19. YAQEEN (CERTAINTY, FIRST HAND WITNESS)
1. This is the Book in which there can be no doubt, a Guidance for the pious- those who believe in the Ghaib and pray the salat and of what we gave them they give away in charity; and those who believe in what is sent down to thee and what is sent down (similarly) before thee and of the Hereafter they are convinced. It is they who are on a Guidance from their Lord and it is they who are the/to be saved (2: 2-4)
C. The saved or to be saved servants of Allah are those who believe in the matters whose existence only Allah knows but also kindly reveals to them through His messengers. In other words they believe without direct witness, they take the revealed matters on trust. Once so persuaded they go ahead and keep Allah’s Commandments. Despite their lack of direct perception of things of Ghaib like the Hereafter, i.e. the Resurrection, Judgment, Paradise and Hell… they are CONVINCED of the Hereafter. Why, we shall insha Allah see later. It is these trusting and acting people who are enjoying a personal Guidance from their Lord and it is these very same people who will crown with final and ultimate success in their existence.
2. Or are they seeking the regimen of the Ignorance? Who can be nicer than Allah in regimen Allah for a people who are in the know (5: 50)
C. Ignorant people who shut themselves off Divine Light yearn after a lifestyle of irresponsible indulgence of their egos thinking that thereby they are living a great life. This regimen of self-indulgence may feel great in the short term and at a shallow level but in the long term and at a deeper level it is hell in the making. How pleasurable and glamorous feel indulgences like clever cheating, opportunistic abusing, exacting ‘sweet’ revenge’ etc. as well as harmful habits like smoking, drinking, free sex, moral abandon and all sorts frivolous and frolicsome idleness and entertainments with no thought of what may happen to others! Allah’s regimen is not this; it is responsibility in all things and truly knowledgeable people know that that is the best lifestyle to lead by all. By truly knowledgeable we mean ‘yaqeen’.
3. When the Promise (of Cosmic Collapse) draws close to them We issue for them an ‘animal from the ground’ who then talks to and tells them that people had not quite believe in Our signs and verses (27: 82)
C. Apparently a land animal will be able to somehow talk and tell men that nothing could be impossible for Allah not the least as proven by a non-human animal talking like a human being in some way Allah knows how. Of course a lot of metaphor may be involved in this statement; men can read nature correctly if he cares and tries hard enough and elicit overwhelming proofs from it concerning the existence and perfection of the Creator behind it. An animal being the next highest creation under man can contribute most to this reading. A pet dogs love for and attachment to his human master could not be more eloquent as regards this matter. All in all, when the Hour is nigh many signs and portents shall have to issue and present us with all the telltale indications of an end to our world as we know it. Why people ignore such a prospect and a Day of Judgment following is because their any belief in Allah is not strong enough to make them halt and think and think seriously.
This clearly implies that the sign of one’s faith being serious enough is that he obeys Allah’s Commandments as well as clearly emulating His Messenger sws. There is also another tempting speculation we may tentatively make; given the ever-speeding advances in genetics will it be too far-fetched to think that one day man produces an intelligent enough animal which then will talk and given animal’s closer proximity to their Creator (even if through the agency of man) it will warn man of his ineptitude for reading ALLAH from this wonderful and mind-boggling universe. It may say “Look, you men have created me through your superb intelligence; why don’t you see that Some Far Superior Intelligence than yours must have created the whole universe including yourselves? Why deny your Creator the intelligence you see fit for yourselves? Allah’s saying “We issue for them an animal from the ground” remains true even when apparently man produced that animal in a laboratory. It is an axiom of Islam that all creation is fully Allah’s no matter how many or which ‘natural’ or human agencies seem to be behind it. Allah knows best and we ask His forgiveness if we are saying anything wrong.
4. (O Prophet sws) be patient then; Know that Allah’s Promise is true and let not those who are not convinced demoralise thee (30: 60)
C. Lukewarm, not entirely believing souls have a breaking and deflating effect on more serious believers simply because all forms of our motivation are influenced by those around us. That is why jealous people play down the blessings given to their more fortunate comrades. Since they think cannot have it themselves they feel they have to dampen the enthusiasm of the other person in order to relieve some of the pain of their own jealousy. Which means it is a mistake to associate oneself with less convinced people without having to. Serious believers should cultivate friendhips more with their own kind.
5. (After Moses) and so long as they persevered (in belief) We appointed leaders from among them (Jews) who gave them guidance as part of Our implementation of Our Will. They used to be convinced of our signs and verses (32: 24)
C. For a while after Moses the Jews continued to be favoured by Allah for the reason that they maintained a creditable level of faith in and obedience to Allah. As a reward, Allah made sure that their leaders were true men of God like David and Solomon and more. Which means a nation with enough piety will be led by even more pious leaders while a nation who dissipate their piety will be dominated by tyrants to the degree that they are impious. Today’s Muslims after Muhammad sws and his best successors (khulafa) are generally under the thumb of tyrants simply because they themselves are tyrants on their petty scales. Let them raise their piety and Umars and Salahuddins must and will come back in their new versions. It is like milk. The more and healthier fat a milk has the more and better cream it can raise to its surface. If Muslims are not able to produce butter but only margarine from their milk theirs is only a solution of skimmed milk powder adulterated by vegetable fats. For example, today’s Iraqis could only produce brutal dictators, not Alis or Haruns.
