Conclusion: Different experienced issues
KNOW, O FRIEND, that as long as I am alive I say, as did Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, may God sanctify him, that: “I am a servant of the Qur’an as long as I am alive; I am the soil of the way of Muhammad, the Chosen One.”
The Qur’an is the source of all intellectual and spiritual radiation. Whatever truth is in my books is found in it. Thus my books contain references to the Qur’an’s miraculous nature. I mentioned about 40 of them in Gleams. Here, I will include only one as a means of blessing for this book: Ponder these questions concerning a speech made or a word uttered: Who said it? To whom was it said? Why was it said? About what was it said?
A word derives its strength and beauty from its speaker and its listener, and why and when it was said. Some literary people wrongly believe that the occasion is the word’s only source of beauty. However, the wording or words chosen to express a meaning are not the speech’s body; they are its dress. The speech’s apparent or superficial meaning is not its “spirit,” but its body. A speech derives life from the speaker’s intention and feelings, and so its spirit is the speaker’s intended meaning. If the speech or words contain an order or prohibition, they have an authority proportionate to the speaker’s power, which adds to their strength and sublimity.
There is a great difference between a non-authoritative order issuing from one [who cannot ensure compliance] and a forceful and powerful command from a determined authority. How different is the order: O Earth, swallow up your water, and O heaven, withdraw (your rain) (11:44) [which issued from the sole Sovereign of the universe] from supposedly human orders to lifeless elements: “O Earth, be still and come to a rest”; “O heaven, split asunder”; and “O world, destroy yourself and be built again for the Resurrection.”
Consider the difference between the command “March!” issuing from an obeyed commander to a mighty obedient army, and that of a person whose orders are ignored. See the difference between the narration of the acts by their true doer, an authoritative commander, a maker who makes whatever he wishes, when he says: “I have done and I do such and such,” and by one having no direct relation with the acts done. See the difference between real stars and their reflections, which have no real existence.
How different are the “angels” of the words spoken by the Creator of the sun and moon from our words. How different are the Qur’an’s words— the “mothers of pearls” of guidance, belief, principles diffusing from the Supreme Throne of God, and which constitute the Eternal Speech containing knowledge, power, and will—from our hollow words. How different is a tree that has divided into parts, grown, blossomed, and borne fruit from any substance obtained from some of its fruits by changing their form, removing the nucleus of life, and mixing them with another element.50
The Qur’an is like a tree whose seeds have grown into principles of conduct, and from which Islam’s world has been formed. Minds have derived ideas from it, and the exalted truths originating from it have become incontestable principles and branches of knowledge. If you take one truth, change it, remove its nucleus of life, decorate it as you wish, and then make your opinion a criterion by which to judge the Qur’an’s verses, you may judge whether it is justifiable to compare the forms given to precious stones according to childish desires, and those stones themselves.
I have personally experienced and observed that experiencing the Qur’an’s beauty requires a sound, purified heart. A heart tainted with [spiritual diseases] can feel only what its diseases have soiled and muddied. The Qur’an’s styles and the [human] heart are two corresponding mirrors that reflect each other.
A subtle point
Belief establishes brotherhood and affinity among all things. Thus one does not find strong feelings of greed, enmity, hatred, or desolation in believers’ heart. Believers see even the strongest enemy as brothers or sisters. Unbelief causes separation and alienation, which manifest in unbelievers as strong feelings of greed, enmity, self-preference, and self-reliance. Such feelings help them succeed in this life, for they see their virtues rewarded mostly here and now, whereas believers suffer the consequences of some of their shortcomings and sins. That is why the Prophet declared: “The world is a prison for a believer, but a paradise for an unbeliever.”51
KNOW, O FRIEND, that if belief enters your heart, you become like a jewel worthy of eternity and Paradise. Unbelief, however, reduces you to a valueless, perishable stone devoid of most sublime feelings and virtues. Belief unveils the sound, pleasant kernel or essence within the perishable covering, and displays the supposed perishable foam as a radiant diamond. Unbelief shows the covering as the kernel, clings to it firmly, and reduces you from resembling a diamond to resembling a piece of glass, ice, or foam. This is what I have observed concerning belief and unbelief.
