Sunday, December 7, 2008
Telling the tale of one of my holidays, I was asked by a friend if I’m a sunrise person or a sunset person. The question was unsurprising, seeing as I happened to mention that every morning of the holiday I started with a walk on the beach, as the Indian Ocean licked the shore and the morning fog lifted to reveal the remarkable sun rising out of the rumbling waters.
I guess I neglected to mention that the real reason I was up and about that early every morning was because I was desperately trying to escape the hibernating, growling grizzly I happened to be sharing my room with.
Truth be told, I’m not even a morning person, let alone a sunrise person. I’m the kind of person who crawls back under my goose-down duvet and snuggles in for extra winks after fajr (pre-dawn prayers) and I need to set the alarm an hour before I really need to get up and then slam the snooze button over and over again! And when I’ve exhausted all my snoozes, I might even reset the clock for just another five minutes more before eventually and reluctantly dragging myself out of bed to get ready for work! Even if my eyes open early, my bed is just too comforting to think about the outside world!
But standing there watching the darkness slip away, the stars fade, as the light gradually crept in, I realised why the break of dawn is so sacred. The chirping of the birds always start just as twilight seeps away. Flowers suddenly awaken from their deep sleep and the smells in the dewy air are of new life. A new day born each morning.
With the new discovery, I now know why the ascetics always urge you not to go back to sleep or sarcastically advise you to sleep on if you wish to miss out on the wonders of the Almighty. Praying is one thing but feeling the presence of the Creator is so much more rewarding. Lately, I find myself meandering through the alleyways at twilight – the stars more apparent than at midnight – the moon sighing as it prepares to slumber until recalled to night-watchman duty; soothing sounds from the minarets calling on the faithful and then in unison in thikr-Allah (remembrance of God). Gradually the white thread of dawn dips into the red and orange dyes and the dark waters look almost bloody as a crimson ball of fire slowly rises and with each passing minute, turning the blood to molten copper and then to liquid gold; ripples shimmering like diamonds on the surface. Is there anything more splendid and magnificent than HE who casts light on the darkness?
Blessed be He Who has placed the big stars in the heaven, and has placed therein a great lamp (sun), and a moon giving light. And He it is Who has put the night and the day in succession, for such who desires to remember or desires to show his gratitude.
[Surah Al-Furqan Ayaat 61-62]
And a Sign for them is the Night: We withdraw therefrom the Day, and behold they are plunged in darkness; And the sun runs his course for a period determined for him: that is the decree of (Him), the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing. And the Moon,- We have measured for her mansions (to traverse) till she returns like the old (and withered) lower part of a date-stalk. It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law). [Surah Yasin Ayaat 37-40]
For me though, sunsets have a unique beauty – intriguing. Never two the same. Whether it’s lighting up the mountains, shadowing an eerie violet over the stony ridges, or the blazing light casting a scarlet spell over the sandy hills, or the minted coin dipping back into the lava-like waters. No artist have I known to paint upon a fresh canvas each day, with more colours than the palette can hold – in sharp contrast to the darkness that follows.
But the night, ah the night and the splendid stars and illuminating moon – this story we’ll leave for another day!
Look at the beautiful sun:
As it rises, it shows one golden eyebrow,
Plays miser with the other one,
But we know that soon it will spread out a radiant veil
A marvellous mirror
That appears in the East
Only to hide again at dusk.
The sky is saddened
When the sun leaves
And puts on mourning robes.
I believe that falling stars
Are nothing more
Than sky’s gem-hard tears.
Ibn Abi L-Haytham
May you all have a blessed Eid-ul-Adha
Kul Aam Wa Antum Bi Khair