6. (After all these past prophets who were not appreciated enough) We put thee on a Law as matter of course, therefore follow it and do not follow the vanities of those who do not know. They can do thee no good; in fact the wrongdoers are the friends of each other while Allah is the Friend of the pious. This is an eye-opener for mankind and a guidance and grace for a convinced people (45: 18- 20)
C. Beautifully expands the previous item. Bad people prefer bad people and good prefer good. When bad dominate among a people only bad leaders can rule over them.
7. And in your own creation and in all that He spread out of animals on the earth are signs for people who are convinced (45: 4)
C. The convinced can only be those who are able and willing to read Allah written so-to-speak all over the universe. Such people take their most effective lesson from their own existence and that of animals which are the next highest form of creation.
8. Or it was they who created the heavens and the earth? No, (the trouble is) they are not convinced (of Allah’s existence and perfection) (52: 36)
C. The same old trouble- they cannot read ‘Allah’ all over the place. They are spiritual illiterates even when they are greatest literati academically. They know that they did not create anything in any cosmic and fundamental sense, yet they ignore the question and deny any answers given by others. It should be clear to them that this overwhelmingly and very conspicuously intelligent universal order must indicate a Supreme Intelligence of which man’s intelligence is a small example. Or to be convinced of a universal intelligence are they looking for a gigantic skull with a brain inside somewhere in the outer space?
9. Allah it is Who raised the heavens without pillars you can see. He then settled on the Throne and subjected the sun and the moon (to your service). Each are flowing towards a named end. He runs the whole affair (of existence) and expounds His signs and verses in order that you become convinced of your Lord’s Meeting (13: 2)
C. “Without pillars you can see”! A death blow to materialism. Based on our innumerable readings from Allah’s Book it became obvious to us that Allah’s highest works move on invisible, totally spiritual means and what visible agencies seem to bring about on Allah’s behalf is a fraction of Allah’s running the things. At many battles the Prophet sws fought invisible hosts from Allah helped him and these being spiritual they worked their effect on the parties concerned psychologically. They boosted the morale and therefore mental perceptions and muscular coordination of the believers while they equally demoralised, confused and sent haywire the acts of the unbelievers. What effortless and effective subtlety on the part of the Lord of the Heavens and earth! Sheer economy and spiritual eye-opening!
10. (Despite Moses coming to the Egyptians with so many unbeatable Signs) they fought against them, out of pride and cruelty, despite their (deep) hearts being convinced by them. Look what became of the end of the corrupters (27: 14)
C. Deep down everybody knows and knows only too well that Allah is Real and all He reveals through His messengers are only too true. But the wrongs they are addicted to bars them from admitting their inner conviction and even being conscious of it at a cerebral level. A good example of such folly is a doctor’s alcohol or tobacco addiction despite his knowing only too well that such poisons have no pity on anybody but work their evil inexorably.
11. We made the staff of the Fire only the angels and made their number only a test for those who disbelieve and for those given the Book to become convinced and for the believers to increase in belief, for both believers and those given the Book not to fall in doubt… None knows the hosts of thy Lord but He. It (such a test) is nothing but a reminder for man (74: 31)
C. The Hell being exclusively staffed by the angels may mean that the punishment the sinner receives arrives from his own soul which is inhabited and controlled by many angels whose number only Allah knows and men can only speculate about. There is no need to deny the chains, the smoke and the fires of Hell or the only too dutiful harsh guards inflicting all the pains in there; true to the Unity of Allah and His being the Ultimate Identity of and the Explanation of Existence we are allowed to move deeper into such secrets and discover that we are the only cause of our ultimate miseries. No need to talk about spiritual or eschatological geography and ethnography but all need to understand our nothingness and Allah’s everythingness in a fundamental sense and try to make the best of our shadowy existence thanks to the ample favours of Allah appointed for that purpose. Instead being wise like this a lot of people, religious or not, knowledgeable or not, remain unaware of such practical and utilitarian approach to spiritual matters and want to act more as Columbuses or astronauts than people actually anxious about their salvation and nothing else. Lastly Allah seems to say that unnecessary tests like finding about angels or other eschatological secrets can only land one in trouble and the best way forward is embracing that simple and uncomplicated faith taught by the Qur’an and leave fancy matters like the number or forms of the angels or the nature of Hell to Allah to disclose them to us as and when He wants in His Infallible Wisdom. That attitude only enhances our faith. Amen.
