PART VII- SPIRITUAL ASPECT OF ISLAM
Chapter XXXIII - The Treasures
Man was marvelously created, not in jest or at random, but for some great end. Although he is not from everlasting, he lives for ever, and though his body is mean and earthly, his spirit is lofty and divine. When in the crucible of abstinence he is purified from carnal passions which he attains at the highest, and in place of being a slave to lust and anger he becomes gifted with angelic qualities. Attaining that state he finds his real happiness in the contemplation of Eternal Beauty and no longer in sexual delights. The spiritual medicine which heals from earthly passions is not to be brought with gold or money. It is to be sought in the hearts of prophets; its methods of operation are explained to people by instructions given and practical life led by the messengers of God. The loving Creator has sent various messengers to teach men the prescription of this cure and how to purify their hearts from baser qualities in the crucible of abstinence. In fact, men will find free treasures of happiness open before them once they turn away from the word of God, and it is to help them to do so that Islam has formed itself also into a moral science.
The constituents of the Islamic medicine are numerous, but they can be reduced to six exponents, namely:
1- The knowledge of self.
2- The knowledge of God.
3- The knowledge of this world.
4- The knowledge of the next world.
5- The stages of man’s development.
6- Self-examination, the recollection and love of God.
We shall now proceed to explain these exponents hereinafter as briefly as possible.
1- The knowledge of self.
Nothing is nearer to man than himself, and if he knows not himself he cannot know anything else. Knowledge of self is the key to the knowledge of God: the Prophet says: “He who knows himself well knows God.” In the Koran we read:
ÓäÑíåã ÂíÇÊäÇ Ýí ÇáÂÝÇÞ æÝí ÃäÝÓåã ÍÊì íÊÈíä áåã Ãäå ÇáÍÞ.
“God will show men His signs in the world and in themselves that the truth may be manifest to them” (XLI-53)
Now if one says “I know my self” meaning his outward shape, body, face, limbs and so forth, such knowledge can never be a key to the knowledge of God or the truth. Nor if man’s knowledge as that which is within only extends so far that when he is angry he attacks, will he progress any further in this path, for the beasts are his partners in this capacity.
Real self-Knowledge consists in solving the following problems: What is man in himself and from whence he is come? Whether is he going, and for what purpose has he come to tarry here a while, and in what does his real happiness and misery consist?
Some of man’s attributes are those of animals, some devils, and some of angles, and he has to find out which of these attributes are accidental and which are essential. Till he knows this, he cannot come to a real knowledge of himself.
The occupation of animals is eating, sleeping and fighting. Therefore, if man is an animal, let him busy himself in these things. Devils are busy in stirring up mischief, and in guile and deceit; if he belongs to their species let him do their work. Angles contemplate the beauty of God, and are entirely free from animal qualities; if he is of angelic nature , then let him strive towards his own origin, that he may know and contemplate God, and he delivered from the animal thralldom of passion and anger. He should also discover why he has been created with these two animal instincts. Whether they should subdue him and lend him captive or whether he should subdue them, and in his upward progress, make of one his steed and of the other his weapon.
The first step of man’s knowledge is to know that he is composed of an outward shape, called the body and inward entity called the heart, or soul. By “heart” is not meant the piece of flesh resting at the left of our bodies, but that which uses all other faculties as its instruments and servants. In truth, it does not belong to the visible world as a traveler who visits a foreign country for the sake of trade and will presently return to his native land. The knowledge of his entity and its attributes is the keynote to the knowledge of God. To this the Holy Koran says:
æãÇÎáÞÊ ÇáÌä æÇáÅäÓ ÅáÇ áíÚÈÏæä
“ We (God) have not created Jinn and Men but that they should serve Me” (and obey His Messenger) (LI-56)
The Reality of the Heart
Some idea of the reality of the heart or spirit may be obtained by a man closing his eyes and forgetting everything around except his individuality. He will thus obtain a glimpse of the unending nature of that individuality. An exact philosophical knowledge of the heart or spirt is not necessary preliminary to striving in the path of God, but comes rather as the result of self-discipline, and perseverance in that path, as it is taught in the Koran:
æÇáÐíä ÌÇåÏæÇ ÝíäÇ áäåÏíäåã ÓÈáäÇ æÃä Çááå áãÚ ÇáãÍÓäíä.
“Those who struggled themselves for God’s sake, We will surely guide them to Us, They having been righteous and Allah loves the righteous” (XXIX-69)
Thus, much is known of the heart that it is an indivisible essence belonging to the word of decree, and that it is not from everlasting, but a created spiritual entity.
For the carrying on of this spiritual struggle by which the knowledge of oneself is to be obtained, the body may by figured as a kingdom, the soul as its king, and the different senses and faculties as the king’s army. Reason may be called the minister, passion the revenue-collector, and anger the police –officer. Under the pretext of collecting revenue , passion is continually prone to plunder on its own account, while anger, the police-officer is always inclined to harshness and extreme sverity. Both of these two the revenue –collector and the police officer, have to be kept in due subordination to the king, but not killed or expelled, as they have their own proper functions to perform. But if passion predominates reason, the ruin of the soul insubitably ensues.
Man's Highest Faculty.
A soul which allows its lower faculties to master the higher is as one who should commit one's wealth to the custody of the thieves, or his only son to the care of base, wicked servants. The aim of Islamic discipline is but to purify the heart from the lust of passion and resentment, till as clear as a mirror, it reflects the light of God.
It is questionable that man has been created with animal and demoniac qualities as well as angelic, but it is this latter which constitutes his real essence, while the former are merely accidental and transitory. The essence of each creature is to be sought in that which is highest in and peculiar to it.
For instance, the horse and the ass are both burden bearing animals, but the superiority of the horse to the ass consists in its being adapted for use in battle. If it fails in this, it is degraded to the rank of burden-bearing animals. Similarly with man: The highest faculty in him is reason, which fits him to the contemplation of God. If this faculty predominates in him when he dies, he leaves behind him all tendencies to passion and resentment, and becomes capable of association with angels. As regards his mere animal qualities, man is inferior to many animals, but reason makes him superior to them. However, if man's lower tenancies have bee triumphant, after death he will ever be looking toward the earth and longing for worldly delights.
The Power of the Soul
Now the rational soul in man abounds in marvels both of knowledge and power. By means of it he masters arts and sciences, can pass in a flesh from earth to heaven and back again, can map out the skies and measure the distances between the stars. By it also, he can draw the biggest fish from the sea and the remotest birds from the air, and can subdue beasts to his services like the elephant, the camel, the horse and the like. His five senses are like five doors opening on the external world; but, more wonderful than this, his heart has a window which opens on the unseen world of spirits. In the state of sleep, when the avenues of the senses are closed, this window is opened and man receives impressions from the unseen world and sometimes foreshadowings of the future. His heart is then like a mirror which reflects what is pictured in the Table of Fate. But even in sleep, thoughts of worldly things dull the mirror so that the impressions it receives are not clear. After death, however, such thoughts vanish and things are seen in their naked reality, and the word of God is fulfilled:
áÞÏ ßäÊ Ýí ÛÝáÉ ãä åÐÇ ÝßÔÝäÇ Úäß ÛØÇÁß ÝÈÕÑß Çáíæã ÍÏíÏ.
"Thou wast heedless of this (end); We have now removed the veil from your eyes and so thy sight today is piercing" (V - 22).
This opening of a window in the heart towards the unseen also takes place in conditions approaching those of prophetic inspiration, when intuitions spring up in the mind unconveyed through any sense-channel. The more a man purifies himself from carnal passions and concentrates his mind on God (by strictly following the teachings of the Prophet and abiding by the instructions of the Koran), the more conscious will he be of such intuitions. Those who are not conscious of them have no right to deny their reality.
Just as iron, by sufficient polishing, can be made into a mirror, so any heart by due discipline can be rendered receptive of such impressions. But some hearts are like mirrors so contaminated with rust and dirt, that they reflect no clear reflections, while those of the Prophets and saints, though they are men born with human passions, are extremely sensitive of all divine impressions. The Koran refers to such contaminated hearty by saying.
ßáÇ Èá ÑÇä Úáì ÞáæÈåã ãÇ ßÇäæÇ íßÓÈæä .
