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Reflections on Man and Life
Jan 1, 1999

Glory be to God! How thin is the veil between the manifest and inner, invisible dimensions of existence, while how great is the distance between them! How short, yet, how long is the way between the world and the Hereafter! How fine, yet, how thick, is the veil between knowledge and ignorance! How transparent, yet, how dense, is the space between belief and unbelief! How short is the distance between servanthood to God and rebellion, despite their being as far apart as are Paradise and Hell! How short is life, while how great ambitions are!

Likewise, between yesterday and today there is a thin veil that cannot hinder the spirit from passing and penetrate into yesterday and the past beyond that. Whereas, with respect to the body, this distance is so great as to require a year to travel. Also, the veils between the outer and inner dimensions of existence and between the world and the Hereafter are thin and transparent for the men of heart and spirit, while they are extremely thick for those obeying their carnal selves and bodily desires.

Similarly, between your night and day there is a fine interval, which is your “eyelid”. When you open the eye of your self, your night disappears and your day shines. If, on the other hand, you forget what you are, you fall into a permanent night. Also, whoever looks at the universe for the sake of the Almighty, whatever he witnesses becomes a (source of) knowledge for him; if he looks with a view of heedlessness and from the perspective of material or natural causes, whatever he regards as knowledge becomes sheer ignorance.

Again, between the illumination of Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) and its being in thick darkness at night there is a time as short as switching off the lights. The flash of lightning and its disappearance take place almost at the same instant. The darkening of the sky with dark clouds and its clearing through the removal of dark clouds from the face of the sun by a breeze of mercy happen just one after the other in a short time. One who looks and sees with the light of faith and belief in Divine Unity, sees the universe filled with light and in friendship, mutual love and affection, and all things and beings in it as amiable, living brothers. Whereas one who looks with unbelief, sees all things and beings as dreadful corpses, strangers hostile to one another. He also sees the universe in veils of darkness one above the other and himself in a deep sea covered by waves riding upon waves, above which are clouds; when he puts forth his hand, he can hardly see it.

Also, the veil between the two faces of a mirror is thinner than a leaf but there is as great a difference between them as the distance between east and west. With a movement of a finger, the mirror either smiles at you or your face is completely dark. In the same way, the deeds of man have two aspects or “faces”. The deeds done with the intention to please God provide you with a transparent face in the depth of which numberless manifestations are reflected. The lack of such intention or the deeds not done for the sake of God show the dark, opaque face which bears nothing in the name of truth.

While the dark face has no depth and can contain nothing, with the exception of occupying space the size of itself, the transparent face, because of its relation to the immaterial world of ideas or symbols can, by virtue of its transparency, contain numberless huge things. In the same way, life has two faces, the first of which relates to the world and is dark, narrow and transient, while the other relating to the Truth is transparent, broad and permanent. The heedless carnal self, under the influence of a devilish sophistry, wears the dark face but demands what is possible in the transparent face like seeking eternity.

The key of creation is in the hands of man, in his ego. Although the doors of creation seem to be open, they are actually closed. The Truth, glory be to Him, has entrusted man with a key with which all the doors of creation are opened and the treasury of the Creator is unveiled. The key entrusted to you is ego, which is itself an enigma. When you solve that enigma by knowing its nature, creation is opened to you.

God Almighty, may His Glory be exalted, has given man ego so that it should serve as a unit of comparison to understand the attributes of Divine Lordship.

When man knows what ego is, he comes to see it as fine and weak like a conscious hair in the rope of man’s existence, like a thin stripe in the cloth of man’s nature, like an alif-the first Arabic letter-in the book of the individual. It has also two faces, one turned to good, a passive recipient of God’s bounties and blessings, not the agent, the other turned to evils and non-existence and being itself agent. It has an illusory nature, imagined lordship and sovereignty, and existence as weak as not to bear anything by itself. It is to function like a thermometer or other like instrument with which things and properties are measured. It is a measure with which to know the absolute, all-en-compassing Attributes of the Necessarily-Existent Being.

Man should be well aware of this and, becoming a referent of He has indeed prospered who purifies it. (Qur’an. 91.9) fulfil what is due to the Trust he has been charged with.