12. (Unbelievers at death say) “We used to indulge (our vanities) like all indulgers and used to deny the Day of Judgment- until the direct witness (‘yaqeen’ which DEATH is) came to us (74: 45- 47)
C. For the first time ‘yaqeen’ is intended to mean direct witness of a fact or reality. Previously it only meant inner conviction without objective or demonstrable proof. How to reconcile these two different level of realisation? I think we may say that yaqeen is yaqeen but operates at two levels, namely the level possible while we are physically alive and a higher level possible only at or after death. A metaphor may throw some light on this dilemma. Suppose we are crossing a landscape on a very dark night in which we can barely make more than a few large features and even of their shape we cannot be entirely sure. But suppose that the person who sent us this journey guaranteed to us that we have nothing to fear no matter how terrible some of those vague sights may look. If we believe on our taskmaster we do not see terrible looking things less terrible looking, nor can we see any other features better. Still, convinced that there are no dangers in our trip we just plod on until we arrive at our promised destination safe and well. This is like our ‘iman bil ghaib’, i.e., our faith without objective or physically demonstrable proof. The landscape was made of eminently safe and walkable ground and all seemingly terrible looking features were made of paper and plastic foam. Not a single sharp or otherwise hurtful object was laid on our path. The other level of yaqeen is like walking the same path in full daylight; now we are not only intellectually convinced, we are also witnessing the perfectly safe landscape. Are these mutually exclusive or perfectly complementary?
13. Never (your way o unbelievers)! Had you had certain knowledge (ilm al yaqeen) you would see the Raging Fire. Then you will indeed see it firsthand witness (ain al yaqeen). Then you shall be questioned about the blessings (you had been given but abused) (102: 5- 8)
C. Proof of the fact that two or possibly three kinds of yaqeen/certainty is possible for the servant. The first and lower grade but still adequate in this world is knowing something with a sure conviction inside one’s heart despite the lack of direct witness. This is what faith is when the yaqeen is about religious belief. The second and higher is certainty coming from direct witness of a reality, and this is what is called ain al yaqeen. The possible third and highest is ‘haqq al yaqeen’ (realest certainty) is when one becomes the same as the object believed. This is next entry
14. But if he is one of the perverted deniers then his is a landing in boiling water and being thrown in raging fire: This is indeed the realest certainty (haqq al yaqeen) (56: 92- 95). But again see the next entry.
15. This (Qur’an) is an admonition for the pious. We do know that among you are deniers. It is a heartache for the unbelievers. It (the Qur’an) indeed is the realest certainty (69: 48- 51)
C. In these two last verses ‘haqq al yaqeen’ should rather mean the same thing. Since in the second it seems to mean the Qur’an so should it mean in the first. Yet, undeniably some ambiguity remains and it may mean both depending from what angle one looks at it. Such ambiguities are among the riches of the Qur’an and praises and thanks be to Allah for them.
16. “And because they said “We killed the messenger of Allah Jesus son of Mary” (We also cursed them). In fact they neither killed him nor crucified him but it was shown them that way. Those who are disputing about him are indeed in doubt about it. For them there is no knowledge about it but they are following conjecture. Certainly they did not kill him. On the contrary Allah raised him to himself. Allah has always been Powerfully Dominant
(4: 157- 158)
C. The claims of the Jewish oppressors of Jesus AS as well as of Christians about the crucifixion of Jesus are not certain knowledge but a theory born of a great confusion at the end of that prophet’s mission. The Jews only tried to kill him but failed. Allah is dismissing their claim and instead He is confirming that He raised Jesus to Himself. What this means can be gleaned from another verse which reads When Allah said “O Jesus, I am going to give you death and raise you to Myself and cleanse you of those who disbelieve…” (3: 55). It is also reported in reliable ahadith that our Prophet’s sws last words before his death was “To the Highest Companion”, with his hand raised towards the heaven.
17. You should see the criminals pulling their heads in before their Lord saying “Our Lord, we have now seen and heard, please return us (to worldly life) for us to work good, we are now convinced”. Had We willed We could give every soul its guidance but the Word from Me “I will indeed fill the Hell with men and demons all” came true (32: 12- 13)
C. So, full witness becomes available only in the hereafter and any in the world unrepentant sinners at long last become convinced (muqinun). Why some must end up bankrupt and irreversibly ruined in Hell and Allah explains as His pre-determined judgment to the effect that He promised to fill Hell with both men and jinni; had He wanted He could guide all though. From the point of view of a simplistic logic this looks heartless and unjust of Allah but from the Unity of Being point of view what it means may be this: Allah really gave man a free will at the very same level of man’s existence; as a result man genuinely feels that he is free to decide, at least in principle, between any two courses of action. That is why he regrets his choices or choices of others and believes in the justice of harm caused to him or the other who made a bad choice. This is so obvious that all reasonable people believe in justice and seek it. So, what this verse means as far as man’s psychology is concerned is: “Man expects and accepts punishment, sometimes in a total and irreversible sense, if and when he makes a bad choice despite knowing better”. Then “The Word from Me I will indeed fill the Hell…” means when reflected by man “I know and have to accept that if and when I deliberately commit a terrible wrong I shall be regretting it with shame and mortification for all time to come. Had I wanted I could avoid the wrong and therefore the shame and the remorse”.
