Commentary of Surat ur-Rahman on advent of Zaman - Versese 21-30
- :Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
21 Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny?
The two seas have met before creation and they will meet again after creation. They are two seas, one of pure water, the other of impure, salty water. The sweet water that comes from the mountains and rivers does not mix with the salt water.
The seas here are like two states that meet, the two states of wakefulness and sleep, the two seas of shari`a and haqiqa, the two seas of meaning and sensory. Both the physical and non-physical parts of man's life have their laws. The law of haqiqa hinges on the loyalty of abandonment, iman, which takes man to `the station of haqqu-l-yaqin ( truth of certainty). The law of shari'a holds man to the five pillars of Islam, so necessary because he is in the tempestuous sea of the sensory.
How can man deny the bounties of the two seas of the inner and the outer? They will meet as they have met before. At the point of creation they were one and at the point of death they will merge once again. In this reality, what is holding them apart is the double mercy of Allah.
For the duration of this life there is an invisible barrier, an interspace between an apparent duality that does not allow the seas to connect. In the same way, the sun and the moon follow a reckoning - bihusban. They came from one source and then were catapulted into space as two. Moving according to a certain complex pattern, they will eventually come together again. There is an interspace between them that holds them apart as a man's body seems to be separate from his ruh.
There is the qalb (heart, from the root qalaba, to turn), and there is the ruh. The ruh, being disconnected from the world, is connected to the precreational state and can therefore give man comfort. Unlike the ruh, the galb may be seized by dunya ( world in a negative material sense). The heart may be damaged by the world's salty sea, and if it is, then therin in turn can no longer provide comfort. If the nafs is purified then the heart can freely turn. It is no longer caught in the see-saw of the dunya which continues; taking breath in and letting breath out, the inhaled breath being pure air, the exhaled impure. Neither of them mix with the other. These are the bahrayn the two seas.
Everywhere one looks there are the two seas, separated by a subtle barrier. The seas of knowledge and ignorance do not mix. Life and death do not mix. Whatever man looks at, creation appears in one form or another. It is agreeable or disagreeable. A creational entity is considered to be usable or unusable. Nothing transgresses the bounds because of the mizan, the balance. Creation is not chaos, it is cosmos.
22 There come forth from them pearls and coral.
23 Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny?
From the seas come the pearl and the coral. If one dives into the seas, these amazing jewels may be seen. Jawhar is jewel; it also means intrinsic nature or essence. If one wants the essence of these seas, then one must get their jawahir, their jewels, but diving for these jewels is dangerous, for one risks sustaining bruises and cuts from the reef.
The formation of the pearl is an act of rejection. The material of the pearl is the secretion of the oyster used to isolate and discharge the grain of sand that has entered its body. It is the material used to disconnect, dislodge and discharge it.
Marjan, coral, is formed by the reverse process and is the substance within which the animal dwells. It is the structure in which the animal houses and shelters itself, and later it is left behind. So one structure is formed by repulsion, the other by attraction.
The thought process operates either by repulsion or attraction. Whatever comes to man's thoughts is either something he wants to dissociate from and forget, or something he wants to hear again and again and to which he wants to connect. Man oscillates between the two sides of the mizan, the pearl and the coral.
Every man is continuously turning between something he wants and something he does not want. The seeker loves the men of tawhid, he loves the people who want to see Allah, and he runs from the people of kufr (denial). He wants the good news that Islam is prevailing in the world. He wants to hear the good news that his children are growing up decently - and not the bad news that they have been mischievous. The human being is constantly oscillating between wanting to surround himself with what he likes, and repulsing and dissociating himself, like the oyster, from what he dislikes. The opposites grow from the same root; they are two distinct entities that have the same origin to which they will ultimately revert.
24 And His are the ships reared aloft in the sea like mountains.
25 Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny?
Both alama, meaning sign, and `alam, meaning flag, are from the same root as 'ilm (knowledge); they imply something being known. The munsha'at , the root of which is nasha'a (to create, to loom up) announce themselves; they are highly evident. Whatever is afloat belongs to Allah. The phenomenon of floating, as well as the entire interactional balancing scene that brings about desirable situations, such as ships on the sea, belongs to Allah.
