Sabit Mends His Ways
By Yoginder Sikand
Sabit was a bitter young man. There was nothing at all that didn’t irritate or anger him. No sooner was he out of his bed in the morning than a volley of curses would follow. He would growl at the home-help—for the coffee was either too hot or too cold—and then at his mother—for the idlys were either insipid or the dosa rock- hard. He was scared of his father and so didn’t dare shout at him but, under his breath, (carefully, so that his father would not hear him) he would mutter all sorts of things about the old man. As for his siblings, how he hated the very sight of them! At office, Sabit would snap at his colleagues and never spared a chance to scold the office-boy. As for his boss, you should have seen how he delighted in mocking him, of course long out of his hearing range!
As you can well imagine, no one liked Sabit at all. And that only made Sabit angrier. All the bitterness he harboured against everyone else (which made them dislike him even more) made him imagine that the whole world had ganged up in a grand conspiracy against him. ‘I’m the nicest person I ever knew,’ he would console himself, ‘and I know why no one doesn’t like me at all. It’s because they are all so bad—not me, as they stupidly think.’ And then he bemoaned what he thought was his terrible fate.
In times of distress, people often turn to God for help. Since Sabit had no friends, he had all the spare time to pray, and that is what he began to do whenever he could. He would shut the door of his bed-room, turn off the lights and pray—for hours on end. ‘Oh God!’ he would say, trembling and with tears in his eyes, ‘Punish everyone who hates me’—and that meant quite about everyone else in the world whom he knew. Then, he would recite some long prayers in a language he did not know at all, which he had taken out from a prayer-book. Someone had told him that this was the way to communicate with God, and although he didn’t understand a word of it all he recited them like a parrot, hoping it would have some sort of magical effect and that God would be pleased with him for his labours!
As Sabit began spending more time in his prayers—and he fervently believed that God was listening to him—his hatred for everyone else grew by leaps and bounds. His prayers only strengthened his conviction that not only was he the only good person he knew and that everyone else was bad, in some crooked way or the other, but that now he had God on his side to wreak revenge on those whom he so despised. ‘Ha! That will teach people not to hate me!’ he would say. And then he would imagine God Himself telling him that He would strike terror into the hearts of the people whom Sabit so hated.
And, do you know what else? Imagining himself to be specially religious and close to God because he spent so much time in prayer only made Sabit an even more bitter person. He began despising everyone else even more than before! ‘I’m so pious and God-fearing,’ he would congratulate himself, ‘and everyone else is so far-away from God. That shows how very wicked and mean they are and how good I am!’ Sabit even began thinking that God would reward him for his long, wordy prayers by soon transporting him to heaven and dispatching everyone else to hell. How that thought delighted him!
One day, Sabit stepped out of his house—he had just had his usual morning tiff with his sister—when he saw an old man coming down the street. There was something quite unusual about the man which immediately struck Sabit. A strange, soft light flowed out of his eyes, and a gentle smile shivered on his lips. He walked with measured steps, and a great peace seemed to surround him. Sabit could not help but stare at him in surprise.
The man stopped at Sabit and turned to him. ‘You can be sure that your prayers will never be answered, Sabit,’ he whispered. ‘If you think you’ve been really praying to God and that He’s been answering you, you are sadly mistaken. Your mind’s played a dreadful trick on you, my dear. Now, stop fooling yourself!’
You won’t imagine how this so frightened Sabit. How did the man know his inner secrets? Sabit rushed to him and fell at his feet. He had never done anything like that before, because for that you need to have love and devotion.
‘It isn’t God you’ve been really praying to or who you think is answering you. It’s just your own silly imagination! You’ve been praying to no one but your own desires! And the more you do this, dear, the further you are really going away from God, though you stupidly think it’s drawing you closer to Him. Your prayers have only made you more mean, hard-hearted, irritable, angry and vicious than you already were—true prayer ought to make you a better person. No wonder the people you hated now detest you even more after you turned “prayerful”! And God is certainly more upset with you than before! I can’t imagine what He must think about you, especially for imagining that He was prodding you on to despise others. You’ve got a bigger chance of being punished by Him than the folks you so hate do.’
Sabit shook as he sobbed. What a sight it was! ‘What should I do so that others like me and that I can please God, too?’ he blurted when he finally somewhat recovered.
The old man took Sabit by the shoulder and looked deep into his eyes. ‘You will get what you give, that’s the law of God. If you give love, you’ll get it back from others. And if you give hate, that’s all what you’ll get from them in return. It’s as very simple as that, and God’s not going to change this law, ever! It’s no surprise that people avoid you, for all that you give them is anger and hate. I’m sure God feels the same way about you, too, though you stupidly think that your prayers please Him! No wonder He doesn’t listen at all while you go about thinking you are praying to Him! That’s why your prayers have remained unanswered, and they will remain that way until you realise the folly of what you’ve been doing and of the way you are!’
Saying this, the old man picked up his stick and walked ahead. Sabit stood out in the street, watching the man till he disappeared round a corner.
Sabit rushed to his bed-room and knelt down to pray. And this time it was a real prayer, an outpouring from the heart, not something rehearsed or borrowed from a prayer-book. ‘Forgive me, God! I’ve cheated You, and myself, too, all this while,’ he cried. And then the words of the old man began resounding in his mind. ‘You will get what you give, that’s the law of God….and God’s not going to change this law, ever!’
The words boomed and echoed while Sabit thought about all the many people he had so despised all this while. What a long list of people it was! Then, gradually, Sabit understood why no one seemed to like him. He had had only anger, irritation and hate to give them, and it was no wonder that these were all that he had ever received in exchange! That, it struck him, was the answer to the question that had troubled him for so long—why no one, even God, seemed to love him.
‘You’ve finally answered my question and my prayer—for the first time, God!’ cried Sabit, truly grateful to God for sending the old man to show him the errors of his ways.