It is as if God does not exist for man and man is a free agent in his own right; yet somehow endowed with an acquired conscience he feels and sometimes acts responsibly, otherwise he may commit wrongs and regret them badly. From the opposite side, man is as good as non-existent as far as Allah is concerned and He claims with full justification that only His Will is done at all times. Be as it may, the fact is that neither spiritual realities in general nor moral realities in particular admit simplistic analyses and judgments and the apparent God-man duality must always exist alongside with the ultimate Unity of Existence like a mathematical paradox. As well known to all mathematicians paradoxes are virtual non-sense items which on deeper analysis dissolve into harmony with the rest of the logical things around them. For people incapable of profound logical or mathematical thought a duality remains about existence but let them rest assured that a solution to the paradox exists. Let them then take alternate viewpoints, i.e., either God decides all or man decides some, according to the context of situations enveloping them. They may be accused of illogic but that is a false illogic as all mathematicians can prove when mathematical realities are the case. The simplest paradox in mathematics may be a quadratic equation. Such an equation has two equally valid solutions despite the fact that the two solutions can be worlds apart.
18. Thus We used to show Abraham the Realms of the heavens and the earth for him to become convinced (6: 75)
C. Abraham AS was wont to studying Allah’s creation surrounding him on all sides and drawing conclusions. For example, seeing that the mighty sun could not remain above him all the time but had to set and only reappear much later he concluded that it was not a god despite many people worshipping it as such. The same with the stars which also were worshipped. His voluntary going ever deeper into such observations and contemplations was the same as Allah showing him the spiritual meaning behind the universe. We again see how the will of man becomes another aspect of the Will of God despite the paradox remaining.
What is more, such responsible study of the universe (or nature) can deliver certainty about the existence and perfection of a Creator. This makes the endeavours of a sincerely truth seeking and decent philosopher’s research into universal truths a legitimate as well as desirable pursuit. Although only a prophet can come up with the pure and whole truth, a good and decent philosopher can at least endorse a prophet more than a less intelligent man.
19. And in the earth are signs for those inclined to conviction (51: 20)
C. If one feels morally responsible and sensitive to the abuses and injustices issuing from men he would like very much to believe that some higher and nobler power exists to interfere and impose justice even if in a final sense at a later time. Anxious to decide in favour of such a philosophy he finds many signs that this is so. Which means the enemies of religious faith are those with less good conscience and more unscrupulous indulgence.
20. When it is said “Indeed Allah’s Promise is True and in the Hour there is no doubt you (o infidels) had said “We have no idea of what the Hour is and suppose it a supposition, we are (by no means) convinced (45: 32)
C. Once faced with the truth of all the promises made by prophets on behalf of Allah the former unbelievers are reminded of their diplomatic denials. Lacking refined conciences unbelievers can at best treat a promise of a second and realer life when full justice will be implemented as a theory or wishful supposition only. They cannot be convinced by any means simply because an emotional block bars the way: According to them they have a short and non-repeatable opportunity in front of them and that is living this life fully in the sense of indulging their senses and fancies to their hearts’ content. Since competition is strong and it will be a gloves-off battle where all tricks and powers will have to be employed to gain the upper hand the idea that they shall be held accountable for their unconscionably won victories is the last thing they can stomach.
From all above it appears that:
Intellectual and emotional conviction is the only possible level of faith while in this world and full witness of spiritual realities is only possible after death. Incidentally, attempts to attain witness by mind-altering methods like monastic practices are extremely unsafe since they often fulfil the spiritual prejudices of the practitioner. Both unity and multiplicity of godhead can be ‘verified’ depending on the person’s preference. Similarly both reincarnation and single life and death ending in Paradise or Hell can be ‘verified’. Therefore the Qur’an should be taken as the Guide and commandments obeyed faithfully and Allah’s Own expositions to us of spiritual realities must be awaited to arrive in due course.
Faith is only possible for morally sensitive and responsible people. Those who want to indulge their lusts irrespective of moral constraints as much as can get away with it find religious faith the least attractive proposition and cannot bring themselves to endorse it. At a milder level, no habitual sinner can be persuaded to embrace faith unless he is first shown the horrors of his ways and as a result he repents. That is why we must discourage our fellow Muslims from sinful habits and attitudes while encouraging them to embrace and practice good habits. This is what is called ‘amr bil ma’ruf wa nahy anil munkar’.
It means that if we want to facilitate people’s embracing religious faith we should study all the blocks in his heart barring the way to him. Firstly, is he a conscionable person or a confirmed brute totally uninterested in spiritual matters? If that is the case he is as good as flesh from an old camel’s neck- it won’t cook and become chewable! He will be amenable to religious believing to the extent that he has some moral regrets about people’s behaviour in general and would like to find an answer to that. The very best prospects for faith among people are those few who have many regrets and are at the brink of thorough repentance but don’t know how or why. A single word of enlightenment said at the right moment in the right way can send such a person on a space travel of repentance and lead him to highest sainthood over time. Amen.