"No! indeed their hearts were rusted (contaminated) by their (bad) deeds" (LXXXIII - 14).
The soul of man is capable of holding the first rank among created things, and this not only by reason of knowledge acquired and intuitive, but also by reason of power. Just as angels preside over the elements, so also does the soul rule the members of the body.
The Perception of Truth
Just as no one known the real nature of God but God Himself. Nor is this to be wondered at, as in everyday matters we see that it is impossible to explain the charm of poetry to one whose ear is insusceptible to cadence and rhythm, or the glories of colour to one who is stone-blind. Besides mere capacity, there are other hindrances to the attainment of spiritual truth. One of these is externally acquired knowledge. To use an illustration, the heart may be represented as a well, and the five senses as five streams which are continually discharging water into it.
In order to find out the real contents of the heart, these streams must be stopped for a time, at any rate, and the refuse they have brought with them must be cleared out of the well. in other words, if we are to arrive at pure spiritual truth, we must put away for the time any knowledge which has been acquired by external processes and which too often hardens into dogmatic prejudice.
According to Islamic spiritual experience, happiness, the ideal of every human being, is necessarily linked with the knowledge of God. Each faculty of ours delights in that for which it is created. Lust delights in accomplishing desire, anger in taking vengeance, the eye in seeing beautiful objects, and the ear in hearing harmonious sounds. The highest function of the soul of men is perception of truth; in this accordingly it finds its special delight. As a matter of course, the higher the object matter of the knowledge obtained, the greater we delight. A man would be pleased at being admitted the confidence of a prime minister, but how much more if an emperor makes an intimate of him and disposes state secrets to him!
Seeing then that nothing is higher than God, how great must be the delight which springs from the knowledge of Him.
A person in whom the desire for this knowledge has disappeared is like one who has lost his appetite for wholesome food; all bodily appetites perish at death with the organs they use, but the soul dies not, and retains what knowledge of God it possesses, nay, increases it.
An important part of our knowledge of God arises room the study and contemplation of our own bodies, which reveal to us the power, wisdom, and love of the Creator. His power is that from a mere drop he has built up the wonderful frame of man; his wisdom is revealed in its intricacies and the mutual adaptability of its parts, and His love is shown by His not only supplying such organs as are absolutely necessary for existence, as the liver, the heart, and the brain, but those which are not absolutely necessary, but are added as ornaments, such as the colour of the hair, the redness of the lips, also the eyelashes, and the curve of the eyebrow, etc.
The Steed and its Rider
Man has been truly termed a "microcosm" or a little world in himself, and the structure of his body should be studied not only by those who wish to become physicians, but by those who wish to attain to a more intimate knowledge of God, just as a close study of the niceties and shades of language in a great poem reveals to us more and more of the genius of its author.
But, when all is said, the knowledge of the soul plays a more important part in leading to the knowledge of our body and its functions. The body may be compared to a steed and the soul to its rider, the body was created for the soul, the soul for the body. If a man knows not his own soul, which is the nearest thing to him, how can he have claim to know others ?
A man who neglects his soul and suffers its capacities to rust or to degenerate, must necessarily be the loser in this world and the next. To this the Holy Koran refers saying:
æ ãä ßÇä Ýí åÐå ÃÚãì Ýåæ Ýí ÇáÂÎÑÉ ÃÚãì æ ÃÖá ÓÈíáÇ.
"Whoever is blind (in this world), he shall also be blind in the hereafter and in more need of light to guide him" (XVII - 72).
In another verse, the faithful, the righteous, and the godly shall have light on that day, while the wicked and the undutiful will have no light as if they were stone-blind.
íæã ÊÑì ÇáãÄãäíä æ ÇáãÄãäÇÊ íÓÚì äæÑåã Èíä ÃíÏíåã æ ÈÃíãÇäåã.
"On that day thou shalt see the true believers with their light streaming before them and on their right" (XVII-13).
The true greatness of man lies in his capacity for eternal progress, otherwise in this temporal sphere he is the weakest of all things, being subject to hunger, thirst, heat, cold and sorrow. These things in which he takes most delight are often the most injurious to him, and these things which benefit him are not to be obtained without toil and trouble. As to his intellect, a slight disarrangement of matter in his brain is sufficient to destroy or madden him; as to his power, the sting of a wasp is sufficient to rob him of ease and sleep; as to his temper he is upset by the loss of a shilling. In truth, man in this world is extremely weak and contemptible; it is only in the next world that he will be of value, if by means of the Islamic alchemy of happiness he has risen from the ranks of animals to that of angels.
Otherwise his condition will be worse than the brutes, which perish and turn to dust. It is necessary for him, at the same time, that he is conscious of his superiority as the climax of created things, to learn to known also his helplessness, as that too is one of the keys to the knowledge of God.
2- The Knowledge of God
He who knows himself knows God, that is by contemplation of his own being and attributes, man arrives at some knowledge of God. But since many who con template themselves do not find God, it follows that there must be some special way of doing so. When a man considers himself he knows that there was a time when he was non-existent, as it is written in the Koran:
åá ÃÊì Úáì ÇáÅäÓÇä Ííä ãä ÇáÏåÑ áã íßä ÔíÆÇð ãÐßæÑÇð.
"Does it not occur to man that he was not a thing that could be spoken of" (LXXVI-1).
Furthermore, he knows that he was made out of a drop of water in which there was neither intellect nor hearing, sight, head, hands, feet, etc. It is obvious that whatever degree of perfection he might have arrived at, he did not make himself nor could he ever make a single hair. How much more helpless, then, was his condition when he was a mere drop of water!
Reflection of God's Attributes
Thus, he finds in his own being reflected in miniature, so to speak, the power, wisdom, and love of the Creator. If all the sages of the world were assembled, and their lives prolonged for an indefinite time, they could not effect any improvement in the construction of a single part of the body.
For instance, in the adaptation of the front and side teeth to the mastication of food, and in the construction of the tongue, salivary glands, and throat for its deglutition, we never find a contrivance which can be improved upon. Similarly, whoever considers his hand, with its five fingers of unequal lengths, four of them with three joints and the thumb with only two, and the way in which it can be used for grasping, or for carrying or for smiting, will frankly acknowledge that no amount of human wisdom could better it by altering the number and arrangement of the fingers, or in any other way.
When a man further considers how his various wants of food, lodging, etc., are amply supplied from the storehouse of creation, he becomes aware that God's mercy is as great as His Power and Wisdom, according to the Prophet's saying:
Åä Çááå ÃÍä Úáì ÚÈÇÏå ãä ÇáÃã Úáì æáÏåÇ ÇáÑÖíÚ
"God is more tender to His servants than a mother to her sucking-child."
Thus from his own creation man comes to know God's existence; from the wonders of his bodily frame, God's power and wisdom, and from the ample provision made for his various needs, God's love.
In this way, the knowledge of oneself becomes a key to the knowledge of God.
Not only are man's attributes a reflection of God's attributes, but the mode of existence of man's soul affords some insight into God's mode of existence. Both God and the soul are invisible, indivisible, unconfined by space and time, and outside the categories of quantity and quality. Nor can the ideas of shape colour, or size attach to them. People find it hard to form a conception of such realities as are devoid of quality and quantity, etc., but a similar difficulty attaches to the conception of our everyday feelings, such as anger, pain, pleasure or love. They are thought-concepts, and cannot be recognized by the senses, whereas quality, quantity, etc., are sense-concepts. Just as the ear cannot take cognisance of colour, nor the eye of sound, so in conceiving of the ultimate realities, God and the soul, we find ourselves in a region in which sense-concepts can bear no part. So much, however, we can see that as God is the Ruler of the universe, and, being Himself beyond space and time, quantity and quality. He governs things that are so conditioned, so the soul rules as well the body and its members, being itself invisible, indivisible, and unlocated in any special part. From all this we see how true is the saying of the Prophet:
ÎáÞ Çááå ÇáÅäÓÇä Úáì ÕæÑÊå
"God created man in His own likeness"
Man - a king in Miniature
As we arrive at some knowledge of God's essence and attributes from the contemplation of the soul's essence and attributes, so we come to understand God's method of working and government and delegation of power to angelic forces, etc., by observing how each of us governs his own kingdom. To take a simple instance: Suppose a man wishes to write the name of God. First of all the wish is conceived in his heart, it is then conveyed to the brain by the vital spirits, the form of the word "God" takes shape in the thought-chambers of the brain, thence it travels by the nerve-channels, and sets in motion the fingers, which in turn set in action the pen, and thus the name of "God" is traced on paper exactly as it had been conceived in the writer's brain. Similarly when God wills a thing it appears in the spiritual plane, which is called in the Koran Al-'Arsh or the Throne, from the throne it passes by a spiritual current to a lower current called Al-/korsi or the Chair, then the shape of it appears on "Al-Lawh Al-Mahfuz" or the Reserved Tablet, whence by the mediation of the forces called "angles," it assumes actuality and appears on the earth in the form of plants, trees, and animals, representing the will and command f God, as the written letters represent the with and thought conceived in the heart and the shape present in the brain of the writer.
