It was another one of those boring holidays. Omer got done with his school work and couldn’t think of anything else to do. Everyone was busy in their own work. Out of desperation, he went to his father who was reading the newspaper.
Omer: Hey Dad! What’re you doing?
Dad: I’m reading the newspaper, son.
He glanced at Omer’s face and grinned. “But you seem very bored. You can’t think of anything to do. Am I right?”
Omer: Yeah, that’s about right.
There is a pause. Then….
Omer: Did you ever get as bored when you were little, Dad?
Dad: No. We children didn’t even know what the word ‘boredom’ meant.
Omer: So what did you do on holidays? Watch cartoons all day?
Dad (laughing): Oh, we didn’t have things like that in our time, but that didn’t stop us from having our fun at all.
Omer (curiously): Really? How did you spend your time, then?
Dad: Sit down and listen closely. As far as I can remember, our home was on the outskirts of a small town. I used to go with my father to pray Fajr at the local mosque and my mother would recite the Quran after prayers. I sat next to her, listening. Sometimes I would recite the verses myself. Then my mother would get up to prepare our breakfast in the kitchen and I would leave for the courtyard. Sparrows would line its walls and sing praises to Allah. They would be waiting for me to put down some food for them.
Omer: How do the sparrows praise Allah? Do they do Tasbih like us?
Dad: Of course, Omer. Don’t you know that every living creature glorifies Allah? Only we human keep forgetting because we’re too lazy.
Omer: Right. What were you telling me about your routine?
Dad: I was telling you that when I would place water in a small bowl and spread bird feed in a large round plate, the sparrows used to fly from every direction to eat and drink. I would quickly get aside so as to not cause them any fear. At that time I would feel true happiness in my heart which I can even feel today.
Omer: What does feeding the birds have in it that makes you feel so happy?
Father: Son, Allah has made human beings such that good deeds make them feel happy and bad deeds make them upset. When I think that I have helped so many birds find their food it I feel a deep sense of pleasure. Anyway, by that time an aroma of freshly prepared bread would spread all over the house. I would race to the kitchen to help my mother serve breakfast.
Omer (surprised): You did housework? Dad! That’s a girl’s job!
Dad (sternly): There is no difference between boys and girls when it comes to housework. Every member of the family should participate in it. Also, our sister was the youngest of us all, so she wasn’t capable of helping our mother like we were. It shouldn’t come as a surprise Omer, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SA) used to take part in housework and helped his wives at home.
(Dad becomes quiet).
Omer: That’s before breakfast. What did you do after?
Father: After breakfast, we had to prepare for school. I would make my younger brother sit behind on the bicycle and would ride to school. It used to take 20 minutes for us to reach school.
Omer: Didn’t you feel hot riding the bicycle under the sun? Why didn’t you people go by car?
Dad: In the morning the weather was usually pleasant, but by noon – when we got back home – it would be boiling. Very few people owned a car at that time and we didn’t want thoughts of buying a car distract us from our studies. The path to knowledge is a path to Jannah, Omer. The hardships you face will be rewarded by Allah (SWT). After school, we would come home, take a shower and pray while our mother would spread the table for lunch. We loved to eat hot freshly made chapatis with daal. Sometimes it would be a vegetable with mint dip, or a potato and meat stew. Delicious!
Omer (surprised): You liked daal and vegetables when you were little? I don’t believe it. No child in my class likes vegetables.
Dad: I don’t wonder you’re surprised. We didn’t eat crisps, chocolates and ice creams like you do. After such a long day we would feel so hungry that we could’ve eaten anything, but our mother had a wonderfully unique taste in her cooking that felt as if she’d poured her love into the food.
Omer: So after lunch, you would probably do your homework or learn the Quran from your teacher?
Dad: No, after lunch we would sit around our mother and she used to ask us about our day and we would tell her about all the details of every little thing that happened with us. While listening to us she would lie down on her bed to take a nap but we would quickly get up after relaxing and would run to the play-field.
Omer: Did your friends also used to come to the field?
Dad: Of course dear! How can one enjoy playing without friends? We were a group of five friends. Sometimes we would compete with each other in racing or football and sometimes we would compete in target shooting (target hitting).
Omer: But Dad, I thought you shouldn’t play shooting games!
