Sixth Truth: The indication of the persistent and ever-changing works in the world which present splendor and continuity along with the names of Glorious and Eternal to the hereafter.
The Gate of Splendour and Eternity,
the Manifestation of the Names of Glorious and Eternal
Is it at all possible that the splendour of dominicality that subdues and commands all beings, from suns and trees down to particles, just like obedient soldiers, should concentrate its entire attention on the wretched and transient beings that pass a temporary life in the hospice of this world, and not create an eternal and everlasting sphere of splendour, an unending manifestation of dominicality? The display of Divine splendour in the changing of the seasons, the sublime motions of the planets in the heavens as if they were aeroplanes, the subjugation of all things and the creation of the earth as man’s cradle and the sun as his lamp, vast transformations such as the reviving and adornment of the dead and dry globe — all of this shows that behind the veil a sublime dominicality exists, that a splendid monarchy is at work.
Now such a dominical kingdom requires subjects worthy of itself, as well as an appropriate mode of manifestation. But look at this hospice of the world, and you will see that the most significant class of its subjects, endowed with the most comprehensive of functions, are gathered together only temporarily and that, in the most wretched of states. The hospice fills and empties each day. All of the subjects stay only temporarily in this abode of trial for the sake of being tested in service. The abode itself changes each hour. Again, all of the monarch’s subjects stay only for a few brief minutes in order to behold the samples of the precious bounty of the Glorious Maker, to look on His miraculous works of art in the exhibition of the world with the eye of a buyer. Then they disappear. The exhibition itself changes every minute. Whoever leaves it, never returns, and whoever comes to it, will ultimately depart.
Now this state and circumstance definitively shows that behind and beyond this hospice, this testing-ground, this exhibition, there are permanent palaces and eternal abodes that fully manifest and support Allah’s everlasting sovereignty; there are gardens and treasure houses full of the pure and exalted originals of the forms and copies we see in this world. If we strive here in this world, it is for the sake of what awaits us there. We work here, and are rewarded there. Bliss awaits everyone there, in accordance with his capacity, as long as he does not squander his share. Yes, it is impossible that such eternal kingship should concentrate exclusively on these wretched transient beings.
Consider this truth through the telescope of the following comparison. You are travelling along a road. You see a caravanserai ahead of you on the road, built by a great personage for people coming to visit him. Millions are spent on the decoration of the caravanserai so that guests should enjoy their one night’s stay there, and for their instruction. But the guests see very little of those decorations, look at them for a very short time; briefly tasting the joys of what is offered them, they go on their way without being satiated. But each guest takes a photograph of the objects in the caravanserai by means of his special camera. Also, the servants of that great personage record with great care the conduct of all the guests and preserve the record. You see, too, that he destroys every day most of the valuable decorations, and replaces them with fresh decorations for the newly arriving guests. After seeing all this, will any doubt remain that the personage who has constructed this caravanserai on the road has permanent and exalted dwellings, inexhaustible and precious treasures, an uninterrupted flow of great generosity? By means of the generosity displayed in the caravanserai, he intends merely to whet the appetite of his guests for those things he keeps in his immediate presence; to awaken their desire for the gifts he has prepared for them. So too, if you look upon the state of the hospice of this world without falling into drunkenness, you will understand the following nine principles:
• First Principle: You will understand that this world does not exist for its own sake, any more than does the caravanserai. It is impossible that it should assume this shape by itself. Rather, it is a well-constructed hospice, wisely designed to receive the caravan of beings that constantly arrive to alight before departing again.
• Second Principle: You will understand, too, that those living within this hospice are guests. They are invited by their Generous Sustainer to the Abode of Peace.
• Third Principle: You will understand, further, that the adornments of this world are not simply for the sake of enjoyment or admiration. For if they yield pleasure for a time, they cause pain for a longer time with their cessation. They give you a taste and whet your appetite, but never satiate you. For either the life of the pleasure is short, or your life is short, too brief for you to become satiated. These adornments of high value and brief duration must, then, be for the sake of instruction in wisdom, (1) for arousing gratitude, and for encouraging men to seek out the perpetual originals of which they are copies. They are, then, for other exalted goals beyond themselves.
• Fourth Principle: You will understand also that the adornments of this world (2) are like samples and forms of the blessings stored up in Paradise by the mercy of the Compassionate One for the people of faith.
• Fifth Principle: You will understand, too, that all of these transient objects have not been created for the sake of annihilation, in order to appear briefly and then vanish. The purpose for their creation is rather briefly to be assembled in existence and acquire the desired form, so that these may be noted, their images preserved, their meanings known, and their results recorded. This is so that, for example, everlasting spectacles might be wrought for the people of eternity, and that they might serve other purposes in the realm of eternity. You will understand that things have been created for eternity, not for annihilation; and as for apparent annihilation, it has the sense of a completion of duty and a release from service, for every transient thing advances to annihilation with one aspect, but remains eternally with numerous other aspects.
Look, for example, at the flower, a word of Allah’s power; for a short time it smiles and looks at us, and then hides behind the veil of annihilation. It departs just like a word leaving your mouth. But it does so entrusting thousands of its fellows to men’s ears. It leaves behind meanings in men’s minds as numerous as those minds. The flower, too, expressing its meaning and thus fulfilling its function, goes and departs. But it goes leaving its apparent form in the memory of everything that sees it, its inner essence in every seed. It is as if each memory and seed were a camera to record the adornment of the flower, or a means for its perpetuation. If such be the case with an object at the simplest level of life, it can be readily understood how closely tied to eternity is man, the highest form of life and the possessor of an eternal soul. Again, from the fact that the laws —each resembling a spirit— according to which large flowering and fruit bearing plants are formed and the representations of their forms are preserved and perpetuated in most regular fashion in tiny seeds throughout tempestuous changes — from this fact it can be easily understood how closely tied and related to eternity is the spirit of man, which possesses an extremely exalted and comprehensive nature, and which although clothed in a body, is a conscious and luminous law issuing from the divine command.
