Spiritual Journey – The Islamic Way

27 SPIRITUAL JOURNEY – THE ISLAMIC WAY (Ata.ul Mujeeb Rashed) The spiritual journey Is a life-long journey. Various stages of progress and development during the course of this journey may be described as achievements but the fact is that the ultimate destination and goal of this journey is never to be achieved in its totality. There is always a stage beyond the highest point of achievement and there is always a peak higher than that we set our feet upon. This has to be like that for the simple reason that in this spiritual journey we travel and ascend towards God Whose infinite Being is, strictly speaking, beyond human comprehension. The Holy Quran says: Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Incomprehensible, the All-Aware. (6:104) Man discovers God according to his own limited knowledge and ability and along with the increase in his faculties of understanding God, his realisation of God goes on attaining higher stages. This point is well-epitomised in the Holy Quran. It says: Every day He reveals Himself in a different state. (55:30) Apart from the depth of this topic of spirituality, the subject is so delicate that it is absolutely futile to attempt to describe it without a real and personal experience in this field. If the essence of spirituality is to know God and to actually attain nearness to the Creator and Maker, then, undoubtedly, it can be described by someone who has gone through all this experience and who can speak with the authority of personal experience and conviction. According to Islam, the example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is the best in every respect. He not only attained the highest possible heights of spirituality but also became a means to attaining all types of spiritual, favours from God Almighty. A unique manifestation of this is to be seen in the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Anmad, the Imam Mahdi and the Promised Messiah, the Founder of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam (1835-1908) who enjoyed the singular distinction of being the most humble and the most devoted servant of the Holy Prophet of Islam in this age. 28 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Having received the Divine Favours and Blessings, he enlightened the world with the deep insight and experience bestowed upon him, in the field of spirituality. He wrote more than 80 books expounding the Islamic teachings on various complicated issues. One of his world-famous books is The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam in which he discusses the various states and stages of spiritual life and their relevance to human life. He has stated that, according to Islam, there are three states and stages of one’s spiritual journey: Firstly: NAFSE AMMARAH (the self that incites to evil) Secondly: NAFSE LAWWAMAH (the reproving self) Thirdly: NAFSE MUTMAINNAH (the soul at rest) Explaining the first stage, he says: It is characteristic of the human self that it incites man to evil and is opposed to his attainment of perfection and to his moral state, and urges him towards undesirable and evil ways. Thus the propensity towards evil and intemperance is a human state which predominates over the mind of a person before he enters upon the moral state. This is man’s natural state, so long as he is not guided by reason and understanding but follows his natural bent in eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, anger and provocation, like the animals. When a person is guided by reason and understanding and brings his natural state under control and regulates it in a proper manner, that state ceases to be his natural state and is called his moral state. Elaborating on this moral state i.e. the second stage of spirituality, he says: This reproving self is the second source of human state from which the moral state is generated. At this stage man ceases to resemble the animals. It is so called as it reproves man on vice and is not reconciled to man’s submitting to his natural desires and leading an unbridled existence like the animals. It desires that man should be in a good state and should practise good morals, and no kind of intemperance- should be manifested in any aspect of human life, and natural emotions and desires should be regulated by reason. As it reproves every vicious movement, it is called the reproving self. Though it reproves itself in respect of vices, yet it is not fully effective in practising virtue and occasionally it is dominated by natural emotions, when it stumbles and falls. It is like a weak child who does not wish to stumble and fall but does so out of weakness, and is then remorseful over his infirmity. In short, this is the moral state of REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 29 human self when it seeks to comprehend within itself high moral qualities and is disgusted with disobedience, but cannot achieve complete success. How does one progress from the second stage to the third stage? He says: 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 foraperiod and when the appointed time comes a light descends upon him at night or during the day which possesses divine power. 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. What happens next? Describing this third arid the final stage of this spiritual journey, he says: This is the stage when the soul of a person being delivered from all weakness is filled with spiritual power and establishes a relationship with God Almighty without Whose support it cannot exist. As water flowing downfrom a height, on account of its volume and the absence of any obstruction, rushes with great force, in the same way the soul at rest flows towards God. That isindicated by the divine direction to the soul that has found comfort in God to return to its Lord. It undergoes a great transformation in this very life and is bestowed a paradise while still in this world. According to Islam, this heavenly life is not something to be achieved only in the life hereafter. It can and should be attained in this very life to make a basis for complete and fuller attainment of this in the life to come. Hazrat Ahmad throws light on this phenomenon and further explains the third stage of spirituality in the following passage: 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 centered 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. Other people look forward to paradise in the hereafter, but he enters it in this very life. Arriving at this stage a person realizes that the worship that was 30 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 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 after life. 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. The mutual relationship of these stages of spirituality is explained as follows: According to the Holy Quran the natural state of man has^a very strong relationship with his moral and^piritual states, so much so that even a person’s manner of eating and drinking affects his moral and spiritual states. If the natural state of a person is subjected to the control of the directions of divine law it becomes his moral state and deeply affects his spirituality, as is said that whatever falls into a salt mine is converted into salt. That is why the Holy Quran has laid stress on physical cleanliness and postures,’ and their regulation in relation to all worship and inner purity and spiritual humility. Reflection confirms that physical conditions deeply affect the soul. For instance, when our eyes are filled with tears, even if the tears are artificially induced, the heart is immediately affected and becomes sorrowful. In the same way, when we begin to laugh, even if the laughter is artificially induced, the heart begins to feel cheerful. It has also been observed that physical prostration in prayer induces humility in the soul. .As a contrast when we draw ourselves up physically and strut about with our neck raised and our breast pushed forward, this attitude induces a mood of arrogance and vain glory. These instances establish clearly that physical conditions certainly affect spiritual conditions. REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 31 Moreover, he says: The Holy Word of God has classified man’s natural faculties and •desires and urges as natural conditions. These, when they are consciously regulated and controlled and are brought into action on •their proper occasions and places, become moral qualities. In the same way, moral conditions are not entirely distinct from spiritual conditions.. When moral conditions develop absolute devotion to God and complete purification of self .and cutting asunder from the world, turn wholly to God and’fo perfect love and complete devotion and full serenity and satisfaction and complete accord with the divine will, they become spiritual conditions. . The most important question is: How to attain these stages of spirituality? The answer is not missing in the book of Hazrat Ahmad. He writes: 1. Spirituality can be achieved only through the use of every moral quality in its proper place and on its proper occasion, and through treading faithfully upon the ways of’God and through being wholly devoted to Him. He who becomes truly God’s cannot exist without Him. A true seeker after God is like :a fish sacrificed by the hand of God and its water is the love of God. -2. 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 appointed a straight path and the purpose can be achieved any 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 hy following our self-appointed ways. The doors which can only be opened by His powerful hands will not yield to our logic and (continued on page 48)

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