I remember my fascination with time when I read Einstein’s theory. It was difficult to visualize, us traveling around Andromeda in 56 years (at speed of light) to return to Earth. But lo! When we return, the Earth will be gone, as 3bn years would have passed. The whole concept seemed surreal. Then the Time Tunnel program and mans capability to travel back. So what would happen if I went back and changed history? The concept of a parallel universe where another ‘ME’ could be living a different life, in a similar world just blew one’s mind out.
Now, almost 38 years later, as I reach the end of my career, the relativity attributes and quality of time has become apparent. These 50 plus years of life seem like a whisper, which soundlessly slipped by. I could swear it was only yesterday, one was being entered in the daily class register in early school. One can remember the teacher’s voice; smell the scents and the murmur of chatter. Yet the days have long gone. Worse, now they seem to move at breakneck speed week to week; we wish to stop time, but it is hurtling along at a pace of a train downhill without breaks. And therefore comes a time, when we too shall depart this world. The question to be answered then is ‘have we done enough with our elusive time?’
For me the benchmark description has become Surah Al-Asr in the Quran and I translate:-
“I swear by the time, Most surely man is in loss, Except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.”
The above is the description which has given some realistic shape to that enigma called time.
Imam Sha’fi explained that he would often wonder about Surah Al-Asr, till one day in the market he came across an ice-vendor. Remember those were the days of non-refrigeration. What the Imam saw was that the ice was melting and for the vendor, the race was that he could somehow get the best out of his time and be able to sell off the highest possible amount of ice. If he did that, he would go home successful. If he failed, well the ice would melt and he would fail. Substitute time for the ice and good deeds for the act of selling. And there you have our life’s struggle. We are like that ice vendor, fighting a losing battle, unless we can perform meaningful deeds within the time we have. Time, which is elapsing fast!
Of course it is easier said than done, especially when ones commercial life is all encompassing. Most of us do have good intentions. We come across so many youngsters who are idealists by nature. But they are hampered by the need to earn ample legal tender, so they can achieve the legitimate aim of fulfilling responsibilities. These young idealists get involved more and more into the commercial world. Soon they are running pillar to post to fulfill their professional duties. Time is sucked out of their day, tiredness and jadedness sets in and soon decades pass. These idealists lose their original reason to live and begin to chase a profit mirage. Alas one day soon, Father Time will be up and they will depart this world, having missed out on the opportunity to fulfill their passion, dreams and goodness.
A classic example of this loss of opportunity occurred during the time of our Prophet (saw). In the early days of the mission, a man from Taif came to Mecca for business. Of course he went to the Haram. There he saw a man, a woman and a young boy praying in an unusual fashion. His curiosity aroused, he enquired from a prominent resident Abbas (ra), as to their background. Abbas (ra) replied that the subject people were his nephew Muhammad (saw), who claimed to be a prophet, his wife Khadijah (ra) and his cousin Ali (ra). They were praying to their God, Allah (sbt), who they claimed was The One God and they rejected polytheism. The man was intrigued and wished to speak to them, but was also short of ‘time’ and hurried off to Taif, knowing full well that his business shall bring him to Mecca again and he would learn more!! 20 years later after the conquest of Mecca, as Arabia converted to Islam in droves, a group of tribesmen came to Medina to accept Islam at the hands of the Prophet (saw). Amongst this group was a man who cried uncontrollably! When asked about the reason for his tears, he replied that 20 years earlier he had the opportunity of being among the pioneers of Islam, but allowed that moment to slip by. This man lost an opportunity given to a handful in human history. Today history while recording the event does not even recognize his name or his whereabouts – an opportunity lost indeed.
Let’s not be like that poor man, who is lost in the folds of time. May Allah make us like a successful ice-vendor, where we have seized the opportunity and done what we believe good and worthwhile, for time slips away.
This note has been inspired and influenced by www.eislam.co.za. I totally acknowledge using their article as a base for creating this blog.
photo credit: ToniVC via photopin cc