Chapter XXII (b)
Contemplation (Mushahida مشاھدہ)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
اجيعو بطونكم دعوا الحرص واعروا اجساد كم قصروا الامل واظماوا اكباد كم دعوا الدنيا لعلكم ترون الله بقلوبكم
“Make your bellies hungry, abandon greed, do not adorn your bodies, lessen your desires, keep your liver thirsty and leave the world alone, that your hearts may have the vision of Allah.”
When Gabriel (may blessings of Allah be on him) asked about beneficence the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
اعبد الله كانك تراه فان لم تكن تراه فانه يراك
“Worship Allah as though you see Him, for if you do not see Him, yet He sees you.”
Allah revealed to David:
“O David! Do you know what My Marifat (knowledge) is?
David said, “No”.
Allah said: It is life of the heart in contemplation of Me.”
By contemplation (مشاهده) the Sufis mean spiritual vision of Allah in public and private.
Abu al-Abbas Ata in his commentary of the following verse of Quran,
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا
in the case of those who say, `our Lord is Allah` and, further, stand straight and steadfast,” (Q 41:30),
“they say `Our Lord is Allah` in self-mortification (mujahida مجاهده) and they `become steadfast` on the carpet of contemplation (mushahida مشاهده).”
The reality of contemplation depends on perfect faith, and rapturous love, for in the rapture of love a man attains to such a degree that his whole being is absorbed in the thoughts of his Beloved and he sees nothing else.
Muhammad b. Wasi says:
ما رايت شيءًا قط الا ورايت الله فيه - اي بصحة اليقين
“I never saw anything in which I did not have the vision of Allah without perfect faith.”
ما رايت شيءًا قط الا الله يعني بغلبات المحبة وغلياني المشاهدة
“I in the rapture of love and the fervor of contemplation see only Allah in everything.”
One sees some act through that he beholds the Agent with his spiritual eye and he sees the act and the Agent both. Another is absorbed so much by love of the Agent that he sees only the Agent. The first method is demonstrative and the other is ecstatic. This is to say that one demonstrates so that evidences of Truth are manifested to him, whereas the other is absorbed in love of Allah and evidences and verities are a veil to him. Therefore, he who attains knowledge of a thing does not get comfort aught besides, and he who loves a thing does not regard aught besides. He does not protest on any of the acts of his beloved nor does speak against His command because he does not want to have any interference with Him in His decrees and His acts.
Allah while mentioning the ascension of Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَ
(His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong!” (Q 53:17).
Prophet (peace be upon him) did not pay heed to anything because of his rapturous longing for Allah, whatever he wanted to see he saw that with the eyes of his heart. When the lover turns his eye away from created things, he will inevitably see the Creator with his heart. Allah has said,
لَقَدْ رَأَى مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَى
for truly did he see, of the signs of his Lord, the Greatest!”(Q 53:18).
Allah also said:
قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ
“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze,” (24:30),
i.e. to close their bodily eyes to lusts and their spiritual eyes to created things. He who keeps a check on his eyes from sighting lust through self-mortification he definitely sees his Lord through these eyes. So, one who is most sincere in self-mortification is most firmly grounded in contemplation, for inwardly contemplation is connected with the outwardly mortification.
Sahl b. Abdullah says:
من غض بصره عن الله طرفة عين يا يهدي طول عمره
“One, who turns his eyes from Allah for a single moment, will never be rightly guided all along his life.”
Because to regard others is to seek others and who has gone to others is lost. Therefore the men of contemplation only count that life in which they enjoyed contemplation. They do not reckon time not spent in contemplation as life, that to them it is really death. Thus, when Abu Yazid was asked how old he was, he replied, four years. They astonishingly asked how that could be and Abu Yazid replied:
“I have been veiled (from Allah) by this world for seventy years, but I have vision of Him during the last four years: the period in which one is veiled does not belong to one's life.”
