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By: Muinali Saiyed

 

I was driving down Rt 130 this Thursday towards the Masjid for Asr prayer when it occurred to me that I was frustrated with the modern notion of time. We’ve gotten so accustomed to work hours of 9–5, 8–4ish M-F that our world has become enveloped in this awkwardly and arbitrarily constructed schedule. As I drove down that road a few days ago, what I came to realize was that it had been years since I had driven that road at that hour. The reason wasn’t want or desire, but rather the inability to do so because of a work schedule.

And unfortunately in modern day America we’re all sort of stuck with it whether we like it or not. Come 5 o clock, roads will be packed as rush hour starts, come the weekend, store hours will change, kids will be off from school, and Sunday morning brunches at overly priced cafés will be scheduled. How we think of ‘time’ has been systematically hard wired into us after the industrial revolution and for better or worse it’s here to stay.

Most of us have never been introduced to a world where time functioned differently but it existed and damn, I miss it. It’s how you miss a great figure of the past, a great relic of history, be it saint or scholar; to wish to entertain a few minutes of conversation, oh how you miss it. This is how I think of time, an almost nostalgic calling to what naturally seemed more correct according to my fitrah.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of spending time with my family in India. I come from a rural farming family in a village in Gujarat, India. My father still remembers not having electricity and studying by candlelight, and to this day many of my uncles still earn their living from farmland.

I remember it was Saturday morning and my uncle was leaving to work in the farm and I asked him, “You work everyday?”

He responded, “What do you mean?”

“I mean it’s Saturday.”

“Yeah, so?”

And then he walked away to the farm and I came to realize how absurd my line of questioning was to him. You see my uncle doesn’t have a concept of work-life balance. It’s as absurd to him as a gym-life balance or a mother-life balance because work is part and parcel of life. For him everyday was a new day, and he didn’t spend his weekdays to bank roll the weekend. This was a foreign concept that not only felt alien to him, but might I say unnatural.

Time in it’s essence was also different, it wasn’t structured around leaving at 9 am, working for 8–9 hours and returning to sit on your couch and stream Netflix, it was a natural experience. You got up, went to work, worked until you were tired, or sold merchandise until you felt fulfilled for the day and then you wrapped up and went home. If your sister was getting married that month, maybe you close up shop for a week and help her out and maybe during the wedding planning you decide to go out and sell a few more token items. Your trade, craft, and work was seamlessly weaved into the fabric of life.

Something I’ve found interesting is how time has changed overtime, it’s almost as if it’s been kicked into high gear. If you study history at all, they say that just prior to WW1, Czar Nicolas II convened an arms control conference called the Hauge Conference in 1899. It was at a point in human history that technological advancement had skyrocketed. A person in 1600 could build a weapon or a tool, not make changes to it for a hundred years and it would still be okay. A person today writes an innovative app, builds a new tool, 10 years later that tool is now obsolete. In 1899, the Czar was thinking the same thing when he asked the attending powers to suspend all advancement on weapons technology because it felt as if time itself had sped up. He wanted to freeze it right then and there, since he thought it was going too fast; a metaphorical pulling of the brakes. It was almost as if time as everyone knew it was no longer the same and it needed to stop.

 

Now we see how the consequence of the last 100 years and how time has played a well orchestrated game of chess as it took the board piece by piece while our spirits have struggled to keep up in the game. As I sat in my village those few years ago, one thing I distinctly cannot shake is how one day there felt almost as much as a week in a modern developed country. If you spent a month in my village, its almost as if you spent a good portion of your lifetime amongst the people there. Call it relativity or call it barakah, all I know is that time has changed, it has matured and advanced faster than our ancient spirits can handle.

And so I say it, I am frustrated with time. I often internally debate with myself on whether this frustration is only due to a displaced nostalgia of a romanticized past, or an actual consequential change that has occurred. I posit that by nature we aren’t wired for time at this speed, because I think of the ancients and how they spent their time. The commandments from all religions of old of prayer in the day, in nighttime hours, and in moments of sitting, standing, and sleeping. If they were able to do it all and still maintain a balanced living then I call to question the following sentiment, have we changed, or has time?

Salaam.

Muin Saiyed

PS: To read more from Muin, you can follow his posts on Medium

By: Muin Saiyed

 

In storytelling, and most especially in film we have a concept that we all agree to and accept known as the suspension of disbelief. This is the notion that we suspend our disbelief of certain things such as a man from Krypton saving Earth from Alien forces. Such as the idea of a spider biting a human to make him spiderman or even such far fetched things as “The Upside Down” from Stranger Things or a talking tea pot. We even have a notion of the suspension of disbelief when it comes to lass fantastical stories like Taken where we suspend the belief that someone could be as boss as Liam Neeson.

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However, what we don’t suspend is the idea of logic and rationality. When you listen to a story, or watch a film, or read a great novel you agree subconsciously to suspend your disbelief and accept the rules of the kingdom which you are going to enter. You agree to accept that Superman can fly through the sky and is affected by Kryptonite but what you don’t agree to is a suspension of logic and rules. Although the laws of the kingdom in the story may be different, the rules must make sense, logic permeates all kingdoms. It would be rationally absurd for Spider-Man to start flying or for Superman to start shooting spider webs, they fall outside the realms of the universe you’re in. If Superman can fly and is affected by Kryptonite then it makes perfect rational sense that if Kryponite is around, Superman can’t fly. But if all things hold true, no kryptonite, the sun is out, he still has his powers, superman should be able to fly. You see the rules must make sense, logic still applies.

