"There are two who are never satisfied — the lover of the world and the lover of knowledge.” – RUMI
Due to the alarmingly high number of air miles I manage to clock up within a single month, it is without little doubt, the most common question asked by my peers is what exactly is it that I do for a living.
Some would narrow it down to the customary perks one would inherit of an expat working in an oil-rich country, others however would more sinisterly assume that I maintain egregious business ties with shadowy people of a dodgy nature (and who resemble Lady Gaga – no pun intended)! (or Taher Shah – my Pakistani friends would be more familiar with his name I’m sure).
I can assure the readers however, that the former is true, although the latter is not far off considering the state of the world economy of late. Although sometimes I do find it quite entertaining to ‘hang out’ with the precarious sort, much to the dismay of my poor old mother who is constantly in a sincere state of anxiety over the fact that my reputation may get tarnished as a result. Bless her.
The majority of people would find it rather difficult to digest that the mechanics of my day to day life is actually quite mundane and meaningless.
Meaningless eh? Just take a second and ponder over that word. Better still, let’s flip that on its back and ask yourself: What in your possession or life is meaningful to you?
Many of us are so busy in our lives that we hardly get time to contemplate what actually makes us happy. Fortunately for me, when I was in the captive oil-rigs in the vast empty deserts of Saudi Arabia, I found myself having more spare time than usual. And that’s when I discovered men’s nail polish.
Just kidding, wanted to check if you’re still with me! – So moving on I found myself at a stage in life where the incentive to attain material wealth began to fade away. I began asking myself deep & (for the second time) meaningful questions in life.
On a personal note, those of you who have experienced misfortunes in health or loss of loved ones could attribute these feelings to the actual traumatic event itself. However I am not talking about ambition to succeed or achieving goals. I am talking about the modern disease which is the hunger for accumulating wealth and more often than not, acquiring it through unconventional methods.
“Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.” – RUMI
Lets talk about women.
Recently I came across an eye-opening article in PAPER magazine from the Sub-Continent which highlighted the growing number of 40-something women pestering their hardworking husbands (on meager salaries) to buy them designer bags and shoes for the sole purpose to outshine their social circle. Now there is nothing wrong in wearing nice clothes and accessories, however the line obviously needs to be drawn between obsession, insecurity and the well-being of the husband’s pocket!
My elder sister, who of course will kill me after this article is published, has a similar disease whereby she fails to distinguish or draw the line of when buying enough bags and shoes is humanly sufficient. The less said on that the better!
I would now like to draw your attention to the benefits of attributing a moral purpose to one’s working life and indeed every task we undertake.
For example, Mr. Agha Hasan Abedi, founder of United Bank Ltd and Bank of Credit & Commerce International had instilled the essence of humility and giving in every employee that ever worked for him.
The result of which was a workforce of super talented individuals working towards a greater purpose. The purpose of morality, the purpose of success, the purpose of value and above all the purpose of humility. The fulfillment both spiritually & practically that they received was outstanding.
In the same vein, I urge all of my friends & family to adhere to a way of life where you can define time the way you wish for it to be defined. For time itself is meaningless until you attach a moral purpose to it. Is time tangible or intangible? Can you see time or feel it? Is time visible or invisible?
These are all consequential questions pertaining to the psyche of your mind & being. For those of you who have dozed off or think I am speaking gobbledygook. Please continue checking your Facebook or SMS the sweet lass who gave you her number last night. The words I am speaking are of a mystical nature which very few may understand, but will definitely benefit those who can.
Therefore it is not a sin to generate wealth, however it is a grave injustice to not attribute the process of accumulating that wealth to a moral purpose. More of that in the later chapters of my book.
“When you are everywhere, you are nowhere. When you are somewhere, you are everywhere.” -Rumi
Indeed it is common knowledge that whenever you commit an act of good, be it as small as a mustard seed, you end up feeling fabulous. The reward of that good deed is equally fabulous. In the spirit of Ramadhan we need to remind ourselves constantly of the people who are less fortunate around us. This is obvious, but you will be surprised at how many people complain during this month (including myself) about the most arbitrary & ridiculous things when others are struggling to breathe properly and don’t know whether they will make it to the next day. Factually, our religion of Islam teaches us that when one sleeps at night, he should not expect to wake up the next morning or words to that effect. Yet we have become so involved in our worldly matters, majority of which correlate to material gain, that we have lost sight of our greater moral purpose.
