Saturday, 28 February 2015

The important Question of Faith

Faith is the most important treasure of life, religions unanimously assert. Why? Because it helps us achieve our full potential or perfection as humans and makes us participate in all the joys, beauties, peace, blessings that life has to offer. Faith, as the opening verse of the Quran makes clear, opens up access to the God of Mercy. Faith is good news that we are somehow cared, that all things march toward perfection, that nothing is ultimately jarring. All is a symphony. It is a great festival of lights that the world is, to which faith invites us. There is no greater wine than the Wine of Love that God is for the faithful. Faith is an insurance against all despair, all anxieties, all disheartening things, all disasters that life could have in store for us. Faith and gnosis are the greatest goods we really crave for.
But the question is why is faith, genuine faith so rare today and thus we are bombarded by all kinds of existential, psychological, social and other problems. One reason is people are miseducated. They are more told about fear of hell than love of heaven that is here and now accessible to a large extent. They don’t know the extent of divine mercy that washes all sins. They are not told that God is Reality, not some person in the sky or cosmic policeman. Of the God as Beauty, as Love, as Joy, as Mercy they have only a vague idea. It is not told that God is everywhere, in all forms, for the seeing eye. God’s mercy has precedence over His wrath, the Quran so clearly states. All things beautiful and joyful that we seek including family life, natural beauty, innocent joys, creativity are real modes of worshipping God. Even enjoying tea is an act of worship. Jokes we crack, smiles we share, beautiful messages we exchange, greeting we exchange, all are activities in which and through which we celebrate God.  In fact God is the real Enjoyer in us. All life is a gift. And God grounds this understanding of gift. Friendship we cherish is sweet because God’s attractive power grounds it.

Great beauty of Islamic tradition is hidden from us because we don’t read and preach the great Masters, sages, saints, mystic poets and Muslim metaphysicians. Just a few quotes today from Ibn Arabi (whom we accuse of this or that without reading him) to give us a peep into the wonderful, beautiful, ecstatic experience of the God of Islam. They should be enough to address all apprehensions of growing number of atheists or agnostics in our youth camp. They, in principle, introduce a God who can’t be mocked, disbelieved. Invitation to Ibn Arabi is invitation to mercy, the God of Mercy and his mission was, in his own understanding, broadcasting far and wide the news about the Mercy of God. Ibn Arabi says:
If we gaze, it is upon Him; if we use our intelligence, it is toward Him; if we reflect, it is upon Him; if we know it is Him. For it is He who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, worshipped in every object of worship, and pursued in the invisible and the visible. The whole world prays to Him, prostrates itself before Him and glorifies His praise; tongues speak of Him, hearts are enraptured by love for Him, minds are bewildered in Him.  (al-Futûhât al-makkiyya)
He says in The Kernel of the Kernel:
He is able to show His Being either within or without; that which is in the image of everything, that which is understandable in every intellect, the meaning that is in every heart, the thing heard in every ear, the eye that sees in every eye, is Him. . .   If He is manifest in this face he is also looking from the other.
In the poem at the beginning of the chapter on Hud in the Fusus al-Hikam Ibn ‘Arabi writes:
The Straight Path belongs to God (Allah).
It is manifest in all, not hidden.
He is present in the small and the great,
In those who are ignorant of how things are and those who know.
Because of this His mercy encompasses everything,
No matter how base or magnificent.”
Islam is invitation to submit to Truth, not to some cosmic or extra-cosmic entity we can speculate about or truth of this and that ideology or exclusive religion. Whosoever is ready to acknowledge truth in anything or experience unconditionally, is Muslim. And faith is submission to this truth. God is the movement toward virtue and beauty we are instinctively attracted to. And isn’t it a result of Divine Mercy we all seek and worship this God who is identified with beauty, truth and goodness in Plato whom Ibn Arabi rated highly?

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