Salmon for Life
By Abu Abdulllah Smarte
I love eating salmon. There's nothing more satisfying to my taste buds than biting into a piece of barbecued salmon with seared glaze. So, there I was one day sitting face to face with my prepared, and soon to be digested, feast in a quiet section of an upscale restaurant - a true salmon lover's dream. As I lunged forward with my knife and fork, it happened. Introspection. The one word that a connoisseur of fine food dreads since, ideally, nothing, not even thoughts, must stand between the food and the grumbling stomach. I am not sure when introspection struck. It may have been sometime between my hasty grab for the cutlery and my lunge towards the salmon with a salivating, wide-eyed, and a deranged expression on my face. In any case, I had to stop my forward attack and retreat beyond the trench, formed by the gap between me and the ledge of the restaurant table. Ok, I told my introspective self, let's just deal with what's on your mind so I can satisfy my biological urge for the grilled-to-perfection salmon.
Life nearly anywhere today is accented by a constant struggle between what one should do or how one should act as a Muslim and the expectations of our society. For example, the prospect of praying on a regular basis may, for some Muslims, result in a conflict between what they should do, i.e. pray, and the expectations of the society, i.e. spending the lunch time socializing and making weekend plans with your co-workers while being oblivious to the afternoon prayer time. Or, staying away from places where there are Islamically unlawful activities being practiced, e.g. a bar, and declining a boss' personal invitation to a party at the local sports bar. So, what does all this have to do with a salmon, you ask? Well, one of the key steps to formulating the right decision given a plethora of choices is knowing and recognizing your priorities. You would not be reading this article if you had a budget presentation to the board of directors due in an hour. Nor would you be reading this article if you had left something frying on the stove. Recognize what and when to prioritize. As a Muslim, the responsibility to the Creator always takes priority over all other aspects of life. Responsibility to the Creator generally entails being aware and observing the commands and laws of the religion. So, kindly excusing yourself from lunch with your co-workers for 10 minutes as you go and pray or graciously declining your boss' invitation (and perhaps even suggesting an alternate venue) would be indicative of a Muslim recognizing his or her priorities. But, you ask, remember the salmon? Ok, ok. Let's bring this around to the salmon before it gets too cold to be of any culinary value. One of the most remarkable things about a salmon's life is its fantastic journey to its mating grounds where it lays its eggs. A salmon reaches these mating grounds by traveling hundreds of miles upstream, against rapids and short water falls. Many salmons die in this arduous journey. Some may die while struggling to reach their mating grounds by attempting to jump against a short water fall and landing on rocks and others may die due to fishing or natural predators. However, these real and ever-existing dangers do not discourage a salmon from ever attempting to reach its mating grounds. The salmon recognizes the importance of reaching its mating ground and prioritizes it over all other things. Its focus remains unwavered even at the cost of personal safety. It may be worthwhile for a Muslim to learn a lesson from his or her counterpart in the water- both often times swim upstream, each in their own environments; both may jeopardize valuable things in the process of achieving their goals; and both must maintain focus and prioritize their life in order to succeed.
As I cut through the fine exemplar of prioritization and focus, I can't help but feel a new admiration for the salmon. Perhaps I need to come here more often to learn from this sage, one that not only induces deep introspection but also a torrent of digestive juices .