God has made each of us a king in miniature, so to speak, over a kingdom which is an infinitely reduced copy of His own. In the kingdom of man, God's "throne" is represented by the soul, the "archangel" by the heart, the "chair" by the brain, and the "tablet" by the treasure-chamber of thought. The soul, itself unlocated and indivisible, governs the body, as God governs the universe. In short, each of us is entrusted with a little kingdom, and charged not to be careless in the administration of it. It is a wonderful trust charged to the care of man. To this the Holy Koran alludes by saying:
ÃäÇ ÚÑÖäÇ ÇáÃãÇäÉ Úáì ÇáÓãæÇÊ æ ÇáÃÑÖ æ ÇáÌÈÇá ÝÃÈíä Ãä íÍãáäåÇ æ ÃÔÝÞä ãäåÇ æ ÍãáåÇ ÇáÅäÓÇä Åäå ßÇä ÙáæãÇ ÌåæáÇõ.
"We have offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains but they were afraid to become unfaithful to it and feared it, and man accepted it but he was unfaithful to it, surely he was unjust and ignorant" (XXXIII - 72).
As regards the recognition of God's providence. there are several degrees of knowledge. The mere physicist is like an ant - who, crawling on a sheet of paper, and observing black letters being written by a pen, should attribute the cause to the pen alone. The astronomer is like an ant of somewhat wider vision who would catch sight of the fingers moving the pen, i.e. he knows that the elements are under the power of the stars, but he does not know that the stars are under the power of angels. Thus owing to the different degrees of perception in men, disputes must arise in tracing effects to cause. Those whose eyes never see beyond the world of phenomena are like those who mistake servants for the master. The laws of phenomena must be constant, or there could be no such thing as science. But it is a great error to mistake the servants for the master.
A Lustrous Pearl
As long as this difference in the perceptive faculty of observers exists, disputes must necessarily continue. It is as if some blind men, hearing that an elephant has come to their town, should go and examine it. The only knowledge of it which they can obtain comes through the sense of touch, so one handles the animal's leg, another his tusk, another his ear, and according to their perceptions, declare it to be a column, a thick pole, or a quilt, each taking a part for the whole. Similarly the physicist and astronomer confound the laws they perceive with the lawgiver. A similar mistake is attributed to Abraham in the Koran, where he turned successively to stars, moon and sun as the objects of his worship. Grown aware of Him who made all these, he exclaimed:
ÞÇá áÇ ÃÍÈ ÇáÂÝáíä I love not those that set" (VI-76) .
We have a common instance of this attribution to second causes which ought to be attributed to the First Cause in the case of so-called illness. For instance, if a man ceases to take any interest in worldly matters, conceives a distaste for common pleasure, and appears sunk in depression, the doctor will say: "This is a case of melancholy and requires such and such a prescription." The physicist will say: "This is a dryness of the brain caused by hot weather and cannot be relieved till the air becomes moist." The astrologer will attribute it to some particular conjunction or opposition of planets. "Thus far their knowledge reaches," says the Koran (in Arabic. Ðáß ãÈáÛåã ãä ÇáÚáã It does not occur to them that what has really happened is this that the Almighty God has a concern for the welfare of that man, and has, therefore, commanded His servants, the planets or the elements to produce such a condition in him that he may turn away from the world to his Maker. The knowledge of this fact, declares the Muslim saint, is a lustrous pearl from the ocean of inspirational knowledge, to which all other forms of knowledge are like islands in the sea.
The doctor, physicist, and astrologer are no doubt right, each in his particular branch of knowledge, but they do not see that sickness is, so to speak, a cord of love by which God draws to Himself the Saints.
Similarly, common folk are right when they exclaim, as they often do, that "God is the Great." Most of them, however, understand this exclamation to mean that God is greater than creation. But when we consider that creation is God's manifestation just as light manifests the sun, we will see that it is not correct to say that the sun is greater than its own light. So the exclamation "God is Greater" rather means the God's greatness measurably transcends our cognitive faculties, and that we can only form a very dim and imperfect idea of it. If a child asks us to explain to him the pleasure which exists in wielding sovereignty, we may say it is like the pleasure he feels in playing bat and ball, though in reality the two have nothing in common except that they both come under the category of pleasure. Moreover, such imperfect knowledge of God as we can attain is not a mere speculative knowledge, but must be accompanied by devotion and worship.
The Seed of Happiness
When a man dies he has to do with God alone, and if we have to live with a person, our happiness entirely depends upon the degree of affection we feel towards him. Love is the seed of happiness, and love to God is fostered and developed by worship. Such worship and constant remembrance of God imply a certain degree of austerity and curbing of bodily appetites. Not that a man is intended altogether to abolish these, for then the human race would altogether perish. But strict limits must be set to their indulgence, and as man is not the best judge in his own case as to what these limits should be, he had better consult some spiritual guide on the subject. Such spiritual guides are the Prophets, and the laws laid down by them under divine inspiration which prescribe the limits to be strictly observed in these matters, without being transgressed, as the Koran puts it :
æ ãä íÊÚÏ ÍÏæÏ Çááå ÝÞÏ Ùáã äÝÓå.
"He whoever goes beyond the limits of Allah, he indeed does injustice to himself" (LVI-1).
And again we read in the Koran:
Êáß ÍÏæÏ Çááå æ ãä íØÚ Çááå æ ÑÓæáå íÏÎáå ÌäÇÊ ÊÌÑí ãä ÊÍÊåÇ ÇáÃäåÇÑ.
"These are God's limits and he who does not exceed them but obeys God His Apostle, God will cause him to enter Paradise to abide in it" (IV - 13).
Notwithstanding this clear pronouncement of the Koran there are those, who, through their ignorance of God, do transgrees these limits, and this ignorance may due to several different causes. First, there are some persons, who failing to find God by observation, conclude that there is no God, and that this world of wonders has made itself, or existed from everlasting. They are like a man who, seeing a beautifully written letter, should suppose that it had written itself without a writer, and had always existed.
Some through ignorance of the real nature of the soul repudiate the doctrine of a future life, in which man will be called to account and will be rewarded or punished according to his good or bad deeds. They regard themselves as no better than animals or vegetables, and equally perishable. Some, on the other hand, believe in God and a future life, but with a weak belief. They say to themselves that "God is great and independent us. Our worship or abstinence from worship is a matter of indifference to Him." Their state of mind is of like certain that of a sick man who, having been prescribed a train regime by his doctor, should say: "Well if I follow it or do not follow it, what does it matter to the doctor." It certainly does not matter to the doctor, but the patient may destroy himself by his disobedience. Just as surely an unchecked sickness of body ends in bodily death, so does uncured diseases of the soul end in future misery, according to the Divine message in the Koran :
ÅáÇ ãä ÃÊì Çááå ÈÞáÈ Óáíã.
"Only those shall be saved who come to God with a sound heart" (not with a heart contaminated with sin) (XVI - 89).
A fourth kind of unbelievers are those who say: "The law commands us to abstain from anger, lust and bodily passions. This is quite impossible, for man is created with these qualities inherent in him.” These people ignore the fact that the law does not require us to uproot these passions altogether but to restrain them within due limits, so that by avoiding the greater sins we may obtain God's forgiveness of the small ones. Even the Prophet said in an instance; "I am a man like you, and I get angry sometimes but I am apt to subdue my anger." In the Koran we find that God tells us:
æ ÇáßÇÙãíä ÇáÛíÙ æ ÇáÚÇÝíä Úä ÇáäÇÓ
He loves those who restrain their anger" (not those who have no anger at all) (III -34).
