A comment in admiration at the appearance of orderliness, organisation and put-togetherness.
This is true. The day I receive this comment for the umpteenth time, I look around my room at my lined-up books on their shelf, the scarves and niqabs folded into a neatly stacked fabric rainbow, the wardrobe door that closes easily, and if opened reveals evenly arranged clothes grouped together and with space to spare. Shoes in a box, pens in a cup, everything in place and where is should me.
And beyond my domain, in extensions of myself, the compartments of my handbag or backpack expose my preparedness — creams, pens, hand sanitisers, tissues, pads, a small plastic prayer mat, charger, book, journal and a purse with enough money for some version of emergency.
If you sit beside me at a desk in a library or cafe and I am about to work, I pull out a planner and a journal, organising apps and sites on my laptop at the ready with a clear workflow and task list.
With a constant storm in my cerebral, I need to leave room for the chaos. My brain lacks the stacking, sorting, filing, and storing that I am able to give my surroundings. My thoughts bang around violently inside my head, a volcano of emotion bubbling, about to erupt at any minute.
My thoughts do not arrange themself by idea, worry, reminder, or emotion. It is a monstrous amalgamated knot of all of the above all at once.
The daily schedule I pen carefully into my planner does not account for the desire for escapism, the waves of existential questioning and the spiritual highs and lows that punctuate my day between meetings and lectures and office hours.
Preparation is essential in anticipation of the moments in which the world may crumble to pieces unexpectedly.
Let organization and preparedness not be confused with micromanagement.
Micromanagement, a habit of the insecure and afraid, is a coping mechanism against the overpowering uncertainties of human existence. When faced with the millions of things beyond their control, some choose to control everything (and everyone) they physically can to a neurotic degree.
As a person of faith, I am grateful that this is not a burden of mine to bear. By nature, I am curious, adventurous, and prone to spontaneity. It is incredibly liberating and awe-inspiring to wake up each morning with no real idea of what the day has in store, or how variables might ally and conspire for or against plans made.
Preparedness is a tool that aids my gratitude. The mental preparation above, the knowing, accepting and appreciating the unexpected is one aspect. The physical, forward-thinking and organisation, is the other aspect. These habits of preparation are a sort of celebration of the weakness and flaws in my humanity. It is a reminder, as I thoughtfully organise my little life in some way I hope is meaningful, that I am not the master of my fate. Far beyond and above me, Allah, the Most Merciful, the Best of Planners organises all my affairs, according to the destiny written thousands of years before my birth, but in a realm that transcends time. When faced with this humbling recognition of the facts of my existence, it is pointless to resist the irresistible. Some say that ‘man plans and God laughs’. I have never known what to make of this phrase, but there is an easy-going, peace-preserving humour in accepting the futility of attempting to be in control.
A guiding principle on trusting in God, and performing due dilligence: the following hadith relates to an incident in which a man was going to leave his camel and was considering tying it to prevent it from running away in his absence, or leaving it loose, in what he perceived as a demonstration of faith and God’s control.
Anas bin Malik narrated that a man said:
“O Messenger of Allah! Shall I tie it and rely (upon Allah), or leave it loose and rely (upon Allah)?” He said: “Tie it and rely (upon Allah).”
– Tirmidhi Hadith 2517. Grade: Hasan
I resign from the world where it is commonplace to lose sleep and pull one’s hair out over feeble individual plans, forgetting that blessings fall day and night into the laps of the majority, ungrateful and unaware.
Why obsess over what was not meant to be? Submission to God, when you truly believe in His wisdom and mercy and might and knowledge, is pure and sweet. Faith need not be blind, nor a leap into the unkown. It is the trust in the One who knows best and patience with the One whose timing is supreme. What better comfort is there than that promised:
And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things. (65:3)
“No misfortune ever befalls except by permission of Allah. And whoever has faith in Allah — He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things” (64:11)