Dad: Correct. It’s wrong to shoot animals and birds just for fun, but what we did was much different. A board would be marked and each player took turns at hitting the target with stone. Everyone had five turns only and the player whose stones hit the target most of the times would win. We would not feel the time passing while playing and then, suddenly, it would be the time for asar. We would race to the mosque as soon as we heard the adhan. Each one of us would perform ablution (wudu) and we all would pray together in congregation. After the prayer, we learned the Quran from Qari sahib. And we didn’t just memorize, he also used to tell us the meaning of the Quranic verses after we were done.
Omer: Really? It only takes 20 minutes for us to learn from our Quran teacher.
Dad: Exactly, my boy! In today’s world, everyone is in the worried about just finishing everything off without bothering to learn with any understanding. Look at me, for example. I started Quran at the age of four and completed it at the age of ten, but I knew all the stories of the prophets including which deeds I must perform to please Allah and to earn Jannah for myself.
Omer: I want to know all that too, Dad, but our teacher doesn’t have that much time ‘cos he has lots of other students to teach.
Dad: I am so very pleased to hear that, Omar. How about you and I set up a time to learn the Quran with its meaning?
Omer: Oh, would you really? Are you sure you can make it with all your office work, though?
Dad: I always find time for important matters. And learning the book of Allah is definitely an important matter.
Omer: Sure. But Dad, you didn’t mention homework anywhere in your routine. When did you do that?
Dad: We didn’t get as much homework as you do, but we had to revise whatever we learned in the class so that we could memorize and understand it before moving on to the next lesson. After coming back from mosque we used to revise our school lessons, at which time our father would be back. We would fetch his clothes and the water for his bath before he even arrived. He would take a bath and after that, he would take us brothers to the mosque for Maghrib prayer. After coming back from mosque we would eat the night meal. Then, our father would play different games with us. Sometimes we would play guessing game or riddles and sometimes he would tell us the stories of our beloved Prophet ( SA ) and his companions. Sometimes he would relate to us the incidents from his childhood. Especially in winters, we had a lot more fun as we would sit inside in our blankets around the heater and would ask him lots of questions while gorging on peanuts and pistachios.
Omer: What kind of questions you would ask him? Didn’t he ever get fed up?
Dad: Not at all. We used to ask many different kinds of questions on geography, science, and religion but he would never feel tired or angry while answering our questions.
Omer: At what time did you sleep?
Dad: Right after offering Isha prayer. Our mother used to tell us that our Prophet Muhammad (SA) disliked staying awake for long after Isha prayers without reason. Plus, after the busy routine of our day, she didn’t have to push us for sleep. We would recite the dua before sleeping and wake up after the call for Fajr.
Omer: Nice! But I was asking about your holiday routine.
Dad: (smiling) Very naughty of you Omer. You kept on listening to the whole account and now want more?
Omer: It’s really interesting, feel like I am listening to a tale. Now, what did you do on holidays?
Dad: We used to love our weekend and would wait for it the whole week. Our mother ordered us to clean up bookshelves and cupboards and put everything in order. First, we would complete this task and then she would hand us over a grocery list to go get the weekly groceries for home. When I would go out I would think of the widow lady in our neighborhood and would always ask her before leaving. She had only one daughter and there was nobody to help her with the groceries.
Omer: That would have taken lots of your time! Why?
Dad: It would take only a few extra minutes but when I would bring them her stuff; she would lovingly stroke my head and would sincerely pray for me. At that time I could feel a sense of true happiness in my heart.
Omer: True happiness? Is there such a thing as fake happiness?
Dad: That’s a very good question but it is not easy to explain. There is one feeling of happiness which you get when you fulfill your own wish. But a deep pleasure which you acquire when you do any good deed with the intention to please Allah; that can be called true happiness.
Omer: Now I understand. Whenever I help my school friend Ahmed who is a bit weak in studies, I always think that Allah is very happy with me now. I have a feeling that that is true happiness.
Dad: (happily) Exactly! You are so right. So I was telling you that after bringing the groceries I would go riding on a bicycle with my friends to the road that would take us outside the city. We would find green fields and there was a canal a few miles from the fields. We would park our bicycles on the bank of the canal and would jump in, splashing water at each other, swapping jokes, sharing laughter and would not feel the time passing by. When we would come out after taking a bath, we would feel extremely hungry. Each one of us would bring some food with him. My friend Aslam’s mother would give parathas and pickles, Arif would bring kababs, Habib brought us sweet laddoo and my mother would give us Lassi (yougurt& milk drink) in a big jar that I would hang on my bicycle. We used to have this picnic every week and never get bored. Our friend Aslam was Hafiz-e-Quran and his recitation was so beautiful that we all wished we had a voice like his.
