What remains of time? What remains of the day?—a day we can never have back. What remains of our life? In his fifth talk in the TASAWWUF NOW! SERIES (2011-2012), Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid takes a deeply spiritual look at the question,“WHEN?”.
Following are passages from the talk that will, insh’allah, invite and inspire all sincere seekers towards this richly rewarding path of Tasawwuf. Listen to the full dars via audio or video (below) or download the “WHEN?” pdf transcript right here.
In the Name of Allah – [I swear] by what remains of time –[that] surely the human being is at a loss –except for those who faithfully believe, and perform good deeds, and counsel one another to the truth and counsel one another to steadfast patience. [Suratu-l-Asr]
“What remains of time?” What remains of the day?—a day we can never have back. What remains of our life? What remains of Time, of the life of humanity, of the life of our Universe? I swear by this, that surely human beings are at a loss, except for those who believe and do good, and counsel one another to truth and patience. What clearer message could we have from Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta‘aalaa) to answer all our questions of when?
How can we relate to time as we travel this journey of the Sufi?
Though a product of khayal, imagination, time is, in each moment, both virtual and actual. We are interacting with eternity at every moment, along some progression. Eternity, however, is nothing we can control. Eternity totally belongs to Allah, and Allah’s creatures participate in moments of eternity, but have no effect on that eternity at all.
For human beings, time is momentary, a series of moments, connected by a memory of the past and anticipation of the future. Each momentary reality is a reflection of Allah’s eternity. Our receptivity to the Divine constant in each and every moment, determines the quality of our own moments.
There are different levels of time: the time of Allah: dahr; the moments of the human being: waqt; and the continual flow of moments: zaman. Allah’s time stretches out from pre-eternity to post-eternity, but human time shrinks. Allah’s time expands, just, as we know our universe is constantly expanding, while human time shrinks to a moment, an instant, a dot.
The horizontal dimension of time — that is, our own self-realization through our day-to-day interactions with what we consider reality — seems to be very momentary, irrelevant almost, in the vertical sense of time. In the vertical sense of time, it is all a moment. We go through day to day life, interacting with each other and the physical universe, and apparently this is happening in time. From Allah’s point of view, it can be inferred that it is just a dot, a moment. Hence, as you will hear me say later, our concern, mystically, spiritually, and practically in day-to-day life must embrace fully the significance of NOW.
We have to understand that what we apparently create, ultimately, is not real but only appears to be. Indeed, what we think we create is potentially a framework for remembrance or a context for directing our life toward Allah (Subhaanahu wa tacaalaa) the only Reality. Abdullah Ibn Umar (radiya-Llaahu canhu) reported:
“The Prophet (salla-Llaahu calayhi wa sallam) took me by my shoulder and said ‘Be in this world as though you are a stranger or a wayfarer. When the evening comes do not expect (to live till) morning and at morning do not expect (to live till) evening. Take from your health for your illness and from your life for your death.’ ”
In our tradition we are asked to remember and to live in the moment of now.
There is a certain kind of consciousness of the moment when a human being becomes independent of the past and the future, in this moment the influence of Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta‘aalaa) descends upon them, into their soul, and makes their heart “collected.” In that moment, one has no consciousness of the past, the future, only of the now. In those moments, you are so much in the “eternal now” that you become a possessor of time. Time doesn’t possess you.
Abu Sayed Kharaz said, “Don’t occupy precious time except with the most precious of things. The most precious of human things is the state of being occupied between the past and the future, in the now.”
I remind you that it is not only how we use time, but it is also how our life is directed each and every moment that is important. The soul takes this elevator called waqt that travels away from this physical world. The doorway to this elevator is found by focusing on love, paying attention to the lataa’if. These doorways appear to the persevering student who is fulfilling their obligation to Allah, with flawless intention, and consistent, natural effort.
Making progress on the path is a process, but when do change and progress take place?
It is a process of being cautious in order to be correct, and being courageous enough to use the blessings that Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta‘aalaa) has given to make the spiritual decisions that have to be made, trusting that they will be the right decisions, against the odds of all the strange things that go on in the world and Islam, and even Sufism. Trusting in that, we can understand that deep learning, deep penetrating baseerah/insight comes time after time and regular practice.
The question of “when” that we are discussing today is a question of time and perception but it also brings us to the question of progress and change. Many times along the way to this state the student may think: when will I make real progress? When will I see change in myself? When will this become easy?
There is a saying in India: “Put your effort; let things happen.” Or we might say, “Put your effort, and you will see the rewards, whenever Allah wills.” Over time the seed or effort bears fruit/results. It is still in Allah’s time, now and forever. From this very moment to ‘always’, the possibility exists for the Mercy and Blessing of Allah (Subhaanahu wa ta‘aalaa)—if we put our effort and strive to make the changes necessary, to create the inner receptive, perceptive environment.
While traveling the ocean of time and change, one seeks a firm foundation.
Everyone wants stability, whether in one’s home, relationships, or in the economy. But those who seek absolute stability find that it only exists when there is trust in Allah. Every other stability is relative.
Even though it may last his lifetime, the seeker knows that the world and the cosmos are on a journey, and that the foundation upon which we have built our (relative) security may (and will eventually) get shaken and pulled out from under us. At the time of the shaking, the flimsy relative foundation, having served its purpose in this creational cycle, is finished. For the man on the path, such a calamity is regarded as direct evidence of the love of Reality for him. He therefore looks for some better foundation until he discovers the foundation of all foundations.
ENJOY OTHER TALKS FROM THE TASAWWUF NOW SERIES. MAY YOU BENEFIT FROM THE BLESSINGS THEREIN.
Download transcript: “WHEN?” (pdf)
Listen to or Download the audio file: “WHEN?” (mp3)
Watch the video: “WHEN?”