Shahbaz Mirza and 'The Story of Purpose'

Hello all. In this post I will be sharing with you an interview surrounding a talk that Shahbaz gave at TED Glasgow. There were 11 speakers in total, and unfortunately, Shahbaz didn't make the finals, but he shares his experience. Shahbaz tells me he is a fully fledged accountant now, but we actually know one another through an Awards evening for Islamic Relief, a charity organisation.

 I think in this day and age where life is so fast paced, TED is a great platform for individuals to speak about subjects and thoughts they are passionate about. An opportunity to get the introvert in us out there!

*For the purposes of this post, I will be using second names since Shahbaz and I both share initials (and phonemes) too!

Sheikh: Salaams. Hi Shahbaz, thank you for the call. How are you?
Mirza: W/salaam. I'm good. Not too bad, and you?
Sheikh: All good.
(At this point we went off-topic and Shahbaz spoke a bit of Urdu because I wanted to hear what Urdu sounds like with a Scottish accent.)
Sheikh: Ok, so. Let's get back to topic. Your talk. What was it on? Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Mirza: Yes! My talk was called 'The Story of Purpose'. It was looking at ideas of the search for perfection and exploring the possibility of why we do what we do. So why DO individuals choose certain paths in life, or relationships, or careers? How does it come to us?
Sheikh: Wow, that is really profound and actually, quite deep themes to be giving a talk about. What inspired you to give this talk?
Mirza: It's all to do with destiny and this idea of trying to create this idea of perfection. Why did Mozart try to create the perfect piece of music? Why does Banksy try to create the perfect piece of art?
Sheikh: I think we're all in this strive for 'perfection', a state of being happy and satisfied. Where did you get this idea from?
Mirza: As a Muslim, the idea of perfection roots from before we existed in this world. We were all perfect souls with pre-programmed talents. Now that we're in this world, we're all trying to find our way back to this state!
Sheikh: Wow, I've never heard that before. I'm learning so much here!
Mirza: Well, I really like stories-
Sheikh: Same here. I like the idea of knowing an individual's journey. Sorry. Do carry on!
Mirza: Ha! Well, I like the structure and the idea of storytelling. I guess this strive to perfection is each individual's story.
Sheikh: If we think about the most basic form of a story; a fairy tale right? Do you think as humans, we expect this sort of linear progression?
Mirza: Yeah, I think that a lot of people just 'live', but not really. They're born, they get an education, then they get a job, they get married, and then they die.
Sheikh: Haha! You make that sound so easy even though it's not.
Mirza: I mean, the point is that when life throws you a curveball, you will re-assess what you're like as an individual. When I didn't get into Medicine, it got me to think about what was motivating me to become a Doctor. All the wrong reasons I think.
Sheikh: Yeah it must have been quite daunting though? You come to almost a 'scratching head' situation and think 'Arghhh. What now?'
Mirza: It definitely got me to question 'What hurts me the most?', 'What do I enjoy?' You ask a lot of questions. And then, you're constantly being moulded by your experiences, so it's about the journey really!
Sheikh: I agree that experiences definitely are this learning curve. It is tough stuff though.
Mirza: It comes down to accepting what Allah had written for me. Simple. In the Quran, there's a quote which means that you might dislike something and it is good for you, and you might like something and it is bad for you.
Sheikh: I feel like you are also speaking from personal experience?
Mirza: When I was doing my exams for my ACCA, which is the hardest exam I've ever sat, I prayed my 2 nafls and just did my istikharah. And then I decided that I would accept what would happen; whether I passed or failed. You have to create love and trust in Allah. I think some people don't accept it enough.
Sheikh: It's really refreshing to hear that as a successful professional, you still bring it back to your faith in Allah! I find that as individuals in our generation achieve, they forget that it is God given.
Mirza: Definitely. There's a challenge to create a balance between what's written for you and what you aspire to be. Did you know that when you pray and make dua (ask Allah for something), the Angel of Salah travels to the Angel of Destiny, who tells Allah 'Oh, so and so believer has asked for this.' And then Allah decides what is best for your future, and then the Angel of Destiny writes this for you?

'So the idea is...'

Sheikh: *gobsmacked* This is all new to me. Educate me further. I know this was supposed to be an interview of your TED talk, but we're still along the same themes, so it's all good :)
Mirza: So for example, Ali R.A said that we are born with two minds. The mind we're born with at birth is our soul, and the mind that develops over time is our brain.
Sheikh: A 'heart or head' type of scenario?
Mirza: Yeah, something like that. Your soul lies within your heart. For example, when you hear a beautiful piece of music, or the Call to Prayer, you feel it in your soul/heart. Words can't comprehend the beauty. I think we need to listen to our passions and think with our hearts a bit more.
Sheikh: Is this why you pulled that funny stunt during the Cakies Campaign (fund raising event) where you yelled 'Oh Aaauuuuuntyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!' through a letterbox? Because you listened to your heart and thought 'Right! I'm going to shout!'?
Mirza: Hahaha! Yes! I remember that episode. Normally I'm a serious type of guy, but on this occasion, I was feeling light-hearted and just went for it!
Sheikh: And you won that Award for it, so congratulations once again!
Mirza: But yeah, all things have already been destined I believe. When life throws you a curveball, there are always going to be doors of opportunity that open up for you.
Sheikh: I appreciate that, but I always think, 'What doors? And which doors do I want to go through?' I think people get scared about going through this 'door' because there's this sense of fear that it isn't going to lead you to where you want to be though.

Mirza: Again, it's about self-discovery, making decisions based upon previous experiences and destiny.
Sheikh: Sure.
Mirza: With any part of your life, 'What career path do I want to follow? What kind of person do I want to marry? Where do I want to live?' These decisions allow you to find out more about yourself.
Sheikh: So where are you in YOUR 'Story of Purpose'?
Mirza: Right now, I'm trying to synchronise my personal life and professional life. A lot of what I love is outside of my work, so I'm re-assessing again what the next logical step for me would be. And I'm still on that journey. I feel like there's a lack of creativity in the Muslim world. I'd love to contribute to that.
Sheikh: So you are the next Maher Zain then?!
Mirza: Haha! No no no!
Sheikh: So what was the response to your TED talk? How did you feel at the end?
Mirza: The audience found the idea of destiny really appealing. A couple of individuals told me that you do tend to forget you can feel with your heart.
Sheikh: Course you can. It's not a tangible feeling, and that's why it's so hard to articulate or attach any reason to any decision you make with your heart. It's an abstract thing. A concept. Like the destiny you spoke about.
Mirza: Exactly. This phone call was destined!
Sheikh: Yes, true! Anyway, thank you very much Shahbaz for all the information about your talk. And all the best in your next goals. Salaams, and until next time, take care.
Mirza: Thank you for the opportunity, I hope that wasn't too confusing.
Sheikh: Not at all, it was very interesting and has given me lots to think about!


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