Omer: But you told me that it is not good to get envious of others!
Dad: Yes, you are right. But our beloved Prophet (SA) has told us to that we may be envious of only two kinds of people. One who has knowledge of Quran and conveys it to others and the one who is wealthy and spend in the way of Allah to seek His pleasure.
Omer: You’d probably be so tired after that long picnic that you’d be sleeping till the evening, right?
Dad: Not for so long but yes! We used to take some rest for a while and then we would read some magazines with stories and lots of knowledge. We used to cut our favorite piece of writing to take to our school. Our Urdu teacher would always ask us to bring some piece of writing so that we share with each other and get to know about different new things.
Omer: Now I understand why you never got bored. But after listening to the whole account I feel like you were too good and extremely well mannered. You’ve probably never gotten scolded in your life!
Dad: That’s actually not true at all. Everyone get scolded sometime! Like I remember my mother always used to get angry at my habit of doing everything hastily. I used to make a mess of everything because I was in such a hurry. And your aunt Bano! She never wasted a chance to relate my messy habits to my mother who ended up giving me a good scold.
Omer: Did you ever get beaten?
Dad: I can’t remember it happening very often but one incident I can clearly remember. I was busy preparing for the finals of the fourth class, and there was this beggar who would come and knock the door loudly again and again. I denied him few times but he kept on standing at the door loudly calling for help. Finally, I snapped and yelled at him and pushed him out the door to go away and never return. Then my father, who was watching all this, came and pulled me inside and slapped me hard. I became numb and started crying. He sat on the couch like he was deeply saddened. After a short while, he said to me, My dear son! On the Day of Judgement when this beggar will hold your hand and complain in front of Allah about your rude behavior, what will I say to Allah when He questions me about the manners I taught my son? Hearing his words, I felt so disgusted with myself that I could not face my father the whole day. I found that beggar and begged him for forgiveness and also cried to Allah to forgive me for my act and made a firm resolution to never be rude to anyone again.
Omer: Hmmm… Dad, I doubt we can follow a routine similar to yours.
Dad: Why so? There are only a few things which you cannot do, but nature and its beautiful creations are still present today like they were at the time of our childhood. All of us have got our loved ones around us but we have preferred technology and artificial things to them. There is no reason you cannot recite Quran in the morning or feed the birds. You can play with your friends and spend fun times by the lake. Plus, you have a bicycle, so while going to the market you can stop to ask our neighbor Khan Baba if you could get him something. You can do all these things even today if you sincerely wish to do so.
Omer (thinking): But we don’t have fields or a canal near our house, where would we go for a picnic?
Dad: Yes, the perfect spot for a picnic is the question. But wait! You do have a small lawn in your house. You siblings can divide some portions of it among yourselves and compete with each other in beautifying it by sowing seeds, planting beautiful flowery plants, watering and taking good care of them. We used to do it when we could not go for a picnic. It’s a very useful hobby, a kind of an exercise and also, you can breathe fresh air, work together and compete to see whose is better.
Omer: That’s great! Thanks, Dad! You’ve given me so many new ideas, I’ll never be bored again!
Dad (smiling and feeling very happy to see his son enthusiastic).
Fill in the blanks.
1. I wake up at ¬¬¬______________ am/pm on a holiday.
2. On a holiday, _____________ is the first thing I do after waking up.
3. I like doing ______________, _______________, _______________ in my free time.
4. How much time I spend with the following people.
On a weekday ( hrs) On a holiday ( hrs)
Fill the columns below.
5. On a holiday how much time I spend on the following activities.
Phone Reading Gossip w/ friends Sleeping Watching TV Computer Video games
6. Can you think of some recreational activities that can be a source of true happiness for you?
Dear children! After reading this story you must have learned that helping people, spending time with parents and siblings, meeting relatives and asking their well-being, spending time with birds and plants and taking care of them are the activities that give us true happiness. Now you can share this story with your friends and can make a club for helping the needy people which you can name something like “Happiness club”. Don’t forget to include your family members especially your parents.