Zeshan B remembers coming back from Sunday School one day and his grandmother, who was visiting, asked him what he had learned. He told her whatever lesson they had covered about the Quran and Islamic teachings. She said, all these Islamic precepts and concepts are fine, but the essence of Islam and of the Quran is truth.
“Sach bolo, chahe tumhaara nuksaan bhi ho.” Tell the truth, even if you stand to lose, his Naanima said.
“I try to always think about that,” Zeshan tells me. “What am I doing, am I doing it for the right purposes.”
Zeshan’s grandmother was sometimes wary of religious leaders as not all were righteous, he says; she would tell him to think for himself and to remember to always tell the truth.
“Sach bolnay mein koi pareshaani nahee hoti—jhut bolne mein yaad rakhna partha ke ‘arey kis ko kya jhut bola mein?’.” If you tell the truth, you don’t have to worry; if you lie, then you have to always keep in mind “oh dear who did I say what to?”
With regard to his music, his grandmother would say “ya tho Salman Khan ban jao, ya to Amir Khusrow ban jao– Naanima always loved these bifurcations, either this or that, Zeshan adds — main chahungi ke aap Amir Khusrow banjaiyn aur unhi ki tarha, sangeet ke zariye, duusron ki khidmat karein.” Either you can become like Salman Khan (Indian film actor) or like Amir Khusrow (Sufi musician/poet); I want you to become Amir Khusrow, and use your music for the betterment of society.
Zeshan remembers the day Naanima passed away, in 2014; he was scheduled to sing at Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago. When he got the call from relatives in Toledo that his grandmother was on her last breath, he asked if he could sing earlier than planned, so he could get to Ohio – and, if he could add one special song. His final song, he sang Ave Maria – but the last line he changed to Ave Naanima.
(He sang the last line as he told us this story around our kitchen table, and I’m sure his Naanima heard it. <3)
Day 4 Wisdom 4: Always tell the truth, even if you stand to lose.
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