Saints and Sainthood
Why Do Saints Differ Greatly in Their Visions and Discoveries of Some Hidden Truths Although they are All Agreed upon the Principles of Faith? Why Do Their Discoveries Mainly Based on (Direct) Witnessing or Observation, Sometimes Turn out to be Opposed to Reality and Contrary to the Truth?
Also, why in their opinions, which they consider to be as true as if they are based on decisive proofs, do thinkers and scholars draw contradictory conclusions in searching for the truth? Why does a truth appear in different colors?
Why did the early prophets not concentrate on some pillars of faith like bodily resurrection and elaborate them as much as the Qur’an, being content with brief exposition, so that in later times some among their followers went so far as to deny them?
Man is the object of the manifestations of all the Divine Names and has a capacity for all the perfections. However, although he has a partial will and power, and various abilities and different desires, he searches for truth amid thousands of veils and barriers. So, in discovering the reality and witnessing the truth, barriers intervene. Some people cannot pass over the barriers. Abilities differ, and some are unable to understand some of the pillars of faith fully. Moreover, the manifestations of the Names take on different colors according to people who receive them. Some people cannot receive the full manifestation of a Name. Also, while some succeed in receiving the manifestation in its universality and originality, the others can receive it only partially and in shadowy form. In some, only one Name becomes predominant and prevails exclusively over the others.
In order to understand this profound, subtle matter and reality having universal purposes, heed the following comprehensive and true, but enigmatic and somewhat complex, comparison:
Let us suppose three things a luxuriant flower, a living drop of water in love with the moon, and a simple dew drop which looks to the sun, each of which has consciousness and some goal of perfection to attain. Together with pointing to many truths, these three things also allude to the journeying of the soul, the mind, and the heart in the way of truth. They also correspond to the three groups of those who search for the truth.4
The first group consists of the thinkers, or those who pursue the truth by striving for their particular level of perfection only through the physical senses and intellectual faculties. It also consists or those who, without forsaking egotism, are plunged in the multiplicity of things in the material world, and try to reach the truth through deduction and reasoning only.
The second group comprises the saints or saintly scholars or those who pursue the truth by striving through employing the mind and refining the soul, or those who search for the truth through science, reason and learning and by acquiring knowledge of God.
The third group comprises the prophets or those who pursue the truth through belief, submission, and purifying the heart, or those who reach the truth swiftly through faith and the Qur’an, and worship and acknowledgement of one’s poverty before God.
Now under the titles of Flower, Drop and Dew Drop, I will try to point out by means of a comparison how and why these three groups progress [to reach the truth] in the way particular to each.
For example, by its Creator’s leave and at His command, the sun has three kinds of manifestation, reflection, and radiance. One is its reflection on flowers, the other its reflection on the moon and the planets, and the third is its reflection and imaging itself in shining objects like glass and water.
The first is in three ways:
One is a universal and general manifestation and reflection whereby it encompasses flowers all at the same time.
The other is a special manifestation whereby it encompasses each species with a special reflection.
The third is a particular manifestation whereby it is reflected in a certain flower according to its individual character.
(This aspect of our comparison is according to the assertion that flowers receive their colors from the changing reflections of the seven colors in the sun’s light. According to this assertion, flowers too are kinds of mirrors to the sun).
The second is the light which, by the leave of the Wise Creator, the sun gives to the moon and planets. The moon sends out its light, which comes from the sun and is therefore a shadow of the sun’s light, onto the seas, air, and reflective earth, and, in a particular form, onto the bubbles on the sea and translucent parts of earth and the molecules of air.
The third is that under God’s command the sun has a pure, universal, and direct reflection or self-imaging in the atmosphere and the surface of the seas, which it makes into mirrors. Besides, the sun gives to each of the bubbles on the sea, and the drops of water, and the molecules of the air and the snow-flakes, a particular reflection and tiny image of itself.
Thus, the sun reflects or images itself on every flower, and in every drop of water and dew drop in two ways in each of the three kinds mentioned above:
The first way is direct, and without barrier and veil. This way represents the way of Prophethood.
The second way is that in which barriers intervene. The capacities of the mirror, of the objects receiving the images or reflections, add color to the manifestations of the sun. This way represents the way of sainthood.
