Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Day 26: Time

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Today is day 26, which means we only have exactly 14 days (i.e. 2 weeks) left before we have to go back to our homes and lives.

Time flies. It really does. To be honest, I wasn't expecting that it would; I thought I was going to find the program really difficult and start counting down the days somewhere in the middle. But elhamdulela, the hardship has definitely not been as hard as I was expecting. Which is a relief in some ways and a disappointment in others.

So since I was talking about a cheery subject yesterday, I may as well continue on with another cheery one: time.

I'm reading a book right now that belongs to our house supervisor titled The Value of Time, by Sh. Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah. It's basically a collection of very short stories (most just a couple of paragraphs long) about scholars of the past and how they valued their time. One, for example, would grind his bread into mush so it would be easier to swallow and he didn't waste time eating; another read continuously while he was walking; while yet another didn't attend the burial of his son so he didn't miss a class.

The book tells you that any time spent not seeking knowledge is wasted time. Not only do we waste time not seeking knowledge, but we waste it in ways that aren't even productive. i.e. you could say I'm working to make a living for my family, and that would be a legitimate excuse for not seeking knowledge. But no, our excuses for not seeking knowledge aren't even justifiable. We sometimes even purposely look for ways to waste it! Ahmed Amin, an Egyptian author, once said:
"Time is life, and killing time is killing life."
How many of us have thought of that while we look for ways to 'kill time?'

This comic from Amr Khaled's website is one of my very favorite ones:

At the end it just says: "And life is lost, my son."

Even if we're not wasting time online, watching movies, listening to music etc, and instead working/ studying etc (i.e. being 'productive'), how much of that effort is going to benefit us solely in this world and how much will also benefit us in the next?:
"If however you have uselessly neglected yourself as the animals do, not knowing what to do each hour, then most of your time will have elapsed fruitlessly and your life will have slipped from you […] do not be like the poor deluded fools who are delighted every day at the increase of their wealth and the decrease of their days. What good is there in increase of wealth while life is decreasing?" Imam Ghazali

A friend of my mothers calls this world mobile haqeer. (A worthless mobile phone). The story behind it that her son once told his father he wanted one of those fake mobile phones. His dad told him that he had a real mobile phone, why did he want a fake one, a mobile haqeer? The boy answered that he knew he had a real phone but that he still wanted that mobile haqeer—worthless in the grand scheme of things.
From then on, we've used mobile haqeer as a catchphrase for this dunya (world)—it's simply a mobile haqeer, and a poor substitute for the hereafter, so why do we care so much about it?
Of course, mobile haqeer is just a synonym for "gnat's wing" which is what the world is to Allah In fact, it's worth less than a gnat's wing, and if it wasn't, as the hadith says, then God wouldn't have allowed the unworthy to even drink a cup of water from it:
"If this world were worth a gnat's wing before Allah, He would not give a disbeliever a drink of water" Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)
Habib Umar illustrated this concept by saying:
"Imagine if you walked around with a fly and showed it to everyone telling them "I own a gnat's wing!" What will they think of you? And the whole world is worth even less than that."
I mentioned yesterday that in The Lives of Man, we are told that if you haven't accomplished anything by the age of 20, you'll never accomplish much. Well, we're also told in the book that by the age of 40, you should seriously start contemplating your death and focusing only on Allah—because the age of 40 is:
"the pivot, the turning point, after which one's life in general works out the consequences of how one's soul was shaped during one's youth."
Oscar Wilde said that "by the age of 40, every man has the face that he deserves." But then when I think of life today—how many 40 year olds have accomplished all that they need to? It seems as though it is taking us longer and longer to 'grow up,' Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) says:
"The child is the master for seven years; and a slave for seven years and a vizier for seven years; so if he grows into a good character within 21 years, well and good; otherwise leave him alone because you have discharged your responsibility before Allah."
It was explained by Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq as:
"Let your child play up to seven years; and keep him with you (for education and training) for another seven years; then if he succeeds (well and good); otherwise, there is no good in him."
One of the meanings I get from the hadith is that at the age of 21 you're supposed to be fully mature and capable of living on your own and starting your own family. But today, we don't graduate from university until our early 20's, many don't think of marriage until their early 30's, and many at 40 are still acting as though they were 20.

Habib Umar, with all his vast knowledge and experience is only 43. Habib Ali is even younger—36. Yet they have accomplished so so much. When I put it in that context, it seems so childish of me when I say "I'm only 21, I'm still young etc" as an excuse because 21 is old enough to have achieved so much more than I already have. It's just that the time we live in that makes us spoiled and keeps us 'kids' for a lot longer than we should.

Ahmed Shawqi, a famous Egyptian poet, once said:
One's heartbeats say to him:
Life is but minutes and seconds.
Hence build for yourself a legacy after its death
For a man's legacy is his life
It's strange that we always think that we have so much time left to grow up, mature, become religious. But our lifespans are tiny, compared to what they used to be. Prophet Nooh—who lived at least 1,000 years and 1,500 years by some accounts—said, when told that there would come a time when people would only live 60 years, that if he was them he would go and sit next to his grave.

And yet we still think that 60 years or so is an incredible amount of time. Even if you don't believe that people used to live for hundreds of years, just compare your lifespan to that of things on this earth—mountains and trees, for example, and you'll realize what a small lifespan it is. But because it's all we know, we think it's a lot. Someone once said that:
"The adhan [call to prayer] is made in the baby's ear at birth, while the prayer is delayed until his death [Note: the funeral prayer has no adhan]. A sign that his life is short, just ike the time between the adhan and the prayer."
There's this one episode of Stargate (yes, stargate, I know) I saw when I was young and I have never forgotten. In it, the heroes visit a planet where someone messed up the inhabitants' genes so that they only lived for 100 days. The heroes, of course, were aghast, indiginant at how this person could have 'cheated' these people of their 'rightful' life spans. In the end, they fix the genes and go back happy.

But the interesting thing I found about the story is that the people on this planet weren't at all sad. They didn't think anything was strange about only living for 100 days; in fact, they kept saying "the creator has blessed us with 100 days, for which we are grateful." To them, it seemed like such a long time, because that's all they knew. Even though to us it seems like such a limited amount of time, which if we knew we only had left we would definitely carpe diem, to them it was normal, and just the way things were.

I wonder how we would live if someone told us we only had 100 days left to live? I'm guessing like Prophet Nooh thought about only living 60 years.

Today's Quote: Whenever you start thinking that you have so much power and influence, think of this: The west, which seems so powerful, is actually in control of only half the land on this earth, which is only one quarter of the entire earth—the rest is water. The earth is the third planet in a solar system, which is 2 million light years away from the nearest galaxy. One light year is 365 days x 24 hours x 60 mins x 60 sec x 300,000 km/s (speed of light). Think of 2 million light years. And then think that all these galaxies are only in the first sky. The seven skies are like a ring in the desert compared to the kursy (chair) of Allah, which, in turn, is like a ring in the desert compared to the 'arsh (throne) of Allah. Sheikh Imaad.

Another Quote: When someone sick comes to you for advice, you don't tell him what medicine to take or perform surgery on him yourself, you give him the name of a good doctor. So why is it when someone comes to you for advice on a religious issue you immediately start giving your 'opinion?' Sheikh Imaad.

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