Why Downfall?We observe an explicit rebellion against Deen, depressing downfall and catastrophe i.e. deterioration of human values. While investigating the causes of decline, we should not lose sight of this reality that system of human life is based on three foundations: Belief, Knowledge and Compliance. These three foundations put together are called Deen. When these are complied with, the life can be termed as a balanced religious life.
Belief: The dogmas or beliefs are the ideological determinants, which are retained in the heart after comprehension; they are executed at internal or external level. For instance: Allah is one Who is the Creator. He has sent the Prophets (D) for guidance of the humanity. After death, we will be brought back to life on the Day of Resurrection. On that Day every person will be awarded paradise or hell according to his or her good or evil performance. So on and so forth. These determinants are the constituents of Islamic faith or belief. We, Muslims, keep the foundation of our faith on the Qur'an and Sunnah. The other religions have the dogmas according to their Books. Some people hold the hereditary belief while others base it upon their insight. Every one behaves and acts under some ideological determinants, ingrained in one’s mind.
Knowledge: The second foundation of the system of life is knowledge. We gather it through our five or more senses. (Parapsychology claims there are as many as seventeen senses). After this sensory process, our experiences and observations are advanced to the intellect. The intellect sorts out comprehension of the sensory data, which is transformed into its quintessence called knowledge. The sources of knowledge are, therefore, observations, experiences and apperception. Belief integrates a being into personality and becomes a vital force in human life. The second force is knowledge, which takes its roots from observations and experiences. The belief precedes knowledge. If knowledge endorses genuineness of belief, the belief gets validated and invigorated. It then becomes a strong base of dynamics of a personality.
Compliance: All actions are deeply rooted in belief and knowledge. A contradiction between the two can jeopardize an action or execution. Such a situation is sufficient to shatter a belief. The individual falls prey to doubts, ambiguities and develops into a skeptic. The standards of fair and foul get confused and vision blurs when the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. In his private meditation, he finds faults either with faith or the reality on ground. When the belief in Allah is ingrained in heart that He is the Creator and Omnipotent, a passion incites man to worship Him. But if one does not experience the versatility of Allah in this world, his belief gets impaired and a contradiction in belief and knowledge about Allah comes to fore. Such an unfortunate state of mind benumbs the impetus and passion for the subservience to Allah. The belief actually charges all acts like electric current and becomes a driving force. But if not affirmed by external reality it gasps its last. A total spiritual devastation.
Where Do We Stand?Reward, retribution, Paradise and Hell are our faith. Every good deed, it is observed, does not, at times, produce good results. Similarly, every bad deed does not, every time, bring about bad results. It is a deceptive situation. All depends upon the social dynamics. But when our observation does not conform to our faith, and knowledge too does not come to our rescue, we lose confidence and go astray. The foundation of our faith is laid on the unseen:
Those who believe in the unseen.
(Qur'an (al-Baqarah) 2:3.)
We have not seen Allah, His Angels, the Day of Judgement, Paradise and Hell, but we believe in them because the Prophet (A) has told us, ‘they are.’ Our faith is based on the unseen. The common man’s faith is based on the unseen, which intrinsically warrants the endorsement. If the faith is not endorsed, it gets weakened with the passage of time. The faith is an impetus for action. If faith is strong, action will also be strong and vice versa.
An educated young Muslim today cannot deny existence of Allah and the Holy Prophet (A) because he is born in a Muslim family. But he falls victim to the worst type of uncertainty of faith for he is not well grounded in it. Many of us particularly youngsters, who apparently do not deny Doomsday, do not accept it completely because they have not experienced any creditable result of believing in Allah and His Prophet (A). They doubt even the credibility of resurrection for he has yet to experience the credibility of things related to his belief in the unseen. His heart forces him to believe but his intellect spurns it. This contradiction between heart and intellect exists incessantly.
We deny the reality while performing the acts. We claim to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (A) but do not practice it. Our subtle denial is exhibited through our actions. Although we proclaim that Allah is One yet we worship our ambitions and lusts and put them equal to Allah.
This is scientific era and people are free from stronghold of superstitions. The inquisitive scientific mind raises questions. The modern man wants to see the facts with naked eye. Any thing that conforms to observation is easy to believe in. The scientists substantiate their claims by demonstrating facts in laboratories. It is believed that hydrogen and oxygen form water because it is proved in laboratories.
For the materialists and empiricists, every spiritual thing is vague or non-existent. The human intellect is accustomed to proof. The scientific way of judgment, evaluation and believing things has become the way of life. We daily observe that if rules of business conduct are followed, business prospers. Otherwise it declines and ends up in loss. In a like manner, when every matter is subjected to practical tests and proved, it becomes believable. If a faith does not prove its credibility, it is not truly believed in. In this way, faith remains vacillating and unsettled.
