“The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea; And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.” --Khalil Gibran
This conversation is continuation to a series of conversations toward understanding Islam and Muslims. It is not a debating piece, but a reflective one. It is meant to clarify some of the confusion on Islamic beliefs. It is in response to the mocking question, freedom or submission, that is prevalent. In this conversation we are addressing surrender or submission from the angle of self-knowledge. We discussed the importance of embracing our vulnerability, mortality, self-deception and here we will discuss briefly the embedded knowledge in the heart.
The beginning of this conversation is 6a, 6b and 6c. This conversation on surrender will focus in on a few verses of the Qur'an. It is quite detailed and long and requires some thought and reflection. I will address civil questions at the end. The previous blogs on the Queen of Sheba are here: 5a and 5b.
(Qur’an al-Waqia: 80-86)
“A Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. Is it such a Message that ye would hold in light esteem? And have ye made it your livelihood that ye should declare it false? Then why do ye not (intervene) when (the soul of the dying man) reaches the throat,- And ye the while (sit) looking on,- But We are nearer to him than ye, and yet see not,- Then why do ye not,- If you are exempt from (future) account,- Call back the soul, if ye are true (in the claim of independence)?”
(Qur’an Ta-Ha: 14-16)
"Verily, I am Allah: There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only), and establish regular prayer for celebrating My praise. ”Verily the Hour is coming - My design is to keep it hidden - for every soul to receive its reward by the measure of its Endeavour. "Therefore let not such as believe not therein but follow their own lusts, divert thee therefrom, lest thou perish!"
Wazwaz: In previous blogs, I started the discussion on faith and guidance by following the journey of Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace. It can be read here. He, upon him be peace, came to the junction point that he did not know. Before he was guided, he was made to understand himself and his limited capabilities. He used his mind, but God exposes his internal reality behind those questions: “to satisfy the murmur in my heart.”
There was an embedded question in the depths of his heart. He was searching for truth, for conviction, for certainty within the deep depths of his heart, not the deep depths of the world out there to prove someone is lying, to prove something he does not want to investigate is false. In summary, he was using his mind, and not letting his mind use him to conjecture theories about a world beyond him guessing at the unknown.
Faith values reason and asks us to use our intelligence, aql. The aql, or intelligence, is a gift from God. However, faith asks people to be truth seekers, as what you seek and strive for internally influences what you receive and perceive in the world. We must value science, but it is a means to discovering the world around us and not an end within itself. It must also reconcile and be in harmony with the embedded knowledge of the heart. Each time a layer of darkness is removed from the heart, the knowledge embedded within is revealed to the eyes.
According to Islamic tradition, one of the evidences that God will use to judge each and everyone one of us, is our hearts. No one will be dealt with unjustly.
“And that which is (locked up) in (human) breasts is made manifest. That their Lord had been Well-acquainted with them, (even to) that Day?” (Qur'an 100:10-11)
Shaykh Qays: The story of Abraham, peace be upon him, is different from the story of the Queen of Sheba. Like the Queen, Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, is coming from a similar background, a world of idolatry. However, he was a prophet. Prophets are protected from certain things prior to being chosen by God being manifested. They are possessed of special intellects that are connected to their essential human nature (called fitra) and are illuminated by God’s special favor and grace. So Prophet Abraham knew to himself that worshipping things that people make in shops is wrong. He knew that was morally reprehensible.
According to Islamic teachings, shirk or polytheism is about self-worship. Gnostics have said that monotheism (tawhid) is distinguishing the Eternal (God) from the transient (creation). When creation worships anything other than God, it is a form of self-worship - the transient worshiping the transient. It is manifested in Pharaoh (whose story with Moses is the most oft-repeated in the Quran) when he declared he was God to people. Again, what you see is the denial of truth embedded in a desire for self-worship.
Pharaoh ordered his minister to build a massive structure (called a sarh) into the sky, so he can reach the depth of the heavens to discover how things work and to go to this God that Moses worships, because he thought Moses was lying. So he was telling people he was God, Most High, yet he wanted to unlock the secrets of the Universe to see if Moses was lying.
