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(Written by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in Urdu "Guzra Howa Zamana")

By: Abbas Ali

“On the concluding night of the year, an older man is sitting alone in his dark home. The night is horrible, dark, and getting darker. It is lightning, a ferocious windstorm is blowing; his heart is trembling, and he feels breathless. The older man is melancholic; however, his grief is not due to the dark home, the loneliness, the black night, the lightning, the windstorm, nor the last night of the year. He is recollecting his elapsed time, and the more he remembers, the gloomier he grows. Tears are rolling down his hand-covered cheeks.

His past is flickering before his naked eyes. He recollected his boyhood when he had nothing to worry about, and his heart was free from all fears. In exchange for the money, he would love candies and sweets. Entire home: mother, father, brother, and sister would love him. Holding his books under his armpit, he would go to school happily, cherishing the school closing-time. With the memory of his school, he would remember his classmates. He would get gloomier and cry out uncontrollably, “O time! O time! Elapsed time! Alas! I remembered you but late.”

Then he would recollect his youth: his red and white face, attractive physique, well-built body, gorgeous eyes, pearl-like teeth, heart full of ambitions, the joy and zeal of human feelings all would come to his memory. In times of darkness, he would remember the advice of his parents. They would tell him about virtuousness and God-fearing, and he would reply, “O! it is too early.” He would never think about the approaching of old age. He would remember and feel sorry and think that it would have been better if he had adorned his heart with virtues and God-fearing deeds and remained ready for his death. O! the time has elapsed, O! the time has elapsed. Now it is of no use crying over spilled milk. Alas! I ruined myself by saying, “It is too early.” Saying so, he stood up and groped his way to reach the window. He opened the window and watched the same horrible night with the evolving darkness; his heart was bursting with lightning, a fearsome windstorm was gushing around, leaves were flying, and branches were breaking. He cried out, “Oh! Oh! My elapsed life is as horrible as this night” saying this, he returned to his seat.

In the meantime, he remembered his parents, siblings, friends, and acquaintances, bones of whom had rotten with dust in their graves. As if his mother, out of love, holding him with her chest, were standing with moist eyes, telling him, “O! my son, the time has gone.” Father’s glowing face was in front of him, and a sound would come there from telling him, “Son! Weren’t we admonishing for your good?” Siblings holding their fingers between their teeth were standing saliently, a stream of tears flowing from their eyes. Friends and acquaintances all standing in grief and telling, “Now what can we do?”

He would remember those words he had spoken carelessly, lovelessly, and with bad manners to his parents, siblings, friends, and acquaintances in such situations. He would remember hurting his mother, annoying his father, being loveless to his siblings, being unhelpful to his friends and acquaintances. Moreover, feeling the emitting love from those rotten bones would crash his heart into pieces. His breath would suffocate in his chest, and he would cry out, “O! the time has gone, the time has gone. Now how can it be compensated?”

Terrified, he ran towards the window, tumbling and trembling; he reached to window. He opened the window and watched the wind had slowed down, and the lightning had dimmed; however, the night was still dark. His frightening reduced a bit, and he returned to his place.

In the meantime, he remembered middle age wherein neither the youth nor the child’s bloom had remained intact. Neither had remained the heart nor the ambitions of the heart. He recalled the time when he was more inclined towards virtue than vice. He would console his heart by remembering his fasting, offering prayers, going for Haj, giving Zakat, feeding the hungry, building mosques, and digging wells. He would call for help saints, mystics he had served, and those spiritual beings to whom he had pledged his allegiance. However, the restlessness of his heart would not go. He visualized that his deeds were limited to himself. The hungry are still hungry; mosques have broken and become ruins or have relapsed to become jungles again. Wells have dried up. Neither the saint nor the mystic was hearing his voice, nor did they come to his rescue. His heart again frightens, and he thinks, “What did I do that I fell in love with mortal things. Why didn’t this last thought come earlier?” Now nothing is possible; he cries out, “O! time, O! time, why did I lose you?”

Frightened, he again ran towards the window. He opened the window and watched the sky was clear, windstorm had stopped, darkness had disappeared, stars were twinkling, and their brightness had reduced the evening. To entertain his heart, he started watching the night decorated with stars. Suddenly, he saw the light in the middle of the sky wherefrom a beautiful bride appeared. He started watching her with rapt attention. As far as he watched her, she came close and closer, so much so that she came extremely close to him. He was spellbound to see her beauty and glamour, and with a pious heart and in a loving tone, asked her who she was. She replied that she was the immortal virtue. He wondered if there was any method of conquering her. She replied in affirmative, very easy but challenging. Whosoever, like the Bedouin, performs the duties by exclaiming, “Wallah la izeedwa la ankis” (by Allah neither shall I do more nor lesser than what Allah has ordained) for the welfare and progress of humanity. I am subservient to him. Nothing is immortal in this world; only the man shall last till the end. So, the virtue undertaken for the welfare of humankind shall continue to live generations after generations till the end. Prayer, Fasting, Haj, and Zakat are limited to the person; his death ends these deeds. Material things too get destroyed in a few days, but the virtue of a man lasts till the end. I am the soul of all humans whosoever wants to conquer me ought to strive for the betterment and welfare of humanity; at least one should seek the interest of one’s nation with heart and soul. Saying so, the bride disappeared, and the older man returned to his seat again.

He remembered his past again; recalled he had done nothing for humanity’s welfare during his fifty-five years. Neither had he done anything for the betterment of his nation. He did all his deeds for his interest, his good deeds for the sack of reward as if performed to bribe Allah. He had done nothing with the pure intent for the particular national interest.

Thinking about his situation, he was disappointed about acquiring that bride. Considering his last days, he lost the hope of doing anything in the future too. Then in a very disappointed manner, he cried out restlessly, “O! time O! time can I recall you again? O! I shall pay ten thousand Dinars if the time returns, and I would become young again.” Saying so, he heaved a cold sigh and fainted.

Not too much time had elapsed; his ears heard some sound of sweet words. His beloved mother was standing before him, hugging him; she kissed him. He saw his father and younger siblings were around him. His mother inquired of him, son, why are you crying on the festive day of the year? Why are you restless? For what, your breath is suffocating? Get up, wash your face and hands, get dressed, and celebrate the joy of Nowruz. Your siblings are waiting for you. Then the boy woke up and realized that it was a dream and he had become older. He reported the entire story to his mother. After listening, she replied, son! Do not do what the remorseful older man had done. However, do as your bride told you to do.

Hearing this, the boy jumped out of his bed and shouted, “It is the first day of his life. I will never repent like the older man and will marry the bride who showed such a beautiful face and said her name was immortal virtue. O! Allah O! Allah, please help me. Amen.”

O! my dear young men of the nation! Moreover, O! Children of my country, strive for the welfare of your nation so that in the end, you shall not repent like the older man. Ours is the fag end; now I pray to Allah that some young man may rise to the occasion and strive for the welfare of his nation. Amen.”

(Intikhab Mazameen Sir Syed by Anwar Sidiqi pp 70 to 75)

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