Thursday, 9 July 2015

Ramazan: A Time for Waiting on God

Itikaaf is especially a time for waiting as is the whole idea of seeking shab-i-qadr
We all know that Ramazan has been characterized as “month of patience.” What does it mean? Today we seek to understand how patience, or what we may call waiting, is what essentially characterizes human destiny and how proper waiting constitutes a great wazeefa for proper living. Understanding our destiny as patiently waiting for Darshan or Deedar, for the Friend or more precisely seeing Deedar in waiting, will answer such questions that are commonly asked during this month such as why God doesn’t come and why our rendezevous with Satan doesn’t seem to end. Itikaaf is especially a time for waiting as is the whole idea of seeking shab-i-qadr (We are subtly told to wait for it as its time isn’t strictly specified).
Paul Tillich in one of his sermons,collected under the title The Shaking of the Foundations, has insightfully appropriated the metaphor of waiting in explicating the Semitic religious worldview. Keeping Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in our background that parodies human condition involving waiting we may venture a few remarks on his explication of the issue. He states “Our time is a time of waiting.. All time, both in history and in personal life, is expectation. Time itself is waiting, waiting not for another time, but for that which is eternal.” Commenting on a scriptural verse he says: "Both the Old and the New Testament describes our existence in relation to God as one of waiting….Waiting means not having and having at the  sametime. For we have not what we wait for; or, as the apostle says, if we hope for what we do not see, we then wait for it. The condition of man’s relation to God is first of all one of not having, not seeing, not knowing, and not grasping."
Tillich argues that it is not misfortune or a matter of despair to be a waiting creature. If only men knew how to wait they would have no problem with their creaturely vacation. To quote him: “But, although waiting is not having, it is also having. The fact that we wait for something shows that in some way we all already possess it. Waiting anticipates that which is not yet real. If we wait in hope and patience, the power of that for which we wait is already effective within us. He who waits in an ultimate sense is not far from that for which he waits. He who waits in absolute seriousness is already grasped by that for which he waits …. We are stronger when we wait than when we possess." (Tillich 154).
The Greatest Good can only be contemplated; it is too sublime to be possessed. We need to note that even ordinarily, in our deepest loves and friendships there is always an element of non- possession. The other never ceases to be the other. As Tillich observes: “How can God be possessed? Is God a thing that can be grasped and known among other things? Is Godless than a human person? We always have to wait for a human being. Even in the most intimate communion among human beings, there is an element of not having and not knowing, and of waiting. Therefore, since God is infinitely hidden, free, and incalculable, we must wait for Him in the most absolute and radical way. He is God for us just in so far as we do not possess Him. The psalmist says tha this whole being waits for the Lord, indicating that waiting for God is not merely a part of our relation to God, but rather than the condition of that relation as a whole. We have God through not having Him.”
Whitehead’s famous characterization of religion in his Science and the Modern World captures the importance of waiting as a keynote of religious/mystical viewpoint. To quote him: “Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind and within, the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of the present facts; something which gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final good, and yet is beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.”
God is the Last, the End. He is after all distances because he is not in the net of space and time. He is behind everything and man can’t but deal with things only, even if these be spiritual things. God is within as well, but within is more distant than any without. In a beautiful Upanishadic narrative it has been said that in order to conceal the greatest treasure of God it was resolved to put it in the depths of man’s being, in the in most recess of his heart to which he ordinarily doesn’t turn.Though spirit lives in the present moment but man is predisposed to live either in past or in future.

Every spiritual master has declared that the present moment is the home of the spirit. But for most of us the present moment is very difficult place to reach, despite the obvious fact that we are already there. Chopra thus formulates this insight “Every second is a door to eternity. The door is opened by perception.” But difficult indeed is the art of cleansing the doors of perception. Most men choose to live blind instead of clearing the dust that accumulates on the perceiving lenses of the heart. God is waiting to be realized and in order to be fully realized man has to pass away, to consent to be utterly annihilated. God is a  “remote possibility.” He is beyond all apprehension, all reach. He is and signifies the hopeless quest. Stace in hisTime and Eternity has beautifully appropriated the waiting metaphor of Whitehead as the essence of religious/mystical approach. To quote him: “Religion is the hunger of the soul for the impossible, the unattainable, the inconceivable.... Religion seeks the light. But it isn’t a light which can be found at any place or time. It isn’t somewhere. It is the light which is nowhere. It is “the light which never was on sea or land.”  Never was. Never will be even in the infinite stretches of future time. This light is non-existent….Yet it is the great light which lightens the world. Religion is the desire to break away from being and existence altogether to get beyond existence into that nothingness where the great light is. It is the desire to be utterly free from the fetters of being. For every being is a fetter. Existence is a fetter. To be is to be tied to what you are. Religion is the hunger for the non being which yet is…..So long as there is light in your ife, the light has not yet dawned. You must see that all things all places, all times,all experiences are equally dark.You must see that all stars are black, only out of the total darkness will the light dawn. Religion is that hunger which has no existence past, present or future, no actual existence and no possible existence, in this world or in any other world on the earth or above the cloud and stares material or mental or spiritual, can ever satisfy. For whatever is or could be will have the curse of thisness or thatness.
While all this dissolves key complaint of secular mind regarding God’s absence or his supposed failure to turn up as He is called, say in concentration camps of Hitler or all who suffer for no sins of theirs, it also explains why shab-i-qadr has to be eternally waited on – there is no account clearing by spending a night without sleep and saying for 1000 months on one can take rest. We are not hoping for Godot to come but learning to see how very waiting is our destiny, our glory, our salvation as are not God but humans. Almost reversing attitude of Beckettian tramps we refuse union (lazati wasal haraam) and say to God “Kari jehan daraz hae, ab mera intizaar ker.” As long as we are human, we are “condemned” to pray, to submit, to serve, to be patient . Ramazan only recalls our destiny as waiting, as patience under hardships, as hunger for the “unattainable,” as discipline of senses for cleansing the doors of perception that sees everything as it really is – infinite light and beauty.

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