Allah, exalted is He, said in a famous hadith: “Do not abuse time, for I am time.” What Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi brought was a renewed relation to time. What made him a man of his time was that he was pre-eminently a man of the moment, intensely alert to it. That was because it was in the present moment that he expected Presence, hadrah, to which his entire being was attuned. Being absolutely of the present, he was totally present with whoever he was with. Being of the present moment, he was one of those about whom Allah says: “There is no fear on them” and fear is always of the future, “nor do they grieve” and grief is always of the past.
Being of the present, he always experienced the past as it would have been experienced by those present in it, without projecting on to it our contemporary circumstances and values. A great deal of his work was recovering history and thus the past from the understanding that wrapped it in our contemporary values.
What excited him about the past were the great men and women who had lived and, being present in their times, who had shown different ways for us to be present in ours, and above them all the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, in the Madinah al-Munawwara. He, peace be upon him, is the promise of a way of being present in the Presence, and Madinah is an order that can safeguard that way of being and spread it widely among the great majority of mankind, not just an élite.
The Shaykh discovered that order in his present in the company of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, may Allah be merciful to him, and in his fuqara and wider Moroccan society. That is where he discovered the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and his family and Companions. Understanding the Shaykh and his people allowed him to understand the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and Madinah. He discovered that it is not a static order that an individual can shelter in but that it is an order that intrinsically demands participation and struggle and a determination to bring about order for oneself and for others, for all the Muslims and for all mankind. He dedicated his life to that struggle, may Allah have mercy on him and be pleased with him.