I guess one mistake we make when we set out upon this road is to assume that we are important, or that the world does or should revolve around us. Very soon we grow despondent because nobody notices us, while we remain oblivious to all the other souls that are thinking just the same thing. In truth, nobody really cares what we have to say, unless it can benefit them in some way. And further, we probably don’t really care what others have to say either. We are just souls brushing shoulders with each other momentarily, wandering on indifferent to each other’s lives.
Nobody cares where you’re from, who you are, what you’ve seen or what you’ve done. You are nobody. Perhaps that realisation is driven home all the more forcefully for those cut off by language, who must sit there not just ignored, but in total ignorance too — not just unheard, but also unhearing — but it is a realisation that must dawn on all of us eventually. We live most of our lives having no influence on the world around us at all. And so it is in the mosque and in our communities: our place is to listen, but not talk, to see but not be seen, to hear but not be heard.
Perhaps this age of the celebrity has warped our expectations: when there are some who are known by millions, perhaps it is only natural that the millions also want to be known. But we are nobody. Perhaps this realisation is driven home all the more forcefully to those who walk upon a different path to their family, for it becomes clear that the brotherhood of faith often extends no further than a family or a clan, or perhaps a group of friends. Mosques bear witness to this reality all too well, where believers are now mean with their salams, withholding them from all except their loved ones. Even a smile or an exchanged glance is a rarity today. For you are nobody.
The ego petitions us constantly, doesn’t it, demanding that others pay attention to our insignificant lives? That’s why I consider our community good training for the nafs. Daily we are reminded that we are nobody, that nobody cares about our thoughts, that nobody in interested in your health, that nobody cares what you have to say, that your life is of no interest or worth. On forums we are those who come and go, who speak but are ignored. We are the ones who send emails that are never answered. We are the ones who wander into the mosque like a stranger in a crowd of strangers. We are the ones who gives salams that are never returned. We are the ones that Allah has decided to train, whose nafs cry out for reform. Allah loves the slave who is hidden from the people, we once learnt, but it took all of this to make it true.
Yes, it is the truth: we are nobody. Don’t get despondent; take heart. Allah plucked you like a grain of sand from the desert, gave you faith and threw you back into that sea of sand, blown by the wind; without all those grains there would be no cascading dune. Amongst our companions we are nobody, but before our Lord: so much more.