or do we gaze at them because we are human?"
"Do the stars gaze back?" Now *that's* a question."
"Do the stars gaze back?" Now *that's* a question."
That was how this movie "Stardust" began. This entry will be a short departure from my current Islamic scholars series. I watched this movie today and was inspired - well, kinda fell in love with the opening lines above - which set me thinking throughout the movie. I had no prior expectations nor an inkling of an idea what this movie was about, but I definitely came out of the theatre smiling deeply - having learnt more of myself.
For one, the stellar cast was truly astounding. Imagine: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Claire Danes, Claire Danes, Claire Danes (oops!) Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert de Niro, Robert de Niro, Robert de Niro (oops again!), Peter O'Toole, Sir Ian McKellen (narrating), Sienna Miller... (repetition intended :)
Secondly, it has everything a fantasy movie should have: fantasy, romance, witticism, great beautiful scenes, funny and endearing moments, wonderful acting and a fair dose of magic.
It is also a feel-good movie which is self-contained and does not leave open-endings for a possible sequel - which is irritating.
Stardust follows Tristan, a young man on a quest to find a fallen star and bring it back to the woman he loves (or, he thinks he loves, until he finds his true love in the form of Claire Danes) in order to prove his love for her. The only catch is that the star has fallen on the other side of the Wall, a doorway between England and a magical kingdom known as Stormhold. And, the star came in the form of the talented Claire Danes. Apart from loving her for her wonderful talents, in one scene she asked Tristan: "The little I know about love is that it's unconditional. It's not something you can buy... You did this (finding a fallen star) to prove your love for her. What is she doing to prove her love for you?" The innocent Tristan was speechless. Now, who wouldn't fall in love with that :)
Personally, I have always loved fantasy movies/books. I grew up reading Lord of the Rings (ok, my friends found me weird cos they don't understand what Tolkien was talking about and we were still in junior school then - and it did not help that I even memorised the book inside out), Narnia (I always dreamt of going through that magical cupboard and escape to another world beyond) and many other fantasy/magical movies/books. But deep down, I reckoned, most people share the same interest too.
Why do we have that weakness for the fantasy genre? Undoubtedly, it provides us momentary escapism from the reality of the world in which we live. It gives us the escape we secretly need, even though we know it will be just for a momentary pleasure. Such fantasy are what we dream of in the private recesses of our minds (picture this: who would not want to be able to fly, or to have a magical wand, or to be the just king of a large kingdom loved by all its people, or to be the hero which we sometimes will never be in our real lifes). It allows us to lapse without the serious repercussions which we have to face in the reality of our waking moments. Fantasy world enables us to control our destiny. Fantasy world always have beautiful, fairy-tale endings. Fantasy world always favour us, no matter what. Fantasy world is simply ... surreal and magical.
But mostly, all fantasy always ends with "and they lived happily ever after". Go back to all our fairy tales which we read when we were young: they always commence with: "In a place far, far away..." and the last page will almost always read "and they lived happily ever after". Even Star Wars began that way :)
Perhaps secretly, we all desire for that magic of immortality which we will never be. But if we look carefully at those books/tales/movies, their immortality transcends beyond the physical. Their stories still reaches us - long after Snow White ate that poisoned apple, long after Rapunzel's hair was cut short, long after Jack climbed the bean-stalk, long after Hansel and Gretel were kidnapped - and they will still last way beyond our grandchildren's generation.
It is natural for men to dream and desire for what he cannot have or cannot be - hence the obsession, albeit openly or secretly.
But, as these tales tells us, our immortality goes beyond our living - it is through our deaths that they linger on. For those men of good faith, they understand what this means. For us, there is an open window to be "immortal" in the human sense. Clearly, we deteriorate physically every day. But, as I have mentioned before: it is what we do that shapes us; it is the legacy we leave behind for our family, society, community, country or even the world, that immortalises us in this transient world. It is not to say that we need to do great things in our lifes: small things have their place in the greatness of our hearts. It is also not saying that we do things with the hope of being acknowledged and rewarded in this world: but the sincerity of our actions and His acceptance of those actions will ride its own blessed path. To this end, there is a Malay saying which loosely translates: "A tiger dies leaving behind its stripes. A man dies leaving behind his good name."
And this "name" or legacy that we leave behind are the accumulation of our contributions we make in this world - making it a better place than before. So, as the opening quotation above meant to say: it does not matter whether we are defined by our human-ness or whether our human-ness in fact makes us human. What matters is what we do when the "stars" are gazing down at us. The problem is: we do not know when, where nor how. So, every of our actions must be the best that we do - and in this spirit, it will eventually lead us to act sincerely. To be our best at every moment - is in line with having the spirit of excellence enjoined in Islam as I have tried to illustrate through my Islamic Scholars series.
“Allah looks not at you nor at your outward appearance but He looks at your hearts and your deeds.”(Muslim)
Allah’s Messenger said that Allah the Glorious said, “Verily, Allah has ordered that the good and the bad deeds be written down. Then He explained it clearly how (to write): He who intends to do a good deed and he does not do it, then Allah records it for him as a full good deed, but if he carries out his intention, the Glorious and the Great Allah writes it down for him with Him as from ten to seven hundred times, and even many times more. But if he intends to do an evil act and has not done it, then Allah writes it down with Him as a full good deed, but if he intends it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed. (Al-Bukhâri and Muslim)
“Cleanliness is half of Faith; the utterance of Allah (Al-hamdu lillah – all praise belongs to Allah) fills the scales of good actions; the utterance of Allah (Glory be to Allah and all praise belongs to Allah) fills the space between the heavens and the earth, and Salât (prayer) is light; and charity is the proof of Faith; and endurance is a light, and the Qur’ân is a plea in your favour or against you. Every person begins the morning ready to strike a deal with his soul as a stake; he either ransoms it or puts it into perdition.” (Muslim)
“Be prompt in doing good deeds (before you are overtaken) by turbulence which would be like a part of the dark night. During (that stormy period) a man would be a believer in the morning and turn to disbelief in the evening, or he would be a believer in the evening and turn disbeliever in the morning, and would sell his Faith for worldly goods.” (Muslim)
“Hasten to do good deeds before you are overtaken by one of the seven afflictions.” Then (giving a warning) he said, “Are you waiting for such penury as will make you unmindful of devotion; or such prosperity as will make you corrupt, or such disease as will disable you, or such senility as will make you mentally unstable, or sudden death, or Ad-Dajjal who is the worst apprehended of the Hour, and the Hour will be most bitter.” (At-Tirmidhi )
“Every good deed is charity.” (Al-Bukhari)
“Whoever guides someone to virtue will be rewarded equivalent to him who practices that good action.” (Muslim)
“A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are secure; and a Muhajir (Emirgrant) is one who leaves (abandons) what Allah has forbidden.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
“Allah will cover up on the Day of Judgement the defect (faults) of the one who covers up the faults of the others in this world.” (Muslim)
“On every joint of man, there is charity. Everyday when the sun rises, doing justice between two men is charity; and assisting a man to ride an animal or to load his luggage on it is charity; and a good word is charity; every step which one takes towards (the mosque for) As-Salat (the prayer) is charity, and removing harmful things from the way is charity.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
“Three (things) follow a dead person: Members of his family, his possessions and his deeds. Two of them return; and one remains with him. The people and his wealth return; his deeds will remain with him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
“Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a wayfarer.” Ibn ‘Umar used to say: “When you survive till the evening, do not expect to be alive till the morning; and when you survive till the morning do not except to be alive till the evening; (Do good deeds) when your are in good health before you fall sick, and (do good deeds) as long as you are alive before death strikes.” (Al-Bukhari)