Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A commentary

Authors are incorrect when they assert that "intoxication is the fruit of finding God." There are several reasons for this.

First, spiritual intoxication - on whatever level - is a gift of God. Irrespective of how hard an individual may search for Divinity, no one receives the disclosures of one, or another, variety of intoxication unless Divinity permits this.

In other words, no one ‘finds’ God unless God wishes to be found. The trials, tests of conduct, and striving within this world are nothing more than the offerings of candidates applying for grants of Divine Favor, but the One Who possesses the "keys of the heavens and earth" (42:12) is Independent and dispenses Favor in accordance with Divine Himma or Aspiration in conjunction with the Purpose underlying and permeating Creation.

We may be seekers, but we are not the primary Seeker. In fact, we are the sought, and the one who understands this seeks to accommodate the interests of the Seeker, and, then, God willing, waits in a condition of repentance, as well as with qualities such as: patience, sincerity, gratitude, taqwa, trust, hope, and love.

In the Qur’an, God instructs the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to: "Say: ‘This is my way. I call to God upon insight - I and whoever follows after me.’" (12:108) Those who, by the Grace of God, have been granted the gift of such insight, understand, at least, two fundamental principles: (1) "God is never unjust toward his servant." (3:182); (2) "To God belongs the conclusive argument." (6:149)

Consequently, if a person does not receive intoxication, no injustice has been done to that individual. On the other hand, if someone does receive intoxication, then, there is no court of appeals for those whom might object, since the Supreme Source of all "conclusive arguments" has issued the edict concerning the conferring of such intoxication.

Secondly, intoxication is not ‘the’ only modality through which Divinity dispenses Favor. Unveiling can assume many different forms, and intoxication is only one of them - and, as indicated previously, even in the case of intoxication, there are many kinds and levels of this condition.

All of the instruments of spiritual potential contained within ‘fitra’ are capable, under the appropriate circumstances of, God willing, serving as loci of manifestation for Divine disclosure. All of these possibilities provide different, but complementary, engagements of Reality, and, in fact, all of these modalities are required to be operating properly in order for the individual to be fully realized.

Spiritual intoxication is important. However, it is not the be all, and end all, of spirituality since not only does a great deal depend on the nature of the intoxication in any given case, but ‘fitra’ contains an array of potentials for engaging Divinity that are capable of coloring, orienting, modulating, and shaping the condition of intoxication being experienced.

In addition to the foregoing, authors are not quite correct when they contend that love is the most intense and profound of human experiences. They would be closer to the truth if they were to say words to the effect that: ‘love is ‘one’ of "the most intense and profound of human experiences," but most human beings have never experienced love in the way that the ‘People of Allah’ do.’

A Hadith Qudsi states:

"Whoever seeks Me, finds Me.
whoever finds Me, comes to know Me.
whoever comes to know Me, loves Me.
whoever loves me, that person I slay,
and whomever I kill, I owe that person blood-money,
and to whomever I owe blood-money, I am the
recompense for that blood-money."

Although the love of those who come to know Divinity is never left behind, the fact of the matter is, there are two conditions, in addition to love, which are alluded to in the foregoing Hadith Qudsi - namely, being slain (i.e., fana), and recompense for the one who is slain in this fashion (i.e., baqa), and these conditions are both different from, and, yet, complementary to, the dimension of love, as well as being every bit as intense and profound as the condition of love.

In truth, the language of love tells only part of the spiritual story - albeit, a theme of fundamental importance to the story of Creation’s purpose.

Furthermore, there is a reason why the dimension of love is often given emphasis in Sufi literature. Aside from its central importance, love is the last outpost of familiarity through which spiritually unrealized individuals can experience some degree of resonance with the ineffable, mystical realms that transcend the nature of everyday sorts of experience.

More specifically, there is nothing in the ‘normal’ lives of spiritually unrealized individuals which can serve as a ‘likeness’ to the conditions of ‘fana’, ‘baqa’, and any number of modalities of unveiling which may take place through such spiritual instruments as the heart, sirr, ruh, kafi or aqfah. However, many people have had some sort of exposure to love - at least in a limited way.

Therefore, rather than speak about that which is not only beyond language and concepts but also which needs to be directly experienced in order for an individual to have any sense of even some of what is involved - and, as a result, is beyond the comprehension of spiritually unrealized people - Sufis use the language of love to serve as a medium of communication since there is a certain degree of overlap between the love of spiritually unrealized individuals and mystical love.

Nonetheless, irrespective of whatever degrees of commonality may exist in the understanding of spiritually unrealized and realized individuals with respect to the nature of love, the latter group tends to experience love in a very different way than do most people in the spiritually unrealized group. Moreover, the nature of the former sort of experience will vary, God willing, as an individual proceeds along the Sufi Path.

For example, there is a dimension of the heart which concerns love of both particular individuals, as well as humanity, in general. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: "You will not enter Paradise until you have faith, and you will not complete your faith until you love one another." In addition, on another occasion the Prophet is reported to have said: "If you love your Creator, then, love your fellow beings first."

In addition, there is another dimension of the heart which revolves about love for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: "None of you can have perfect faith till I become dearer to you than your father, children, and all humankind."

There is a further dimension of the heart which gives expression to a love that is focused exclusively on Divinity. Thus, the Qur’an indicates: "Say: ‘Surely, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

An important aspect of this Divine love is that it is not a means to an end. In other words, one does not love Divinity because God is the One Who, for example, can grant Paradise or other Divine Favors, but because one has been created with not only a capacity to give all that one has, and do all that one does, for no other purpose than as a result of an intense love for Divinity, but one has, as well, by the Grace of God, acquired a niyat (intention) and himma (aspiration) which seeks to give expression to the aforementioned capacity for Divine love.

Beyond the love of the heart, there also is a dimension of love within the potential of the ruh or spirit. The Qur’an says of those who love through this facet of the ruh: "He loves them, and they love Him." (5:54) With respect to such love, Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) says: "He who has tasted of the pure love of God will have no desire for the world and will avoid one and all."

In a Hadith Qudsi, Allah says, via the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): "My servant does not cease to draw nigh unto Me through free-will offerings, unto I love him." In another Hadith Qudsi, cited earlier, love of Divinity arises out of coming to know Divinity, and since God is the One Who has brought one to a condition of such knowledge, God is the One Who has induced love in the individual through such knowledge of Divinity - and the giving of such knowledge is an expression of God’s love for the individual.

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