.
The past months have been a period of extraordinary learning for me. I have had to open up my heart to examine it and find what truly it is made of. God tests us. And He has tried to show me that only He is permanent, all-perfect. Our aim is to meditate on Him and strive towards His perfection. He is Love, and we must love. He is Just, and we must strive for justice. He is Forgiving, as we endeavour to learn in this world that forgiveness is the final form of love, and it is His Forgiveness that we will depend on in the Hereafter.
A decade past. The first decade of the millennium. A momentous 10 years with talk of civilisations clashing, and so many dead in wars and acts of brutality. But so many born too, each a hope for the future, each one with their decades ahead of them - perhaps; each with their allotted time.
And who knows what the decade ahead will hold for each of us. I know if my family gathers in 10 years from now more will have passed on, and more will have been born, such is the pattern of life. It is what we do with the short time that we have that matters.