So we see this happening today particularly in the likes of Scientism’s high priests such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, the latter being both a genius and a testimony to the miracle of technology, and in undertakings like the CERN particle accelerator. Hawking, who is treated like a Shaykh or even a Prophet, now claims to know, with certainty, that the Universe created itself. The establishment that made Hawking into what he is - is building a massive sarh of their own to uncover the causes, to unlock the secrets of the Universe.
Like Pharaoh many are obsessed with figuring out how everything works, and also like Pharaoh they do not think that what the prophets said is true. They are full of doubt and conjecture concerning the certainties of life. And they propagate doubt and uncertainty as if it were truth because they can build wondrous things “that work”.
Delusion is very much present. Inventing the wheel doesn’t necessarily make you fit to determine its ethical usage; it just makes you a great inventor. But many people don’t see things that way, and after arriving at the conclusion that what the prophets said was wrong they then labor under the assumption that by striving to figure out how everything works, they can figure out what everything means.
With that Pharaoh-like mindset it is easy to proclaim one’s self one’s God. “I play by my own rules”, “I can determine what’s right and wrong for myself” - those are the types of slogans you hear from rejecters of revelation. In a sense while Pharaoh’s was a monotheist self-worship - everyone worships him. This approach is polytheistic - be your own goal, your own master, and your own god.
When such thinking becomes acceptable people start looking at submission in a particularly negative light. They see it as relegating oneself to insignificance, being humiliated and downtrodden. Submission or surrender, in reality is not about insignificance. It is about harmony with the truth, the way things really are. It is an attitude that says: I am significant because of what I indicate and what I indicate is infinitely more significant than anything else that exists, which is Allah.
When people stop short of that, the result is, I am significant in and of myself and I am the center of the universe and everything is indicating me - “I play by my own rules” - like Pharaoh. Others come to the conclusion that I am insignificant and I indicate nothing. They both agree on a common understanding, that there is no meaning to the existence of the human being. Some people say the meaning is unclear. Some say it is unknown. Some say meanings themselves are byproducts of mechanical processes in the brain. When seen in the light of revelation it is all conjecture.
Wazwaz: Does this impact Muslims though?
Shaykh Qays: People are being affected by this conjecture. You have people, even religious people or Muslims, who see no real meaning in their life beyond material pursuits. They fall into depression or try to kill themselves. In all the noise of conjecture they think God is there to help them become happy by ensuring that they are healthy, wealthy, and free in this world. They think material success what gives life substance and God is the means to get it, rather than seeing that God is the substance in life.
To get back to the main thought here, self-knowledge – is to see reality, to see meaning in existence, not merely to look for facts and causes then deny meaning. For example, man has this theory for the earth, and hundreds years later, another theory that refutes it. There is a truth that is higher. This is what faith is associated with. The Queen saw something of huge consequence in Solomon’s letter, and she responded in kind. In contrast the people in Mecca made it clear that they took it lightly by jesting and mocking.
Do this experiment. Go to YouTube and find videos by militant atheists and listen to 3-4 minutes and you will see the same pattern, this mocking, jesting. They, like stand-up comics, make witty, often irreverent, statements and people laugh - it’s a trend. It’s about using mockery to cover meaning.
In contrast, Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, looked for the truth and looked for meaning. In every soul – is embedded the knowledge, “Am I Not your Lord?” This is knowledge that finds expression as an innate disposition in people that God is there and we are His. So when signs are placed before us that bring us to that part of ourselves – some of us respond to it, like the Queen of Sheba, and some of us mock it, deny it or pretend we have better things to do.
Wazwaz: One of the criticisms that you see from – as you call them, militant atheists – is how religious people revere the Prophets, yet they revere Stephen Hawking in a similar manner. They use double standards toward Prophets of the Sacred Law versus people like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking or even Sam Harris.
Shaykh Qays: I really can’t comment about any man individually. I know very little about Hawking as a person. However, there is a book called “Science Set free” written by Rupert Sheldrake, a scientist. He is apparently quite an accomplished scientist with years of published, peer reviewed work to his credit. In his book he exposes the shocking level of institutional dogma in the scientific establishment. He speaks about how the establishment has become like a religious institution with things you do not question, and taboos.
