The Seventeenth Word : How can deaths and separations of the world be explained with an all encompassing Mercy?
In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
That which is on earth We have made as a glittering show for the earth, in order that We may test them, as to which of them are best in conduct * Verily what is on earth We shall make but as dust and dry soil. (1) * What is the life of this world but play and amusement? (2)
[This Word consists of two elevated Stations, and one brilliant Addendum.]
The All-Compassionate Creator, the Munificent Provider, the All-Wise Maker made this world in the form of a festival and celebration for the World of Spirits and spirit beings. Adorning it with the wondrous embroideries of all His Names, He clothes each spirit, great or small, elevated or lowly, in a body decked out with senses, suitable to it and appropriate for benefiting from the innumerable, various good things and bounties in the festival; He gives each a corporeal being and sends it to the spectacle once. And He divides the festival, which is most extensive in regard to both time and space, into centuries, years, seasons, and even days and their parts, and makes them all exalted festivals in the form of parades for all the groups of His creatures with spirits and for His plant and vegetable artefacts. Especially the face of the earth in spring and summer, it is a series of festivals for the groups of small beings so glittering it draws the gazes of the spirit beings and angels and the dwellers of the heavens in the high levels of the world. For those who think and contemplate it is a place for reflection so wonderful, the mind is powerless to describe it. But in the face of the manifestations of the Divine Names of Most Merciful and Giver of Life in this Divine feast and dominical festival, the Names of Subduer and Dealer of Death appear with death and separation. And this is apparently unconformable with the all-embracing mercy of,
My Mercy encompasses all things. (3)
However, in reality there are several ways in which it is conformable, and one of these is as follows:
After each group of beings has completed its turn in the parade and the desired results have been obtained from it, in a compassionate way the Most Generous Maker and Compassionate Creator makes most of them feel weariness and disgust with the world, and bestows on them a desire for rest and a longing to migrate to another world. And when they are to be discharged from their duties of life, He awakens in their spirits a compelling desire for their original home.
Moreover, it is not far from the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful that just as He bestows the rank of martyrdom on a soldier who perishes on account of his duty while fighting, and rewards a sheep slaughtered as a sacrifice by giving it an eternal corporeal existence in the hereafter and the rank of being a mount for its owner on the Bridge of Sirat (4) like Buraq, so too with other animals and beings with spirits who perish while performing the dominical duties peculiar to their natures and in obeying the Divine commands, and who suffer severe distress, – it is not unlikely that there should be for them in the inexhaustible treasuries of His mercy a sort of spiritual reward and kind of wage suitable to their capacities, and that they should not be unduly troubled at departing this world, indeed, that they should be pleased. None knows the Unseen save Allah.
However, although man, the noblest of beings with spirits and the one who benefits most from the festivals with regard to both quality and quantity, is captivated by the world and absorbed in it, as a work of mercy, the Most Merciful induces in him a state of mind whereby he feels disgust at the world and a longing to travel to the eternal realm. A person whose humanity is not plunged in misguidance profits from that state of mind, and departs with a tranquil heart. Now, by way of example, we shall explain five of the aspects which produce that state of mind.
The First: By showing with the season of old age the stamp of transience and decline on the beautiful and inviting things of this world, and their bitter meaning, it makes a person feel disgust at the world and causes him to seek a permanent beloved in place of the transient.
The Second: Since ninety-nine per cent of all the friends to whom a person is attached have departed this world and settled in another, impelled by his heart-felt love, it bestows on him a longing for the place they have gone to, and makes him meet death and the appointed hour with joy.
The Third: By means of certain things, it makes a person realize the infinite weakness and impotence in man, and understand how heavy are the burdens of life and responsibilities of living, and awakens in him a serious wish for rest and a sincere desire to go to another world.
The Fourth: Through the light of belief, it shows to the heart of a believer that death is not execution, but a change of abode; that the grave is not the mouth of a dark well, but the door to light-filled worlds; and that for all its glitter, the world is like a prison in relation to the hereafter. To be released from the prison of this world and enter the gardens of Paradise, and pass from the troublesome turmoil of bodily life to the world of rest and the arena where spirits soar, and to slip free from the vexatious noise of creatures and go to the presence of the Most Merciful is a journey, indeed, a happiness, to be desired with a thousand lives.
The Fifth: By informing a person who heeds the Qur’an about the knowledge of reality it contains, and through the light of reality the world’s true nature, it makes him realize that love for the world and attachment to it are quite meaningless. That is, it says the following to man, and proves it:
‘The world is a book of the Eternally Besought One. Its letters and words point not to themselves but to the essence, attributes and Names of another. In which case, learn its meaning and grasp it, but ignore its decorations, then go!
‘The world is also a tillage; sow and reap your crop, and preserve it. Throw away the chaff, and give it no importance!...
‘The world is also a collection of mirrors which continuously pass on one after the other; so know the One Who is manifest in them, see His lights, understand the manifestations of the Names which appear in them and love the One they signify. Cease your attachment for the fragments of glass which are doomed to be broken and perish!...
‘The world is also a travelling place of trade. So do your commerce and come; do not chase in vain the caravans which flee from you and pay you no attention. Do not weary yourself for nothing!...
‘The world is also a temporary exhibition. So look at it and take lessons. Pay attention, not to its apparent, ugly face, but to its hidden, beautiful face which looks to the Eternal All-Beauteous One. Go for a pleasant and beneficial promenade, then return, and do not weep like a silly child at the disappearance of scenes displaying fine views and showing beautiful things, and do not be anxious!...
‘The world is also a guesthouse. So eat and drink within the limits permitted by the Generous Host Who made it, and offer thanks. Act and behave within the bounds of His law. Then leave it without looking behind you, and go. Do not interfere in it in a delirious or officious manner. Do not busy yourself for nothing with things which part from you and do not concern you. Do not attach yourself to passing things and drown!..’
This Fifth Aspect shows the secrets in the world’s inner face through apparent truths like these, and greatly lightens the parting from it. Indeed, to those who are aware it makes parting desirable for them, and shows that there is a trace of mercy in everything and every aspect of it. The Qur’an indicates these Five Aspects, and its verses point to other particular aspects.
Woe to that person who has no share of these five Aspects!
(1) Qur’an, 18:7-8.
(2) Qur’an, 6:32.
(3) Qur’an, 7:156.
(4) Ibn Hajar, Talkhis al-Khabir, iv, 138; Suyuti, Jam’ al-Jawami’, No: 3017.
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