The safe haven


Saleh Al Shaibany

Safe havens are two words that came to my mind very much uninvited. They just floated in and suddenly formed a mental picture. Like curious strangers, they probed deep but it took no time for them to form an impression.

It is the little sanctuaries that we build in the course of our routine that really matter. They cost nothing but are effective when it comes to steer away from potential problems. There are asylums of convenience, if you like, but unlike physical sanctuaries tucked away deep in the woods, one is never far away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Let me give you a quick example.

When I was held up in a traffic jam, a car in front stopped at the side so the driver could change the wheel. He was not pleased because his body language said it all. He dropped the spare wheel in anger and threw the jack in great exasperation. All that at the hazard of increasing the usual risks we all have for a sudden heart attack.

Some feet away, a labourer, who was taking a breather from digging a trench, watched him with a smile on his face. I bet he could not understand why the man was in a tantrum. As the traffic was at complete standstill, more drivers displayed the same intolerant characteristics. The blaring of horns was deafening. Everybody wanted to get out of the road quick.

The labourer emptied his bottle of water, wiped the sweat from his face and returned the turban on his head. He calmly picked up his shovel and resumed his duties. He was completely switched off by the time the traffic began to move on. He was actually deep in his sanctuary while immersed in his work.

While speeding down the highway that day, I passed several mosques. I guess I was in that sort of mood. As I swished past another holy house, my mind drifted to deep theological thoughts.
 
A house of God is the greatest sanctuary but yet it brings little consolation to many. It might be the automation of performing the ritual that takes precedence over the whole idea of seeking peace. In a way, the place of worship brings you closer to God but the comfort of knowing that becomes pure academic after a while.

You cannot run to a holy place whenever you are faced with a difficult situation. It is not just practical. The problem is solved when you have a contingency plan. That contingency plan may include having a praying mat in the asylum of your mind.

It is what that labourer on the road had and what we drivers did not have while passing him. One, in a way, can dig a trench while deeply prostrating on a prayer mat in the presence of God. It is more than a substitute of actually being in the mosque, a place fully dedicated to worship. Little rooms of the mind where we can run to and fall in the cushion of mercy when the going gets tough. We all need those chambers to fall back on but not all of us know that they are there. Again, I must have said this before, but it is the people who have nothing to lose who have the set of keys to get in those rooms. The rest of us just can't find them.
 
It all boils down to faith, I suppose. When you have none, you find any door slammed shut. It just purely hypothetical but the mind mainly works that way. How we behave in a certain situation is never certain but at least we should know where the exit routes are.

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