During Shaykh Hamza’s classes on the 2008 Rihla, Shaykh Hamza taught us about the Sirah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). And during those beautiful sessions, we learnt that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not have many things, but what he had, he cared for. He named his possessions because each thing he had was meaningful.
And I’ve been reflecting on this aspect of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life while at home during the December break. Packing to go home, I realized that I don’t actually need that much to function on a day to day basis. My favourite dua book, a few outfits, scarves, paper, a good pen, a few books, and basic essentials are all I really needed for a few weeks away. Part of the reason I didn’t need to take very much with me was because I was going home instead of somewhere else entirely (I didn’t need to pack a Qur’an for instance) but still, the experience made me wonder: though I don’t think I have much stuff, what are all the other things in my apartment and room at home? What is unnecessary? What are essentials? Is my love of books weighing me down?
Because though I love the books I presently own, my life would become a lot lighter if I exclusively got books at the local library, and made a decision to only get e-versions of texts that were really important/unavailable. I’m a residence advisor at one of the colleges at the University of Toronto, and when we hold events for our students and need a fondue set or specific board games or pots and pans to cook something special, we borrow the needed item from the residence office instead of all of the advisors having the same equipment on every floor. In a way, it’s a good model for daily living. To only own that which is most necessary and most precious, and to borrow/share the things you don’t use/need everyday as and when you need them (renting a car, a bicycle, camping equipment etc). If life was focused on only a few things I would never need a large space to live in because I wouldn’t have many things to fill it, and I wouldn’t cringe at moving because there wouldn’t be much to transport.
The new Gregorian year seems like the right time to think about and implement downsizing one’s belongings. Yesterday I visited one of my favourite people in the world, an old friend who radiates light and joy and goodness masha’Allah, and while the kettle was boiling for our first cup of tea I chatted with her Mum about new year resolutions, and how deep cleaning is a beneficial practice to prepare for 2012. She mentioned that to make room for new energy, new positivity, new goodness and new things in your life it was important to get rid of what was no longer useful, and so towards that end she had sorted out different cupboards, donated old things, and done a thorough updating, clearing and cleaning of the house over a few days.
The conversation reminded me so much of my own mum, and inspired me to apply that thinking to my own life. Not only to my physical belongings, but to one’s mental belongings as well. Old arguments, old mistakes, difficult moments, really anything that is not serving me well to remember, (because it’s blocking productive learning/living or has the danger of decreasing my contentment with God) is something to clear out of my mental cupboards with the passing of the old year. Of course the lessons that experiences teach us we should remember, but the actual details of events (such as a falling out with a friend or something thoughtless we said) is something that we could probably do without.
Instead the new year insha’Allah should begin with a light heart and mind, hope and contentment with God, gratitude for blessings, reflections of character traits that require polishing, and hopes and duas for goodness and beneficial living in the months ahead.