TUESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2013 • 12:00 AM
Anytime you wonder how big your round dining room table is, all you have to do is take the radius, square it and multiply it by pi. If you want to know the size of your pizza, same formula: πr2.
Not only circles, but other complicated math problems can be solved with simple formulas. The same formula plugged in to a problem about the probability of finding a good husband in a small town in Georgia, can be used to find the probability of finding your favorite brand of popcorn at the corner store. Math is amazing.
Once, when I was young, I had a long conversation with a friend of mine about the difference between the math of the world and the math of the spiritual existence. I waxed on and on about how things just don’t always make sense. “1+1 does not always equal 2”, I said, and my friend and I nodded together at my wisdom.
Later that day I was attending a seera class, and I said to the instructor when she inquired about my day , “Today I realized something so important.” What was it? She wanted to know. “I realized that in our spiritual growth, 1+1 doesn’t always equal 2. And that thinking it does is the root of our frustration.”
She looked at me with eyes that showed both amusement, and pity. “That’s ridiculous.” She said, “1+1 always equals 2. The issue at hand is you must have both of the ones.” And with that my ethereal thinking was tossed out the window.
And of course she was right.
Just as Math is reliable, our spiritual growth is dependent on certain formulas for success. We will not grow if we do not wake up for tahajud. We will shrink and lose ground if we are missing fard prayers. We will not grow if we do not make a conscious effort to work and strive in the path of God and His Prophet ﷺ. We will shrink if we allow this dunia to overtake our time, our concern, our emotions. One plus one equals two.
Of course, while mathematical formulas are reliable, we cannot use the formula for the area of a circle in order to find the area of a triangle. Likewise, if we have a problem with our nefs; If we are selfish or stingy, for example, we will not solve it with fasting. If we are lacking tawfeeq (serendipitous fortune), because we are missing fard prayers, we will not suddenly happen upon it by giving in charity.
Our religion is clear and beautiful, like the clarity of a mathematical formula. It is up to us to identify which formula we need to use, and to make sure that before we whine and complain about the results of our problem (it’s not two!), that we have been sure to add one plus one.