By Souzeina Mushtaq
Masarat (name changed), 35 could do nothing but thank her stars for the wonderful new life. Bubbling with excitement, and tears in the eyes, she shared her hitherto life with the participants; she had been taking anti- depressants for the last six years for no reason.
“I cannot express my happiness in words; the journey was magical, heavenly. I have been taking the pills for long now, but today I promise that I will get rid of them,” Masarat told the audience gripped in attention. The bliss was no less than a Midas touch for her and people like her, who want riddance from burden of all sorts, get an access to live in the present and create a new future.
‘Discover Yourself’ workshop was the magic-wand that created ripples in April this year, like before. It is an initiative by Peace for you International Foundation chaired by AW Sadathullah Khan, the editor of the monthly journal Islamic Voice. The purpose of the workshop is to help people to ‘discover’ themselves, in other words, to help them find the peace that is missing or hidden in their lives. It is to help them to recognize the ability to do the impossible, to know the truth and enlighten them- and to get them closer to their being, to their Creator.
The first workshop in Srinagar was held at Sri Pratap Higher Secondary School (Boys) Auditorium, M.A. Road, from 28 to 30 July, 2005.
“I was an ardent subscriber of Islamic Voice from day one since its inception on January 1, 1987 and communicated with Sadath sir frequently,” said Rafi Bakkal, the organizer in Kashmir.
“While studying the feedback from different cities in India when he started the workshop in 2002, I got interested in doing my bit for my brethren here, who were going through hell of a life and strife. So I invited him and he, respecting my request, travelled all the way from Bangalore to Srinagar.”
The workshop was thus held in Srinagar, and was a huge hit among masses. “People loved it. Nearly 140 people participated, besides students from Islamia and SSM College. The registration fee at that time was only Rs. 10,” he said. “But unfortunately, the first workshop was held for two days only because curfew was imposed, as militants had forced their entry at Bombay Gujarat Hotel, Budshah Chowk and entire area from Jehangir Chowk to M.A. Bridge was sealed. Only 20% of the throng could come” he recalled.
Since its commencement, the workshop managed to create a niche for itself in the hearts of people, and when it was held again in 2007, the rush of the fans was more than expected, who wanted to experience joy, peace, happiness and contentment in their lives.
But it was not as easy as expected. A guy named Mushtaq, a student, had disrupted and questioned the credibility of the workshop. “I attended the workshop for the first time in 2005. It was a good experience, and I left without asking much questions. Then I again attended it in 2007, and at that time I had acquired some Islamic knowledge by reading scores of books and deemed as my interpretation of Islam as the only right one. My ideas clashed with that of Sadath sir, and I felt that he was exposing the participants to the wrong beliefs. I challenged him time and again and countered every word of his for three days. I actually hijacked the workshop and disrupted its whole proceedings, but Sadath Sir never got angry or told me to leave the venue,” shared Mushtaq ul Haq Sikandar, a writer and an activist.
“After the workshop was over, I still considered him as spreading heresy in the name of Islam and Tazkiya Nafs, but after spending more than four hours with Sadath Sir post workshop and asking him about each and every aspect, testing his knowledge of Islam, judging his intentions, the reality of the Discover Yourself workshop dawned on me, and I began to discover new Islam, which is universal, pristine and inclusive. Since then I have always helped in conducting the workshop in Kashmir,” he said.
The concept of the workshop is a bit different from other workshops. The focus is on sharing- sharing of ideas, sharing of problems and sharing of one’s experiences, rather than preaching. “Self deception is a disease that you cannot see,” said Sadatullah Khan, adding “it is the disease of the heart. The problem is that you are unable to see your own problem and the very purpose of this workshop is to transplant a new heart in your body, free from prejudices, bigotry and bias.”
According to him, all problems arise because we are caught in the dilemma of living in the past and future, and as such ignoring the present. And most important, there exists no word called ‘problem’; it all depends on how we perceive things. In addition, having grudge for people and chip on the shoulder makes life a burden for us.
