Recently, I pared the Islamic section of an old cemetery. My father is there. It is a beautiful peaceful place with hundreds maybe thousands of Muslim tombstones. Some simple, others ornate yet each one has a quick synopsis of a life. They all have a few Qura’n versus, some have a crescent and star, and others display “Please pray fatiha.” As I made my rounds as close to death as we may get while still alive, I wondered how can I be proud of my sins and many shortcomings after being guided. I will take advice of Islam and hide them and pray as my Lord will slightly cover them up here as he will do it again at judgement time.
How can I squeeze in what stood out in this Islamic life? Should I put the books I’ve read, the friendships, the marriages, some good some failed, the heartbreaks, the failures, or accomplishments. Student of history, defender of Latino heritage, and amateur musician. What in a few lines will sum up what I want future people to pass by and say that’s great well for right now I am a draft open to change. I came to Islam in my youth seeking spiritual enlightenment and fuller social justice and racial ethnic equality. I embraced Sunnism and never swerved from it although the times were wicked and misguided with countless cults. I never left my Sunni path realizing that true Sunnism included mainline Sufism. I knew that the great masters of the inner path with at their lead Abdul-Qadir Jilani and all of the other Sunni leaders true.
I tried to protect and help Muslims and all decent people. I know that I was a grave sinner but I knew even more that I have a greater Lord almighty who over looks and forgives again and again. I wish I had organized my time here better if I could do it again I would have memorized the Quran. I would have spent more time in Mecca and Medina. I would have been more tolerant and kinder but tougher on myself less on others. Well as you see I already need seven or eight stones and the inscriptions are very expensive they charge by the letter. In a nutshell I would say that at the end of the day, I believed in all of this stuff hereafter, resurrection, Heaven, and Hell. I firmly believed the Lord of everything in the revealed book on creation and angels, the devil and that the ancient teachings of the old and new testaments and their confirmation in the Quran are the deepest truths of my life that it takes a lifetime to go through all of this. Fads come and go. Ideologies and cults are a dime a dozen but our religious foundation is the deepest part of us. Yes, I do believe all this and now just got to hold on and get ready to make this same cemetery my home until end of the world.
A final thought I want on my stone is that a former ghetto dweller had the audacity to think yes I knew more and was more correct than all the big shot philosophers and silly scholars who couldn’t put this story together, who failed to recognize the prophet hood of Muhammad and truth of the Quran that for all their brilliance they were trapped in word games and chasing after cheap thrills and whatever that it was God who put this truth into our confused heads and do. We should treasure it and gratefully hold on each day. Last note to our Muslim crowds today beware of the fame seekers, the glory hunters, the poster crowd. Although it really is to myself maybe I’m a little jealous today everyone is celebrating the work of the genius Imam Alghazali rightfully so. We had a terrible translation of the same book 40 years ago as kids. We would try to figure out what the great imam was getting at but one of the main trusts of his work was to avoid fame and glory, that the worst thing you can do is to profit by religion for worldly purposes. We figured that out from our beat up cheap copies. Ironically Imam Ghazali taught Sufi Islam to get away from the world. Today his teachings are being used for the opposite purpose. Well as I said I’m preaching for myself, and it looks like I’ve filled a couple of full sections of the cemetery with my tombstones. Final note, most of my family – two sisters, mother, and father – all accepted Islam from the worst example possible, me which proves the greatness of God almighty. Oh don’t forget the next generation is waiting for you to come and go…
By Yahya Figueroa