Think. Learn. Act. Remind.
Ever played Lemmings the popular computer game back in the early 1990s? The image of a line of lemmings all moving mechanically, blindly moving in a single direction, come what may, is imprinted in my mind. I found that behavior both fascinating and frustrating! (Frustrating because it was so hard to save those lemmings from their own behavior!) It reminded me of the behavior of sheep … how an entire flock of sheep can “follow the leader” and plunge to their death! It makes one wonder: the sheep should know better than to leap off a cliff especially when they can see others before them meeting a horrible fate! But no, they don’t stop to think … and they too leap to their destruction!
We humans can be like sheep too (or lemmings if you will)! We do certain things because our parents did them, we follow a certain career path, without thinking, because everyone else is doing it … the examples can go on and on but I want to zoom in on these two examples because these are the things that affect our lives the most.
Let’s take the “because that’s how it’s done in our family” rhetoric. It may sound convincing (given the premise that our elders know better) but oftentimes the one using that excuse is no wiser about the rationale for his/her actions than the one he/she is trying to convince!
And that is the reason we continue to dance at weddings, marry only in the family, attend a certain school or college, live in a certain area, dress in a certain way or do bigger things like accuse others of being wrong simply because they do things differently.
And on a larger scale, this kind of thinking is deep rooted in our society. A man who helps out his wife at home is considered a “joroo ka ghulam” (slave of the wife!). He may be trying to follow the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) by doing the housework or asking his wife for advice but our society and his side of the family will see it as inappropriate behavior and accuse his wife of treating him shabbily! They will not let any opportunity slip to remind him of his “inadequacies” (“What kind of a man are you? Looking after the house and the kids is the woman’s job!”) and give him what they consider well-meaning advice on how to control his wife better! SubhanAllah!
Following the sunnah is tantamount to a sin in our culture!
The same goes for those who blindly follow their seniors in terms of career choices. We spend so much time trying to do it just right – in the field of Medicine, for example, every step on what is considered the “perfect career path” is determined by those treading that path before us and we are taught to emulate them in every possible way in terms of what works and avoid whatever doesn’t! So much time and effort is spent trying to manage our career just right. Right after you graduate from medical school, you should be ready to take your USMLE Step 1 (if you haven’t taken it already in which case you will be considered smarter than the rest!) and then all the steps that follow right up to the time we get into a residency program are to be followed to the letter! Anybody who does things differently, especially somebody who decides to take a “less certain” path is talked about as a failure!
If only we spent this much time trying to perfect our actions and intentions for the sake of Allah! If only we saw the reality of things and were not deceived by the fact that although the majority of people were going down a certain path, they could still be wrong! If only we stopped to think before being swooped up in all the rush to get onto a bandwagon to nowhere!
Allah (SWT) has endowed us with intelligence and free will so that we can use our minds and our time wisely to do best what matters most. We should at least stop to ask ourselves whether we are really headed in the right direction or we are simply playing “Follow the Leader”.
Answering that question could mean the difference between ultimate success and failure. It’s time we spent some time and effort to pause and think about it.