Another kind of people lay stress on the beneficence of God while they ignore His justice. They say to themselves: "Well, whatever we commit, God will pardon us because He is Merciful." They do not consider that though God is Merciful, thousands of human beings perish miserably in hunger and disease. They know that whosoever wishes for a livelihood, or for wealth or learning, would never get it by merely saying "God is Merciful", but he must exert himself as well.
Although the Koran states:
æ ãÇ ãä ÏÇÈÉ Ýí ÇáÃÑÖ ÅáÇ Úáì Çááå ÑÒÞåÇ.
"Every living creature's sustenance comes from God" (VI - 11).
it is also written in the Koran:
æ Åä áíÓ ááÅäÓÇä ÅáÇ ãÇ íÓÚì
"Man obtain nothing except by striving" (XXXIX - 53).
Indeed, it is the devil that spreads his teachings among those people, and really they do speak with their lips, and not with their hearts.
It is hoped that it is now made clear how by contemplation of his own being and attributes man arrives at some knowledge of God. He who does not master his appetites does not deserve the name of a man, and a true believer in God is he who cheerfully acknowledges the obligations imposed upon him by the law. But he who endeavours on whatever pretext to ignore these obligations or fails to put them into practice must not expect to acquire any true knowledge of God.
3- The Knowledge of This World
This world is a stage or market-place passed by pilgrims on their way to the next. It is here that they are to supply themselves with provision for the way, or, to put it plainly, it is here that man acquires by the use of his bodily senses some knowledge of the works of God, and, through them, of God Himself, the sight of Whom will constitute his future attitude. It is for the acquirement of this knowledge that the spirit of man has descended in this world of water and clay. As long as his senses remain with him he is said to be "in this word," when they depart, and when only his essential attributes remain, he is said to have gone to "the next world."
The Soul of the Body
While man is in this world, two things are necessary for him : First, the protection and nurture of his soul; secondly, the care and nurture of his body. The proper nourishment of the soul is the knowledge and love of God, and to be absorbed in the love of anything but God, is the ruin of the soul. The body, so to speak, is simply the riding-animal of the soul and perishes while the soul endures. The soul should take care of the body, just as a pilgrim on his way to Mecca takes care of his camel; but if the pilgrim spends his whole time in feeding and adorning his camel, the caravan will leave him behind, and he will miss the performance of the pilgrimage. Man's bodily needs are simple being comprised under three headings, namely food, clothing and a dwelling-place; but the bodily desires which are implanted in him with a view to procuring them are apt to rebel against reason which is of later growth than they. Accordingly as we see in the foregoing, they require to be curbed and restrained by the divine laws promulgated by God's Messengers.
Considering the world with which we have for a time to do, we find it essentially divided into three departments : animal, vegetable and mineral. The products of all three are continually needed by man and have given rise to some principal occupations: those of the cultivators, the weaver, the builder and the worker in metals. These, again, have many subordinate branches, such as tailors, masons, smiths, carpenters, glaziers, etc. None can be quite independent of others; this gives rise in various business connections, and relations, and these too frequently afford occasions for
hatred, envy, jealousy and other maladies of the soul. Hence come some quarrels and strives, and the need of political and civil government and knowledge of law.
The Three Necessities
Thus the occupations and business of the world have become more and more complicated and troublesome, chiefly owing to the fact that men have forgotten that their real necessities are only three : clothing, food and shelter, and that those exist only with the object of making the body a fit vehicle for the soul in its journey to the next world. They have fallen into the same mistake as the pilgrim to Mecca mentioned above, who, forgetting the object of his pilgrimage and himself, should spend his whole time in feeding and adorning his camel. Unless a man maintains the strictest watch, he is certain to be fascinated and entangled by the world.
The deceitful character of the world comes out in the following ways: In the first place, it pretends that it will always remain with you, while, as a matter of fact, it is slipping away from you, moment by moment, and bidding you farewell, like a shadow which seems stationary, but is actually always moving. Again the world presents itself under the guise of a radiant but immoral sorceress; it pretends to be in love with you; it fondles you and then goes off to your enemies, leaving you to die of chagrin and despair.
Those who have indulged themselves without limit in the pleasures of the world, will, at the time of death, be like a man who has gorged himself to repletion on delicious viands and then vomits them up. The deliciousness is gone, but the disgrace remains. The greater the abundance of the possessions which they have enjoyed in the shap of gardens, castles, male and female servants, gold, silver, etc., the more keenly will they feel the bitterness of parting from them. This is bitterness which will outlast death, for the soul which has contracted covetousness as a fixed habit will necessarily in the next world suffer from the pangs of unsatisfied desire.
Another dangerous property of worldly things is that they at first appear as mere trifles, but each of those so-called "trifles" branches out into countless ramifications until they swallow up the whole of a man's time and energy.
It is reported that Jesus Christ (upon whom be peace) said, "The Lover of the world is like a man drinking sea-water, the more he drinks, the more thirsty he gets, till at last he perishes with thirst unquenched." The Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) said, "You can no more mix with the lust of the world without being contaminated by it than you can go into water without getting wet."
Likeness of The World
The world is like a table spread for successive relays of guests who come and go. There are various dishes, abundance of food and perfumes. The wise guest eats as much as is sufficient for him, smells the perfumes, thanks his host and departs. The foolish guest, on the other hand, tries to carry off some of the gold and silver dishes, only to find them stretched out of his hands and himself thrust forth, disappointed and disgraced.
We may close these illustrations of the deceitfulness of the world with the following short parable: Suppose a ship is to arrive at a certain well-wooded island. The captain of the ship tells the passengers that he will stop a few hours there, and that they can go on shore or a short time, but warns them not to remain there too long. Accordingly the passengers disembark and stroll in different direction. The wisest, however, return after a short time, and finding the ship empty, choose the most comfortable place in it. A second band of the passengers spend a somewhat longer time on the island, admiring the foliage of the trees and listening to the songs of birds. Coming back on board, they find the best places in ship already occupied, and have thereby to content themselves with the less comfortable ones. A third party wander still farther, and, finding some brilliantly coloured stones, carry them back to the ship. Their lateness in coming on board compels them to stow themselves away in the lower parts of the ship, where they find their loads of stones, which by this time have lost all their brilliancy, very much in their way. The last group go so far in their wanderings that they get quite out of reach of the captain's voice calling them to come on board, so that at last he has to sail away without them. They wander about in a hopeless conditions and finally either perish with hunger or fall a prey to wild beasts.
The first group represents the faithful who keep aloof from the fascinations of the world altogether, and the last group the infidels who care only for this world and nothing for the next. The two intermediate classes are those who preserve their faith, but entangle themselves more or less with the vanities of things present.
Although we have said so much against the world it must be remembered that there are certain things in the world which are not really of it, such as knowledge and good deeds. A man carries what knowledge he possesses with him into the next world, and, though his good deeds have passed, the effect of them remains in his character. Especially is this the case with acts of devotion, which result in the perpetual remembrance and love of God. These are among "those good things" which, as the Koran says:
ãÇ ÚäÏßã íäÝÐ æ ãÇ ÚäÏ Çááå ÈÇÞ æ áäÌÒíä ÇáÐíä ÕÈÑæÇ ÃÌÑåã ÈÃÍÓä ãÇ ßÇäæÇ íÚãáæä.
"What is with you passes away and what is with God is enduring; and We will most surely give to those who were patient their reward according to the best of what they earned." (XVI-96).
Other good things are there in the world, such as marriage, food, clothing, etc., which a wise man uses just in proportion as they help him to attain in safety to the next world. Other things which engross the mind, causing it to cleave to this world and to be careless of the next, are purely evil and were alluded to by the Prophet Muhammad when he said:
"The world is but a vanity fair and all occupation in it are mere vanity except when they do not hinder a man from remembering God and worshipping Him, and doing good deeds."
