Thursday, February 1, 2018

Life @ 40: A Spiritual Gaze

I am your Lord. Take off your sandals: you are in the sacred valley of Tuwa.
I have chosen you, so listen to what is being revealed. 
I am Allah; there is no god but Me, so worship Me and keep up the prayer so that you remember Me'. (20: 12-15)

These verses in the Holy Qur’an allude to a time when Allah (swt) directly spoke to a servant of His, intimating him about the great Divine Mission that lies ahead of him; urging him to be detached from the personal relations that come in the way of  remaining engrossed in Divine Remembrance through fervent prayers and other devote supplications. In mystical commentaries of the aforesaid verses, the idea of "taking off the sandals" certainly points to the same: in being asked to remove his sandals, Hadhrat Musa (as) was being asked to cast aside this world by turning his face towards the Ocean of Divine Presence alone, dedicating oneself solely to Allah (swt). In a famous poem by  that medieval polymath Sheikh-ul-Akbar Muhyi-ud-Din Ibn Arabi, the imagery is explained eloquently: 

"Take off the sandals if you come
to this valley, for therein is Our Holiness.
Of the two worlds divest yourself,
and lift the veils of in-betweenness"

It is indeed a perennial practice of the Divine, a Sunnat Allah-according to the Qur’an- that He raises His Elects at places and times of His choice. Allah knows best where to place His Message’. (6:125)  One of the interesting facts about the present Divine Manifestation in Mauritius is this. When Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) began to be a recipient of Divine communications and other messages of an exquisite spiritual variety, the messages from the Unseen reminded him about the need for holding a lot of patience and to ‘forget’ this world and to devote his time in much remembrance of the Divine through prayer and other supplications: the same kind of Divine messages that were revealed to Hadhrat Musa (as) in that sacred valley of Tuwa almost three millennium ago and preserved in the Holy Qur’an for all times! Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar.

It is also instructive to note that Hadhrat Munir Azim Saheb (atba) was in the beginnings of the age of 40 when Allah (swt) entrusted him with the Divine Mission,  Alhamdulillah. Now, is it a mere coincidence that Allah (swt) began to vouchsafe His communications and messages to Hadhrat Saheb (atba) on an abundant scale at the cusp of the age of 40? NO, if we go by spiritual doctrine! We would like to believe that it is indeed a part of the Divine Plan for our times, Soumma Alhamdulillah. 

Most certainly, the destiny of man is inextricably intertwined with the Holy Will of God. Verily, with Allah alone is the knowledge of the Hour. And He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs. And no soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” [31:35]

In different contexts, the Holy Qur’an speaks of the physical, intellectual and emotional maturity of the Divine servants before they are raised with the Divine mission. (12:23, 28:15). Through various stages and phases of life, Allah (swt) tries and forgives and confirms the sincerity of His servants (20:41). Having had to spend many years in the palace of the Pharaoh, Hadhrat Musa’s physical and intellectual/ secular training was taken care of, in unusual and extraordinary ways. Later, when Musa (as) had to migrate to Midian, his emotional and spiritual training was done under the guidance of a Prophet of Allah- Hadhrat Shu’aib (as)- for close to a decade. And during this period, having married the daughter of the Prophet, Hadhrat Musa (as) was blessed with a pious family as well in the new place (28:21-29). Hence, from the various descriptions in the Qur’an, it is almost apparent that Hadhrat Musa (as) must have been in his early 40’s when he was forgiven by His Lord and taken into the wings of His Mercy and raised with the heavy responsibility of an Elect of God, Allah knows best.  

The Holy Qur’an does indeed indicate that the age of 40 is the age of spiritual maturity and an important stage in human life to seek Divine forgiveness: 

“And We have enjoined on man to be good to his parents. His mother bears him with pain, and brings him forth with pain. And the bearing of him and his weaning takes thirty months, till, when he attains his full maturity and reaches the age of forty years, he says, ‘My Lord, grant me the power that I may be grateful for Your favour which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may do such good works as may please You. And make my seed righteous for me. I do turn to You; and, truly, I am of those who submit to You.’ Those are they from whom We accept their good works and overlook their ill deeds. They shall be among the inmates of the Garden, in fulfilment of the true promise which was made to them. (46:16-17)

The Birth of Spiritual Life @ 40

Perhaps the most beautiful exposition on the significance of the age of forty for spiritual growth and Divine illumination is the one written from the blessed pen of the Promised Massih Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian. His book entitled “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam” is by now a ‘classic’ of Muslim spiritual literature of all times. It is interesting to note that over a century after the Great Book became publicly available (unlike all the earlier editions of the book), in its 2010 UK edition in English, for the first time included a few pages where the Promised Massih (as) writes profoundly on the underlying spiritual significance of the age of 40 in the life of Divine servants.  (Inset: Zaki Mubarak Aziz Raother at the World Book Fair in Delhi, India, January 2018. Among the books purchased by his family at the Book Fair includes a 2015 (Indian) edition of the book, The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam). 

