Sometimes my job makes me feel like a programmed machine. Working as an editor in a high-paced news wire environment means that when I say I work 10 hours or more each day, I mean that I dedicate 600+ minutes every day toward tasks that demand uninterrupted concentration and precision. It can be draining and quite frankly, mind numbing.
I often envision what I would rather be doing because, while I do gain fulfilment from my work and the success I’ve achieved over the years, it isn’t my passion. Writing on this blog is the closest I’ve come to discovering what my passion is. In the past 19 months, this page has given me a platform to express my discoveries of what it means to be Muslim in my very typical, often repetitive and banal daily routine. I strive to write in a simple, accessible manner, using the skills for expression that I gained as a journalist. I always wish I had greater time to dedicate to it.
One of the main reasons why I’ve had to cut back on my blog entries this year is the incredibly hectic pace and long hours that my day job demands. This has left me with very little creative energy in the evenings and weekends, so I sometimes daydream about a time when I will be able to commit my days to writing about Islamic spirituality. I imagine devoting all of this energy toward writing books or short stories that would enrich both my faith and productive life.
In the midst of these thoughts and wishes, however, I sometimes stray from the truth: that the very sources of my inspiration are indeed the circumstances of my life here and now. It is, perhaps, because I scramble through most days for brief pockets of time to self reflect, that I am better able to describe how Islam is applicable within the real, modern-day struggle to strike a work-life balance.
I’m not writing from a bubble, I don’t have countless hours to reflect and pause each day, I don’t claim to be a scholar or an expert, nor am I secluded from the world. I am, in fact, a very hard-working professional who struggles to perform my best in the workplace, care for my family and maintain some close friendships. Being Muslim means I try my best to do all of these things with God at the centre of my consciousness at all times. So, when I open a feature article to edit tomorrow (Insha’Allah), I will call on Him first for guidance: “In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy.”
Islam, a state of mind where the worshipper lives in complete devotion to God, gives an order to, and an escape from, my daily toil that I appreciate. It’s a thread that weaves all of the chaos together and keeps me balanced through a combination of regular prayer, fasting, giving charity and continual remembrance and thankfulness of the Almighty.
My hectic days must never interfere with my prayer schedule, to the extent that a non-Muslim colleague will sometimes remark if I delay my 20-minute break for the noon prayer, duhr, that I should head down soon. Since I also pray the optional sunnah prayers, I rarely take a lunch break because it wouldn’t be feasible with the volume of work I have to do. Instead, I save another 10 to 15 minutes for the asr afternoon prayer.
In the mornings, I try to get through as many supplications as I can while getting dressed and dabbing on a little makeup, knowing that I’ll have barely any time to catch up later. Meanwhile, I spend most Thursdays, and often Mondays, fasting, in accordance with Prophetic teachings. This discipline reminds me how great the blessing of having nourishment at hand really is, and helps me control cravings and stay healthy. Practically speaking, I’m usually more productive on these days because I’m not tempted to get up every hour for a snack or cup of tea.
On Fridays, the first day of my weekend, I wake up earlier than I may like to clean my apartment before the Friday prayer. Upholding a family tradition dating to my childhood, I’ll listen to verses of the Quran, only on YouTube rather than cassette tape, and light two sticks of incense that fill the space with a fragrant scent of jasmine or vanilla. After the prayer, I’ll go grocery shopping, to leave time in the afternoon for some Quran reading, exercise, Arabic revision and socializing with family and friends. I rarely spend as much time as I would like doing any of these things, as the six unread books on my bookshelf attest to. But I do what I can.
Hence, writing for my blog, which gives me the most enjoyment, is a pleasure and a luxury that I have little time to partake in. Perhaps some day God will bless me with more time. But for now it is the inspiration that I draw from a daily routine that is quite, well, busy that gives me the ability, I hope, to express myself in a way that is accessible to average people, who may be yearning for a bit more spirituality amid their all-to-mechanical lives, as I was just a few years ago.
While it can be difficult to accept as my mind wanders to a time where I imagine my routine will be more flexible and less draining, I am doing exactly what God has willed for me at this moment, nothing more nothing less. There is wisdom in truly playing the hand you are dealt, really maximizing on it, with the greatest possible thankfulness and grace.
Do not look back,
No one knows how the world ever began.
Do not fear the future, Nothing lasts forever.
If you dwell on the past or future,
You will miss the moment.