The Reassured BeliefWe are obliged to think whether or not the Qur'an approves of the prevailing scientific method and that the consistency of faith depends upon experiments and observations. Does the Qur'an allow to subject our faith to the analytical experimentation. Hadrat Ibrahim (D) implored Allah in the following words:
My Lord, show me how You revive the dead.
(Qur'an (al-Baqarah) 2:260.)
Hadrat Ibrahim (D) intended to subject his belief to observation and experiment so that his faith might become undeniable. There might not be any doubt in believing that Allah can resurrect the humans and the animals. Allah, however, provided complete experimentation of resurrection. Besides this, Allah also showed His matchless and unequaled powers and kingdom of the earth and heavens so as to strengthen his faith to the strongest footings beyond any doubts, obscurity or uncertainty. Allah says:
Therefore, We showed Ibrahim sovereignty over Heavens and Earth so he might feel reassured.
(Qur'an (al-An‘am) 6:75.)
Hadrat Ibrahim (D) was shown the kingdom of heavens and the earth to ascertain his faith to the superlative degree. The firmest faith provides the utmost delight and bliss. Allah has said:
It is incumbent upon Us to help the believers.
(Qur'an (ar-Rum) 30:47.)
It is the promise of Allah to help the believers. Allah helped the believers and furnished them with victory subduing the disbelievers:
When Allah’s support comes as well as victory, and you see mankind entering Allah’s religion in droves.
(Qur'an (an- Nasr) 110:1-2.)
The Prophet (A) saw the people thronging to embrace Islam in multitudes. He (A) witnessed the benefaction of Allah. This was an observation and experience too that provided unassailable strength to faith and the Muslims gained tremendous boost. When the faith reached the stage of certainty, Allah said to the Prophet:
Then hymn your Lord’s praise and beg Him for forgiveness, since He is so Relenting.
(Qur'an (an-Nasr) 110:3.)
After the observation, Allah decrees to resort to His praise and forgiveness. This explicit command to the Prophet (A) implies that the Muslim Ummah requires to glorify Allah more subsequent to a resplendent observation that ascertains their faith. Sura An-Nasr reveals that the unseen faith becomes firm and unquestionable after observation.
What is Mysticism (Tasawwuf)? (Observation and Experimentation)This cannot be refuted that faith becomes a driving force of life after experimentation and observation have endorsed it. The question arises as to how can this culmination of faith be achieved. How can a person get ascertained of his faith through experimentation and observation? The scientists do carry out experimentation of their expounded theories for validation. Are there any means to reassure faith in the tenets of Islam through observation and experiments? The answer is in affirmative. There is a system, which brings about tangible results of faith through experimentation and observation. This system based on spiritual experiments and observations is called ‘Tasawwuf’, which is a spiritual discipline and which the English term ‘mysticism’ perhaps cannot fully describe. However, for reader’s convenience, we henceforth call it mysticism. The experts and preceptors of this system are the spiritual incumbents conventionally known as saints or Auliya Allah. Mysticism is the only means of the internal experiences and observations. When the belief in the unseen passes through the evolutionary processes, it changes into the firmest belief. Mysticism brings about the internal observation of the faith to the zenith of certainty.
When mysticism, through observation, endorses faith, the faith becomes firm and unequivocal. The Auliya Allah, pass through rigors and tribulations for ascertaining their faith. They see the miraculous feats of Allah in their lives. Their actions excel the force of action of millions of people in the world. Their action is vitalized by Benefaction and Beneficence of Allah. Their action is based on observation and experimentation while layman’s action is based on the theoretical assumptions and perceptions.
Imam Ghazali’s PrecedenceImam Ghazali, being a versatile erudite, great scholar, subtle thinker and an enviable personage in the Islamic learning felt still a deficiency and unsatiety in comprehending the reality of Deen. He approached the religious preceptors to inquire into the reality of Deen but could not find the ‘truth’. Then he resorted to the philosophers but badly failed to learn reality of Deen. So he turned for help to the incumbents of the batiniyah sect (seclusion group); but in vain. Eventually he made his way to mystics (sufiya and sages) and inquired about the truth. They persuaded him to follow their way. He did so and found the reality.
Imam Ghazali narrates:
The vicissitudes of life, family affairs and financial constraints engulfed my life and deprived me of the congenial solitude. The heavy odds confronted me and provided me with few moments for my pursuits. This state of affairs lasted for ten years but wherever I had some spare and congenial moments I resorted to my intrinsic proclivity. During these turbulent years, numerous astonishing and indescribable secrets of life were unveiled to me. I was convinced that the group of Aulia (holy mystics) is the only truthful group who follow the right path, display best conduct and surpass all sages in their wisdom and insight. They derive all their overt or covert behaviour from the illumining guidance of the holy Prophet(A), the only guidance worth quest and pursuit.”