20. RESURRECTION (QIYAMA), DAY OF JUDGMENT (YAWMU’DDEEN) AND RECOMPENSE (JAZA)
I refer my readers back to the article 10 on ta’weel, the ultimate interpretation. We had seen that matters related to things imperceptible to our senses and not necessarily conforming to our humble demands for logic are metaphorical by Allah’s Own admission. Top among such metaphorical matters is that sequence of events beginning with death and ending with entry into Paradise or Hell. Science has no clue to what they mean and scientists often dismiss the problem posed by them by denying any reality in them. If by reality we mean material reality confined to time and space as we know it they may be quite right. But we Sufis know and all true believers feel that the matters are not so simple.
Firstly, there is hardly any guarantee that our ordinary form of consciousness is our only means to perceiving reality as a whole and other forms of consciousness which we may switch into accidentally or deliberately (like in dreams or under hypnosis or drug influence or in mystical experience) may open to our perception other categories of realities. Since man is, if anything, ultimately his consciousness (for what is man when unconscious if not a degraded metabolic robot with some basic automatic reflexes?) denying the data his consciousness perceives is denyng the reality and validity of man himself. Such data received in an altered state of consciousness may clash with other data received in normal, wakeful consciousness but the clash does not necessarily invalidate the altered perception in its entirety. Actually both normal waking and altered states perceptions are sometimes questionable but at other times (more so in the waking mode) they are reliable.
One example of valid perception in an altered state of consciousness is a prophetic dream. In simplest cases that is easy to see why. Suppose you are about to conclude a transaction. A day or two before the transaction you see a dream which very much looks like warning you against it. You wake up with an uneasy heart. Although on the face of it the transaction looks alright something you cannot explain gnaws at your heart. Experience shows that we better not proceed in such situations. The reason should be plain to see if we have some psychological insight. You see, our perception of a situation is caused by more than those factors we are clearly conscious of; we also have what are called subliminal perceptions which enter our minds silently and inconspicuously. Suppose the transaction in question is the purchase of a second hand car. The owner presents his car to us and describes its merits which we tend to believe when we inspect the car under his guidance or under own own lights as amateurs while he talks on. We may still feel uneasy about this man although we may try to be ‘rational’ and not too suspicious. We may even take the car to a garage for a cursory check-up and the mechanic may verify the claims of the seller. Given the two’s assurances we decide to meet the day after and pay up and take hold of the car. Yet the night’s sleep with the dream makes us uneasy indeed. We still decide to remain rational, not to credit dreams with any realistic validity and pay up and buy the car. Subsequently we learn that the car was stolen and the paperwork bogus. Only then we realise the seller was a crook. The subliminal signals he broadcast could be more receptively picked up by a psychologically more insightful man; we had just ignored the fuzzy warning signs and ended up cheated.
We know that some persons are good at seeing through others and their any pretensions and
cannot be taken in easily, which means ‘objective’ appearances and simplistic rationality are not everything in deciding what is reality and what isn’t. As some put it ‘the heart and mind should work or flow together’ in making decisions. Prophetic dreams mean something and that something may be very momentous.
What separates a religious believer from an unbeliever? It must be the superior perceptivity of the first. I do not mean that we should lap up everything put in front of us in the name of God or gods. What I mean is this: there are some religious propositions that, despite their implausibility in front of commonsensical considerations, they still make us wonder, worry or yearn. Take the existence of God. Science being always simplistic and prosaic, has no room for or concern for divinity. If it is sophisticated, its sophistication lies in its mathematics and not in moral or spiritual fields. It is like landscape exploration or surveying; it is simply a practical pursuit driven by curiosity or practical material needs. But man has other and at least equally important concerns and needs, like a curiosity about the ultimate nature of things and a reliable basis for morality. The first is mystical, the second practical but both are also emotional. We tend to revere and yearn for spiritual realities, those realities lying behind the appearances of this world and this life. Reverence and yearning have strong ties with love on the one hand and with anxiety and fear on the other. What if we offend our dear spiritual and moral values? What befalls us if we are guilty in a moral sense? Is not shame a terrible experience we better avoid by acting honourably under all circumstances. Is there a form of existence and responsibility beyond the ordinary versions of them for us to be concerned about? Science neither asks nor can answer such questions.
