How Difficult Is It To Change? – By Hamid Ismailov

A Tajik writer, now turned 75 and who used to consider the whole of Central Asia as a product of mostly Iranian culture, recently wrote an article. And this paragraph was in it:

A Kulyabi man married a lady from Pamir. They travelled to Khujand. But, en route, in Garm, they stopped for a feast with relatives. Among the guests were people from Gissar and Bukhara, Tashkent and Ashgabat and Samarkand and the guests from Uzbekistan turned out to be all hidden Tajiks, and the majority of Tajiks – were in fact Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Turkmens …
And the guest of honour – a Bukharian Jew from New York City – a great singer who sang a classic Shashmaqom, was (unbeknown to him), in fact, a half-Mongol – the distant descendant of Genghis Khan, but said that he was a half-Chinese from Xinxiang’s Dunguns …

The sage said:
– The people are God’s thoughts …
Who is against God’s thoughts? .. Who?
O Allah!..
Long live the great honey teeming a bazaar of people, mixed as a sharp, spicy salad of Samarkand!
Long live the Eternal Bouquet of Nations, which is sweet and fragrant – there is nothing on earth like it!
You made it, o, Allah – and the one who is against this Holy Bouquet – is against God.
And this is the Satan.
People have long ago solved the problem by loving each other sweetly, and mingling with each other in love…

I was so happy to read this fragment, because, generally, I like this writer very much, with the exception of his soft tendency to Pan-Iranism. I immediately started to share this paragraph with many of my friends.

Some of them were quite sceptical, explaining my enthusiasm by the spring and sentimentality attached to it by default. Others couldn’t understand what I was so excited about.

When I started to analyse what made me so celebratory, I realised that apart from the natural beauty of the description of Central Asia as a melting pot, which is close to my heart, the point was the ability of this particular writer to change at the age of 75.

Every one of us must know quite well how difficult it is to change.

We carry with ourselves our assumptions, unfulfilled resolutions, die-hard habits throughout our lives, feeding the world with ‘the same piece of old cheese’ which we are ourselves, according to a famous quote from the American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau.

Though the world around us is changing at ever increasing rate, very often we adapt to it by a superficial mimicry rather than a real deep change in ourselves.

Obviously not just Western philosophers, such as Thoreau, have thought about the difficulties of inner change.

In fact the most inflated and misused word ‘Jihad’ is also about it.

According to the Prophet Muhammad there is a lesser Jihad, which is about fighting for your belief, when it is threatened by others, and there is a great Jihad, which is about fighting your inner enemy, the devils which sit inside of yourself, be it disbelief, greed, intolerance, anger, lust or anything of that nature.

So the great jihad is about changing yourself for the better, perfecting yourself as a person.

Thus if this particular writer can change his outlook for the better at the age of 75, why not celebrate it? Be enthusiastic and excited about it, use it as an example to follow in our everlasting struggle to become a better person.

To change the world start with yourself, as they say.

*Hamid works and  writes for the BBC World Service blog for Writers as well. To follow more of Hamids works, click on 

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