If you reflect on ego as a unit of comparison to comprehend the Creator’s Attributes and Names, it becomes an eye for you to see whatever exists in the universe. The information you get from the universe finds in ego what will confirm it and make it into real knowledge. Then its claim of lordship or sovereignty and self-ownership comes to an end, and it perceives that its existence is only an illusory one. Whereas if you consider ego as having an independent existence of itself and thereby breach the Trust, you will be among those referred to in And indeed he has ruined it who stunts and spoils it (91.10) For it is ego which the heavens, the earth and mountains shrank from bearing since, with that aspect of it, ego is the source of associating partners with God, all evils and kinds of misguidance. If ego hides itself from you, it grows thick and swells until it swallows you and, with all your existence, you become an ego. Then it grows stronger with tribal and then racial fanaticism until it has become a devil contending against the commandment of its Maker. Then it likens other people and things and natural causes with itself, attributing to each self-ownership and sovereignty, and thus falls into a tremendous kind of associating partners with God. While in this state, if you move your eyes throughout the creation, everything is closed in your face just when it seems to have opened to you, for your eyes return to your self and you see everything as colored by ego. The color of ego is associating partners with God or denial of Him. Even if all the horizons were clearly filled with the most manifest signs (of the existence and Unity of the Creator), what remains in ego would be a dark point covering all those signs.

An Important matter

Ego has two faces, one represented by Prophethood, the other by human, (materialistic) philosophy.

The first face is the origin of pure servanthood to God. With this face, ego points to God, not itself, and has an illusory, dependent existence. Although it appears to be self-owning, in fact it is owned and disposed by another-God. It has a supposed, not an established, reality. Its duty is to be a measure, a unit of comparison, to understand the Attributes of the Creator. This is the reality of ego, as it was seen by the Prophets, who submitted the whole of existence to God. They affirmed and demonstrated that God has no partners at all, either in His Sovereignty or in His Lordship or Divinity. In His hand are the keys of all things and He has absolute power over all things. From this transparent face of ego, the All-Compassionate has grown a blessed tree of servanthood whose blessed branches spreading through the garden of the universe hang with clusters of fruits of Messengers, Prophets, saints, and truth-seeking, pure scholars glittering in darkness like stars.

As to philosophy, it considers ego as having an independent, self-owned existence showing to itself. Philosophers have supposed that ego has an established reality and that its duty is to be perfected through self-love. In this supposition many kinds of associating partners with God have originated and on the head of ego has grown the accursed tree of misguidance. The branch of the power of lust of this tree, which appreciates unjust might or force and physical beauty enamoured of show, has given to mankind idols deified (by their admirers) while themselves bow (before their admirers) in an attitude of adoration. The branch of the power of wrath has saddled mankind with Pharaohs and Nimrods. The branch of the power of reason has produced atheists and materialists. Philosophers attribute to God only a part of His kingdom and attribute the rest to other than the Almighty.

Although ego is essentially like air or vapor, because of the philosophers’ illomened view, it grows denser, becoming like fluid and then, because of superficial familiarity, like a solid thing. Afterwards, because of heedlessness it gets frozen and, thereafter, because of rebellion, gets stronger and swells until it swallows its owner. It becomes broader with tribal or racial attitudes and then, because of ascribing to other people and natural causes self-existence and ownership and even creativity, as it ascribes the same to itself, ego starts to contend against the commandment of its Creator. Some philosophers have felt compelled to believe that natural causes have real effect in creation and control of things, and attribute creativity to nature and chance. That is why they deny the Resurrection and accept that spirits or, as is the case with materialists, matter have no beginning. May God assail them! How perverse they are! Because of conceit, they have become playthings of devils, who have thrown them into the pits of misguidance.

Ego in the normocosmos-man-is the counterpart of nature in the macro-cosmos: both have been attributed partnership with God and therefore deified. Whoever denies false deities and believes in God, has laid hold of the most firm handle that is impossible to break. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (2.256)

The law of growth operates in a tree. The seed of a tree, from which it grows, is the essence of that tree. As is known, the seed is contained by the fruit and, unless somehow impeded, it grows by eternal Favouring into the tree and again is placed in the fruit growing on that tree. The fruit is the most valuable, most esteemed, most pleasant, most important and most illustrious part of the tree, being the aim of its existence. The universe is a tree, the basic elements like earth, water, air and fire being its branches, plants its leaves, animals its flowers and mankind its fruits.

The most radiant of those fruits and the most illustrious, greatest, most beautiful, most noble, most comprehensive and most beneficial of them is the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, the master of the Messengers, the leader of the pious, and the beloved of the Lord of the Worlds. He is the commander of the “cavalry” of the Prophets and the pious ones faithful to their allegiance and promises, and the most virtuous of all creatures. He is the bearer of the standard of the greatest glory through belief in and submission to Divine Unity and the owner of the most esteemed and dignified rope through Islam. He is the witness of eternal mysteries and observer of the lights and the translator of the tongues of those preceding him. He is the source of knowledge, forbearance and wisdom. He attained the highest rank of servanthood and was distinguished with the highest morality of the purest ranks: the greatest friend of God and His most noble beloved, upon him be the most meritorious of blessings and peace so long as the heavens and earth remain.

Take my hand. O master of the Messengers,
You are the desired and sought, O man fest light of God’s Munificence;
I have no leader, no refuge, other than you.
My proof is, ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is God’s Messenger.”