Monday, 18 March 2013

[Guest Writer] The Story of a Dot

The second journey into the mind of Shrink in Wonderland. Prepare to smile, go off on a few tangents and think until your brain hurts a little.

The Story of a Dot [1]
By Shrink in Wonderland

Imagine an ant. An ant so absolutely tiny, that when you look at it, it seems to be merely a dot [2]. We'll call it The Dot.

You, on the other hand, are quite the opposite, rather big in fact, and there's certainly nothing merely about me, you think. We'll just call you, You.

Source: Anna
You sit in a chair, preferably a nice swivelly one that goes up and down, and you look down at The Dot on the table.

You lean back and twiddle your thumbs, watching the ant while a clock ticks in the background, and an urgent assignment lies lonely and abandoned in a corner. The Dot scurries to and fro, a barely visible speck on your shiny polished table. To be perfectly honest, The Dot is not particularly interesting as dots go; even though it pains you a little to say it, as The Dot is your dot after all. After some time, as is often the result of the fledgling curiosity that manages to finally rise above ennui in a healthy human mind (particularly one faced with the unpalatable alternative of completing some great Important-But-Boring Task), you decide to conduct an experiment.

You want to test your dot.

Now one oughtn't be so prescriptive as to tell you exactly how you're going to do that, but I might help you with a few suggestions if The Wilful Imagination of Horrible Situations is not your forte. Perhaps you'll bring forth an army of bad dots, or you'll block your Dot's path everywhere he turns, or you won't let Dot have any food, or break his leg, or you'll separate him from his Dearest Friend till his heart would almost shatter, or any degree of Not Nice Things.

Then you say to The Dot: "Dot! Listen to me! I'm a Big Human looking down at you. I can see everything you do; you can't move a millimetre without my noticing it. Something Bad will happen to you, but you have to trust in me, and I'll make things better - in the end. I can see The Big Picture; you can't because you're just a dot. If you ask me for help, I'll be enough for you and you'll live Happily Ever After."

And then comes The Storm (being a word encompassing all the Horrible Situations imagined above, and Even More Horrible Ones).

You sit in your chair and continue to look at your Dot and how he suffers. And your heart wrenches, overcome with a sweet mixture of compassion and anguish. Your Dot looks up at you, patiently enduring in sweating silence, The Question painfully etched in his eyes "When will this end? When can I live Happily Ever After like you promised?" - and of course you know the answer, but you can't waver, you have to make sure Dot is Deserving, and that he Really Really believes in you, and not just Sometimes Really believes in you. You want Dot to ask you - Only You - and look up to you, even though you know he can see the area of about the total of a millimetre circled from his little eyes, while you are thousands of times bigger. And if your Dot sat around all day on your shiny table and nothing bad ever happened, how would you even know what he was actually like?

If you really really want to test Dot, and make him truly deserving of Everything Good To Come (because he's your own Dot, remember, and you do love him so), you may let the bad dots come closer and closer, until Dotty is terrified in his little heart, and you leave him between Scylla and Charibdys almost forever [3], and he may even lose a man or six, yet still he trusts in you and defies each adversity with your Remembrance. And at any time, whenever you want, you can squish and squash there, and all the bad dots would be completely destroyed, and Dot would sail safely home through the treacherous waters (though one hopes, of course, with a little more luck than Odysseus). It would be such an easy thing for you to do, insignificant even, only sometimes dots find it so hard to Understand.

Do you find it hard to Understand?

Wa lillāhil-mathal ul-a'lā: And for Allāh is The Highest Example

I was driving home the other day (always lovely Thinking-Time), and decided to listen to Sūrat Maryam because it's one of my favourite suwar. The reciter reached the part in the story of Zakariyya (AS) where he is told he will have a child, and as (quite understandably, given the circumstances) he's pretty stunned by the whole thing and possibly just a teeny-weeny bit incredulous, he voices his doubts.

قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ رَبُّكَ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ وَقَدْ خَلَقْتُكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَلَمْ تَكُ شَيْئًا

[An angel] said, "Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, 'It is easy for Me, for I created you before, while you were nothing.' " 
(Maryam, 19:9)

And it made me smile at how silly dots are. Allāh is basically telling you that he can do things - kadhālik, just like that. He can squash a dot or fifty. It's easy for him, completely and utterly hayyin, so easy it's negligible and not important in any way. Even things you think are impossible because you're a dot, He can do, and indeed, does - all the time. Are you old with weak bones, worried about dying without an heir? Have you been catapulted into a fire? Are you stuck in the tummy of a whale in the middle of the ocean, with no possibility of ever getting out? Have you lost your wealth and children and been afflicted with an awful disease?

So of course, the hard times come, and the trials come, and the grief and despair comes, and sometimes you feel you can't cope when you're being squeezed until you can't breathe, and you're overpowered by Darkness within an unfathomable sea of wave upon wave of Horrible Situations; sometimes, being a dot is just A Complete Pain [4] But remember, dear Dot, you have a Lord to whom you belong, a Lord who is Enough For You, a Lord who waited till Ibrāhīm was in the fire before he asked it to cool down, and till Zakariyya was old and his wife barren before they had a child, and till Yūnus was enveloped deep inside the whale before he was rescued, and till Ayyūb lost everything, and his body was diseased for years before he was cured (AS).

وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَنُبَوِّئَنَّهُم مِّنَ الْجَنَّةِ غُرَفًا تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ نِعْمَ أَجْرُ الْعَامِلِينَ 
الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ 

"And those who believe and do righteous good deeds, to them We shall surely give lofty dwellings in Paradise, underneath which rivers flow, to live therein forever. Excellent is the reward of the workers. Those who are patient, and put their trust (only) in their Lord. "
 (Al-‘Ankabūt, 29:58-59) 

The Duchess' Moral:
  • You, my dear reader, are a dot. Dots should trust in Allāh - it's called Tawakkul. 
  • Millions of dots put together might look like a big dot, but they're still dots and can therefore, by their very nature, be squished. Transfer your hopes from the squishable to the unsquishable: Allāh is enough for you. 
  • Allāh likes dots that are good and trust in Him. He'll put all The Good Dots in a Nice Garden where they'll live Happily Ever After.[5] 
"Yet I know that good is coming to me—that good is always coming; though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it. What we call evil, is the only and best shape, which, for the person and his condition at the time, could be assumed by the best good." 
- Phantases
Source: Win 7 Wallpapers

[1] This is kind of a follow-on continuation post from Down the Rabbit HoleIt's still slightly morbid-y not very happy stuff, sorry. I will (at some point inshā Allāh) write about something nice and smile-inducing like Lollipop Trees, hopefully when this particular Storm stops. Anyway, as much as I'd love to say I thought of this completely by myself, it's not true, and I have blatantly plagiarized from Sh. Abdul-Muhsin al-Ahmad. It goes without saying that Allāh (SWT) is free of any comparison to anything or anyone, laysa ka-mithlihi shay' - nothing is like him, and it's just an imperfect analogy to help little human minds to try and understand things they will never quite grasp the reality of.

[2] If you've ever seen the little bugs you get in flour that's been in your baking cupboard for too long, you'll know what I'm talking about. They look like specks of flour until they start moving. It's one those curiously not-nice-yet-oddly-mesmerising-at-the-same-time types of things. I've spent a lot of time wondering about what exactly is in these ants, and it makes my head hurt - fa-tabārakAllāhu aḥsan ul-khāliqeen. And I guess now I've just ensured that nobody ever eats anything I bake again!

[3] See Between Scylla and Charybdis. If you were so deprived as to never have read any Homer as a child (or even the more enjoyable The Usborne Book of Greek Myths), you should read it now. On second thoughts, maybe don't - I still remember my frustrated "Oh it's just not fair!!" feeling at the general injustice, betrayal, lies, jealousy, the dhālimoon winning, the sexual deviancy, the stupidity of the gods - oh everything! And Clytemnestra; I'm surprised that after a good 15 years, I still absolutely hate her guts (obviously I just felt sorry for Agamemnon then - as an adult of course, I face the moral dilemma of whether an affair with murder is an appropriate reaction to murder of your husband, rape, sacrifice of your daughter, and his affair. It could be argued that she was just a vigilante expediting the ḥadd punishment for him in the absence of an Islamic state, but then she was having an affair, so she potentially puts herself in a ḥadd-able position herself, not withstanding murder; and then which ḥadd? Was she really even married to Agamemnon if it was under duress?) I also just found out that she was born from an egg like Helen - if you want to waste a few hours on Wikipedia learning non-nāfi' ‘ilm and being freaked out by unconventional modes of birth, Greek mythology is totally the way forward...

[4] They say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, and though I'd love to say I've signed up to that particular Great Wisdom, unfortunately after considerable thought, I've resigned to deign myself a mere human and I can't say I'm convinced. I much prefer Dostoyevsky's argument: "Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth." One of the nicest things about being a Muslim of course, is that it allows some contextualisation to that suffering, thereby transforming it into something altogether more bearable, if not quite palatable. Recently, I serendiptiously came across an absolutely lovely little book that helps you see this by al-Izz ibn Abdis-Salam called Al-Fitan Wal-Balāyā Wal-Miḥan Wal-Razāyā (Arabic & English). The actual text isn't very long if you skip the extra stuff.

[5] This was written for me actually. Right now I'm hating being a dot, I'm hating not being able to see The Big Picture - it makes me want to be a rebellious bad dot. When I feel like that, I'll re-read this and remind myself that I am merely that: a dot. But while a dot is merely a dot, there is nothing merely about The Dot. How much - all the inanity of life itself - is contained in the 'in' that separates the definite and indefinite article? I'm definitely a definite dot, and This Dot belongs to Allāh.


  1. ''Millions of dots put together might look like a big dot, but they're still dots and can therefore, by their very nature, be squished. Transfer your hopes from the squishable to the unsquishable: Allāh is enough for you''

    Jazakillahu khairan for very profound yet playfully phrased reminder...subhan'Allah, I needed this.
    A lovely, different read, masha'Allah. I especially like The Duchess' Morals bullet points. May Allah bless you, ameen.

    1. Such a cute article, masha Allah. If you check the toenotes, there's one more by Shrink in Wonderland too. She was a way with writing, masha Allah!