It is instructive to see the striking coincidence: a part of the original writings of the Promised Massih (as) pertaining to the spiritual maturity of Divine servants is being published at a time when Allah (swt) raised an Ahmadi Muslim in the person of Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius with Divine revelations at the age of 40!  Is it not a Divine Sign that Allah (swt) brought back to the attention of the Muslims, including the Ahmadis- the followers/disciples of the Promised Massih (as)- this vital piece of spiritual reflections at a time when a Divine Elect is present among them?

Read the Extracts from the Book Below: 

Here it would be useful to mention that the human foetus shows signs of life almost four months and ten days after its conception, that is, at the intermedial stage of its existence in the womb. The same laws of nature that cause the foetus to evolve from the vegetative to the animal state are also operative in spiritual birth. In other words, just as a foetus spends half the span of its existence in the privacy of the womb and then starts showing signs of animation and life, the same condition obtains in the birth of spiritual life as well.

The better part of a person’s life, before the onset of senility, can be measured at approximately eighty years, half of which is forty. Here the number forty correlates with the first four months the foetus spends in the womb prior to its first physical movements. Experience tells us that when man has lived half of his productive life—the first forty years which bear a strong likeness to the first four months of a foetus’ existence—his soul awakens and shows nascent signs of spiritual life, provided he is blessed with a pure disposition.

It is no secret that before he is forty a man’s life is mostly obscured by ignorance. The first seven or eight years of his existence are passed in infancy, and the following twenty-five or so years are mostly spent in the pursuit of learning or frittered away on libertine pleasures. Afterwards, he is married or is otherwise beguiled into chasing wealth and honour and exceeds all bounds in doing so. At this stage, even if man turns towards God his quest is somewhat tainted with material desires. His prayers are mostly for worldly gains and his cries and supplications are sullied by worldly desires. Thus, what little faith he has in the Hereafter is offset by the fact that death appears only as a distant possibility. Just as when a dam bursts its banks and destroys whatever lies in its path, so does the flood of carnal passions imperil human life. In this state, how can he ever believe in the subtleties of the Hereafter? Instead, he mocks and derides religion and parades his own dry logic and sophistry. 

Of course, if he is good by nature, he may believe in God, but does so without full faith and sincerity and that too is conditional upon his own success. If his desires are fulfilled he turns to God, if not, he turns to Satan. In short, youth is a critical period of one’s life and without Divine grace one might well land in the pit of hell. The fact is that this part of one’s life is the root of all evil. It is at this time that one contracts most physical ailments and some unmentionable diseases. The mistakes made in the callowness of youth often cause man to turn away from the True and Immutable God. Thus, at this age he fears God but little and is driven by carnal passion and dominated by his baser self. He pays little heed to the advice of others and suffers the consequences of this age for the remainder of his life.

As man approaches forty, he starts shedding the vagaries of his youth and ruefully looks back at many of his follies from which his counsellors had failed to dissuade him. The ebullience of his youth naturally begins to subside, for his physical condition declines with advancing age. The rebellious blood is no longer there, nor is there any more physical vitality and recklessness of youth. The time of deterioration and decay approaches fast.

At this stage, he also witnesses the passing away of his elders and even the untimely death of younger people whose loss leaves him stricken with grief. His parents too are probably no more and the world begins to betray its transience in a number of ways. It is as if God places before him a mirror and says, ‘Look, this is the reality of life of which you are so fond.’ It is then that he recalls his past mistakes with regret and undergoes a radical transformation ushering in a new life, provided he is well-meaning by nature and is one of those whom God has summoned. 

It is in this context that Allah, the Almighty, says:
That is, we enjoined on man [saying to him:] “Be good to your parents. You should realize what agony your mother suffered for you! During your pregnancy she suffered pain for a long period of time and with pain she brought you forth. For thirty months she remained in discomfort during gestation and breastfeeding you. 

Again, He says that when a good person reaches forty and matures he recalls Divine exhortations and says, ‘My Lord, let me be grateful for the favours You have bestowed on me and on my parents and grant me the opportunity to do such good works as may please You, and make my seed righteous for me. That is to say, if I failed in my duty to my parents, let not my children do the same. If ever I strayed from the right path, let them not follow suit. My Lord, I repent and turn to You and am of those who submit.’

Thus, God has made it clear in this verse that the fortieth year is a blessing for those who are righteous and it is then that the spirit of truth awakens in them. Most of God’s Prophets were raised in the fortieth year of their lives. For instance, our Lord and Master, the Holy Prophet (sa) was also raised for the reformation of mankind in his fortieth year.” (pp.12A-12E; Qadian Edition, 2015.)