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And this is why we find in movies where things don’t make sense like how Keanu Reeves makes that 50 ft bus jump in Speed ridiculous. Isn’t it interesting that when someone hears the story of Cinderella no one asks, “hey why does Cinderella’s charm wear off at 12 AM, why can’t it have waited 2 extra hours and worn off at 2 AM.” No one says this because they accept that if a Pumpkin can turn into a carriage, it’s something you don’t question, by the same token if she needs to be back by 12, then that must be part of the rules. Those rules cannot be broken.

And it’s for this exact reason why I’ve found it strange when folks find it odd that believers put faith in such fantastic matters as Jesus (peace be upon him) walking on water, Moses (peace be upon him) splitting the sea, or Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) riding the Buraq to Jerusalem. These things may be fantastical to you but they are not in any way irrational.

They may be strange to some, but that’s only because they haven’t accepted the rules of the kingdom of God. They are no less rational than 1+1. And as a matter of fact I would argue that they are in no way any more ‘fantastical’ than a flower blooming from a seed or the sun rising every morning, or a writer penning a beautiful soliloquy. It is all within the kingdom of God and although it may appear less frequently and happen less often, a man walking on water is no less true, no less fantastical, and no less rationally existent than the aurora borealis, just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t make it any less real.

 

By Dr. Shadee Elmasry


Tell mphoto-1473655717998-7a3fd125491be, if there was a man out there who said he loved African Americans, supports black causes and loves MLK and Barak Obama, but…while he upholds their legal equality, believes that black people are categorically inferior because of the color of their skin. Would you be friends with this person? Would you fraternize with him? Would you consider him when trying to be inclusive? Why not? He’s not *doing* anything; it’s just his belief. Regarding African Americans, this man is like people who love cats and treats them well while still believing the human being is a superior species.

Would you even hesitate for a moment to rail against this guy on social media and publicly harangue him for his belief? Would anyone say “You’re being intolerant! Don’t judge!” I don’t think so. If anything, you would probably expect everyone to make a hero out of you for tearing this guy down along with his backward, offensive, ‘morally reprehensible’ doctrine.

So…if you (and society) would change the way you deal with a person just because of one belief (literally just one belief), then obviously beliefs are a big deal. The question becomes: who has the authority to determine them? Who says which are acceptable and which are ‘reprehensible’? Is it you? Is it society? Who exactly? Since beliefs are this important, I need to know who decides them.

In the end, it goes back to the crux of the debate of secular vs sacred. Who has the authority to define the terms? If we are a Muslim, this is what our Book teaches:

“Allah knows, and you don’t know.” (2:216 Baqara)

“He knows best about you. Wasn’t it He who created you from the earth and when you were just an embryo in your mother’s womb. So don’t praise yourselves.” (53:32 Najm)

“We have never sent a Messenger except that she be obeyed.” (4:64 Nisa)

“You will not find those who believe in Allah and the Last Day being intimate or lending support to those who openly defy Allah and His Messenger, even if they were their fathers or their brothers or their family. Allah put belief in their heart and helped them with a spirit from Him…Allah is pleased with them as they are pleased with Him. These are the people of Allah. The people of Allah will always win.” (58:22 Mujadila)

“Whoever supports them is one of them.”(5:51 Maida)

“They want to take their judgments from false lords when they were commanded to reject it.” (4:60 Nisa)

“Do not fear people. Fear Me …Whoever does not judge by what Allah judges, they are truly rejectors of faith (5:44 Maida)

May Allah bless us with the correct  understanding of His will and grant us the tawfiq to follow it.

By Dr. Shadee Elmasry 

 

There’s a common misconception that spirituality (Sufism in Islam) is independent from doctrine and law (aqida & Sharia). In an age of interconnected disciplines, holistic approaches to ‘challenges’ (which we used to call problems), and organic everything (FYI you can get organic toilet paper for $2 a roll), the persistence of this misunderstanding is very strange. Everything is connected. This likely has to do with Christian influence, specifically the doctrine of Paul which overshadowed the more correct understanding of James. Paul said:

 

“Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16, KJV).”

 

When applied to Islam, you get a lot of groups who celebrate Sufism and Sufi masters in their dhikr and love, but not in their beliefs or actions. I met a group like this. (Two members of the order, who attended the zikrs religiously have been in a lesbian relationship for a decade with the support of their so-called shaykh.) At a broader level, there’s the idea that there is some undifferentiated spirit of love out there and that everything else is relative. So it doesn’t matter that two people have completely opposite, mutually exclusive positions on things, because love prevails over all. This is basically saying, spirituality over beliefs. We say the opposite, what’s absolute is the correct understanding of Islam; everything after that is relative. 

 

In reality, we don’t even have the word ‘spirituality’ in prophetic language. We have deen (religion), shar’ (law), hidaya (guidance), rida’ Allah wa Rasulih (pleasing Allah & His Messenger). Because it’s all one. Mind, body, and soul are all connected. Remove the soul from a body and you have a corpse not a human being. A soul without a body does not exist in this world. A body without intellect is a vegetable. So why should we imagine that teachings are so different? Aqida, Fiqh, and Tasawwuf are all connected. You cannot remove one. There is no Sufism without correct aqida and fiqh. You can even add correct political stance, because much of politics is intertwined with beliefs and Sacred Laws. It’s all intertwined. 

 

If a brother or sister out there feels crummy and dry on the inside and feels they need to improve their spirituality, know that what you’re looking for is in the possession of Allah. Putting ourselves in His pleasure is what will deliver us where we want, even if it is a rational or physical act. Correcting our creed makes us beloved to Him. Correcting our interactions and our fiqh pleases Him. Our clothes. Lowering the gaze. At the top of the list is emphasizing salat. At the essence is getting to know His Beloved, Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ and imitating him in big and small (defending the obligation to believe in him for example), draws us near to the Possessor of what we are seeking. Then when we have set all our ducks lined up in order, then the dhikr is gravy on top.