I had earlier mentioned the tendency in some quarters to joke and mock everything that Religion deems sacred - some associate that irreverence with intelligence. But even that is a mask. Humans beings were created to believe with conviction and revere based on that conviction. I believe that is why once people deem the scientific method the gateway to all truth; they begin to revere figures like Hawking in the manner you described.
Rather than genuinely seeking the truth like Abraham, the truth is left aside for people who can enable their desire for self-reverence. May God, Most High, guide us and show us the way.
Wazwaz: Can you expand on the verses in Ta-Ha more, especially "for every soul to receive its reward by the measure of its Endeavour?" I heard Habib Hussein al-Saggaf say in one of his lessons that people find what they seek and strive for. So if someone wants and seeks greatness - he will find that. But being great is different than being on truth.
Shaykh Qays: The believer is one who has read the signs of God and heeded them. He strives to live in accordance with the illuminating teachings of revelation - to worship God, the Eternal, alone without partners which lead to self-discovery, fulfillment and eventual eternal bliss, not self-worship. In the absence of those teachings man’s entire scope becomes limited to the material world that is just like him and his significant God-given potential is confined to it. So his pursuits will seldom leave the realm of self-gratification and it will never extend to eternity for he believes only in the finite and thus doesn’t seek a relationship with anything beyond it. The matter is therefore as you have related from Habib al-Saggaf - the one who works only for the finite will receive that which he strove for. Yet I would like to draw attention to two aspects of this.
Firstly the matter of one’s eternal fate pertains to belief and disbelief or and not to group association. That is why I made it a point to speak of believers striving to live in accordance with revelation as opposed to just people for whom religion is a matter merely of identity.
The other important aspect is that turning away from belief in God and from the guidance of revelation is certain lead one down the road of self-aggrandizement and arrogance whereby one imagines oneself to be the center of the universe and proceeds to live that perception out resulting in doing things that are actually wrong and harmful to oneself and one’s eternal fate. One such evil lies in the pursuit of power and influence which can make people selfish and ruthless and Pharaoh-like. So when the verse in Sura Taha speaks about people getting that which they strove for it indicates that those who strove for good will find it and those who strove for evil likewise. That is with the understanding that doing good is only through faith and that evil is necessary a result of a lack of faith.
Elsewhere in the Quran, in chapter 47, verse 19 God says, “Have knowledge that there is no deity but God and seek forgiveness for your sin...” Scholars have explained that that command to “have knowledge” entails two things: learning and accepting the truth contained in revelation about the oneness of God and the ultimate good (in the next world) that is the result of that knowledge and acceptance, and seeking rectification and purification of one’s character and spirit through heeding the Divine command, being accountable to the command, and holding fast to repentance.
So those who act on the knowledge of revelation with acceptance seek a level moral of purification, if you will, that is based on absolute accountability beyond this world. The fruits of that purification should be apparent in this world and it is not to be found in intellectual exercises and philosophical discourse, but rather in traits like humility and submission to the Divine, and a keen awareness of one’s condition physical, mental, and spiritual in light of the standard of revelation.
That kind of awareness is not easy to attain, it requires seeking knowledge, practicing ritual worship with discipline and consistency, measuring one’s conduct by the standard of the prophets and saintly people, and turning to God constantly for help and forgiveness when, not if, one falls short. When someone rejects faith and revelation they reject that type of life in favor of one where they live by their own rules and within the confines of whatever they personally accept as knowledge.
So though that rejection may be cloaked in logical and intellectual arguments, the final result is still the same: an avoidance of the truth of the human being’s ultimate responsibility to actually be moral and be in accordance with the truth by a standard that is well beyond worldly interests and into the realm of eternal interests, accountability, and well-being. So in chapter 2, verse 282 we find “...fear God and God will teach you...” meaning that those one who submit to the limits in revelation will be taught by God and granted “light” a special type of knowledge that is based on the firm evidences and arguments of revelation - through which one will be able to distinguish truth from falsehood. And that we ask of God, the Mighty, the Able.
(To Be Continued...)