4- The Knowledge of The Next World
All believers in the scriptures of God are sufficiently informed as regards the joys of heaven and the pains of hell which will follow this life. But according to the saints there is also a spiritual heaven and hell. They believe that in the heart of the righteous or the enlightened man there is a window opening on the realities of the spiritual world through which he is apt to know, not by hearsay or traditional belief, but by actual experience, what produces wretchedness or happiness in the soul, just as clearly and decidedly as the physician knows what produces sickness or health in the body.
The effect of death on the composite nature of man is illustrated by the Muslim saints as follows; Man has two souls, an animal soul and a spiritual soul, which latter is more or less of angelic nature. The seat of the animal soul is the heart, from which this soul issues like subtle vapour and pervades all the members of the body, giving the power of sight to the eye, the power of hearing to the ear, and to every member the faculty of performing its own appropriate functions. It may be compared to a lamp, carried about within a cottage, the light of which falls upon the walls wherever it goes. The heart is the wick of this lamp, and when the supply of oil is cut off for any reason the lamp is sure to die. Such is the death of the animal soul. With the spiritual or human soul, the case is different. It is indivisible and by it man knows God. As it were, it is the rider of the animal soul, and when that perishes it still remains but like a horseman who has been dismounted, or like a hunter who has lost his weapons. That steed and those weapons were granted to the human soul that by means of them it might pursue and capture the love and knowledge of God. If it has effected that capture, it is not a grief but rather a relief to be able to lay those weapons aside, and to dismount from that weary steed. Therefore, all saints consider death as a welcome gift of God to His lovers. But alas! for that soul which loses its steed and hunting-weapons before it has captured the prize ! Its misery and regret will be indescribable.
Further consideration will show how clearly distinct the human soul is from the body and its members. Limb after limb may be paralysed and cease working but the individuality of the soul is unimpaired. Again, the body which we have now is no longer the body which we had when young, but entirely different, yet our personality now is identical with our personality then. It is, therefore, easy to conceive of it as persisting when the body is done with altogether along with its essential attributes which were independent of the body, such as the knowledge and love of God. But if, instead of carrying away with us knowledge and love, we depart in ignorance of God, this ignorance is also an essential attribute and will abide as darkness of soul and seed of misery. Therefore, the Koran teaches the godly Muslims that:
"He who is blind in this life will be blind in the next life and will be still more astray from the path of happiness (XVII - 72).
æ ãä ßÇä Ýí åÐå ÃÚãì Ýåæ Ýí ÇáÂÎÑÉ ÃÚãì æ ÃÖá ÓÈíáÇ.
The reason of the human spirit seeking to return to the upper world is that its origin was from thence, and that it is of celestial origin. It was sent down into this lower sphere against its will to experience devotion of God and acquire divine love through worshipping Him; and doing good deeds and avoiding evil ones and depart to receive its reward with the righteous. This is clearly taught from the Koranic verse which may be rendered in the following terms :
ÞáäÇ ÇåÈØæÇ ãäåÇ ÌãíÚÇð ÝÃãÇ íÃÊíäßã ãäí åÏì Ýãä ÇÊÈÚ åÏÇí ÝáÇ ÎæÝ Úáíåã æ áÇ åã íÍÒäæä .
"Go down (Adam and Eve) from hence, all of you (your posterity), there will come to you true guidance from Me, and they who will follow My guidance need not fear nor shall they be grieved" (II-58).
The conception is that as just as the health of the animal soul consists in the equilibrium of its component parts, and this equilibrium is restored, when impaired, by appropriate medicine, so the health of the human soul consists in a moral equilibrium which is maintained and repaired, when necessary, by ethical instruction and moral precepts.
As already pointed out, the human soul is essentially independent of the body. Some people, however, have supposed that the human soul is annihilated after death and then restored, but this is contrary both to reason and to the word of God as revealed in the Holy Book. The former shows us that death does not destroy the essential individuality of man, and the Koran teaches us that "those who are killed while defending the religion of God are not dead, but still alive, rejoicing in the presence of their Lord and in the grace bestowed on them." Not a word is said in the law about any of the dead, good or bad, being annihilated. Nay, the Prophet is said to have questioned the spirits of those who were killed among the infidels in battle against the early Muslim, as to whether they have found the punishments with which God had threatened them, real or not. When the followers of the Prophet asked him what was the good of his questioning them who were dead, he replied. "They hear my words better than you do."
On the other had. the pains which souls suffer after death all have their source in excessive love of the world. The messengers of God warned that sinners, after death, will be tormented by so many snakes; some simple-minded men have examined the graves of the sinners and wondered at failing to see these snakes. They do not understand that the tormenting snakes have their abode within the unbeliever’s spirit, and that they existed in him even before he died , for they were but his own evil qualities symbolised, such as jealousy, hatred, hypocrisy, from excessive love of the world.
Every sinner thus carries with him into the world beyond death the instruments of his own punishment, and on the Koran it is stated:
æÅä Ìåäã áãÍíØÉ ÈÇáßÇÝÑíä
That is : “Hell surely surrounds the infidel (IX-49)” It does not state that hell will surround them, for it surround them, even now.
Some people may object and say: “If such is the case, then who can escape hell, and who is not more or less bound to the world by various ties of affection and interest? To this we answer that the verse simply refers to the state of the infidels who have no faith in God and who disregarded His injunctions bending altogether on the fascination of this world. As to the faithful and doers of good, the Koran says to the prophet:
" æÈÔÑ ÇáÐíä ÂãäæÇ æÚãáæÇ ÇáÕÇáÍÇÊ Ãä áåã ÌäÇÊ ÊÌÑí ãä ÊÍÊåÇ ÇáÃäåÇÑ"
“Give good tidings to the faithful who do what is right that they shall inherit gardens beneath which rivers flow” (II—23)
Many people profess to love God, but a man can easily test himself by watching which way the balance of his affection inclines when the commands of God come into collision with some of his ambitions and desires. Any profession of love to God which is not confirmed by obedience to Him is simply false.
Kinds of Spiritual Hell
We have seen above that one kind of spiritual hell is the forcible separation by death from worldly things to which the heart cleaved too fondly. Another kind is that of shame, when a man awakes up to see the nature of the bad actions he committed in their naked reality.
A third spiritual hell is that of disappointment and failure to reach the real objects of existence. Man was intended to mirror forth the light of the knowledge of God, but if he arrives in the next world with his soul thickly coated with the rust of sensual indulgence he will entirely fail to acquire the object for which he was created.
Suppose a man in passing with some companions through a dark wood. Here and there, glimmering on the ground, lie various coloured stones. His companions collect and carry these and advise him to do the same “ For,” say they, “we have heard that these stone will fetch a high price in the place whether we are going.” He, on the other hand, laughs at them and calls them fools for loading themselves in the vain hope of gain, while he walks free and unencumbered. Presently they emerge into the full daylight and find that these coloured stones are rubies, emeralds and other jewels of priceless value. The man’s disappointment and chagrin at not having gathered some when so easily within his reach may be more easily imagined than described. Such will be the remorse of those, hereafter, who, while passing through this world to the next, have been at no pains to acquire the jewels of virtue and the treasures of good deeds.
Many people, however, having no fixed convictions about the future world, when mastered by their sensual appetite, deny it altogether. They say that hell is merely an invention of theologians to frighten people, and they regard theologians themselves with thinly veiled contempt. To argue with men of this kind of thinking is of very little use. Thus much, however, may be said to such a man with the possible result of making him pause and reflect. Suppose you are about to eat food and some one tells you a serpent has spat venom on it, you would probably refrain and rather endure the pangs of hunger than eat it, though your informant may be in jest or lying. Or if an astrologer tells you, when the moon has entered a certain constellation, drink such and such a medicine, and you will recover; though you may have very little faith in astrology, you very likely would try the experiment on the chance that he might be right. And do you not think that reliance is as well placed on the words of all the Prophets, saints and holy men and hundred of millions of wise men, convinced as they were of a future life, as on the promise of a charm-writer or an astrologer? People take perilous voyages in ships for the sake of merely probable profit, and will you not suffer a little pain of abstinence now for the sake of eternal joy hereafter?
From all that we have said it follows that man’s chief business in this world is to prepare for the next. Even if he is doubtful about a future existence, reason suggests that he should act as if there were one, considering the tremendous issues at stake. Peace be on those who follow the true guidance !