Thus, on the first way the Flower, Drop and Dew Drop can each say: ‘I am a mirror to the sun of all the world’ But on the second way they cannot say that. They can rather say: ‘I am the mirror to my own sun, or the mirror to the sun which is manifested in my species’ For that is the way in which they know the sun. They cannot see the sun in its direct, universal manifestation. The sun appears to each of them or to its species from behind barriers and under restrictions. For this reason, it cannot attribute to that ‘particular, restricted sun’ the works of the unrestricted, unconfined, absolute sun. For it cannot ascribe in full conviction to a sun which it sees within narrow confines and restrictions the majestic works like heating and illuminating the whole face of the earth, stirring the plants and animals to life, and making the planets revolve around it. Indeed, even if those three things (which we suppose to have consciousness) attribute those wonderful works to the sun which they see under restrictions, they can only do so, not through conviction and submission of the heart, but through superficial reasoning and belief. They can only do so through a superficial submission to the fact that that restricted thing is the majestic absolute sun. Therefore, this judgement of Flower, Drop and Dew Drop (which we suppose to be intelligent like a human being) depends on or arises from reasoning; it does not arise out of thorough enlightenment coming from direct witnessing and observation. It may even sometimes occur that their conclusion depending on belief conflicts with what they witness or observe in the outer world. So they can believe with much difficulty in what they are told or they themselves reason concerning the reality of the sun.
In order to be able to have a better understanding of the matter we should ourselves be a part of the comparison, supposing ourselves to be Flower, Drop and Dew Drop. Because we receive enlightenment from our immaterial sun in the way they receive from their physical sun.
So my friend, who has not been able to renounce the world and is preoccupied with physical subjects, and whose soul is dense! You be ‘Flower’ Flower takes on a color as an effect produced by a ray of the sun’s light of a particular wavelength and makes of it an adorned form to be clothed in. You may suppose yourself to have the same capacity as it has.
Let that philosopher who has studied secular science and therefore explains everything in terms of cause and effect like the Old Said be ‘Drop’ which is in love with the moon. The moon sends to a drop the shadowy light which it receives from the sun, and the drop shines with that light, through which it can only see the moon. It cannot see the sun; it can only believe in its existence.
Then, let that poor fellow be ‘Dew Drop’ who knows everything to be directly from Almighty God and considers cause and effect to be a veil only. Such a Dew Drop it is that it is poor in itself; it has nothing to depend on so that it could rely on itself as Flower does. Nor has it any color through which to make a display of itself. Neither has it anything else that it should feel an inclination towards it; all that it has is a sheer purity and simplicity of heart by which it holds the image of the sun in the ‘pupil of its eye’
Now that we have taken the place of these three things, we must consider ourselves: What do we have? What must we do?
We see that through His favors a Most Munificent One is adorning, enlightening, nurturing, and bringing us up. Man has an inborn tendency to adore one who favors him. He wants to be close to one worthy of adoration, and desires to see him. That being so, in accordance with our capacities, each of us will journey through the attraction of love.
You who are like ‘Flower’ you are advancing, so advance as if a flower. See, you have advanced until you have reached a universal rank, as if a universal flower to represent all flowers. However, Flower is a dense mirror, where light is refracted and the seven colors in it dissolve. Therefore it veils the reflection of the sun. You will not be able to see the face of the Sun that you love, for the colors and qualities, which are restricted, draw a veil over It and obscure It. Therefore, you cannot be freed from the separation caused by the barriers interposing. However, you can be freed on condition that you raise your head that is sunk in the love of your selfhood, and withdraw your gaze fixed on the merits you ascribe to your selfhood, and direct it to the face of the Sun in ‘heaven’ Further, you should turn your face, looking down to the earth to attract your sustenance, up to the Sun. For you are a mirror of It, your duty is to act as a mirror to It. Whether you know It or not, your sustenance will come to you from the earth, which is the door to the treasury of Mercy.
Just as a flower is a tiny mirror to the sun, so also the huge sun is a drop-like mirror to a gleam from the Name of Light of the Eternal Sun.
