Awe, the Experience of Time, and Well-Being

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The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught us that one of the signs of the end of times is that time will start to move more quickly. Scholars of Islam have interpreted this statement in different ways, but especially for those living in metropolitan areas of the United States, it is easy to understand. We never have enough time.

There's not enough time for loved ones, work, a decent life, friends, family, community, leisure, etc. There just isn't enough. On top of that, what we do have passes so quickly that the days, months, and years pass by in the blink of an eye.

 

How can we get it back? How can we feel more from our time?

 

First, let's look at another sign of the end of times and then tie it into this discussion. The Prophet (pbuh) also taught us that the first knowledge that will be raised from the nation of believers is khushu'. This term can be translated in different ways, but generally relates to one's concentration in prayer. The term is often used in association with another one, khashya. This latter term is closer to the concept of awe in English. There is, however, a tight relationship between the two in that a person who is accustomed to being in awe of Allah will generally also have a heightened level of awareness and concentration in their prayer and a heightened concentration in prayer will lead to a greater sense of awe in everyday life.

The point: as we get closer to the end of times, less and less people will be living lives that are truly inspired by a sense of awe in their relationship with the Divine. We should strive, therefore, to experience awe in our lives.

 

So why does all this matter and how does it tie into the point about not having enough time?

 

Research has shown that we actually feel better, feel more time-rich, and therefore are more likely to help and care for others if we feel more awe in our lives.

This is truly remarkable.

Our faith is so powerful. Just because we don't always recognize immediately the benefits of the things we are encouraged towards does not mean that they are not there.

Basically, what the research is saying is this:

Awe leads to increased time-richness, a feeling of having more time and experiencing more from time. Those feelings that result from awe then push us towards being more interested in helping others and preferring experienced benefits over material benefits. It all starts with God and then extends into everything else. 

 

So here are some small tips for increasing awe in our lives:

  1. Get out into nature. There is nothing more awe inspiring than the absolute majesty of the natural creation.
  2. Build the habit of dhikr, especially with "subhanAllah" and similar terms like, "subhanAllah wa bi-hamdihi" and "subhanAllah al-azim." This particular form of remembrance, which is based in a feeling of awe, is especially important.
  3. Don't rush. As long as we are rushing through things we cannot fully experience them and in doing so we deprive ourselves of a feeling of connectedness and depth in our actions. You can be efficient and effective without being rushed. It's a state of mind and heart.
  4. Organize your prayers into your day and make sure to get the most out of them as much as possible. The prayer is the primary means for increasing in a sense of awe of Allah. Don't miss those daily opportunities.
  5. Train yourself to be reflective. Two people can have exactly the same experience and get totally different things out of it. Part of benefitting from experiences is learning how to be reflective in relation to them. Focus, reflect, grow.

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