The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam – Part 9No Comments | September 2011
The third question is: What are spiritual conditions? We have already stated that according to the Holy Qur’an the fountainhead of spiritual conditions is the soul at rest, which carries a person from the grade of a moral being to the grade of a godly being, as Allah, the Glorious, has said:
That O soul that has found its rest in God, return to thy Lord, thou well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee. So enter among My chosen servants and enter My Garden.1 It should be remembered that the highest spiritual condition of a person in this life is that he should find comfort in God and all his satisfaction, and ecstasy and delight should be centred in God. This is the condition which is called the heavenly life. In this condition a person is bestowed the heavenly life in this very world in return for his perfect sincerity, purity and faithfulness.2 Other people look forward to paradise in the hereafter, but he enters it in this very life. Arriving at this stage a person realises that the worship that was prescribed for him is in truth the food that nurtures his soul, and on which his spiritual life largely depends, and that its consummation is not postponed to the afterlife. All the reproof that the reproving self administers to him on his unclean life and yet fails to rouse fully his longing for virtue and to generate real disgust against his evil desires, and to bestow full power of adherence to virtue, is transformed by this urge which is the beginning of the development of the soul at rest. On arriving at this stage a person becomes capable of achieving complete prosperity. All the passions of self begin to wither and a strengthening breeze begins to blow upon the soul so that the person concerned looks upon his previous weaknesses with remorse. At that time nature and habits experience a complete transformation and the person is drawn far away from his previous condition. He is washed and cleansed and God inscribes love of virtue upon his heart and casts out from it the impurity of vice with His own hand. The forces of truth all enter the citadel of his heart and righteousness occupies all the battlements of his nature, and truth becomes victorious and falsehood lays down its arms and is put to flight. The hand of God is placed over his heart and he takes every step under the shade of God. God Almighty has indicated all this in the following verses:
That these are they in whose hearts Allah has inscribed faith with His own hand and whom He has helped with the Holy Spirit. Allah has endeared faith to you and has made it to seem fair to your hearts, and He has made you averse to disbelief, wickedness and disobedience and impressed upon your hearts the viciousness of evil ways. All this has come about through the Grace and Favour of Allah. Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.3 Truth has arrived and falsehood has vanished, falsehood is bound to disappear.4 All this pertains to the spiritual condition which a person attains at the third stage. No one can acquire true insight unless he arrives at this condition. God’s inscribing faith on their hearts with His own hand and helping them with the Holy Spirit means that no one can achieve true purity and righteousness unless he receives heavenly help. At the stage of the reproving self a person’s condition is that he repents time after time and yet falls down and often despairs and considers his condition beyond remedy. He remains in this situation for a period and when the appointed time comes a light during the day. With the descent of that light he undergoes a wonderful change and he perceives the control of a hidden hand, and beholds a wonderful world. At that time he realises that God exists and his eyes are filled with a light which they did not possess before. How shall we discover that path and how shall we acquire that light?
Be it known that in this world every effect has a cause and behind every move there is a mover. For the acquisition of every type of knowledge there is appointed a way that is called the straight path. Nothing can be achieved in this world without conformity to the rules that nature has appointed in that behalf from the very beginning. The law of nature informs us that for the achievement of each purpose there is an appointed and straight path and the purpose can be achieved only by following that path. For instance, if we are sitting in a dark room, the straight path for obtaining the light of the sun is for us to open the window that faces the sun. When we do that, the light of the sun instantly enters the room and illumines it. Thus it is obvious that for the acquisition of God’s Love and real Grace there must be some window, and there must be an appointed method for the acquisition of pure spirituality. Then we should see the straight path that leads to spirituality as we seek a straight path for the achievement of all our other purposes. That method is not that we should seek to meet God only through the exercise of our reason and by following our self-appointed ways. The doors which can only be opened by His powerful hands will not yield to our logic and philosophy. We cannot find the Ever-Living and Self-Subsisting God through our own devices. The only straight path for the achievement of this purpose is that we should first devote our lives, together with all our faculties, to the cause of God Almighty, and should then occupy ourselves with supplication for meeting Him, and should thus find God through God Himself.