I have observed that the more people are preoccupied with philosophy, the more their hearts suffer from spiritual disease. I also have observed that the greater this spiritual disease of the heart becomes, the more people are preoccupied with rational sciences. Spiritual diseases lead to preoccupation with rational sciences, and preoccupation with rational sciences gives rise to spiritual diseases.
The world has two aspects: the outward aspect of being partly and temporarily attractive but inwardly eternally horrible, and the outward aspect of being partly horrible while inwardly eternally beautiful. The Qur’an draws attention to the second aspect, which relates to the Hereafter. The first aspect is connected with eternal annihilation, as opposed to eternal afterlife.
I also have observed that existence based on the human ego ends in non-existence, whereas self-annihilation or annihilation of the ego results in existence and leads to the Necessarily Existent Being. If you desire existence and find it, try to annihilate your ego.
A subtle point
KNOW, O FRIEND, that I mentioned intention in the Introduction as the attainment of my 40 years of age. Intention changes ordinary acts and customs into acts of worship. It is a penetrating and pervading spirit through which inanimate states and deeds acquire life and become “living” acts of worship. It is also through a special quality of intention that evil changes into virtue or good deeds. Intention is a “spirit” that causes ordinary deeds and customs to become “living” acts of worship. Its “soul” is sincerity or acting solely for God’s sake. Salvation is found only in sincere actions done in His way. Sincerity multiplies an action’s worth, and through it one can reach Paradise with a little action and in a short life.
Purity of intention makes you continuously thankful to God, for worldly bounties and pleasures have two aspects. Its first aspect is that you confess that the bounties consumed are conferred by the “hand” of Mercy and Favor. Thus you pass from bounties to the Divine act of giving bounties, and the pleasure received therein increases. The second aspect is that you pursue pleasure only to gratify bodily desires. The Divine act of giving bounties is not recalled; rather, you concentrate on the bounty and pleasure themselves as something falling to your lot for nothing, and do not consider how or why they have been bestowed.
In the first case, the “spirit” lasts when its pleasure disappears. By thinking “the Giver of Bounties’ mercy does not forget me,” you feel an unbreakable connection with the Giver of Bounties. This is not true for the second aspect, however, for the “spirit” disappears when the pleasure is gone. But the pleasure’s “smoke” remains—sins [arising from ingratitude and unlawful ways of obtaining and consuming bounties].
When viewed with the light of belief, lawful pleasures in the world and bounties in the Hereafter form a virtuous circle. The disappearance of pleasures or separation from bounties does not cause pain, for the pleasures of belief and thankfulness are permanent. But without belief, pleasures change into pain for the decay of pleasures; even thinking of their decay causes pain. Unbelief views each pleasure as an end in itself, and its disappearance causes pain.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that attachment to material causes engenders humiliation and rejection. Consider this: Why are dogs, which should be considered blessed due to their many good qualities (notably their proverbial loyalty), considered ritually unclean? Why are other domestic animals (i.e., hens, cows, and cats) that feel no gratitude and loyalty in return for the good we do to them, considered blessed? This is because—provided it is not to backbite dogs and break their hearts—dogs are greedy and so attached to apparent causes that they cannot see the true Bestower of Bounties. Thus they suppose the means to be truly effective [in procuring their food] and so suffer the stigma of ritual impurity as punishment for their blindness and indifference to the true Owner and Giver of Bounties.
Blessed animals do not recognize means and causes or give them any value or importance. Cats ask for food and, when they get what they want, behave as if they do not know you or you do not know them. They feel no gratitude toward you. Instead, they thank the true Giver of Bounties by saying: “O Compassionate One, O Compassionate One.” By disposition, they recognize their Creator and worship Him consciously or unconsciously.
A subtle point
If all things are not attributed to the Almighty, an infinite number of deities, all essentially opposite but simultaneously identical, must be recognized. Due to the interrelation of all things and the essential quality of divinity, their number would increase in proportion to the number of particles and compounds found in creation.
