Yesterday, Malaysia celebrates Teacher’s Day. Where I came from, we celebrate it on 1st September. But nevertheless, I feel I should write about two unsung ‘teachers’ in my life right now whom recently have taught me the very important lesson of compassion. In my faith, it is called ‘ihsan‘. In budo, it is ‘makoto‘. In whatever philosophy or belief system there is, the meaning of those terms, is not only difficult to truly understand, it is even harder to manifest.
The first is Tito, our tabby cat and my teacher who taught me the value and meaning of this hadith, which I have come across far too many times but seeing it manifested right before my eyes is something else altogether,
Narrated by ‘Father of The Cats’, Abu Hurairah, (May Allah be pleased with him)
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said, “Allah has divided mercy into one hundred parts; and He retained with Him ninety-nine parts, and sent down to earth one part. Through this one part creatures deal with one another with compassion, so much so that an animal lifts its hoof over its young lest it should hurt it“.
As written here a few weeks ago, Tito had quite a major surgery to remove her entire womb, after her uterus got pushed out together with her last kitten. She landed herself in the hospital for a week and came home with a 3 inch surgical scar on her tummy. For days, I watched her nurse her kittens, although she was obviously still in pain.
How do I know? Because each time her kittens suck whatever little supply of milk she had left after the surgery, she would cry out or whimper in pain. Because those 3 hungry kittens of hers refused to give up, groping all over her already red tummy, post surgical scar notwithstanding– and sucking extra hard because the milk didn’t flow out normally.
The first few days I watched that, I cried. I couldn’t imagine how painful it must have been for her, each time she nursed her kittens, whimpering in pain and sometimes she couldn’t take it, she gave out loud howling like sounds, the exact sound she gave out on the 2 occasions I went through her labour with her. BUT, not once, I repeat, NOT ONCE did she push her kittens away. Instead, even though in pain, she would use her front paws to pat on their heads while they nurse or just pull them close to her to make them more comfortable, when she was the one feeling the pain!
So Tito manifested the hadith above, showing me the power of HIS mercy that even just one part sent to us, HIS creations, is enough to spread through the whole animal kingdom as well. I always take for granted, it being a habit of starting things with “Bismillahirahmanirahim”, (In the Name of Allah Most Compassionate, Most Merciful) more out of social conditioning and habit, but Tito taught me the true meaning of what it actually means.
My next unsung hero is my other half. He has taught me many things but the most important is, the compassion towards nature and that everything is a creature of God and we should treat them with respect. When I first married him, I got exasperated with his habit of picking up dead birds/cats/bats/dog and whatever other dead animals he crossed path with and gave them proper ‘burial’, more often than not, within our house compound! He would not kill the snails making colonies in our garden, he allowed the yellow birds to make a mess in our backyard when they built their nests, he allowed the squirrels to eat up our bananas and in the previous house we were living in where the garden was much bigger, he allowed it to become a mini zoo of sorts of uninvited animals, including the civet cats (musang pandan!) which scares the hell out of me.
All those took a while for me to get used to, and accept. At times, I still roll my eyes to it, UNTIL what happened last night. My friend Senah called, she was at the cupping clinic near my place and there, someone left an orphaned kitten about a month old. She couldn’t take it back as she already has a whole gang of 8 cats in her care, and the staff of the clinic won’t be responsible for it. So she called me. Somehow, the words ‘Yes, bring it over’ just left my mouth, before I knew what I was in for.
The kitten was very sickly. She couldn’t stand, she was wobbly. She was a heap of dirty bones and fur. There was a big bulge on her neck filled with pus. In short, she spelt trouble all over. I tried to feed her with solid, but she couldn’t chew properly. So I gave her the cat formula milk I used to supplement Tito’s kittens. She guzzled like a thirsty German in a bierhaus. But she screamed and yelled throughout the night, and that was when I realised she was really ill. So I asked the husband, if we could take her to the vet, although I was apprehensive that I was going to make him pay to help a stray. He agreed without a second of hesitation.
Just now at the pet hospital, we were told that the kitten was badly infected and the infection was going up to the brains, causing her motor skills all to be disorientated. She had tummy problems as well, because she had not eaten for days and suddenly drank an overwhelming amount of milk and also skin infection due to being left in neglect for weeks perhaps without knowing how to clean herself. All that, according to the vet, is a lot of work to be done on her and since she is a stray, would we want to proceed with the whole hospital shebangs yet again. I dared not answer, it was my idea to take her in BUT I knew how much pet hospital would cost, from our experience with Tito. BUT, without even a moment of hesitation, the husband told the vet, ‘do what you need to do’. And we both watched the stray orphaned kitten, taken into the wards.
A moment later, when I saw the amount of money the husband parted with just for deposit, for a stray which is not even ours, I knew there and then, I had to wish him a happy teacher’s day and thank you for teaching me how to show unconditional compassion to all, even a scraggly, sickly stray which we didn’t have to take, in the first place.
Thank you and a Happy Teacher’s day to all the teachers in Malaysia.