A little over a few months ago, I happened to be in a meeting with an auditor. I guess they’d like to call it an audit—so that was what I as in—an audit. He’s someone I used to (and still do) see every day but we never got around to talking to each other. Somehow, he has this no-nonsense air that makes me want to run in the opposite direction. (I do like a little nonsense and drama. Life’s like a movie to me. But that’s for another post.) So…erm…yes, I was in that audit that went on for almost two hours. The air was tense, and I was attending an audit for the first time in my life; so I kept my mouth shut. Even though I had retorts I kept them to myself. They went on and on dissecting what we had done in the past and asking us questions as to why the numbers on the PowerPoint slide were the way they were. They asked us why, when, how, and why not? In my mind I went, “Dude you were not working on it, stop talking about things you don’t understand.” (But that was in my mind. I kept it to myself, like I already mentioned.) So, they grilled us, questioned us like we were suspects in a homicide case, and told us we needed to do our job better so that the numbers on the slide could change to “satisfactory”. Numbers! Really, now! My mind went off again, “Do you even know how we did, what we did. No. Then don’t talk!” No one was listening to me, so it was decided that we’d have to take responsibility for every move we made during our project and everything we logged onto our systems. Until that audit, I didn’t take statistics seriously. Honestly, I really didn’t care about a ratio, about a defect count, and about the numbers and percentages that are generally displayed on a PowerPoint slide. But after that audit, I did care about them. Not because I was going to be held responsible for my entries, but because something inside me said, “Sameen, they are right.” And I did a little thinking. It occurred to me that if we didn’t have accountability, we’d slip from our targets and that we would do as we please without caring for quality in anything we do. I told myself, statistics generally don’t lie; they make us accountable for our past. And I watched everything I did on that project since then. Something that the no-nonsense auditor told me stayed in my mind, “What we can measure, we can improve.” And though, I’m still not a fan of him, and I still don’t talk to him, I do try to see that the numbers are satisfactory. For myself. Because that day made me want to improve!

A few weeks ago, my uncle came over to our place and we were just chit chatting when the conversation veered towards Islam. Now, now, I know what the media has been projecting, but somehow the media tends to talk too much about things it doesn’t understand. My uncle told me a few things that were already ingrained in me while growing up. But this conversation seemed like a refresher course. He told me, “You know Sameen, being a Muslim means being a believing atheist. You understand what that means?” I didn’t quite get the term and he explained it. He asked me, “Do you know who an atheist is?” I replied in the affirmative. He said, “Just like an atheist takes responsibility for everything that happens to him in life, we Muslims also have been told to take responsibility for everything that happens in our lives. Though we believe in a God, we are accountable for everything we do in this life. That makes us believing atheists. It is true that we’re told that Allah is Almighty and he can do anything, but we’re also told to watch our actions. It means we are expected to be mindful of everything we do. Now, for example, if you get up late and the pray to Allah that he helps you catch your regular train, it’s pretty foolish. Allah can do that, but he won’t. Why should he help you catch a train when you’re not making an effort yourself? And then, if you don’t catch the train you blame Allah. That’s even more foolish. Just like you’re responsible for missing a train, you can be accountable for everything that happens in your life and that is what Islam tells us. It’s important that we realize our life is a product of our actions. Our religion doesn’t tell us to blindly waft through life. We are meant to be responsible and accountable.” And I’d agree. It’s not because my religion tells me so, but because to me it makes perfect sense. I have to be accountable for my life. I get what I give. Simple.

Yesterday I spoke to a friend over the phone. I went on and on about how everything has been messed up. And though he listened patiently and understood me, he told me what you expect friends to tell you—the truth. He told me, “Sameen, are we not responsible for everything that happens in our lives?” I said, “Yes.” And then, there was no need for saying anything more. I heard what I needed to.

There are events in my every day life that make me wonder about my existence—about how I may be losing the whole point of living and just existing. But sometimes, I tend to notice instances that put me back on track. I do want to live a wholesome life, and by the grace of Allah I do have a good life. However, at times, that spark in me to achieve my dreams mellows down by the pressures of everyday rigmarole. At times like these, life sends my way an occasional burst of wind that burns the logs of wood again, leaving my heart crackling with a warm fire that we all need to live—happily!

– Sameen