By Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu, New Age Islam
23 November 2017
Our mundane activities in this ephemeral world eat-up our time for contemplation of the real meaning of our existence. We are often caught-up in the busyness of survival and in the dog-eat-dog, rat race of living, that we often do not have the time to even have a decent breath! The social media far from giving us quality time would often immerse us into frenzied frivolous activities, while the television makes us glued to its most-of-the time, unproductive and time-wasting programs.
Indeed, we have lost the joy of the present moment since we are oftentimes occupied and busy scheming for a future that has not yet happened. Our time is also equally wasted by our regrets of the past; to the point that we have become paralyzed by our so much dwelling on our past blunders—throwing our precious time down the drain of wasted opportunities!
The search for existential significance is the foremost priority in a life of genuine authenticity. In my reading of books written by Muslim spiritual mystics, the Sufi saints call an authentic person “Ibn ul-Waqt”, the offspring of the present moment. Hazrat Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, the great Sunni Sufi saint of medieval Turkey even calls the authentic human person “Sahib-ul-Waqt”, the master of the present moment (See Rumi’s Mathnawi, p.34). By mastering the present moment, Hazrat Maulana Rumi says, the authentic human person, leaves his past behind with no regrets and faces his future with no fear at all.
Does the past have nothing to teach us on our journey to authenticity? Yes, the past has many things to teach us! For the reflective person, her past is a source of insights as she contemplates her previous mistakes and strives to better herself as a person. This does not mean that one goes on-and-on crying over spilled milk—instead the past is a potent place of learning. As the existentialist novelist Richard Bach says, “There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go. (“The Bridge Across Forever: A True Love Story”, p. 97).” Therefore, in the existential sense as well as in the spiritual sense, there are really no mistakes—only precious lessons to be learned in the school called Life!
It is really futile to bring back time—time past is already swallowed by the gaping mouth of deathly history. That is why we must be "Sahib-ul-Waqt", the master or owner of our time by seizing the day as it is given to us—one day at at a time. We need to enjoy life but not to the point that we become negligent and careless as to how we spend it in frivolous play while forgetting to find out “who we really are within the Greater Scheme of Things”. We must age gracefully by living our life in all its richness, in its multidimensional experiencing of Life and joyful living. We should live our waking hours as fully as we can, and savor Life while we still can; but we must not put-off until tomorrow doing something of significance today—for there is a strong possibility that tomorrow may not come to us!
An authentic person is likewise one who is "Ibn-ul-Waqt", the son or daughter of Time, the offspring of time, who constantly lives in the very present moment, aware of oneself, in meaningful relation with others, and in constant remembrance of God (zikrullah). Like the Sufi saints who serenely accepted the integral movement of Life with perfect equipoise, detachment, dignity, and calmness through Tawakkul (divine surrender) and tafweez (full resignation) to God's Divine Predestination (Taqdeer); the authentic person is never afraid with the passing of his years.
Moreover, a person who perfectly trusts in God, Who is the ultimate Lord of Time, is fully secured by the comforting realization that everything that transpired and will transpire in the cosmos and in his life-history is ordained by the Almighty and All-Compassionate Allah, the Lord of Time and Space.
This is what the Reverend Martin Luther means when he said that the believer’s actions in life are governed not by his self-effort but by Divine Grace. While the believer may make plans for his life, he is fully aware that his plans will only succeed with the aid of Divine Providence. If he is unsuccessful in his plans, the believer has an abiding faith that God in His Goodness has a far better plan for his life than he can ever conceive or imagine. In any case, the believer’s heart is a haven of tranquility (sulh-i-qalb): constantly trusting that God always means well and everything will go well, even though the believer does not know how—such true faith and abiding confidence that can only come from trusting fully in God’s grace, mercy and love.
Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu is Associate Professor-VI of Philosophy and Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines (UP), Cebu City. He was former Academic Coordinator of the Political Science Program at UP Cebu from 2011-2014. He was also the former Coordinator of Gender and Development (GAD) Office at UP Cebu from 2015-2016. His research interests include Islamic Studies particularly Sunni jurisprudence, Islamic feminist discourses, Islam in interfaith dialogue initiatives, Islamic environmentalism, Classical Sunni Islamic pedagogy, the writings of Imam Al-Ghazali on pluralism and tolerance, Turkish Sufism, Muslim-Christian dialogue, Middle Eastern affairs, Peace Studies, Ataturk Studies, Mughal Studies and Public Theology.
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