In the perspective of a believer, time always flows by with fascination. On many occasions, it is adorned with wonders, and for those who truly experience its magic, it whispers many things beyond time and space. Let alone an entire lifetime or year, even a single day of a true believer is so fascinating that we are incapable of describing its various spiritual inspirations and colorful manifestations. We can perhaps attempt to describe them, but those who have not fully tasted the pleasure in the mysteries of faith will listen as if without eyes or ears and will understand nothing. In the same way that it is impossible for one who has not experienced the flavor of honey to describe its taste, or who has not seen or smelt a rose to describe its color or fragrance, it is impossible to describe to a disbeliever how time flows from the perspective of a believer.
For believers, time is always magical. At certain moments, the spirit suddenly becomes vigilant, as if acting upon conditional reflexes. The human faculties begin to act as if they had received a signal, and all the subtle senses awaken with enthusiasm, urgency, hope, and agitation; in every aspect they imply that they are ready for a command. Although all the windows are closed tight and the curtains are drawn, occasionally, the magical breeze of dawn comes through and encompasses our hearts, and in a gentle voice calls us to stand before God. The moment we open our eyes, we are showered with a sonorous musical bath of illuminating words sung from the balconies of the minarets. Then we purify ourselves as prescribed with the special ablutions and head for the place of worship where we will place our heads down and pour our hearts out to God.
Prayer almost always comes in with its own unique charm, much like a familiar guest—a guest warmer and closer than any of the residents of our home. It settles in and greets us on the prayer mat, conveys spiritual pleasures into our souls, and adds its own color to the oncoming hours ahead; this is the first magical distinction of the new day to the perceptions of the believer. Thus we begin the day with our emotions totally exposed to the Creator.
We experience the joy of a morning in Paradise deep in our souls. Worship, words of devotion and remembrance, breakfast, and many other activities and responsibilities are each a continuation of this delicate, gentle, and fruitful beginning. Even if we have no such anticipation, this spreads into each and every one of our pursuits and speaks through them. Then, we observe suddenly our behavior and activities to have refined with an otherworldly subtlety.
While immersed in this state, thanks to our intentions and perspectives, we feel the mystery of God’s trust in each of our move, although in physical terms we share the same time, space, and objects with others. Then we start seeing our environment as pleasant manifestations of God and observe His signs on every face we look. As we do so, we travel back and forth between worldliness and heavenliness, and we can almost sense our belief flowing into our actions and behavior.
Now with an angle from beyond, we perceive everything within our capacity of understanding to be more friendly, cozier, sincere, and meaningful. We embrace every person and every object that appears before us as if they were our own children. Thanks to our beliefs we feel ourselves in a vastly expanded, magical atmosphere where all objects, living or non-living, smile at us as if they have transformed in terms of color, form, design, and character to become spirit and meaning and flow into us. Stones and earth, trees and leaves, roses and flowers, birds and insects—everything constantly whispers things from the horizons of our hearts into our souls. Each command of creation in the nature is transformed into a message, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, and they convey sermons, with no letters and words but with simple, deep meanings, and wisdom. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the sustenance we eat, and the beauty conveyed from our eyes to our hearts preach us with rivers of wisdom about how our human nature relates with all of these, the connection between our senses and the pleasures we sense, and how life and society move about in concordance based on the same arithmetic and geometry.
From the first moments of the day, we feel our lives mindfully and begin to constantly act upon the mode of the daybreak. With the passing of time, when this joy and enthusiasm begin to fade, the cooling shade of the noon prayer (dhuhr) descends upon us with a breeze of eternity during that busy episode of our daily pursuits and calls us to the mosque, which is a projection of the Divine throne of compassion. As we obey this call and start walking to a mosque to prostrate in the shade of the heavens, we are offered at almost every step cups of wisdom, awe, and affection from which we drink abundantly. We reach our destination in a state of immense joy, and when we step through the entrance of the courtyard, we shiver with a totally different delight. Beside the fountain, we are refreshed with a different exhilaration. We reap the joy and pleasure of being among the radiant faces who share the same emotions as ourselves, take a deep sigh with the thoughts of the world beyond, and then advance once again at noon to experience the distinct spiritual inspirations of faith (iman) and practicing it (islam).
This is like a long spiritual repose of the heart by engaging in things like eating and drinking, chatting with friends, and going to places, and by doing so unloading the burden imposed by our corporeality, the body, and the carnal mind (‘aql maash). This further restores the connection with our heart and we return to our daily duties with a high spiritual motivation. Then we strive to pursue our duties while keeping one eye on this world and the other on the next—we work hard like those working for this world only until the illuminating moments of the afternoon prayer arrive. We work and sweat, write and paint, read and think, teach and learn, buy and sell, make plans and put them into action, call on people and comfort them, and virtually live a worldly life but in a state of devotion and aspiration for the world beyond.
