“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.”

“O how shall summer’s honey breath hold out

Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,

When rocks impregnable are not so stout,

Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?”

– William Shakespeare

(Sonnet 65)

As another year slips by, dragging us inexorably in its wake, I thought it would be prudent to reflect upon the stuff that makes up the substance of our lives: Time itself.  Perhaps no other commodity is so precious yet so flagrantly wasted by so many.  Our beings are bound up with the passage of time and she never fails to leave her mark:

“It is God who created you from weakness then gave you after weakness strength; then, after your strength, causes you to become weak and grey haired.  He creates what He pleases, and He is the Knowing, the Powerful.” (Q.30:54)

Anyone who seriously reflects on the enigma of time and its ceaseless, unremitting power is forced to contend with its basic imprisonment of us as finite creatures in a mortal world.  Who can escape?  None, says the Quran:

“Wherever you may be, death will overtake you even if you are in fortresses constructed lofty and high!” (Q.4:78)

“Every soul will taste death; and you will receive your recompense on the Day of Resurrection. Then whoever is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise shall attain triumph. And what is the life of this world except the stuff of delusion?” (Q.3:180)

Our moments accumulate to become months, decades and eventually lifetimes and soon we find ourselves falling back into the earth from which we were created[i].  Yet caught up in the mad monotony of ‘living life’, we often forget why we were given life in the first place.  The Quran, in one of its most pithy and potent chapters, reminds us with forceful clarity about why we are here and what we must do to succeed:

“By Time!  Indeed Man is in Loss.  Except those who have faith and do good works, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to patience.” (Q.103:1-3)

While oceans of meaning have been extrapolated from these three terse verses, I wish to focus on a single theme.  Time is the capital wealth of man and by virtue of being alive in the world we are perpetually in a state of loss.  As an Arab poet has so beautifully expressed:

“Your life comprises a few breaths which can all be counted

With each exhalation, a portion of your life has diminished.” 

One of the righteous aslaaf said he understood the meaning of this chapter when watching an ice-seller at work; constant diligence was required and a moment’s ghaflat or heedlessness saw his capital melt away.  Our lives are tantamount to mounds of snow melting relentlessly in the sun of Time’s unblinking glare.

Soon nothing shall remain and every trace be evaporated.  Meanwhile, we have an opportunity to invest our time wisely in the four abiding principles of success outlined in the foregoing chapter.  The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, said, “Each person starts his day a vendor of his soul, either setting it free or sealing its destruction.”[ii]

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

(Sonnet 60)

Perhaps one of the tragedies of the modern age is the extent to which so many people waste so much time.  “Men talk of killing time,” says the Irish playwright Dion Boucicault, “while time quietly kills them.”  Our religion calls us to value our moments in this world and invest them wisely in benefitting our fellow creatures and our own eternal souls.  I conclude with the words of one of medieval Islam’s greatest thinkers, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali:

“Your time should not be without any structure, such that you occupy yourself arbitrarily with whatever comes along.  Rather, you must take account of yourself and order your worship during the day and the night, assigning to each period of time an activity that must not be neglected nor replaced by another activity.  By this ordering of time, the blessing in time will show itself.  A person who leaves himself without a plan as animals do, not knowing what he is to do at any given moment, will spend most of his time fruitlessly.

Your time is your life, and your life is your capital: by it you make your trade, and by it you will reach the eternal bounties in the proximity of Allah.  Every single breath of yours is a priceless jewel, because it is irreplaceable; once it is gone, there is no return for it.  So do not be like fools who rejoice each day as their wealth increases while their lives decrease.  What good is there in wealth that increases while one’s lifespan decreases?

Do not rejoice except in an increase of knowledge or an increase of good works.  Truly they are your two friends who will accompany you in your grave, when your spouse, your wealth, your children, and your friends will remain behind.”[iii]

 


[i] “From it (the earth) did We create you, and into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you forth another time.” (Q.20:55)

[ii] Hadith 23 in Imam Nawawi’s collection of Arba’een; related by Muslim.

[iii] Al-Allaf, Mashhad & Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf (trans.), 2010.  Al-Ghazali’s ‘The Beginning of Guidance – Bidayat al-Hidayah’, London: White Thread Press, pg.60.

Riyaz Timol writes on behalf of 1st Ethical Charitable Trust who empower Muslims to enrich communities through faith-based campaigns. For more information, please visit www.1stethical.com

The Extensive Q&A

Yesterday, Lancaster University Islamic Society hosted a panel of three speakers who answered the questions of students on campus. There was a descent turn out, with a number of curious non-Muslims who came prepared with their questions sincerely seeking answers from sound academic and Islamic scholarship.

It was a great discussion! Many will testify it was one of the highlights of the week. Personally, I realised how thirsty the community is in knowing what Islam has to offer. Why is it that Muslim women are covered? Is it not oppressive? What about Saudi and French law? Are they both barbaric? Some of these questions, along with many others were addressed by the three articulate panelists.

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The atmosphere was very energetic and everyone was fully engaged. It really highlighted that more work needs to be done to highlight normative Islam to people who have been exposed to a misrepresentation of this way of life.

Some of the questions posed were really humbling. One audience member sincerely questioned whether propagation of Islam is deemed to be a fundamental requirement as it is for some evangelic Christians. Considering it is, many of us realised how we were not really fulfilling our duties as Muslims in portraying the prophetic qualities which if people saw would fall in love with. Our propagation is more of an invitation, as one of the panelists Imam Abdullah Hassan explained. It’s like inviting someone for a meal to your house. You serve them a dish you prepared but it’s their choice how much of it they eat or whether they eat it at all. “Let there be no compulsion in Religion” as God says in the Quran.

