Islam Doctrines on Equality, Realism, Wisdom and Mysticism (7)

Islam Doctrines on Equality, Realism, Wisdom and Mysticism (7)

The Difference in Means of Expression between Islamic and other Mysticisms

The delicate and refined expressions of Islamic mystical doctrine in contrast to the formulation of other mysticisms, and especially to that of the Indians, has the advantage of elucidating mystical verities within the wrapping of formulations of a more general nature. Hence, everyone is able to profit from them, each in the measure of his understanding. Other mystical ways do not possess this distinction. It is for this same reason that Islam has been saved from the harmful results, which have affected other religions, by presenting mystical truths openly and unambiguously.

For example, in the case of Indian mysticism, if we study the Upanishads carefully, we will see that the doctrine presented there is a precise and extremely profound expression of the Unity of God, but at the same time that it is so bold and explicit that anyone who refers to it who is not completely versed in mystical and metaphysical doctrine will consider its marvelously complete formulations as nothing but superstitious prattle, or at the very least he will interpret passages which express the Unity of God in the most sublime manner as being nothing but In carnationalism, Pantheism and idol worship.

This claim, moreover, is proved by the opinions which many orientalists who have specialized in Sanskrit have voiced concerning Indian mysticism; for after the tremendous amount of research which they have undertaken in the original Hindu and Buddhist texts they still consider Indian mystical doctrines as nothing but superstition, produced by the minds of men deprived of the advantages of life. And the basic reason for all such opinions on the part of orientalists is the explicitness and the shocking nature of the bold formulations of these texts.

Further Consideration of the Islamic Message

In the same way that God's creation has placed a particular kind of material life within the reach of mankind and has not discriminated among men but has equipped each of them with equal means, it has also placed the spiritual life, which is hidden behind the veil of material life, within the reach of all men. And in the same way that the perfection of the material life of man lies in the manifestation and actualization of all his positive and negative actions and deeds-which he performs by means of his body-so also creation has extended the perfection of the spiritual life to include all of those actions and deeds.

In harmony with creation, Islam has considered the spiritual life to belong to all men and has made no distinction between them, and likewise it has extended the spiritual life to all the positive and negative aspects of men's lives. It invites men to accept the ties of social life and to act in a positive manner in traversing a determined path. In teaching this way it has had recourse to indications enclosed in the covering of normal and every-day expressions.

This is because our verbal formulations are in case born of the thoughts of the generality of men. We use them in our social and material life in order to facilitate mutual understanding, and by means of them we exchange thoughts and mental concepts. Now mystical and contemplative comprehension, which is rarer than the elixir of life and which throughout history has never found general acceptance, is something completely different from normal human expression.

The person who wants to formulate into concepts the knowledge gained through intuitive and mystical comprehension is like the person who tries to describe by means of words the colors of the rainbow to one blind from birth. And, the person who puts contemplative and mystical insights into the mold of words is exactly like the person who carries water from place to place with a sieve. It is for this reason that Islam has had recourse to symbols and intimations in expressing mystical truths, and has thus remained untouched by the misfortunes that have overtaken other religions.

A Brief Consideration of the Spiritual Path

It may possibly be imagined that the claim that Islam has expounded the mystical way by means of intimations and symbols is unfounded and amounts to chasing false ghosts. However, sufficient meditation upon Islamic teachings and formulations, and a weighing of these against the agitated and ecstatic states of the Islamic mystics, will prove the opposite and will show that hidden within themselves and by allusion these teachings elucidate all of the stages of perfection which are traversed on the mystical way, although a true and detailed comprehension of these states is only possible through mystical intuition.

The travelers on the spiritual path, who as a result of their natural and primordial readiness have surrendered their hearts to the infinite Beauty and Perfection of the Truth, worship Allah only out of love, not out of hope for reward or fear of punishment, for to worship Him in order to gain Paradise or to avoid hell is in fact to worship that very reward and punishment in place of God.