(Imam Ghazali, al-Munqidh min-ad-dalal, p.50)
Imam Ghazali was completely convinced that the path of Aulia (holy mystics) was the only gainful and genuine course and the remaining ones were all stray paths. They are scrupulous and pre-eminent in their talk, conduct and affairs. They surpass all the people in wisdom and scholarship. The life of Aulia reflects the model of the holy Prophet in sitting, standing, sleeping, awakening, walking and all chores of life. Their whole life is permeated with the holy enlightenment of the Prophet’s teachings and his love. They seek guidance from the Prophet (A). They do not follow their whims. They follow the holy footsteps of the beloved Prophet (A), and perceive as if the curtain is lifted and the divine light dazzling at the doorsteps of the adorable Messenger (A) illumines their real self. Hence, life of the Auliya Allah is the best life and their course of life leads straight to Allah.
“This is the best course which fully substantiates the Prophetic stature. If you analyse and engross the Qur'an and other relevant literature, you will find out the reality evident and effulgent like sunshine.”
(Imam Ghazali, al-Munqidh min-ad-dalal, p.75)
The state of certainty in faith, therefore, can only be achieved through mysticism. It ignites the spiritual force inside you and bestows the observation explicitly to the extent of certainty as if there is something tangible in your hand.
According to Imam Ghazali, this state begins with the onset of true dreams. As the innerself gets purged, true dreams start and unveil the reality of life. With that the spiritual enlightenment and awareness gets activated. The holy Prophet(A) has termed true dreams as fortieth part of Prophethood.
The Prophet (A) said:
Nothing is left of the Prophethood except ‘Al-Mubashshirat’. They enquired about ‘Al-Mubashshirat?’ He replied, “true good dreams. (that convey glad tidings)
(Related by Bukhari in his as-Sahih, b. of ta‘bir (interpretation of dreams) ch. 5 (6:2564 # 6589); and Muhammad Khatib Tabrizi in Mishkat-ul-masabih, b. of ru’ya (dreams) 2:519 # 4606).
Through true dreams, facts of life are revealed. The Prophet (A) spent several weeks at the ‘Hira Cave’. The Prophet (A) used to go into retreat for several days in the remembrance of Allah. In the wake of this, he used to vision true dreams. Whatever he dreamt, it used to be manifest during daytime. This evinced Prophethood. When true dreams start emerging, it should be deemed that Prophetic benefaction has initiated. Says Imam Ghazali:
In ‘tariqat’ (the tasawwuf discipline), dreams start in the beginning. The mystics see spirits of the Prophets (D) and the angels in their wakeful moments, listen to their voices and acquire vision from them.
(Imam Ghazali, al-Munqidh min-ad-dalal, p.50.)
This state approves one’s faith and the faith culminates into certainty. The fortunate ones treading this path find the truth of life and their belief gets reassured. The barriers are removed and a spiritual contact is established with the beloved holy Prophet (A).
Imam Jalal-ud-Din Suyuti (RA) says:
I had the sight of the Prophet (A) seventy times during my wakeful moments.
The scholars of Ahadith in moments of ambiguity used to resort to the Prophet (A) and get genuine guidance. The human intellect is unable to encompass such a psychic state of Auliya Allah. They take guidance directly from the Prophet (A) during their lifetime and vision the reality. There is a difference between seeing and listening. Allah guards the communication and actions of His Friends, Auliya. Allah fulfils all they say.
The holy Prophet (A) declares about such holy persons:
There are some of Allah’s slaves who, if take an oath by Allah, are responded to by Allah (i.e. their oath is fulfilled).
(Bukhari, as-Sahih, b. of sulh (reconciliation) Ch. 8 (2:962 # 2556).
In fact, mysticism brings observation, which in turn validates faith. At this stage, even impossible things become possible, the unseen becomes discernable and inaudible becomes audible. A friend of Allah then perceives in full and gets beyond time. These experiences also have their scientific bases.
The people who have not experienced the mystic state cannot achieve thorough confirmation of their faith. That is why a common believer is left far behind while a Friend of Allah, a Wali, accomplishes a century’s assignment in twinkling of an eye.
This is how we need to look at the significance of spiritual discipline in modern scientific era. The true validation of our faith in the unseen can only be acquired through a mystic psychic effort fulfilling all the requisites of scientific method.
Science, although, does not accept or confirm the existence of spiritual visions, contacts and accomplishments, yet the evident and tangible results brought about through spiritual and mystic experiences only bewilder scientific investigators; spiritualism cannot be gainsaid.
The subsequent chapters take an account of some experiences of laymen, non-Muslims, common and psychologically and physically normal people that put the scientists in awe and surprise. A positive investigation into the reality was then initiated to understand the phenomenology of these experiences. Science has failed to deny the reality and has made an advance to find and confirm more to it. In comparison to these common place events, the spiritual reality is a far superior phenomenon that rather helps science to reach its faith in transcendent reality.