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Aziz Mamuji
‘When I’m 64!’

Forty seven years ago, in June 1967, we were living in the sleepy coastal town of Mombasa in Kenya.  My recollections are that of a rather pleasant life, but as an impressionable teenager, I was perhaps too naïve to fully comprehend the realities around me.

That very month the iconic rock-band, The Beatles, released their melodious and pensive song, “When I’m 64”; the musings of a young man anxiously contemplating old age.  This month I shall be 64, and my birthday coincides with the start of the holy month of Ramadan.  There is perhaps not much to celebrate about this age milestone, but it at least is an opportunity to reflect on memories of that time, and the state we are in today.  The comparison evokes mixed feelings.  Great progress characterizes today’s quality of life, but there are also uncomfortable truths that sadly do not make happy reading.

The improvements are obvious.  Scientific and  technological advancements now pervade all aspects of our existence  We are generally healthier, living longer, traveling faster, and information and knowledge are more easily accessible.  Many of life’s comforts, once unattainable, are cheaper and within reach.  Science, medicine and engineering have advanced in quantum leaps; and thankfully we are concerned about issues such as environmental damage and our future survival.

Super-fast global connectivity and real-time media coverage are influencing the way we live and work, for better and worse.  Progress and social interaction are synonymous with soulless screen-touching and keyboards; and because the very young too are quite adept at this, we believe our children are becoming smarter.

But, unfortunately, there is also a more sinister reality that we are having to contend with.  In those days in Mombasa a certain harmony prevailed amongst people of different races and religions.  We mingled freely and comfortably tolerated each other.  The world today, however, is characterized by religion inspired militants, extremists, brainwashed suicide-bombers and sectarian schisms.  And very worryingly, the instancy of communications is fueling this cancerous trend. 

For all its advancements, media is readily susceptible to manipulation.  There is nothing more abhorrent than seeing unfriendly looking characters, often with covered faces, claiming to be defenders of the faith and spewing provocative religious rhetoric to justify their dastardly acts and to terrorise the helpless.

Depressingly too, they are doing so without authority from the millions who strongly despise such blatant misrepresentation of their peaceful faith and its core message of tolerance and humane behavior.  Unfortunately, these perpetrators of misery are prospering.

No one could have predicted the abject fanaticism that prevails today.  Whatever its causes, life has lost value, and the world seems to lack the capacity to combat such terrorism.  As the intensity of violence and cruelty increases, we Muslims are understandably despondent.  Everyone wants this mayhem to end, and the more it spreads, the less committed our efforts to deal with it appear to be.

This perceived lack of conviction, brings to mind an important life-lesson.  When I reflect on life over the past many years, various significant ethical morals come to mind - being kind, honourable, and humble; serving humanity; working hard; and being a righteous Muslim.  But all these qualities are bound by, and dependent on, one powerful attribute: commitment.

Commitment is all embracing, because everything we wish to accomplish calls for a concerted effort and dedication.  The outcome of every deed, relationship, or obligation we take on will inevitably depend on the degree of our conviction.  An emotional and intellectual bind too is necessary to energise this powerful force that lies within us, to realise the desired results.  There are no methods or formulae to rely on; only a conscious acceptance of an objective to accomplish.  And if this aspiration is directed towards the betterment of our selves, families, communities and places we live in, the more commendable it would be.

Commitment invariably counters selfishness.  It requires a sustained effort, but the results, which may be intermittent, will always be immensely satisfying.  Therefore, take up a cause; but let it be an honourable one.  Give of yourself, your time and that which you can spare.  Serve, and do so wholeheartedly.  Appreciate mother earth, and be concerned for posterity.  And despite the inevitable set-backs, persevere.

So, as we dwell on this important moral guidance, let the eloquence of Richelle E. Goodrich’s words inspire us: “Don’t ever give up.  Don’t ever give in.  Don’t ever stop trying.  Don’t ever sell out.  And if you find yourself succumbing to one of the above for a brief moment, pick yourself up, brush yourself, whisper a prayer, and start where you left off.  But never ever, ever, give up.”

This Ramadan and always, be committed, in every sense the word implies.

<amamuji@gmail.com>

By Aziz Mamuji


By: Aziz Mamuji

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