Man, with respect to action and bodily endeavors, is no more than a weak animal, a helpless creature. So limited a circle is the realm at his disposal in this respect that his fingers can touch its circumference, and such are the weakness, impotence and indolence of man that even the domestic animals are influenced by them. If, for example, domesticated goats and asses are compared with their wild counterparts, great differences will be observed between them.
But as a passive, recipient being who needs to pray and petition, man is a worthy traveller allowed to stay for some time in the guest-house of this world. He is the guest of a Generous One, Who has put the treasures of His infinite Compassion at his disposal, and subjugated to him His peerless works of creative power which are his servants. Also, He has prepared for the use and pleasure of His guest such a vast area of spectacle that its radius is as far as sight or even imagination can reach.
Now then, if man, by relying on his physical capacity and innate abilities takes the worldly life as his goal and concentrates on the pleasures of this life, he will suffocate within a very narrow circle. Furthermore, the parts of his body and his senses and faculties will bring suit and witness against him in the Hereafter. But if he knows himself to be a guest and spends his life within the limits approved by his generous Host, he will lead a happy and peaceful life and attain to the highest rank among the creation. In the Hereafter, he will be rewarded with an everlasting life of bliss, and the members of his body and all his faculties will bear witness in his favour.
All the wonderful faculties of man have not been given him so that he might use them in this trivial worldly life, but they have been given for an important life of eternity. When compared to animals, man is seen to have many more faculties and senses whereas the pleasure he can take from merely physical life is much less than that of an animal. Every single pleasure of the worldly life bears the traces of thousands of pains, and is spoiled with the sorrows left from the past, the fears of the future, and the disappearance of the pleasure itself. But this is not the case with an animal. Its pleasures are free from pains and its enjoyments are without anxiety. Neither is it affected by the sorrows of the past, nor can anxieties for the future prevent it from the enjoyment of its life. It leads a comfortable life, and praises its Creator.
To conclude, if man, who has been created on the best pattern, concentrates on the worldly life, he is reduced to a rank a hundred times lower than a sparrow, although he has a hundred times as many and developed faculties as an animal. In another treatise, I explained this fact in the form of a parable. I will now repeat it, as it is related to the subject.
A man gives one of his servants ten gold lira and orders him to have a suit made for himself of some particular type of cloth. He gives a thousand gold lira to another servant of his and sends him to the bazaar with a shopping list. The former has an excellent suit made for himself of cloth of finest quality. The latter acts foolishly. He does not notice how much money was given to him, nor reads the shopping list, but thinks he should imitate his friend. Therefore, he goes to a shop, and gives all of the thousand gold lira in exchange for a suit. That unfortunate servant then returns to his lord and recieves a severe punishment and a terrible torment.
Anyone with a bit of intelligence perceives that the thousand gold lira were not given to the servant to buy a suit, but for a very important transaction.
Similarly, the spiritual faculties and the feelings and senses with which man has been endowed, are much more developed than those of animals. For example, his eye can identify all degrees of beauty; his sense of taste, his tongue, can distinguish the various tastes of all kinds of food, his intelligence can penetrate into the many details of visible realities; his heart yearns for all ranks of perfection, and so on. Whereas, the faculties of animals (with the exception of some one particular faculty which greatly develops in each animal according to its particular duty) can realize only a very little development, if any.
The reason why man has so many faculties is that man’s senses and feelings have developed very far owing to his mind and intellect. The large variety of his needs has caused him to evolve different types of feelings, and to become very sensitive to all kinds of things. Also, due to his comprehensive nature he has been given such desires as are turned to several aims and objectives. Because of the diversity of his essential (natural) duties, his senses and faculties have greatly expanded. Furthermore, since he has an inclination and capacity to perform all types of worship, he has the potential to realize all kinds of perfection.
Obviously, this kind of richness in faculties and abundance of potentialities can by no means have been given to him for an insignificant, temporary, worldly life. They exist in man because his essential duty is to perceive his obligations that are directed to endless aims, to affirm his impotence, poverty and insufficiency in the form of worship, to study by his far-reaching sight and penetrating understanding and to bear witness to the glorification of Allah by all creation, to discern and be grateful for the aid of the All-Gracious One sent in the form of bounties, and to gaze and, reflect upon, and draw warning from, the miracles of the Power of the Lord manifested in His works of creation.