An Excellent Prayer
The most excellent prayer which instructs us concerning the time and occasion of supplication and depicts before us the picture of spiritual zeal is the one that God, the Beneficent, has taught us in the opening chapter of the Holy Qur’an. It is as follows:
All worthiness of praise belongs to Allah alone Who is the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds.5 He provides for us out of His mercy before any action proceeds from us, and after we have acted He rewards our action out of His mercy.6 He alone is the Master of the Day of Judgement and has not committed that day to anyone else.7 O Thou Who dost comprehend all these attributes, we worship Thee alone and seek Thy help in all our affairs.8 The use of the plural pronoun in this context indicates that all our faculties are occupied in His worship and are prostrate at His threshold. Every person by virtue of his inner-faculties is a multiple entity and the prostration of all his faculties before God is the condition that is called Islam. Guide us along Thy straight path and establish us firmly on it; the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy bounties and favours,9 and not of those who have incurred Thy wrath, nor of those who went astray and did not reach Thee.10 Amin. These verses tell us that Divine bounties and favours are bestowed only upon those who offer up their lives as a sacrifice in the cause of God, and devoting themselves wholly to it and being occupied entirely with His pleasure continue to supplicate so that they might be bestowed all the spiritual bounties that a human being can receive by way of nearness to God, meeting Him and hearing His words. With this supplication they worship God through all their faculties, eschew sin and remain prostrate at His threshold. They safeguard themselves against all vice and shun the ways of God’s wrath. As they seek God with high resolve and perfect sincerity, they find Him and are given to drink their fill of their understanding of God. The true and perfect grace that conveys a person to the spiritual world depends upon steadfastness, by which is meant that degree of sincerity and faithfulness which cannot be shaken by any trial. It means a strong relationship with the Divine which a sword cannot cut asunder and fire cannot consume, nor can any other calamity damage it. The death of dear ones or separation from them should not interfere with it, nor should fear of dishonour affect it, nor should a painful death move the heart away from it in the least degree. Thus this door is very narrow and this path is very hard. Alas how difficult it is! This is indicated by Almighty God in the following verse:
That tell them: If your fathers, and your sons, and your brethren, and your wives, and your kinsfolk, and the wealth that you have acquired, and the trade the dullness of which you apprehend, and the dwellings that you fancy, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His cause, then wait until Allah declares His judgement. Allah guides not the disobedient people.11 This verse clearly shows that those people who put aside the will of God and give preference to their relatives and their properties whom they love more, are evil-doers in the estimation of God and that they would surely be ruined because they preferred something else to God. This is the third stage in which that person becomes godly. Such a person welcomes thousands of calamities for the sake of God, and leans towards Him with such sincerity and devotion as if he has no one related to him except God, and all others have died. The truth is that till we submit ourselves to death we cannot behold the Living God. The day our physical life undergoes death is the day of the manifestation of God. We are blind until we become blind to the sight of all besides God. We are dead till we become like a corpse in the hand of God. It is only when we face God completely that we acquire the steadfastness that overcomes all passions of self, and that steadfastness brings about the death of the life that is devoted to selfish purposes. This is described in the verse that means that God requires that we should offer ourselves to be sacrificed in His cause.12 We shall achieve steadfastness when all our faculties and powers are devoted to His cause and our life and our death are all for His sake, as He has said:
That proclaim, O Prophet: My prayer and my sacrifices and my living and my dying are all for the sake of Allah.13
When a person’s love of God reaches a stage at which his living and his dying is not for his own sake but is entirely for God, then God, Who has always loved those who love Him, bestows His love upon him and by the meeting of these two loves a light is generated inside the person which the world cannot recognise or understand. Thousands of the righteous and the elect had to lay down their lives because the world did not recognise them. They were accounted selfish and deceitful as the world could not see their bright countenances, as is said:
