Mind the Gap…

Seraj Akram

While training in England, I got the chance to travel by the metro-rail and whenever the train was about to stop at a station a cautionary voice would echo constantly in my ears, “mind the gap”. Perhaps this warning was often repeated on the train so that people could beware of that space of mere inches between the train and platform and safely get on and off the train. A small opening that could injure a person or if somebody gets stuck in that gap he could probably die even due to which this warning is repeated continuously so that nobody would fall prey to this gap. And that is exactly how it should be for it is the responsibility of railway management to keep people aware of that gap so that nobody gets harmed.

Muslims: The Indian Road AheadNow the question is: have we ever considered the huge gaps ignoring which could destroy a person’s private life, entire family, society, community and country. Did we ever pay attention to the amount of damage caused by the differences between relations, friendships, families, nations, countries, establishments, ideologies, age, social status, development of nations, responsibility, speeches and acts, religion and worldly life, greed and serenity, riches and the correct way of spending them, selfishness and sacrifices, simplicity and boasting, individual and collective efforts, comradeship and hostility, leader and public, faith and hypocrisy? Aren’t these much more dangerous than the gap between metro and its platform that is only of few inches? Overlooking who has allowed room for thousands of problems that are getting harder to solve? Shouldn’t we try to figure out a solution for that killer gap that is today responsible for the dreadful form of this society and nation?

Let’s slightly touch upon the things and consider the gaps we don’t account for due to which our society is faced with innumerable troubles….

Regardless of how good in theory we are as Muslims, in practice we are dangerously close to hypocrisy and if we somehow reduce this gap wouldn’t many of our problems disappear? People are very extravagant with words but when it comes to taking action lots of people reputed to be amazing speakers always fall short of examples and their words and actions contain no similarities so if we pay attention to the gap between our words and actions then not only would we avoid useless chats but also be able to focus on our dealings in the perspective of our speech.

It has often been heard that a friendship or relationship lasting years suddenly ended because of some trivial matter. Is the reason truly something unimportant that people know about or a gradual rift being created between the two of them that allowed a small issue to break a relation built upon years?  If the two parties had concentrated on seemingly little dealings and were aware of the events that were tearing down mutual trust: and if these gaps had been looked over then perhaps it would not have stretched this far. Comparable examples can be found in personal relations. Similar gaps can find their way between parents and their children, and can suddenly surface as huge mishaps and at that point parents have nothing save distress. It wouldn’t have happened if parents had kept a close eye on their children’s activities and simultaneously finding solutions to their problems. Even kids should show regard for the obvious difference in age and experience between them and their parents who obviously contain more experience of life and would want only what’s best for their children. When the difference between rights and responsibilities among husbands and wives suffers misbalances then the matter ends at divorce. If from the beginning both spouses show concern for their respective duties and privileges then they could live a very positive and blissful life.

Some parents, despite an age difference of thirty to forty years, want to drag their children towards their preferred paths without realizing that such an age difference is enough to cause a variation in mentalities and parents can avoid many issues by not forcing their kids in every matter and giving room for permissible desires.

Everybody wants to earn as much as possible but the visible gap between having wealth and the talent required to use it efficiently causes so mush loss. Often it makes a person inclined towards arrogance, alcoholism, extravagance and misconceptions that ultimately become a source of damage for him, his family and his community.

Every other day it happens between people, families, nations and countries that small rifts give way huge fights. Mutual conversation, trust and faith in each other could gave prevented so many wars. Lots of small matters get drawn out to full fledged wars because the two parties don’t trust each other and are suspicious of the other parties’ every move.

Selfishness controls people and the word sacrifice seems to belong to dictionaries only. The entire population is forming alliances, relations and acquaintanceships based on self-interest and these bonds break only when the term sacrifice comes up. If the gap between selfishness and sacrifice could be finishes or at least reduced then the appeal of these relations would increase. People are being led by greed without thinking of where they are headed, where they are taking humanity and how they are losing peace of mind but there seems to be no end to this greed.

After being graced with wealth it is common see people get infected by show-off, so does being moneyed means there is no room for simplicity left? Does self-respect has no place in poverty or humility finds no room in richness? Aren’t the negative affects that these gaps bring to our community leading us in the wrong direction?

For the betterment of society and nations hundreds of institutions are working but their benefits can’t be seen as per expectations. What’s observed is that the amount of time and effort spend by these organizations in proving oneself better than other and belittling the rest of them is way more than any attempt at joint ventures. Despite having the same goals the lack of mutual confidence is damaging to the general public.