O heart of man! Know from this to what a Sun you are a mirror. Only after you become conscious of this, will you attain the level of perfection assigned for you. However, you cannot see that Sun in Its essential identity; nor can you grasp Its truth in Its naked form; rather, your attributes give It a color and your cloudy telescope attaches a form to It, and your limited capacity restricts It.
Now, you O wise philosopher who represents the Drop! Through the telescope of your intellect and by the ladder of science and philosophy, you have advanced as far as the moon and landed on it. Look, of itself the moon is dense and dark; it has neither light nor life. Your endeavor has all been in vain, and your knowledge has proved to be profitless. You can only be saved from the darkness of hopelessness, the desolation of loneliness, the pestering of evil spirits, and the terror of that frightening solitude on condition that you abandon the night of naturalism and turn toward the Sun of Truth. You must believe with certainty that the lights of that night are but the shadowy reflections of the lights of the ‘Sun of Daytime’ When you fulfil this condition, you will attain to perfection and find the tremendous Sun in place of the poor and lightless moon. However, like your previous friend, you will not be able to see the Sun clearly. You will rather see it beyond the veils with which your reason and philosophy are familiar, and behind the screens woven by science and learning, and in a color produced by your capacity.
As for Dew Drop, our third friend, who is both poor and colorless: the dew drop swiftly evaporates in the sun’s heat and, free from egotism, rises into the air. The dense matter in its structure burns in the flames of love and changes into light. It holds on to a ray from that light and draws close to the sun.
O friend resembling Dew Drop! Since you act as a direct mirror to the Sun, whatever your rank, you can find a window through which you can look at the Sun without any barriers. You will not experience any difficulty in ascribing to the Sun Its amazing works. Without hesitation you will be able to attribute to It the majestic attributes It deserves. Nothing will be able to withhold you from attributing to It the awesome actions of Its essential sovereignty. No negative factor like the thickness of barriers or the limitation of capacities or the smallness of mirrors will confuse you, nor drive you to the opposite of truth. Because, since you are turned directly towards It with pure heart and sincerity of intention, you have understood that what appears in the objects and is observed in the mirrors, is not the Sun Itself but manifestations or colored reflections of It of some sort. However, although those reflections belong to Its titles, they cannot display all the works of Its majesty in their proper splendor.
Thus, in this comparison bearing the color of reality, there are three different ways to perfection. They differ greatly in the merits of the perfection they lead to and in the details of the rank of certainty reached in the end. But in conclusion and in submitting to truth and affirming the reality, they are in agreement. Consider a man of the night who has never seen the sun and only sees its shadow in the mirror of the moon. He cannot comprehend the splendid light and awesome gravity particular to the sun, and only submits to those who have seen it and imitates them. In just the same way, some cannot attain to the most comprehensive rank of the Names like the All-Powerful and Life-Giver through succession to the mission of Muhammad (pbuh). So they accept the resurrection of the dead and Great Gathering imitatively, declaring that it is not a matter that can be understood through the reason. For the Resurrection and the Last Judgement will take place as a result of the most comprehensive manifestation of God’s Greatest Name and certain other Names. Whoever cannot comprehend it is compelled to believe in it by way of imitation. Whoever, by contrast, can understand it fully, sees the destruction of the world and the resurrection of the dead together with the building of a new world as happening as easily as the alternation of night and day, and of winter and spring. He accepts it with full conviction of the heart.
It is because of the fact mentioned that the Qur’an speaks of the Resurrection and Great Gathering with full emphasis and in the most perfect, detailed manner, and our Prophet (pbuh), who was endowed with the Greatest Name of God, taught it. As for the other prophets, the wisdom in their mission of guiding people to divine truths required that they act differently. They did not instruct their communities, which were at a somewhat simple and primitive level, in the resurrection of the dead at the same level and in the same extensive details as the Qur’an and our Prophet did. It is also due to the same fact that some saintly people have not seen or could not demonstrate some of the pillars of faith to the greatest degree. It is again owing to the same fact that there are great differences in the degrees of those who have knowledge of God. Numerous other matters of consequence arise from this fact. However, since this comparison contains some aspects of the reality, and the reality is extremely extensive and profound, I will content myself with the comparison, and not attempt to explain the other matters which are beyond my limit and capacity.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.