O world-worshipping man, who are charmed by the worldly life and ignorant of the meaning of your nature as the best pattern of creation! Once I saw the true nature of this worldly life in an imaginary vision, as follows:
I happened to be on a long journey. My Lord had caused me to set out on this journey, and had assigned to me sixty gold lira, which would be given to me in instalments on different occasions. This went on for some time and after a while I arrived at an inn where an entertainment was going on. I gambled away my last ten gold lira there in one night of entertainment and notoriety. When it was morning, I had no money to buy the provisions that I would need at my destination. All that remained to me of my allowance was pains and sorrows and regrets left by sins and illicit pleasures.
I was in that wretched state, when a man turned up and said to me: ‘You have lost all you had, and hence you have deserved punishment. Moreover, you will go on to your destination with no money. But the door of repentance is not closed, if you use your mind. Save the half of the fifteen gold lira which will be given to you as the rest of your allowance, and buy with that the (necessary) provisions you will need at your destination.’
My selfhood was not content with putting aside half, so the man said, ‘Save a third of it then.’ But with this also my seltbood was not content. The man insisted ‘then a quarter.’ I realized my selfhood would not be able to abandon it addictions, so the man turned away in some indignation and disappeared.
At just this moment, I found myself on a train speeding down a vertical tunnel. I was alarmed, but there was no way to escape. To my curious surprise, I saw that there were very attractive flowers and tasty-looking fruits alongside the track, hanging out from the sides of the tunnel. I foolishly attempted to pick some of them. But all around them were thoms which hurt and cut my hands as I touched them; what I tried to hold slipped from me because of the speed of the train. I could take hold of only a few and not for long. An attendant came beside me and said: ‘Give me five pence, and in return I will give you as many flowers and fruits as you want. Otherwise with your hands all cut up, you will lose a hundred instead of five. Besides, there is a punishment for picking them without permission.’
Depressed by this condition, I looked out from the window to see when the tunnel would end. But there was no end in sight. I observed many openings in the walls of the tunnel into which passengers from the train were being thrown. Suddenly I caught sight of an opening just opposite me with a gravestone on either side. When I peered out I made out my name, SA’ID written in capital letters on the gravestones. I gave a cry of bewilderment and repentance. Unexpectedly, I heard the voice of the man who had given me advice at the door of the inn, saying to me:
- Have you come to your senses?
- Yes, I have. But I am in despair and there is nothing I can do.
- Repent, and trust in Allah.
- I do.
Then I woke up and I found myself transformed into New Sa’id; the Old Sa’id had gone away.
I will now interpret some aspects of this imaginary vision:
The journey is man"s life, which is, in fact a journey from the incorporeal world of eternity, passing through the stages of mother"s womb, youth, old age, the grave, the intermediate world, resurrection and the Bridge. The sixty golden lira are the sixty years of an average lifetime. I was forty-five years old when I saw that imaginary vision. Only Allah knows when I will die. A sincere student of the Holy Qur'an showed me the true path so that I might spend half of the remaining fifteen years for the Hereafter. The inn, as I came to understand, was Istanbul for me. The train represents time, and each wagon, a year. The tunnel is the worldly life; the thorny flowers and fruits stand for illicit pleasures and forbidden amusements that make the heart bleed with the idea of seperation at the very moment you reach out for them. Disappearance of pleasures increases sorrow, and besides, being unlawful, they cause one to suffer punishment.
The attendant on the train had said: "Give me five pence, and in return, I will give you as many flowers and fruits as you wish." This means that the permissible tastes and pleasures, obtained in lawful ways, are enough for one"s satisfaction; they leave no need to have recourse to unlawful ways.
You can interpret for yourself the remaining details of the vision.