Usually people complain about the self-centeredness and self-interest of leaders. By looking at the lives of these leaders that have every possible facility and live extremely grand lives in their palaces, it’s almost impossible to deduce that they are supposed to be leaders of the same nation that is denied basic necessities such as two meals a day, homes and shelters, hospitals for medical care and roads to travel. And when this gap comes out as a revolution then millions of people lose their lives. If responsible people meet these leaders to dwell on such gaps and their intensity and work towards lessening this gap between rulers and the public then a catastrophe could be avoided.

Care to think about this gap, a lot of words regarding religion escape our lips and inspire listeners but are we individually as driven towards our faith? Absolutely not! We only talk about religion while all our strength is directed towards attaining worldly treasures. Then why do we discuss our faith? Just to impress and intimidate others with our sainthood? After all why is our bond with religious acts so fragile? Isn’t this gap worth bearing in mind?

People never fail to share their impeccable suggestions on the mutual problems of the nation, or try to emphasize the profound connection they have with the subject matter. Some people sound so assuring that one gets the feeling if things were given under their control all the problems would be solved within months. Though on a closer inspection it would appear as if they have no passion or time for collective benefits and all their energy is focused on individual profits, but they still act deeply concerned about the nation while in public: who could possibly benefit from this pretense when it is only used to impress others by a show of know-how and emotions? We are identified through our nation, treated according to this identity, then why are we so indifferent when it comes to doing something good for our people?  It’s understandable that a person has his own state of affairs to tackle and share of problems that require our attention, but communal and national affairs need to be addressed too and evading them should be criticized. Can a nation develop by sidelining this gap of individual and mutual responsibilities or can they get a better identification? Perhaps not for whom we are as a person is only what our friends and family members get to see while history remembers us through the community we come from. Among a group of good people some go wayward and become robbers and dacoits, and inflict chaos which could have been prevented of the considerably well-off fraction of that society had taken responsibility for the education and employment of those people.

World’s many dilemmas are due to a power gap between families, tribes and countries. When one of the two fractions is stronger and the other is weaker, their principles, priorities and behaviors change causing a lack of trust and sometimes it results in wars even. Today it’s as if the bigger fish feed on the smaller ones. That’s why every nation that sees itself as victims initially needs to work on lessening this gap, for as much as it reduces others will treasure and begin to accept them more wholly.

There are many other rifts that affect our lives, for instance:

Is a wealthy person exactly that amount of arrogant and ill-mannered as others perceive? Is a poor person exactly as selfish and greedy as viewed by the rich folk? Is a Muslim just as much of an extremist as the rest of the world thinks, or is a non-Muslim just as far away from good deeds and Allah as Muslims believe him to be? Are well educated people as self-loving and egotistical as the general public thinks, or is the general public as undignified, crude and overly dramatic as the well educated crowd makes them out to be? Are masters really rude and cruel while workers are last and incompetent and self-seeking? Do degrees (certificates) really show how capable a person is? Should a person monetarily lucky and blessed with provisions be deemed smart even though all of it is by the grace of Allah? A Muslim proclaiming to deserve heaven: Ought he to actually have it considering his actions? People with beautiful faces: do they have beautiful characters too? Can a person seriously be judged by how good or bad they are portrayed?

If people’s knowledge and the reality coincided then things would certainly be better and would all these misunderstandings still exist? Probably not!

In times of privacy we should definitely look over these gaps that can help transform our lives: plans and actions, sacrifices and expectations, dreams and efforts, desires and needs, modesty and dressing, selfishness and selflessness, worldly and religious trades, spiritual and physical requirements, health and diet, good parenting and unfavorably lenient treatment.

As a matter of speaking there are many gaps, some important some insignificant, some main gaps were discussed here while others got left out. The one between train and platform is fixed while others keep on expanding till they become incurable diseases which is why it’s important to look out for all of them so that none get exploited to the point that they yield disasters. It’s necessary to put oneself in another person’s place and grasp their point of view and understand each other better through dialogue, form better relations and accept others with an open heart and mind so we may register in our ears, eyes and minds the solutions that can be extracted out to reduce theses gaps or maybe even close them.

Egotism, arrogance, everyday pursuits, greed and devil’s traps draw out such illusions for us that we do not realize the negative effects of putting off these issues, and fail to do anything about the gaps created between relatives, friends and other associations of life. When we finally understand the loss it is too late to mend broken ties and we are left with nothing but regrets.

Even the smallest of “gaps” can have tragic effects like the way a small hole can sink an entire ship. It doesn’t matter which side we are on as long as we try to fix things and either minimize or completely draw to a close these spaces in between because to do that we only need open hearts and awareness of our surroundings.

So let’s come together and find the lost pearls: restore those broken ties that have been lost due to reasons known and unknown.

(Translated from Urdu by Rumaisa Ahmad)


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