Azal and Abad ( "Eternity without a beginning" and "Eternity without an End")
A timeless story of Azal and Abad, Azal being the beginning without a beginning and Abad the end without an end. A story that dates from original sin to ultimate redemption.
The tree at the bottom is the apple tree Adam was tempted by Satan. There are seven levels in this hexagonal maze, with the end goal of "Redemption" which is depicted by the Kabah in the centre, the Celestial city of sorts, the end goal, or Heaven. It’s a visual allegory or sorts; esoteric and spiritual in nature.
Growing up, I had the chance of reading an abridged version of John Bunyan’s timeless classic “ Pilgrims Progress”. For those who haven’t read it, it is a symbolic vision of a good mans pilgrimage through life. Although Christian in nature, it is a lesson on propounded decent human values. Values that are very
much relevant to our Islamic tradition or any Religion or Belief for that matter.
Like all mazes, this maze of life is filled with obstacles that need to be overcome. They are inspired by my favorite verse in the Quran which talks about who the true righteous are:
“Righteousness is not in turning your faces towards the east or the west. Rather, the righteous are those who believe in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Books, and the prophets; who give charity out of their cherished wealth to relatives, orphans, the poor, ˹needy˺ travelers, beggars, and for freeing captives;
who establish prayer, pay alms-tax, and keep the pledges they make; and who are patient in times of suffering, adversity, and in ˹the heat of˺ battle. It is they
who are true ˹in faith˺, and it is they who are mindful of Allah "
I named the levels as:
- The Pillars of Belief,
- The Power of Prayers,
- The Gifts of Giving (Zakat and Charity),
- The Obstacle of Oath Keeping,
- The Trials of Truth,
- The Path to Patience, and
- The Celestial City
- “The Pillars of Belief” comes first. Believing in God, the Prophets, the Holy books and the Angels. Its the easiest obstacle to overcome because if you think about it , even Satan believes in God. Every subsequent level becomes more and more incumbent to pass after that.
- “The Power of Prayer” comes next. Prayers that need to be uttered in earnest, asking for forgiveness, with promises of doing better before one can move forward. Like Adam’s repentance for eating forbidden fruit.
- “The Gifts of Giving” come after. A level for Zakat, and a level for Charity. The act of giving is to give and to give unconditionally, especially when you love your wealth. And as Khalil Gibran poetically said: “ It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” I understand that as giving of time, love or help in any form needed. In the Quran, giving is considered to be a loan to God, and he promises to double your reward if you give. (57:18)
- “The Obstacles of Oath Keeping" comes next. "Keep your oaths and promises for Allah loves those who do." (Quran 3:176). Its so easy it is to make empty promises and so difficult is to live up to our words.
- “The Trials of Truth” which doesn’t necessarily just mean being honest; but emphasizes our duty to speak up when we see injustice specially when it pertains to the weak and helpless.
- “The Path of patience“ is the hardest level of them all. First there is patience, and then there is beautiful patience. Something similar to “Sabr e Ayub” ,when he lost absolutely everything and still chose to be grateful and patient. After all patience and gratitude are two sides of the same coin.
And once all these levels or obstacles are passed, the gates of the Celestial City open … for the” true Righteous. “
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