For example, a deity who creates a honeybee or a grape should be able to rule and influence all elements in the universe, as a honey-bee or a grape is a miniature of creation. Furthermore, there is only room for a Single Necessarily Existent One. If things are attributed to themselves, each minute particle would be a deity. Thus each stone in the Hagia Sophia’s dome would be its own architect. The universe’s testimony to its Single Creator is more manifest, radiant, clearer, and expressive than its testimony to its own existence. Even if the universe’s existence is denied, the existence of the One, Who is powerful over all things, cannot be denied.
Heedless and misguided people derive the law of causality from the coming together of causes and the series of creation in producing a result, and then attribute creativity to that law. However, this requires accepting an endless series of impossibilities, in addition to realizing that no indication of the Creator’s supposed partner has ever been found. Rather, everything’s structure and art unveil an infinite power belonging to an All-Powerful, Necessarily Existent One. Given this, how can one believe or even think that the All-Powerful Creator has a partner?
A subtle point
The letter nun [meaning we] in na‘budu [we worship] has a universal meaning. While reciting na‘budu, people praying consciously in a congregation and in awareness of its meaning and significance regard Earth as a mosque in which all believers are standing in line to pray to God. They see themselves as members of this huge community. By virtue of the consensus of all Prophets and saints on There is no god but God, and because all individuals in the congregation recite the same words, believers can view time as a circle of reciters led by the Leader of the Prophets.
With the Prophets sitting on the right (representing the past) and the saints on the left (representing the future), the whole circle mentions God and recites His Names so loudly that those who listen can hear this recitation. Those with a keener hearing and sight can hear all creatures reciting God’s Names, and see themselves in this universal circle of recitation.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that loving all else besides God has two aspects. The first is that one loves God and thus loves those whom God loves. Love of God does not diminish this love, but rather increases it. The second is that one loves the means [to attain love of God], and uses this love to reach love of God. Such love has many kinds. However, a strong, attractive means hinders one from advancing. Even if one attains love of God, it will be defective.
A subtle point
KNOW, O FRIEND, that as declared in: There is not a moving creature in Earth but its provision falls upon God (11:6), God provides for all creatures. This provision is of two types: absolutely necessary and superfluous. God provides what is absolutely necessary. Superfluous needs become necessary through the misuse of one’s will, as well as bad habits and customs. Such provision is not included in God’s provision mentioned in the above verse.
Whoever reflects on eggplants (“fish” of the land) and fish (“eggplants” of the sea), on how the Creative Power makes them all fleshy and how their provision comes to them abundantly from sources unknown to them, surely understands that there is no need to feel anxiety about provision and so blame the All-Providing One.
KNOW, O FRIEND, that misfortunes experienced by innocent children and animals contain reasons that people usually fail to notice. For example, Divine laws of nature and life are principles of Divine Will applied not only to intellectual beings; creatures without reason are also “obliged” to obey them by virtue of their disposition. Those laws also appeal to the heart, feelings, and senses. A child may be considered mature in some senses or feelings. A child’s feelings may even be more perfect and alert than an adult’s reason. While an adult’s reason might not prevent him or her from oppressing an orphan, the compassion of his or her child who watches this oppression may drive that child to tears.
That being so, if children do not heed their feeling of compassion or pity and kill a honeybee to indulge an impulse, they will be punished. For example, a female leopard feels great affection for its young and is protective of its mate. However, when these feelings do not prevent it from killing a young gazelle, it may become the target of a hunter’s bullet. Is this not what it deserves, for its lawful food is the carcasses of other animals?
[Like us,] animals do not own themselves and cannot behave as they wish. The universe’s true Owner, the One of Majesty and Favor, is the Owner and sole Ruler of creation, including all living beings, and disposes of them in His Realm of Dominion however He wills. He does whatever He wishes, and is not to be questioned concerning what He does. Rather, they are to be questioned (21:23).
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50 In these lines, the difference between the Qur’an and human words or speeches are stressed through comparisons that might seem unfamiliar to the reader. (Tr.)
51 Muslim, “Zuhd,” no. 2959; Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” no. 2324; Ibn Maja, “Zuhd,” no. 4113.