Reflections of Peerless Men      

Letter 155

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My Dear, whoever is preoccupied with the past is acting out of privation and whoever is preoccupied with what has not yet come (future) is acting out of pretension and whoever is preoccupied with his own ‘present’ is acting out of significant spiritual meaning; this was supported by the pages (scriptures) of Prophet Ibrahim peace be upon him, “And this is in the Books of the earliest (Revelation)—The Books of Abraham and Moses.” (Koran [87:18-19]) [1]



“If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.” (6.4311, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Wittgenstein)

In Sufism two universes are recognized. First, the Azal (Sempiternity) that is an eternal timeless causeless endless and beginning-less realm often referred to as the other universe or the Hereafter. Second, the Mohdath, our world, which is this causal nascent transient and temporal universe with a beginning and an end. Azal is not an infinite Mohdath as was astutely noted by Wittgenstein.

Azal (Sempiternity)—where we came from and where we are returned to, lacking discernible “before & after” is in perpetual present. Our true nature is comforted in abeyance in the present and troubled by both the memories of the past and the anxieties of the future.

Mohdath—where we are drowned in finite nascence & transience, may be likened to a motion picture i.e. the sequenced frames of video are caused one after the other to appear in our presence. As both Sheikh Ardestani & Wittgenstein noted, the eternality of spiritual meaning and the everlasting escape from this temporal life are offered to those who live solely focused on the present.

The latter occurs when we ‘pause’ the video of life, and look for meaning in between the frames. All the practices such as Dhikr (Remembrance), fasting, Ifteqār (Self imposed poverty), Solitude, Silence and so on, are in order for us to pause and focus on the present.

If you carefully read Ardestani's letter you see that he talks about “his own present”. Our past is inexorably shared with others, our future is only certain as far as the linkage with others but there is a ‘place’ within the present, if unearthed, it allows being-ness without anyone or anything not even one's own Self.


[1] At first, I did not get the application of these two verses of Koran. I was not sure how Ardestani linked these two verses to the concept until I read the previous two verses:

Nay (behold), ye prefer the life of this world; But the Hereafter is better and more enduring.” (Koran [87:16-17])

We prefer to regurgitate the past and worry about the future making our Self ill with stress and excessive precautions, yet we know for certain this world is temporal. We observe the ceaseless biological blight & withering and we observe the unnumbered Supernovas & Stellar collisions yet we see nothing!

Everlasting is that other universe the Azal (Sempiternity)! Indeed the focus and the meaning of the ‘present’ here is the Ishārat (Hint, Pointing) at the other world. Follow along the vector of the present and soon you shall see the light from the Azal (Sempiternity). And this was mentioned to Abraham & Moses…

© 2007-2002, Dara O. Shayda, Dr. Hind Rifai