Who knows how much more inspirations these magical moments and hours stir but we may not be feeling! But I feel the shame of my inability to fully describe and portray these magnificent, enjoyable, and profound moments at the level of their own preciousness. Describing these moments the way a true believer would experience them requires sharp poetry skills, a capacity to imagine the abstract so one can portray the harmony in all actions of the believer, and the talents of a musician so to experience the charm of time the magic of which we constantly feel. I am not equipped with such gifts or talents; so, perhaps with these confusing words of mine I have quite likely shadowed the believer’s radiant vision of time. I will find consolation if somehow my broken words will prompt real literary masters in this matter.
Time flies by one hour after another, and as we become tired, so does the day. As the sun starts to fade and the day moves forward with a host of changes and transformations along with connotations of hope and sorrow, the signs for the afternoon prayer (asr) begin to appear on the horizon, which comes with a loud “attention!” command. This middle prayer (salat al-wusta) shows our spirits the horizon of a scented mercy, so we can relieve from our physical exhaustion. It calls us to the sphere of peacefulness and prosperity where time is never exhausted. As the sun fades away at dusk, it is replaced by a radiance from the source of light, and our souls that yearn for eternal life are left with the magic of the realm that lies beyond the horizon. Thus, in the final quarter of the day, we once again greet our prayer-mats. It is in fact much more than just greet; as we embrace them, we entrust our utterances, breaths, and pleas to them. We stand in respect before the One who commands the moon, the sun, and stars, in the name of the entire creation and in a manner befitting the exalted position of being human.
This respect and exaltation grow deeper when we bow in prayer, and we clear our remoteness from Him with prostration. The yearning for the evening dusk, which begins to seep onto our horizon, is relieved in the hope that this is found in the tranquility and presence of God. The sad end to the day is disguised in the colors of farewell, and by transforming this into a new chapter of reunion with the Beloved, we knock on the gates of that Divine Court and say, “Here we are.” In these moments when everyone experiences loneliness, we are absorbed by joy and exhilaration. With an intense contemplation from deep within the soul, we become utterly engrossed in the vastness, the boundlessness of our perception. As we continue to experience this spiritual bemusement, the call for the evening prayer begins.
During the fading of the sunset, whose joy prevails its sadness, the heavenly sounds which emerge from the minarets and flow into our hearts transpiring like a call to nearness, a reunion with God. Most of the time, it is almost as if we are paying attention to the language of symbols, and we perceive this as a transition, a performance of migration: the transition from day to night, from mobility to tranquility, from various activities to relaxation, and as we clearly perceive, we will migrate from this world to the world beyond, from the turmoil of corporality to the sphere of tranquility and prosperity to obtain reward for our servitude and duties. As we hear and pay attention to all of these, warm intentions and meanings flow from our eyes into our hearts and from our hearts into our senses, minds, and perceptions. During this process, in these extremely delicate and dreamy moments, with our inner observations we virtually experience the pleasure of opening to another realm. On one hand, everyone and everything is silent, as if succumbed to a deep tranquility; on the other, time and those who live within that time and become more emotional in these hours which seem bleak, can become confused. Existence, in all essence, becomes exactly like a spirit, and humans virtually transform into spiritual beings.
Night gradually becomes darker with the meaning it evokes in the believers’ souls. In these mysterious moments when day and night converge, once again we find ourselves standing upon the prayer mat amidst the magical sounds from the heavens and the rays of light from beyond. In response to the weariness of our biological life, the human soul seeks the pleasure of concluding the day in worship during these moments. We sense our humility and deprivation before the greatness of God even deeper, as we are filled with enthusiasm and thankfulness at the same time. We hurry, totally overwhelmed with emotion, to prostrate and submit our supplications to Him.
Then suddenly, darkness embraces the entire environment; everything appears black, and the objects and everything around us gradually begin to fade away. And at that moment, with the need of eternal light in our souls, we feel the day we left behind with even greater intensity. With our entire essence we begin to experience the thought, reckoning, and anxiety of whether we utilized every hour, every moment, every second of this long day in a manner sufficient to attain eternal bliss… Murmurs of worry for eternal punishment and deprivation seep through the ports of our carnal nature and attack our spirit. In the face of this, we react by saying, “We have a long night ahead of us,” take position on our prayer mats, and begin to wait for those blessed moments of Divine acceptance and spiritual rewards. Then the magical darkness of night arrives, and releases us all into the profoundness of reflection.