Turning Fifty

By the grace of the Almighty I have turned 50 on June 4, 2008. I bow my head in gratitude to my creator for numerous reasons.

I know that there are millions of people who are born and even after surviving for the first few years of their lives, they die before they turn fifty. I know so many people who were close to me who couldn’t survive for fifty years. The list includes my real brother, my real uncles, my cousins, my grandmother, my class fellows, my colleagues, and my students. I should therefore be thankful to my God for enabling me to survive for so long despite the fact that I was extremely vulnerable.

My progress has been unbelievable. I was a tiny creature only a few decades ago unable to do anything except to constantly disturb my mother; today I am a grown up man trying to convert my ideas into realities. As a young child, I vividly remember, I was good for nothing. I used to envy many of my young contemporaries for what they were. Not that I am on top of the world today, but what I have achieved thus far has no comparison with what my initial potential was. When I look back, I can only see God doing all the good things that happened to me. My potential and achievements simply don’t match. It’s only God who caused me to be what I am now from what I was when I was young.

I need to be thankful to God also for the kind of people he gave me to live with. My parents, my wife and children, my brothers, my friends, and my students have all been such wonderful people that it couldn’t have been without God’s design.

I am thankful to them all, but I am thankful to you — my dear God — more than anyone else.

On the completion of my fifty years’ stay in this world, I admit that I haven’t performed according to my creator’s expectations. It is not a ceremonial statement but a plain truth. I try to express my regrets for not being up to His standards every now and then in my prayers. And I am so blessed that I get a feeling, each time I do so, that He has forgiven me and overlooked my failings.

O God, I want that your mercy should continue to embrace me the way it always has. I know that I will continue to falter; and I somehow know that you will continue to forgive.

The prophet, God’s mercy be on him, had a unique concept of birthday and of celebrating it. He used to fast every Monday, of course, without making it publicly known. When he was asked, he clarified that he fasted on Mondays because he was born on a Monday. In other words, he had a very private way of thanking God, which, instead of doing annually, he used to do every week. No doubt he was the closest to God. What I learn from his great example is the fact that thanking God for giving us life is a natural, desirable thing; that it should be privately done, ideally without letting people know about it; and that the more one is close to God, the more one will do it.

I don’t want to make a strong statement for I cannot afford to annoy anyone on my ‘birthday’, but I have to say this to all my dear ones: I really don’t understand the idea of celebrating an individual’s annual birthdays. I am not calling it to question because it is a Western idea. Many ideas coming from the West are good; but not this one. A mood of celebration is in essence very different from a mood of thanksgiving. While one has the notion of entertainment intrinsically attached to it, the other calls for basically a very personal expression of gratitude to the creator. Praying, fasting, feeding the poor, expressing one’s feelings, or a combination of all these seem to be more appropriate acts for the occasion. Somehow, being what I am, when I am greeted by the expressions “happy birthday”, I find myself completely at a loss to know the true meanings of it.

I will end my ‘birthday statement’ by saying this: O God, thank you for giving me a wonderful life. Please continue to be as kind as you have always been. My expressions of gratitude cannot match your blessings. What you have given me is so huge that it cannot be measured and what I have done in return is so small that it cannot be seen. Despite that you have continued to shower your blessings on me. That has been the pattern in the past, and I pray to you that it should continue the same way.

9 thoughts on “Turning Fifty

  1. subhan butt

    This is a very useful thought that our day of birth is actually for thanksgiving and not personal celeberation. We owe every minute of our existence to the mercy of Almighty Allah. Thank you sir for making me aware of this. Inshallah I will also try to offer thanksgiving next time. But most important fact as mentioned in the article is that Nabi (saw) used to fast on Mondays as a personal note of thanksgiving. I think practice of the prophet (saw) is the best example for all of us. May Allah give us the strength to follow practice of his prophet (saw).

  2. Muhammad Usman

    Masha’Allah a nice thought and nice way of looking at things as a true Muslim. I appreciate your point of view at least you are putting your thoughts into words and giving us an oppurtunity to think on matters like this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. May Allah (s.w.t) give us courage and wisdom to learn and implement Islam in our lives.