• Sixth Principle: You will also understand that man has not been left to graze at will, with a halter loosely tied around his neck; on the contrary, the forms of all his deeds are recorded and registered, and the results of all his acts are preserved for the day when he shall be called to account.
• Seventh Principle: You will understand, further, that the destruction visited upon the beautiful creatures of summer and spring in the autumn is not for the sake of annihilation. Instead, it is a form of dismissal after the completion of service. (3) It is also a form of emptying in order to clear a space for the new creation that is to come in the following spring, of preparing the ground and making ready for the beings that are to come and assume their functions. Finally, it is a form of Divine warning to conscious beings to awake from the neglect that causes them to forget their duties, from the drunken torpor that causes them to forget their obligation of offering thanks.
• Eighth Principle: You will understand this, too, that the eternal Maker of this transient world has another, everlasting world; it is to this that He urges and impels His servants.
• Ninth Principle: You will understand, also, that so Compassionate a Being will bestow upon His choice servants in that world such gifts as no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, nor has their image crossed the heart of any man. (4) In this we believe.
(1) Now the lifespan of everything is short, although its value is high and the subtleties of its artistry are most exalted and beautiful. This implies that everything is only a sample, a form of something else, that it has the function of drawing the gaze of the customer to the authentic and original object. This being the case, it may be said that the variegated adornments of this world are the samples of the bounties of Paradise, prepared by the Compassionate and Merciful One for His beloved servants.
(2) There are numerous purposes for the existence of everything, and numerous results flow from its being. These are not restricted to this world and to the souls of men, as the people of misguidance imagine, being thus lost in vanity and purposelessness. On the contrary, the purposes for the existence and the results of the lives of all things relate to the following three categories.
The first and the most exalted pertains to the Creator. It consists of presenting to the gaze of the Pre-Eternal Witness the bejewelled and miraculous wonders He has affixed to the object in question, as if in a military parade. To live for a fleeting second is enough to attain that glance. Indeed, the potentiality and intent for existence is enough, without ever emerging into life. This purpose is fully realized, for example, by delicate creatures that vanish swiftly and by seeds and kernels, each a work of art, that never come to life, that is, never bear fruit or flower. They all remain untouched by vanity and purposelessness. Thus the first purpose of all things is to proclaim, by means of their life and existence, the miracles of power and the traces of artistry of the Maker and display them to the gaze of the Glorious Monarch.
The second purpose of all existence and the result of all being pertains to conscious creation. Everything is like a truth-displaying missive, an artistic poem, or a wise word of the Glorious Maker, offered to the gaze of angels and jinn, of men and animals, and desiring to be read by them. It is an object for the contemplation and instruction of every conscious being that looks upon it.
The third purpose of all existence and result of all being pertains to the soul of the thing itself, and consists of such minor consequences as the experience of pleasure and joy, and living with some degree of permanence and comfort. If we consider the purpose of a servant employed as a steersman on some royal ship, we see that only one hundredth of that purpose relates to the steersman himself, the wage he receives; ninty-nine hundredths of the purpose relate to the king who owns the ship. A similar relation exists between the purpose of a thing related to its own self and its worldly existence, and its purpose related to its Maker. In the light of this multiplicity of purposes we can now explain the ultimate compatibility between divine wisdom and economy on the one hand, and divine liberality and generosity —in fact, infinite generosity— on the other hand, even though they appear to be opposites and contradictory. In the individual purposes of things, liberality and generosity predominate, and the Name of Most Generous is manifested. From the point of view of individual purpose, fruits and grains are indeed beyond computation, and they demonstrate infinite generosity. But in universal purposes, wisdom predominates, and the name of All-Wise is manifested. However many purposes a tree has, each of its fruits contains that many purposes, and these can be divided into the three categories we have established. Their universal purposes demonstrate an infinite wisdom and economy. Infinite wisdom and infinite generosity and liberality are thus combined, despite their apparent opposition. For example, one of the purposes for raising an army is the maintenance of order. Whatever troops are available for the purpose will suffice or be more than enough. But the whole army will be barely enough for other purposes such as protecting the national frontiers and repelling enemies; its size will be in perfect balance with utter wisdom. Thus the wisdom of the state will be joined to its splendour, and it can be said that there is no excess in the army.
(3) Yes, it is fitting that the fruits, flowers and leaves on the tips and branches of a tree, proceeding from the treasuries of sustenance provided by Divine mercy, should depart when they become old and their duties are at an end. Otherwise the gate will remain closed to those that come after them, and a barrier will be erected against the expansion of Allah’s mercy and the services to be performed by their brethren (i.e., other members of the species). Moreover, with the passing of youth, they will become wretched and distraught. Spring is like a fruit-bearing tree that in turn is an indication of the plain of resurrection. Similarly, the world of humanity in every age is like a tree inviting contemplation, and the world as a whole is like an amazing tree the fruits of which are despatched to the market of the hereafter.
(4) Bukhari, Bad’u’l-Khalq, 8; Tafsir al-Sura xxxii, 1; Tawhid, 35; Muslim, Iman, 312.
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