Monday, August 4, 2008

No more 'climbing from tree to tree'

It is the fruit season again. In my hometown many fruits stalls have sprung to life by the roadside. Orchard owners and 'peraih' (fruit sellers) hands are full. They are having a field day in their gardens or at their stalls.

It was 'balik kampung' time for some urban families who still had their elder relatives in the villages. In some 'kampungs', fruits are in abundance, durians are left rotten at the foot of the trees while rambutans are left to dry on the branches.

The fruit season brings back fond memories when I was young in a village in the south of the peninsula. Even though my family didn't own an orchard with durian or rambutan trees, my father had a few mangosteen trees near our house.

So during the fruit season, I had my 'happy hours' on the trees. My siblings and I would spend hours on the trees, eating the white juicy soft flesh and then playfully throwing the black or purple skin of the mangosteen at one other or into the water of the padi fields nearby. The popping sound of the skin hitting the water was music to our ears.

Imagine, after coming home from school, we (including a few friends) spent the whole afternoon (until five or six in the evening), eating and joking away on treetops. We even built a small tree house to relax and unwind our minds.

During those fruit seasons, father would bring back a few durians or branches of rambutans (he bought them or were given by friends and relatives), and we would eat and eat until our stomachs were full and we couldn't take in more!

When I was at college and university, those 'happy hours on the trees' became lesser, but surprisingly it became alive when I got married to a girl whose father owned a 'kebun' (orchard) with durian and rambutan trees.

So whenever I was at her kampung during the holidays, I would go from a rambutan tree to another (climbing tree to tree), tasting the delicious and juicy fruits. I would eat and eat until I couldn't take anymore.

I was doing that (eating and climbing from one rambutan tree to another) but was 'forced' to stop and ended that habit about five years ago when I was 40. It was not my father in law or her daughter who gave me that order but it was a warning from God the Almighty – I was diagnosed for being a diabetic.

It was hard for me to accept that my days of enjoying delicious food especially fruits abundantly had come to an abrupt end. Nowadays when I visit my father in law's orchard, I could only take one or two rambutans and spend the days seeing my children having their hands and mouths full of the fruits.

For me, the days of 'climbing from trees to trees' were over. Looking at my children, I thought, well, boys and girls, enjoy God's precious gift while you could. You will only realize that gift when you are without it!

Being diagnosed having an illness is a gift or a warning by Allah (SWT) so that we take the necessary steps to be closer to Him. We will realize that money, power and position cannot not buy everything. Other than sickness, the thinning and graying of one's hair is also a 'gift' from God to warn you not to stray from His straight path.

Even though you have millions of ringgit or you are the most powerful man on earth, you cannot buy health. When the doctors advise that you could only eat a small portion of durian, you could only eat that amount even though you have millions of ringgit in your bank account. In your jest, you eat 'satu biji durian' (a durian), you could do so, but that means you are asking for trouble. It is up to you for risking your life.

When you are on your deathbed and about to die, nobody can help you, not even the best doctors or team of medical experts in the world. It is your faith (iman) that helps you during that difficult and trying period.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), once asked for forgiveness from the people, asking them to come forward and point up his wrong doings. A man was said to come forward with a cane to whip the Prophet but he never did that, instead hugged the Prophet to show how much he loved him.

On his deathbed, Al-Fudail bin 'Iyad fainted, and when he regained consciousness, he opened his eyes and said, "How far my journey is! Yet how little do I have in terms of provisions (i.e., good deeds)!"

During his final illness, Ibn Al-Munkadir began to cry. "Why are you crying?" he was asked. "By Allah," he said, "I am not crying for the sins I know I perpetrated, but instead because I fear that I did something, I considered to be minor, when with Allah SWT (i.e., His Judgment) it is (a) huge (sin)."

I quote these stories from the book 'Glimpses of the Lives of Righteous People' compiled by Majdi Muhammad Ash-Shahawi, published by Maktaba Dar-us-Salam (2004).

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