Of all such questions and concerns the concept of the existence of God occupies the top position and houses all the rest under its canopy. Because we as human beings are small worlds in ourselves with our minds acting as our identity and overall control centre we naturally think of our larger world, namely the universe as another integrated body under the control of a universal mind we call God. This may be a philosophical notion but not only that. Unlike secular philosophy it is imbued with rich, variegated and powerful emotions which, according to application, can be incomparably blessing or else incomparably cursing. A good man of God, I mean a reasonable, universal love and compassion and charity-oriented man is both blessed and blessing while a false man of God (a misconstruer of the concept of God) can be the most evil person to have around. So were for example the inquisitors of the Medieval Church who included some so-called saints some of which were among the worst and cruellest inquisitors burning deranged women as witches and quite pious men or bright men of science as heretics. So was Abbasid caliph Ma’mun who had instituted his own inquisition at the instigation of the Mutazilid philosophers in Bagdad who claimed that the Qur’an was created and not eternal with God, which inquisition questioned Muslim scholars on the point and had those who denied the ‘created’ (makhluq) status of the Qur’an they delivered to the agents of the caliph for punishment. I suspect such persecutory fanaticism was learned from the neighbouring Christian establishment which were its inventors. In passing I am of the opinion that, in retrospect, the debate was a foolish one: Surely as an message in Arabic the Qur’an was created by God but as embedded in the foreknowledge of God it was pre-eternal as anything else. Was not the Prophet sws in the knowledge of God? Was not the smallest atoms known to God in pre-eternity? So what was all the fuss about? To give some more intelligent ulema their due, they rightly had said that as far as a text or recitation the Qur’an was a creature but as far as being in the foreknowledge of God it was eternal with Him. Although not profound enough that should settle the issue. In deep and true Sufi understanding such issues are non-issues; what matters is love for Allah, such love that all philosophy is put aside and the love is pursued and practiced for its own sake. Read Rumi if you wish “We (Sufis) eat sweets without tongue or gums”. What he means is this if not already obvious to the reader: the experience of the Divine is not a department of ordinary sense perceptions like hearing sounds, touching things or tasting and smelling things. It is an earless, eyeless, tasteless and smelless perception by which the heart experiences its greatest form of bliss. The Mutazilid persecution was a pointless vanity and the reaction of the ulema to their thesis was equally beside the point. Each side should be humbler and say “We not only don’t know but could not care less”. We are supposed to follow the guidance of the Qur’an in both an emotional and practical way; sophistic arguments and counterarguments amount to idle wrongdoing.
THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TRIO: RESURRECTION – JUDGEMENT - RECOMPENSE
About Resurrection (Qiyama) Allah, among many other verses, revealed the following:
When the earth shakes with its shaking and the earth throws out its weights man asks ‘what is happening to it?’ That Day it (the earth) narrates its news thanks to what Allah inspires to it. That Day people come out in disorder to be shown their deeds. Whoever had done an atom’s weight of good sees it, whoever had done an atom’s weight of bad deed sees it (S.99, al Zilzal/The Quake) . The second next Sura (Chapter 101 al Qaria/The Disaster) says:
“The Knocking Disaster! What is the Knocking Disaster? What made you aware of the Knocking Disaster? The Day when people become like swarming fireflies and the mountains like carded cloured wool (disintegrating and being thrown about). That Day whose scales are heavy (with piety and charity) is in a life of happy contentment; as for that whose scales are light (with piety and good), then his (lap of a) mother shall be ‘Hawiya’. Do you know what Hawiya is? Consuming Fire! (S. 101)
Like many other verses on Qiyama (and unlike some others) we find only one single ‘day’ mentioned in which there is a general destruction alongside a separation of the pious and the impious through a deeds weighing procedure at the end of which those found heavy with piety attain a fully safe and pleasant existence whil those light of piety end up in only too terrible torment. All are apparently happening in one day. Since the name ‘qiyama’ means rising or resurrection to be more specific the intial general destruction is understood to be the part of qiyama which appears to be illogical. But does simplistic logic apply here? It should not because qiyama is not a physical event as we know it but a process which is presently impossible to explain and therefore a metaphor for this impossible to explain process. This mixing of utter destruction with graphic resurrection of the dead from their graves (and not all human beings are buried and therefore have a grave to rise from, nor do graves last but must just disappear under the effect of the earth moving and changing form, through chemical dissolution and totally transforming combustion as in a great fire or creamation which process leaves no grave at all).
Therefore ‘qiyama’ must be a process necessarily described in dream language (as was the coming plenty and famine in Egypt during the time of our master Yusuf (Joseph) ibn Ya’qub (Jacob- peace be on both) when the king had seen that dream described in Surat Yusuf (12) in the Qur’an. For the less able dream interpreters around the king it was such a confused account that they simply dimissed it as ‘adghathu ahlam’ (confused nightmares) while Joseph, being an accomplished friend and prophet of Allah could easily interpret it which interpretation is called “ta’weel” in the Qur’an. That all obscure, confused and out-of-this world-looking descriptions of states and affairs found in the Qur’an are also about realities so different from the ordinary realities we know that they have to be described through metaphors to which prophetic dreams are vehicles must be the true understanding of things. We have a couple of pricelessly illuminating verses of the Qur’an to establish this once and for all:
“We have come to them with a Book We have detailed, based on Knowledge, as a Guidance and mercy for a believeing people”. (7: 52) and the very next,
“Are they waiting for its ultimate interpretation (ta’weelah)? The Day when its ultimate interpretation (its actual reality) arrives those who had forgotten about it (neglected the Qur’an) will say ‘The messengers of our Lord had indeed come with the Truth” (7: 53)
Remember? When the seven years plenty and then seven years of scantiness arrived as prophesied by Joseph on the basis of his ultimate interpretation of the king’s dream came true, those who would not believe it at the time and not taken the necessary precautions could only beat their bosoms and heads and mourn. So shall all those who deny the Resurrection and Judgment on the Day so named. That also came in dream language but is not a lie; in fact it is the most momentous promise and destiny looking we people in the face and never failing to claim us when the time comes. We should always bear in mind that without God our existence is both inexplicable and meaningless and without a Day of Judgment all our efforts come to nothing except the moment-to-moment and finally futile pleasures and pains. As my dear mentor/sheikh had remarked, Allah is too great and kind to give us existence, desires and hopes and then destroy us wantonly for good. When I asked him about the obviously unbearable terrors and pains of Hell he had responded by reciting the verse “We do not sent the signs and verses (ayat) except for frightening (and thereby dissuading from evil)” (17: 59).