Shibli used to pray:
اللهم اخباء الجنه والنار في خبايا غيبك حتي تعبد بغيرواسطة
“O Allah, hide Paradise and Hell in Thy unseen places, that Thou mayest be worshipped independently.” The human nature does have the desire of Paradise, hence heedless people worship only for the greed of Paradise and they are devoid of love of Allah and resultantly are debarred from contemplating Him.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) told Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) that he did not see Allah on the night of the ascension, but Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that Prophet (peace be upon him) told him that he saw Allah on that occasion. This led to controversy among the people and no one tried to realize that in saying that he did not see Allah the Prophet (peace be upon him) was referring to his bodily eyes whereas in saying the contrary he was referring to his spiritual eye. Among both the audiences one was formalist and the other spiritualist and Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke to each of them according to their insight and state. Since he had the vision of the Truth through his spiritual eyes, what difference does it make even if he had not seen the Truth through his bodily eyes?
Junaid used to say:
If Allah should say to me, “Behold Me”, I would reply, “I will not behold Thee”, because in love the eye is other (than Allah) and alien, and partnership of other in vision of the Truth is unacceptable. I may keep on visioning Him in this world without the involvement of bodily eyes.”
اني لا حسد ناظري عليك فاغض طرفي اذا نظرت عليك
“Truly, I envy mine eye the sight of Thee,
And I close mine eye when I look on Thee.”
Junaid was asked whether he wished to see Allah. His answer was negative. When they asked him the reason, he said, “When Moses wished, he did not see Him, but Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not wish, and he saw Him.”
Our wish and desire are the greatest veils that hinder us from vision of Allah, because in love the existence of self-will is disobedience, and disobedience is a veil. When self-will vanishes in this world, contemplation is attained, and when contemplation is firmly established, there is no difference between this world and the next.
Abu Yazid says:
ان لله عبادًا لوحجبوا من الله في الدنيا والاخرة لارتدوا
“Allah has slaves who would apostatize if they were veiled for a moment from Him in this world or in the next,” i.e. He sustains them with perpetual contemplation and keeps them alive with the life of love. When one who enjoys revelation is deprived of it, he is necessarily accursed by heaven.
Dhu al-Nun says that one day while in Egypt, he saw some lads throwing stones at a young man. The lads told him that he was a madman and pretend to see God. He turned to the young man and inquired whether he had really said so. He answered that if he did not see Him for a moment, the veil would drop and he would be debarred from His obedience.
Here, some people have fallen into the error, and they say that vision of Allah or spiritual contemplation in the state of dikr (remembrance of Allah) and contemplation is an imagination of the mind either from memory or reflection. It is a wrong comparison and manifest error, Allah is not finite that the imagination should be able to define Him or that the intellect should comprehend His nature. Whatever is imagined it would be from the genus of imagination and what ever intellect would perceive that would be from his genus, whereas Allah is independent of being part of some genus. The entire subtle and gross alike are homogeneous to each other notwithstanding their mutual contrariety. In reality the Tawhid (union) in the light of Eternity is opposite of genus. The entire opposite things are created and all the created beings are homogenous. Allah is far above from these things which heretics refer about Him.
Therefore contemplation in this world resembles vision of Allah in the next world. Since, the companions of the Prophet are unanimous that vision is possible hereafter, then why the contemplation of the Truth is not lawful in this world.
There is no difference between the revealers of the contemplation in this world and vision in the next world and one who would speak about them would say that contemplation in this world and vision hereafter is lawful. He will not claim that he has seen, for contemplation is an attribute of the heart and cannot be expressed by the tongue except metaphorically. When tongue could speak of inward, it will not be contemplation, rather would be a claim. Which intellect is unable to perceive, how tongue can put it in words, it can only accept it as lawful.
Therefore, contemplation is presence of the heart and incapability of the tongue. Hence silence ranks higher than speech, for silence is a sign of contemplation, whereas speech is a sign of ocular testimony. There is big difference in evidence and contemplation of a thing. Accordingly when the Prophet (peace be upon him) attained proximity to Allah, he said,
لا احصي ثنا عليك
“I cannot tell thy praise.”
because he was in state of contemplation, and contemplation in the degree of love is perfect unity, and any outwardly expression in unity is otherness. Then he said:
انت كما ا ثنيت علي نفسك
“Thou art hast praised Thyself,”
i.e. Thy words are mine, and Thy praise is mine, and I do not deem my tongue capable of expressing what I feel.
As the poet says:-
تهنيت ان اهوي فلما رايته بهت فلم املك لسانًا ولا طرفًا
“I desired my beloved, but when I saw him
I was dumbfounded and possessed neither tongue nor eye.”