Time Travel

Posted on July 7, 2011

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There are time travelers in our midst. It is not very difficult to spot them. They dress differently and enunciate their words slowly. Their limbs are weary from their long travels and eyes are strained from trying to understand this new dimension that they find themselves in.

The urban jungle that has abruptly sprouted around them confounds their sense of direction. The streets have convoluted shapes and the bridges, as high as mountains, interlock in daunting mazes before their eyes.  The speed with which everything moves leaves them breathless. They must navigate not just the alien physical landscape but also the cultural chaos that has destroyed the social scene. They cannot locate the respect and the ties of blood and of friendship that characterized their time.

They repeatedly ask for assistance but the inhabitants of this age have no patience to answer their questions. The faces look vaguely familiar and yet are so alien in their attitude. The faces remind them of the young, beaming countenances that would look up to them in the time that they travelled form. These faces are full of frowns and lines of worry. The people of this time have appendages growing from their ears and their hands. These appendages vibrate and ring and beam at various parts of the night and day and the people are enslaved by their commands. The inhabitants of this time have hearts that have grown cold even as their laps are warm with books that give off a mesmerizing glow.

Desperate for some attention, the time travelers start telling the best stories of their age. They repeat the stories many, many times but no one seems to be listening. Unable to take the people back with them, the time travelers allow themselves to slip back into their own memories. These memories are a window to their world. A world where they were relevant and which was inhabited by people who sincerely cared for them. They fondly recall times of fun and ease, but dissolve in tears or fall silent when they realize that most of those people did not make it.

All inhabitants of the new age are not heartless and cruel. There are those that realize that these time travelers are their ticket to Paradise and initially do everything in their power to make them feel welcome. The tragedy of the situation is that the elderly in their insecurity sometimes oppress their sincere hosts by tightening their grip on any hand that reaches out to help them. The hosts begin to feel that their life has become constrained by the presence of the time travelers and that they are trying to hold them back. In either case the balance is disturbed and an unjust situation is created.

Islam, the balanced way of life, gives us the solution to this seemingly daunting dilemma. The Prophet (saws) said, “He who does not show mercy to our young or show esteem for our elders is not one of us.” The elderly should show mercy to the people of this age so that they can also build a cache of memories that they can relish in old age and lead successful, fulfilled lives. The younger generation should humble themselves before their elders and patiently shower them with affection just as they did when we were dependent upon them. This is the attitude that will inshallah win us the pleasure of Allah.

And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.” (17:24)

Each of us has already begun the journey to old age and each of us is unconsciously travelling through time. The reality should dawn on us that we need to extend our hearts and our ears to the cry of the elderly in our midst because the time is not far when we will also be stranded in a strange land. A vast alien world where there is something even stranger than the unintelligible ‘twitter’ of the birds and ‘books’ that have not just ‘notes’ but also ‘faces’ and ‘walls.’

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