The small thin girl and the leaf

بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيم
(In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful)

 She was a small thin girl with a mole on her face. But what she told our seventh standard class many years ago still bothers me.

The moral science teacher had given us homework. We had been asked to pen an essay on happiness. We all thought it would be easy. But when we started writing we realized our limitations. Some of us wrote about the happy moments, surroundings, birthdays… Some spoke of the emotional highs on getting a first in class, others remembers dolls and movies and whoops of joy. But the small thin girl saw nothing in the events that had exited us.  Nothing at all.  She was uninterested.

Yes, she was an oddity. She was often lost in her own thoughts though she appeared calm, she asked too many questions, and she answered them all by herself. She seemed to be searching for a friend and found one in herself.

Her essay on happiness was strange-at least it appeared so at that time. I did not know how to respond to it. Here’s what I can recollect from her singular essay;

“I do not know what happiness is. I can’t define it. Is it a mood?  Is it a thought? Is it about innocence? It’s difficult. But I did feel happy last Wednesday when I opened my window. The atmosphere was right, there was a light breeze. Just across the window was a cashew tree, it was swaying gently. Something was building within me. And  then, a bright yellow leaf started falling. It circled and circled and fell. I don’t know what happened, but I felt nice. It was a positive feeling. I smiled. Yes, you could say I felt happy. I had never felt like that before”

The class of 1992 was certainly dazed. Happiess?? Leaf?? Small, thin girl with an attitude? If there were any doubts about the eccentricity of the small thin girl, the essay had put t hem to rest.

Years have gone by and I still think about the falling leaf and my classmate.

Are we taking our lives for granted? Do our lives have a purpose?

Do we see magic in the ordinary?

Or are we wasting our time chasing the extra ordinary?

Are we searching for something that is right in our midst, in our sleeves? Have we found it?

Just imagine what the lovely leaf has set off.

      الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ

أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ

[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving. [Quran, 67:2]

” It is a symbol of life itself”, a friend of mine tells me.
Another says it is her “childlike innocence”
The falling leaf, like life, is serendipity says another friend,” Its everything and nothing”

Indeed the small thin girl was explaining cosmic serendipity in her own way.

But, life has NOT happened as an accident and let’s view it as such.

What is the matter with you that you expect not wisdom and staidness from Allah? While He has created you in different forms and ever varying states? [Quran 71:14-15]

That you shall assuredly pass on from one stage to another. [Quran  84:20]

… He created him (Adam) out of dust (turab)… [Quran 3:60]

… He created you from clay (humid or moist earth)… [Quran 6:3]

He created man from dry ringing clay like pieces of pottery. [Quran 55:15]

Let living itself be a moment of happiness, however small or large that instant is.

At the end of the seventh standard term, I had numerous meeting with the small thin girl. One day she was franker than ever:” I have often wondered what it is to experience a world without life. I have tried it and found it to be extremely disturbing. Even as there is a moment of happiness, in seeing a leaf, there is sadness in experiencing a world without a leaf. And I am just beginning to understand it. Reasoning, intelligence, wisdom, experience, imagination are fine, but they will never help you experience a falling leaf. It has to do with awareness,” the girl said.

I realize now that in her own concept she was referring to – Consciousness.

One of the interesting things that we find in the Quran is that there is repetition of concepts, which in reality is a way of emphasizing the significance of any given concept. And the more likely it is for us to forget about that concept, the more frequently Allah (SWT) has mentioned it in the Quran.

In Islam, Taqwa is the Concept of God-Consciousness / Fear of God.

الم – ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ  

 This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah (2:02)

A person once asked the Messenger of Allah (SAW), Ya Rasulullahi ooseeni (O Messenger of Allah! Give me some advice.) The Prophet (SAW) replied, Ooseeka bi taqwa Allah fainnahu ra’sul amri kullihi  (I advise you to fear Allah because it is the head of everything.)

Omar ibn Al-Khattab once asked Ubay ibn Ka’ab: How would you describe Taqwa? In reply Ubay asked, “Have you ever had to traverse a thorny path?” Omar replied in the affirmative and Ubay then continued, “How do you do so?” Omar said that he would carefully walk through after first having collected all loose and flowing clothing in his hands so nothing gets caught in the thorn. Ubay said: “This is the definition of Taqwa.”

It was an inner voyage that the small, thin girl had undertaken at a very young age. She had realized that a leaf is not just a leaf, it was LIFE….. ….She tried to understand what’s beyond the leaf.

As long as the leaf was attached to the tree, there exited life in it and the moment it left the tree it was dead.

We too must understand ourselves to understand what’s beyond us, that awareness delimits our mind, and that awareness unlike memory is self-effacing…

Many years later, I still  remember that one cosmic individual and a falling leaf …….





About alkalaamblog

A student....... in pursuit of knowledge !
This entry was posted in Quran Reflection and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The small thin girl and the leaf

  1. alkalaamblog says:

    May Allah bless you Sir and make you an inspiration for generations to come. Takabbal Allahu minna wa minkum.


  2. MuQeet says:

    Your recalling of this ‘small thin girl’ and ‘the falling leaf’ brought in me some vivid thoughts down the memory lane!
    It was 1991 when me and my professor were travelling on a train when suddenly from nowhere a leaf fell on my lap. My professor initiated a discussion saying ‘See, how God has sent a letter for everyone of us to read through the pages of nature’! The next one hour was da’wah on wheels! The co-passengers of Hindu religion too participated in the discussion. Great people don’t leave opportunities to play their role, and this ‘small thin girl’ was in fact a big small part of the larger Ummah. Subhanallaah.


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