The Garden Beyond Right and Wrong


Last year I came across Rumi saying, “Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there”. This encounter helped me move to the next phase of my journey of “right and wrong”. This journey started with the denial, had a phase of absolute surrender, and now is in the stage when I am trying to think beyond the dilemma.

In my teenage, I got hold of a thick book on palmistry. Reading of my own palm informed me of my inclination towards spirituality. For that 14-year-old soul, spirituality was a synonym of religion and righteousness. But spirituality meant covering the head with a white scarf, wearing loose clothes, staying on the prayer mat for the night, not watching TV shows, and not gossiping about Bollywood stars. This package was terrifying. I decided to counter that inclination by running away from “right”. I shut my eyes towards religion and even stopped offering prayers.

That escape continued for years. In those years, there was no critical thinking and I was following the rules set by others. I thought that those who convey the rules to me must have comprehended the logic. I was wrong. There are many people who follow rules without thinking of the logic. There are others who choose the logic which suits them. And both of them have the freedom to do so. But imposing self-selected or half-understood rules on others is an injustice. I offered myself to this injustice till I came across The Crisis.

Four years back, I lost my nine-year old son in a road accident. Ali Farzan was the sole inspiration for me to live. My instant reaction to the loss was the refusal to live. I went into an exploration of religious rules so I can prepare myself for death. I came up with the thought that people are either good or bad. And, I wanted to be in the list of the former. I attempted to be religiously ‘right’.

The denial to sun shine, to laughter, to beauty, and to warmth did not last for more than two years. I found that there was no way to cut short my number of days on earth. So, denial was not an option; nor was the blind following of others. It was the time I thought of making decision for myself. I prepared a list of things I can live with and those I can’t; the list of my own rights and wrongs.

Those days I looked into the Holy Book to figure out human freedom to act. I discovered that even prophets used their free will and made decisions. They made those choices for the good and based on Their understanding of the situation. I reached to the conclusion that I have the right to make decision and I should make those using my logic and my understanding of the situation. Finding myself firm on this ground, I moved to the next phase of this journey.

I decided to live. I realized that life has more to offer than the discrimination between right and wrong. I opened myself to the warmth, the sunlight, and the beauty. I laugh, I wink, and I gaze with amusement. I go for the right but also go for the joys in life. In my teenage, I was wrong to think that spirituality is all about wearing a white scarf. Now I believe that spirituality is about being good. Being good means being nice to others, also being nice to yourself.

Waiting to meet Rumi in this “garden beyond right and wrong”.

Isbah Ali Farzan belongs to the field of educational assessment. She has worked for UNESCO, American Institutes for Research, Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and The Aga Khan University-Examination Board. She is a recipient of Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarship, Endeavour Executive Award, and the Fulbright Scholarship. These days, she is doing her PhD from The University of Memphis-USA.


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