Reflect upon how certain situations are the opposite of what someone might expect; for instance, how steel ships float upon water. The ships float because of verifiable laws easily demonstrated by scientists, but still, it is very odd. All that one sees, all of these projections of Reality, all that flickers of knowledge or experience, will ultimately disappear because they are in time.
26 Everyone on it must pass away.
27 And there endures forever the face of your Lord, the Lord of glory and honor.
28 Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny?
Whatever is on this ard, whatever is physicalized, solidified, or appears to have an identity, has no identity other than Allah - La ilaha illa-llah, there is no God but Allah. Everything announces its perishability. If it is solid -a plant or a creature - it proves its destiny. What remains is the fount of creation, wajhu rabbika ( the face of your Lord). Wajh is a direction or face, the outer visible front. In his formal worship the Muslim must have tawajjuh (attention), and point his wajh towards the formal, ancient abode of safety that came about through the inspiration of Sayyidna Ibrahim, alayhi-s-salam, in Mecca. Whoever does salat (prayer) positions himself towards that.
All of creation honors its covenant; every creational entity honors the Most Honorable - "the Lord of glory and honor" is an attribute of Allah, the Glorious, the Most Honorable, the One Who bestows honor. Man is an honorable creature, if only he would realize it; if only he could unify his physical reality with his innate reality. Man honors his contract by physiologically perishing. Everyone honors his destiny, knowingly or not.
Man sees, contained in the facade of creation, the af'al, the manifestation of actions. In the case of humans, they are a result of the interactions of his heart and his lower nafs. The less involved is his nafs, the more involved is his heart. Looking further inward, there is the ruh. If one's nafs has been burnt away, then his heart is active and pulsating; it is then fed by the spring of comfort - the ruh, the spirit.
Those who are not in submission rebel against the fact that they are perishing. If you tell someone that he is aging and that his teeth are falling out, he will say that he is not yet old or ready to die. Everyone considers his age as the average. When you were twelve years old, you thought fifty was ancient. You could not communicate with fifty year-olds, they were funny people. But when you became fifty, you thought fifty was quite young. This is because there is in man an echo of the Everlasting.
But there is also in man an echo of the nafs of rebellion. He assumes that the nafs lasts forever, and does not remember death. The seeker is repeatedly given the advice by his masters that the most potent medicine for ailments of the spirit is the remembrance of death. It is not used to paralyze man or to make him inactive and negative but, on the contrary, it is used to make him successful in his actions by making him more efficient. If he constantly remembers death, his actions will be pure, untarnished by his personal greed, arrogance, vanity, revenge and whatever other attributes are characteristic of the lower self.
The face of the Lord is, at first, an existential connection between man and Reality. Man wants to be healthy, he wants to be in the company of fine men, he wants to be in an environment that will help him get deeper into the knowledge of Reality, of which there is no end. The more one knows Allah, the greater is the desire to know more of Allah. One should not assume that once somebody knows Allah that is the end of it. There is no beginning or end to Reality. An arif bi-llah is one who has had a window open onto Reality. The more he is able to look out from that window, the more he will see of Reality.
Just as each human has a physical birth, so too does each one have a spiritual awakening, which takes place parallel in time. Just as man was physically once a child, so too was he a child in knowledge of Allah.. There is no end to Reality, because It encompasses before and after creation.
"And there endures forever the face of your Lord." The Qur'an says that the Lord's day is like a thousand years of man's time; and this reckoning is only made in relationship to the time-frame of this world. As far as its relationship to beyond this world, it is fifty thousand years. So each day is the equivalent of fifty thousand years. Time is obviously relative. A day is a period of time, and not necessarily the twenty-four hour span that is measured by the odd machine called a clock.
29 All those who are in the heavens and the earth ask of Him; every moment He is upon some affair.
30 Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny?
Allah is man's Lord. Lordship is the source of the emanation of action. It is sustainership. The lord of a house has to attend to every aspect of the house, every sha'n, every business and affair. The lord of a house looks after its hardware - its maintenance and so on - as well as all the aspects of its software: the people, children and food, in the same way as the Lord of lords looks after creation. In every instant, every affair comes to Him. Lordship is attending to every affair; otherwise, there would be no tawhid. Tawhid is the one core from which all networks emanate, superimpose on each other and connect.
Adapted from the book: "The Mercy of Qur'an and the Advent of Zaman" by: "Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri"
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