How true, both the frightful verses of the Qur’an and frightful events in our lives like earthquakes, fires, war, accidents… are signals from our Creator to be on our guard and try to avoid such terrors by pious living. It is almost common experience among the spiritually aware people that when a person is on exceptionally good terms with Allah Allah spares him many terrors of life often by causing him to be somewhere else when a disaster strikes. Because when a person takes lessons from the painful possibilities of life and strives to lead a pious life Allah’s special angels are sent to him to guard and take care of him. These angels not only keep him safe and well until Allah decrees death for him but they tell him so. Read if you wish:
“Those who say ‘Our Lord is Allah’ and then keep to the Path of Righteousness angels descend on them saying ‘We are your guarding friends in the life of this world and the next..” (41: 30-31)
Let all above not be taken as claim that there is no ‘Qiyama, Judgment, Paradise and Hell- all exist but their real natures is as yet beyond our comprehension and the ta’weel of their true natures will one day come to us when we will then regret our former denials of it with only too much regret. Imagining things are much easier than actually creating them; we can imagine almost infinitely great and wonderful things but can have a tough job when we need to make a painting or an elablorate dish of food, yet for Allah to create this universe and to destroy and recreate it are easier than our imagining smaller things.
Please understand this and do not regard the correct view that the statements in the Qur’an about the metaphorical nature of the descriptions of the Qiyama and the rest as their denial. You should be more intelligent than that. As again my sheikh said Allah is able to create times within times and spaces within spaces and some modern theories of physics suggest all such possibilities only too richly. In altered states of consciousness we do have some extremely different perceptions of our nature and of the nature of things which perceptions sometimes lead to great discoveries. In brief there is more to mind and to human experience than the ordinary although it is often the ordinary which is universally shared. Allah knows best.
We will now quote and comment on some verses to make this point and other points more clearly. We begin with the Sura with the very name ‘al Qiyama’.
“I swear by the Day of Resurrection, I swear by the self-reproachful soul (that you shall be raised from the dead). Is man thinking that We will not be gathering his bones together? Nay, We are Able to reconstruct him down to his finger tips. The fact is that he wants to abuse what is in front of him (live the rest of his life in sin). (It is the Day) That Day man is informed about what he sent forth and what he held back. No (it is not like you think)! Man is a seer over himself whatever pretexts or apologies he may come up with….
Nay, you love the immediately present (the worldly pleasures) and abandon the later (postponed pleasures or punishments consequent on your present choices, which will be be delivered mostly in the hereafter).. Beware! When the soul reaches the clavicle (on its way out) it is said ‘who is a therapist (to help)?’ (The dying man) thinks it is the time to depart. Leg is entwined with leg; that day the despatch is to your Lord (75:1- 15… 20- 30)
In this two part passage we again find the same ‘confusion’ typical of prophetic nightmarish dreams: the first part describes a Day when bodies are resurrected (obviously after a long process of dissolution and dissipation of the dead bodies) and once the implied resurrection takes place those raised find the sun and the moon join together and dazzling astronomical and terrestrial phenomena appear. As yet there is no visible distintion between those on whose heads the world is coming and those who are resurrected and indeed by other accounts in the Qur’an there should be first a general death of all living beings and only after a long desolate interval a resurrection of all living beings. From a scientific point of view this should be impossible simply because the total mass of all living beings which ever existed on earth until then will be in far excess of the weight of the globe. That is because atoms making up our world are constantly recycled through both animate and inanimate formations and only the mass of bacteria should have to add up to a weight more than our globe’s. What we have here than is a metaphoric description, a desription in momentous dream language of which description’s ultimate interpretantion (ta’weelahu) is known to Allah only.
In the second part (separated by …..) we find a scene of death. A man is dying apparently in his bed and surrounded by his folks who cry for a doctor to come. The man’s immediate destination is to God while the other descriptions of the events only delivers him to the angels of death and then to his grave where he is questioned and treated according to the results of the questioning and wait then an indeterminate time (perhaps eons) until He is presented to his Lord.
All such confused and ambiguous-looking descriptions are characteristic of metaphoric dream language and must have been employed more to emotionally impress and move than describe and prescribe some solid and tangible facts we are used to in this lower and rational life of ours in this material world. There is no doubt that on us believers (alhamdu lillah) they work only too well; not only that- Divinely inspired metaphoric descriptions of things spiritual awake in us our eyes of the heart through which we gain access to a world which is infinitely vaster and more important and lasting than this lower world.
