Wasted Life, God's Presence, Engaging With Values
Issue 957 » July 28, 2017 - Dhul Qida 5, 1438
Al-Hashr (The Gathering) Sura 59: Verse 18 (partial)
The saints have always understood that they have come into this world to carry on a spiritual traffic, the resulting gain or loss of which is heaven [Paradise] or hell. At the resurrection, a man will find all the hours of his life arranged like a long series of treasure chests. The door of one will be opened, and it will be seen to be full of light: it represents an hour which he spent in doing good. His heart will be filled with such joy that even a fraction of it would make the inhabitants of hell forget the fire. The door of a second will be opened; it is pitch-dark within, and from it issues such an evil odour as will cause everyone to hold his nose: it represents an hour which he spent in ill doing, and he will suffer such terror that a fraction of it would embitter Paradise for the blessed. The door of a third treasure-chest will be opened; it will be seen to be empty and neither light nor dark within: this represents the hour in which he did neither good nor evil. Then he will feel remorse and confusion like that of a man who has been the possessor of a great treasure and wasted it or let it slip from his grasp. Thus, the whole series of the hours of his life will be displayed, one by one, to his gaze.
Therefore, one should say to his soul every morning, "God has given you twenty-four treasures; take heed lest you lose anyone of them, for you will not be able to endure the regret that will follow such loss." The saints have said, "Even suppose God should forgive you, after a wasted life, you will not attain to the ranks of the righteous and must deplore your loss; therefore, keep a strict watch over your tongue, your eyes, and each of your seven members, for each of these is, as it were, a possible gate to hell."
"The Alchemy of Happiness" - Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali
When we study the Prophet's (peace be upon him) life, we find him glorifying God and praising Him at every moment of his life. He would wake up before dawn, leaving his bed when the dark curtain of the night still covers everything. He then says: "Praise be to God who has returned my spirit to me, given me physical strength and permitted me to glorify Him." [Tirmidhi] Consider how he welcomes life, full of optimism: "Praise be to God who has returned my spirit to me." Life is a gift from God and we are able to do many good things in a day. The Prophet expresses his gratitude for his well-being. We may reflect long on the last part of this supplication, which mentions God's permission to glorify Him. That is an expression of complete devotion that words can hardly describe.
The Prophet's awareness of God's presence never left him for a moment, and He praised Him at every juncture and before every action. The Prophet is therefore the perfect role model for all believers. Some of us may wonder whether we have to repeat all these supplications all the time. Scholars rightly make clear that although they are all recommended, none is obligatory.
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi
Engaging with Values
Values are qualities or principles that people consider to be important and wish to personify. Our values help define the kind of person we want to be and the kind of life we want to live. When we live in accordance with them, our values influence our priorities, our thinking, our choices, our decision-making and our actions. When our actions are in alignment with our values, we do better and we feel better.
The way to genuine contentment and satisfaction isn’t through pleasurable experiences that depend on external circumstances. It is an inside job. It comes from making choices that are healthy and helpful, and in alignment with our values. When our actions are consistent with our values we participate in life in a way we can feel good about, regardless of external circumstances. Conversely, when our behavior violates our values it’s almost impossible to feel good about ourselves—no matter the outcome or external circumstances.
When you understand this, you understand that how you live your life is what’s most important because it is the source of true contentment. When people’s actions honor their values, they do the right thing—regardless of criticism or praise, pain or pleasure, loss or gain. And, in turn, they still feel much better about themselves.
But to live in a way that respects your values, you need to know what your values are. When was the last time you thought about your values? This is not something most people do unless a significant event (usually an extremely negative, painful or traumatic event) shakes them up so much they feel compelled to consider their life’s meaning and purpose. When this happens, a crisis can become an opportunity to think deeply about what their values are and what kind of life they want to live.
Even though values are often fairly stable it is not unusual for them change over time. As we progress through life and have new and different experiences, some values become less important to us while others become more so. This is one reason why it is helpful and healthy to regularly consider what is truly important to you. Even if you believe your values haven’t changed over the years, it is still helpful to engage in the exercise of values clarification.
As what’s important to you changes, so does your definition of success—and your personal values. That is why keeping in conscious contact with your values is a lifelong practice, but is especially valuable to engage in now.
"Values Can Be a Conduit to Recovery" - Dan Mager