there but for fortune…

There’s a Phil Ochs song that I sometimes think about, the hook goes “there but for fortune go you, or go I,” and I give thanks to Allah for guiding me to where I am, and I ask Him to guide me to better in this life, better in the next life, and to save me from the punishment of the fire. Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said

انْظُرُوا إِلَى مَنْ هُوَ أَسْفَلَ مِنْكُمْ وَلاَ تَنْظُرُوا إِلَى مَنْ هُوَ فَوْقَكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ أَجْدَرُ أَنْ لاَ تَزْدَرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو مُعَاوِيَةَ ‏”‏ عَلَيْكُمْ

Look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah.

But then, I wonder… how do I know? I see a man with what appears to be a beer belly, smoking, and I thank God that I’m not there with him, because there was a time, oh yes, there was a time. But that man may pray all his Salat in the masjid with full khushu, may spend his non-smoking time serving the poor, visiting prisoners and the sick, and striving for Allah’s forgiveness. And meanwhile, I’m looking at him thinking whatever whatever, thinking “poor him, there but for fortune, blah blah,” and the Joan Baez cover of that Phil Ochs song plays in my head during my Salat, and the last money I gave to the poor was a bit of change I dropped into a “help the poor” box at the grocery store last month.

Astaghfirullah.

This life isn’t a race between me and you, or me and that smoking guy, or me and fucking Donald Trump.

This life is a race between me and me. Between my base desires and impulses, and my higher reasoning and my will. Allah alone knows where that guy is, what he’s up to, what rewards await him in the next life, and Allah azza wa jall knows all about me, and He’s going to ask me about every thing I did and didn’t do. Astaghfirullah, and may Allah guide me to better. May He help me to look at my brothers and sisters, at the rest of humanity, with a sense of appreciation and respect, and to assume the best of people, and strive to be the best believing James I can be, Ameen.

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