Q: If I am not mistaken, you studied Science or Engineering in college and then became a businessman. So, what inspired you to go off on what might seem a very unrelated field—of counselling and helping people to ‘discover’ themselves?
A: Yes, I graduated in Bachelor’s in Science from St Joseph’s College and then completed my Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from Visvesvaraya College of Engineering in 1975 in Bangalore. I worked in HAL, ITI, and in ALUPCO, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and later was in the export business, till 2002. Like most other people, my first priority was to be a professional so as to make a living in order to have a good life in the Duniya.
When I was in Saudi Arabia, I was very impressed by the Friday column “Islam in Perspective” in the newspaper Arab News. I intended to bring out a paper on similar lines. After returning to India. I applied for three names, and ‘Islamic Voice’ was approved, in November 1986. Shortly after, I launched the magazine in Bangalore. I got around 500 annual subscriptions, of Rs 20 each. It boosted my confidence. Since then, there has been no turning back despite going through many ups and downs. Alhamdulillah, with Allah’s blessings, we are in the 32nd year of publication. We are fortunate to have a good team and ongoing support from the business community.
Islam is peace. This is much talked about, but the question is: if there is no internal peace, how can one have external peace? I could feel something is missing between these two dimensions with regard to people’s understanding of Islam. Unfortunately, Islam is often understood and presented in general as a concept, theory, knowing and quoting bits of information, listening, sermons, preaching, lectures, prayers, devotion and information download. One who has more information is considered superior in some sense, and hence the entire focus or race is about acquiring more information, and this huge collection of information in the brain is considered as ‘knowledge’. Quoting verbatim has become the order. The misconception is that the more knowledge we have about religion we assume we are closer to Allah and on the path to Jannah. But the fact is that it is faith and righteous actions that brings one closer to Allah and a path to Jannah. If righteous actions are missing and we are caught up in a world of sermons and preaching devoid of actions that are consistent with the learning it is simply pointless. Many people may know Islam conceptually. they can give big talks, write books and get a PhD in Islamic Studies. Great emphasis is given on the knowing, and hence a huge gap has arisen between knowing, on the one hand, and being and doing, on the other. Sometimes we get stuck when we meet people with a mental block that says “I know it all”.
Abdullah Ibn Masud (ra) states:“It was hard for us to memorize the words of the Quran, but easy for us to act by them. After us will be peoplefor whom it will be easy to memorize the Quran but hard to act by it.”
My spiritual journey to self-discovery started with self-introspection, questioning myself. Who am I? What is life? What is the ultimate purpose of life? Who is Allah, and what is His purpose in bringing about the creation? Is religion necessary for life? Why is there so much of confusion, division and conflict? This inquiry took me to refer other religious scriptures, attend lectures and seminars to find their understanding to these questions. Years of pondering, reflecting and looking deep within led to many insights and openings. By Allah’s Guidance, Mercy and Blessings, I feel I was able to view life and Islam from more of a reality perspective. I feel I experienced a sense of freedom from the external world of opinion, judgment and interpretation. My life was considerably transformed and I started to experience love, contentment, peace and bliss. Life became more simple by being able to be more detached from the external.
With this insight, I took upon myself the task of sharing my experiences with others and help them in their process of uncovering their veils and purifying themselves.
Alhamdulillah, I have made my mission of life to trying to bring peace and love to people, and the source of this is Allah.
Q: Could you also share how your engagement in the workshops that you conduct gives you a sense of meaning and fulfilment in life?
A: One feature of our workshops is that we engage in a conversation with the participants, helping them to realize that they were living their life in deception and in a self-created false world. During the three days of self-introspection and inner journey they start to see that they were creating their own problems and that they were unaware of this while they were blaming others for their failures and sufferings. As the workshop progresses they start to realise their own faults. When the shift from the false world to the world of reality happens, they start to realise the need for inner change and for healing all broken relationships. Love, peace and happiness can be experienced with the ability to see life and others from a reality perspective and accepting everyone as they are.
The knowledge they acquire in the workshop now becomes their tool to help them overcome their negative emotions. They learn to make decisions and start implementing the insights that they have received in their everyday life. Once this knowledge becomes part of their daily life, they are transformed. Initially, they must put in an effort to use this knowledge, but slowly the process becomes automatic until it becomes the default mode.
The experiences the participants share with us and seeing them become free from suffering gives us fulfilment that no money can buy. Blessings and duas pour from their hearts, which is awesome! If even one soul is transformed we feel that all our efforts and time spent are worth it.
Q: You are above 60 years old, and still, at this age, you are so actively engaged in this work of serving people. What advice do you have for ‘senior citizens’ regarding how they can also use their time meaningfully, as you seem to be doing?
A: Alhamdulillah, I am 68 years and have got a purpose to wake up every morning to make a difference to one soul at least. Unless we have a vision and a purpose our life is wasted. The entire life we invest in creating a good future for our family and children so that they can have a comfortable life after our death, but once we cross 60 years we should detach ourselves and dedicate our life selflessly in serving humanity for creating our future that is going to last for eternity. If you can contribute and make a difference individually, great. If not, join a good NGO and dedicate your life selflessly, without any expectations in return in whatsoever manner, being active solely for the pleasure of Allah.
If we consider life as a game, then we must play it till the referee blows the whistle. Even an atom’s weight of good has great value. So, let’s contribute our health, time, money and knowledge, which Allah has blessed us with, in making a positive difference to humanity. When we are meaningfully active the whole day we experience a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment, and we will also be physically, mental and psychologically healthy. This is the secret for being healthy. As the saying goes ‘Health is wealth”.
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.”