5- The three Stages of Man’s Development
The Holy Koran has dealt fully with three conditions of man, namely the physical, the moral and the spiritual. It observes this division by fixing three respective sources for this threefold condition of man. It mentions three springs out of which these three conditions flow. The first of them is termed the “Nafs-il-ammara”, which signifies the uncontrollable soul or the soul prone to lust and evil. Thus the Koran says: “The soul is prone to evil” (12:53) Åä ÇáäÝÓ áÃãÇÑÉ ÈÇáÓæÁ i.e. it is the characteristic of the (primitive) soul that it inclines man to evil doings or tends to lead him into iniquitous and immoral paths. In short, man’s primitive nature is prone to transgression at a certain age in his development, and so long as he is devoid of high moral qualities, the evil nature is predominant in him. He is subject to this state so long as he does not walk in the light of true wisdom and knowledge but acts in obedience to the natural inclinations, like the lower animals.
As soon, however, as he frees himself from the control of animal passions and is guided by wisdom and knowledge, he holds the reins of his natural desires and governs them instead of being governed by them; when a transformation is worked in his soul from grossness to virtue, he then passes the physical stage and becomes a moral being in the strict sense of the word. The source of the moral conditions of man is called the “Nafs-il-lawwama”, or the self-accusing soul (conscience), in the terminology of the Koran. In the Koranic Chapter entitled “Al Qiyama” or the Resurrection we read (75:2)
"æ áÇ ÃÞÓã ÈÇáäÝÓ ÇááæÇãÉ" i.e. And I swear by the soul that blames itself, (on every dereliction of duty, being conscience of having offended). This is the spring from which flows a highly moral life and, on reaching this stage, man is freed from bestiality. The swearing by the self-accusing soul indicates the regard in which it is held. For, the change from the disobedient to the self-accusing soul, being a sure sign of its improvement and purification, makes it deserving of approbation in the sight of God. The “nafs-il-lawwama” or the self-accusing soul is so called because it upbraids a man for the doing of an evil deed and strongly hates unbridled passions and bestial appetites. Its tendency on the other hand, is to generate noble qualities and a virtuous disposition, to transform life so as to bring the whole course and conduct of it to moderation, and to restrain and carnal passions and sensual desires so as to keep them within due bounds. Although the self-accusing soul upbraids itself for its faults and frailties, yet it is not the master of its passions, nor is it powerful enough to practice virtue exclusively. The weakness of the flesh has the upper hand sometimes and then it stumbles and falls down. Its weakness then resembles that of a child who does not like to fall but whose infirm legs are sometimes unable to support him. But it does not persist in its fault, every failure bringing only fresh reproach to the mind. In short, at this stage the soul is anxious to attain to moral excellence and revolts against disobedience which is the characteristic of the first, or the animal stage, but does, notwithstanding its yearning for virtue, sometimes deviates from the straight path, the path of God.
The third or the last stage in the outward movement of the soul is reached on attaining to the source of all spiritual qualities. The soul at this stage is, in the word of the Holy Koran; the “Nafs-il-Mutmainna, or the soul at rest
"íÇ ÃíÊåÇ ÇáäÝÓ ÇáãØãÆäÉ ÃÑÌÚí Åáì ÑÈß ÑÇÖíÉ ãÑÖíÉ ÝÇÏÎáí Ýí ÚÈÇÏí æ ÇÏÎáí ÌäÊí"
“O Thou soul that art at rest! Return to thy Lord well pleased (with him), well pleasing (Him). So enter among my (beloved) servants; and enter into my paradise.” (LXXXIX-30).
At this stage the soul is freed from all weaknesses and frailties and is braced with spiritual power. The guidance of the soul at rest with its Lord is in the Koran’s teaching:
“He who purifies his soul (of the carnal passions) is entitled to success while he who indulges into a degrading passion is entitled to failure” (XCI).
In short, these three stages of the soul may be called the physical, the moral and the spiritual. Of these, the physical state, that in which man seeks to satisfy the passions of the flesh, is most dangerous when the passions run riot, for it is then that they deal a death-blow to the moral and spiritual states of man, and hence this state has been termed as that attended with failure, in the Word of God.
Teachings of the Koran as to the Physical state of man.
According to the Muslim Scriptures, the physical condition of man is closely connected with his moral and spiritual qualities. If, therefore, his natural desires are subjected to the directions of the Law, they take the form of moral qualities and deeply affect the spiritual state of the soul. It is for this reason that in all forms of devotion and prayer and in all the injunctions relating to internal purity and moral rectitude the greatest stress has been laid upon external purity and cleanliness and on the proper attitudes of the body. The relation between the physical and spiritual natures of man would become evident on a careful consideration of the actions of the outward organs and the effect they produce upon the internal nature of man. Weeping whether artificial at once suddens the heart while an artificial laugh makes it cheerful. Likewise a prostration of the body, as is done in Muslim prayer causes the soul to humble itself and adore the Creator; whereas strutting produces vanity and vainglory. These examples sufficiently illustrate the effect of bodily postures as enjoined upon Muslims when fulfilling their fixed daily prayers upon the spiritual state of man. On the other hand there is not the least doubt that food plays an important part in the formation of character. It is with this greater law in view that the Holy
Koran says : (7:29) "ßáæÇ æ ÇÔÑÈæÇ æ áÇ ÊÓÑÝæÇ" i.e. “Eat (meat as other food) but do not give way to excess (in any particular form of diet so that your character and health may not suffer from it).(VII-29)
The physical side of man’s life being of such great importance even to the soul, the true Word of God cannot be silent on the point. The Holy Koran has, therefore, applied itself abundantly to the reformation of the physical state of man’s life. It gives us the most valuable and minute directions on all matters of importance with which man is concerned. All his movements, the manner of the satisfaction of all his requirements, his family, social and general connections, health and sickness, are all regulated by rules and it is shown how external order and purity have their effect upon the spiritual state of man.
A close study of the Koranic injunctions and directions relating to the reformation of the external life of man and his gradual advancement from savageness to civilization until he reaches the highest pinnacle of a spiritual life, reveals the following all-wise method: In the first place Almighty God has been pleased to lead him from out of darkness and raise him up from a savage state by teaching him the rules relating to his ordinary daily actions and modes of social life. Thus it begins at the lowest point of man’s development and, first of all drawing a line of distinction between man and the lower animals, teaches him the rules of morality which may pass under the name of sociality. Next, it undertakes to improve upon low degree of morality already required by bringing the habits of man to moderation, thus turning them into sublime morals.
We pass now to the third stage of advancement when man altogether forgets himself in the love of God and in doing His will and when his whole life is only for the sake of his Master. It is to this stage that the name Islam alludes, for it signifies total resignation to the commands and service of God and total forgetfulness of selfishness. Thus says the Holy Koran:
" Èáì ãä ÃÓáã äÝÓå ááå æ åæ ãÍÓä Ýáå ÃÌÑå ÚäÏ ÑÈå æ áÇ ÎæÝ Úáíåã æ áÇ åã íÍÒäæä "
(Nay! Whoever submits himself entirely to God and he is the doer of good he will get his reward with his Lord, on such there is no fear nor shall they grieve). (II-112)
And again the Koran says:
" Þá Ãä ÕáÇÊí æ äÓßí æ ãÍíÇí æ ããÇÊí ááå ÑÈ ÇáÚÇáãíä áÇ ÔÑíß áå æ ÈÐáß ÃãÑÊ æÃäÇ Ãæá ÇáãÓáãíä"
(Say my prayers and my devoutness and my life and my death all are devoted to Allah the Lord of the Universe who has no partner. Thus I am commanded and I am the first to submit to the commandment). (V-163)
" æÅä åÐÇ ÕÑÇØí ãÓÊÞíãÇð ÝÇÊÈÚæå æ áÇ ÊÊÈÚæÇ ÇáÓÈá ÝÊÝÑÞ Èßã Úä ÓÈíáå"
(God said) “ This is my way, leading straight : Follow it : Follow not other ways, least they should scatter you about from His straight Path. Thus God commands you, that you may be righteous ” (VI-63)
And again we read in the Koran :
" Þá Åä ßäÊã ÊÍÈæä Çááå ÝÇÊÈÚæäí íÍÈÈßã Çááå æ íÛÝÑ áßã ÐäæÈßã æ Çááå ÛÝæÑ ÑÍíã "
“ Say (to them) “ If we do love Allah come and follow me; then will God love you and forgive you your former sins, and He is surely Forgiving and Merciful.” (III-29)
Now we shall deal with the three states of life one after another. As already stated, there are three sources which give rise to the threefold nature of man, viz.: the disobedient soul, the self-accusing soul and the soul at rest or the contented soul.
