Written by Jasim Malik, MYM Contributor
Being informed of my upcoming dentist appointment brought numerous, rather unpleasant memories back to me. I remembered drilling and pain. I don’t have a great history with these doctors of terror. My fear of them has kept me away from a dentist’s office for more than five years. But I suppose the pains and aches I have suffered from recently are only the fault of one person: me.
So, I woke up this morning with the knowledge that today I would have to face agony that I had winced over just a couple of months ago.
Tuesday, 2 p.m., Sept. 18, 2012. Doomsday.
To say I wasn’t looking forward to this appointment would be an understatement. I couldn’t focus on anything else. During dhuhr, I must admit that in almost every sujood I asked Allah to make the appointment painless. As lame as it may sound, I genuinely feared what was to come and hoped for the best.
Twenty minutes later, I stared deeply into the bright white light above with sinister hands prodding my teeth and carefully considering which tooth would be his enemy. During this nerve-wracking time, I once again renewed my resolve to do anything and everything to avoid coming back here again. I did not wish to repeat this tribulation at all. Flossing, abstaining from soft drinks, and brushing my teeth day and night with a what the dentist called a “religious” rigour seemed like a small cost to pay to avoid this event.
After half an hour, the appointment was over. As I stared at the white light above, I could not believe it. The dentist raised the reclining chair and I returned to my normal position. Alhamdulillah, it wasn’t as bad as previous appointments had been. How was that possible?
It is incredible that I felt so strongly about such a small, inconsequential event, but I couldn’t even muster that same degree of fear about the thought of spending even that same half an hour in Hell? It was with a great degree of shame that I realized I had never even begged Allah to protect me from Jahannam and the trials of the Day of Judgment like I had for a mere dentist appointment.
Because I was able to comprehend the discomfort of a visit to the dentist, I desired with all my heart to do anything I could to avoid it, and actually prayed that the appointment would go well. I could anticipate the sharp twinge of the dentist’s needle and the swelling anxiety in my stomach. It was so real to me. Surely, if I am so eager to avoid the dentist, shouldn’t I be yearning to avoid the perpetual fire of Jahannam and embrace the everlasting happiness of Jannah?
Many of us experience this imbalance of the heart. Why is it that we supplicate so intensely for good exam results or a better job, yet we don’t feel the same way about things that are much more important and long lasting? This disparity can be changed, and it must be. It dawned on me that the crucial missing factor that I had so heedlessly overlooked was knowledge.
Islam is based largely on two concepts: love of Allah and fear of Allah. We can only love Allah by gaining knowledge of who He is, by studying His names and attributes. And we can only truly fear Allah by gaining knowledge of what His power is, and what He can and will do to those who live more so in accordance with their own desires rather than striving to please Allah. It is through this knowledge we can comprehend what the consequences of our every actions will be. If we understand and appreciate what the Day of Judgment means for our future, our thirst for good deeds and our hatred for evil deeds would be multiplied many times over.
The example of Umar (ra) is an excellent example. As Caliph, he sometimes used to make a fire and put his hands near to it and exclaim, “Can you take this, O son of Al-Khattab? Can you take this?” He constantly reminded himself of what complacency could lead to.
Through knowledge, we can attain piety and strength of faith. Through knowledge, we can become successful. As ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib said, “Knowledge and practice are twins, and both go together. There is no knowledge without practice, and no practice without knowledge.”
This is not merely knowledge of texts, words, and ayat. This is knowledge that burns with a consciousness that extends to every limb in your body. It is real and sustaining. It is a deep realization that you will stand amongst all of humanity on a flat plane that extends to eternity and await your judgment. It is an appointment like no other.