Abd al-Karīm al-Jīlī’s view about time (waqt)

‘Abd al-Karīm al-Jīlī, a Sufi thinker of Iraq and Yemen, gives some recommendations to his readers about the value of time, time management, and how one can value it better. He writes in his work al-isfār ‘an risālat al-anwār the following: “One of the virtues in one’s Islamic (practices) is leaving (or not dealing with) what does not matter to you. As the time is a sharp sword, it will cut you if you do not cut (manage) it. The Sufi (the one on the path to be close to God) is the son of his time. The past cannot be returned.”

Jīlī’s accentuation on the importance of focusing on the present in the expression “the Sufi is the son of his time,” seems to resonate with Mātūrīdī’s emphasis on the time and place. Mātūrīdī famously opposed imitation (taqlīd) because trying to apply something from the past that does not fit the present time is illogical.

Jīlī seems to refer to the importance of one’s time – which is one’s life span. As long as one is alive, you can do the things you would like to before your time is over and you are replaced by someone else, which is a natural process according to Jīlī. He explains it in the following manner: every newly created “is needed in its time, and its time is not only important for it but is (considered) its essence. It is impossible to move it from its time because its time is its origin (waṭan). Times have no ending, and origins have no ending. Know that the renewal of creatures takes place when something vanishes and is followed by something similar to it. For example, something light follows by something light. If something vanishes and is followed by its opposite, it changes that creature. For instance, something light is followed by something dark. If the origins of the creatures are their times, the origins of their times are the images (forms) after which they were modeled (al-isfār ‘an risālat al-anwār, 63).”

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