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Time is the greatest asset of life. The reason for this is that time is not a creation of humans. Humans can neither reduce nor increase a moment in time. A human becomes weak and then regains strength. A human may be deprived of wealth but can still succeed in acquiring it again. However, a human cannot relive a moment of time that has passed.

Hermann Hesse stated in his remarkable novel Siddhartha, “Time is like a flowing river, and you cannot step into the same river twice. Because when you lift your foot and place it back in the river, there will be new water beneath your feet”. This is the nature of the river of time; each moment is new. Therefore, when you give someone an hour of your time for a meeting, it is a precious gift from you to that person. Because you have given them those 60 valuable minutes of your life that you will never get back.

When Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) was in paradise, his delight was not only that he was in paradise and living a life of innocence. Rather, in addition to the divine proximity, he had superiority over every pleasure of paradise. Life in relation to time in paradise was different from the spatial-temporal life on Earth. However, when Adam was sent to Earth, he also had to face the obligations of life here, and time became his companion. Life on Earth was not eternal; it was a temporary life, and time was constantly bringing it to an end. But since coming to the world, humans have not forgotten paradise. Ever since they set foot on Earth, their desire has been to return to paradise, and the greatest charm of paradise is the proximity to the Divine and the sight of Allah Almighty. But what is important after that is that the time in paradise would not be like the time in this world. No person will be sick or old in paradise, and death will not come to them. Referring to this aspect of paradise beyond time, Ghalib humorously said:

ایسی جنت کا کیا کرے کوئی
جس میں لاکھوں برس کی حوریں ہوں

(What can one do with such a paradise

That is filled with countless Houris for thousands of years?)

However, why does a human find in transcending time exciting? The reason for this is that permanence is a quality of Allah Almighty. A human has never been, is not, and cannot be permanent like Allah Almighty, but the permanence of paradise will surely create a glimpse of Allah Almighty’s permanence in human life.

The concept of time has been a subject of philosophical speculation throughout human history. However, most philosophical discussions on time are so abstract that they have little relevance to life. The reason time is discussed is to apply it to life and gain an understanding of life through it. However, from a religious perspective, Islam has given significance to both time and life. The Quran states that Allah Almighty created humans and jinn for His worship, which means that ‘abdiyat (Submission to the will of God) is the path to attain eternity in the sphere of our religion. They can transcend it and endure its impacts. They can bear its injuries and attractions. The discussion of good and bad times continues in human life. Islam teaches that good time is that which is within the realm of worship, while bad time is that which lies outside the realm of worship. Some people consider prayer and fasting alone as symbols of worship, but worship is the name given to transforming one’s entire life into worship. There are only two ways to transform one’s entire life into worship: one is for a person to embark on a journey towards the love of Allah Almighty through the love of His creation, and the other is to make oneself capable of the love of God through the experience of love for His creation. In practical terms, time is a force in our religious customs and civilization that brings forth the possibilities of life. Allama Iqbal has stated in his famous poem, “Masjid Qurtuba,” the following:

سلسلۂ روز و شب نقش گرِ حادثات
سلسلۂ روز و شب اصلِ حیات و ممات

سلسلۂ روز و شب تارِ حریر دو رنگ
جس سے بناتی ہے ذات اپنی قبائے صفات

سلسلۂ روز و شب سازِ ازل کی فغاں
جس سے دکھاتی ہے ذات زیر و بمِ ممکنات

تجھ کو پرکھتا ہے یہ، مجھ کو پرکھتا ہے یہ
سلسلۂ روز و شب صیرفیِ کائنات

(The succession of day and night, is the architect of events.
The succession of day and night, is the fountain‐head of life and death.

The succession of day and night, is a two‐tone silken twine,
With which the Divine Essence, prepares Its apparel of Attributes

The succession of day and night، is the reverberation of the symphony of Creation.
Through its modulations, the Infinite demonstrates the parameters of possibilities.