Our Prophet Muhammad was raised at a time when the whole world had sunk to the lowest depths of degradation. The threefold reformation of man was therefore, destined to be brought about at this period by means of the Holy Koran. It is this reason that the Holy Book claims to be a perfect guidance to mankind as to it alone was given the opportunity to work a reformation complete on all sides. The Koran was, therefore, sent to bring life to the dead as it says:
"ÙåÑ ÇáÝÓÇÏ Ýí ÇáÈÑ æ ÇáÈÍÑ"
i.e. “Both land and water have become corrupt.” (XXX-41)
The Koran also says :
" ÃÚáãæÇ Ãä Çááå íÍí ÇáÃÑÖ ÈÚÏ ãæÊåÇ "
“Know it for certain that God is now going to restore life to the earth which had been dead." (LVII-17)
Utter darkness and barbarism at that time prevailed over the whole of Arabia. No social laws were observed; and the most despicable deeds were openly committed. An unlimited number of wives was taken, and all prohibited attitudes were made lawful. Rapine and incest raged supreme and not infrequently mothers were taken for wives.
Now the Koran had a grand aim before it. It had to reclaim mankind from savagery and to make them men; then to teach them simple morals and make them good men, and last of all, to take them to the highest pinnacles of advancement and make them godly. The Holy Book gives excellent instructions on these three aspects. It does not inculcate doctrines which are against the reason of man and which therefore one has to follow against one’s better judgment.
The whole drift of the Holy book and the substance of its teachings is the threefold reformation of man and all other directions are simply means to the end. All its moral teachings, precepts and doctrines have an all-pervading purpose beneath them which consists in transforming men from the physical state which is imbued with a tinge of savageness into the moral state and from the moral into the boundless deep of the spiritual state.
To attain to the desired end of the highest spiritual advancement, the Holy Koran has taught us two means for it, viz: complete resignation to the will of God, which is known by the name of Islam, by leading a life guided and fostered by the injunctions and ordinances of God and the traditions of the Prophet; and striving our best to recollect and love our Creator and Subtenant, the Almighty God. Meantime, we must make constant self-examination to find out if we are trodding on the right path or not.
6- Self Examination The Recollection and Love of God
The saints have conceived that men have come into this world to carry on a spiritual traffic, the resulting gain or loss of which is heaven or hell. They have always kept a jealous eye upon the flesh which, like a treacherous partner in business, may cause them great loss. He, therefore is really a wise man who, after his morning prayers, spends a whole hour in making a spiritual reckoning, and says to himself, “O my soul, thou hast only one life, no single moment that has passed can be recovered, for in the counsel of God the number of breaths allotted thee is fixed, and cannot be increased. When, life is over no further spiritual traffic is possible for thee therefore what thou doest, do now, just treat this day as if the life had been already spent, and this were an extra day granted thee by the special favour of the Almighty. What can be greater folly than to lose it?”
It was a saying of the Caliph Omar, “Call yourselves to account before ye be called to account.”
The Saints relate that at the resurrection a man will find all the hours of his life arranged like a long series of treasure-chests. The door of one will be opened, and it will be seen to the full of light. It represents an hour which he spent in doing good. The door of a second will be opened, it is pitch-dark within, it represents an hour which he spent in doing evil. The door of a third treasure-chest will be opened, it will be seen to be empty and neither light nor dark within, this represents the hour in which he did neither good nor evil. Then he will fell remorse and confusion like that of a man who has been the possessor of a great treasure and wasted it or let it slip from his grasp. Thus the whole series of the hour of his life will be displayed, one by one, to his gaze. Therefore a man should say to his soul every morning. “God has given thee twenty-four treasures, take heed lest thou should lose any one of them, for thou will not be able to endure the regret that will follow such loss.”
Muslim Saint have said, “Even suppose God should forgive thee, after a wasted life, thou will not attain to the ranks of the righteous and must deplore by loss. Therefore, keep a strict watch over thy tongue, thine eye, and each of thy various organs for each of these is, as it were, a possible gate to misery in the hereafter. Say to thy flesh, “If thou art rebellious, verily I will punish thee”, for though the flesh is headstrong, it is capable of receiving instruction, and can be tamed by austerity.
Such, then, is the aim of self-examination, and the Arabian Prophet has taught that “Happy is he who does now that which will benefit his human soul after death.”
The Recollection of God
We come now to the recollection of God. This consists in a man’s remembering that God observes all his acts and thoughts. People only see the outward, while God sees both the outer and the inner man. He who really believes this will have both his outer and inner being well disciplined. If he disbelieves it he is an infidel, and if, while believing it, he acts contrary to that belief, he is guilty of the grossest presumption.
A certain Muslim guide had a disciple whom he favoured above his other disciples, thus exacting their envy. One day the guide gave each of them a fowl and told each to go and kill it in a place where no one could see him. Accordingly, each killed his fowl in some retired spot and brought it back, with the exception of the guide’s favourite disciple, who brought his fowl back alive, saying, “ I have found no place, for God sees everywhere.” The guide said to the others, “ You see now this youth’s rank, he has attained to the constant remembrance of God.”
In the Muslim spiritual literature we read the following story told by Abdullah Ibn Dinar, one of the most intelligent disciples of the Arabian Prophet. He said, “Once I was walking with the Caliph Omar near Mecca when we met a shepherd’s slave-boy driving his flock. Omar said to him. “Sell me a sheep.” The boy answered, “ They are not mine, but my master’s”. then to try him, Omar said, “ Well you can tell him that a wolf carried one off, and he will know nothing about it.” “No, he won’t,” said the boy, “but God will.” Omar was so pleased with the boy’s remark that he sent for the boy’s master, purchased him and set him free, exclaiming, “For this saying thou art free in this world and shall be saved in the next.”
Therefore, he is a wise man who keeps constant watch not only on his own actions but also on his own thoughts, which are likely to end in action. Rightly to discriminate among such thoughts is rather a difficult and delicate matter, and requires a special training, and he who is not capable of it should attach himself to some spiritual guide, intercourse with whom may illuminate his heart.
The Prophet Muhammad said:
“ God loves that man who is keen to discern in doubtful things, and who suffers not his reason to be swayed by the assaults of passion.” Reason and discrimination are closely connected and he in whom reason does not rule passion will not be keen to discriminate.
Besides such cautious discrimination before acting, a man should call himself strictly to account for his past actions. Every evening he should examine his heart as to what he has done to see whether he has gained or lost in his spiritual capital. This is the more necessary as the heart is sometimes like a treacherous business partner, always ready to cajole and deceive sometimes it presents its own selfishness under the guise of obedience to God, so that a man supposes he has gained; whereas he has really lost.
The Love of God
The love of God is the highest of all topics, and is the final aim to which this work has been tending hitherto. Human perfection consists in this that the love of God should conquer a man’s heart and possess it wholly, and even if it does not possess it wholly it should predominate in the heart over the love of all other things. Nevertheless, rightly to understand the love of God is so difficult a matter that one sect of philosophers have altogether denied that man can love a being who is not of his own species, and they have defined the love of God as consisting merely in obedience to Him. But this is not true. All Muslims are agreed that the love of God is a duty. In the Muslim literature it is related that when the angel of death came to take the soul of Abraham the latter said, “Have you ever seen a friend take his friend’s life? ” God answered him, “Have you ever seen a friend unwilling to see his friend? Then Abraham said to the angel, “Come and be quick to take my soul.” The following prayer was taught by the Arabian Prophet to his followers.
“ O God, grant me to love Thee and to love those who love thee, and what soever brings me nearer to thy love, and make thy love dearer to me than cold water to the thirsty traveller in the desert.” A Muslim used to say, “ He who knows God naturally loves him and he who knows the deceitful world certainly hates it.”
