.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
If home is the place in which attempts to escape cease, at long last, finally: then ‘home’ can be a place. A square-room, with books, and/or maybe with some animals roaming around. A garden in which the spirit feels quite free.
Home can be: a prayer mat from Saudi Arabia, or from that warehouse shop, on that road. A particular part of this particular world. Or, several.
And, of course, we can build our homes in people. Even when we find ourselves separated by several seas; by several days spent having not spoken to one another. Home withstands space and time.
Home is where the best versions of self are best nourished; where the worst of self will be given patience. Enough patience and love for self to want, and to seek, to be remedied, gradually. Where self is and feels realised, in the best of ways.
Home is ever-in-process. The walls might be re-painted, every so often; some weeds need to be plucked out, of course, from time to time. But ultimately: is time not the thing that tests whether or not something is real, and meaningful, and is time not the thing that directs our hearts and our entire selves, towards home?
We do certain things because they are ‘investments’. Build and install certain pieces of furniture, to serve particular purposes, long-term. How durable are these things? And the value we give to things tends to be proportional to durability: a paper cup is far cheaper than a crystal one. A crystal glass can be used over and over again.
Things are meaningful and more valuable when they serve noble purposes, and if they withstand the test of time, which, as someone in my Arabic class, ج, reminded me, is like a force.
And the test of time, like a force that is acting on us, is leading us to Allah. Eroding away those things that do not, were never meant to, last. And exposing, to us, what really matters, in the end.
My uncle, the football-and-tech-loving philosopher-poet of the family, Allah hummabārik, says:
“Time, in the absence of eternity, is decay.
Time, understood within eternity, is a seed.”
What matters to people? Generally, family and relationships matter to people: parents, children, siblings, spouses. People’s property and assets matter to them. Health. Education: an investment. Career. Time. The work we do, our works, are not solely valuable as a result of the positive feelings they can bring about, for us, in that moment. We want them to mean something. To not be so transitory. To have a good, lasting effect, on other people and their lives; on the world, in the long-run.
It is not about the ego; the better things come from favouring considerations to do, instead, with the spirit, i.e. that which is greater than the ego.
ج wrote, in a discussion about meaning, in our Arabic class’ group chat:
“When you apply time to things, you can determine meaning I’ve found. As time is a created force, and time destroys all things in this universe. What is a good act for the sake of ‘goodness’, when it is nothing in the face of eternity. It is a temporary act of good for a temporary situation…
Like feeding the poor for the sake of a good act.
Allah determined what is good, but the [non-believer] subjects goodness to an innate moral fitrah (without understanding fitrah). They feed a poor person the once, and the poor becomes hungry again. If they fed them their entire lives, both will die anyway. In the face of eternity, that act means almost nothing. The benefits were felt in the moment for the [non-believer], he sufficed his ego in that moment and that moment is gone.
A Muslim would seek the eternal from that act, and Allah would reward them with an eternal reward in Jannah. A reward that doesn’t disappear or is used up. Eg. a tree in Jannah, that will bear fruit for eternity and will never die.“
On beneficial knowledge, which is really meaningful when it is towards good (and Truth, and beauty) and when its fruits can endure, and be fruitful after, the test of time… ج wrote:
“A sharp tool is useful in situations that a sharp tool is needed, and is never not a useful object to have, even when put away.”
In the Islamic paradigm, i.e. recognising the human being not in isolation, not merely as ‘self’, but in humbled and continuous connection with his Creator, we can strive to look at practically everything we do through the lens of real meaning. Every ounce of time we sacrifice; every penny given to charity; every time we fought an egoic, spiritually unhealthy, temptation, and so forth. Every moment of suffering; every moment of bliss. Every step we take, on that road of self-overcoming, and so on.
[I just had a random thought: at primary school, we had a boy in our class called ‘Salman’, and then he was given the nickname ‘Salmaan Al-Farsi’. It’s funny because of how people would say it.]
The material and the temporary are only tools. “All meaning is with Allah alone.
“He AzWj determines meaning, and what matters.”
So, to love, and to do and learn, for the sake of Allah, and in His Name, is the best, most meaningful and enduring, love/doing/knowledge of all. Seeds, from which magnificent trees shall, with the permission of the Almighty, grow and grow. A magnificent garden.
The other stuff will simply… fall to dust, or, worse still… go up in flames.
“Know that the Life of this World is but amusement and diversion and adornment, and boasting to one another, and competition in increase of wealth and children –
like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow;
then it becomes [scattered] debris.
And in the Hereafter is severe punishment, and forgiveness from Allah and approval.
And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.“