Now the recompense (jaza). We get a first and briefest glimpse of it in the verses “ That Day (of postponed deserts) are faces shining brightly gazing at their Lord and that Day are faces which are grimaced, expecting a breaking of the back” (75: 22-25). We note that some people are entirely care-free, blissfully contented and gazing at their Lord while others are fearing for the worst. But what Day is that? Is it the same Day when the sun and the moon merge and people ask about where to flee? It cannot be because that is the Day when every creature man or not will be dying. Is it the Day when the second trumpet is blown and all are raised? It cannot be again because Hadith tell us that on that day even the prophets will fear for the worst. It must be a third Day, the Day when balances are set up and our deeds are weighed. But Allah only speaks of one Day and as seen in the above examples the terrors of a cosmic collapse, resurrected people running madly about when the eye is dazzled, the moon is eclipsed and the sun and the moon are joined together- that Day man says “to where can the esacpe be?”. No, there is no place to escape, the only place to stand that Day is the Presence of your Lord.and then towards a Caller:
“When the called are called to a never seen before thing you turn away from them. Their gazes abased they issue from their graves as if they are swarms of locusts spreading out, running towards the Caller. Say the unbelievers ‘This is a tough Day” (54: 6- 8).
Here the phase when the cosmos collapsed over the heads of people is not mentioned. But that it is the Day of Resurrection proper is certain because people are issuing from their graves. Yet in the verses quoted from Surat al Qiyama above, namely “When the eye is dazzled, the moon is eclipsed and the sun and the moon are joined together- that Day man says “to where can the escape be?”. No, there is no place to escape, the only place to stand that Day is the Presence of your Lord” (75: 7-12) we find the day of destruction called as Day of Resurrection. That is because description of the day is given as an answer to the question “When is this Day of Resurrection?” on the part of heedless man.
Be as it may, after this we shall be handed our judgment and its deserts either in Paradise or in Hell (God forbid). But again, one man is already gazing at his Lord (is he in Paradise? Apparently he is) while another is not in Hell yet but fearing. The confusions and ambiguities are legion but the emotional effect is like a nuclear blast’s!
After such extremely ambiguous, confused-looking and emotionally explosively charged verses which choke us while reading or listening to them we have verses which describe the delights of Paradise and the terrors and horrors of Hell which looks every bit to apply more to the soul than the body. And that is neither a mistake nor the delights and sufferings of the soul can fail to make the body delight and suffer respectively. A piece of very good news may cure a sick body while bad news can make a healthy body to become seriously ill. As far as the Qur’an is concerned it transpires that its descriptions of after-life experiences are metaphorical and make sense only in the context of an ultimate, inescapable and perfect justice being imposed on all at the end of the day. No sane and conscientious person can dislike such a prospect whether he believes in it or not in an ontological sense. But belief is sign that the person’s conscience is truly strong and effective. Contrarily, unbelief is caused by addiction to sins ranging from emotional sins like pride, arrogance and miserliness to practiced sins like cheating, robbing, hurting etc. Once burdened with a catalogue of sins about which the sinner never intends to be repentant a heart loses its ability to believe in anything which will inconvenience it. Read if you wish:
“Those who deny the Day of Recompense- only those who are aggressive sinners deny it. When Our verses is read out to one such he says ‘These are the myths of the ancients. Never so! It is just that what they are used to commit has deposited filth on their hearts. No! That Day they shall be veiled from their Lord” (83: 11- 15).
Incidentally and very appropriately the Qur’anic narrations on these subjects reminds me of the narrations by theoretical physics of mind-boggling and numbing descriptions of arcane phenomena of Relativity Theory, the Quantum Theory and all the later and increasingly sophisticated theories in which our common notions about time, space, causality etc. are shred to pieces and thrown to winds. Obviously there is more to reality than meets the eye on our humble part and both extraordinary spiritual masters and extraordinary science masters have been busy in challenging our ontological pseudo-certainties and erecting in front of our eyes structures whose sophistication defy the comprehension of at least perhaps 99% of well educated people. What about not those less well educated?
The advantage with the spiritual sophistications is that we have our heart’s eyes to come to our rescue. If those eyes are open in a man, no matter his formal level of intelligence or education he will be able to get the message intended and click into action at no time. The above verse is in fact giving us the clue: Avoid moral wrongs and your eyes of the heart will be eligible to the vision of the Divine all around you.
That there is after death a form of existence preparing us for a new emergence (resurrection)
and following that a process of judgment and an eventuality of recompense must be certain. That is enough for believers if not for unbelievers for whom nothing will ever be enough. Read if you wish:
“Were it the case that by a just a recitation mountains could be moved or the earth split and the dead made to speak (it could be by the recitation of this Qur’an). Nay, all affair belongs to Allah. Did not those who believe yet learn that had Allah willed He could guide all mankind…” (13: 31). Also
“It is not possible for a soul to believe except with Allah’s permission. He puts filth on those who do not use their minds” (10:100).
Qiyama and all its associated concepts are among the ‘ghaibiyat’ (unseens) of the realms of reality, as such they have to be metaphorically treated and believing in them is a privilege of those believing Allah through His true messengers whose culmination is Muhamamd sws and their ta’weel must await Allah’s pleasure for Him to expose and expose to us and bless us in an ultimate way as He promised. Amen.