That those who deny you do look at you, yet they do not see you.14 In short, from the day when that light is generated in a person, he ceases to be earthly and becomes heavenly. He Who is the Master of all beings speaks inside him and manifests the light of His Godhead and makes his heart, which is saturated with His love, His throne. As soon as such a one becomes a new person through His bright transformation, God becomes a new God for him and manifests new ways
for him. It is not that God becomes another God, or that those ways are different from His ways, and yet they are distinct from His normal ways, of which worldly philosophy is not aware. He becomes one of those who are referred to in the verse:
That there are those people of high degree who dedicate themselves wholly to seeking the pleasure of Allah in return for their lives. These are the people towards whom Allah is Most Compassionate.15 Thus he who arrives at the stage of spiritual life becomes wholly devoted to the cause of Allah. In this verse, God Almighty sets forth that only such a one is delivered from all suffering who sells his life in the cause of Allah in return for His pleasure and proves his devotion by laying down his life. He considers that he has been brought into being for obedience to his Creator and for service of his fellow beings. He performs all the virtues which are related to every one of his faculties with such eagerness and sincerity as if he beholds his True Beloved in the mirror of his obedience. His will is identified with the Will of God and all his delight is centred in his obedience to God. Righteous conduct proceeds from him not as labour but as delight and pleasure. This is the paradise that is bestowed upon a spiritual person in this very life. The paradise that will be bestowed in the hereafter would be a reflection of this paradise which will, through Divine power, be manifested physically. This is referred to in the following verses:
That for him who fears to stand before his Lord and is in awe of His Greatness and Majesty, there are two gardens, one in this world and the other in the hereafter.16 Those who are wholly devoted to God will be given a drink that will purify their hearts and their thoughts and their designs.17 The virtuous shall be given a drink which is tempered with camphor, from a spring wherefrom the servants of Allah drink. They cause it to gush forth through their own efforts.18,19,20,21
Continues in the next edition
1. And you, O soul at peace! Return to your Lord well pleased with Him and He well pleased with you. So enter you among My chosen servants, and enter you My Garden. (Ch.89:Vs.28-31)
2. …These are they in whose hearts Allah has inscribed true faith and whom He has strengthened with inspiration from Himself… (Ch.58:V.23).
3. …and [He] has made it look beautiful to your hearts, and He has made disbelief, wickedness and disobedience hateful to you. Such indeed are
those who follow the right course, Through the grace and favour of Allah. And Allah is All-Knowing, Wise (Ch.49:Vs.8-9).
4. …‘Truth has come and falsehood has vanished away. Falsehood does indeed vanish away fast.’ (Ch.17:V.82).
5. In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds (Ch.1:Vs.1-2).
6. The Gracious, the Merciful (Ch.1:V.3).
7. Master of the Day of Judgement (Ch.1:V.4).
8. You alone do we worship and You alone do we implore for help (Ch.1:V.5).
9. Guide us in the right path—The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your blessings (Ch.1:V.6).
10. Those who have not incurred Your displeasure, and those who have not gone astray (Ch.1:V.7)
11. Say, if your fathers, and your sons, and your brethren, and your wives, and your kinsfolk, and the wealth you have acquired, and the trade whose dullness you fear, and the dwellings which you love are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His cause, then wait until Allah comes with His judgment; and Allah guides not the disobedient people (Ch.9:V.24).
12. Nay, whoever submits himself completely to Allah, and is the doer of good… Ch.2:V.113).
13. Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds (Ch.6:V.163).
14. …Looking towards you, but they see not (Ch.7:V.199).
15. And of men there is he who would sell himself to seek the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is Compassionate to His servants (Ch.2:V.208).
16. But for him who fears to stand before his Lord there are two Gardens (Ch.55:V.47).
17. …And their Lord will give them to drink a pure beverage (Ch.76:V.22).
18. But the virtuous drink of a cup, tempered with camphor—A spring wherefrom the servants of Allah drink. They make it gush forth—a forceful gushing forth (Ch.76:Vs.6-7).
19. And therein will they be given to drink a cup tempered with ginger, From a spring therein named Salsabil (Ch.76:Vs18-19).
20. Verily, We have prepared for the disbelievers chains and iron-collars and a blazing Fire (Ch.76:V.5).
21. But whoso is blind in this world will be blind in the Hereafter, and even more astray from the way (Ch.17:V.73).