We come now to treat of love in its essential nature, according to the spiritual Muslim conception. Love may be defined as an inclination to that which is pleasant. This is apparent in the case of the five senses each of which may be said to love that which give it delight; thus the eye loves beautiful forms, the ear music, etc. This is a kind of love we share with the animals. But there is a sixth sense of faculty of perception, implanted in the heart, which lower animals do not possess, through which we become aware of spiritual beauty and excellence. Thus a man who is only acquainted with sensuous delights cannot understand what the Prophet meant when he declared that “ he loved prayer more than any pleasant and beautiful thing.” But he whose inner eye is opened to behold the beauty and perfection of God will despise all outward sights in comparison, however fair and excellent they may be.
Man will say that beauty resides in red and white complexion well—proportioned limbs, and so forth, but he will be blind to moral beauty, such as men refer to when they speak of such and such a man as possessing a beautiful character.
It is for this reason that we love the righteous, the Saints and the Godly, because the love of such men really means the love of God.
The causes of love are several. One of them is this, that man loves himself and the perfection of his own nature. This leads him directly to the love of God, for man’s very existence and man’s attributes are nothing else but the gift of God, for whose grace and kindness man would never have emerged from behind the curtain of non-existence into the visible world. Mans preservation and eventual attainment to perfection are also entirely dependent upon the grace of God. It would be a wonder, if one should take refuge from the heart of the sun under the shadow of a tree and not be grateful to the tree, without which there should be no shadow at all. Precisely in the same way, were it not for God, man would have no existence nor attributes at all., wherefore then, should he not love God, unless he be ignorant of Him ? Doubtless fools cannot love Him, for the love of Him springs directly from the knowledge of Him, and whence should a fool have knowledge?
A second cause of this love is that man loves his benefactor, and in truth his only benefactor is God, for whatever kindness, he receives from any fellow creature is due to the immediate instigation of God. Whatever motive may have prompted the kindness he receives from another, God is the Agent who set that motive to work.
The third cause is the love that is aroused by contemplation of the attributes of God. His power and wisdom, of which human power and wisdom are but the feeblest reflections. This love is akin to the love that we feel towards the great and wise men of the past, through we never expect to derive personal benefit from them, and is therefore a more disinterested kind of love.
God said to Prophet David, “ That servant is dearest to Me who does not seek Me from fear of punishment or hope of reward, but to pay the debt due to Me Deity.” And in the Psalms it is written, “ Who is more selfish than he who worships Me from fear of hell or hope of heaven? If I had created neither, should I not then have deserved to be worshipped?”
The fourth cause of this love is the affinity which does exist between man and God as referred to in the saying of the Holy Prophet “Verily God created man in his likeness.” This is a somewhat dangerous topic to dwell upon, as it is beyond the conception of common people, and even intelligent men have stumbled in treating of it, and come to believe in incarnation and union with Go. Still, the affinity which does exist between man and God disposes of the objection of those philosophers mentioned above, who maintain that man cannot love a being who is not of his own species. However great the distance between them, man can love God because of that affinity indicated in the saying of the Holy Prophet that “God created man in His own likeness.”
The Vision of God
All believers in God profess to believe that the vision of Him is the summit of human felicity, though with many this a mere lip-profession which arouses no emotion in their hearts. But with the godly the matter is quite different. To these the vision of God is really the greatest happiness at which a man can attain. Every one of man’s faculties has its appropriate function which it delights to fulfill. This holds good of them all, from the lowest bodily appetite to the highest form of intellectual apprehension. But even a comparatively low level of mental exertion afford greater pleasure than the satisfaction of bodily appetites. Thus, if a man happens to be absorbed in a game of chess, he will not come to his meal, though repeatedly summoned. And the higher the subject-matter of our knowledge, the greater is our delight in it, for instance, we should take more pleasure in knowing the secrets of a king than the secrets of a minister. Seeing then that God is the highest possible object of knowledge the Knowledge, of Him must afford more delight than any other.
But the delight of knowledge still falls short of the delight of vision, just as our pleasure in thinking of those we love is much less than the pleasure afforded by the actual sight of them. Our imprisonment in bodies of clay and water, and our entanglement in things of sense constitute a veil which hides the Vision of God from us, although it does not prevent our attaining to some knowledge of Him. For this reason, God is reported to have said to Moses on Mount Sinai: “ Thou shalt not see Me.” ( that is, so long as Moses was imprisoned in his bodily form).
The truth of the matter is this, that, just as the seed of man becomes a man, and a buried date-stone becomes a palm-tree, so the knowledge of God acquired in this world will in the next world change into the Vision of God, and he who has never learnt the knowledge will never have the Vision. This Vision will not be shared alike by all who know, but their discernment of it will vary exactly as their knowledge. God is one, but he will be seen in many different ways, just as one object is reflected in different forms by different mirrors, some showing it straight and some distorted, some clearly and some dimly. A mirror may be so crooked as to make even a beautiful form appear misshapen, and a man may carry into the next world a heart so dark and distorted that the sight which will be a source of peace and joy to others will be to him a source of misery. He in whose heart the love of God has prevailed over all else will certainly derive more joy from this vision than he in whose heart it has not so prevailed, just as in the case of two men with equally powerful eyesight, gazing on a beautiful face, he who already loves the possessor of the face will rejoice in beholding it more than he who does not. For perfect happiness mere knowledge is not enough, unaccompanied by love, and the love of the love of God cannot take possession of a man’s heart till it be purified from the love of the world, which purification can only be effected by abstinence, righteousness, austerity and obedience to the Law.
The signs of the Love of God
Many claim to love God, but each should examine himself as to the genuineness of the love which he professes. The first test is this. He should not dislike the thought of death, for no lover shrinks from going to see his own beloved. The Prophet said, “ Who ever wishes to see God, God wishes to see him.” It is true a sincere lover of God may shrink from the thought of death coming before he has finished his preparation for the next world, but if he is really sincere, he will be diligent in making such preparation.
The second test of sincerity is that a man should be willing to sacrifice his will to God’s, should cleave to what brings him nearer to God and should shun what places him at a distance from God. The fact of a man’ sinning is no proof that he does not love Him with his whole heart. A saint said to a certain man “ If any one asks you whether you love God, keep silent, for if you say, I do not love Him,” you are an infidel, and if you say, “ I do,” your evil deeds contradict you.”
A third test is that the remembrance of God should always remain fresh in a man’s heart without effort; for what a man loves he constantly remembers, and if his love is perfect he never forgets it. It is possible, however, that while the love of God does not take the first place in man’s heart, the love of the love of God may, of love is one thing and the love of the love another.
A fourth test is that he will love all men who love God and who obey Him; if his love is really too strong; he will be merciful and kind to every human being without distinction, nay his love will embrace the whole creation, it being the direct work of his Beloved. With regard to the unjust, the sinners, the unbelievers, who are non the less the creation of God, the lover of Him will ever be anxious to see them turn righteous, just, obedient and faithful. Although he may dislike them, such dislikeness will not extend to their persons but will be consecrated to their evil actions and irreligious deeds. Because among the tests of the love of God is that the lovers of God will love those who obey Him.
Now let us our illustrations of the spiritual guide’s views of the treasures of happiness by quoting my own saint guide.
“ The next world is the world of spirit and of the manifestation of the beauty of God, happy is that man who has aimed at and acquired affinity with it. All abstinence, devotions, worship, and true knowledge have the acquirement of that affinity for their aim, and that affinity is love, while sins and lusts oppose that affinity. In the Koran, the saints main Scripture of God, one reads:
ÞÏ ÇÝáÍ ãä ÒßÇåÇ æ ÞÏ ÎÇÈ ãä ÏÓÇåÇ . (91:9-10)
that is: “He who has purified his soul is happy and he who has corrupted it is miserable.”
Those who are gifted with spiritual insight have really grasped this truth as a fact of experience, and not a merely traditional maxim. Their clear perception of it leads them to the conviction that he by whom it was revealed was a Prophet indeed, just as a man who has studied medicine knows when he is listening to a physician. This is a kind of certainty which requires no support from miracles such as the conversion of a rod into a snake, the credit of which may be shaken by apparently equally extraordinary miracles performed by magicians.
I hope in my humble endeavour to acquaint my readers with a specimen of the Islamic Spiritual culture I have done something which they would really enjoy.
END OF VOLUME II