Reaching the Truth is possible only through contemplation. How can a person who is blind and deaf towards the glaring presence of Divine majesty find the straight path? It is not for nothing that it is said, “That which does not awaken feelings is not knowledge’”.
Allah, glory unto Him, describes the mindset of unbelievers who cannot find the truth as follows:
“Surely you do not make the dead to hear, and you do not make the deaf to hear the call when they go back retreating.” (Naml, 27:80)
A mind trained under Divine revelation, which assures security from coming under the grip of groundless fears, deliriums and desires, combined with an effort to emulate the heart thread of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, guides one to the true and good. The Prophet’s, upon him blessings and peace, all other miracles aside, just reflecting on his morals and life would suffice to convince one of his honesty and the goodness of everything to which he invited. As a result of this reflection and with Divine help, one is then saved from the clutches of the ego and the dead ends of reason.
The plight and remorse of those in Hellfire are depicted by Allah the Almighty as follows:
“And they shall cry therein for help: O our Lord ! Take us out; we will do good deeds other than those which we used to do. Did We not preserve you alive long enough, so that he who would be mindful in it should mind? And there came to you the one who warns; therefore taste; because for the unjust, there is no helper.” (Fatir, 35:37)
That is to say that human beings can reach the truth and eternal salvation by using their ability to contemplate and perceive in the direction of the Qur’an and Sunna, to which they are to submit their ego.
It is impossible for human beings to grasp the Essence of Allah, glory unto Him. The only means for knowledge open to humans are the five senses, as well as the reason and heart. Yet all their capabilities are limited. With limited means, there is simply no way of grasping the One who is Absolute, Primordial and Everlasting. Limited means only amounts to a limited understanding.
Engaging in activities that surpass human capacity, like thinking of Allah the Almighty’s Essence and seeking to solve the riddle and mystery of fate, has therefore been prohibited by the Qur’an and Sunna. Just as failing to contemplate Divine realities is an invitation for disaster, not knowing one’s place and plunging into thoughts that exceed mortal capability can also lead one down the path of destruction.
It is for that reason that the Blessed Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, says:
“Contemplate on Allah’s creation and blessings but do not think about His Essence; for you can never estimate His Might as befits Him.” (See, Daylami, II:56; Haythami, I:81; Bayhaki, Shuab, I:136)
The master Ibn ‘Arabi has said:
“Whatever thought may occur to your mind regarding Allah, He is other than that.”
Indeed, as taught by Islam and as has been mentioned, one of the essential attributes of Allah the Almighty is mukhalafatu’n-lil-hawadith, that is not to resemble anything of creation. While we ascribe to Him attributes like wise, just and many others that human beings also possess to a certain degree, this is secured from amounting to shirk, that is ascribing partners to Allah the Almighty, by virtue of our belief in Him being mukhalafatu’n-lil-hawadith.
In contrast to the impossibility of coming to an understanding of the essential reality of Allah, glory unto Him, it is indeed possible to come to an inner certainty of His Unity and Existence, based on the manifestations of His attributes in the universe and physical phenomena. That marks the boundaries of human perception, which like that of all other creation, is limited. And that is sufficient in Divine Sight to be accepted as a mu’min, a believer. Muslim scholars have for this reason often said, “The peak of knowledge is intimate knowledge of Allah.”
Human beings have an understanding that only enables them to move from the attribute to that which possesses that attribute, from the work to its creator, from the art to its artist and from the effect to its cause. By gazing at created beings, each of which is truly a work of art, human beings can come to an understanding of the majesty, splendour and mercy of Allah the Almighty, to the extent of their capacity. One may only take as much from the ocean that is the knowledge of Allah, as is allowed by the capacity of their bucket.
Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi says:
“A desire awakened in me one day to see the light of Allah upon human beings. It was as though I wanted to see the ocean in a drop, the sun in a speck.”
Reflecting on the attributes, acts and works of Allah the Almighty with a pure heart and sincere intention would make it inconceivable for anyone to be an unbeliever. Unbelief only begins when intellectual activity stops and the sensitive balance of the heart is disturbed. It is impossible for one, whose predisposition of mind and heart is still in tact, to be led to disbelief; and given he or she has opened his or her eyes in a world of unbelief, the likelihood of them being led out of it is very high. A good example of this is Ibrahim, upon him peace, who – despite being born into an environment in which idolatry reigned – ultimately acknowledged the existence and unity of Allah, glory unto Him, simply by virtue of his intellectual and inner capabilities; this is an account of which the Qur’an gives plenty of mention.
Unbelief is, therefore, impossible for one who can use their mind effectively. Claiming that something does not exist does not, in any way, settle a dispute. Strong proofs and clear evidences are required. What purpose does denying the existence of something serve when the mystery of life, death and the universe remains to be solved? This is just like the case of those who are unaware that they are suffering from excruciating hunger, simply because their bodies are too frail to feel it. Being in denial of their hunger in fact only shows just how grave their illness really is. Allah, glory unto Him, describes those who bring diseases upon their spirits without at all being aware of it:
“They are utterly deaf, dumb, and blind…”
Allah the Almighty has placed in the disposition of each human being both the need and the power to believe and the desire to search for the truth. Being oblivious to or detached from faith and the truth is therefore caused only by a spiritual blindness and deafness. Otherwise, the spirit of an unbeliever, too, is ready to understand or is at least at its threshold; but this feature of theirs is suppressed from rising to the surface by a spiritual impairment by which they are struck, just like the vague dreams one cannot remember after waking up.
The human spirit is naturally inclined to belief, a need that meets us at early childhood, like a hunger urgently waiting to be satisfied. A child who sees her father offer ritual prayer, for instance, does not ask any question pertaining to the details of ritual prayer. Instead, she tries to learn the greatness of Allah the Almighty; and upon trying to express this ‘greatness’ herself, she resorts to physical descriptions, as she is not yet able to understand it in abstract terms. She asks how many gods there are and are curious of what awaits her after she dies, she eagerly asks questions to find out what kind of places Heaven and Hell are. She finds herself in a relentless search, for no other reason than that spiritual hunger is embedded in her primordial nature. When this embedded aptitude rises to the surface, a person becomes a mu’min, a believer. When it is left confined deep within consciousness, just like an encaged bird, it makes a person a unbeliever. After long years in captivity, a bird forgets how to fly and cannot take flight, even if it were to be released, for its wings have become calcified. When the feeling of faith is held back from rising above consciousness, the ability to believe, too, in time, becomes blinded.
We must therefore seek to know Allah, glory unto Him, Who created us out of nothing, to the best of our potential and ability. To attain to wisdom and knowledge of Allah and thereby reach the Almighty, it is necessary that we come to a correct understanding of His attributes and actions.
Allah the Almighty has rendered contemplation on His creation a means for unbelievers to receive the honour of belief. For believers, on the other hand, it serves as a means to increase the certainty of their belief.