I did not always love my brother. Or rather, I was too consumed by my dissatisfaction with the circumstances of his birth to experience loving him. Love your brother as yourself is a clear enough concept, but understanding something on an intellectual level is different from knowing it with your whole self. I am reminded of Chapter 18, Holy Quran, which recounts Moses’ journey with the Wise Man, and his outrage at the latter’s actions because it didn’t fit his value system.
…indeed you will not be able to have patience with me.
And how can you have patience with things about which your understanding is not complete?
A lot of times we are filled with such anger because certain situations fall outside the parameter of our understanding. And so we condemn and seek to imprison people behind the walls of our unforgiveness, even when the Creator has perhaps already forgiven them. After all, nothing happens without the active or permissive will of God; everything ultimately works for the greater good.
Growing up as a daddy’s girl, I thought my father was the best in the whole world, until he got the neighbor pregnant. Strangely, I felt he had cheated on me… shortly after my brother’s birth, she fell ill and on her death bed, asked to see the whole family. Nothing would make me go, my sullen 13 year old self vowed! Then my sister (who always knew which buttons to push) managed to cajole me into going.
She looked like crap. Cancer can do that to you. Friends came on the pretext of praying for her, and ended up leaving with her possessions, so she asked my mother of all people to care for her in the final hours. Remarkably, mom agreed. I thought she was so stupid…
My brother came to live with us at age 2. When he cried, my parents asked me to check on him. I pinched him and made him cry harder. Once when I was super busy doing teenage stuff, he started annoying me. I pushed him and he fell down the stairs. When I rushed to check, he didn’t have a scratch on him, though he cried pitifully. It was a miracle!
Twenty years later, he has grown into a tower of strength for the family. The world – our world – is a better place because he is in it. Looking back, I am ashamed at my uncharitable thoughts of my selfless mother; humbled by the majesty of my brother; amazed by the grace of his mother; grateful for the strength of my father (who insisted we stay together no matter what).
It’s one thing to stand on principle, and another to be so inflexible or rigid that we make ourselves and those we love utterly miserable. It takes courage to inspect the dark corners of our hearts in order to clean out the clutter. And when darkness comes, we should be able to dispel it with the Creator’s divine light. Indeed, we should become the light.
Haneefah is the creative Director of her recently formed internet station Island Beat TV, and host of Owambe Jam, a cultural event to celebrate World Poetry Day.