  3. Sajjad Parmar

    Dear Zaheer Sb. Thank you for sharing this. I can only thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It has reemphasized my own belief that the more we thank Allah, the lesser it is. How we insignificant beings will ever be able to express and show our gratitude to His infinite blessings, and that he continues to bless us regardless of what we do and what we are capable of. So thank you for that. I have also made a note of a beautiful remark you made about showing gratitude on our birthdays. Something that we should be doing by helping others out, thanking our creator more, praying etc, and something which we really do not do. I hope i am able to follow it.

    I would just like to share my personal feeling and anguish/pain that I experience on a daily basis. We are so consumed by our weaknesses and faults, so consumed by what we are occupied by, so consumed by the monotonous cycle of life and so sadly consumed by our own desires that we continue to complain and whine. Unfortunately I feel that some of us have no sense of this gratitude towards the Almighty and although some of us thank Allah for his blessings but it’s equally followed by this not being right and that not being right. I mean I wonder and pray to Allah so he allows people to be aware not only to thank him but also grow over the fact that things will not be perfect. Why can we not at each difficulty and pain realize and be aware that we have infinite blessings given to us and be thankful for that as compared to a handful of problems we face on a daily basis.

    Even if all the creations of the universe praised the Lord infinite times every moment, yet these grains of gratitude I feel will not be comparable to his single blessing He bestows upon us. May Allah show us all the right path and may He gives us the strenght and patience to follow it. Thank you very much for your article and thank you for allowing me to share your gratitude.

  4. Maryam Ahmad

    Salam Alaikum Sir. I wonder why didn’t I open your website for a long time. Actually I had exams. Please do pray for my result.

    And you turning fifty, Masha’Allah, thats wonderful. Masha’Allah. I am not going to say ‘happy birthday’ but all I can say is “Jazak Allah Khairan for everything.” And I pray that may Allah give a long, happy and blessed life for you and your family (aameeeen). Please keep helping us with your lectures and articles, they mean alot to us. Stay blessed and take care. Fi aman Allah.

  5. Ashreen R. Ghalib

    I don’t think so that the person who is more than happy to celebrate his own birthday has any feeling of gratitude towards anybody. Its just a day to get attention and materials from around that gives a feeling of self importance and thats it. Wise people always find it a day of regret to look back on own life and find that how I managed to waste my precious time in so many years by blindly running after the worldly life!

  6. Aila Khan

    Dr Khalid Zaheer, Salaams. Just sharing something on ‘celebrating’ birthdays:

    This year a group of us turned 40. While most of us did the usual party thingy, one of my friends had a novel idea. She invited the whole Pakistani community in the neighbourhood for a b’day dinner. However, she announced that she did not want any gifts. Instead, she welcomed donations for the earthquake victims in Pakistan. By the end of the dinner, we had collected A$1100 alhamdolillah. The money has already been sent for the operation of a little girl from Balakot.

    P.S. Happy Birthday and may you have many more. Your television programs are most keenly watched by us- overseas Pakistanis.

  7. Khalid Mahmood

    A great writeup, you had explained the meanings of birthday in new dimension. I confess, that I had never seen birthday occasion in this light before, though I always thought it a day for thanking Allah that all these years have passed peacefully by His Grace. But to go back & ponder over the blessings which Allah has bestowed on me all these years and what I had achieved in all this time is “new & bright idea” I will try to follow. May Allah bless you and all like you, who are guiding us in a positive way.

  8. Hassan Rauf

    Dear Khalid sb,
    I saw your prog on tasawuf and Islam and I was astonished to see how a learned person like you takes a narrow and preconcieved stance on tasawuf. People are being mislead about tasawuf which happened to be the main source of spreading Islam in the subcontinent. The problem I see is that people define tasawuf in a way which has no relation to actual tasawuf what so ever. Let me add here, although my knowledge is no way comparable to yours but being someone who follows tareeqat what the actual definition of tasawuf is. It can be compared to any fruit which has an outer shell and an inner core. Sharia is like the outer shell while tareeqat is like the inner core. Without going through the outer shell i.e shariaat you can not reach the inner core which is tareeqat. One cannot follow tareeqat or tasawuf without fullfilling the basics of Sharia/sunnah. This is the actual definition of tasawuf and I dont see any contradiction between tasawuf and Sharia/Sunnah as being alleged by some scholars of the modern era.

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