“Life is a game but the game that we humans play all the time is the ‘blame game’, where in our attitude is that of ‘I don’t care’; we are self- centered. We justify our wrong doings and put blame on others. And above all, treat people as objects. But the game of the workshop was about changing the current outlook by focusing on others; by being committed to our work, truthful to ourselves and others, accountable for the actions, grateful to the Creator, and being present to the situation. And when we follow this game, we treat people as people instead of objects,” said he.
The workshop consists of three days. The theme for the Day one is to think from nothingness, which means whatever the situation or who so ever the person is, one has to have no background and be present to what is happening around; to be an observer and listen to everything all around; to avoid ‘Yellow Glasses’, which means to see people from our own perspective, not considering their positive points.
It was also about silencing the ‘chatter box’ in the head that keeps babbling all the time. We think it is our own voice- the voice of our conscience, the voice of our soul, but according to the Khan, if we are the voice who is talking, then who is listening? He continued by saying that our spirit has no language. We just know truth; we feel it.
Day two is about forgiveness- to forgive each and one who has wronged us, to forgive our own self for all the mistakes we have done, to give up the ego, and to forgive all for the sake of Allah, and ask for His forgiveness. As Prophet of Allah (PBUH) has said, “O people, he who asks forgiveness from the heart should be assured that he has been forgiven of all his sins and none of his sins and repercussions of his sins remain in his account anymore.”
“Though it is not always an easy task to forgive people, but then forgiveness is an attribute of a courageous person and not that of meek. It frees one from the burdens of the past, making the present beautiful and future hopeful. Forgiveness opens the doorway to love, and love is the most powerful healing force. But if we refuse to forgive people, we are caught in the prison of resentment, which harms only us. It is like taking the poison and expecting others to die,” said Khan.
It is also about making Hijra. It means giving up everything for Allah’s sake. All the things that are otherwise hurting us only should be given up, like anger, resentment, lying, regrets, etc. In this way, we can experience the true freedom. As Allah (SWT) says in Holy Quran, “Verily never will Allah change the condition of the people until they change what is in themselves.”
Day three is actually the crux of the first two days with the addition of new topics including Intention, Paradigm shift, being In Fitra (natural state), taking the responsibility of things, honoring the word, etc. According to a Hadith (sayings of Prophet PBUH) in Muslim, it is said “Mankind will be resurrected upon their intentions.” So intentions form the background of every action of ours; and as the means, so the end.
Talking to people on the sidelines of the workshop held in April 2011, this reporter got an opportunity to peep into the changed lives of the people. Anna, a B Tech student at Islamic University of Science and Technology, shared her insight. “I am a new born Muslim. Allah is so merciful that he gave me this opportunity. I felt a new human being inside me. In Kashmir, people are facing real depression. I want widows and orphans to attend the next workshop, so that their suffering gets an outlet.”
For Sehar, a teacher, it was a life changing experience. “I wish to come again and again. The topics that were chosen were sufficient to solve my problems. I could relate every topic with myself and hence could find a solution.”
Afreen, a student realized the real meaning of self. “Before the workshop, my life was not less than a hell to live in. Many times, thoughts of committing suicide came to my mind. I was arrogant and full of anger. I used to get depressed very often. I thought that I would never be successful, happy and satisfied in my life. But now after attending the workshop, I have realized my mistakes that where I was wrong. I have come out of the world of denial into the reality. I am happy and content with what I have. My parents have noticed a significant change in me and I have come closer to Islam and Allah,” she said.
The workshop has been defining in the sense of its impact on the people. “I’m always overwhelmed with the response of the audiences,” said Sadathullah Khan, adding “we have power and freedom take any challenge that life throws at us, but we are always oscillating between past and the future, as such ignoring the present. So the need of the hour is to know the reality of life and its actual purpose. I’m looking forward for more workshops here.”
He wrapped it up with a thought provoking Hadith Qudsi. Allah ordains, “You have your desire and I have my desire/ My desire shall reign/ But if you surrender yourself into my desire/ I shall bestow upon you your desire/ But if you oppose my desire/ Then I shall tire you in fulfilling your desire/ And ultimately, what is to happen, will be of my desire…”
Souzeina Mushtaq is a student of Mass Communication at University of Kashmir.