Just steps away from the front door of our house in Richmond, British Columbia there is a giant grass field surrounded by trees that have grown tall and dense over the decades. The field is situated between an elementary and high school and is used extensively by students playing soccer or the American variety of football.
When it is not raining outside, residents of the neighbourhood walk their dogs along the pathway encircling the field, which on one side extends toward the Fraser River.
It was perfect weather to be outdoors, especially so for me. I spend most of the year in a desert climate in the United Arab Emirates, so it is always a treat to soak in the fresh breeze, rich colours and lushness of nature when I am visiting my hometown.
While my body moved rhythmically, I expected my mind to wander in a dozen different directions, as often happens when I go for a walk alone. Thoughts of work, responsibilities, family issues, relationships and other troubles flood my mind in no particular order and often simultaneously. Generally when I exercise I enjoy listening to music in order to stay focused, but on this occasion I did not have my Ipod with me.
I hadn’t planned on praying, it just happened suddenly and naturally. Under my breath, I began reciting some verses of the Holy Quran that I have memorised, some shorter, some longer. Reading from the Quran in Arabic is melodic; each verse has a perfect, poetic rhythm to it that is sometimes lost in translation. As I circled around the field, my body and thoughts moved to steady beat, leaving me feeling light and at ease.
In the Quran, God makes numerous references to how nature is in perfect balance and all the world’s vegetation and animal life – apart from humans – are constantly obedient to Him. Nature operates exactly as the Almighty ordains, the birds glide through the sky and make their homes in trees, which sway in the wind in perfect rhythm. The clouds move apart and together, the rain falls and stops, the sun rises and sets according to a divine order.
(Quran, The Pilgrimage, 22:18)
About 30 minutes into my walk, I recalled the last time I had felt that same sense of focus of mind and unexpected closeness with God. It was two months ago, when I was on the other side of the world – literally – visiting the Enlightened City, Madinah, in Saudi Arabia. Madinah is the site of the mosque and burial spot of the Last Prophet, Muhammad ﷺ.
On the surface, Madinah and the school field outside my house in Richmond have nothing in common. Madinah is in the middle of the desert; everywhere you turn is a shade of beige or brown. But Madinah literally means the Radiant or Enlightened City in Arabic because of its crucial role in the enabling God to share His guidelines to human beings through Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the last in a long line of prophets. The Divine presence in Madinah is, not surprisingly, intense.
But walking in the field near my house, close to the school where I once studied, I also felt His immense power and proximity in the exquisite nature around me.
That for me is the beauty of submission to God (Islam). We have the intellectual capacity as humans to feel and react to God’s presence and see and interpret His miracles anywhere. If we are willing to pay attention to the language of our surroundings we can become more receptive to His quiet answers wherever we are.
Is He not best who made the earth a stable ground and placed within it rivers and made for it firmly set mountains and placed between the two seas (sweet and salty) a barrier? Can there be another god besides God?
No, but most of them do not know.(Quran, The Ant, 27:61)