As a result of the divine attraction which has engulfed their hearts, and more particularly as a result of having seen that God has revealed the verse "Therefore remember Me, I will remember you"(1) and hundreds of other Quranic verses where the remembrance of God is spoken of, wherever and in whatever state they happen to be the mystic travelers are occupied with His remembrance: *Such as remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining."(2)

And when they hear the messages of the Beloved, "Lo! in the heavens and the earth are portents for believers".(3) "And there is not a thing by hymneth His praise",(4) and "And whither so ever ye turn, there is Allah's countenance",(5) they understand that all existent things are mirrors, each displaying the unique Beauty of the Truth in accordance with the possibilities of its own being. Other than their quality of being mirrors they have no existence in themselves. Hence, such men look to every phenomenon with love and eagerness and have no object other than to contemplate the Beauty of God.

And when they hear God's messages "O ye who believe! Ye have charge of your own souls. He who erreth cannot injure you if you are rightly guided (6) and "Thou, verily, O man, art working towards thy Lord a work which thou wilt meet (in His presence)".(7) They understand that by the nature of creation itself, they are bound within the framework of their own souls, and other than the way of their souls there is no road open to them to reach God. Whatever they see or find in the expansiveness of the world they see and find in themselves. It is here that man understands that in fact he is cut off from all places and things and other than he himself and his God there is no one else.

Even if such a person is in the midst of a hundred thousand people he is alone, and if others see him in the midst of a crowd, he sees himself in a spiritual retreat far away from everyone else, no one being with him but God. It is then that he looks at himself and sees all things within himself, and he understands that he himself is also only a mirror in which the unique Beauty of God is manifested, and that he has nothing but God.

When he has remembered Allah in this fashion and has cleansed his heart and emptied it of vanity and frivolity, the remembrance of God becomes firmly fixed within his soul and he enters among the ranks of the people of certainty (al-yaqin) and God's promise. "And serve thy Lord till the inevitable (al-yaqin) cometh unto thee"(8) is fulfilled. The doors of the kingdom of the heavens and the earth open to him and he sees that all things are possessed absolutely by God. "Thus did We show Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth that he might be of those possessing certainty."(9)

The person endowed with such a vision will behold the three stages of Divine Unity. First the Unity of God in His Acts will be revealed to him. He will see with certainty that it is God who directs the Universe and all that it contains, and that the innumerable causes and agents which are at work in the world, whether theirs be the activity of free will or of necessity, are all painted upon the canvass of creation by His all-powerful Hand. Cause and effect and the relationship between the two-each is brought into being and executed by the One. "And unto Allah belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth."(10)

Secondly the Unity of God's Names and Qualities will be disclosed to him and he will see without intermediary that every quality of perfection which appears in the world, and likewise every quality of beauty and of majesty, whether life, knowledge, power, might, grandeur or whatever, is a glimmer from the infinite Source of Light which is the Truth, and that these qualities shine forth through the variegated windows which are the existences of things with the distinctions they possess.

"Allah's are the fairest names.(11)
Finally in the third stage of Divine Unity he will behold that all of these varied qualities are the manifestations of an infinite Essence, and that in reality each of them is identical with every other and all are identical with the Essence Itself. "Say: Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, the Almighty."(12)

Continue in the next article: ( Islam Doctrines on Equality, Realism, Wisdom and Mysticism (8) )

NOTES:

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1. (The Holy Quran: II, 152)

2. (The Holy Quran: III, 191)

3. (The Holy Quran: XLV, 3)

4. (The Holy Quran: XVII, 44)

5. (The Holy Quran: II, 115)

6. (The Holy Quran: V, 105)

7. (The Holy Quran: LXXXIV, 6)

8. (The Holy Quran: XV, 99)

9. (The Holy Quran: VI, 76)

10. (The Holy Quran: XLV, 27)

11. (The Holy Quran: VII, 180)

12. (The Holy Quran: XIII, 16)