Dr Shuruq Naguib highlighted how the spiritual dimension of Islam was lacking and it is this that is truly transformative, for the self and those around us. All agreed that more effort is required to embody Islam. How effective is preaching when our character is wretched? What are we propagating to if our etiquettes are lacking? Who are we calling to if our mannerisms are contrary to what he ﷺ came with?

The evening ended with hot food and a heartwarming request from one of the audience members. She wanted to embrace Islam. I stood next to Shaykh Waleed Al Madani, trying hard to hold back my tears as he recited the testimony of faith. The sister bore witness that there is none worthy of worship other than Allaah, God, and that Muhammad is his slave and final messenger ﷺ.

There is no deity worthy of worship other than the One God, Allaah, and Muhammad is his slave and messenger.
There is no deity worthy of worship other than the One God, Allaah, and Muhammad is his slave and messenger.

Stay tuned for the recording of the full event.

Chinese Emperor’s Poem about Muhammad peace be upon him (ﷺ)

What is it that caused a Chinese, non-Muslim, emperor to write a poem in praise of Muhammad ﷺ?

Hong-Wu (also known by his given name Zhū Yuánzhāng) was the Emperor of China between 1368 – 1398 CE was the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, leading an Army that conquered the country and defeated away the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty.

Despite being a non-Muslim, Hong-Wu ordered the construction of several mosques in Nanjing, Yunnan, Guangdong and Fujian. He rebuilt the Jinjue Mosque in Nanjing and large numbers of Hui (Muslim Chinese) people moved to the city during his rule.

He had around 10 Muslim generals in his army, including Chang Yuchun, Lan Yu, Ding Dexing, Mu Ying, Feng Sheng and Hu Dahai. In addition, Hong-Wu’s spouse, Empress Ma, descended from a Muslim family while he was originally a member of a Muslim rebel group led by Guo Zhixin.

Emperor Hong-Wu wrote a 100 word eulogy praising Islam, Allah and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ which he had placed in the mosques which he ordered to be built.

The eulogy is in the form of a poem, each verse containing 4 words (characters) and 4 syllables. In the translation below the translator has strayed away from trying to keep the 4 word per verse translation in favor of a more literal translation which conveys the full meaning in flowing English. A sense of the original meanings may be conveyed but only the Chinese students on Lancaster University campus could inform us of the nuances and deeper meanings!

The One-Hundred Word Eulogy:

Since the creation of the Universe,

God had decreed to appoint,

This great faith-preaching man,

From the West he was born,

He received the Holy Scripture,

A Book of thirty parts,

To guide all creation,

Master of all Rulers,

Leader of Holy Ones,

With Support from Above,

To Protect His Nation,

With five daily prayers,

Silently hoping for peace,

His heart towards Allah,

Empowering the poor,

Saving them from calamity,

Seeing through the darkness,

Pulling souls and spirits,

Away from all wrongdoings,

A Mercy to the Worlds,

Traversing the ancient majestic path,

Vanquishing away all evil,

His Religion Pure and True,

Muhammad, (ﷺ)

The Noble & Great one.

What a great poem. You must know know more about Muhammad ﷺ. On Wednesday, in Ash-house Islamic Prayer Room (15 on campus maps which are situated around campus), there will be a speech on Muhammad ﷺ titled Inspiration for Billions.

It would be great to see you there for the event at 7pm. It is open to everyone, regardless of background or faith, to understand who Muslims call the final Messenger, and who Micheal Hart in his book refers to as the most influential man in history, ﷺ. A good chance to have a look at our new prayer facility too!

Looking forward to see you

 

Islam Awareness Week 2013

Salaamu Alaykum (peace be with you) and hello!

It’s that time of year again. A week in which the core values and teachings of Islam are highlighted through a series of events! Islam Awareness Week is a great opportunity to dispel misconception and really understand what Islam teaches from a Muslim perspective. Usually great academics and scholars participate who have had vast experiences of Islam. In the past we’ve had the likes of James Yee, former chaplain of Guantanamo-bay to share his experiences, Dr Chris Allen, to highlight Islamophobia and speak about some of the inherent problems within it, the Scottish Imam, Amer Jamil, speaking about Muhammad ﷺ and his message to mankind, Abdullah Al Andalusi who enlightened the audience on the title “Is the Shari’a Inhumane” and many others.

You can view some of our photo albums here of previous events!

This Islam awareness week is going to be even better! Really. We have a week packed with activities demonstrating Islam in practice as well as through speech. The poster below has the schedule on it.

We’re going to kick start Islam Awareness Week by having stalls in Alex. Sq. along with interactive activities which will gauge your views and will enable you to participate and get involved. Some of the things we have planned are quite unique and not been attempted before.

The first speech will be on that night, The Three Dimensions of Islam, which you must attend. I’m sure you will agree at the end that it was worth attending and very enlightening. Come along with your friends to enhance your understanding of Islam and its deeper meanings. Living in a world where the outward is given increasingly more preference over the inward, this session will really help you see past the media headlines and appreciate the essence of Islam. A great opportunity to network at the end too. I know some of the people I met in Islam Awareness Week 2010 I am still in touch with!

We would love to see you there, especially on the Monday to kick start Islam Awareness Week, and hope to provide a fruitful Islam Awareness Week.

Looking forward to meet you at 7pm in Cavendish LT.

 

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