Man, among the creatures, is much like a tender child. His strength originates in his weakness and his power in his impotence. It is on account of this want of strength and power that the whole of creation has been subjugated to him. If, therefore, man perceives his weakness and becomes a humble servant to Allah through his prayer, his words and actions, if he recognizes his impotence and seeks Allah"s help, he will then have fulfilled the obligation of gratitude for the subjugation of nature to him. Besides, Allah will enable him to reach his goal and realize his aims in such a way that if it were left to his own powers he could not succeed in one hundredth of it. Sometimes, he mistakenly attributes to his own achievement what he gets through his active prayer, that is, through acting in accordance with the Divine laws of life and nature.
Consider how great a source of power is the weakness of a chick, on account of which the mother hen will attack even a lion. Or how the weakness of a lion cub subjugates to itself so great a beast as the lioness which itself suffers hunger to feed its baby. How remarkable is the powerful appeal inherent in weakness, and what a spectacular manifestation of Compassion for importunate beings!
In the same way, a loved child obtains his goal through weeping, or simply wishing, or making a sad face, and can cause mighty person to serve him. If, otherwise he relies upon his own strength, he could never realize even one thousandth of this. On account of his weakness and powerlessness, in fact, feelings of affection and protection are so motivated in his favour that a single gesture of his hand may suffice for him to subjugate powerful persons to himself.
If a child like this becomes so arrogant as to deny the care and affection that is being shown to him and says, in accusation of the protection over him, "I do all this with my own power", he will certainly deserve a slap. Similarly, man will also, deservedly, receive a punishment if he denies the mercy of His Creator towards him and accusing Allah"s wisdom in ingratitude for what Divine Mercy has bestowed upon him, attributes all of his achievements to his own power and knowledge like Korah who said:
"I have been given it (that is, my wealth) on account of knowledge I have" (Qur'an, 28.78).
This shows that man"s observed dominion in nature, his advancement and progress in civilization and technology have not been realized solely through his own power, effort, and success. He largely owes them to his essential weakness and helplessness which attract Divine aid; his poverty is the source of Divine provision, his ignorance is made up for by Divine inspiration; his need draws Divine favours. Also, it is Divine mercy and affection, and Divine wisdom, but not his own power and knowledge, which has empowered him with dominion over the rest of the creation, and has put things at his disposal. It is again the Divine authority and compassion which, alone, enable man, so weak as to be defeated by a blind scorpion and a footless snake, to dress in silk through a worm and to eat the honey of a poisonous insect.
Since this is the truth, o man, renounce arrogance and do not put your trust in your self! Rather, affirm your impotence and weakness in the high presence of Allah by asking for His help, and by praying and entreating Him. Declare your poverty and insufficiency, and show that you are His true servant. Then say, "Allah is sufficient for us. Most sublime is He in whom we trust" (Qur'an 3:173) and, in saying so, ascend to the higher ranks.
Don not say, "I am nothing; what significance do I have that the All-Wise Creator should intertionally put the whole of the creation at my disposal and demand from me universal gratitude?"
You are indeed almost nothing with respect to your physical being, but concerning your duty or rank, you are an attentive observer of this magnificent universe, an eloquent tongue of beings declaring the Divine wisdom, a perceptive student of this book of creation, an admiring overseer of the creatures that glorify Allah"s praise, and a respected master of worshipping beings.
You are, o man, indeed an insignificant particle; a poor creature and a weak animal as far as your physical being and incarnate soul are counted and, therefore, you are being carried away by the huge waves of all creation. But if you are trained by Islam toward human perfection, that is, being a slave to Allah alone, you will find a kingliness in your being a slave, a comprehensivness in your particularity, a world in your small entity, and a very high rank in your insignificance. Also, the realm of your supervision of the rest of the creation will be so broad that you can say, "My Compassionate Lord has made the world a home for me. He has given me the sun and the moon as lamps, spring as a bunch of roses, summer as a banquet of favours, and the animals as obedient servants. He has put the plants and vegetation at my disposal also, as ornaments and provisions to my home."
In conclusion, if you obey your evil-commanding selfhood and Satan, you will fall to the lowest of the low. If you follow the truth and the Qur'an, you will ascend to the highest of the high and become a perfect pattern of creation.
R. Nur Collection (23rd Word)
A Commentary On The Contemporary World
- By The Fountain
- Category: Issue 3 (July - September 1993)
- © Blue Dome Press. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.