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Lesson 35

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Lesson - 35


"And when My servants ask thee concerning Me, surely I am Nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should hear My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way." Ch. 2:186

Summary of the previous lesson

This is my third and final lesson dealing with the subject of fasting. To maintain continuity, I will very briefly summarize what we discussed in the previous two lessons.

  1. Striving for a whole month by giving up food and water from dawn till dusk, regardless of the season and length of the days, appears to be a difficult task, superficially. Despite the fact that doctors have now discovered the medical benefits of fasting, there are many who will still find an excuse not to fulfill this obligation.
  2. The Holy Quran enjoins us to participate in this spiritual exercise if we believe in Allah and His Messenger. If we have faith in a doctor's advise, we are ready to take the strongest medicine which may even be potentially harmful, or to undergo surgery which could have adverse consequences for our health and may even prove fatal. We readily and willingly accept all this although the physician may be in error. Allah is, however free of faults. He does not give wrong advise. In addition to this we have the testimony of hundreds and thousands of prophets, truthful and righteous servants of Allah and saintly persons. They all testify to the fact that fasting is indispensable for purification of the soul and self control. Why then do we not heed their advise?
  3. One could raise the objection as to why such an effort is not made obligatory in religions other than Islam? To this the Holy Quran replies that an exactly similar obligation was mandated for previous nations. They, however, altered the Divine commandment, in order to make life easier for themselves. In some nations the ordinary people do not fast at all. In Islam, because the Holy Quran is unchanged, the institution of fasting has also been preserved.
  4. The purpose of fasting is to guard against evil (taqwa). Taqwa means protecting ones soul from harmful and detrimental influences. No one obviously desires such exposure. Why, then do people get involved in evil deeds, which cause more injury or suffering than anything else?
  5. The reason for all of this is that the human body is similar to other animals. That is why doctors first test medicines on animals before administering them to human beings. The emotions and desires generated in the human body are, therefore similar to those of animals. Just as other animals do not like any kind of restriction or restraint, the animal within man also resists such measures. Loss of control over these emotions, and desires leads to evil and misdeeds. For example, eating, drinking, and getting married are lawful actions, but consuming food bought with dishonestly earned wages, and illicit sexual relations fall into the category of major sins.
  6. How is a circus animal trained and disciplined? It is by subjecting it to deprivation of food, water, and sex for a limited period of time. It is then only that it can rise above the animal level, and sometimes perform even human tasks. At least, it becomes disciplined enough to obey the command of its master. Similarly, fasting deprives the animal within man of food, water, and sex, and brings it under his control. This is called taqwa or guarding against evil.
  7. It is for man to bridle and ride the inner animal to spiritual heights. In support of this concept, I have given the reference of Ch.16:8,9. In these verses, after mentioning the physical act of mounting and riding an animal, attention is drawn to the control of the inner animal. It is also stated that besides providing the wayfarer with a ride to make the journey, it is also essential to show him the way. This guidance on the right path which had been lost was given back to all of mankind by means of the Holy Quran, and has been fully preserved to prevent future loss, or interpolation. Allah is the only Being capable of giving such guidance, for only He has the awareness of the inner, and spiritual secrets of man.

Purpose of man's spiritual journey

Man has been given the means to make this spiritual journey, and he has also been shown the right path. Now only one question remains to be answered, what is the purpose of his journey? The Holy Quran is a Book of amazing beauty, it answers this question precisely in the verse under discussion:

"And when my servants ask thee concerning Me, surely I am Nigh."
May Allah be praised! What an exalted goal this is for the creation of mankind; man must find God and get close to Him. This important purpose has been mentioned in the Holy Quran in several places. For example, the essence of Al- Fatihah is that unique prayer in it i.e.:

"Guide us on the right path.''
I have already explained in my commentary on Al-Fatihah that the destination of this right path is Allah Almighty, Who is the Source of all blessing. Below are examples of some other places in the Holy Quran where the right path is mentioned:

"Surely my Lord is on the right path." Ch. 11:56

"He said: This is a right way with Me." Ch. 15:41

"Then as for those who believe in Allah and hold fast by Him, He will admit them to His mercy and grace, and guide them to Himself on a right path." Ch. 4:175

"Say This is my way I call to Allah…" Ch. 12:108

"Surely this is a Reminder; so whoever will, let him take a way to his Lord." Ch. 76:29

Perfect example of the one who completed his spiritual journey

In the Holy Quran there are many other places where this great truth has been revealed. I would like to draw your attention to a couple of things mentioned in the verses under discussion today. It should be noted that the Holy Quran does not say:

"when my servants ask about Me,"
the statement it makes is:

"And when my servants ask thee concerning Me."
The verse addresses the person of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) because he is the one who has experienced more closely than any other human being, the destiny of man's spiritual journey towards Allah. This is again mentioned in several places in the Holy Quran, the most outstanding of which are the verses:

"Then he drew near, drew nearer yet, So he was the measure of two bows or closer still. ... And certainly he saw Him in another descent, At the farthest lote-tree…When that which covers covered the lote-tree; The eye turned not aside, nor did it exceed the limit. Certainly he saw of the greatest signs of his Lord" (53:8,9,13,14,16-18).

Also in the verse:

"Say: This is my way: I call to Allah, with certain knowledge (basirat) — I and those who follow me" (12:108).

The Arabic word basirat in this context, means visualizing through spiritual insight, or being a certain witness because of spiritual insight i.e., the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and those who follow him develop the capability to visualize Allah with their spiritual sense of sight. A poet has expressed this very subject in a Persian couplet. Addressing the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) he says:

"On the Night Of Ascension your ascent (spiritual journey) extended beyond the heavens. The point of destination you reached was not reached by any other prophet."
One always seeks information about the destination from someone who has already been there.

Bond between Holy Prophet and spiritual wayfarer needed to complete journey

his verse also refers to the truth that closeness to Allah can now only be achieved by establishing a bond with the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This is the meaning of the Arabic word, shafa`at which literally means establishing a bond. Only those who believe in the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and follow his footsteps can now find God. It is a proven fact that closeness with Allah, can now only be achieved through Islam. The proof of this is that Allah Almighty communicates with those who are near to Him, and this is found in the followers of no other religion than Islam.

Other necessities for the spiritual journey

The commentary on the remaining words of this lesson is as follows:

  1. "So they should hear My call," i.e., those who want to get close to Allah should follow the guidance of the Holy Quran, and the example of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
  2. "And believe in Me," that is closeness to God is not achieved instantaneously. The more exalted the goal, the greater the reward, the harder the achievement, and longer the period to accomplish it. In order to test the faith of a person, Allah also tries him with trials and tribulations. It is essential to remain steadfast and to maintain faith in Allah during such periods.
  3. "That they may walk in the right way." It is apparent from Al-Fatihah and other verses of the Holy Quran already quoted, that it is Allah Who guides man on the path that leads to Him. This has been expressed in another location in these words:

    "And those who strive hard for Us, We shall certainly guide them in our ways" (29:69).
    Allah, then communicates with those who are able to find closeness with Him in this life. Those who do not receive this honor should not despair. As long as they are following the right path they will eventually find their destination, that is closeness with Allah. It may occur in this life, or the Hereafter. May Allah make us one of those. Ameen (Be it so).

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