#Article (Archive)

Rational Mysticism: The Pristine Mysticism of Islam as Exemplified in the Life and Ethos of the Prophet

Aug 17, 2012, 1:02 PM

In the same vein, the Prophet is reported as having said, “Were it not that the demons revolve round the hearts of the children of Adam, they would descry the Supernal Kingdom (malakut) of the heavens and the earth” (ibid.). That is, if the human being prohibits his deceiving and evil.-inducing archenemy, the demons, from entering the inner sanctum of his heart and revolving round it, he would most certainly be able to view the Supernal Kingdom of the cosmos.

The human being who attains to the level where he sees and hears the Supernal Kingdom of God transcends science (‘ilm) and through (fahm) to apprehend the world immediately and intuitively, thus witnessing God’s Reign over the microcosm and the macrocosm and the annihilation of all things in Him. And one who achieves this realization is endowed with Divine Authority (wilayat-I ilahi), for Divine Authority is a status to which all humankind can aspire.

The human being endowed with Divine Authority hears the creatures as they glorify God. He sees the inner truth and the Supernal Kingdom of the world, and he derives pleasure from the comprehension of these supernatural truths. This pleasure is of course the result of excruciating spiritual struggles and exercises. The Muslim mystic following in the mystical tradition of the Prophet views these spiritual experiences as blessings granted by God, for from his point of view Divine Unity is the ultimate truth that pervades the entire cosmos. He does not seek the inferior or mundane benefits that the spiritual path yields but rather pursues that ultimate aspiration of all mystics-beholding the Essence of God and the Grace of the Lord, the highest spiritual aspiration for which the hearts of mystic yearn. The most cherished desire of the mystic who views the Prophet as the exemplar to be followed is to arrive at the spiritual pinnacle that the Quran describes in this verse: “in the presence of their Lord are they nourished” (Quran 3:169). As such, his sole aspiration is to get a glimpse of the Countenance of the Beloved and to relish His epiphanies, preferring this spiritual bliss to all the fleeting pleasures that the world and human company can offer. He sacrifices the transient as well as the eternal world so as to be with God.

Based on the teachings of the Prophet of Islam (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him and his household), beholding the Supernal Kingdom of God is a blessing granted only to those believer who are steadfast in their faith, whose hearts and spirits are unfaltering, whose eyes and tongues take their orders from the heart, and who keep guard of the heart-which is the sacred sanctuary of God-to prevent the infiltration of His enemies. Imam ‘Ali (may God bless him) reports that the Prophet said, “The faith of the slave of God is not sound unless his heart is sound and his heart is not sound unless his tongue is sound” (Qummi, op. cit., p. 150 and Nahj al-balaghah, speech no. 174, p. 567).

The heart of the mystic is the repository and fortress of God-wariness (taqwa), a disposition that is the natural extension of knowledge of and obedience to God, for “For everything there is a repository, and the repository of God-wariness is the heart of the mystic” (Muhammadi Riyshahri, vol. 8, p. 3590, no. 12280). A certain companion once asked the Prophet (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him and his household), “Teach me some deed for which God would love me.” The Prophet replied, “If you wish to be loved by God, you must fear and be wary of Him” (Majlisi, op. cit., vol. 70, p. 312, no. 14). Therefore, the mystics who complete the spiritual journey are suffused with God-wariness, for that is the pinnacle of wisdom: the Prophet of God is reported as having said, “The pinnacle of wisdom is fear of God” (ibid., vol. 21, p. 218).  And one in whom fear of God is realized can fear none other-for “Him who fears God. God shall make all else to fear him” (Kulayni, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 114)-and shall receive such knowledge as is free of falsehood-for “If you fear God according as He deserves, you shall be taught knowledge unblemished by ignorance” (Hindi, vol. 3, p. 142).

8. Love of God

The teachings of the Prophet in connection with mysticism can bring about numerous results, some of which are direct and some indirect. But one of the most prominent results of his teachings is love God. The mystic, possessing immediate knowledge of God, necessarily loves him. This love is what provokes him to seek God, to supplicate Him, and to speak with Him. Since he loves God, the mystic also loves to adore and worship Him, and he can never feel to have exhausted this need for worships. On the contrary, as he advances on the spiritual path and ascends to more perfect levels of spirituality, his devotion to religious law and worship intensifies. Thus, he weeps, repents, and supplicates more often. This is confirmed by following words of the Noble Prophet (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him and his household):

The best of people is he who loves worship and embrace it; who loves it in his heart and performs it with his body; and who frees himself [from worldly matters] for its sake. He cares not how he fares in this world, whether he is rich or poor. (Kulayni, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 83)

There are a number of profound points contained in these words. First, one who loves to worship God is among the best of humankind. Second, as worship has an inner and an outer aspects-the outer aspects pertains to the form and the rules of performance and the inner aspects relates to the substance and the secrets---the mystic, who loves worship, must direct his outer existence to satisfy the outer requirements of worship and his inner existence to realize its esoteric essence. This is show that it is wrong to reject the formal aspect of religion with pretext of seeking its inner gem and substance; the kernel comes with the shell and the latter cannot be discarded for the sake of the former. Thus, the Prophet says that we must love to worship in our hearts and perform it with our bodies; this is, the heart as well as the body must engage in worship and obedience to God. It is only when both aspects of the human being’s existence fulfill their functions that he is secure against wandering astray into the wildness of the deviation.            

The third point to be deduced from the above-quoted statement of the Prophet is that the believer who loves to worship God purges his heart of all else:

The solitude of the heart is no place to converse with outsiders;

As the demon leaves the angel enters.

The love of worship purifies the believer’s imagination and intellect and imparts luminosity to the heart and mind, for he dissociates himself from all else in order to undertake worship (Mutahhari, Majmu’ih athar, vol.3, p. 318). As such, when engaged in worship of God, he has no concerns weighting down on his mind, his imagination does not digress into other matters, he is filled with awe and servility, and his heart is pure and satisfied. The believer, of course, understands worship in a very broad sense, encompassing such seemingly mundane matters as working to sustain himself and his family, striving to improve the welfare of others, helping his fellow believers in solving their problems and participating in the dissipation of knowledge through learning and teaching.

The fourth point indicated by the above-quoted statement from the Prophet is that once the believer savored the pleasure of worship he cannot do without it and consequently he comes indifferent to his maternal wellbeing. He is overwhelmed with love of God and so his sole concern is God, and nothing else matters (Mutahhari, Ta’lim wa tarbiat-I islami, pp.330-343). For the realization of love, there are two necessary elements: that the beloved be possessed of perfection and that the lover be aware of the beloved (Jawadi Amuli, Adab-I fana-yi muqarraban, vol. 2, p. 33). The Prophet of Islam (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him and his household) would pray to God that He should make His love more pleasing and appealing to him that fresh and pure water: “And make Your love more pleasing to me that cool water” (Fayd Kashani, op. cit., vol. 8, p. 6). Such love produces numerous effects in the soul both positively and negatively, for it aids in the acquisition of virtues and also in the purgation of vices (see Jawadi Amuli, Adab-I fana-yi muqarraban, pp.340-353)

To be continued.