On the 18th of April 2012, a lady from Blikkiesdorp visited me. She told me that somebody had referred to the people of Blikkiesdorp as being of the underprivileged. She objected to the term because she asked: “How can people with whom Allah (ﷻ) is be under privileged?” I could not believe the words that she spoke. She is very poor, lives in a dysfunctional home and community and is heavily socially deprived. She sees none of these things. She only sees her connection with her Lord, and that, is a major privilege for her in a world in which disbelief dominates. In fact, the reason for her visit was because she wanted to work to be a pious person despite her domestic and community circumstances.
You see, I have read so many times in the Qur’an that Allah (ﷻ) guides whom He wishes. Although I’ve read this and I also know about the large number of factors which impact on people’s lives in these dysfunctional communities, I never thought that I would meet somebody from an area that is so badly dysfunctional; a person whose heart Allah Almighty has provided guidance for. Sometimes we are of such little faith, because we are unable to see the Workings of our Lord. We might speak about this but we generally have our own opinions as to how this happens, or rather how guidance happens, and Allah (ﷻ) shows us how He guides somebody who lives under the most atrocious socio-economic conditions, and takes over control of her heart and makes her heart for Him. Sometimes we have little faith, little understanding of how our Lord works with the hearts of those people whom He has chosen to walk a special path to Him.
There is not always a clear relationship between social deprivation and religious consciousness, because of the way our Lord works. That is why we always come to the wrong conclusions when discussing social deprivation and how such deprivation impacts on the religious lives of people. In a sense, the unknown factor in this relationship is the Workings of our Lord. Many of us, when we look at the socially deprived, we also see religious deprivation, and so we connect the two; not aware of the fact that our Lord guides irrespective of gender and social status or any other factors. When He guides, it is only the relationship between Him and our hearts, and it is nothing to do with the state of the body in which the heart is or the state of the circumstances in which that body operates.
About two weeks ago a lady recited Shahadah by me in one of the townships. During her recitation, the tears welled-up in her eyes. My interpretation of her tears was that her heart was going through a state of great pleasure for coming into Islam. At that moment not only was she pure of heart but her Lord has taken over total control of that pure heart. Many times when I see all of this or when I listen to what some of them say, as in the case of the lady from Blikkiesdorp, I just feel overwhelmed by the events surrounding the occasion. Sometimes the overwhelming comes later.
When I think back to how very poor people have come to sit in front of me and declared their acceptance of the Oneness of God, I worry over those who are socially-advantaged but are in a state of refusal to give their hearts over to their Lord. They have the time and the circumstances to make themselves available to their Lord but they involve themselves in worldly activities, which take them away from the kind of religious consciousness that some of the very poor have. There are some of us whom Allah Almighty has blessed with so much sustenance but we refuse to show our appreciation by remembering Him on a regular and consistent basis. I have mentioned on so many occasions where the major blessings lie in different parts of our community but there are few takers. You see, in many cases, Allah (ﷻ) provides these circumstances for change towards Him. In some cases, He does not provide these circumstances, but in all these cases, again irrespective of circumstances, He chooses the hearts that He wants for Himself. I sometimes think about this and, of course, there is no consistent explanation of how hearts are turned towards Him.
The lady from Blikkiesdorp is also a revert to Islam. She has not been in the religion very long neither has she done much studying of the religion. When one listens to her and thinks of her desires, what can one say? We know that her desire for piety was not her or anybody else’s doing. It was Allah’s doing. She has lost or is losing most of her family to the culture in Blikkiesdorp. However, the culture has not been able to touch her. Through her Lord’s Working with her heart, she has risen above the culture. In so many other cases, I’ve seen people, especially young people at high schools and the university where I taught, accepting the standards and activities of non-Islamic mainly Christian culture in which they have sunk. And so they become more Christianised than what their Christian counterparts are. Despite their circumstances they are nowhere near to the resistance against surrounding culture than the lady from Blikkiesdorp demonstrates. I sometimes think, despite what they do, that either their Lord is not busy with their hearts or their hearts are overwhelmed by what they experience from the culture around them. We must see, learn and understand.
Our experiences with others in our work as we spread the remembrance of our Lord should be for us, for each one of us, a major form of reaching out to our Lord, pleading for the transformation of our hearts. What is the reason for some of us not undergoing such transformation despite what we do? In a sense, our hearts have remained the same, from before our entrance into Tariqah to our being in Tariqah. The hearts are still the same. There has been no call to our Lord. There has been no real desire for transformation and everything that happens is purely superficial. In a sense, we know ourselves. We know whether we have become changed human beings. We know that our relationship that our Lord has with us, should be very special. We know all of these but where do our attachments lie?
Some of us, when we stand in the Divine Court the Day, would wish that we had rather been from Blikkiesdorp or Driftsands, because despite social circumstances and despite our social deprivation, it is in the poorer areas where our Lord works more with hearts than elsewhere. This is a strange thing to say, but the evidence points in this direction. Again, as I’ve said previously, all of us should see, should learn, should understand and should do something about ourselves. If we should tally the number of individuals who have recited Shahadah in the poorer areas then the number is much greater in these areas than elsewhere. One might argue that there are other circumstances for this that if one accepts how one’s Lord’s Decree works, then one would know that a person recites Shahadah in terms of the Decree. (This does not mean that I justify the existence of dysfunctional areas. I am talking about hearts).
We all have over the years come to learn different things in these poorer areas. We have come to understand the common humanity of all human beings. But more than this, we have also come to understand that the poor would be privileged to enter Paradise first. What this means is that they will be directly under the banner of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ), because he will enter Paradise first, and the poor will then follow him (ﷺ). Their proximity to him (ﷺ) during the final journey in the Hereafter tells us about their status by their Lord. When I ask all of you to go to the congregational dhikrs in the poorer areas, one of the reasons is that through our association with the poor in the Dunya, we might all be privileged to be in association with them in the Akhirah. And so, we might have the good fortune to walk with them where the Prophet (ﷺ) walks. We must stop finding reasons for not going to the congregational dhikrs in the poor areas, because we are depriving ourselves of blessings that we are going to need very badly on the Last Day. We ask Allah Almighty to place us under His Guidance and to let us always make the right decisions, amin.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]