Recently I have spent more time in the UAE after my stint in Saudi before returning home to London. As much as I love Dubai, I was equally disappointed with some of the acquaintances I brushed shoulders with. Sometimes it seems that conversations now only revolve around what car you drive or how many millions are in your Swiss bank balance. The sanctity of noble humble conversation has become obsolete it seems.
Any of my previous colleagues from the Oil & Gas fraternity who may read this, would know that I have had the privilege to liaise closely with the Royal families of the GCC & OPEC nations and more recently advisory roles to the custodians of one of the largest private sovereign wealth funds of the world. The amount of money we are talking about is beyond belief. Yet, these very individuals are completely down to earth and hold meaningful discussions attributing to a higher moral purpose. Furthermore via their humble actions and dealings, they are a far cry away from some of the obnoxious people I came across who won’t even look into your eye while talking to you unless you give them some indication of how high up the social, elite ‘lick-my-arse’ ladder you actually are.
This is why after seeing it all, I realised that the petro-dollars being thrown my way were giving me nothing but misery. The formula or balance is simple. Education, coupled with a moral purpose to your goal. Never let the financial gain be your goal. It may be your destiny, but never let it be your goal.
Education is the key and basic right to every human. It is the key to ending poverty and the key to a sustainable future. My mother always gives me the daily morning guilt-trip of why I didn’t become a doctor like my sister. Again, as my darling sister can do no wrong, the less said the better. Although my mother’s constant nagging hits a nerve whenever I visit home, as she is carrying an underlying message of the importance of education in securing a prosperous future for your children. Her worry is ofcourse my haphazard globe-trotting and failure to sit in one country for more than a few months.
She gets flustered and annoyed when I answer in the words of Lao Tzu : “ A good traveller has no fixed plan and is not intent on arriving’.
In response, she always replies: “You’ve gone mad! The heat of the desert has messed with your senses!”
Indeed this ‘madness’ of mine, or the journey of deep thought and reflection as I like to call it, began shortly after I lowered my beloved father into his final resting place at the age of 25. Of course, one of the many thoughts frantically absorbing one’s brain at a time of such emotional activity is that I will eventually join him in the same abode. After, striving for so many years, in so many different countries with so many different people, we all will return to God, our creator. But one of the thoughts which recurs and is relevant to this chapter on materialism, is the fact that we return to our creator without any of the wealth and material goods we accumulate over the years. The final resting place is not the palace we have built around ourselves for our beauty sleep, or the extra thousands of pounds we fork out on a 6 hour flight just to have a more comfortable cushion on our buttocks. The final resting place is indeed six feet under, where the Birkin & Rolex are nowhere to be found. But the more certain reality is, no matter how much wealth I accumulate or how successful I become, I can never bring my father back to this world, nor can I question the outcome of my own fate.
Now that I’ve depressed the living daylights out of the ones still reading. Let’s end on a jollier note.
The good news is that future is bright, with lots of positive energy and vibes. This world is indeed a transition period where we are in a long airport transit stay. It is our deeds that will matter and how we behave towards others. Indeed the best of our deeds is basic good manners.
The Prophet Muhammad pbuh said – “Be in the world like a traveller, or like a passer on, and reckon yourself as of the dead.”
Again, this is not to be taken in a negative way, however it should be a positive affirmation of the temporary nature of this world and its material things.
Those of you who know me well, can vouch and confirm that I am not a ‘maulvi’ by any means! But a mystic student of people, communication & their intrinsic relationships. On the contrary my previous choices & associations with the female contingent in my flaky past should also not be used as a basis of biased judgment. Oh, and I do have an obscene fetish of tasting eggs benedict at fine dining eateries. We all have our quirky eccentricities. Nobody’s perfect
This article has been written with excerpts and paragraphs taken from the chapter on ‘Humility & Giving’ in my upcoming book “What comes round goes around – HSBC vs BCCI” due for release in late 2013.