It is rare that you encounter people who have balance in their lives. I can only think of a few people in my own sphere that I think are balanced. To know such folk is a blessing and a mercy, for most people I know exhibit almost schizophrenic behaviour as their lived faith clashes with their intellectual faith.

Amongst my friends are those so deeply hospitable and kind in their lived faith, always generous, always caring, who go out of their way to help others. I would spend forever in the company, if only… if only they wouldn’t talk religion. In their lived faith they are the most beautiful people, and yet the theoretical faith which lives on their tongues, which comes out in their conversations… it is bitter, unpalatable, odious. In their lives they are the most decent of people, but in speech they will gladly articulate the most awful ideas, as they regurgitate the sentiments of the preachers they have spent their lives listening to. Some such friends I am careful to steer away from religious talk: even toilet humour or jokes about farting are preferable to their self-righteous conversations, appealing to randomly selected ahadith and the views of their particular ulema.

There are others on the opposite end of the spectrum whose words are like honey, their conversations lyrical, their vocabulary poetic, so as to hypnotise all who listen. But behind the sweet speech we discover debts, broken marriages, domestic abuse, manipulation and, sometimes, no faith at all, nothing. Here too the great student, profound in knowledge, long learned, articulating wonderful sentiments at times, who behaves like an adolescent when challenged, throwing a tantrum and insults, delving not into his heart when he is called upon to make his theoretical faith real, but reaching into the gutter instead to vomit the opposite of everything he taught onto all who follows him.

Speech can be deceiving. Perhaps it is better to prefer those schizophrenic companions whose ordinary character is so beautiful, whose pious conversation can be blocked out with amusing anecdotes and friendly conversation. Better to prefer them to those whose words are all sweetness and light, but whose true character is ruthless and cruel.

As for me, yes, there is schizophrenia too. Yes, my inner and my outer, my hidden and my known. To recognise it is the first step to rectifying the soul. May Allah make us of those that are balanced, who stand and walk straight on the path of balance.

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