“How canst thou have patience about things of which thy understanding is not complete?” (Qur’an 18:68).

Even the most upright and knowledgeable of people may fall into the trap of making judgements without having all the information. This may be seen in the Qur’anic narration of Moses’ meeting and journey with Al Khidr.

He was there to observe, to learn from this Servant of Allah, and set out very confidently. However, Moses soon began to question the actions of his teacher as Al Khidr seemingly defied all that he had previously understood. It was not until the journey came to an end that Al Khidr gave explanations regarding those actions frowned upon by Moses.

We, too, tend to be impatient, to confidently judge as we see fit, but when it comes down to the wire we really know so little. I am reminded of High School days, or at least one of them when we trooped into the Music Room for our weekly session. Usually we girls enjoyed this lesson, but as usual, the boys came in as if they were being dragged to their deaths.

This particular day we were to sing, “Derry Vale”, an old Irish song which, as with many other from that genre, held significant pathos. Our Music teacher was away and we had one of the Form teachers noted for his cutting remarks and quick temper, so we should all have been on our toes. However as we started to sing, there was notable rebellious, loud, and unmelodious droning from the boys’ side of the room.

Eventually, the teacher stopped us and to our amazement, we noted that he looked at us all quite brokenly and with tears in his eyes said, “Have you people no souls?” With absolute silence we listened as he told us the meaning of the lyrics, “Here is a man who has had to leave all that he loved. He longs to be able to return to his homeland, to those whom he loves, but he knows that he will never live to see that day.” It was a sombre group who then, with due care and attention, sang that old Irish ballad to the best of its ability.

Only weeks later we lined the street as this teacher’s funeral cortege passed. Only then did we realize that we, as students, had judged him harshly but had never known this man or his pain; that he, too, was leaving those he loved and would soon not live to see his children reach adulthood; that “Derry Vale” had been a foreshadowing of his own future.

As I look at all the refugees and immigrants who attempt to come to our shores, as well as those who do not make it, I remember that like most Australians I am the result of immigrants who left their own “Derry Vales”, bringing with them very little but hope. I realize that in most instances they left behind their hearts. No one leaves the land of his or her birth lightly; the families and friends; the memories of love and laughter; it has to be something very serious which would cause such a journey. Yet so often in this era, these people are judged harshly and perceived as being interlopers or worse.

Unfortunately, the ability to feel and the desire to understand has been lost. Compassion and patience have faded as fear and greed lead a merry dance to an existence beckoning away from all those beautiful human characteristics. Characteristics which have been created to uplift and render assistance to humanity.

Do we forget that the trials and trauma faced by so many today are also our trials? Will we pass this test? Will we put aside our self-interest and work toward a better world. May it please Allah The Compassionate to grant us true perception.