Now sitting in judgment on you, Now setting a value on me.
The succession of day and night is the touchstone of the universe;)

In these verses for Iqbal, time is not only the force that brings forth the possibilities of time but also the essence of life and death. To the extent that in Iqbal’s words, it is with this same force that Allah Almighty has adorned His attributes. However, when it comes to the terror of time for humans, it is impossible to find an example of it as it appears in the novels of Quratulain Haider, especially in “Aag Ka Darya” (River of Fire), “Akhir Shab Ke Humsafar” (Companions of the Last Night), and “Gardish-e-Rang-e-Chaman” (The Revolving Garden of Colors). The reason is that the central role of Quratulain Haider’s novels is not history, civilization, or any specific individual. The central role of Quratulain Haider’s novels is time. In Quratulain Haider’s works, on the canvas of life, great individuals great historical experiences, and grand civilizations are born, but time devours everything. In Iqbal’s works, time is both a positive force and a negative force, but in Quratulain Haider’s work, the negative aspect of time appears more prominent than its positive aspect. However, in Iqbal’s works, there is a greater force than time itself. It is the force of love. Therefore, Iqbal has said:

ہے مگر اس نقش میں رنگِ ثبات و دوام
جس کو کیا ہو کسی مردِ خدا نے تمام
مردِ خدا کا عمل عشق سے صاحب فروغ
عشق ہے اصلِ حیات موت ہے اس پر حرام
تند و سبک سیر ہے گرچہ زمانے کی رَو
عشق خود اک سیل ہے سیل کو لیتا ہے تھام

(Yet in this very scenario indelible is the stamp of permanence
On the deeds of the good and godly.

Deeds of the godly radiate with Love,
The essence of life, which death is forbidden to touch.

Fast and free flows the tide of time,
But Love itself is a tide that stems all tides.)

But who is Iqbal’s ‘Man of God’ in his verses, and what is the concept of love? The answer to this question is that Iqbal’s ‘Man of God’ is the ‘Perfect Servant’ and love is the manifestation of the depth, vastness, and totality of worship.

History is the embodiment of time, and there are two major concepts about history. One is that history is a linear or progressive journey. The other concept of history is that it is cyclical or travels in a circular form. The concept of history in all religious civilizations is cyclical. In Hinduism, the best era is called “Sat Yuga” and the worst era is called “Kali Yuga.” However, after the worst era of Kali Yuga, Sat Yuga will begin again. The best era of Christian civilization is the period of the second coming of Jesus Christ, in which Jesus Christ himself will reappear. The circular concept of Islam is evident from a blessed hadith of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet Muhammad said, “My era will continue as long as Allah is pleased. Then there will be the rightly guided caliphate, and its era will continue as long as Allah Almighty wills. After the caliphate, there will be kingship, and its era will continue as long as Allah wills. After kingship, there will be oppressive rule, but after this era, the world will once again return to the path of Sunnah of the Prophet’s caliphate. It means time will repeat itself. However, in this repetition, only the meanings will remain the same. The modes of those meanings, however, will be new.

Hermann Hesse has identified three important principles in his novel “Siddhartha” using Siddhartha as the mouthpiece. These three principles are the foundational principles of Siddhartha’s spiritual life. In the novel, Siddhartha states at one point, “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.” Upon reflection, these three principles are the three ways to gain control over time in everyday life. The physical life of a human depends on food, but Siddhartha says that he can reverse this principle. He can fast, which here does not mean staying hungry but having the ability to fast continuously or being a perpetual faster. Thinking means having the ability to be creative, and through creative ability, a person establishes continuity in the realm of mental, psychological, and emotional. Being able to wait in Siddhartha’s context means having the ability to be patient, which is the ability to absorb any negative change and control it. And controlling change means dominating time. However, the significance of time is not limited to these aspects only.

The meaning of one hadith of the Prophet Muhammad is that a time will come when a year will feel like a month, a month like a week, a week like a day, and a day like an hour. And we are witnessing that this has already happened in our time. But the question is, what is the reason for this? The reason is not that the speed of time has increased, but the reason is that the rapid pace of life has changed the nature of our relationship with time. This same phenomenon will emerge in the field of resurrection after a period of time. God will ask humans, “How long did you reside in the world?” And the person will answer, “One day or slightly more.” This will happen because in the place of resurrection (Maidan-e-Hashr), the human connection with worldly time will weaken, and the human will come closer to the concept of eternal life in Paradise. It is likely that the worldly life, which is a lifetime, will start to feel like just one day. Indeed, water in a glass seems plentiful, but if you fill the glass with water and place it by the side of the sea, then it would be difficult to call the water in the glass even a “drop.”